From Star-Lord T’Challa to Scott Lang’s head in a jar, What If...? promised an abundance of oddball stories as early as its first trailer. The creative scenarios — which head writer AC Bradley jokingly referred to as “very expensive fan-fiction” to Total Film — aren’t just-for-fun sketches, though. They appear to reflect the little Multiversal mishap from Loki’s Season 1 finale in which Sylvie set free the myriad of timelines and possibilities that comprise the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. “It’s no coincidence that the show picks up right after Loki,” executive producer Brad Winderbaum told Deadline. What If...?, then, seems to explore a handful of those many, messy branches.
At the heart of it all is The Watcher, a mysterious, omniscient figure who keeps close tabs on the MCU as we know it. “I observe all that transpires here,” he says in the trailer. “But I do not, cannot, will not interfere.” However, the characters’ comics track record proves he’s willing to bend that rule, at least once in a while. As you prepare to wonder What If...?, here is everything you should know about The Watcher in the Marvel Comics — and how his presence could mean even more chaos for the MCU.
Who Is Uatu The Watcher In The Marvel Comics?
The Watcher made his debut in a 1963 Fantastic Four comic, where he’s described as “the most dramatic being of all time.” (Relatable.) He explains that he comes from an ancient, powerful people whose whole deal is pretty much never interfering with the calamities they observe. True to their name, they do “nothing but watch.” Of course, this particular Watcher — who we later come to know as Uatu, or The Watcher — breaks that rule immediately upon meeting the Fantastic Four, forcing them to fight a dangerous enemy on his moon.
The Watcher, who’s powerful enough “to manipulate the very fabric of space and time itself,” is shown to be particularly fond of Earth and humankind. “All they need is a chance to grow ... I intend to give them that chance,” he says.
Who Is The Watcher In The MCU?
The Watcher of What If...? will likely have a similar soft spot for Earth and its heroes, it seems. As Winderbaum told Inverse, “I can say the Watcher is very much a three-dimensional character and that he might be an all-powerful deity, but his heart is very human.”
While What If...? will be the first MCU project to feature any Watcher in-depth, fans did get a brief glimpse of the powerful beings in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. A post-credits scene showed Stan Lee talking to three Watchers — or, trying to, as they were walking away from him, perhaps to go tune into bigger matters like the impending arrival of Thanos in Infinity War.
In just seconds, the scene relayed two key things about the Watchers that seem to still hold true in the What If...? era: they have a close connection to the very fabric of the MCU (they hold audience with its founding father!) and are interested in events that have the potential to shake it up. Enter, the Multiverse.
How Will What If...? Impact The Rest Of The MCU?
It seems that What If...? is affected by and could affect events in the greater MCU — as Winderbaum told Deadline, “What if…? as a project, as a story that exists in the MCU, is as important as any other and is woven into that tapestry.”
So if The Watcher does indulge his tendency to meddle, well, we might see it reflected in future projects like Spider-Man: No Way Home or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Plus, in conversation with Inverse, Winderbaum didn’t rule out that further adaptations of the bizarre What If...? hypotheticals could follow — even on the live-action front. “We wanted each story to be able to be open and shut in that half an hour timeframe, but it's hard not to imagine more chapters with some of these characters,” he said. “I hope that one day we do get to see more adventures in some of these alternate timelines.”