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And Then What / Comic Books

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  • In the dark comedy miniseries G.L.A. Misassembled, Mr. Immortal does this to villain Maelstrom, convincing him not only of the futility of his current scheme to destroy the universe, but of evil schemes in general, and an existence without friends or loved ones would be unbearable. He convinces the villain to commit suicide. "Here, I'll go first." Mr. Immortal gets back up again...
  • Disney Comics' version of the Big Bad Wolf has finally captured the Three Little Pigs in one story, when his mis-named son Li'l Bad Wolf asks him what he will do with his life after he has eaten them. After pondering alternatives like playing the comb and reading the almanac, BBW lets the pigs go.
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  • Played with in a pocket issue of Donald Duck: Donald and his nephews happen to stumble upon a Mad Scientist who plans to destroy all of Earth's technology. When called out on it, and questioned what he, himself would be without all his gadgets and devices, the scientist states that he did go insane for a reason. The ducks all realize that there's an undeniable, yet severely disturbing logic behind that argument.
  • In an early issue of Thunderbolts, Graviton is being all villainous, crowing about how easily he can defeat the Thunderbolts. Moonstone replies that, sure, you can beat us. Then the Avengers, the Champions, the Defenders, the X-men and so forth (most of these teams no longer existed at this time). So then what? Graviton stopped, realized he had no long term plan at all, and disappeared for about a year.
    • When he came back, he'd actually thought about it. And decided that essentially ripping San Francisco out of the ground to be his personal party/orgy palace was the "what". Letting him win in the first place might have been less destructive in the long run.
  • In New Avengers, the Wrecker grabs a crowbar and starts to toss around Spider-Man, Wolverine and Luke Cage. Then, Spider-Woman walks up and asks "why?". She wonders why despite having the power of a god, a bunch of kids in Los Angeles managed to beat him and his whole team up. She very nearly converts him to the side of good, until it's revealed she wasn't even trying, just lulling him into a false sense of security.
    • It helps that she is both an experienced spy and exudes pheromones that make men fall in love with her.
  • Used to great effect in the graphic novel Enigma by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo. In the comic-within-a-comic, "The Enigma" taunts "The Rich Cat" with the pointlessness of his goals by saying "And then what? ...and then what? ...and then what?" until "The Rich Cat" can only say "aw, geez, I don't know." The phrase then becomes a catchphrase used by the Enigmatics, a cult inspired by the comic, who say it before committing suicide en masse.
  • Transformers:
    • In All Hail Megatron and the following series, Starscream, of all people, brings this up when talking with Megatron. First, after they spend a couple of issues trashing effectively-defenseless Earth cities with Autobots nowhere in sight:
      Starscream: Our cruisers could have annihilated them from space. You're stalling. You've beaten the only real threat we've ever faced. I can see what's coming. So can you. Who will it be? Scourge? Who would have thought the worst move you could have made would be to win?
    • By their next confrontation, they have defeated the Autobots, and are in the process of conquering the galaxy. He actually becomes rather upset about it, as he realises that all of Megatron's rhetoric about the superiority of the Decepticon race has been just that...and that with victory in their grasp, they don't really know what to do with it.
      Starscream: Your philosophy, Megatron...
      Megatron: Starscream...
      Starscream: The Strong should rule....
      Megatron: Again Starscream? We find ourselves here AGAIN?
      Starscream: All this... for what? Where to NOW Megatron? WHERE TO NEXT!?!
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    • And then it's massively subverted a few issues later, when Optimus asks Megatron what he'd do if he killed all the Autobots. Megatron answers thusly: The true goal of the Decepticons would begin. Rebuilding Cybertron and its empire and the universe, in ways that would outshine Cybertron's Golden Age, with Megatron on top, of course.
      Optimus: What about freedom? Free will? Personal responsibility?
      Megatron: They won't be missed.
