Tuesday, 29 May 2007

What If? #43

While I was getting my week's stash I overheard two of the blokes at Orbital comics talking about some forthcoming Marvel/Dynamite team-up featuring Spider-Man and Red Sonja. They seemed to find the idea depressing, but super-hero/barbarian crossovers needn't necessarily be a bad thing. After all What If #43, which features a meeting between Conan and Captain America, is one of my favourite comics of all time.

Being the all-knowing comic shop staff that they are, the Orbital men were familiar with the tale and, even if they weren't wholly convinced by the sheer excellence of the story itself, they had to acknowledge that this Sienkiewicz cover is a barnstormer.

I reckon it's one of the greatest covers ever. Nevertheless it would be a mistake to think that this comic's appeal ends with the cover, because believe me, whatever anyone else says, the story inside is a beauty.

It's a sequel to What If #13, a comic in which Conan finds himself stranded in 1970's New York by an evil sorcerer. He meets a nice looking female cabbie, bones her and then makes his escape back to the Hyperborean age by waving some ancient artifact or other in front of a bolt of lightning that hits the roof of the Guggenheim museum.

All well and good, but...what if Conan was jumped by a bunch of cops BEFORE the lightning hit him?

That's where What If #43 comes in...


Thus a mere 30 issues after Conan made a Back to the Future style return to Hyperborea, we find ourselves in a world where the Cimmerian swaps his lightning bolt home for a prison cell.

Of course Conan doesn't hang around in police custody for long and, after escaping the fuzz, he does what any barbarian on the run would do and heads straight for the red light district...

where he settles into a life of crime, rising up the underworld ladder in a manner reminiscent of Scarface...


Loaded with money, he turns his mind to the honey. Yes, all that robbing has got our man throbbing. Keen for another ride from the cabbie he made it with in What If #13, he sets out to impress her with the trappings of his new found wealth.

It's at this moment that we are presented with THE most incredible costume change in the HISTORY of Marvel comics...


Yes true believers that is Conan. Conan the pimpbarian to you.

Yes he's got a pink leopard on the end of that lead.

And yes, that does indeed make him the motherfucking BOMB!

Or at least I think so. Sadly his beeatch is less than impressed...

Say what?

Look again Ho...

The man's a player and a slayer.

And he's got a pink leopard.

But she doesn't want him, and in a sad move Conan ditches the threads (and the leopard) to concentrate on building his empire of crime. His first step is to get a crew together. Not just any crew either. He goes straight to the baddest gang leader in NYC.


Being a fair minded man, Conan offers his rival the chance to hand over the keys to his kingdom and take on a role as his number two. It's an offer that doesn't go down well...


"The strength of Africa" is no match for the "Fear from Ymir" though...



and soon Conan is commanding his very own awesome army...


Tough looking gang - apart from the blokes at either end who appear to have modelled their outfits on these two...


But I digress. This phase in Conan's life is almost as cool as his pink leopard period. He steals stuff, beats people up, gets a protection racket going and drinks lots of beer. It's a good living, but Conan wants MORE and sets up a daring raid on a museum.

To cut a long story short, the raid is going fine until a hitherto unseen and frankly rather camp member of Conan's gang accidentally smashes a display case with his scabbard...

...which sets off an alarm wired directly to Avengers Mansion thus alerting none other than...


Dropping his Cup 'o' Cap the Sentinel of Liberty hurries to the scene of the crime. And this is where What If provides the proof that barbarian/super hero crossovers can be cool. How? With a five page fight scene of course! And what a fight it is. A fight where Cap punches


and kicks Conan


until the barbarian's head "rings like an iron bell"


BUT HE STANDS!

And he punches back, and when the punching doesn't work, he grabs a fucking huge sword and hacks off Cap's arm!

Well OK, he doesn't actually hack it off but he does make a bloody great mess of it. That's enough to end the fight and allow Conan and his gang to escape the museum leaving the wounded Cap to deal with some uncomfortable stirrings.


Conan can't get their testosterone fueled romp out of his head either and is soon sending word that he wants another tussle with the now healed Cap. Everything seems set for round two...

Sadly the cops and Conan's gang both show up unannounced and in the ensuing melee Conan's number two gets shot


The cop pulls the trigger, but...


Wait! Did Captain America just ask Conan to join the Avengers? I think he did. How fantastic would that be?

As far as I know it's a story yet to be told, but The Watcher (who handles these things) says he may tell it one day.

I say Marvel let him tell the tale! If they can do Spidey/Red Sonja then I don't see why they can't get the Avengers and Conan together. If it's half as good as What If #43 it's worth doing.

4 comments:

Ben said...

what if cap let the next coke dealing maniac he meets into the avengers?
how odd..
was this a dry run for the whole Micha Synn Daredevil story arc? wasnt that drug dealing barbarians or something. The cover does rock.

Dom Sutton said...

You know I think they both came out around the same time. Perhaps there was something in the air.

I bought that What If #43 at one of the old comic marts in Central Hall across the road from Westminster Abbey (I think 1984???). Was one of my favourite covers back then and still is.

Ben said...

yeah, i feel like going to one of those comic marts again.. but only out of a sense of nostalgia... and also exercising my new adult wallet.. i think the micha synn stuff is well later than 1984. micah is in the run up to the frank miller mazuchelli run.. possibly the best daredevils ever

werehawk said...

I just found this site. Conan did appear on the Avengers for one panel in Avengers Forever 12.