We begin with Just Imagine Stan Lee With Joe Kubert Creating Batman (September 2001).
Stan's version of Batman is an LA-based African-American named Wayne Williams (which is unfortunately also the name of the man charged with the Atlanta Child Murders, someone might have caught that, really.) His father was a policeman who was murdered by Handz Horgum, who is somewhat like one of the low-level crooks Stan used to come up with in the early days of the MU. One could imagine him as the fourth Enforcer. Anyway, Handz frames Wayne, who gets sent to prison.
While Wayne is in prison, he learns to sew, builds himself up physically, makes a pet of a bat, and befriend wrongfully-imprisoned inventor Frederick Grant. Frankly, I like the bit about him learning to sew, too many heroes just seem to be able to whip up fantastic costumes just like that.
Meanwhile, the Reverend Dominic Darrk, leader of the Church of Eternal Empowerment, needs more thugs, so he arranges a prison break, which Wayne foils. (Darrk is pretty much a generic "Evil Cult Leader", but we'll see more of him.) This leads to Wayne getting out of prison, where he implements his plan for vengeance. (His mom died while he was inside.)
Needing money, he becomes a masked pro wrestler called Batman, becoming rich and famous, getting all sorts of endorsement deals and such. Now, here is what for me is the big plot hole here. Setting aside that you don't just walk into a gym and become a wrestler (the assumption here seems to be that wrestling is real), even if the public doesn't know who Batman is, the promoter (not to mention all the people he signed endorsement deals with) would insist on it. Stan should know this - remember back in the first Spider-Man story where he can't cash a check made out to "Spider-Man"? At any rate, a fair number of people are going to know who Batman-the-wrestler really is. Which is fine, except that when he becomes Batman-the-crime-fighter, a number of people are also going to know who he is.
Anyway, Grant designs gadgets for him, enabling to to become a bat-themed crime-fighter. He goes after Handz, killing him. You can argue that he didn't set out to kill Handz, but he doesn't make any great effort not to. So, he gains his vengeance, and looks to the future.
There's a brief mini-story afterwards, entitled "On the Street" (All the books have them.), by Michael Uslan, with art by Michael Wm. Kaluta. It's a wordless look at the public's reaction to the debut of Batman.
Overall: I enjoyed this. You can't go wrong with Kubert art, and the Bat-costume is pretty good, with a more bat-like mask. Apart from the plot-hole I mention above, the story itself is OK. If it's not Stan's greatest work, it's not bad.
Next up is Just Imagine Stan Lee With Jim Lee Creating Wonder Woman (October 2001).
(Inks are by Scott Williams). Our heroine here is Maria Mendoza (another alliterative name), who lives in Peru, and whose father is a judge, who is under the thumb of Maria’s nemesis, Armando Guitez, an exploiter who is plundering the ruins of the old Inca capital, Cuzco. He, in typical villain fashion, lusts after Maria. So far, no brilliantly original villains in this series.
Maria meets Steve Trevor, an African-American archaeologist who is working for Guitez, trying to ameliorate some of Guitez’s excesses. Guitez kills Maria’s father (another character with a murdered parent), and we learn that Guitez is attempting to recover various ancient runestones which will enable him access great power. He recovers some, releasing demons, and absorbing their power. (The demons are all purple here, our first indication that purple is the color of evil in this timeline.) Trevor had previously sent some runestones to LA, so Guitez takes off after them.
Meanwhile, Maria discovers the lost staff of Manco Capac, becoming a super-human defender of the Earth. She finds Trevor, who has been fatally killed by Guitez, but not before he gives Maria the exposition she needs to follow Guitez to LA. Maria catches up with Guitez, battling him around the city before fatally killing him. There’s no question, she pretty much deliberately does for him here.
All of this is observed by Mike Willard, writer/editor of the National Exposer who names the new super-human “Wonder Woman”. Maria decides to stay in LA (no immigration concerns for her, apparently), and ends up working for Willard, enabling secret identity related shenanigans to ensue.
This time out, “On the Street” is credited Stan and Uslan, with art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. We see Wonder Woman making people better just by her presence – including luring some potential worshippers away from Reverend Darrk. We also see that Trevor sent two hawk-runes to archaeologists Diana Prince and Carter Hall. The story teases them becoming Hawkman and Hawkwoman, but doesn’t pull the trigger.
Overall: Another fairly enjoyable story. I’m not a big Jim Lee fan, but his art suits the story. The Wonder Woman costume is OK here – at least she doesn’t look like a really patriotic hooker! The story itself is OK, although we do get our second vengeful orphan in a row, and a somewhat cardboard villain.
Next up is Just Imagine Stan Lee With John Buscema Creating Superman (November 2001).
This book features Salden, a cop on a distant planet (the name is said to be unpronounceable by humans), who is happily married, but is constantly trying to build himself up, because he's the only one on his squad who isn't genetically enhanced. Salden comes across as the answer to the questio "What if Norrin Radd was Dirty Harry?" The big news there is that thanks to a newly-discovered green element, they've perfected a space/time machine which will enable them to go anywhere.
