Once Upon A Geek – What If (vol 1) #45 and What If (vol 2) #9


JT The Exterminator and The Irredeemable Shag find their joy discussing the Marvel comic series that explores the multiverse of cause-and-effect.. WHAT IF! Covering why we love the concept, favorite issues, MCU animated series, and volume 1 versus volume 2. Then we take a deep dive into two issues:

  • What If (vol 1) #45 - “What If the Hulk Went Berserk?!”
  • What If (vol 2) #9 - “What If... The New X-Men Had Died On Their Very First Mission?"

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28 responses to “Once Upon A Geek – What If (vol 1) #45 and What If (vol 2) #9

  1. The best part of having an audio format of a visual medium is finally hearing how the names of the creators *should* be pronounced.

    Who knew the “h” in “Roy Thomas” was silent!?

    Oh yeah … and I’ve definitely been pronouncing “Sienkiewicz” for decades.

    1. Bwah-ha-ha!! Someone had to explain to me how to say Bill’s name. And he clearly understands the difficulty. He even designed his Twitter handle to explain it – @sinKEVitch

  2. The “What If” series were usually hit-or-miss with how the creative team would change dramatically every issue, especially with the first volume. But, if you didn’t like what you read in one issue, you could probably love the next.

    Did anyone else, in the 80s, try to fill their collection by reading the letters page to see if you would be interested it what was printed 5 issues earlier and then use the Mile High Comics ad to see if it was available? I’m pretty sure most of my issues were bought this way.

    1. That’s a brilliant idea! I would just crawl through the 50 cent bins and grab any that looked interesting! Though I do recall flipping through the Overstreet Guide as they would sometimes give a one-or-two word recap of an issue. That was helpful sometimes figuring out what i wanted to seek out.

    1. I agree. The second volume was definitely not darker than the first. The preference is chronological. The first volume just covered the inflection points that were deeper in Marvel Universe history — the ones that nerds of our vintage cared more about. That wasn’t any fault of the second volume’s creators.

      1. Exactly. But it also had generally better art (to my tastes anyway), a larger page count, and inflection points that were more resonant. If you change a hero’s origin, that’s more interesting than if you change the result of the crossover event of the year. In other words, the first series “stole” a lot of the better turning points.

        In contrast, the second series was too often “flavor of the month”, reprising events that had happened recently or doing something with Wolverine. And while I feel like What If v1 ended on a high note (all those last few issues are great), v2 started doing multiversal crossover stories and didn’t even tell you what the premise was on the cover. It just became 90s dreck. I quit reading before it got to that point.

        1. The volume 1 issues felt more significant to me because they were telling stories about events which happened years before I started collecting. (Sometimes only a few years, but it all felt like a “long time ago”.) If someone was writing a story based on something that happened when my older brother was reading, it MUST be important!

          1. The art on volume 2 certainly varied and was often EXTREME! And it’s true they covered more recent events, but you can’t blame them. They were trying to capitalize on already-selling titles.

            I understand the criticism, I’m just blinded to by my own nostalgic inertia.

    2. That was my take on Vol 2 as well. Every second issue was punisher or wolverine and those stores were not always great. But I loved the wonder man and vision story in issue 5. There are some gems in there.

  3. Fun discussion. l liked the sidetrack into Marvel Epic Collections. If any listener is looking to start or expand their Epic library, I’m selling my collection. Flat rate for each volume; don’t worry about eBay price gouging. Reach out if interested.

  4. I was very pleased to hear my favorite JLI podcasting partner do such a great job in this discussion. You were terrific, too, Shag! I hope you do more OUAG shows on What If. Oh, and JT, congrats on losing the Starro accessory. Lucky thing you had some lime on the work truck, right? You guys can exterminate anything!

  5. A great episode my favorite what if comics issues are the flowing :
    3. What if the spider bit some one else .
    2. What if the punisher had joined shield .
    1. What if Wolverine was lord of the vampires.

