‘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…’:
Catwoman, Stan Lee and Chris Bachalo 7.75
It’s hard to not like Catwoman: an independent, crafty, sexy woman who can keep up with some of the best male superheroes despite being merely human? What’s not to like? Of course, her form-fitting feline-inspired costumes and the va-va-voom-ness of Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer in the role have skewed the data considerably; how does one see clear around this purring vixen? I can totally understand why Batman loses his wits when she’s in the room…
I would too.
Having said this, maybe it’s just me, but when I think of Catwoman, I think of her as Batman’s nemesis; she’s a thief and a villain – or an antihero, depending on the writer’s mood/predilections. Whatever she is, she’s not a heroine. Look, I know that her role has morphed gradually over the years, but that’s the unshakeable image that I have of her. So it’s very difficult for me to imagine Catwoman as a one of the good guys, even if people can change.
And yet, I rather enjoyed Stan Lee’s entirely different take on Catwoman: Joanie is a model who, during a home invasion, gets new powers when strange green lightning hits her and her beloved cat Ebony at the same time. Now imbued with cat-like abilities, she feels that her fate is to help society by fighting crime. However, her inspiration, her father Hal Jordan, is a retired police officer who holds a certain resentment for superheroes like her.
Thus she creates herself a secret identity: Catwoman.
In this first look at her crime-fighting escapades, she has to contend with Furgo the Flesh Crawler, whose henchmen seek Joanie after being foiled during the home invasion. Furgo is a crime boss who wears a rocket-powered space suit and can inflict extreme pain on his victims by making their flesh bubble and stretch off their bones. Yeah, he’s as weird as his name – but at least he’s original. Thanks to her newfound abilities, Joanie foils his plans.
Honestly, I really enjoyed how smart she was about testing her powers and learning her skills so that she could master them. I liked that her prior experience is useful in making her costume, which is simple but beautiful and in keeping with the original character. And I liked that she finds modeling under-stimulating now that she has the abilities of a cat, including speed, agility, stamina and long claws (that come out spontaneously when she gets upset).
The writing is better here, even if there are a couple of clichés I could have done without. The villain was discrepant but unforgettable, and I liked the setting of the modeling world, something I’m not used to in comics. But I especially loved Bachalo’s artwork, which was slick, modern-looking, and perfect-suited to this character. This book read well and leapt off the page. I would absolutely read more of this Catwoman had Lee and Bachalo followed it up.
On the street: This vignette by Michael Uslan and Stan Lee is a short introduction to what is being set-up as The Black Canary, an African-American model by the name of Dinah Drake who is a rival and neighbour of Joanie Jordan. It’s short but it permits her to showcase her karate skills. And the artwork by Darwyn Cooke is simple but eye-catching.
Next week: Sandman!