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Episode 1797 Talkback - Top 5 What Ifs and/or Elseworlds

Possibly a dream! Maybe an imaginary story! Listen in as the Geeks count down from five to one their favorite alternate tales on familiar characters, and throw in plenty of honorable mentions while they're at it. Don't let the name of the episode fool you, there will be an occasional trek away from the path of just Elseworlds and What If...? branded comics here, but we got Uatu's permission first so everything is fine. Although step on the wrong branch, and history will be rewritten once more! (2:36:56)

Listen here or give it a watch on YouTube!


  • nweathingtonnweathington Posts: 6,556
    I'll come back and post my lists later, once I've had time to sit down and think about it a bit, but I wanted to comment on @ShaneKelly’s mention of Comixology #1 before I forgot about it. That zine was self-published by Brian Saner Lamkin. The reason you didn’t see more of it was that he hadn’t gotten clearance from DC to publish it, thinking he could get by with fair use laws. Unfortunately that wasn't the case, and DC sent him a cease & desist. He had to stop selling it, and trash the remaining print run. But he used that book-in-the-guise-of-a-magazine as a proof of concept to pitch a proper magazine (under the same title) to TwoMorrows, and we published four issues of it (you could kind of think of it as a forerunner to Back Issue) which are now long out of print.
  • SciFiGuySciFiGuy Posts: 3
    Hey guys, first time poster to your comments section, here. Though I catch quite a few of your podcasts, it was this one that really compelled me to seek out your forums and post some comments. I listened to the episode in its entirety on my drive back to Chicagoland from Lansing the other day, and it really made the time fly by. This episode was hands-down my favorite episode of yours that I've listened to since discovering your podcast a few years ago. I really enjoy the alternate-reality stories that the comics medium so easily bring to life. You mentioned that you think DC pretty much owns this category, and I'd say I lean towards that opinion, myself. I have read many comics over the years, and many alternate-reality storylines. I happen to be in the same age range as most of you - picking up my first comics in the early '80's off the racks in my local super market. I've always enjoyed the Marvel line-up of characters better, but have also long appreciated Batman and Green Lantern from the DCU. Surprisingly, many of my favorite stories from the DCU involve alternate reality storylines. In fact, ALL of my favorite Superman stories are those types of tales: Red Son, Birthright, Superman for All Seasons, Kingdom Come, Secret Identity. These are all great stories and far more interesting to me that the regular fare from the monthly series. You guys mentioned two Superman-related stories that I have never read: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and The Nail. I just ordered the latter of these from amazon this afternoon and am looking forward to checking it out in a week or so upon arrival.

    In keeping with the excellent topic of discussion, I will post my own favorite alternate reality stories/universes below:

    10. Batman: the Dark Knight Returns - This one needs little explanation, and I agree with whomever said that the animated version of the story was well-done.

    9. Superman: Secret Identity - A very humanizing story for Clark Kent. Busiek is a master storyteller, and this one really grabbed me. I have purchased his follow up, Batman: Creature of the Night, but have yet to read it.

    8. Marvel Zombies - Though this one got played out a bit too long, it was just a fun storyline to see what happens to all of these heroes and villains who are completely overcome by their need to eat the living. I enjoyed it quite a bit more than DCeased.

    7. Batman: Vampire (trilogy) - Both the writing and the artwork do a masterful job portraying Batman become the ultimate predator of the night.

    6. Batman: Last Knight on Earth - The most recent book that appears on this list, I truly enjoyed this one from start to finish, as I do most anything from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Looking forward to reading more of their Metal series down the line.

    5. Future Imperfect - The BEST Hulk story of all time. Just love it, and probably the book I have loaned out the most to friends.

    4. Old Man Logan/Old Man Hawkeye - Great dystopian universe. I was so happy to see a return to this place in OMH.

    3. Ultimate Universe - Yes, that's pretty broad, but it IS a single entity that is outside the regular 616 universe. Ultimate Spider-Man single-handedly brought me back into comics after a few years out of the hobby. It's effects will long be felt in the comics universe - both in print and on screen.

    2. Superman: Red Son - Easily my favorite Superman story, and the book I have gifted to others the most. It's a nearly perfect story. I wish the animated version had stayed more true to the original material. Too many unnecessary changes kept it from meeting expectations.

    1. Kingdom Come - The most beautiful comic story I own, and jam-packed with Easter eggs. A delight to read time and again, and a must-own for any DC comic fan.

    Honorable Mentions: JLA: Earth 2, Batman: Birth of the Demon, Superman for All Seasons, Avengers Forever, Batman VS Predator.

    Keep up the great work gentlemen. I appreciate your enthusiasm and breadth of knowledge. Until next time...

  • i_am_scifii_am_scifi Posts: 694

    Welcome to the forums, @SciFiGuy! Thank you so much for all of your kind words, and for listening as long as you have. And your choices here are excellent! I didn't even think of including the Ultimate Universe, but if I did I think it's an honorable mention, if only because of how inconsistent the later stories set in it were. But it did breathe new life into the Marvel Universe for new and existing readers at the time, and without the groundwork it laid, the MCU would look quite different as well.

