DC Comics are always going to be my main love and focus but the death of the great Stan Lee a few weeks ago could not go unnoticed. Figurehead of Marvel Comics and the co-creator of some of the world’s most famous heroes, Lee is an icon and legend in the world of comics. I can’t possibly try and do him justice with a short biography. Since I’m a DC girl, I thought it might be nice to spotlight Lee’s collaboration with the company in his early 2000s mini series Just Imagine… as a tribute to this industry great.
In Just Imagine… Lee teamed up with some of the comic book industry’s top artists to pay homage to some of DC’s most famous heroes. Each issue focused on a single character and their origin as a hero before bringing them all together in a spin on the Justice League. Unlike other, commonly referred to as, Elseworld comics, Just Imagine… doesn’t simply take the existing heroes of Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent and explore what it might be like if their stories were set in Victorian London or Soviet Russia; instead it creates completely new characters who become heroes similar to the ones we know, with the same names and some parallels. Many of the supporting casts and minor characters of the series are also re-imaginings of DC characters. Lee’s takes on the DC characters are very reminiscent of his Marvel creations. Imbuing the series with the trademarks of classic Silver Age comics in their outlandish origin stories involving science experiments giving everyman-type characters extraordinary abilities to turn them into heroes. At the same time, Lee takes DC’s characters who are often thought of as larger than life and gives them the flaws and humanity that he is known for in his heroes. He also hearkens back to his Marvel creations in his use of Norse mythology in Green Lantern, the character being given his abilities from the Norse Tree of Life Yggdrasil.
A more specific example of Lee’s tell-tale characterizations and style is Lee’s take on the Flash, which is reminiscent of his, arguably, most famous creation: Spider-Man. Rather than Barry Allen, Lee’s Flash is a teenager named Mary Maxwell. She’s nerdy and a comic book fan herself. She dreams of nothing more than being a superhero until she contracts a disease that is slowly killing her. Before she dies her scientist father injects her with hummingbird DNA, giving her super speed. Her character is relatable in the same way Peter Parker is, at the end of the day she’s still a teenager, and Lee expertly conveys that.
While nowhere near his most prolific work, Lee’s Just Imagine… series is a fun highlight of his creativity. It is obvious that Lee enjoyed writing them, taking the most basic parts of famous DC characters and building his own around that. While plotting out your Marvel movie binge in Stan Lee’s remembrance, I recommend during your breaks to check out Just Imagine… A minor blip in Lee’s prolific career but a fun read for Marvel and DC fans alike.