The Hypothetical Adventures of Conan, Part Two
In last night's mind-melting installment of the ISB, we found out how two of Marvel's Finest ended up heading back to the Hyborian age to fight Conan in the pages of What If..., but really: Shoving a super-hero back in time to fight Conan is the kind of storytelling structure that's going to hold up forever. Heck, it barely held up twice.
But like the old saying goes: If the Future won't come to Conan... Then Conan must come to the Future!
Or at least, that's the premise of What If... #13, as told by the longtime Conan creative team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema. And it's got a completely different setup than the other two. See, instead of walking through a magic cave or being tossed out the wrong window in the Watcher's swingin' Blue Area Bachelor Pad like Thor and Wolverine, Conan is bonked on the head by a sorceror and dumped into a well.
Fortunately, it's The Well At The Center Of Time!, a phrase that pretty much requries an exclamation point whenever it appears, and Conan finds himself plunging headlong into the terrifying future nightmare world of 1979!
If you've ever seen Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time, you've got a pretty good idea of how this is going to work, but if not, allow me to assure you: There's a lot of wandering around gaping at skyscrapers and poking at cars with a broadsword until a hot, kindhearted woman shows up to keep Conan from getting into trouble.
The hot girl this evening is played by Danette, a shapely taxi driver who shows up just in time to utter what may be the single greatest piece of dialogue Rascally Roy ever put on paper: "I'm lucky I didn't get myself killed, reamin' out a guy with a sword!" It's the kind of sentence that just puts a smile on my face whenever I hear it.
Anyway, Danette's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, seeing Conan, who is a) wearing a fur loincloth, b) carrying a sword, and c) in the process of trying to murder her car with said sword, and immediately leaps to the conclusion that he's a foreign diplomat who got lost on his way home from the UN. So naturally, she takes him back to her apartment and promptly starts crying--literally weeping, I mean--about how lonely she is.
And thus, Conan comforts her. With sweet, sweet Barbarian love.
It's right about then that the lights go out due to some highly mysterious lightning, and since this is Marvel Universe New York, there are roving street gangs pillaging storefronts within thirty seconds. And that's where this one gets awesome, because the looters try to break into Danette's place...
While it is mind-blowingly radical, this is not the sort of behavior that one expects from a diplomat, and it finally occurs to Danette that Conan might not be from around here. So to make a long story short, she shows him a bunch of pictures, drags him off to the Guggenheim museum, and gets shot by a robber, causing Conan to flip out and eventually slaughter enough people by bludgeoning them to death with modern art that he goes to the roof, where a well-placed bolt of lightning sends him and Danette's hat back to his own time.
Truly, it's one of the forgotten masterpieces of comics. And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so, because five years later... they did a sequel.
Written by Peter Gillis with art by Bob Hall, this one operates on the premise that the Magic Lightning™ didn't strike Conan at the end of the last story. That is, to say the least, problematic, considering that it's a What If... that's based on another What If..., and I can't get behind that. But it's got its moments.
Instead of being whisked back to his own time, Conan ends up getting arrested and after being stuffed into a polo-shirt and a nice pair of Dockers, finds himself in court with a public defender arguing an insanity plea. One pair of snapped handcuffs and a broken second-story window later, and Conan's back on the street, wanted by the law and well on his way to his first coke deal.
Yeah, that's right: It's Scarface with Conan, and that's almost as good as it sounds. Fortunately, it manages to redeem itself when Conan assembles his crew:
A street gang called The Barbarians. It doesn't actually happen in the story, but I'm almost certain I saw those guys fighting the Baseball Furies at least once.
Anyway, Drug Dealin' Conan ends up fighting Captain America, eventually stabbing him with a sword and beating him up so badly that Cap offers him a spot on the Avengers--although to be fair, I'm pretty sure this was back in the Dr. Druid days when they were handing out Identicards with every third oil change. But none of that really matters, because this story hit its climax way back on page twelve, when Conan decided to check in with Danette.
And brother, did he dress to impress.
The suit and hat alone would've been great, but man. That leopard just makes it awesome.
I get the feeling this guy has a history of making poor decisions. Remember, kids: Never, under any circumstances should you fuck with Conan. Otherwise, that happens.