Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating The Flash
July 27, 2015
The scarlet speedster! ...who turns green at one point.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. We close out our look at Stan Lee's reimagining of the DC Universe with this one.
(Shots are shown of Linkara's review of Stan Lee's take on Wonder Woman)
Linkara (v/o): Last time, we took a look at Wonder Woman, where, instead of being a character themed around truth, sisterhood and compassion that is often mischaracterized by ignorant writers, she is a Peruvian activist who stumbled upon an Incan staff that gave her superpowers to kill a demon.
Linkara: Actually, given that whole (makes an "air quote") "mischaracterization" thing, that's pretty consistent.
Linkara (v/o): There sadly wasn't much else to say about her. Hell, despite both Superman and Batman getting full-on cameos from Reverend Harold P. Satan in their origin stories, Wondy just happened to kill the demon with his church by sheer coincidence.
Linkara: So, let's bring our final look at the Stan Lee reimaginings for this month out there by digging into (holds up today's comic) "Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating The Flash".
(AT4W title theme plays, and the title card has the theme for the Flash TV show on The CW. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): I love this cover. Despite the fact that it's doing the "multiple panels depicting stuff from inside the book without context" thing that the Superman and Wonder Woman covers were doing, I think what makes this one work so well is the color. The others one really washed out the colors so as to make the panels almost indistinguishable from anything else happening, but here, they're in full color and perfect contrast. What helps with that is the rainbow behind this version of The Flash. Not sure why an all-white suit would create a rainbow streak, but I'm not complaining. Her costume, then, is kinda iffy, since it's just white with flare pants and a Power Rangers helmet. I admit it's unique, it's just it's not what I would think of off the top of my head with that name.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open in some high-tech facility where we see this woman, Evil Von Evil Lady... Because it's a comic book, you don't show off your legs in a kick-ass black dress with a button top unless you're evil... is giving orders.
Narrator: Her name is Andrea Zakara. Although, when men feast their eyes upon her... the last thing they care about is her name.
Linkara: (narrator voice) First, they ask her if she's getting quality insurance.
Linkara (v/o): She informs her "Dark City" reject minions that they're going to perform "another test".
Minion: But, my lady Zakara, if I may speak-- ...all the others die during the tests.
Zakara: No matter. They died for STEALTH.
Linkara: (as a minion) Yeah, about that, the union has been talking, and we don't think that movie is worth dying for. (as Zakara) Nonsense! Stealth shall be as beloved Short Circuit!
Linkara (v/o): And also, because she's evil, she orders the dude who questioned her to be the next test subject, having her mustachioed henchman Zorgul threaten him to get inside. What's sad is that with the bald head and that particular kind of mustache, he actually looks like Wayne Williams from the "Batman" comic. And thus he goes inside the chamber and science happens.
Zakara: It's working! He's vanished! We have sent him back through time!
Linkara: Impressive, especially without possessing the Rassilon Imprimatur. And fifty kajillion nerd points if you actually get that reference.
Linkara (v/o): The guy reappears inside the... well, time machine, I guess.
Zakara: I've done it! The world will be ours!
Linkara: (as Zakara) Now make it into a phone booth and then model our entire society after "The Wild Stallions"!
Linkara (v/o): But then, the rather extra crispy corpse of the henchman falls out of the capsule.
Zakara: Not again! Not again!
Linkara: (as Zakara) This is like the fifth week in a row! I'm so sick of having beef jerky!
Linkara (v/o): She says they can't proceed without "the Seeker", and that one of them shall die each day until the Seeker is found.
Linkara: You know, as a boss, you should be encouraging your employees. (points to camera) This is just gonna make a hostile work environment, and productivity is gonna go in the toilet.
Linkara (v/o): We cut over to a college campus, where our main character, Mary Maxwell, is reading a comic book as her friends go up to her.
One girl [Susie]: I see you're still into those ditsy comicbooks.
Mary: To you, they're comics. To me, they're my heart's desire.
Linkara: (as Mary) I'm gonna marry this copy of "Bloodgun"! (smiles)
Mary: I'd give anything to live like a superheroine. To have adventure, thrills, excitement.
Linkara: (as Mary) Dead love interests, editorial mandates, my character killed off in a companywide crossover event...
