| This has got to be the worst alternate universe ever. -Spider-Man
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The characters and events in each issue are treated as being independent from the mainstream continuity of the Marvel universe.
Issues and volumes
The initial 47 issue series ran from February 1977 to October 1984.
From July 1989 to November 1998, Marvel published 114 monthly What If issues. The second series revisited and revised ideas from Volume 1.
In Volume 2, stories could span multiple issues. In issue #102, What If introduced Spider-Girl. The new character was popular enough for a spin off series. From this, the MC2 line of publications were developed.
In February 2005, Marvel published a further six issues of What If. They were all in the "one-shot" format. In Volume 3, there is a "nod" to a Volume 1 story, What if Uncle Ben had lived? In a conversation between a comic shop customer and an attendant, the customer asks,"What if Aunt May had died instead of Uncle Ben?" Leading to another alternative plot.
Volume 5 was published at the end of 2006 when Marvel released five new "one-shot" comics. The Volume 5 series focused on alternate outcomes of major storylines. For example, "Age of Apocalypse", "Avengers Disassembled", "Spider-Man: The Other", "Wolverine: Enemy of the State" and "X-Men: Deadly Genesis".
Volume 6 consisted of five issues (2007- 2008). A sixth, entitled What If: This Was the Fantastic Four, featuring Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and Hulk, was to be released in November 2007, but was withheld due to the death of Mike Wieringo. What If: Spider-Man vs. Wolverine (January 2008) was also published.
In December 2008, Marvel published 5 What If specials which appeared weekly. They were based on alternative outcomes of classic Marvel events. They included: Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America, House of M, Spider-Man: Back in Black, Secret Wars, and Infinity Gauntlet. A new "Fantastic Four" consisted of Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Wolverine.
In December 2009, a new series was published.
Volume 8 focused on on three recent events in the Marvel Universe: the Spider-Man: House of M mini series; World War Hulk and Secret Invasion.
In September 2010, Marvel announced a ninth series of five What If issues in the one-shot format, to be released in December 2010.
It presented an alternative for the "Siege" Marvel universe event, asking what might have happened if the "Sentry" had not lost control and "Norman Osborn" had conquered "Asgard".
The second issue in Volume 9, featured a What If for "Dark Reign", subtitled, The Osborn Assassination. It asks what may have occurred had Clint Barton succeeded in his mission to kill Norman Osborn.
The third issue of the series featured Spider-Man and asks what might have happened if Peter had elected to kill Kraven the Hunter.