What If vol. 2#76
Marvel Comics (August. 1995)
“What If Peter Parker Had To Invent Spider-Man”
WRITER/INKER: Terry Austin
PENCILER: Stuart Immonen
COLORIST: Marie Javins
LETTERER: Janice Chiang
EDITOR: Marc McLaurin
Uatu the Watcher shows us a reality in which Flash Thompson was the one bitten by the radioactive spider. Gaining spider powers, Flash turns to Peter Parker to help him become a superhero. And after Mary Jane is killed by the burglar that would have killed Uncle Ben, he’s determined to help. But it’s a trick, as Flash really wants to become a supervillain. Calling himself The Spider, Flash goes on a crime campaign, even upstaging the Vulture during one of his attempts. Flash tries to kill Peter by webbing him up high but Pete manages to escape falling to his death. Seeking the help of Otto Octavius (and stopping the explosion that turned him into Doctor Octopus), Peter designs a robotic exoskeleton, chemicals, and devices meant to counteract the web-shooters and the Spider’s powers. Reed Richards is able to isolate the isotope before it fully integrates with Flash, and removes his powers, flushing them down the drain. Flash goes to prison and Peter, guided by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, goes into the crime-fighting game with his exoskeleton as Spider-Man.
What they got right: Is it the superpowers that make the superhero? No, because as seen here, supervillains can have superpowers as well. Peter is a good guy who for one reason or another is the hero type, even if in both versions he has to realize it for himself. Here we see that fate will turn him into a hero no matter what. He still designs the same stuff (the costume, the web-shooters) but Flash uses them his own way, even coming up with a different name. It shows that there are more to superheroes besides powers and costumes. I also like how they try to imitate the style of Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man’s first appearance, as best they can as art styles have changed. Only rarely do the bad stylings of the 90s rear its ugly head.
What they got wrong: Since it was around this time that the Spider-Writers were coming up with way to end the Spider-Marriage I can’t help but think Mary Jane dying in Uncle Ben’s place is their version of catharsis, and I’m sure Joe Quesada would love that part of the story (he wasn’t in charge at the time…he’d rather do the whole deal with technically-Satan) but it leaves me cold due to hindsight. Also, the cover boasts that this is the last appearance of Uatu the Watcher, and having read an issue without him it’s just not the same without the host noting the differences in realities. Then again that comic wasn’t very good so it may not be the one to judge on. Still, Uatu is too tied to What If to pull him out and I don’t know why they dropped him.
Recommendation: A really good tale that’s worth getting if you can find it.