Merch Leak Has Big Implications for the MCU

What If...?

Getty Director Bryan Andrews and Head writer A.C. Bradley of 'What If...?' and President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige and Hayley Atwell of 'What If...?' take part in the Disney Plus Showcase at Disney’s D23 EXPO 2019 in Anaheim, California.

A poster design that may not have been ready for the public has appeared on Twitter featuring key elements of this summer’s MCU series, “What If…?” Twitter-user Anne Talks Comics has posted a photo of the merch they claim to have found at a mall, which shows alternate versions of familiar characters, a good look at iconic Marvel alien Uatu the Watcher and a brand new tagline: “Guardians of the Multiverse.”

Murphy’s Multiverse reported on the tweet, pointing out that while official press for the show has not begun, the poster, though not yet available for purchase, appears on the FYE website.

What We Know About “What If…?”

The upcoming animated Disney Plus anthology show will, like the similarly named classic comic title, explore alternate realities where characters’ fates unraveled differently than the versions fans are used to.  The debut of “What If” in 1977 featured a story where Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four, and since then Marvel has published nine volumes of similar speculations. In its pages, Wolverine has become a Vampire Lord and Loki has, instead of his brother, wielded the hammer Mjolnir.

The A.C. Bradley-created animated series is set to premiere this summer and while most of the other Phase Four MCU series were created as limited-run miniseries, “What If…?”‘s second season may already be in development. A slew of MCU actors are returning to voice animated alternate-reality versions of their characters, including Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Mark Ruffalo, and most notably Chadwick Boseman, who will appear posthumously. A trailer for the first season was released in December of 2020, featuring many of the same characters as the poster. Watch the trailer below.

The trailer features Peggy Carter as Captain Britain and T’Challa as Starlord – the sort of classic mix-up of IP that the “What If” comics are known for. We also see Bucky fighting a zombie Cap, bringing into the MCU the Marvel Zombies for the first time.

As he does in the comics, the alien Uatu the Watcher acts as a linchpin for the anthology and as narrator. In the trailer, the character appears to be speaking directly to Nick Fury, who has a complicated relationship with the alien in the comics universe of 616. Voiced by Jeffrey Wright, the iconic alien presents variance differently than we’ve seen it presented in “Avengers: Endgame” and the “Loki” trailer.  “Space. Time. Reality.” he says. “Its more than a linear path. Its a prison.”

What the Leak Means to the MCU

Zombie Cap

YoutubeZombie Captain America howls in the trailer for the upcoming Disney Plus series “What If…?”

In addition to giving us a clear look at Uata, the poster highlights characters absent from the trailer including Kilmonger, Thor, and Black Widow. These characters look mostly identical to their MCU versions so what their stories will be remains conjecture. Perhaps most of note is the new tagline for the series – “Guardians of the Multiverse.”

In the comics, the Multiverse is a concept that shows in addition to the in-canon comic continuity (dubbed universe 616) there are maybe limitless alternate realities – such as those demonstrated in the pages of “What If.” Long-running continuities like the now-defunct Ultimates line (Universe 1610) exist alongside the universe of the MCU itself (Universe 199999).

The trajectory of the MCU of late seems to feature the Multiverse increasingly. It is at the core of the upcoming Dr. Strange sequel, “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” and implied in the trailer for “Loki. The first Disney Plus series “Wandavision,” teased with its coy inclusion of Evan Peters as an alternate Quicksilver the question of whether non-MCU Marvel franchises such as the X-men films co-exist as alternate universes nestled into the multiverse as well – especially now that Disney has secured the rights to the IP for future films. We may see this unfold further in the Sam Raimi-directed Strange sequel which is rumored to feature Ryan Reynolds and Toby Maguire in cameos. While Reynolds played Deadpool in the Fox produced films, Maguire played Peter Parker in the popular Raimi-directed Spiderman trilogy.

Screenrant pointed out that the tagline might infer a team, similar to the Exiles in the comics. The Exiles are a team of alternate reality versions of Marvel characters who attempt to prevent or rectify glitches in the multiverse. If that was the case, the show might be more solidly tied into Phase Four then previously expected, with the multiverse potentially factoring into not just Dr. Strange but also upcoming projects such as “Loki” – where the Time Variance Authority is performing a similar role – and “Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania” where the Quantum Role might link alternate realities the same way it links time travel episodes. There is conjecture that the Quantum Realm will factor into the upcoming Marvel Fantastic Four project.