  • GargoyleGargoyle Posts: 199
    Great episode guys. Really reminded me how much I love this spin on story-telling. I think it helps that many of these are pretty much stand-alone, and while they may reward long-time readers with deep pulls and easter eggs, they don't demand that you get into convoluted continuity in order to enjoy. I see it as a downside that when there is success it's hard for the big 2 to resist pulling characters out of their pocket continuity to give the mainstream a shot in the arm (eg Watchmen into DCU, Maestro and Dark Beast into 616).

    Whilst not an Elseworlds/What If as such, I'd give an honourable mention to the Omniverse, as introduced by Alan Moore in Captain Britain which gave us 616 as well as some awesome interpretations of the titular character (which I'm sure helped inspire Spider-Verse).
  • David_DDavid_D Posts: 3,878
  • dbranningdbranning Posts: 6
    edited January 23
    Loved this episode! You guys have some cosmic synergy going on with the Fire & Water network, where they recently posted a nice roundup of their favorite imaginary/what if stories.

    Some random thoughts that popped into my head as I was listening:

    1.) Shane, I totally loved with your pick of "Destiny's Hand." Those are the only four issues of that iteration of Justice League that I have held onto over the years. Great story, and I had almost forgotten about it! Time for a re-read.

    2.) Ian, when you brought up The Nail, I instantly thought of another great Alan Davis "What-If" type story, and that's Fantastic Four: The End. Have you read it? As with The Nail, I think the story is pretty good, but the art is just drop-dead gorgeous and that's what sells the book. Also worth finding is the "Rough Cut" edition of the first issue, which reprints Davis' pencils for the issue, un-inked. So good! There's also Superboy's Legion, which I haven't read, but I'm curious about.

    3.) My own favorite issue of What If? is number 32 from the first series -- "What If the Avengers had become Pawns of Korvac?" This was in 1982. I knew nothing of Korvac and not that much about the Avengers either, and it didn't matter: This book was like a cosmic introduction to the Marvel Universe, a cosmic trip with the scale getting ever-larger as the story progressed. It was awesome, tragic, and mind-blowing, and I've never forgotten it. It wasn't until many years later that I read the original "Korvac Saga" in the Avengers proper. That was pretty good. But What If #32 was better!

    4.) Another great one is the Steranko Superman story in Superman #400. It's about eight or ten pages, just double-page spread illustrations with Steranko's text all around them. It's a grand tale of mankind's (and Super-mankind's) future destiny, as we head out into the stars together, on a scale of millions of years. Kind of the comics equivalent of an Olaf Stapledon novel, where the "point of view" is not from any one character, but from the universe itself. Again, this one blew my mind as a kid and I've never forgotten it.

    5.) Just want to shout out John Byrne's Generations series, which I don't think appeared on any of your lists. [EDIT: oops! Shane and Murd did have it.] Generations I and II were fantastic: Byrne took the premise "what if Superman and Batman aged normally?" and ran with it, much like those "Batman Family" stories from the early 1960's Batman comics where Batman married Batwoman and their son became "Batman II" and so forth. I loved those stories as a kid (reprinted in my well-worn copy of Batman from the 30's to the 70's), and Byrne took this same idea and made it far richer and more interesting. Sadly, his third try, Generations III, wasn't nearly as good, even though the premise is very exciting (Superman lives through 1,000 years of DC history, into the time of the Legion.) I believe there's an omnibus of all the Generations stories coming out some time in 2021.

    Cheers and Happy New Year everyone!
  • Oh! And I forgot "How To Prevent A Flash," from the Five-Star Super-Hero Spectacular (DC Special Series #1). Barry imagines an alternate future where his lab co-worker gets splashed with the same chemicals that gave him his powers. There are a couple of twists that are really cool, and it's by the regular team of Cary Bates and Irv Novick that I grew up reading in The Flash.
  • nweathingtonnweathington Posts: 6,556
    dbranning said:

    There's also Superboy's Legion, which I haven't read, but I'm curious about.

    While Alan had the idea for the basic premise for this one, Mark Farmer wrote it. He's a big Legion fan, and Alan was encouraging him to try his hand at writing (which Mark hadn't done since his earliest days in the British market). This was at the point where publishers were toying with printing directly from pencils and many pencilers started digitally inking themselves, and inking jobs were becoming a little harder to come by. I don't think it's quite as good as The Nail, but it's worth reading if you like The Nail and you like the Legion.
  • LeeNovaLeeNova Posts: 14

    Loved the episode, and I have to put together a list soon. But the comment about the Dark Knight Returns being more for long-time comic readers got me thinking about a top 5 topic (I think I recall someone saying something like that anyway...). Has CGS ever done something like a Top 5 Comics/Storylines for First-Time Readers? For example, I would think giving someone Batman Year One would probably be a better introduction to comics than The Dark Knight Returns. I'd be interested in the thoughts of everyone at CGS on titles that are good for growing comic readership if the episode hasn't already been done.

  • i_am_scifii_am_scifi Posts: 694
    And just like that, it's officially on the list, @LeeNova!
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