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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Considering Robin is a woman's name and Stan could presumably make any changes he wanted, it's a bit surprising he didn't make Robin a girl.

I actually didn't notice the first time around, but these characters are pretty diverse in gender/race, aren't they?

I'm sure that was deliberate.

I'm sure. I don't know if it means I'm broad-minded, or just possessed of poor reading comprehension, but I honestly didn't notice back when the books were first published.

Actually there are a lot of men named Robin, including our late Legionnaire Robin Olsen.

Ron M. said:

Considering Robin is a woman's name and Stan could presumably make any changes he wanted, it's a bit surprising he didn't make Robin a girl.

John Wayne's real name was Marion,  but I doubt he asked his friends to call him that.

Interesting: I believe that there were only three major league ballplayers named "Robin," but they've all been exceptional players: Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Robin Yount, and current manager Robin Ventura.

Richard Willis said:

Actually there are a lot of men named Robin, including our late Legionnaire Robin Olsen.

Ron M. said:

Considering Robin is a woman's name and Stan could presumably make any changes he wanted, it's a bit surprising he didn't make Robin a girl.

Next is Just Imagine Stan Lee With Gary Frank Creating Shazam (May 2002).

With inks by Sandra Hope.

In this story, we see Merlin defeating and imprisoning Morgana Le Fey centuries ago, and then creating a magical being to guard against her return.

We cut to modern-day India, where Interpol agents Robert Rogers (a somewhat wimpy guy who secretly has the hots for his partner) and Carla Noral (a tough and somewhat top-heavy blonde), who are seeking out Gunga Khan (who, despite his name, is a sort of Great White Hunter/British Raj type with a a monocle), an international terrorist, who has a cunning plan to shrink everyone in North America.

Our heroes see a fakir being beaten up by some thugs, and they (well, Carla, mostly) race to his rescue.  The dying fakir gratefully transfers the power of Shazam to an unwitting Rob. Elsewhere, Darrk and Morgana (who is free and working for him) detect this.

The thugs return, capturing Carla for Gunga Khan, and chucking Rob into a river.  The drowning Rob remembers the fakir's last words and says "Shazam", which turns him into a brutish, red monster.  He soon discovers that he can switch back and forth by saying the magic word. After a few false starts, Shazam defeats Gunga Khan, and Rob goes off with Carla.  It is implied that she now returns his affection.

In "On the Street", by Lee/Uslan, with art by Kano, two boys, Billy Marvel and his buddy Zubin, are inspired to retrieve stolen food supplies from a local heel.

Overall: It's an interesting notion - sort of "The Incredible Hulk, Agent of SHIELD", although Shazam doesn't really grab me visually. In Gunga Khan, we have another fairly-uninspired villain, sort of a Bond-villain wannabe.  Still not one of my favorites, but perhaps a bit better than I remembered it being.

I like the sound of this one. I think the DCU doesn't need Captain Marvel, because he is too similar to Superman. And his name and costume are dated. This sounds like a variation that could actually work.

The hero would have to be compelling; C.C. Beck held the real hero of Captain Marvel stories was Billy Batson. Perhaps Rogers should've been a teen instead.

Next is Just Imagine Stan Lee With Scott McDaniel Creating Aquaman (June 2002)

Inks are by Klaus Janson.

Our hero this time out is the environmentally-concerned Ramon Raymond.  (Kind of an awkward name, though it has been pointed out that  "Ramon" is an anagram of "Namor".)   Ramon is called "Rob", for some reason.  He lives on a boat, where he is visited by his devoted girlfriend Amelia, who finds his obsession with his work extremely tedious.  They are visited by his brother Frank, a policeman.

Anyhow, Rob's great experiment is to inject himself with the DNA of sea-life, which is the sort of thing that scientists do. (It's like "DNA" is for Stan here  what "radiation" was for him back in the 60's at Marvel.)  Anyhow, he takes Amelia out on the boat, and goes diving through some glowing green water, which gives him the ability to transform into a sort of water elemental. This is handy, because some pirates have attacked his boat. He manages to beat them, and save Amelia without her discovering his powers.

He than visits Frank to tell him about it, when Frank is shot by buddies of the pirates. Rob visits Frank in the hospital, and swears to become a crime-fighter, adopting the name "Aquaman".

The recuperating Frank visits Darrk's church (he just sort of wandered in to a strange church for no apparent reason, the way you do). Darrk detects him and learns of his connection to Aquaman. Darrk sends goons after Rob, who has a special sense that warns him, the way certain sea creatures do (I suspect that Stan is messing with us at this point). Anyway, Rob and Frank beat up the goons.

"On the Street" comes to us this time out form Michael Uslan and Ramona Fradon. Sgt. Dick Drury (now Uslan's messing with us) won't let the still-recuperating Frank go on active duty, so  Frank gets get him to send him to Paris to study police methods there.  (Nice work, Frank!)  Anyway, Some of Darrk's goons are on the plane, and they attack Frank, who fights them off with much heavy-handed references to Flight 93 and "those brave souls that came before us".

Overall:  Pretty good stuff. the origin's a bit wacky, but the character himself is fairly interesting

What is he exactly? Water with foam? Some kind of dolphin creature?

Comic book rule: Never use a super soldier serum while in a swamp because it will automatically turn you into a swamp monster. Apparently using it in the water will make you bubble.

He should be a black ops super soldier. He's perfect for wet work.

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