What If? #4
Issue(s): What If? #4
The purpose of this issue is to further explain the existence of Golden Age Captain America stories that would have taken place after Steve Rogers and Bucky died. There never was a Golden Age Captain America death story; that was entirely invented by Stan Lee in Avengers #4. So Cap stories were continually published for a period after the time when he was supposed to be dead. Steve Englehart's 1950s era commie-hating Cap covered a period beginning in 1953, so an explanation was still required from the period of 1945-1953. You can kind of sense a bit of annoyance from Thomas towards Englehart about that in the lettercol note:
Only thing is, Steve decided at the last minute to forget about the years 1945-1953, and have his "substitute C.A." be a Red-baiter from the McCarthy era. This left a hole which a zillion Marvelites have never ceased (and properly so) to point out to us. Roy, never one to come down hard on a writer or artist who wanted to do things his own way, preferred to let Steve E. do his thing - but he'd really wanted to take care of those immediate post-Cap and post-War years, as well.
The issue begins with a retelling of Cap & Bucky's deaths (where not once is the word "Brobdingnagian" used).
At the same time, the Human Torch and Toro have managed to hunt down Hitler in his bunker, and prevent him from killing himself by burning him to death.
I believe there have been some revisions to this idea. Well, for one thing, Hitler definitely lives on in the Silver Age as the Hate-Monger. But there's also 2006's Dr. Strange: The Oath, which uses the gun that Hitler killed himself with as an occult mcguffin. Arnim Zola's body-cloning is responsible for the Hate-Monger; it's possible there were multiple Hitler clones already at this time which may help square the circle on the gun.
After that, all of the remaining Invaders except Union Jack and Spitfire are summoned back to the United States.
When the non-British Invaders respond to the president's summons, it's said that if Prince Namor "had any surface nationality at all", he would be an American. That's sort of an "if my aunt had testicles, she would be my uncle" statement.
It's also said that the Daily Bugle was the only newspaper "irresponsible" enough to report that Captain America had died, a fact that the government intends to cover up. There's no footnote, so i don't know if that's covering for a random panel somewhere that showed a Bugle headline; probably is. But i like how that one adjective raises the freedom of the press vs. national security issue.
The Invaders are introduced to Cap and Bucky's replacements: the Spirit of '76 and, erm, that guy that briefly wore a Bucky costume at Yankee Stadium.
It's said that the war in Europe is winding down...
...so the team is sent off to help on the Japanese front.
After Hiroshima and the end of the war, the team is asked by the president to return to the homefront and stay together to fight "crime and the black market boys". They immediately agree - even Namor! - but decide that the name "Invaders" doesn't work so well any more. It's said that the new name is suggested by the president. Miss America doesn't find it too euphonious.
She had a better opinion of it when the Whizzer suggested it in Invaders #38.
Thomas begrudgingly gives us an actual plot, as well, and it involves Adam II...
...an android built by Horton after he built the Human Torch (note that there was also Volton, an android built before the Torch).
This one has gone bad, and he's got a plot to replace the promising congressional candidate John F. Kennedy with an android duplicate.
During the battle, the Spirit of '76 Cap is killed...
...and he's replaced with the Patriot, who arrived to rescue the Torch and Toro from Adam a little earlier.
Within the context of this one issue, it seems a little weird to have two replacement Captain Americas, but i guess the point is to have one Cap that participated in the later years of the war, and one that replaced him in the post War years. This story doesn't explain why the Patriot eventually relinquished the role. I'd rather we just had one replacement Cap who got progressively crazier than have three guys filling the role. The solution here seems unnecessarily complicated. But there are minor details in the Golden Age books - like the idea of Steve Rogers as a school teacher in Young Men #24 - that this solution presumably is meant to address.
The creative team is the same as the regular Invaders series at this time, with all the usual complaints.
Miss America is wearing glasses by the end of this issue.
I have the Watcher listed as a Character Appearing, but of course he's just playing his normal role as What If? narrator. One day, after i've got my project all caught up and i've got nothing else to do, maybe i'll go back and add ALL the What If? books on the grounds that the Watcher appears in them.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: See above for why a What If? issue is even included in this project. Beyond that, this issues spans a period of time beginning with Bucky's death, past the end of World War II, and ends after the death of the Spirit of '76. It establishes that it was the Spirit playing the role of Cap in All-Winners #19, and definitely takes place after that issue. It should take place before Young Men #24, which is when the third Cap replacement takes the role.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
To be fair, regarding Namor's nationality, his father was an American. If any surface nation has any claim on him, it's the US.
Posted by: Michael | September 30, 2012 11:10 PM
Miss America actually did wear glasses in her later 1940s stories.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 1, 2012 11:22 AM
Micheal, that's true. Namor would be eligible for US citizenship based on his father's nationality.
One thing about golden age cap stories was the ridiculous amount of travel cap, bucky and their company do from month to month. One month they are in Europe, next month the Pacific, next West Virginia. A solution to this would be to have 3 captain America's active During the war. Say Steve Rogers, the original, say Don Stevens (the Defender) who gives up that role in the Pacific (he was a Marine), and Bill Prince, the fighting Yank in the US. Then when stve rogers was "killed" there would be guys still around to continue his adventures and eventually retire.
It would explain the screwy continuity in GA stories.
Posted by: kveto from prague | October 1, 2012 1:34 PM
I also think Adam II would make better candidate for being the original version of the modern Vision. With his red face, WWII vintage and lack of busting into flame, he has always seemed a more likely candidate.
