Thoughts While Re-Reading "Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe" (SPOILERS)

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.

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Aha! The Baron's name must be Linus! ;)

These books, back when I read them, were pretty much self-erasing to my mind. All I know is that I wish these hadn't been alternate versions of our classic DC characters. I'd love to have seen what Stan would do with the original takes. Either that, or I would have probably liked them more if they had at least felt more like Marvel stories than they did. Not sure whose fault that was--Stan Lee's or DC editorial's--but I think the series as a whole fell flat, without even one real breakout book.

Jack Kirby's Superman seemed to be sort of a Marvel Comics version of the character, despite their insistence Superman's face had to be redrawn. Jack's rejected version looked like Jason Blood.

To me (and most people, I would imagine, possibly even at the time), most of the appeal of seeing Jack's take on DC's Justice League would be to see his take on each character visually. I hate that they had--wasn't it Curt Swan?--redraw Superman's face. At least the Superman in the Jimmy Olsen issues remained intact.

I don't have the comics anymore, but looking at the covers and their credits, they sure didn't trust Jack very much as a cover artist. The covers seem to be mainly by Neal Adams. The early one that Jack did was inked by Vince Colletta and Al Plastino. I think Plastino inked Superman's face. In fairness, was this the time period when they had Adams doing all or most of their covers?

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

To me (and most people, I would imagine, possibly even at the time), most of the appeal of seeing Jack's take on DC's Justice League would be to see his take on each character visually. I hate that they had--wasn't it Curt Swan?--redraw Superman's face. At least the Superman in the Jimmy Olsen issues remained intact.

I know he was all over DC then. Even House of Mystery, back when Berni Wrightson was there and should have been doing  all the covers. About the same time Gil Kane seemed to be doing most of Marvel's covers.

I believe it was Curt Swan. At the time they wanted Superman to have a certain look no matter who drew him. Today they don't seem to care if he's drawn looking like Family Guy or Lupo the Butcher.

The Batman looks like the silent film version of the Bat. Someone made a video combining scenes of that film with The Man Who Laughs to make it look like Batman meeting the Joker. Interesting since the guy in the bat suit was the bad guy. The Superman sounds too much like the regular Superman, an alien that finds he has powers on Earth.

Next up is Just Imagine Stan Lee With Jerry Ordway Creating the JLA (February 2002)

We meet three condemned criminals  - Brock Smith, Lucinda Radama, and Deke Durgan - who are rescued by Rev. Darrk, and are turned into super-criminals called the Blockbuster, the Parasite and Deathstroke, and collectively known as the Doom Patrol. They're not really that all-fired amazing. If I were to name a major weakness of this series, it's that the villains are not especially impressive.

Anyway, they are sent in pursuit of a young boy called Adam Strange.  He happens to run by Len Lewis, and so is soon rescued by the Green Lantern.  Strange reports that he saw Darrk creating the Doom Patrol, and urges GL to summon other heroes.  Superman , Batman and Wonder Woman show up.  The Parasite  possesses Salden and sends him off the fight Darrk. The  other heroes are beaten , and the Flash shows up late.  Batman takes them away in his helicopter, and they decide to form a team.

Elsewhere, Strange shows Superman how to break into the church. The Patrol and the newly-named Justice League show up.  Strange reveals that it was all a set-up, and that he is Darrk's son. Darrk kills Adam, and has the Parasite possess GL.   The League beats the Patrol. Blockbuster and Deathstroke  are killed. Yggdrasil convinces Parasite to move on to the next life. The League confronts Darrk, and he  flees,  The agree to stay together as a team.

No "On The Street" in this one, just a mock ad for Fly-By-Night Comics, which is mildly amusing.

Overall: This was OK. The plot was a little convoluted, buy I enjoyed the book.

DC eventually figured out that a threat that forces the creation of a Justice League has to be a little bigger than Starro or Rev. Darrk. Because now it's Darkseid, which is intellectually satisfying.

I agree, Baron, that the villains throughout this series are uninspired.

And Sensei, if memory serves, Kirby's Superman faces were usually (but not always) re-drawn by Murphy Anderson.

We've discussed how Stan's villains tend to not be very impressive in the Avengers re-read.

Next up is the story "The Coming Crisis" from Just Imagine Stan Lee...Secret Files and Origins (March 2002), written by Lee/Uslan, with art by Dan Jurgens and Bob Layton.

The above cover is, of course, a riff on the cover for Justice League of America #21 (August 1963):

The story itself is fairly simple: Maria's boss is concerned about the emergence of super-heroes, and their effect on human society. They witness the Green Lantern fighting a Medusa-like creature that is an agent of Darrk.  This leads to a conversation where Maria promises to get her editor an interview with each of the Leaguers, which is simple enough, since she is Wonder Woman.  Shortly thereafter, GL, Superman, the Flash, Batman and Wonder Woman stop by, and warn against Rev.Darrk, and state that in the end, humanity will be the ones to save the Earth.  We end with the cover scene - Wondy somehow summons up images of the heroes to come - Robin, Aquaman, Catwoman, Shazam and the Sandman.

Overall: This is an OK "the story so far" kind of tale, useful for summing up what we already know.  The art is nice enough. I always like seeing how different artists interpret characters.

Next is Just Imagine Stan Lee With John Byrne Creating Robin (April 2002).

With inks by Terry Austin.

We begin with Batman fighting Robin, who looks like a generic "street punk" sort of character.  We eventually learn that Robin is working for Darrk, who made him his "ultimate warrior" and has a sort of hypnotic hold over him.  Bats is distracted by a street crime, and Robin follows him.

In a series of  flashbacks, we learn that Robin was abandoned at an orphanage as an infant, and grew up as a loner, and was never adopted.

Darrk sends Robin to rob a bank, but he backs out when he encounters Beth, a woman he remembers from the orphanage, who was the closest thing he ever had to a friend.  Bats catches up with him and they fight some more before Bats convinces Robin to throw off Darrk's control.  They are caught snooping around Darrk's church. there is a big fight, and a bystander calls the cops  Darrk and the heroes both flee, and Batman asks Robin to be his partner. Robin refuses and goes his own way.

"On The Street" comes to us from Lee/Uslan, with art by John Severin. In it, Beth goes back to the orphanage, which is run by Madame Xanadu, who is secretly an agent of Darrk.  Beth asks to see anyone that knew Robin. Madame X produces a boy called Mark Merlin and a girl named Tommy Tomorrow, both of whom are drawn to look really ugly, a real case of "unattractive = evil" here. They tell Beth that Robin was a loner and a jerk, and she leaves. Afterwards, Mme. X tells Mark and Tommy that Darrk had another child, and hints that maybe it was one of them.

Overall: Really didn't like this one all that much. Byrne's art is good, but I found the character of Robin unappealing, and not all that original.  Probably my least favorite of these, so far.

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