  • Emperor Doom features something like this, with Doctor Doom using the enslaved Purple Man to essentially brainwash the world into accepting him as its ruler. He eventually gets bored of all the niggly little things that a ruler of the world actually ends up having to do, and decides to let the heroes destroy the machine keeping Purple Man prisoner.
    • Reed Richards asks this of Doom several times whenever Doom's captured him again and is gloating about how he's going to kill Reed and destroy everything he holds dear. Doom has no proper answer, because the be-all-end-all of his existence is to cause Reed Richards as much anguish as possible. Unlike, say, the Joker however, Doom can't admit this (having convinced himself that he's doing it because he's superior to everyone else and deserves to rule the world...and that he's doing the world a favor since he's obviously the most qualified for the job) and so whenever Reed mentions this, Doom usually just starts screaming about college grudges and beating the snot out of Reed. Doom is kind of nuts.
  • This is discussed by the Big Bad himself in Age of Apocalypse. After accomplishing his plan to Take Over the World (or at least conquer much of it and turning the rest into a Crapsack World), Apocalypse realizes that governing his brutal new dog-eat-dog empire is actually pretty tiresome.
  • At the end of Punisher Noir, Frank Castelione, Jr. has killed everyone responsible for his father's death. Jigsaw, Barracuda, the Russian, Dutch Shultz... all of them are gone. As he visits his parents' graves, he asks his father what he should do now. Detective Soap called him the Punisher — does he keep punishing forever? Does he keep taking it to the underworld? It's 1935, there's no shortage of mobsters. Frank, Sr. doesn't have an answer for him, but he gets one all the same when a newspaper is blown into his face — featuring an article on Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist party.
  • One Green Lantern story had magnetic supervillain Dr. Polaris try to absorb the "magnetic glue" that holds the universe together, increasing his powers to infinite levels. It would also destroy the universe. The comic lampshades that Polaris is too drunk with power to stop to think what he would do afterward.
  • At one point in Marvel's 1989 crossover Atlantis Attacks, B-list heroine Firebird comes across several invading Atlantean/Lemurian troops who have gotten lost in the desert. After a Curb-Stomp Battle (if you breathe water, and have to use a specially enclosed suit to survive on land, don't fight someone who controls fire and heat without being REALLY prepared). Once that's over and she talks to them, she asks them that even if they win this war, what exactly are they going to do? She asks this as they a desert. They shrug. They come to a compromise wherein she destroys all their weapons and guides them to Tahiti, where they promise to sit out the rest of the war and decide to try and pick up land-dwelling women. (Firebird's words would eventually prove an In-Universe case of Harsher in Hindsight, because the Atlanteans were being used as Unwitting Pawns by Set and would eventually be double-crossed by his servants.
  • After going mad, Genis-Vell helps the cosmic villain Entropy successfully destroy the universe. Afterward, Entropy, Genis, Epiphany, and Rick Jones are left floating in a void of nothingness, and Entropy realizes he never expected to actually succeed and doesn't know what to do, now. So they do some Timey-Wimey Ball jiggery-pokery and the universe comes back.
  • Played for Laughs in one Mini Marvels strip. Silver Surfer gets Thanos to change his plans by asking him hypothetically, if he succeeded in getting Lady Death's attention by destroying the universe and she fell in love with him, what he would get her for her birthday. Thanos thinks carefully for a moment.
    Thanos: A pair of shoes?
    Silver Surfer: You just destroyed the universe! There are no shoes!
    Thanos: Oops!
  • In the first arc of his "DC Rebirth" title, Aquaman battles Black Manta, out to avenge the death of his father at Orin's hands. Arthur allows Manta to put his spear to Aquaman's throat and then asks what Manta's life will be like once he does it. He points out Manta's only goal in life is killing Aquaman and there's no way to make his death worthwhile enough to overcome that hate. After a long moment, Manta drops the spear and falls to his knees, realizing Aquaman is right.
    • Becomes a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! moment later as Manta is kidnapped by an organization who secretly rules the seas. Remembering his enemy's words, Manta kills the leader, takes over and finds a new goal in life after all.
