Friday, March 29, 2013


I have two more of my What If pitches from 1990 for you.  Quoting
from Wikipedia, here’s the background you need for the first of the
two pitches...

Acts of Vengeance is a crossover storyline that ran through several
titles published by Marvel Comics from December 1989 to February
1990. It was centered on the Avengers and Fantastic Four after
three consecutive fall crossovers were built around the X-Men and
related mutant teams. Promotional materials teased the idea of a
wide array of super-villains facing heroes they had never met (or
at least were villains that weren't part of the heroes' regular

The core titles include Avengers, Avengers Spotlight, Avengers West
Coast, Captain America, Iron Man, Quasar, Thor and Fantastic Four.
Major tie-ins included Amazing Spider-Man among other Spider-Man
titles, Uncanny X-Men and the second Damage Control limited series.
An epilogue features in Cloak and Dagger, Web Of Spider-Man and in
an Avengers Annual.

Here’s the pitch...


Acts of Vengeance was the major comics crossover of 1989, involving
as it did virtually every Marvel super-hero title.  It would be the
perfect vehicle to try something different in the pages of WHAT IF:
a four-issue series within a series.  Covers would tie these four
issues together.

BOOK ONE: The villains succeed in eliminating most of their targets
in the first wave of attacks.  The Fantastic Four do not go to
Washington D.C. to speak against the Super Powers Registration Act,
but remain in New York to coordinate the efforts of the surviving
heroes.  Damage and loss of life has been considerable.  Public
opinion is turning against the heroes.  The villains launch their
second wave of attacks as Congress prepares to vote on the SPRA.

BOOK TWO: The heroes and villains clash once more with both sides
taking heavy losses.  The cosmic-powered Spider-Man defeats Loki in
a battle to the death, breaking the back of the villain conspiracy.
The heroes can hardly claim victory.  Public opinion has turned
against them.  The SPRA, grown into a document with far greater
application than in its original form, is signed into law by the

BOOK THREE: Post-SPRA America.  Super-powered activities, unless
initiated by the federal government itself, are illegal.  The Joint
Chiefs of Staff are creating their own version of the Avengers with
membership restricted to those super-powered individuals who are
American citizens, who have no criminal records and with identities
known to the government.  The new team is a virtual army in number,
but lacking in experience and raw power.  They have some success in
putting down the common criminal variety of super-villain, but they
are not prepared for what happens next. 

Magneto reappears with a mutant army to establish a mutant homeland
on American soil.  The Kingpin seizes complete control of New York
City, the opening move in an all-out assault on the United States
by his vast criminal network. It’s total war on two deadly fronts.

BOOK FOUR: The war rages on. The two-front struggle doesn’t go well
for the United States.  Peace is made with Magneto. The mutants get
their homeland in exchange for help against the Kingpin.  The tide
turns against the Kingpin.  He dies at the hands of a mutant, one
of his own men.  The war is over...for now.

The United States and the world watch the new mutant homeland with
fear and suspicion.  Persecution of mutants is on the rise in the
non-mutant world.  The remaining super-heroes fare no better.  They
suffer the same fear and suspicion as the mutants.  They must live
in guarded camps under government supervision.  They are prisoners
of the country they risked their lives to defend.

ADDENDUM: If this pitch seems a little thin for four issues of the
What If series, it’s because I figured the editor would want me to
use or not use certain characters...and also have a list of those
characters who could die in the course of the story.  If the pitch
has been green-lighted, I would have done more detailed synopsis.
When those synopsis were approved, I would have then done my usual
page-by-page panel-by-panel plot for the artists.


The second pitch wasn’t based on any specific storyline, but it did
take off from some long-forgotten-by-me sequence that appeared in
some Punisher story prior to 1990.


Our starting point is the first time the Punisher was arrested and
put in prison.  Jigsaw plans to dose him with mind-altering drugs.
But never gets the opportunity.  A high-ranking federal official
offers the Punisher a pardon and support for his personal crusade.
The price? The Punisher must agree to undertake covert missions for
the government.  The deal is made.

The Punisher’s first jobs for the government give him no qualms. He
eliminates several international criminals that couldn’t be reached
by legal means.  But succeeding missions seem less clear-cut to him
and he wonders if he’s being used to keep evil men in power simply
because they are friendly to our government’s interests.

When the Punisher refuses a mission, the official who recruited him
decides the Punisher must be terminated.  The Taskmaster, who has
studied the Punisher in action, is given the assignment. 

The Punisher is lured into the trap by the official - maybe Henry
Gyrich - and killed by the Taskmaster.  The official has only the
slightest regrets in this matter.  As he sess it, the security and
secrets of the nation must be protected.  The Taskmaster rephrases
the sentiment: what the public doesn’t know can’t hurt the people
in charge of these operations.

Cut to the officers of The Daily Bugle where J, Jonah Jameson has
just received a very interesting manuscript. 

It’s titled The Punisher’s War Journal.

ADDENDUM: I’m not as wild about this pitch as I was when I wrote it
over two decades ago.  I’m not sure the Punisher would have struck
such a deal.  On the other hand, so many writers have portrayed the
Punisher in so many ways, I’m not even sure about not being sure.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the first of two DC Comics pitches that
are even older than these.  If my memory is correct, the DC stuff
dates back to 1976.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. Funny enough, 20 years later, your Punisher question was answered, as he is more or less working for the government in the not-very-good, very-red new Thunderbolts comic. Sadly, a great series written by Ed Brubaker was pushed out of the way to make it happen!

    I miss the days when What If would pose questions. No "What If... Secret Invasion," but full on titles like "What If The Champions Never Disbanded?" The new stuff has no real sense of wonder to it; just another Age of Apocalypse type alternate reality to see.

  2. I loved Acts of Vengeance and I loved What If...?, but I hated when they did multi-issue stories in What If...? Part of the fun of that series was getting it all in one dose. Of course, that often led to rushed storytelling--I have to recap a six issue storyline, explain a key turning point, involve all the original characters and find away to work in a few more, and kill everyone and destroy the universe in 22 pages?--but it also made for some crazy fun.

    I guess what I'm saying is I would have been very torn between my love of Acts of Vengeance and my frustration of having to get the story over four months.

    Your Punisher pitch sounds much better than the What if Punisher joined SHIELD? issue that came to mind when I read the title.

    Thanks for sharing these behind the scenes glimpses.

  3. I for one would have loved to have seen both stories!

    David Peattie

  4. I suspect that the problem Jake describes about fitting it into one issue is why the original What If series was published as double-size issues. When the book was revived as regular size issues, it suffered much more from those problems.

  5. Looking back it's surprising What If never did a proper Acts of Vengeance story, although there was #31 "What If Spider-Man had kept his cosmic powers?" but that wasn't focused on the core story. They did issues based on the Evolutionary War, Inferno, Atlantis Attacks, Infinity Gauntlet, Operation Galactic Storm, Age of Apocalypse, the Clone Saga and Secret Wars all ending differently so this gap stands out. It's nice to see this one wasn't forgotten at the time even if it never made it to an issue.