Handling comic book superheroes is a little bit like having sex, no matter how insanely incompatible the two might seem. With both fictional heroes and sex you have to occasionally mix it up, try new things, get a third person in there in full clown makeup and a lime green tutu, or something. Otherwise the experience ends up stale and you have to invent some bullshit excuses about being tired and not in the mood. That’s why we have alternative versions of the world’s most popular superheroes out there. Stories that ask questions like:
7.What if Superman was a commie?
Do you realize how fortunate we were that Superman’s spaceship landed in some empty field in Kansas, USA? What if it was, like, the South Pole? People, we would be living under a brutal penguin dictatorship by now. Actually I would much rather read that story, but I guess a commie Superman is equally interesting. To be honest, the Superman in Red Son isn’t that much different from the regular Superman, only that he really digs Stalin and wants to create a world utopia for the proletariat… By eliminating individual liberties and giving people forced lobotomies. So, yeah, not really anything like the regular Superman… This one is actually badass.
6.What if Batman was an anti-Soviet terrorist?
The fan squabbles over who could whoop whose ass, Superman or Batman, are so strong that they have even made it into the alternative stories. And thus we get a Cossack Batman, whose parents get murdered by Stalin’s son and who for a short time acts as the commie Superman’s nemesis. It truly speaks volumes for the badassery of a character when he can make a fluffy Russian hat look THAT intimidating. This Batman however strays a little bit from the original. He still has his toys and that indomitable iron spirit but, and careful cause there be spoilers ahead, he goes a pretty out of character way when he kills himself in the second book. Still, he did it with a bomb implanted in his chest, so we guess we can let that one slide.
5.What if Iron Man existed in the 17th century?
1602: New World is a sequel to the acclaimed 1602 limited series which transplants popular Marvel Comics characters into the year 1602. That bit of information took months to gather, costing us the lives of countless field agents, so we hope you appreciate the effort. In 1602:NW a Spanish man by the name of Lord Iron acts as the series Iron Man, a genius weaponeer and inventor who builds an advanced armor powered by electricity to kick the ass of his world’s Bruce Banner, the man who incidentally tortured the crap out of him at one point. Also, and it might be just me, this Iron Man sort of looks like the bastard love child of the Soldier from Team Fortress 2 and a toaster.
4.What if Batman was the Earth’ Green Lantern?
Now, you might be thinking that offering a ring of godly Power—limited only by the user’s will and imagination—to Batman of all people might be a tad unfair to every criminal in existence. Because let’s face it, once you get the Green Lantern ring on Bat’s finger you can easily classify “crime” as “pointless insanity.” But that’s what actually happens in the Elseworld one-shot “In Darkest Knight.” Of course, to make it even a little bit challenging for the main hero, Batman receives the ring at the beginning of his crusade, when he wasn’t yet the absolute peek of all that is humanity. This type of ploy is known in writing circles as a ‘cop out.’
3. What if Spider-man worked during the Great Depression?
Not that long ago, someone at Marvel was probably watching the Maltese Falcon or The Long Goodbye, and said to himself that this depressing and grim noir environment would be perfect for the colorful-spandex clad Marvel superheroes and thus the Marvel Noir brand was born. That person then took another huff out of his glue bag.
Luckily the glue wasn’t that strong because the Noir Spider-man doesn’t sound all that bad: He wears a black mask, trench coat and in addition to all of his traditional Spider-man powers he also carries with him… a gun. Crap on a roll, it might be just the methamphetamines talking but we actually want to read this stuff now instead of just reading about it on Wikipedia.
2.What if Wonder Woman kicked men in the balls in the 19th century?
Wonder Woman is… a hard character to write, and not just because most comic book writers are male. No, even women have trouble grasping what this superheroine masquerading as a stripper is all about, though that very description might actually explain everything. And so we arrive at Amazonia, an Elseworld novel where Diana gets kidnapped from Paradise Island by Steve Trevor, is forced to marry him, and ends up performing at a London theater while Jack the Ripper rules over England. To call the story weird would be as much of an understatement as saying brutal inmate rape is an unfortunate thing, what with the painfully shoehorned themes of feminism, chauvinism so stock you could make a soup of it, and OH YEAH, Jack the Ripper being king of England. In short: it’s the physical incarnation of “awesome” in paper form. Get it now.
1.What if Marvel had written Wolverine while high on horse tranquilizers?
The following conversation may or may not have taken place at Marvel:
Marvel Exec. #1: Gentlemen, we have a problem. It seems kids are all over this “manga” thing and we’re not getting a piece of the action. Joey, can we buy them out? Marvel Exec. #2: Buy who out? Marvel Exec. #1: The people behind this “manga” business. Marvel Exec. #2: Japan? You want to know if we can buy out Japan? Marvel Exec. #1: Yes. Marvel Exec. #2: No. Marvel Exec. #1: Can we make some of our own? Marvel Exec. #2: I guess but… Marvel Exec. #1: Excellent! Bob, you’re on it! Make some manga. Marvel Exec. #3: What’s manga? Marvel Exec. #1: I think it’s just like regular comic books, only with big eyes and basically no sense at all. Also lots of shiny colors and possibly lasers. Marvel Exec. #3: Anything else to it? Marvel Exec. #1: No, I am pretty sure that’s everything.