Salden is called to a hostage crisis, where he is put down by his squadmates. Despite this, he pretty much resolves the situation single-handedly, which makes me wonder why he's all that concerned about not being "enhanced". Elsewhere, Gorrok, a crook with a grudge against Salden, escapes and murders Salden's wife. Gorrok attempts to flee in the space/time ship. Salden pursues, and the ship carries the pair to Earth, crashing in the ocean.
Salden swims to shore, finding that he has super-powers, perhaps due to Earth's gravity, although it is hinted that the green element might have something to do with it. In a scene which seems a bit off in a Twenty-First Century comic book, Gorrok terrorizes a tribe of black primitives. Salden goes to work for a circus, and earns enough money to rent an apartment, He adopts the name "Clark Kent". He decides that the reason Earth is so primitive is because we have so much crime (although there seemed to be plenty of crime on his world, too!) Reading some comics, he decides to become a super-hero.
Elsewhere, Gorrok is recruited by Darrk, who sets him the kidnapping the president of China. Back in LA, a Lois Lane appoints herself Salden's agent, naming him "Superman". Salden agrees, hoping that if he gets publicity, Gorrok will reveal himself,. In the end,, Supes beats Gorrok and rescues the President, though he muses that someone bigger must have been behind Gorrok.
This time out, "On the Street" is dome with Lee/Uslan, with art by Kyle Baker. A low-level comics publisher creates a Superman comic, until he receives a cease-and-desist from Lois, who is trying to cut a deal with DC to have Superman replace Zatara the Magician in Action Comics!
Overall: Fun stuff. the art was good in this (This must have been one of the last things Buscema did), and I found the story enjoyable, too, without too many plotholes. This is probably my favorite of these first three.
Stan has mentioned in a zillion interviews that he used alliteration as a mnemonic device to remember characters' names. Since he's still doing it for a bunch of one-shots, one wonders if that's just his natural style, or if he's doing it on purpose now as a sort of signature.
It's been a while since I've read these. Is that Wonder Woman cover by Jim Lee? Most of it looks like Lee, but the central figure has an Adam Hughes vibe. Probably all Lee, though, doing an "homage" to Hughes' style on all those Wonder Woman covers he did (which were awesome).
Also, was the green element in the Superman story called kryptonite, or was that just a wink to the reader? There wouldn't be much reason to call it kryptonite in a story without Krypton, but I think we'd all overlook that.
I think Hughes did the back covers for all of these, but not the front ones. I'll doublecheck.
The green element hasn't been called "kryptonite" so far. Superman's home planet's name was described as "unpronounceable".
Arguably, the name of his home planet translated into English could be "Earth".
"Earth", or maybe "Home".
I haven't read these things in forever, but I do remember them, mostly. They were interesting just for the novelty of Mr. Marvel Comics Himself writing for DC -- which happened, as I recall, because one of Marvel's corporate restructurings had the unexpected side effect of canceling Stan's lifetime contract with Marvel, thus creating the window for him to do these things.
The other interesting novelty is Stan Lee teaming up with longtime DC artists, like Joe Kubert. Nice touch that the Batman issue (or, rather, Just Imagine Stan Lee With Joe Kubert Creating Batman) had a Black man as the lead. And you didn't mention that our Wayne Williams winds up with Handz Horgum's main squeeze at the end.
As for the "Wayne Williams" thing, yeah, somebody should have caught it, but I can't really fault anybody for not doing so. The Atlanta Child Murders were long forgotten; they had happened a full 20 years before these books were written.
...I haven't time to read this now , but I'd been wondering why the ISLCs seemed (I believe) ignored by MULTIVERSITY when other 80s-on Big Event universes were included .
Stan also wrote one or two " real " Superman for that STRANGE SCHWARTZ STORIES Julie tribute , and I've to bring them up for the longest time ~ Have the SSSs ever been book-collected ?
Stan having Batman learn to sew suggests those scene in early Spider-Man stories of him sewing his costume were Stan's idea, not Steve Ditko's. Daredevil was also seen sewing his yellow costume. So much for the belief Stan didn't do anything except take credit for Ditko and Kirby's work.
"How heroes came up with their costumes" was a thing that bugged me when I was a kid. It was one thing if you could magic one up, but how a high school kid like Peter Parker managed to create such a swell costume was beyond me, probably because I couldn't have done it myself. That's why I always liked Wesley Dodds' original outfit, which was essentially street clothes and a gas mask. The only tough part was the mask, and I'd seen those on sale in military antiques stores, so I figured it was doable.
As for the Schwartz tribute stories - I've got those somewhere, I should dig them out and look at them sometime.
Do you figure they don't let you into the Green Lantern Corps if you don't look good in that uniform?
"You are utterly fearless - and utterly honest! And you have six pack abs! You pass all three tests, Hal Jordan!"