  6. Wow, what a fun discussion gents! The dreaded newsstand distribution monster kept me from getting What If Vol. 1, save for two issues, #34 (the All-Humor issue) and #46 (“What If Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben Had Lived”). I love both of these issues for different reasons. I had never seen super heroes lampooned before #34, and, having found another copy to replace my old dog-earred one a few years ago, it still holds up! Issue #46 was perfect for me as I had been loving the Marvel Tales reprints of the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man run, and Peter B. Gillis and especially Ron Frenz REALLY captured that early Spidey vibe, with one BIG twist.

    The real “What If” for me is “What if Chris could have actually found What If? on the newsstand?”.

    I bought the second series when the subject grabbed me, my favorite being #4, “What If the Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man”. But both of these issues sound great. I’m going to Marvel Unlimited to read the first one after work. As for the second one…I’ll keep my eye out on the back issue bins!

    1. The younger readers will never understand the dreaded newsstand distribution problems we suffered!! If we missed it, it was like it simply never existed (unless you had access to a comic shop).

      By the way, both issues we covered are on MARVEL UNLIMITED!

  7. Impressive podcast. Most impressive. I always liked what if. Ike some of the new series but the original is kind of more my favorite. There was in fact an with lecture live. It was fine. I did like the one where they had been all African-American version of the avengers. Well nonwhite. Since Horace was the Thor replacement. And I had just read the issues where Horace and his family had brought Odin to them. And Thor went up there. And help them defeat set. So that was kind of cool. The Conan once weren’t bad. I have the trade paperback of a few of the what if issues. Including the ones where Incredible Hulk’s girlfriend liveD. I like the one where Spiderman’s clone live. And we end up with an early vision of what Ben Riley could be. Though I now when they just both took turns being Spiderman and Peter Parker. The one where Spiderman stops the burglar and just becomes famous was weird. As for the what if humor stories being a precursor to what the. I’m thinking not Brand Euk. Or however it was spelled was probably the what the precursor. The newer ones weren’t bad. I do like that X-Men story. Though Namorita had appeared in Namor at this time. So this personality had already been set in place. Before this issue.

    I can remember this is before after Roy Thomas took over the writing duties of that book when John Byrne left it. I think wolfsbane had already been affiliated with Ms. Mack target. Excuse me Dr. Mack target. In that graphic novel that the new mutants first appeared in. Though this is a good collection of the team. I’m glad to see the beast on it. Though Roy Thomas was deftly ahead of the game with the rest of this book. As he had been with a lot of other things. I think this was right before he took over as editor-in-chief of top comics. Think that was when he was in charge of I can’t remember. There were a lot of X-Men what if stories that were good. The one where Phoenix lives was fun. The one where trolls becomes the juggernaut was cool. Specifically sense Scott gets to become the main character mostly of that issue. There is even a good one where Dr. doom became sorcerer supreme. And I think in the first series there was one where Dr. strange gets his hands fixed and continues being a surgeon. There is one where he dies and one where he becomes a villain but later once again becomes a sorcerer supreme. Antihero.

    As much as I hate to admit it while some of the moral movies or terrible right now. For loving thunder was actually good. I am a shocked as anyone. The advertisement for it was not so great. But the movie itself was fine. It just so happened it was along with crap like she who. Because as I am of she Hulk, that TV show oy. I remember a lot of good coming from those. And I definitely enjoyed the issue where may Parker. Mayday Parker as she was called for her basketball team the daughter of Spiderman. Became spider girl. That was great. I enjoyed those so much I not only collected the books I get buying her action figure. That’s pretty much where I see what happened to the real Spiderman. I don’t count the one in the Marvel universe no not happening. The one where daredevil kills the kingpin is pretty good. To where Richard Fisk becomes the new daredevil. That would’ve been an issue I probably would’ve read. Having like the rose as a character. At any rate can’t wait to hear the next pod cast.

