But before I dip into the final Comics Within Comics, I just wanted to give a tip o' the old Bully-cap to online pal Graeme Virtue, who only sounds like a character out of a Garth Ennis comic but who is actually a journalist for my very favorite (honest!) newspaper in the UK, The Guardian!, which no longer features all the typos that the panels on I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue attributed to it. (Barry Cryer: "The Guardian: Yesterday's headline should have read 'Caesar Slayed' not 'Caesar Salad.'") Graeme lives in Glasgow, my favorite Scottish city I've never visited, and someday I shall get up there and buy him a pint, especially since he was so kind to tweet
Jings! Thank you very much, Mister V. This one is dedicated to you. I'm sorry it's a Gambit story.
Cover of What If...? (1989 series) #100 (September 1997), pencils and inks by Klaus Janson
By this point in Marvel publishing history the Watcher had been unceremoniously booted from his host duties of What If?, so we're dropped right into the middle of the story which surely must have made sense to those who have read between the lines of every single X-Men title including Fallen Angels. As I can piece it together, this alternate reality isn't designated in any of the hefty colorful Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe, but I'm gonna dub it Earth-99709, aka "The One Where Gambit Does Something Stupid." (Yes, yes, i know...how to distinguish it from all other universes...universii?...is a problem.) As part of his life debt (or was that Chewbacca?) to Mr. Sinister, our ragin' Cajun has collected, gathered, and out and out stolen the Morlocks's "tithe boxe," in which is sealed the Ultimate Secret of the Universe™. I imagine it comes from the same store where Indy got the Ark, where Jules Winnfield got the briefcase with the nifty glowing interior, and that 1964 Chevrolet Malibu repo'd by Otto Maddox came from. Or maybe Amazon.com. Naturally, Rogue and her thirty-five pound hairpiece vow to stop Gambit!
Panels from "Paper Skin" in What If...? (1989 series) #100 (September 1997); co-plot and script by Ivan Velez Jr.; co-plot, pencils, and inks by Klaus Janson, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Gambit, of course, big cheaty-pants that he is, refuses to play fair and traps Rogue under a big-ass rock. Golly, Gambit is certainly getting boulder, isn't he BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA I'm so sorry.
Gambit contemplates possessing the
Now possessing the Tithe Box, Sinister...well, I'm not really certain what he's doing here, but that fits in just fine with all the rest of his decade long plots to bedevil and baffle and tickle the X-Men, including that time when he made the young orphan Scott Summers go to bed without being able to watch the episode of Galactica 1980 with Starbuck in it. HE'S EVIL YOU SEE.
Rogue enters, and WHOA THAT'S NOT ROGUE THAT'S A MAN, BABY. Actually, it's the result of a kiss Rogue and Gambit had after Gambit delivered the box. Rogue's energy-stealing powers sucked (ewwww!) the powers and personality (and apparently he jawline) of Gambit and put it in Rogue, who can now probably call him/herself Rougbit. Or Gamogue. Take your pick. Vowing hir revenge upon Sinister, she attacks him but fails to comprehend the meaning of his words: that they, as Shakespeare put it are as mutant flies to wanton fanboys; they kill and resurrect and re-kill X-Men for their sport. Nope, Rogue doesn't get it...
...until the box falls open and Rogue discovers...hir reality is just a fiction created by the people who make comics books. What the--?
(And those comic books are...)
Cover of [Peter Parker,] Spider-Man (1990 series) #82 (August 1997), pencils by John Romita Jr., inks by Scott Hanna, colors by Gregory Wright, letters by Richard Starkings
Cover of Maverick (1997 series) #1 (September 1997), pencils by Jim Cheung, inks by Andrew Pepoy
Cover of The Incredible Hulk (1968 series) #455 (August 1997), pencils by Adam Kubert, inks by Jesse Delperdang
Cover of X-Men (1991 series) #66 (August 1997), pencils by Carlos Pacheco, inks by Art Thibert, colors by Liquid Graphics
Cover of Alpha Flight (1997 series) #1 (August 1997), pencils by Scott Clark, inks by Chris Carlson
And of course...
Yeah, I agree: those cover repros in What If? #100 are not incredibly detailed. Notice that they took cover images, splashed a single color across them and then plastered the logo on top of it. But look carefully at the shadows and details that can be seen and you'll find they're all August or September 1997 books. Which you thought were going to be worth mucho moola and you have double-bagged in your own longboxes, so check 'em out!
Because this is the Mighty Marvel Age of Bountiful Bonuses from Bully, check out this article from Marvel Vision #21, aka "The Marvel Age of the 1990s created by someone who couldn't restrain themselves in desktop publishing," detailing the What If? #100 story! Just be warned, though: it's about Gambit.