Mary: But fat chance, living with my workaholic scientist father. I love my dad, but our life is totally dull-city.
Linkara: (as Mary) I mean, he's an astronomer. He doesn't even work with radiation at all. How am I supposed to develop superpowers without radiation?
Linkara (v/o): One of her friends suggests that a nearby black car had been following her, but she laughs it off while going home. Once there, she meets up with her dad [Maxwell].
Mary: Hi, Pop! Still baby-sitting all your scientific things 'n stuff?
Linkara: (as Maxwell) Yeah, but I've abandoned the squirrel torpedo. (looks up) Just couldn't the weight ratio to work right.
Linkara (v/o): Her scientist dad isn't really listening to her, and she knows that, just laying back and reading her comics.
Mary: Thank God I've got Wonder Woman to read about.
Linkara: Wait, does that mean that the National Exposer from last time is printing a Wonder Woman comic now? It's kind of weird if they don't know her origin. (shrugs) Maybe they'll make her an Amazon with a Lasso of Truth or something. (amused) Wouldn't that be silly?
Linkara (v/o): However, it seems the black car from earlier was indeed following her, and out pop the bald henchmen. Fortunately, Scientist Dad hears an alarm as they approach.
Mary: Dad, what was that noise? What's happening?
Maxwell: Can't explain now. Every second counts!
Linkara: (as Maxwell) I decided never to tell you about this so you would be totally unprepared for it and distract me when every second counts! (beat) Yeah, as you might have noticed, I'm not a good father.
Linkara (v/o): The house is booby-trapped, even having a hydraulic lawn that tilts up vertically to keep his pursuers from getting in close.
Linkara: (as Mary's father) For years, I told those kids to stay off the lawn, (holds up fist) and now I've got the perfect weapon for it!
Linkara (v/o): Scientist Dad pulls Mary along to their car, while Zorgul chases after, ripping through the place with his bare hands.
Zorgul: They'll never escape in that lumbering old family car.
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching The Final Sacrifice, showing a car driving along)
Crow: (mock worry) Oh, no, they've got a Chevy! They're so dependable!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): And indeed, it looks like the henchmen are closing in, but fortunately, Scientist Dad has been busy, installing a few upgrades into the station wagon.
Maxwell: Just the auxiliary, second-stage rockets kicking in.
Linkara: (as Maxwell) Just wait until we hit 88 miles per hour, sweetie!
Linkara (v/o): We cut over to the Church of Eternal Empowerment, doing what they've done in every issue so far: stand around speaking cryptically.
Narrator: To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: a church is a church is a church. But would she have said that about the Church of Eternal Empowerment?
Linkara: Well, technically speaking, it is still a church. I mean, housing an evil cult doesn't mean that the classification is undone.
Linkara (v/o): The good Reverend Dark is speaking to his congregation.
Reverend Dark: I say unto you-- power is all! Power is the ultimate goal. Ye who follow me shall have power eternal!
Linkara: (as Rev. Dark) In fact, one could say we had (holds up fist) UNLIMITED POWER! But that would just be silly.
Linkara (v/o): We then cut over to Innisfall, Australia, where our heroes have gone.
Mary: Dad, what do you fear that we had to flee to the other side of the world? You wouldn't tell me on the plane ride because you were afraid someone might overhear.
Linkara: (as Maxwell) Well, you know how rude it is to speak so loudly on a plane. I didn't want to disturb the other passengers.
Linkara (v/o): Scientist Dad is setting up an alarm system in the house they're staying at and explains who this "STEALTH" is.
Maxwell: It stands for "Special Team of Espionage Agents Licensed To Target and Hit."
Linkara: (as Maxwell) There's nothing more nefarious than an evil organization whose goal is to hit people!
Linkara (v/o): Also, it doesn't matter if it's Stan Lee or just DC writers in general; gotta have an evil secret organization with a goofy acronym. Also also, who exactly licensed them to target and hit? Anyway, STEALTH wanted help with their time travel research, and he was given the codename "Seeker". After he found out what their goal was, they threatened to kill Mary if he left.
Maxwell: They planned to commit monstrous crimes in the past, then travel to the future where they'd be safe.
