This week, Welcome to My Nightmare is brought to you be the letters E, R, I and C, and by the number Zero. Nexus regular Eric sent me not one, not two, but three full emails of excellent “What If…?/Elseworlds” ideas! However, at this time we can still post Zero pictures in the column. And while we can debate all we want as to whether Zero is in fact a number or not, there can be no debate as to how fun Eric’s ideas are. Well, OK, maybe a little debate. Eric, the floor is yours!
I tried to pick characters who have interesting personalities (Bruce Wayne, Molly Hayes), and find powers or origins that compliment or clash with them.
When his parents are murdered in front of him, young Bruce Wayne vows to become a protector of the innocent in their memory. Early in his journey to become the best hero he can be, Wayne meets the Ancient One, a mystic in Tibet. Training with him, Wayne becomes a powerful mage, and after the Ancient One dies, Wayne takes what he has learned and returns to the West as a magical protector armed with the Cloak of Levitation, the Eye of Agamatto, and more. Striking from the shadows, billionaire Bruce Wayne is the driven protector of justice, the Sorcerer Supreme.
Written by Matt Fraction
Drawn by Cliff Chiang
Orphaned and homeless, 12 year-old Molly Hayes wanders into the subway. There, she walks past the statues of the 7 Deadly Sins of Man and fate leads her to the wizard Shazam. He senses good in the plucky, if sassy, young girl. Deciding that he needs a new champion and that she needs purpose, he grants her his powers when she speaks his name. Now, Molly Hayes fights giant robots, alien worms, and Nazis as Molly Marvel. Unless it is past her bedtime.
Written by Brian K Vaughan
Drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa
Frank Castle, War Veteran, is happy with his beautiful wife and children. They are tragically gunned down, caught in crossfire. But Castle is not allowed to rest though; he is offered the chance at redemption as the human host of God’s Spirit of Vengeance. Now he uses his otherworldly powers to violently hunt down all breeds of sinners and give them Old Testament punishment. He is The Spectre.
Written by Garth Ennis
Drawn by Eduardo Risso
Former Soviet Spy Natasha Romanov was trained in espionage in the infamous Red Room. Now retired, the former top operative of the USSR unknowingly bought two Colt pistols used by the original Crimson Avenger as the world’s first vigilante. they were cursed, and now she is forced out of retirement as an operative of a higher power. Gifted and cursed by fate, she travels to places where people need to be punished. By aiming the pistols, she gets justice where there is none. She is the Crimson Avenger.
Written by Ed Brubaker
Drawn by Sean Phillips
Dying alien police man Abin Sur crash landed on Earth. He willed his ring, the source of his power, to find a fearless successor. What it found was Lex Luthor, billionaire visionary, who fearlessly is working his way to the top. Now armed with the most powerful weapon in the universe, Luthor has a whole new variety of options for dealing with his corporate and political enemies, and trying to save the world by perfecting it in his vision as the Green Lantern of Sector 2814. But how will the rest of the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps feel about his radical methods?
Written by Joe Casey
Drawn by Pascal Ferry
After the death of its only successful creation in World War II, the Super Soldier Program fell by the wayside. But weapons manufacturer and genius Tony Stark was inspired to try and create a one-man army. He succeeded, but fearful of competition for his formula, the government made testing it illegal. So Stark made a bold move, injecting himself. Now, he is the peak of human ability and fights modern terrorism, protecting America and stirring interest in his product, so that when his lawyers cut through the legal red tape, he can sell it for billions. Stark is the embodiment of the current American condition: consumerist, image focused, media savvy. He is Captain America.
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Mike Allred
Escaping alone in a spaceship from his exploding home planet of Krypton, a young alien crash lands on Earth. Discovered by his “aunt and uncle” May and Ben, the couple raise the child as Peter Parker. Even though his classmates and co-workers at the Daily Bugle think that he is Midtown High’s only professional wallflower, he hides a lonely secret. With his Kryptonian physiology, he is the most powerful creature on Earth. In between midterms and helping his aunt and uncle raise money, Peter rockets across the Earth and the galaxy as Superman. “With greatest power comes greatest responsibility.” But what does he do when one of his only two friends on Earth, his Uncle Ben, is murdered?
Written by Robert Kirkman
Drawn by Dale Eaglesham
When their plane goes down, four adventurers survive a crash they never should have walked away. Noticing that one of their watches that keeps perfect time has stopped, the friends realize that they are living on borrowed time. Instead of being traumatized, they decide to optimize their borrowed time. Even without powers, the friends go on interdimensional adventures, fighting monster, robots, and aliens. Sue Storm leads her fiance, the scientist Reed Richards; her brother, the engineer Johnny Storm; and their friend, the pilot Ben Grimm. They are The Challengers of the Unknown!
Written by Grant Morrison
Drawn by Ladronn
Teenage runaways Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen discover that they are actually the reincarnated spirits of doomed Ancient Egyptian royalty. With the weapons they inherited from past lives, including winged harnesses that allow them to defy gravity, the two must fight street gangs, super villains, enemies from past lives, and the man who originally murdered and killed them. As Hawkman and Hawkgirl, they must try to break the continuous cycle ending in their tragic deaths and avoid the undying love that always signals their doom.
