‘Just Imagine…’ is a series of graphic novels that Stan Lee wrote for DC Comics, reinterpreting many of their iconic superheroes as they would have been had he created them. Paired up with a different artist for each issue, the series completely reinvents our favourite DC heroes and heroines, giving them new looks, powers, histories and personalities.
Each graphic novel tackles a different character and is an origin story with a primary adventure to set the stage for that hero/heroine. The recurring elements are its setting, which is usually Los Angeles, its main villain, Reverend Dominic Darrk (of the Church of Eternal Empowerment) and a mysterious green element that empowers many of the series’ heroes and heroines.
“Holy $#!tballs, Batdude!”, you might say excitedly. “Stan Lee rewrote all of the DC characters?”. Woah, woah! Hold onto your superbritches, lil’ one: the series was not well received and has largely been forgotten since. But we here at TCE were very curious, and we know some of you are too, so we decided to explore each one in turn, giving them the spotlight they deserve.
This week on ‘Just Imagine…’:
Green Lantern, by Stan Lee and Dave Gibbons 6.0
The original Green Lantern is probably one of the coolest-looking characters in the DC Universe. I don’t really get the lantern itself, being a pretty terrestrial artifact for an inter-galactic force, but I like the principle behind it, the ring and the fact that a Green Lantern is chosen because he/she/it is fearless. Still, he’s a character whose adventures I find pretty dull and unappealing for some reason. No, I didn’t go see the Ryan Reynolds movie.
Stan Lee’s Green Lantern is an altogether different beast: Leonard Lewis is an archaeologist who teaches at UCLA. One day he decides to go to Africa to find the Tree of Life, which he says is referred to in legends from around the world. Naturally, unlike any other explorer on the planet, he finds it immediately, bathed in a green aura. But he is confronted by one of Reverend Darrk’s henchmen, who mortally wounds him and leaves him to die in the swamp.
Thankfully, for reasons that the tree (calling itself Yggdrasil) refuses to divulge, it decides to save Lewis’ life and then merge with his body, imbuing him with its power. Now transformed into a green, bald, naked (yet genital-less) superhuman, he is tasked with protecting the human race and the planet. But he has Darrk to contend with, who decides to animate a large monster prop, making it rampage in downtown L.A. And there’s also a traitor close to him…
This Green Lantern’s power seems to be similar to the original’s in that he can do pretty much anything. He doesn’t have a lantern to recharge his ring, however, and his power is limited – he seems to run out of energy rather quickly, all things considered. But the colour yellow isn’t Achilles’ Heel, thankfully (I always thought that was lame). So he’s arguably the most powerful of Stan Lee’s DC heroes – too bad the Tree of Life has a weak charge.
This story is slightly more elaborate than the others, but there are so many things that Lee simply can’t be bothered to explain, such as the name of the Central African country Lewis goes to, then jubilantly explaining how meaninglessness these details are. In some ways it’s endearing, but it’s also frustrating because it feels lazy to me; it gives the impression that Lee just couldn’t be bothered to open an encyclopedia, to do some research.
Similarly, Lewis takes on his hero’s name seemingly at random by saying that he’s glowing like a mystical green lantern. Lame. Seems to me that he would have been more likely to think that he looked like a gleaming emerald than a lantern. Who uses lanterns? Who would think of that first? On top of that, he also happens to have a version of the old logo on his chest, and Darrk refers to the lantern – even though there is and never was a lantern here.
It seems like a hackneyed attempt to tie this totally new character to the old one.
At least the artwork is decent here. It’s not great by any means, but it has a slicker, more modern allure than most of the other books, which strikes a balance with the script. This gives “Green Lantern’ a mid-to-late ’80s vibe, which is more enjoyable, if grossly imperfect. Much of what transpired in this book would have needed fleshing out and would require some refinements, but it’s readable. I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time as much as with ‘Superman’.
On the street: This bit, which is written by Michale Uslan and Stan Lee, takes us to the streets with an undercover cop, whose value is in question now that there are superheroes out there fighting crime. The cops feel worthless in comparison, but our guy shows that there is a role still to be played since superheroes can’t be everywhere at once. His heroism draws a bunch of new recruits, naturally, like that would ever happen. I like the sentiment and moral of the story, but it was simple-minded in its approach.
Next week: The Flash!