WHAT IF? is a series that used to be published by Marvel Comics. The premise of the title is that it would take stories that appeared in previous Marvel comic-books, and rewrite them to show what would have happened if the characters had made different decisions. Or it would take classic characters, and just put them in different situations. So there would be issues where someone other than Bruce Banner became The Hulk, or where Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben was not killed, so Spidey continued to be an entertainer instead of a superhero.
What if? vol. 1, #26 came out in 1981. Written by Mike W. Barr (with “creative contributions”, whatever that means, by Roger Stern and John Byrne), and drawn by Herb Trimp and Mike Esposito, it features Captain America getting elected President. I love this story, primarily for the sheer, naive, comic-book logic it entails.
The premise is that representatives of a new political party, called the Populist Party, approach Captain America to run as their Presidential candidate in the 1980 election. Captain America originally plans to say no, but when he’s giving his speech to the party members, and sees the sad looks on their faces as they realize that he’s going to refuse, he switches his mind and says yes. And the campaign beings.
So then we see Captain American campaigning as Captain America. His staff knows his secret identity, but he doesn’t tell the country, although he pledges that he will take off his mask and reveal himself if he wins.
That’s right, the name “Captain America” will be on the ballot. Which would make any vote for him illegal, since that’s not a real name, but this is the Marvel Universe, where superheroes, aliens, and various supernatural beings exist, so nevermind.
Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both appear in this book, since they’re running against Captain America. As his running mate, Captain America picks a Senator named Andrew Jackson Hawk, who happens to be a Black man (with an afro!). In their first meeting, Hawk insists that Captain America realize that he doesn’t just want to be a second-banana, who was only picked to add “a few million Minority votes”, but Captain America insists that they’ll be a team, so Hawk agrees to run with him.
Election night comes, and Captain America wins by a large margin (Reagan comes in 2nd, Carter comes in 3rd). And then on Inauguration Day, Captain America take the oath of office as Captain America (again, it’s Marvel Comics, just go with it), and then gives a speech where ht takes off his mask and tells the world that his real name is Steve Rogers. Immediately, a sniper shoots @ him, but Captain America puts the mask back on and leaps to the direction of the bullet, leaving his Secret Service men to try to catch up to him, and captures the would-be assassin.
Next up, we see that “President America”, as he is called, oversees the launch of a space station, which collects solar power and beams it back down to America, giving us clean energy, and ending our dependance on foreign soil. Meanwhile, a war is going in a small South American nation called San Pedro, where rebels are trying to overthrow a corrupt dictator. President America sends solar-powered weapons to the rebels, and they succeed in bringing democracy to that nation. But when President America flies to visit the new President of San Pedro, he discovers that the President is actually his old enemy, the Red Skull, in disguise!
Red Skull captures President America, and reveals that he’s used the weapons America gave him to somehow hack into the controls of America’s solar space station, and will now use it to burn Washington DC. President America escapes captivity, fights the Red Skull, and manages to shut down the station, although both he and Red Skull die in an explosion. The final scene is Captain America’s funeral attended by the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, and other heroes, with the eulogy given by Nick Fury.
All in all, it’s a pretty decent story. This issue also contains a short back-up story featuring the Marvel Comics character MAN-THING, but I never bothered reading it, as I’ve never been interested in that character.
This story was collected in What if?: Classic – Volume 4, available on Amazon.