Today ushers in the multiverse on Disney+ with the arrival of the first episode of Marvel’s What If…? animated series. Marvel Studios is putting a whole new spin on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, giving characters entirely different arcs and shaking up the stories that we’ve watched unfold since Iron Man debuted back in 2008.
Excited about such an ambitious premise, we spoke to executive producer Brad Winderbaum about what the stories of What If…? mean for the MCU at large. Will we be getting a new assembly of Avengers? Why is Captain Carter’s place in all this so important? Could we see any of these remixed Marvel characters pop up in the live-action MCU? Get the answer to all those questions and more in our full Marvel’s What If interview below.
Obviously What If…? is taking us into the multiverse after Loki essentially unleashed it, and I’m wondering if this series is meant as more of a guide for what audiences can expect from the multiverse in Marvel movies and TV shows, or could we see elements of this series referenced or brought into the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe?
I think it’s a little of both, honestly. If nothing else, just shows the fun of the multiverse. It’s not just a heady concept. It’s like, “Oh, wow. This is like a fantastic terrain to tell like unexpected, weird stories. And this is like totally rad.” If the show does nothing else, comic fans know from reading the What If…? comics how much fun it is to take this thing and shatter it and rebuild it into a new form.
Was the idea for doing an animated What If…? series always meant to be something that remixed the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or was there ever a discussion about adapting some of the comic book stories for an animated series instead?
No. The concept was always about applying that What If…? idea to the MCU. What makes the What If…? comics work, and what was so exciting about them, was you got to take a look at different versions of comic runs that you knew, or sometimes didn’t know, frankly. Maybe you’d read the What If…?, and then go back and read the original comics, which is what I do a lot. But with the Infinity Saga coming to its culmination, we finally got enough work to really justify a What If…? series, where people knew enough about these characters, knew enough about these worlds, that we could revisit them and twist them in new ways.
Does that mean that potential future seasons would adapt another larger saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Since the Infinity Saga is comprised of so many movies, would a second season have to wait for like another saga to be complete, or is this intended to sort of become its own universe that you can plan from here onward?
Yeah. I think the answer is as long as it’s been released, as long as people have seen it, What If…? can twist it. We don’t have to wait for the end of another saga. We can dig in and start to twist and turn in anything that’s been established on screen by Marvel Studios.
The opening episode of the series pinpoints Peggy Carter’s decision to stay in the lab during the super soldier serum injection as the point where a new universe begins. Does that mean every episode in this season unfolds in the same universe or is each episode intended to be its own separate universe?
Each episode is essentially a separate universe. So you could see the moment when, to use Loki terminology, when the universe branches. Each episode kind of explores a story in one of those branches, sometime after that point, where it diverges away from the sacred timeline.
That actually brings me to my next question. The series feels like it’s leading to something bigger than an anthology of What If…? stories, much like how the first few movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or what would become the MCU, had some little connective tissue. It feels like the same thing is happening with these first few episodes. Was it hard to create something with more subtle links knowing that it would be leading to something more? Is that something that was planned from the beginning or did you kind of figure that out along the way?
We figured out along the way. I don’t want to go into spoiler territory, but there was a particular concept that we were excited about in the first season that allowed us to think about the multiverse in a new, with a new lens and potentially offer us some connectivity between the episodes.
Could that possibly have anything to do with what seems to be an alternate version of The Avengers, that features a new Black Panther, a new Star-Lord, Gamora, Thor and Captain Carter?
I mean, you just have to wait and see.
You’re an expert tap dancer, my friend.
Oh, stop it!
Was there any What If…? story that you couldn’t do for one reason or another? I think that I heard that the Jane Foster as Thor story was something that you couldn’t do because of Thor: Love and Thunder. Were there any other things that you wanted to do, but you weren’t allowed to maybe?
No, that’s actually not accurate.
Yeah. I’m producing Love and Thunder, and I think what you’re referring to is the fact that Jane Foster was Thor for the first time in an issue of What If…?.
That was something that was so interesting to us. And that idea [making it into the MCU] made us comfortable with the idea of not leaving anything on the table. That anything we create in the show, it always, it has potential to live beyond the confines of a single episode of the series.
In terms of not being able to do stuff, there really were no rules except for needing to have had the concept established in its own story before the episode went in development.
Oh, so you couldn’t like introduce something that wasn’t already in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Exactly. Because we wanted it to be based on, just like the What If…? comic, we wanted it to be based on a story that people knew or could go and watch.
You mentioned during the press conference for the series that Captain Carter is the character who has the strongest connection to the Watcher. Can you talk about more about what that means?
It’s something that evolves over time, but there is definitely a reason why you will come to learn that that story, it was the first one the Watcher invited us into, and that does have some importance as the series continues.
We’ve heard that Marvel will be having a mini-studio dedicated to animated projects. Are you involved with any upcoming animated projects that are in the works at Marvel?
Yeah. I would say that we’re creating an animated infrastructure underneath the Marvel Studios banner. So any animated project we produce will still very much be a part of the Marvel Studios tapestry under Kevin Feige. And we will only create projects and stories that need to be told in animated form. We do have plans. I wish I could tell you all about them because I think some of them are pretty mind blowing. But we are building an infrastructure now to be able to handle multiple animated projects at once.
You mentioned you’re executive producing Thor: Love and Thunder. And one of the fun things that came out of Thor: Ragnarok were the short films featuring Thor in between movies. Is there a chance that Taika Waititi has put together another short to create a bridge between the events of Avengers: Endgame and Thor: Love and Thunder?
You’re talking about Darryl?
Are you saying you want more Darryl?
I think everybody wants more Darryl.
Well, maybe you might get more Darryl. It’s possible.
The first episode of Marvel’s What If…? is available on Disney+ today with future episodes arriving every Wednesday. For more, be sure to check out our interview with series director Bryan Andrews and head writer A.C. Bradley.
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