December 3, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #199: The Just Imagine Heroes

Stan Lee did his thing for DC once too.

So I had a plan this week to bring out a somewhat neglected batch of Jack Kirby creations when news came that Stan Lee had passed away.  As such, let’s look at some characters he made that, while not exactly forgotten, aren’t likely to come out all that much.

I’m referring to DC’s “Just Imagine” special line.

Now, it should be noted that Stan did do some work away from Marvel, but as Stan was basically the face of the company for decades, it would be easy to forget his other work existed.  Sure, Watson remembers Striparella, but he’s Watson and we expect him to remember such things.

So, during a time when Stan was not exactly working for Marvel, he actually went to work at DC for a high profile special series.

If you hadn’t heard, yeah, that happened.

So, what was the concept?  Well, basically, Stan would take the big name DC characters and then rework them as if they were characters created by him instead of by whoever actually did create them.  And, given how much controversy came from Stan’s creator credits in the past at Marvel, it is worth noting the covers for each of these issues gave co-creation credit to whatever artist was working with Stan on that particular character.  And man, did they get some big name artists for this one, including John Byrne, Gary Frank, Kevin Maguire, Joe Kubert, and John Cassaday.

As for the creations themselves, well, the issues were both stand-alone origin stories and had an ongoing story threading through all the different Just Imagine issues, 12 in all, with team-ups at the halfway point (JLA) and the end (Crisis).  Inbetween, we got to see Stan’s take on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Robin, Shazam, Sandman, Aquaman, and Catwoman, with other DC heroes given new identities throughout the story.  Most had the trademark alliterative names Stan was known for.  Some, in truth, weren’t that far off from the originals.

Wayne Washington, a powerless vigilante known as Batman.

While others were really out there.

His Aquaman turned into living water.

Most of these heroes, if they didn’t get powers from Stan’s oft-admitted limited knowledge of science, tended to get abilities from various green glowing things, connected with Mother Nature or something, that were in opposition to the evil Reverend Darkk.  And when the 12 issues were over, well, Stan had told his story in his own style and that was that.

Did the Just Imagine heroes return?  Well, they apparently appeared as cannon fodder from DC’s Convergence.

You set them against the Future’s End heroes? Not cool, DC.

But then Grant Morrison in The Multiversity set them on Earth-6 in the new DC Multiverse.  So, that’s nice.  They’re there if you want to use them, but truthfully, I think it better if they just stay there, popping in only for the occasional guest shot for a panel or two.  These characters were Stan Lee characters, created for one shots, and sometimes a one shot should be just the one shot.  In this case, it would be more respectful than anything else.

RIP Stan Lee.