Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What If Wednesday #13: What If Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth Today?

On Wednesdays, The Amazing Justin Palm! gets drunk as shit and reviews an issue of Marvel Comics’ “What If?” so that you, the reader, can enjoy his drunken ramblings about a comic book whose sole purpose is to talk about shit that never happened, so it doesn’t matter at all. Dear Internet: You’re welcome.



Holy cats, it's been a long time since I did one of these, but I have a really good excuse:  This one took some doing to track down.  You see, it's never been reprinted, due to copyright issues.  Its a whole thing.  And when my local shop didn't have a copy, I knew I'd have to wait awhile and search for it.  But here we are, after much digging through back issue long boxes in dusty comic book stores all over the state (By which I mean I waited until I was already at Comic Con and found it in the very first place I looked), I managed to get my hands on a copy.  I am so not joking when I say I am pretty excited this story.

Okay, you guys already know who Conan the Barbarian is, because if you don't, you have clearly been living under a rock all your life.  What you might not know is that for years Marvel had the comic book rights on loan from the Robert Howard estate, which is why Marvel made a bunch of comics about him.  And that's how we get a What If where Conan the friggin' Barbarian gets stranded in New York, circa 1977.  Uh.... Spoilers, I guess?

So, after Uatu explains who Conan is for a couple pages (As if we didn't already know, Uatu.  Seriously.), we join our Conan story already in progress.  Conan has rescued some queen and this has happened in some comics I haven't read yet (one day) but WHATEVER, because there's a lady in a bar Conan wants to bang, only she's a spy and she drugs his drink, so he's taken captured and locked up in a dungeon by a beautiful by deadly femme fatale.  So, you know.  Typical Conan Tuesday night.

Anyway, some stuff happens that isn't important, but what is important is that Conan falls into THE WELL AT THE CENTER OF TIME! (emphasis straight from the comic), And that's how he gets stuck in late 70s New York.  Sure, why not.  After causing a bit of a scene by his sudden arrival (but it's not that big of a deal, because it's NYC in the Marvel Universe, so, what evs, they'll start freaking out when Galactus shows up, okay?), Conan is accosted outside of a dive bar by a group of... I guess weirdly Joker-themed glam rockers?  No, wait, maybe glam-FOLK rockers?  They seem to play acoustic, and seriously, I have no idea what is up with their outfits.  According to background signage they're a band called "Grope" and that- combined with their awful green wigs, pasty white faces, and purple and yellow outfits that defy the laws of god and man- makes me feel deeply uncomfortable.  Don't get me wrong, I shouldn't be paying this much time and attention on them, because they're only on four panels on one page of this comic (about a story that never happened, officially), but seriously.  They creep me right the fuck out.  Thankfully, Conan's grunts of rage terrify them to leave comics forever behind, never to be seen again.  Unfortunately, the damage to my soul won't heal as quick....

I'm sharing this page with you, now, because I need to spread my suffering to others.

Except that my soul is immediately cured in the next scene, because what happens next is that an old lady freaks out about Conan running around the streets of New York in nothing but boots and furry underpants, so she beats him with her purse.  I find this delightful.  And then Conan responds by stuffing her in a trash can.  Which is hilarious.  But then she screams for the police, even though SHE started this whole thing, so the cops chase after Conan, who assumes guns = magic.  Conan scales a wall and starts leaping around rooftops like he's the goddamn Batman, until he sees a taxicab, declares "Crom's devils!" and proceeds to bash it with his sword for exactly no reason.

This comic is amazing.

Luckily, the taxi's driver is the hot midriff-displaying girl from the cover, who now has a beret, and is completely unfazed by the nearly nude barbarian wielding a giant sword and attacking her only means of employment.  She's just pissed off, and wants to know if he works for the UN or something (I have no explanation for this, it's just something she says).  She is sassy, and she is driving under an expired license, and as soon as I find out her name I'll tell you, because she rules the schools.  She hides Conan in her cab (he agrees, because she has breasts, and that's good enough for Conan, by Crom), and gets the police to go away by straight up going "He went thataway."  Direct quote.  Have I mentioned she is awesome yet?

Sassy Cabbie Girl decides to take Conan home with her, to her apartment over the furniture store.  She then shows him her weights and stuff, and is basically like "Hey, you obviously work out, and I work out too, and I don't normally take strange homeless barbarian men from the distant past home with me, but.... *winkwink*"  And they are totally about to get sexy when the power goes out, and after their initial surprise at that, they DEFINITELY get sexy, and we finally learn Sassy Cabbie Girl's name is Danette, just before she and Conan get busy.

Their post-coital bliss is interrupted by a mob of looters raiding the furniture store below them, because... uh, New York in the late 70s was sort of shitty?  Danette's neighborhood is super dangerous?  Who knows.  Having refueled his rage-engine by playing hide the pickle with nubile local girl, Conan is all about bashing some skulls in now.  But Danette is all "Don't kill them!" and Conan decides that he shouldn't risk pissing off his latest lady friend too much, so he does his best not to deal any fatal damage.  A crazy dude with a bad haircut manages to grab his sword, and goes "Jus' call me Darth Vader!", which straight up MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL, (lightsabers and swords are not the same thing, kids, and there is no shortened version of the word "just" recognized in the English language), but luckily the next panel is Conan knocking him out with one punch to the jaw, which is most excellent.



Just retribution for daring to touch the only thing Conan truly loves.

Lots more violence happens, because Conan the mother fucking Barbarian is fucking awesome.  After beating up everyone (and remember, he's holding back, because the random lady he just met and boned asked him too), he FLIPS A CAR with his BARE HANDS just BECAUSE HE CAN.  It is totally great.  Then Danette thanks him for not using his sword on anyone.  Seriously.

I'm a little unsure whether this next scene makes much sense, because of the booze, but Danette has realized that Conan's not from around here (obviously), and tries to see if he recognizes anything in a picture book of famous places, to help him get home.  Sure, whatever.  Apparently an upside-down glance at the Guggenheim Museum looks likes something he knows, so naturally she decides to take him there, in the middle of the night, on a night that GANGSTERS ARE PULLING A HEIST. This comic, you guys.  SO great.

Naturally, while Danette and Conan are sneaking around the spooky museum in the middle of the night that they clearly broke into, they run into the thieves, and fighting ensues.  And then fighting escalates when Danette is shot (it just glances her arm, she'll be fine, promise).  Conan goes full on rage mode at that point, and we just kick ass all over the place for a few pages.  It's a god damn 80s action movie in here.  And nothing can stop the awesomeness that is Conan.

I forgot to tell you that "Danette" is to hard for Conan to pronounce, so he just calls her "Dan".  Hilarious.

After all of the ass has been kicked, Conan checks on Danette, who like I said, is mostly okay, and she realizes (again) that Conan doesn't belong here.  She gives him her beret, he gives her his armband thing, and as nighttime security guard gives chase, Conan makes his way to the roof, where a lightning/time storm take him back home.  It doesn't make much sense, but fuck it, its awesome anyway.

This comic rules.  I don't have much to add here.  The next Conan movie should just straight up be this comic.  I would watch it over and over again.  The fact that this comic is so hard to track down is criminal.  Call the ACLU, everyone deserves to read this.

Next time, on What If Wednesday!  The answer to a question that exactly no one has ever bothered to ask!  What if... Sgt Fury had... fought World War Two... in outer space?  What the actual hell, What If?  Guys, I am reasonably sure next time will make no logical sense at all.  So... you've been warned.  Seeya next time!