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The What If...? Theories That Have Marvel Fans Losing Their Cool

"Enter the multiverse of unlimited possibilities," Marvel Studios teases in the tagline to its new animated series, "What If...?" The show is set to debut later this summer with a whole slew of fan-favorite characters in situations that might be slightly different than the way you remember them. The latest trailer, revealed today, shows Tony Stark, Peggy Carter, T'Challa, Doctor Strange, Killmonger, and Thor in moments that deviate from the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon. And as the Disney+ show's publicity machine ramps up, allowing fans sneak peeks into what's coming, theories that have been percolating since the series was announced in 2019 are starting to coalesce. And they're causing anticipation among fans.

It's been long established (since 2019) that the first episode of "What If...?," which is based on Marvel's 1970s "What If?" comic book series narrated by The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), will look at what would have happened if, instead of Steve Rogers taking the super-soldier serum, Peggy Carter had done so instead back around the time of World War II. And what if instead, scrawny little Rogers ended up joining the fight in an armored suit designed by Howard Stark (via Marvel)? Marvel has teased other situations for future episodes of the anthology series as well, and we're putting the pieces together to create some theories about what fans will see starting next month.

Killmonger becomes Black Panther

At Disney's 2020 Investor Day, Marvel head Kevin Feige revealed that actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed T'Challa in the MCU, including the "Black Panther" movie, recorded several episodes of "What If...?" as one of his last projects. T'Challa figures prominently in at least one episode of the upcoming series. Specifically, there's a story in which "Guardians of the Galaxy's" Yondu kidnaps the young Wakandan prince instead of Peter Quill in 1988, bringing T'Challa up with the Ravagers. 

A new Funko Pop toy release, posted to Instagram by Pops Outlet and also on Reddit, reveals that there may be a flip side to that story, too. The figure, called "King Killmonger," shows Michael B. Jordan's character as the leader of Wakanda. He's wearing the Black Panther costume and might be holding Ultron's head. So, T'Challa's disappearance definitely left its mark on his home country, leaving his anti-hero cousin in charge. It's not confirmed that King Killmonger/Killmonger as Black Panther will appear in the same episode as T'Challa as Star-Lord, the leader of the Guardians, but it's a reasonable assumption to make. The comments sections of the Funko Pop social media reveals indicate fans are getting excited about the possibility.

Tony Stark doesn't become Iron Man, but still creates Ultron

The very beginning of the trailer for "What If...?" shows one scene fans of the original "Iron Man" movie know well. At the start of the first film, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) is being driven in a military vehicle in Afghanistan by a group of soldiers who are clearly intimidated by him. In the original film, he breaks the ice with a few jokes, just in time for his convoy to be attacked. He exits the vehicle only to have a Stark Industries missile land near him and explode, injuring him and leading to the events that helped him create Iron Man. 

In the "What If...?" version, though, Killmonger shows up at the scene, grabs the missile before it explodes, and throws it into the air, where it ignites, allowing him to save the life of Stark, who's voiced by an unknown actor. In this reality, Stark's arc reactor technology presumably doesn't get invented. However, the reality as fans know it can't be too different, because, as a result of that Killmonger Funko Pop release, it's clear that Stark still invents Ultron. So, he still teams up with the Avengers, as the trailer has him present at the Battle of New York, and it would appear that Ultron, initially designed as a peacekeeper, still goes bad. Of course, that assumes that Killmonger isn't the antagonist here as he's seen in "Black Panther," but saving Stark makes him good, right?

Without Iron Man in the picture, there are sure to be other changes as well. In fact, it's not unreasonable to assume that Killmonger's Black Panther takes on the role that Iron Man would have taken, as the leader of the Avengers. And that role includes mentoring Spider-Man, who also appears briefly in the latest trailer looking like his normal self.

What is Spider-Man's story, anyway?

interestingly, though, Spider-Man may not be who we think he is all the time. A quick image in the original trailer has been pegged by fans on Twitter as being Tom Holland's Peter Parker — but with a quiver of arrows that make him look more like he's Hawkeye. This particular revelation is still being debated, though, as people aren't really sure it's Spidey in the image from the side of a train. As one fan speculated, it could just be an animated version of Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye. 

Steve Rogers taking on Iron Man's role could also make him the one who brings the Avengers together and mentors Spider-Man, which wouldn't be a huge stretch in a parallel universe. But then, there was a leaked Lego release from April that showed some new mini-figures from the upcoming Marvel series. The list included a new figure called "Spider-Man (Steve Rogers)" (via Inside the Magic), which is enough to make us tear our hair out trying to understand exactly what's happening here in the "What If...?" Multiverse.

Confused yet? Of course, while the aforementioned Killmonger and T'Challa storylines could all be part of a single episode, none of these other things have to happen in the same timeline, given that this is an anthology series. There's no cause and effect needed for all of these situations to happen in "What If...?" Feige has clearly stated that Boseman voiced more than one episode of the show, so T'Challa could very well appear in a number of them. While the trailers certainly provide some tantalizing hints of what's coming, the fans currently melting down about the changes in the Multiverse (including us) aren't going to know the truth until the show starts airing on August 11.