FW Presents: What If Your Favorite Elseworlds Was An Imaginary Story?

It's a special pre-paid for episode of FW Presents! This time, Ryan Daly welcomes The Irredeemable Shag and Chris Franklin, as well as special guests Michael Bailey and Andrew Leyland to share some of their favorite non-canonical comic books in the form of Elseworlds, What Ifs...? and "Imaginary Stories". Each host brings a different comic, which throws a wild twist on a familiar face: featuring altered versions of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Avengers, and Justice League International.

This topic was suggested by our Patreon donor Martin Gray.

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Additional music: “What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong; "Ordinary World" by Duran Duran.

Thanks for listening!

21 responses to “FW Presents: What If Your Favorite Elseworlds Was An Imaginary Story?

  1. Great episode guys!
    I am a huge fan of both What If? and Elseworlds.
    My personal favorite is What If? (Vol 1) issue 44. What if Captain America were revived today?
    Not only my favorite What If? But one of my favorite Captain America stories. Marvel would revisit this concept a few more times over the years.
    I’d also recommend What If? (Vol 1) #3 for the amazing work Gil Kane did drawing that story. His pages crackle with power and energy.
    Now I’d like to second the recommendation for the Super Seven story that ran in the Adventures of Superman and Superboy Elseworld Annuals.
    I’ve read every issue of the first two volumes of What If? and while some of the first volumes had some dark/downer endings, the second volume seemed to revel in its nihilism! The later half of that run seemed to be all about writers trying to out do the doom and gloom in the previous issues!
    While I don’t know if “Hello to campfire!” Or “Hello to store!” was common language in the actual history of the old west, it is prevalent in western fiction. Basically it’s a way of alerting people to your presence so the didn’t shoot you.

    1. What If 3 is amazing, I got it off the stands and read so many times. Heartily agree on the power of Kane’s art in that issue. And the story! Blew my mind you could have an ending like that!

      Thank you for the explanation on the ‘hello’ bit, makes perfect sense to what sounded very strange

  2. is the last season of “Airwolf” Andrew Leyland’s favorite What If? story? “What if we took everything you loved about Airwolf and threw it away (and also cut the budget in half)?”

  3. Thanks very much for this very special podcast. Such a brilliant episode title! Lots of good stuff here, but my word, you’re all so young, just one story pre-1970s!

    One of my favourite Elseworlds is Superman: War of the Worlds by Roy Thomas and Michael Lark, a short, sharp reworking of the HG Wells classic. And talking of Elseworlds, Ryan was correct, Superman: Kal was all the artistic work of JLGL (PBHN).

    I’ve not read enough What Ifs to have faves, they rarely made it to the UK… the ones I have seen tended to end gloomily, they must have been in that period you guys mentioned. Looking at the covers in Marvel Unlimited, there seem to be some treats there – What If Sue married Namor, What if Nova Were Four People, What If Moondragon had hair… it’s hilarious how many of these issues have been repurposed by modern Marvel as multi-year arcs.

    Anyway, yes, the Silver Age DC Imaginary Stories were my bag – the Story of Superman Red and Superman Blue, The Second Batman and Robin Team, Mr and Mrs Clark (Superman) Kent… my absolute favourite, though, is The Son of Jimmy Olsen, in which Jimmy Olsen falls for Lola Kent aka Supermaid. Jerry Siegel’s script has the typical shenanigans, with misunderstandings and angst aplenty, but this is elevated by an especially fine Kurt Schaffenberger art job. Everyone looks super-gorgeous, with fabulous future fashions, and Lola Kent is the cutest Super-Kid ever. Readers wrote in about one story point after it appeared in Jimmy Olsen #57, so when it was reprinted in Jimmy Olsen #117 (the appalling Planet of the Capes issue) an Editor’s note reassure us that Jimmy and Lola lived in a state where cousins could marry. Phew.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Martin! And excellent episode guys- this was a great topic that both brought back memories and also informed me of some areas completely new to me. What Ifs were always must buys for me at the spinner rack. Loved that square spine, made it seem special, which it was- imaginary stories really drew you into the continuity and fired the imagination

      Thanks again, would love a sequel!

  4. Thank you, gentlemen, for the excellent discussion and reading recommendations. The Justice Riders book looks particularly interesting to me. I never really got into the What If/Elseworlds-type books, when they were all the rage. Back then, I guess I just preferred spending my money on canonical titles. That being said, I do love The Nail.

  5. Great show all around. I also was one of those guys who picked up many many expensive Elseworlds when they came out. So many!

    The picks you guys reviewed all sound interesting. Was especially glad Justice Riders got mentioned as that is a fave of mine. Was also glad Batman/Houdini was mentioned as well, another fave. And was a bit surprised that New Frontier was never mentioned. Such a great series.

    Supergirl has had two prominent Elseworlds. jM DeMatteis did one called Wings looking at the Earth Angel mythology prominent in Peter DAvids run. Elseworlds Finest by Barbara Kesel and Matt Haley is a lot of fun, looking at an Earth where Supergirl and Bas Gordon Batwoman are the main heroes.

    And from the Silver Age, Action Comics 332 and 333 in which Suoergirl arrives to Earth first and things get tough for a bratty Clark.

    Thanks again! Great discussion!

