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Marvel's What If? gets animated series at Disney+

Disney+ wants to ask Marvel fans a very familiar question.

Marvel Studios is reportedly developing an animated series for the streamer based on the alternate universe anthology series What If?, which has seen publication in various formats since 1977. (via Slashfilm) The ongoing series normally dealt with crucial moments in the mainstream Marvel timeline, depicting how events would have unfolded if these moments had played out differently. While the ongoing series was discontinued in 1998, intervening years have seen the format revived in a series of one-shots and limited series, usually focusing on specific story arcs such as the Spider-Man arc The Other and the universe-shifting House of M event.

As the series progressed, many of its storylines were revealed to have taken place in alternate universes, some of which were even given official number designations by Marvel. In case you're unaware, there are a lot of these; for example, the main Marvel continuity is designated Earth-616, the now-defunct Ultimate timeline was designated Earth-1610, and the identifier Earth-199999 was more recently bestowed on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some of the alternate timelines introduced by What If? even spawned their own popular characters — most notably May "Mayday" Parker, AKA Spider-Girl (or, more recently, Spider-Woman), the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, who was stillborn in the Earth-616 timeline. The character featured prominently in the Spider-Verse storyline, upon which a certain Academy Award-winning animated feature was based. (For that matter, it was the short-lived spin-off series What The–?! which introduced the character of Spider-Ham.)

The Disney+ series will be developed under the benevolent watch of Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige, and it will do for the MCU what the comic series did for the Marvel universe on the printed page. According to Slashfilm's report, one episode will even adapt an issue depicting an alternate series of events which would have had a huge bearing on the course of the MCU's timeline: "What if Loki had found the hammer of Thor?"

So far, so mind-bendingly awesome — but wait, there's more. The report also states that ideally, our favorite stars from the MCU will pop up to lend their voice talents to the series, reprising their roles from the movies. This actually doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, as many of them are already on board to star in live-action limited series for the streamer. Tom Hiddleston is confirmed to be returning as the trickster god in a Loki series, while Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are signed on for a Vision and the Scarlet Witch series to be showran by Captain Marvel scribe Jac Schaeffer; an additional series focused on Captain America sidekicks Falcon and Winter Soldier, starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, has also been heavily rumored for months, though this is as yet unconfirmed.

The report points out that producing What If? as an animated series is something of a stroke of genius. It will allow Marvel Studios to keep the per-episode cost comparatively low, not to mention the fact that voicing an animated character is far less time-intensive and physically demanding than portraying the same role in live action, which could serve as incentive for the talent from the films to hop on board.

While MCU devotees could probably pick out about a hundred moments from the movies ripe for this treatment off the top of their heads — What if Steve Rogers' plane hadn't crashed? What if the Avengers hadn't defeated Ultron? What if Doctor Strange had failed to stop Dormammu? We're just spitballing here — the comic series also represents an incredible wealth of potential storylines as well. Among the more scintillating stories to be featured in its pages: What if Vision had destroyed the Avengers? What if Spider-Man's Uncle Ben had lived (and Aunt May had been murdered instead)? What if the Hulk went berserk? And, what if Venom had possessed the Punisher? (That one might be a little tricky, all rights issues considered, but… wow.)

We're going to go out on a limb to say that of all the Marvel offerings Disney+ has announced so far, this one could end up being the most interesting. (And considering that the Loki series will reportedly see the god of mischief hopping around to different time periods, influencing important events like some kind of malevolent Forrest Gump, we're saying a mouthful.) It'll give creators a chance to let their imaginations run wild, offer fans glimpses of heretofore-unseen sides of beloved characters, and demonstrate the razor-thin margin of error the heroes of the MCU must deal with in keeping everything from collapsing into chaos. (What If? storylines typically did not end with everything turning out all hunky-dory, to put it mildly.)

No additional details have yet emerged, but we are literally on the edge of our seats to see how this series tinkers with the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the highest-grossing film series of all time (by a mile) and a beloved staple of modern pop culture. What if Ant-Man had gotten lost in the Quantum Realm? What if Aldrich Killian had killed Pepper Potts? What if Wakanda had remained hidden? What if Star-Lord hadn't delivered that ill-timed punch to the face of Thanos? We could seriously do this all day. Mr. Feige, if you're reading this, do give us a call.