  8. Another thoroughly enjoyable episode. I think you should make this show weekly …

    What If…? reading was weird in the fairy laden land of Marvel UK. The strips were largely used as filler material or for Summer/Winter Specials and Annuals. As a rule, the important characters got their stories printed so What If Spider-Man’s Clone Had Lived got serialised in the weekly Spider-Man comic and What If Rick Jones had Become The Hulk? was printed in a Hulk annual. What If Uncle Ben Had Lived got the full colour treatment in a Spider-Man Winter Special so I have fond memories of that one. A lot of What If…? strips saw print in Marvel UK’s TEAM UP COMIC https://archive.org/details/marvel-team-up-1-25-1980-1981-marvel-uk/Marvel%20Team-Up%2001%20%281980-09-11%29%20%28Marvel-UK%29/

    Worth noting – since this was released Marvel have announced a WHAT IF…? Omnibus containing the 1988 one shot and issues 1-39 of the late ’80s/early ’90s series.

    1. Thanks for the kinds words! Always love hearing about reprints and repackaging of US comics!

      Also, ANOTHER example of the FIRE & WATER PODCAST NETWORK speaking pop culture items into existence!!! We talk about it, and things happen!! .. now why can’t they make money for us? Hmm….

  9. This was lots of fun listening to two fans talking about their joy! You two gentlemen did a masterful job talking about the series as a whole and two issues in particular.

    I’m in the same boat as Chris Franklin, I hardly saw any What If comics growing up, due to newsstand distribution. The funny thing is, while I didn’t hate What If, all the What If scenarios didn’t interest me compared to what happened in the main “real” title. What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four? Don’t care as I like he worked alone. What if Captain Marvel hadn’t died? Boo, the Death of Captain Marvel was one of the most profound comics I read when it came out. Don’t undo that amazing story! And so on and so on…..

    Having said that, I always wanted the What If Spider-Man Had Rescued Gwen Stacy issue, as I had such a huge crush on Gwen and really wanted her to live.

    It was really fun to hear the two issues you guys profiled as they sounded like lots of fun and I really need to rethink how I felt about What If comics. Well done everyone! Keep up the great work!

  10. I just caught up with my “Once Upon a Geek” listening recently. I loved this episode as I was a big What If? reader/collector. I got on board the first series near the end, I think, and then picked up all of the back issues. I then collected series two (and the one-shot Special between the two series) as they came out.

    While I have to agree that the original series is the more “classic” of the two main series, I think I should say that the second series also had a lot of very good issues and stories, too.

    Now, if one has a general predisposition against 90s comics and art then, yeah, the second series probably won’t be as appealing to them on those grounds. However, there are a lot of comics fans who did (and still do) really dig the 90s comics and consider that to be *their* favorite era. (Not me, I was more of a late 70s and 80s kid.)

    But as for the second series not having as interesting “diversion points” and being less interesting to some because they were based a lot of the time on then recently released stories in the main line Marvel books, I don’t see that as a negative. Instead, I see the second “What If?” series as having a slightly different mission statement from the original series.

    The first “What If?” series was about turning the then classic stories upside down.

    I see the second series (which did some of those stories too) as more of a place to release extra tie-in issues to the then current (or still fresh in readers’ minds) major storylines and events. Kind of “bonus issues” to those event storylines.

    So, I imagine that you had a lot more “picking and choosing” of issues based on the stories with many buyers of the second What If? series that there probably was with the first series (although I’ll bet there where some for that, as well).

  11. Shag I just found this episode from the promo on the newest JLI show. Great episode about one of my favorite comic series. What if was one of the comics my great aunt mary got at her variety shop and would let me take copies of starting with issue 42. It’s where I first read comics with the fantastic four, Thor, and Conan.

    So I’m a volume 1 guy myself, with my favorite being issue 44 in which Captain America is not revived until “today” and the Cap of the 50s help turn America into a fascist and racist police state. Hmmmmmmm.

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