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What If #24: Review

Dec 1980
Tony Isabella, Gil Kane

Story Name:

What If Gwen Stacy Had Lived?

Review & Comments

3.5 stars

What If #24 Review by (March 20, 2018)
In the 'real' world Spidey caught up with Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #122 and during their fight GG was impaled by his own remote-controlled glider. He appeared to die. Later we learned that son Harry removed the Goblin costume so that the world didn't learn that the supervillain was his father. And much later we learned that Norman Osborn wasn't even dead.

A trouble with these timelines diverging from a particular moment is that soemtimes they require earlier events to have happened differently too. It's a relatively minor example here. ASM#122 has Harry Osborn recovering from an earlier LSD overdose, weak and begging for help. Not quite the character we see in this issue.

And *his* mental problems cause Harry to use the costume to become the *next* Green Goblin.

While this seems to be an interesting little tale, closer investigation reveals another typical problem with the What If idea - the difference in outcome doesn't actually stem from the divergence. In this case the final result isn't really because Gwen lived, or even because Norman Osborn lived and repented. The  ending arises purely because Green Goblin told Peter Parker's secret to J Jonah Jameson, and his reason for doing that could apply equally to the events in ASM#122 in the main timeline.

The backup story (and the 1 in next issue) is a retelling of part of Jim Starlin's origin of Thanos and his people on Titan from Captain Marvel #29. But this version (now the accepted 1) makes them an offshoot of the Eternals rather than descendants of the Greek Titans of myth.

Gil Kane only does layouts, Frank Giacoia does the finished pencils. Frank's inking is assisted by Carl Gafford, Pete Poplaski, Ron Zalme and Joe Albelo.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

What If #24 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Image from What If #24
The main story in this issue considers what might have happened if Gwen Stacy hadn't died in Amazing Spider-Man #121.

It's the anniversary of her death and Spider-Man sits on top of the George Washington Bridge where it happened. Peter Parker recalls how much in love they had been. But he also remembers how Green Goblin had brought the unconscious girl there. The hero and villain had both learned each other's identity, and now Spidey's arch-foe wanted him to allow himself to be killed, or Norman Osborn would kill Gwen. Peter was suffering from the flu so his fighting wasn't up to par. He tried to take down Goblin with 1 punch but failed. And the villain knocked Gwen off the tower as he flew away. Spider-Man stopped his love's fall with a webline. But when he hauled her back up she was dead. (Some say her neck snapped when he caught her.)

Uatu the Watcher has been watching (what else?) this. He can also see into alternate timelines that diverged from the main 1 at specific moments. He now shows us 1 where Gwen Stacy lived.

The fight occurs as before and unconscious Gwen is knocked off the bridge. But this time Spidey chooses to leap after the plummeting girl. His initial leap causes him to fall faster than her, and as he passes Gwen he grabs her and fires off a webline to swing on. But in his haste he forgets to allow for the wind and misses the bridge. Twisting to get his body beneath her they disappear into the Hudson River. And Norman Osborn flies off gloating on his Goblin Glider.

But he celebrated too soon as the pair resurface. Spidey drags Gwen to land and unmasks to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She awakes to see Peter's concerned face ...

... but then screams as she recognises the costume of the man who she thinks killed her father (ASM#90). Peter gradually gets Gwen to listen as he explains how Capt George Stacy really died (and presumably some other things like how he blames himself for his Uncle Ben's death, and how Green Goblin knows who he is and vice versa). Doctor Octopus knocked a wall off a roof. Capt Stacy saved a boy from the falling rubble but was hit himself. As he died he revealed he knew Spider-Man was Peter and asked him to look after his daughter.

And when he knows she believes him Peter caps the tale by asking Gwen to marry him. She accepts his proposal, and he webslings off to make sure Norman Osborn can't harm their future.

Meanwhile Goblin has called all the mob bosses in New York together and demanded they now work for him on the basis that he's killed Spider-Man. They're not too keen on this even before Spidey shows up still alive. SM fights GG and is winning when Goblin threatens to reveal his identity. At this the mobsters intervene to make sure GG stays alive to tell them. Spidey fights *them* and Goblin slips away.

Peter's unstoppable rage has affected Norman's fragile sanity and as he runs away he's convinced he can never escape his nemesis. So on the way he posts a convenient envelope to what he calls Spidey's 2nd greatest enemy to ensure his victory even from the grave.

