The debut episode of Marvel’s What If…? inverted the dynamics from Captain America: The First Avenger. In this alternate timeline, Peggy Carter becomes the first Super Soldier instead of Steve Rogers, who then goes on to fly an experimental suit of armor designed by Howard Stark called the Hydra Stomper.
As originally conceived, though, the scene would have been even more shocking. One of the earliest concepts for this storyline and episode would have featured another character from outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe joining in for the Hydra stomping adventure: The Rocketeer, the star of a beloved early ’90s film from Disney.
This surprising twist was revealed by What If…? director Bryan Andrews in an interview with Vanity Fair. He says he initially envisioned “three heroes back-to-back, and they’re fighting, like, all the Nazis. It’s Cap with the super-serum, as we know him, Peggy Carter, just being her normal badass self because she doesn’t need the serum—and the Rocketeer.”
The thinking, one imagines, is that because Disney made The Rocketeer film, and they own Marvel, that they could engineer an intracompany crossover. But Disney didn’t create The Rockeeter; he originated in comic books by the late artist Dave Stevens. Since the Rocketeer film, the character has gone on to appear in Dark Horse and IDW Comics. So there could have potentially been legal or financial issues that would have made a Rocketeer MCU appearance difficult, if not impossible.
Andrews told Vanity Fair there was more to it than that. “There’s a big can of worms,” he said, “because Howard Stark is basically the Marvel version of Howard Hughes. If you have The Rocketeer in Marvel, does Howard Hughes exist?”
The nice part about What If…?, of course, is that it is an anthology that could go on forever as long as the audience remains interested. Just because the Rocketeer didn’t show up with Peggy and Steve doesn’t mean he couldn‘t show up in another episode down the line if the situation is right. And if not, you can watch the recent Rocketeer animated series on Disney+. It’s made for children, with a new young Rocketeer in the title role, but it’s very sweet. New episodes of What If…? premiere on Wednesdays on Disney+.
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