BY MATT TUCK
FB@ The Comic Blog
The What If…? market is hotter than ever, and there are plenty of issues with high potential and low risk. If you have been a fan from the beginning, your loyalty could pay off in the near future.
THE WHAT IF…? REVOLUTION
With the current direction of the MCU, Marvel Studios is delving further into the unknown, and many of the cues are coming from those classic issues of What If…?. While the Disney+ series of the same name put the biggest target on the comics, the real investment speculation has come from the live-action universe. In recent years, we’ve seen several issues of What If…? get a boost in fair market value thanks to the greater MCU. After all, Jane Foster’s turn with Mjolnir in Thor: Love and Thunder sent ripples through the market for What If…? #10. In the past month, What If…? #18 bulked up its FMV due to the evil Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer.
It’s all added up to an increasingly tantalizing market for What If…? issues. The real speculation will come with the second season of the animated series, and it could lead to stories and events inspired by the comic series. The best part about these issues is that you can take the plunge without going broke. Take a look.
WHAT IF…? #19
This issue may not seem like much, but it could be fodder for an upcoming episode of What If…?.
Much of the the MCU’s future hinges on Spider-Man and his cast of supporting characters, though we saw surprisingly little of Spidey and his amazing friends in What If…?’s inaugural season. That leads me to believe that we will see more of the alternate adventures of Peter Parker going forward. In all likelihood, if superpowered beings existed in reality, the majority of them would use their abilities to make money as athletes or performers of some kind. This issue explores the idea that Spider-Man put his talents to use as an entertainer, and that sounds like a probable candidate for What If…?.
This has not exactly been a big seller as of late. The most recent slabbed copy to sell online was a 9.6 that brought $124 in November. Before that, a 9.8 sold for $150 last May. In the past week, raw copies have sold anywhere from $1.25 to $10.
WHAT IF…? #23
“What if…Hulk became a barbarian?” While that question may not be the basis of an episode of What If…?, there’s a very important concept lying in these pages. In fact, it could influence the introduction of the X-Men into the MCU.
The main story is exactly as it sounds: Hulk is thrown into a sword-and-sorcery tale that would be better suited for Conan. During the story, Marvel established that the first Celestials to visit Earth planted the seeds of what would become the Eternals, the Deviants, and mutants.
Despite being an alternate-reality story, Marvel Comics has officially adopted the notion of Celestials having created mutants as canon. Since The Eternals basically put the superpowered androids at the center of mankind’s evolution, it would be an easy turn to expand the Celestials’ role to include the creation of mutants in the MCU, thus laying the groundwork for the X-Men.
There hasn’t been a slabbed copy to swap owners online since a 9.6 brought $200 in November. The month before, a 9.8 sold for $400. For those willing to take a gamble on a raw copy from eBay, you can get these for less than $10 in some cases, though most stay in the $10-$20 range.
WHAT IF…? #39
Here’s an intriguing storyline that isn’t out of the realm of possibility: “What if Thor battled Conan?”
If Strange Supreme is the villain of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, then What If…? could become the animated launching pad for many new characters and concepts that cross into live action. After all, the Marvel Zombies are getting their own animated series, so this could be at work already.
The next logical step would be for Marvel Studios to utilize What If…? to introduce new characters from across the Multiverse, and that could be a place for Conan the Barbarian to get his first stab at the MCU. Since Robert E. Howard’s stories are public domain, that could mean the studio can legally create a live-action or animated version of Marvel’s Conan without running afoul of copyright laws. One great place to start would be the epic confrontation of the thunder god and Conan for an episode of What If…?.
Apparently, at least one other person sees the value in What If…? #39. There was only one graded 9.8 sold online last year, and it went for a ridiculous $960. Prior to that sale, the record high had been $180, which was reached in 2017. Of course, there’s no reason to pay such an elevated (and, frankly, suspicious) price when raw copies have been selling for about $5 as of late. For that low price, it’s worth the investment just in case Thor and Conan ever meet on the screen.
WHAT IF…? #105
Of all the issues on today’s list, What If…? #105 is the best known. Going back to the early rumors of the Into the Spider-Verse sequel - before the project even had an official title - Spider-Girl was speculated for her first onscreen appearance. Now that we have seen the first trailer for Across the Spider-Verse, that Spider-Girl gossip has not slowed.
So who is she? In many ways, her origin story is perfect for an interdimensional Spider-verse movie. Being a What If…? story, Spider-Girl comes from an alternate reality in which Peter and Mary Jane have a daughter, Mayday. She inherits her father’s spider powers and dons a version of the Spider-Man costume that is identical to the Ben Reilly costume.
An alternate version of Spider-Man who is the daughter of Peter and MJ? That sounds like a character destined for Across the Spider-Verse, and collectors have been buying this issue for years based on that speculation. In 2020, the graded 9.8 reached an insane record high when one copy brought $1,595. Before that, it had never reached over $510. Last year, the FMV raised to over $700, and one slab sold for $1,300 in October. There hasn’t been a 9.8 to sell in 2022, and the November and December sales brought significantly lower values than those October sales. The most recent sale was for $525 on December 6.
If those prices are too much for your taste, consider the raw copies. So far in January, an advertised near-mint What If…? #105 brought $45 on Sunday.
A WEALTH OF STORIES TO CHOOSE FROM
Be it on the screen or in the comics, the best part about What If…? is the vast possibilities for stories. The brand’s intent is to be a place where anything can happen. The first season of the cartoon was laser focused on exploring alternate takes on the MCU. While the second season will likely stay in those parameters again, the nature of What If…? implies that the showrunners could pull more stories from the treasure trove of comic inspiration. With a title that relies on surprise takes on familiar characters, drawing from the comics could be the next wave.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and the Blogger Supreme. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.writer.