Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Great Comic Book Covers

What If? #14

What if Sgt. Fury Had Fought World War Two in Outer Space?

What If? remains one of my very favorite series of all time. Because when it was good, it had the potential to be very good. And when it was bad . . . oh boy, did it redifine bad. Every month (or every other month) was a brand new adventure into the weird.

And this issue was no exception, because boy oh boy is it weird. But you know, it also isn't very good, either. Which is why pretty much everything about this comic can be summed up by the cover. On the one hand, the cover is sheer brilliance. On the other, you can pretty much tell that the cover is so weird and wacky that the inside of the comic will probably be something of a let down. And sure enough, it's pretty unememorable.

But holy shit, what a cover. Let's just start with the very premise itself. Usually
What If? stories branched out from specific point of departure in recognizable continuity -- such as, What If Spider-Man Had Joined the Fantastic Four? (springing out of the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man) or What If Elektra Had Lived (from Daredevil #181, but also the premise of every Elektra story since, oh, Daredevil #181). But sometimes the series took a further turn into leftfield. Everyone knows about issue #11, What if the Original Marvel Bullpen had Become the Fantastic Four?, one of the oddest oddball comics of all time. But this one is just about as bad - because, seriously, in case you don't remember your history, no-one fought World War Two in space. By definition, if the war had been fought in space against red-skinned lizards, it would have been more than a World War, right? A Space War? The level of coincidence necessary to believe that in a world so different from our own as to have achieved interplanetary travel by 1942, a band of space commandos that bore an unmistakable resemblence to the mainstream Marvel Universe's Sgt Fury and his Howlers would fight an analog to World War Two is breathtaking. Are we to believe that if the dominant species on Earth had been giant radioactive weasels than a Sgt. Furious Weasel would have fought Nazi weasels and Baron Weasel Strucker in Weasel War Two?

But such questions are besides the point. As Fury himself says on the cover, in what must be, by default, the greatest word balloon in comics history: "Keep movin', you lunkheads! Nobody lives forever! So get the lead out and follow me! We got us a space war to win!"

Truer words were never spoken.

I love the fact that Dum Dum Dugan has his trademark bowler hat on beneath his space helmet. And that Gabe Jones has, instead of his trademark trumpet, a fancy space trumpet. The only thing I don't like is the fact that my memory seems to have played a trick on me in regards to the fact that I could have sworn Nick was smoking a cigar in his space helmet, but I guess, looking at the cover now, that I was mistaken. Memory is a strange thing.

In any event, this is surely one of the greatest covers of all time, and if you don't agree, you're undoubtedly a freedom-hating Ratzi bastard in disguise.

No comments :