  • In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, Superman and Spider-Man are battling their arch-nemeses on a satellite when one announces the intention to really destroy the world, instead of blackmail it with the threat of destroying it. Spidey asks the other Super Villain, "Where are you going to spend your money then?" Not only does he mentally hit the brick wall, he fights to save the world in a major (if temporary) Heel–Face Turn for Doctor Octopus.
  • In the Riot at Xavier's story arc in Grant Morrison's run of New X-Men, the radical young mutant Quentin Quire leads an anti-human riot by the mutant students. Quire declares that the rioters will take over the entire school. An unimpressed Emma Frost asks the question verbatim.
    • Bastion posits this during the "Second Coming" event. Just as his endgame is about to go into motion, he asks one of his underlings what will define them once the mutants are all dead, and what purpose they will serve afterwards (Doesn't stop him from going through with it, though).
  • In the Ultimate Spider-Man event The Death of Spider-Man Peter asks this question of his arch-nemesis, Norman Osborn. Unfortunately for him, Osborn has an answer. It's not a GOOD answer, but it's good enough for a madman:
    Peter: What's the plan, Osborn? I'm dying to know... what's next? You kill me, then what next?? The son you killed won't magically come back to life!! Your world as a captain of industry won't magically go back to the way it was!! And your hair... won't magically come... into fashion.
    Norman: But you'll be dead.
    Peter: Well, yeah... there is that...
  • It's not phrased in the form of a question, but the end of Watchmen has this exchange:
    Ozymandias: I did the right thing, didn't I? It all worked out in the end.
    Dr. Manhattan: "In the end"? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
  • This is how the very first story arc of George Perez's reboot of Wonder Woman ended, with Wondy ensnaring Ares in the Lasso of Truth, forcing him to realise that starting World War III would superpower him immensely in the short term as conflict and disaster engulfed the world...but there'd be nobody left After the End to fight, much less kill, each other, and without any living memory of the gods, he'd fade into nothingness.
  • The Annual # 1 of The Batman Adventures Study Hall: shows Scarecrow in Arkham after being beaten again by the Batman, asking to himself why he is trapped in a Cycle of Revenge instead of doing something he enjoys, at the beginning of his Redemption Failure:
    Scarecrow: What will happen when I am too old or too infirm to engage with the Batman at our usual duel of wills? Then what? I was a teacher once...
  • Poison Ivy also asks one of them to herself at the end of Batman and Robin Adventures #24, "Touch of death". This one shows how disconnected Poison Ivy is from her true motivations to save a a Brazilian Boy who is a Poisonous Person from a Government Conspiracy and brings him back to his home.
    Poison Ivy: And with the kid, I could... [beat] ...poison people faster?...what was I thinking?
  • In the Serenity comic, "Those Left Behind," Mal asks a vengeful Dobson this question, what comes next after killing Mal. Dobson shrugs and says he'll pick up a hobby, probably.
  • In "Jungle of the Giants!", a story appearing in Dark Horse Monsters, the protagonist has been shrunken and put in a terrarium. His plan is to reach the glass wall... and from there, he apparently plans to reach the shrinking machine to restore himself to normal size. Somehow. All getting to the wall accomplishes is letting him look out at the shrinking machine. How he plans to get out to get to it is something even he seems unsure of. It's rendered moot when his son, the one who placed him in the terrarium, appears with his cat. Uh-oh.
  • In the original run of Archer & Armstrong, Armstrong is talking with a rogue member of The Sect (a cult who believes Armstrong to be a demon in human form, rather than the immortal hedonistic human he actually is) The woman asks Armstrong if he's ever wondered what The Sect would do afterwards, if they ever managed to kill him. When Armstrong answers that he's never put any thought into it, she responds with "Neither have they."
  • X-Men: Toward the end of the "Second Coming" storyline, Bastion asks his remaining dragons, Stephen Lang and Graydon Creed what they're going to do if they finally do kill all the mutants, since it's not a noble or enlightening goal, and it's not something Bastion enjoys doing.


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