At San Diego Comic Con over the weekend, as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe/Hall H panel, Kevin Feige graced fans with several titles and planned release dates for the next couple of years. One adaptation audiences were likely not expecting was a run on the 1970s comic series What If?, which will be made into an animated television series for the Disney+ streaming platform. The fun news that went with it was the giant, familiar returning voice cast with names like Hayley Atwell and Michael B. Jordan set to reprise their roles from previous films.
The series is set to explore alternate realities, contained in the familiar Marvel Cinematic Universe, with only minor tweaks. While the animated series will likely only look back at the previous twenty-three MCU films, the original comic book series dove into the whole Marvel universe. Some examples of premises that might be explored in the animated series include, “What If… Captain America and Bucky had both survived World War II?” or “What If… Loki had found Thor’s Hammer First?”
It’s clear several key timelines will be further explored and expanded upon based upon the voice casts involved. From the earthly realms, there’s Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), there’s Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) and Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger), there’s Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola), and Neal McDonough (Dum Dum Dugan). From the cosmic fields, there’s Karen Gillan (Nebula), Sean Gunn (Kraglin), Michael Rooker (Yondu), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), and then there’s Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Taika Waititi (Korg), and Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster). In undetermined timelines are Josh Brolin (Thanos), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark).
Seemingly the only new cast member is the one who will bring all the stories together, Jeffrey Wright, who will play The Watcher, a cosmic being that just makes sure everything is going according to plan as celestial observers. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Stan Lee makes a cameo in one of the numerous end credit scenes, as an agent on behalf of The Watchers (a species of similar beings), hence his presence in all of the Marvel films, MCU or otherwise.
Wright took to the stage during the announcement to say, “The Watcher is a non-Earthly being who observes all things. He’s watching over the multiverse and occasionally may or may not intervene with the doings of earthlings, other than that he’s off doing his own things. I’m excited to see where we take it, we could take it anywhere.”
Here, Feige reiterates the premise of the show and his excitement for its production, saying, “It is incredibly liberating, it is an amazing opportunity we have. Disney+ has sent a wave of creativity through Marvel Studios in a really great way. That show, as I said, is going to focus on events you think you know everything about from the MCU, and when you change one thing here or there, how everything is different. So, you will see primarily characters you’ve met before but, again, in entirely different ways.”