Marvel's 'What If…?' Episodes Could Have Included The Rocketeer, Mighty Loki, Captain Hydra, and More
Marvel’s What If…? animated series on Disney+ has started digging into the many possibilities of the multiverse in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by remixing the characters and stories from Marvel Studios. But for every episode that we’ll see debut on the streaming service, there are others that didn’t make the cut, and director Bryan Andrews and head writer A.C. Bradley talked about some of the abandoned What If episodes.
Vanity Fair spoke with director Bryan Andrews and head writer A.C. Bradley about some of the ideas that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige just didn’t go for. When they sat down to figure out the first season of the animated series, they started with 30 ideas and eventually cut it down to 10 episodes for the inaugural run. That initial count has since been dropped to nine episodes, with the 10th episode slated to be part of the show’s second season instead. However, the following ideas are stories that we’ll probably never see end up being part of the multiverse.
What If… The Rocketeer Fought Alongside Captain America?
Director Bryan Andrews revealed some concept art for unused What If…? episodes, and one of the abandoned ideas would have had The Rocketeer fighting Nazis alongside Captain America and Peggy Carter. Andrews described the episode:
“It was also in the vein of doing something vintage and pulpy, because I love that. here were three heroes back-to-back, and they’re fighting, like, all the Nazis. It’s Cap with the super-serum, as we know him, Peggy Carter, just being her normal badass self because she doesn’t need the serum—and the Rocketeer.”
The Rocketeer isn’t a Marvel Comics character, which might have made it difficult to secure for an episode of the series. But the character does exist during the World War II time period, and Disney already gave him a feature film back in 1991 that was directed by Joe Johnston, who also happened to direct Captain America: The First Avenger. However, it appears the real issue was Kevin Feige didn’t think it worked for the series. Andrews recalled:
“Kevin was just like, ‘Uh, yeah, no, no, we’re not gonna do that. But I like the drawing!”
Along with Feige’s objection, Andrews pointed out a bit of a potentially perplexing narrative hurdle in having The Rocketeer become part of the MCU. Howard Hughes is a key part of the narrative of The Rocketeer, but Howard Stark is basically the MCU’s version of the real-life aviator and innovator. So could both men exist in the MCU and still make sense? I guess we’ll never know.
Unfortunately, the concept art was not included in this revelation, so we’re left to imagine what it might have been like to see The Rocketeer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, in a way, we get the Marvel version of The Rocketeer in the first episode of What If…? by getting scrawny Steve Rogers inside a Mark I Iron Man-esque suit of armor built by Howard Stark.
What If… Steve Rogers Became Captain Hydra?
Another abandoned episode would have put a different spin on Captain America. Head writer A.C. Bradley explained one of the pitches she had for What If…? when she was still vying for the job at Marvel Studios, and it involves Steve Rogers becoming the Hydra version of Captain America. And no, we’re not just talking about Steve Rogers being The Winter Soldier. This would have been even more menacing.
Bradley envisioned a What If…? story that would have found Steve Rogers falling to his death in the same way that Bucky Barnes did, which set him on the path of becoming The Winter Soldier. However, instead of merely becoming an agent of Hydra, Steve Rogers would have taken the villainy to a much higher level. The writer explained:
“Steve Rogers is the kind of man that when he believes something is right, he goes to the ends of the Earth to do it. But he actually is not a very good soldier. He doesn’t follow orders. So if he’s brainwashed by Hydra to believe that Hydra is right, he’s going to go full throttle.”
Steve Rogers would have become the leader of Hydra, and Peggy Carter, Howard Stark and Bucky Barnes would have teamed up to bring him down. In fact, the trio would also get the help of Red Skull, who wouldn’t exactly become a good guy, but is still eager to stop Steve Rogers after being displaced as the commander of Hydra.
What If… Loki Was Worthy of Mjolnir?
Another pitch for an episode of What If…? that got axed involved Loki being worthy of wielding Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. Bryan Andrews ended his pitch meeting with Kevin Feige by revealing artwork of the God of Mischief wielding the powerful weapon that only Thor himself can lift (with a handful of exceptions). Andrews talked about the kind of huge narrative door that an idea like this opens:
“You’re given a thousand questions to answer. It’s like, Oh, did he stay a Frost Giant? Was Odin not a dick and taught him better? You know what I mean? There are so many aspects of that life you can explore.”
Unfortunately, Marvel Studios wanted What If…? to avoid making any episodes of the series focus too much on characters who were already getting their own shows on Disney+, and that includes Loki (although fans will see him popping up in the third episode of the series next week).
The idea of Loki wielding Mjolnir is a story that also comes straight from Marvel’s What If…? comics, and the image of such a drastic change in the MCU was previously imagined for a scene in Thor: The Dark World. While being imprisoned in Asgard, Loki would have crafted an illusion that put him at the center of the coronation for the next king of the realm, having him take the place of Thor and wielding Mjolnir himself before his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) came by for a visit and interrupted the dream. The scene ended up being cut from the movie, but you can still watch it over here.
In case you didn’t hear, another episode of What If…? was abandoned because it contained half the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Head over to Vanity Fair if you’d like to learn more about a few more abandoned Marvel’s What If episodes, including one that fleshed out the relationship between Tony and Howard Stark, a Franz Kafka-esque, body horror approach to Spider-Man’s origin story, and more.
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