Posted by: kveto from prague | October 1, 2012 5:42 PM
Regarding Namor's nationality, i'll grant that he qualifies for US citizenship, but i don't buy that the guy who started his career with a "crusade against white men" would be as loyal to a US president as depicted here. I've always read Namor's part in the Invaders to be an "enemy of my enemy" situation that develops into a grudging respect for Cap and the Torch, but Thomas takes it a further than i'd like. To be fair, there are plenty of Golden Age comics where Namor's happily working with/for America, but there's an equal number where he's trying to conquer the world. Such a complex character, and Thomas never takes the time to address that dichotomy.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 1, 2012 6:15 PM
As yet another Captain America, as part of his New Avengers term during Dark Reign, Bucky Barnes would also respond to the question of hypothetically being able to kill Hitler with "I, uh, I killed Hitler". His teammates just sort of stared at him until he asked what they had just said, pretty much avoiding any form of explanation, perhaps intentionally. Some of the other avengers more or less deem it irrelevant to the debate at hand (it was to do with killing Osborn) but it deem add further weirdness of Hitler's death and post-mortem. That's if he was even speaking literally, its pretty vague and open to interpreation apparantly...
Posted by: Max_Spider | October 10, 2012 4:15 PM
fnord12 wrtites:"One day, after i've got my project all caught up and i've got nothing else to do, maybe i'll go back and add ALL the What If? books on the grounds that the Watcher appears in them."
Posted by: MOCK! | February 14, 2014 8:52 AM
Hitler's body in real life was found to be very heavily cremated. Hmmm...
Posted by: Max_Spider | May 10, 2014 1:59 PM
"One day, after I've got my project all caught up and I've got nothing else to do, maybe I'll go back and add ALL the What If? books on the grounds that the Watcher appears in them."
There are actually a few more beyond just this one that technically tie into mainstream Marvel continuity in one way or another. Which makes sense, when you realize most What Ifs? are literally depicting an alternate timeline where events DID play out in that fashion (so much so that Marvel gave most of those alternate realities "serial numbers" (in the same way Marvel is 616)), and it HAS proven possible for characters from one alternate universe to travel to another.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 15, 2014 2:52 PM
I've got Timequake on my radar, and i've also covered What If #9 so far.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 15, 2014 3:32 PM
IMO, Timequake was an awesome multi-part time-travel storyline. I'm looking forward to it being covered by FNORD.
Posted by: clyde | July 15, 2014 4:09 PM
If I remember correctly I believe the Torch burning Hitler to death comes from the 1953 revival which was basically ignored in the original Hate-Monger story bar the suggestion the villain could have been one of Hitler's doubles. The last issues of Super-Villain Team-Up establish that Arnim Zola had perfect mind transfer and Hitler's mind was now in a cloned body.
I get the feeling that with the Invaders et al having dropped off the radar in recent years writers have forgotten all this and either gone with real world history or tried to add their own twists.
Posted by: Tim Roll-Pickering | August 5, 2014 7:48 AM
Should GA Human Torch be changed to Human Torch (Golden Age)?
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 8, 2014 10:59 PM
Yes, thanks, Thanos6. Fixed it.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 9, 2014 7:30 AM
Reviews of What If??'s would be fun. I'd be interested in what you think of such stories as "What if Captain America Were Revived Today (1984)?".
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | June 2, 2015 8:40 PM
I just thought of something that unnecessarily complicates things.
Posted by: JP | March 10, 2016 6:17 AM
Yeah, the more I think about it the more convinced I become that the Watcher is the only "character appearing" in this story.
Posted by: JP | March 10, 2016 8:56 AM
I don't see why. The Watcher has been watching the Earth since forever. There's no reason he couldn't be narrating from 1946.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 10, 2016 9:02 AM
Posted by: JP | March 10, 2016 9:18 AM
But to whom does the Watcher speak, and when? I think, to the reader, when s/he reads the story. So they're not in-universe, but analogous to introductions of stories by host characters or creators, or sequences in which characters talk to readers. Or
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 10, 2016 10:03 AM
I do count the contents of flashbacks if they can reasonably take place before the framing sequence/main story. But yeah, worst case scenario would be that i remove the Watcher tag, not the others. But if JP makes me do that, then everyone can forget about me ever reviewing the rest of the What If issues. :-)
I know JP was joking here, but just to clarify for everyone else regarding the Kennedys: JFK appears here while he's running for Congress in 1946. Then on the final page, he and Robert Kennedy are shown as conceptual floating heads on a splash page showing the All Winners mourning the death of the Spirit of '76.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 10, 2016 10:23 AM
A minor criticism but Roy just overdoes every single thing EVER. ""We met before when I was called the Spirit of '76."
Torch: "Great, yeah."
"I even wore my old mask and my wig to jog your memories."
Yes, yes, we GOT IT. Possibly Robbins just added that and Roy wanted to cover for it.
Posted by: Wis | January 7, 2017 8:44 AM
The story of Jeff Mace's tenure as Captain America, and nhis reasons for eventually abandoning the role, were told in Karl Kesel's enjoyable mini CAPTAIN AMERICA: PATRIOT. Hopefully you'll get a chance to add it here someday.
Posted by: Gary Himes | September 7, 2017 6:30 PM
I've been singing the praises of that series on a lot of other pages.
This issue is even collected as a bonus in the trade (as is an All-Winners story also by Kesel which also has Mace as Cap).
Posted by: AF | September 7, 2017 7:04 PM
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