Written by Sean McKeever
Drawn by Becky Cloonan
Dr. Terrence Thirteen is a professional skeptic, disproving the existence of mutants and gods in a world filled with pretenders. But when he comes across an ancient walking stick, he faces his toughest challenge yet: disproving the existence of Norse gods when the stick transforms him into the might thunder god Thor. Now he must fight Thor’s enemies from Asgard and Earth all the while disproving the existence of the paranormal.
Written by Warren Ellis
Drawn by Marcos Martin
Barry Allen is a stuffy, chronically-late average guy whose love for science led him to become a CSI. His nephew Wally West is a cocky, hyperactive teenager. When the pair is caught in an explosion, they can fuse into one super-powered body. Now the two have to work together to save the world as Firestorm.
Written by Gail Simone
Drawn by Karl Kerschl
In World War II, Steve Rogers wanted to serve his country in the army, but he was rejected as too frail. His patriotic spirit inextinguished, Rogers set out help his country on his own. Training with the greatest detectives, fighters, and strategists in the world, he became the pinnacle of human achievement. The World of the 40’s was a scary place, and Rogers wanted to frighten the scariest men. Adopting the identity of a bat, Rogers fought Nazi scientists, ubermensch, femme fatales, and other pulp threats during the World War II as the Batman.
Written by Steven T Seagle
Drawn by Darrick Robertson
From Liverpool, there comes a long-lived warlock. Ambivalent to the war between good and evil, he follows his own agenda, doing his best to avoid what would traditionally be thought of as heroic. His first foray into magic ended horribly in the death of his evil father. Ever since, he has walked the thin line between dark and light. If you see a man in a grungy trench coat coming out of the shadows smoking Silk Cut cigarettes, look out. He could be there to save you or damn you. He is James Howlett. He is a true Hellblazer.
Written by Brian Wood
Drawn by Alex Maleev
Thank you Eric! I don’t have much to nitpick on. I’d probably enjoy reading every one of these ideas, except for the Stark-as-Cap title by Millar. No-no-no! Bad Eric! Then again, Warren Ellis writing Doctor Thirteen as Thor while disproving the paranormal’s very existence is so damn good I can forgive you for Millar. And besides, it could have been worse. You could have used Winick. Thanks to everyone who joined in the fun.
In the spirit of Jerry Springer, I’ll give my “Final Thoughts.”
Somewhere in the world, every writer who ever worked on Vertigo’s Hellblazer just shuddered and none of them know why. Logan as Hellblazer is exactly the kind of “sandbox” idea that makes Elseworlds so fun when they’re done right. I’ll admit there are occasional Elseworlds that don’t seem to be that divergent from the mainstream anyway. Same with the What If…? books–when the creators really allow themselves to step outside the box and do something really different, it succeeds beautifully. On of my favorite stories ever was issue 43 of the old series, “What If…Conan the Barbarian was stranded in the 20th Century?” I mean, seriously, what if that happened? A writer could go a lot of ways with that. Would Conan be a hero or a villain or a stranger in a strange land? I mean, something like, say, “What If… J. Jonah Jameson found Thor’s hammer?” could be entertaining, but I could probably figure out, without reading it, that JJJ would become Thor (but still have that mustache?) and the outcome would either be Jonah becoming more accepting of superheroes by being one himself., or J. Jonah Thor squashing Spidey with a shot of Uru straight to the chops. While I’d probably get a laugh out of it, something deeper or more challenging will stick with me longer.
It’s just my opinion, but I feel like Marvel’s “What If…?” line seldom tried to reach as far as it could. Even something as simple as Aunt May dying instead of Uncle Ben or something as grand as Galactus devouring both Zenn-La and Earth could make for some terrific stories if the creators would step outside the box more. Many of the issues from “What if…? Volumes 1 and 2 were just simple concepts, like Frank Castle becoming Captain America or Daredevil killing Kingpin, but other than someone new wearing a familiar costume there doesn’t seem to be that much variation from the norm. DC, meanwhile, really runs with the ball in Elseworlds. In “Act of God” all of the super-powered heroes lost their abilities, and some took on completely new identities and costumes as non-powered students of the Batman. The world was drastically different at the end of the book than it was at the beginning. Same with “World’s Finest,” which showed Batgirl and Supergirl as the premiere heroes of their world. DC also opens up their sandbox to period pieces, such as “The Golden Age” and “Gotham By Gaslight.” Marvel only recently began playing with the concept of their heroes in the roles of fairy tales characters, but they could do so much more. What about a Spider-man in the the spirit of the Shadow’s radio drama adventures? Or The Mandarin’s Dragon Man Army invading Jewel of Europe, Latveria, ruled by the beloved Prince Von Doom?
Maybe 2008. Maybe someday. Maybe the Ultimate Universe will someday become the Ultimate Creator Playground. One of my main problems with that whole line is that they didn’t make their stories different enough from the ones they were based on. Most of the same characters on most of the same sides with most of the same powers — other than a character being younger or black there really wasn’t a significant difference. I’d love to see more. Don’t just retell the old stories with modern artistic and linguistic sensibilities, tell me a new story and amaze me with creativity. After all, creativity is the main component of the comic medium. Without it, all you have is repetition, and all that does is lead to stagnation and apathy. And none of us — creators, publishers, shop owners or fans, want that. Sure, there are original ideas around in the mainstream. World War Hulk was rather different and very well done. But there’s always room for more.
Now if I could just get the pictures to work again…
Welcome To My Nightmare