Sunday, 30 March 2014

What If? #4

What if the Invaders Had Stayed Together After World War Two?

Writers: Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins

Artist: Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Collected in:
  • What If? Classics vol. 1 (Marvel Comics, Dec 29th 2004)
  • Captain America: Patriot (Marvel Comics, Feb 16th 2011)
  • Captain America: The Legacy of Captain America (Marvel Comics, Apr 13th 2011)
  • Captain America and Bucky: Old Wounds (Marvel Comics, Jun 13th 2012)
  • This issue is available as part of Marvel Unlimited, and can be purchased on Marvel's Comixology site.

Continuity Notes

-        A What If? tale, it has since been accepted as part of the mainstream 616 universe. Perhaps because of the freedom the What If? concept brings with it, it introduces us to a lot of concepts that may not have been seen fit in a regular issue.

-        The death of Adolf Hitler is perhaps the craziest concept. There are conspiracy theories around the subject everywhere (one of the most recent publications being Grey Wolf): of how his body was switched for a double, or that Hitler and Eva escaped into hiding, but none are more insane than the theory that a combusting Ally (the Human Torch) left him and his bunker to flame. The actual suicide occurred April 30th 1945 at the F├╝hrerbunker whilst Berlin was being blockaded, less than two weeks after Steve and Bucky, and also Roosevelt, had been lost from the war effort. Unlike in reality, he is seen placing the gun to his head in the presence of one officer, Otto G├╝nsche (who was actually there at his suicide in real life), his newly-wed wife Eva Braun already dead (erroneously written as cyamide poisioning in this issue.) The Torch and Toro offer custody, but Hitler forces the flame in his direction as a final (and successful) attempt at suicide.

-        Hitler survived the war - at least, in some form. The character of the Hate-Monger appears in Fantastic Four #21, later revealed to be a perfect clone of Hitler produced by Arnim Zola to transcend death (in that issue, the reasons for Hitler's post-war survival are left ambiguous, but still suspect.) Zola created a clone of at least one other member of the party: Johann Smith, or the Red Skull, as revealed in Uncanny Avengers #1 where his cloned form is brought into the modern day.

-        It's an event which has been re-presented numerous times, most recently in The Torch #7 and Invaders Now! #1. In that issue, Rockslide and Anole ask the Torch to confirm if he actually did kill Hitler. He says:
 "There are plenty of things I did in the war I'd rather forget... ...but setting that monster on fire and watching him burn... ...I just regret I could only do it once."
-        In Spider-Man: Fear Itself, Silver Sable informs Spider-Man of the reality of Hitler's death and 'resurrection.'

-        JFK even appears in this issue, at this time a state representative who is targeted by Adam II. In the end, this becomes the scene of Naslund's death, little more than a year after he took up the title. The scene is explored in more detail in Captain America: Patriot #1, and again in Captain America and Bucky #625. The speech JFK gave on July 4th is available online at the JFK Library.

-        The concept of the legacy Captain America was first touched upon in Captain America #153, which introduced William Burnside, who took the role of Captain America from 1953-55. This issue reveals there to be two who preceded him: William Naslund and Jeff Mace.

-        Naslund states "back in '42 [...] I was another masked crusader--the "Spirit of '76"!" As the issue notes, Davis had first appeared in The Invaders #14-15 as a batboy for the New York Yankees, and Naslund as the Spirit of '76 in Marvel Premiere #30.

-        Truman says: "This country's lost three great men in the past few weeks --first, President Roosevelt, God rest his soul-- --then, a few days later, Captain America and young Bucky Barnes." Roosevelt died of a cerebral haemorrhage on April 12th, immediately succeeded by Truman. Sentinel of Liberty #12 shows us that Steve and Bucky left for that fateful mission on the very same afternoon Roosevelt died; Man Out of Time #1 states that the mission itself occurred on April 18th, 6 days later.

-        Truman describes the history of the Invaders:
"It's no secret that the Invaders were the Allies' ace in the hole from late 1941 on: seven of you, by mid-42, joined by others from time to time... You seven were the core, though-- a fighting unit second to none-- past, present or probably future! Well, Mussolini fell in '43-- and the Nazi swastika's crumbling right this minute--"
-        The Watcher's dialogue implies the All-Winners Squad only stayed together through 1945 and 1946. Obviously, as later sources would show, the team remained together until 1948, following Bucky's shooting.

-        Page 19 retells the Torch's origins, from Marvel Comics #1. The Watcher describes this as "seven years ago."

-        Captain America and Bucky #627 and Captain America: Patriot #1 show the 'fallout' from these 1946 events - namely, Fred mourning the death of William Naslund that night, and Mace being officially appointed to the position of Captain America by one Agent Skinner.

-        The issue spans the period of April 1945 through to Naslund's death on July 4th 1946.
  • Pages 1-4 - The supposed death of Steve and Bucky (April 18th, per Man Out of Time #1), as first seen in Avengers #4.
  • Pages 5-7 - Hitler's death and the appointment of the new Captain America and Bucky (April 30th)
  • Pages 8-14 - The Liberty Legion learn of their re-assignment to the Invaders (May). Farrow describes that "the remnants of the Wehrmacht surrendered and in Bavaria and Western Austria. The war in Europe is all but over." After the fall of Berlin, a number of German states surrendered in quick succession from 4th-8th May. Farrow is indeed correct: VE Day would occur on 8th May, mere days or even hours after this scene.
  • Pages 15-16 - May-August, the later days of the war. The Watcher says "the Torches paved the way for Allied landings." A series of landings, including British men, occurred through June and July 1945.
  • Page 17, panel 2 - The infamous events of Hiroshima (6th August) are shown. "The world was forever changed."
  • Page 17 - The surrender of Japan on September 2nd. Truman assigns the Invaders to a new role: the All-Winners Squad. Miss America says "[it's] not too euphonious-- but I guess it'll do."
  • Page 18 - The events of All Winners Comics #19. Only two issues were ever produced featuring the superhero team, #19 and 21. The previous 18 issues were actually an anthology; the series would then shift focus to All Teen Comics and Hedy de Vine, clearly entirely different concepts from World War II/post-war super teams.
  • Pages 19-34 - the death of William Naslund, Independence Day 1946.

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