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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We wrap up with Just Imagine Stan Lee With Michael Cassaday Creating Crisis (September 2002).

We begin with Catwoman failing to stop a mystery thief (who is obviously Robin) from stealing the Hawk-rune from Diana's museum. Diana summons Wonder Woman, who magically summons the League and the other heroes. (Good thing none of them was in the shower or a business meeting, or whatever!). The heroes start to bicker like Marvel heroes - Superman and Shazam in particular don't get along. GL and Aquaman settle them down The Sandman - who is carting along the dying Darrk - .explains that Darrk was merely paving the way for Crisis. Also there is evil in Robin.  Darrk uses his dying breath to deliver some plot : Once the amulet of Ranagar is retrieved, the end will be near.

Madame Xanadu learns of Darrk's death, and retrieves the amulet, which was in her storage room apparently. Tommy Tomorrow and Mark Merlin fight her for it, and she banishes them to Limbo, where they encounter the Phantom Stranger, who is extremely goofy-looking, about like a cross between the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and a gingerbread man. The Stranger is in fact the reincarnation of Adam Strange, who tells them that neither of them is Darrk's child. He tells Tommy that she is possessed by a dream demon, which he frees her from, and Mark that he is the son of Merlin. Also, Crisis walks the Earth.

The Sandman summons Oracle, who tells the heroes that Crisis' power comes from the five dreamworld sapphires embedded in his armor. they decide to split up into teams to remove the sapphires, but before this can happen, Mark arrives to warn them. Morgana arrives, claiming Mark as her son.  and says that one of the JLA will betray them. This bit of exposition proves to be her last as Crisis arrives and obliterates Morgana and Mark. (If Crisis can just obliterate people, why not just obliterate the League?)  Crisis then claims the amulet.

The League attacks, but Crisis attacks them with their worst nightmares.  Oracle prompts Sandman to erect a stasis field, which shields them from Crisis. They then set to trying to figure out who the traitor is. Robin is an early favorite, especially after he uses Sandman's gauntlet to send Superman back to his home planet (which is now called Krypton, despite the fact that we were told earlier that it was unpronounceable), and Sandman proving that it was Robin that stole the Hawk-rune.

Robin counters with the fact the Melana is Darrk's ex-wife and Crisis's daughter, which somehow convinces the other heroes that Sandman is the traitor. They attack him, disrupting the stasis field.Crisis then catches them all except for Robin - who of course is the traitor, and Batman, because well, he's Batman. Crisis then gives Robin the amulet, proclaiming him his successor.

Back on Krypton, Superman uses the green mystery element (hereafter "Kryptonite") to contact Yggdrasil and return to Earth and Batman. Batman uses Wonder Woman's staff to cal on the humanity (more specifically, the humans the JLAers know personally) to free the League, whilst Superman blasts Crisis with the Kryptonite.  Robin uses the Hawk-rune to become Hawkman.  The JLA fights Crisis and Hawkrobin. Things go badly until  GL summons Yggdrasil, which swallows Hawkrobin, then spits him out as the Atom, who despatches Crisis easily.  The League then offers membership to the Atom, most likely because they know they couldn't beat him), and he accepts it, because they asked nicely but not too nicely.  Triumphant, our heroes stand ready for whatever comes next.

Overall:  this was OK, but not great. It was a bit of a jumble, with too many characters that felt like they were only there to lay out the plot. It felt a bit like Stan was maybe trying to put too much into one issue.  Still, while Crisis wasn't a great villain, he was at least one you could imagine needing a whole league of heroes to fight.

The Series Overall: If this wasn't perfect, it was at least an interesting experiment. This wasn't Stan in his prime, but I found many of the characters enjoyable, and , of course, there was a lot of good art from some very well-known artists.

Atom is the most powerful being in the universe? Does he control atoms like Molecule Man controls molecules? Otherwise it's a very odd choice for the hero (formally villain) that beats the big bad (especially easily, unless Chaos had been running out of power all this time or gave too much to Robin/Hawkman/Atom.) Guess this is what happens when you try making a 12 part story in one issue.

They never really get into what Atom's powers are.

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