Meanwhile Peter has beaten the gangsters and has now calmed down a bit. He agonises over the necessity to kill Osborn to protect Gwen (and Aunt May and others). But killing is something totally against his beliefs, even without factoring in the fact that Norman is the father of his best friend Harry Osborn.

A bit later Norman is at home with Harry and has revealed that he is the Green Goblin (the fact that he's still wearing the costume is a bit of a clue). Norman says they have to kill Peter for their own safety. Harry of course believes his friend Peter won't harm them as long as his dad stops being the Goblin. Norman's volatile mood shifts again and he lashes out at his cowardly son.

Spider-Man enters through a window and they start to fight again. Spidey wins again and threatens to kill him (but not so directly). But Harry attacks Peter with a heavy object to save his father, and Spidey automatically responds knocking his friend backwards. This brings Peter to his senses and he goes to help his pal. Goblin uses the lull to bring out his last card - a trigger for a bomb that will destroy the whole house, killing himself but at least taking his hated enemy with him.

But Harry refuses Peter's help, and stands up to say if Spider-Man wants to kill his father he'll have to go through him. Norman sees his brave son risking his life - a son he was about to blow up. The pendulum swings again, and it's Norman Osborn rather than Green Goblin who defuses the situation (and the bomb). Father and son tearfully embrace. Peter believes that Norman has been cured of being the Goblin (again), this time without the aid of amnesia. Norman seems to say he'll take responsibility for his crimes, and Spidey leaves them to sort things out.

Peter returns to Gwen and they go to take care of an even scarier task - telling Aunt May about their engagement. May Parker of course is delighted and leaps into planning a wedding. At super-speed it seems.

Harry has taken his dad to a clinic and Mary Jane Watson has gone with them for support, so they can't attend. Flash Thompson is best man and Joe Robertson is giving the bride away. Betty Brant and Ned Leeds are among the guests. The wedding reaches its conclusion. But then ...

... J. Jonah Jameson enters with the police and tells them to arrest Peter Parker for being Spider-Man. He's waving Goblin's envelope. (It's taken him a long time to get the mail and react, no matter how quickly May arranged the wedding.) Aunt May faints (or possibly has a heart attack) at the idea that Peter is that awful Spider-Man. Peter uses his Spider-strength to get to her. Flash warns him about what might happen if the police start shooting in the church. So Peter dives out of a window and escapes.

Jameson gloats. Robbie's had enough and resigns from the Daily Bugle. He's going to help Gwen and together they'll clear Peter/Spidey's name. But for now Peter's on the run without his Spider-Man costume and daren't go near his friends or old haunts, facing having to become the criminal they accuse him of being.

This issue contains a backup story. It is the 2nd in a sequence called Untold Tales Of The Marvel Universe. Unlike most stories in What If? these are not from alternate timelines, they are from the history of the main timeline.

The First Eternals

Writer Ralph Macchio. Penciller Rich Buckler. Inker Chic Stone. Letterer Jack Morelli. Colourist Ed Hannigan.

Last issue told how the Celestials visited Earth for the 1st time (The First Host) and evolved some of its pre-humans. They created the proto-Eternals and the Deviants, and also a strain that would become humans with the potential for special mutations (later called the X-Gene).

Uatu the Watcher continues his narration. The early 'Eternals' (dressed in Jack Kirby gods-style) led by Chronos have powers of molecular manipulation which they use to create the city of Titanos on a remote Arctic mountain to keep their civilisation hidden from the rest of the world. But Uranos thinks this is the wrong tack - they should use their superiority to rule the world. Chronos just wants to study it.

Of course this means war. Many citizens of Titanos die in battle before Chronos  personally defeats Uranos. Uranos and his surviving followers are banished to the planet Uranus.

Peace returns and Chronos continues his scientific research. He isolates the cosmic energy that gives them their powers. But an accident causes an explosion of that cosmic life-essence. Even as it destroys his body it transforms him into an immaterial being who becomes one with the universe. And it makes his brethren immortal so that they now are the Eternals.

Preview Pages
Click sample interior pages to enlarge them:

Gil Kane
Frank Giacoia
Carl Gafford
John Romita Jr. (Cover Penciler)
Bob McLeod (Cover Inker)
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski.
Editor: Dennis O'Neil.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Green Goblin
Green Goblin

(Norman Osborn)
J. Jonah Jameson
J. Jonah Jameson

(JJ Jameson)
May Parker
May Parker

(Aunt May)
Robbie Robertson
Robbie Robertson

(Joe Robertson)

(Peter Parker)

Plus: Betty Brant, Ned Leeds.

> What If: Book info and issue index

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