What If..? helps expand the multiverse concept in the MCU by bringing the classic Marvel Comics series to the screen. Every issue of the series explored a new timeline where things went differently in the Marvel Universe, creating some of the strangest and most compelling realities in comics.
What If…? began in 1977 and has run in a series of volumes since then, with each iteration sticking close to the core idea of presenting a major Marvel moment in a new light. Some of the stories have become classics themselves, providing fans with odd realities that are as inviting as the main Marvel universe.
10 Gwen Stacy Never Died
Gwen Stacy’s unexpected demise in The Amazing Spider-Man #121 is one of the most heartbreaking deaths in Spider-Man comics, if not comics in general. In that landmark issue, Gwen was pushed off the George Washington Bridge by one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous foes, the Green Goblin.
Issue #24 of What If..? imagines that Gwen had lived instead of perishing that fateful night. Spider-Man saves her, leading to a series of events that don’t necessarily spell happily ever after for Peter Parker. He and Gwen get married at the end, but his true identity is revealed by J. Jonah Jameson, which forces him to go into hiding for the remainder of his superhero career.
9 Jane Foster Becomes Thor
Anticipating the 2014 ascent of Jane Foster as one of the best alternate variants of Thor, What If..? #10 imagines Jane finding Mjolnir instead of Dr. Donald Blake, who transforms into the Norse God when he touches the mystical hammer.
The same effect happens to Jane, who becomes Thor and quickly has to battle the God of Mischief himself, Loki. Her defeat of Loki eventually translates into Jane marrying Odin and the hammer going to Blake as it was intended to. This isn’t the only instance of What If..? comics anticipating future developments. The series also considered Spider-Man’s clone surviving, an idea later realized as The Clone Saga in 1990s Spider-Man comics.
8 Uncle Ben Lives
One of the foundational elements of Marvel Comics lore is the death of Uncle Ben, which leads directly to Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man. Whenever Peter encounters hardships as the superhero web-slinger, he remembers the last words Ben uttered: “With great power, there must also come — great responsibility!”
Issue #46 of the series imagines Ben had lived and Aunt May had died at the hands of the burglar instead. Rather than become a hero, Spider-Man emerges as something more of a vigilante. Ben deduces Peter’s secret and confronts J. Jonah Jameson over his treatment of Spider-Man in the press, leading to the hero generally finding a better life than he had early on in Earth-616.
7 Blink Becomes The In-Betweener
Blink was a minor character introduced and then killed in The Phalanx Covenant crossover in the X-Men comics in the mid-90s. She was very popular with fans though, leading to her return in What If..? #75. In the story, she transports to the cosmic realm of the In-Betweener.
Blink’s ability to teleport takes on terrifying dimensions when she absorbs the power of the cosmic being and becomes the In-Betweener herself. Blink later came back into continuity in a roundabout way via the Age Of Apocalypse storyline, one of the darkest timelines in Marvel Comics.
6 Captain America During The Civil War
Later stories in the series become more like the Elseworlds concept in DC Comics, which focused less on individual moments such as Jane Foster becoming Thor than wholesale new scenarios that placed superheroes within new storylines and events.
One of the best and strangest realities in this volume imagined Captain America alive during the American Civil War. The 2005 story reimagined Bucky Barnes as the White Skull, a terrifying take on the classic Captain America villain the Red Skull, and how Steve Rogers battled the evils of racism in 19th century America.
5 Scarlet Witch Erases All Powers
The Scarlet Witch erased most mutants from existence in House Of M, a major comic book storyline that inspired WandaVision.With just three words, “No more mutants” dramatically changed the Marvel Universe for years to come.
What If? House Of M imagined Wanda’s desperate act having even more destructive consequences. This 2008 story has Wanda stripping all superpowered beings of their powers, not just mutants, leading to disastrous consequences. The Red Skull takes over the world, killing numerous heroes and leading to a consequential battle between him and Spider-Man.
4 Phoenix Never Died
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the landmark stories involving the X-Men, with the demise of Jean Grey being one of the most shocking deaths in Marvel Comics.
Issue #27 of the first volume of the series imagines that Jean had not died in Uncanny X-Men #137. Instead, things turn out much worse. Jean lives but is later consumed by the Phoenix Force in a battle with Galactus. This leads to a horrific rampage in which she kills all of the X-Men and destroys the entire Earth and all of humanity.
3 Captain America Was Never Frozen In Ice
Issue #5 of the first volume of the series tackles a major point of divergence for Marvel Comics. In this issue, Captain America never gets frozen in ice during World War II, altering history in a major way. Steve Rogers eventually becomes the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. after Nick Fury dies.
Comic fans know Bucky Barnes becomes Captain America for a brief time in the main Marvel continuity, but he does in this strange reality as well, taking over the role and fighting against Baron Zemo and the forces of HYDRA.
2 Storm Becomes Thor
Few people in the Marvel Universe are worthy of lifting Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor. Among the select few are Captain America, Beta Ray Bill, Jane Foster, and, bizarrely, Superman, who lifted the hammer when the two characters fought each other in JLA/Avengers.
Storm seems like an obvious candidate and her becoming the Goddess of Thunder was explored in volume two, issue #12. This story spins off an earlier one in canon in which the X-Men traveled to Asgard and Storm wielded a hammer forged by Loki. In this story, she becomes Thor properly and actually battles against a version of the Throg Thor, who is Thor turned into a frog by the magic of his brother Loki.
1 Spider-Man Joins The Fantastic Four
The first strange reality visited in the What If..? comics is still one of the best. The very first issue imagines that Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four in The Amazing Spider-Man #1 instead of being turned down by the team.
The team becomes the Fantastic Five and he applies a new 5 symbol to his uniform instead of the spider icon. Spider-Man helps the team fight against Namor in this adventure, but it ends with Sue Storm leaving with Namor for Atlantis after feeling neglected in the bigger group. One of Marvel’s most legendary and long-lasting marriages thus never happens in this reality, with Reed Richards left heartbroken over Sue’s desertion.
NEXT: 10 Essential What If? Stories To Read Before The Disney+ Series
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