‘Just Imagine…’ is a series of graphic novels that Stan Lee wrote fof 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…’:
The Flash, by Stan Lee and Kevin Maguire 6.5
To me, The Flash is just a guy who can go really, really fast. I like his costume, though – especially his logo, which is simple and iconic. But I quickly got bored reading about this super fast guy, who is so fast that he can travel at the speed of light, vibrate his molecules so as to become intangible, that sort of thing. He’s extremely powerful in a way that leaves me really indifferent: like being really strong, it’s sort of unidimensional.
Stan Lee’s iteration of The Flash is a different character with a different origin, but who seems to retain pretty much the same powers as the original dude. This time, however, The Flash is Mary Maxwell, a popular teenaged girl who is an unusual mixture of comic book geek, rebel and hottie. Unbeknownst to her, her scientist father once worked for a criminal organization called S.T.E.A.L.T.H. on a time travel project and he’s been on the run since.
S.T.E.A.L.T.H. finally track him down, and the pair (the mother isn’t in the picture) disappear to Australia, where they hope to hide out. No such luck, and soon they are on the run again. Mary falls overboard in some green sludge and becomes unwell, and very low on energy. Concerned, her father injects her with some hummingbird DNA, figuring they have an extremely high metabolism. This combined with the green sludge makes her superhuman.
Her father is murdered by S.T.E.A.L.T.H. henchmen, so she puts together a costume and decides to get revenge. But she soon discovers that her powers have a limit; like Lee’s Green Lantern, she runs out of juice relatively quickly. Of course, she will prevail anyway – partly because Andrea Zakara, leader of S.T.E.A.L.T.H., makes stupid choices, as do many of her henchmen; they’re all simple-minded and frequently make no sense whatsoever.
For some reason, I kind of enjoyed The Flash, contrived as it is. Sure, the characters are complete idiots, the plot is filled with absurd coincidences and the so-called science is ridiculous, but it was a breezy book with excellent art and layouts – some of the strongest of the series. I’m not so keen on the new Flash costume, but it’s alright, contextually (Mary certainly has better sewing skills than Wayne Williams does. Thought that’s not hard to beat…).
I would actually read more of The Flash, to see where it goes from here.
On the street: Michael Uslan and Stan Lee take us back to the offices of Fly By Night Comics, with the publisher trying to come up with an alternative to Superman, the fallout for which led him to the verge of bankruptcy. Since he was already publishing a title called “Flash Comics”, he decides to rework its content to fit The Flash. Since Mary is a comic book fan, she doesn’t mind one bit, so long as he donates to a foundation she created in her father’s name. It’s an amusing closer to the book and it’s embellished by Sergio Aragones’ terrific cartoons. This was by far the best ‘On the street’ segments of the series thus far.
Next week: JLA!