Though tradition dictates presents are to be opened on Christmas morning, plenty of families allow their children to open one on Christmas Eve. As Marvel Studios continues to release daily episodes of Season 2 of What If…?, they gave fans a doozy of a Christmas Eve gift with Episode 3: “What If…Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?”.
An unabashed tribute to one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, Episode 3 puts Jon Favreau‘s Happy Hogan in John McClane’s bare feet and gives the Forehead of Security a chance to be the hero. Up against Sam Rockwell‘s wonderfully petulant and pedantic Justin Hammer–who gets the full Hans Gruber treatment in the episode–Hogan blunders through defending Avengers Tower and ultimately and unwillingly becomes an all-new, all-different version of himself.
Sometime post-Iron Man 3 and pre-Age of Ultron, Hammer and his pair of Russian goons have chosen the Yuletide season to break into Avengers Tower, which on this particular night, finds itself without its Avengers. It’s no random act of terror, however, as Hammer has one objective in mind: obtaining a vial of Bruce Banmer’s gamma-irradiated blood. While attempting to defend the precious serum, Hogan accidentally injects it into himself unleashing a very obscure comic book version of himself: The Freak.
First appearing in “If This Guilt Be Mine…”, one of three stories in 1965’s Tales of Suspense #74, the Happy Hogan version of the Freak came to be when Tony Stark used a typically wacky of the time sci-fi device to try to heal injuries Hogan sustained at the hands of Titanium Man. As the Freak, Hogan exhibited superhuman powers including but not limited to strength and durability and a propensity for some pretty epic rage tantrums. Other characters have also gone by the moniker the Freak as well, including Stark employee Eddie March and, more recently, a vagrant junkie that appeared in Bob Gale and Phil Jimenez‘s Spider-Man run.
Though it’s Hogan in the driver’s seat, the MCU’s version of the Freak seemed to take a little more aesthetic inspiration from Jimenez’s pencil. Favreau is fantastic as the powered up Hogan, clearly having fun letting his Freak flag fly and getting a chance to be the hero of the day. Director Bryan Andrews and writer AC Bradley did such a great job bringing the obscure character to the MCU that it would be a shame if we didn’t see him again sometime soon.