    1. It never even occurred to me to mention NEW FRONTIER, probably because that’s what I want the prime Earth to be and don’t think of it as an Elseworlds.

      I hope it came across that we chose relatively simple and short stories, knowing each of us would try to read all of the others, instead of tackling bigger miniseries and graphic novels, each of which deserve an entire episode to discuss.

  6. Fun episode guys. I’ve always enjoyed the Elseworlds/What If concept, though oddly I’ve never read any of the books chosen here! Even as a rabid JLI fan, I somehow missed Justice Riders at the time. Never really been particularly interested in the Western as a genre, so that must account for it. But Chuck Dixon and JH Williams art? Clearly an oversight. Must pick this up.

    My absolute favourite Elseworlds are The Nail/Another Nail (I’m a total sucker for the godlike genius of Alan Davis) and Kingdom Come, though both would fall beyond the remit of this episode by virtue of being pretty substantial. The Golden Age, too, though isn’t its status as an Elseworlds retroactively somewhat debatable after Robinson incorporated some elements into his JSA run? Maybe I imagined that.

    Surprised that nobody mentioned the 1996 Legends of the Dead Earth annuals – although not explicitly branded Elseworlds, in their exploration of alternate futures, that’s effectively what they were. Been a while, but I seem to recall that the Justice League, Flash and Superman issues were pretty good.

    Finally, a nitpick – Mr Bailey offends Wonder Man by repeatedly describing his extremely stylish bright-red safari jacket as brown. Brown?! Simon would never be seen dead (or reanimated) in a dull brown jacket, which is precisely why he refused to join the Avengers in the mid-’90s.

  7. My favorite imaginary story would either be Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, or else the first one I read, in the first DC blue ribbon digest (which I have to assume digestcast will come around to eventually), the original Death of Superman story.

  8. I prefer the non-main time lines- I just reread that Vision/Wonderman What-if- I love and have at some point read all this. I was the “If-Worlds” guy at my LCS. This was a lot of fun-

  9. I don’t know that I entirely “got” that What If… Sub-Mariner Had Saved Atlantis from Its Destiny? was extra-canonical when I pulled it off a Gemco spinner rack in 1983, because I still have cognitive dissonance when I encounter a Namor that isn’t the one from this story. Like Shag, I’ve read some of the first series as back issues, but I have a greater attachment to the second series issues my brother and I pulled off the stands. The one-two punch of Ron Lim’s Inferno issue and Liefeld’s Wolverine of S.H.E.I.L.D. was my jam, plus the Wolverine Lord of Vampires one that spun out of one of the best X-Men annuals. I think there was a visible decline after that point (at least a decline in the visuals) as Marvel started shifting all their new talent finds directly onto X-Family material to fill the hole left by the Image Exodus. I only bothered with a handful of issues after that point.

    The rise of the Elseworlds branding coincided with my increasing embrace of DC as my home base, but their over reliance on Superman/Batman put me off as I started keeping that pair at arm’s length. I tend to agree with Shag that Armageddon 2001 held most of the best greater universe Imaginary Stories, but I’d also point out that they were also the most like What Ifs in veering from a point in-continuity toward a possible (often dire) future. In fact, part of what taught me to hate Superman in the ’90s was the body counts that tended to follow him in his alternate future annuals. He was always turning evil or making terribly consequential mistakes… sort of a proto-Snyder Murderverse.

    Wow. I went to GCD to look over their list of Elseworlds branded material and am shocked by how few I genuinely liked or even remember. “The Tyrant” was a favorite of mine as well, and I also liked Superman: Distant Fires, Superman / Wonder Woman: Whom Gods Destroy, JLA: Act of God and Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl. The art on some of these, particularly by the like of Mike McKone and J.H. Williams III, was often the only thing particularly winning about this lot. Not for nothing, but neither Wonder Woman nor Martian Manhunter tend to fair well in these damned things. J’Onn typically dies by brutal violence or turns evil, and Wonder Woman is usually somebody’s trophy or suffers sexualized violence. I never quite forgave William Messner-Loebs for Amazonia, I must confess.

    I’m setting aside the event maxi-series that were retroactively rendered Elseworlds/DC Black Label, in part because I’m not in the mood to argue the merits of goddamned overrated Kingdom Come again.

  10. This was really fun, gentlemen! It was great to hear your picks of some really fun stories. In particular, Justice Riders looks like something right up my alley. I’m surprised I didn’t pick that up when it came out. I was lucky enough to be the right demographic for when Gotham by Gaslight came out and I thought “Elseworlds” was a unique and compelling idea…….. until they came out with a billion Elseworld Batman titles. Of the ones I remember, I did like Gotham by Gaslight, Batman/Houdini, Batman:Red Rain, Kingdom Come (sorry, Frank, it’s got Captain Marvel, I have to like it), and Superman:Red Son.

    As far as the Marvel side goes, while I enjoyed the occasional What If?, they always seemed to be more about giving the same story as continuity with a bit of a different twist (at least the ones I remember). I was more of a fan of the Elseworlds where the whole story is different from what was the original premise.

    This was a fun topic and I would love to hear more deep dives on these imaginary stories in the future, like New Frontier! Keep up the great work!

    ……. wait, does Batman:Digital Justice count as Elseworlds?

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