‘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…’:
Secret Files and Origins, Stan Lee, Michael Uslan and Dan Jurgens 4.5
When I first saw the title to this volume of ‘Just Imagine…’, I had no idea what to expect. It’s clearly not an iconic superhero character and/or team, so what could the title mean? I was under the impression it might be some sort of cloak and dagger thing, perhaps à la S.H.I.E.L.D. in Marvel comics. If that was the case, it could quite an interesting book; I quite like the idea of going behind the scenes of a shadowy organization.
If only it had been that.
Alas, ‘Secret Files and Origins’ is merely a regular-sized issue that covers the origins of all of the new Stan Lee superheroes – under the guise of interviews with The National Exposer’s William Willard, who is Maria Mendoza‘s boss. Concerned about these new arrivals and the place of humanity next to these super-powered individuals, he decides to speak to each one of them in turn to find out what their intentions and motives are.
In essence, the book gives a short primer on each character, and nothing more – all in extremely contrived situations. This provides a forum for the authors to make speeches about our destruction of the planet (ahem… in the form of Green Lantern), about the power of every day Joes (in the form of Maria Mendoza). I loved that most of them whine about having to take down the evil Dominic Darrk’s secret evil league of evil… or else.
…and yet his Church is right there out in the open, for all to see. And his actions are hardly kept a secret. So what are they going on about? What are they waiting for? Just go get him!
Sigh… this isn’t just lame, it’s utterly redundant.
In the end, a few pages with each character was enough introduction for those who hadn’t read the series thus far (why they would buy this book instead of the first few double-sized issues is beyond me, though). It confirmed that Superman is a real jerk, who’d rather make a grand entrance (ex: breaking through a window) than consider the impact of his actions. He’s extremely unlikable, the very antithesis of the original; he’s hardly “super”, man.
But, at least the authors used ‘Secret Files and Origins’ to introduce us to the JLA’s future members: Robin, Shazam, Aquaman, Catwoman and Sandman! It’s merely a tease in the final page of the book, but it gives the readers a reason to look forward to the rest of the series. Although, it could be argued that the best of the best have already been written up by now. Am I truly interested in the leftover heroes and heroines of the DC Universe?
Can they even be made interesting? We soon shall see…
On the street: This book, like the JLA one, also doesn’t have an “On the street” segment at the end (perhaps because Uslan and Lee were busy writing a full book instead, but there is an amusing throwaway at the end, which is a fake order form for Fly By Night Comics, including new titles such as “Ben Steel with His Bear, Hans’, ‘Got Ham City’ and ‘Green Lamp’, amongst others. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek, but there are a few fun gags along the way. It almost makes up for the rest of the issue.
Next week: Robin!