SFX Issue 65

June 2000


Stan Lee’s Superman

Ever wondered what would have happened if Stan Lee had worked for DC?

The man who defined the comic book genre with such ground-breaking super heroes as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and The X-Men, is collaborating with DC comics on 13 issues of a series called “Just Imagine Stan Lee Creates…”, in which he and top comic book artists (among them Jim Lee and Dave Gibbons) literally reimagine the most important characters in the DC Universe, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Justice League of America. This is not, however, just another Elseworlds or What If…? , but is, instead, a completely new take on these characters.

“To tell you the truth,” says Lee, “I never used to read the (DC) books and think about how I would have done them. When I sit down to do them now, I’m thinking of them fresh. For example, with Wonder Woman, I said, ‘If I wanted to do a female with all sorts of super powers, and I wanted to call her Wonder Woman, how would I do it?’ I’m trying not to think of her origin in the DC books, so I probably wouldn’t have made her a goddess. That wouldn’t have occurred to me, and I’m doing it in an altogether different way.

“And with Superman, I would just say that if I wanted a guy who’s the strongest man on Earth and has all sorts of powers, and his name is Superman, if that was my original concept, how would I get it into a story? I’m starting to think of it from that point of view, as if there was no previous book written. I might make him a midget who’s gay… but it’s unlikely. What I mean is that I’m trying not to take what was done and do what would essentially be a parody or another version of what already exists. I’m not trying to show in any way that I can do it better than the people who did it, because I’m a great admirer of Siegel and Shuster and Bob Kane. This is just me sitting down and saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to get a different take?’”

The fun began when Michael Uslan, executive producer of the four Batman films, approached him with the idea.

“He asked me if I would like to reinvent the main DC heroes and heroines,” Lee explains. “I said, ‘What have you been smoking?’, but he seemed to be serious. I said, ‘Look, nobody could turn down something as exciting as that, but DC would never want me to do it.”

He was wrong. DC jumped at the opportunity, much to Lee’s delight. “It’s really a chance to work with the top artists in the business,” he says, “and a chance for me to write every one of those great DC characters that I’ve read about most of my life.

“The nice thing about it,” he elaborates, “is that I’m still with Marvel. I still love Marvel. It’s not as though I’m quitting Marvel to work at DC. I’m just going to do one issue each and that’s all. My feeling is, frankly, that this will help the whole comic book business. If it really gets a lot of publicity, it may make people who wouldn’t normally think of looking at a comic decide to see what the hell is going on. Now, of course, I’m wondering why I said I would do it, because it’s more work than I thought it would be, but it’s also fun.”

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, this would have been an amazing move, tantamount to treason, but in the current marketplace it doesn’t quite have the same dramatic impact. Lee offers, “I think what happened since the ’60s and ’70s is that so many of the artists and writers and editors have gone from Marvel to DC and from DC to Marvel, that the whole thing has become homogenised. It’s now almost impossible to tell the difference between the two.”

Fans of these DC characters, of course, will be able to tell the difference, but he’s convinced that he won’t inspire much in the way of resentment.

“I think as long as it isn’t me doing the characters as they and trying to improve them, there shouldn’t be any resentment from the die-hard fans,” says Lee. “It should just be a fun project. It’s not as though DC is going to change the whole line and follow my lead. I’m excited about it, but I’m nervous about it as well, because I could fall on my face.”