(Cut to a clip of the abridged version of Yu-Gi-Oh: Bonds Beyond Time)
Yusei: That is not how time travel works.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): However, the time travel was too strenuous for the human body and killed anyone who attempted it. For once, however, Stan remembers scientists have specializations and are not just a grab-bag of skills, so Mary points out that her dad's specialty is genetics. STEALTH wanted him to modify the DNA of its henchmen to make them able to withstand the stresses of time travel. Of course, this specialization thing doesn't explain how he installed hydraulic pistons under his lawn and a full electrical alarm system, but whatever. Speaking of, they spot Zorgul and the goons outside, having tracked our heroes... and they've all switched to their beachwear.
Linkara: Which is kind of hilarious, because what evil people swap out their clothes for the weather?
(Cut to Moarte wearing beachwear while cackling, then cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): They make another run for it to their boat, Zorgul swearing to pursue... and Mary's father activates a bomb under the dock that knocks Zorgul on his ass.
Linkara: Ah, nothing like a geneticist to know about remote detonators.
Linkara (v/o): By the by, I just realized that Mary's actually taking all this news pretty well. Admittedly, running for your life like this would probably eliminate some doubts, but I think I'd tilt my head if my dad explained to me that the evil organization after him wanted help with time travel experiments. In any case, they ride into some weird green fog, even the water starting to turn a more greenish color. The water starts turning choppy, and Mary falls off into it... which is full of dead fish. So you know this water can only result in good. Her father is able to get her out of the water, though she comes out tinted green.
Linkara: Just imagine Stan Lee creating... (becomes slightly confused) She-Hulk?
Linkara (v/o): The color starts to fade, and Mary decides to get some rest while the fog starts lifting. After a series of flights to try to lose their pursuers, they arrive in Los Angeles... because of course it's L.A. Heaven forbid all these superheroes start showing up in completely different locations. Whatever happened to her in the water, it basically drained her so that she's listless and exhausted all the time. They set up a home for themselves, hoping STEALTH will think they're staying at sea for a while. Trying to come up with a solution for her need for energy, Maxwell hits upon the idea that a hummingbird's wings are "the fastest-moving things in nature."
Linkara: Geneticist, explosives expert, and now zoologist, I guess.
Maxwell: Honey, if I were to give you just the smallest bit of a hummingbird's D.N.A.--
Linkara: (incredulously) What?!
Mary: We've tried everything else, Dad. So why not?
Linkara: No! No, I don't think you have! What the hell?!
Linkara (v/o): Little known fact: hummingbird DNA is a green liquid.
(Cut to the obligatory shot of the Hitler Clones from "Superman At Earth's End")
Hitler Clone: Of course. Don't you know anything about science?
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): While Maxwell intended to only inject a tiny bit into her, there are suddenly a bunch of bullets that hit him in the back, forcing the needle straight into her arm and injecting the full dose. Oh, and by the way, they open fire before they burst down the door, as we see them kicking it in on the next panel. So they just wasted a bunch of bullets and through sheer luck managed to hit him.
STEALTH agent: Now to find his notes and finish our time travel project.
Linkara (v/o): What the hell? You were ordered to bring him in alive! You have no guarantee he took any notes at all and no guarantee he had them with him. Hell, why would he still have notes? He would've destroyed them to prevent you guys from getting your hands on them. They decide to kill Mary to avoid any witnesses, but all of a sudden, she's super-speeds over to them and grabs their guns away, much to her own surprise. Also, is she being possessed by the Thing? Why is her hair all sticking up? The two are suddenly outside next to the road, even them confused about just what the hell happened? Andrea Zakara is in a car next to them and confirms that indeed she ordered them to kill Maxwell. Okay, that confirms it: she is an idiot. She then kills her henchmen for not getting his notes.
Linkara: You know, lady, I'm seeing less and less incentive for people to start working for your company to begin with. I don't think free donuts in the breakroom are gonna make up for this.
Linkara (v/o): Maxwell is dying, and per narrative rule, he has a friggin' speech prepared as he bleeds out.
Maxwell: Don't weep for me, Mary. A miracle happened. The hummingbird's D.N.A.-- gave you superhuman speed.
Mary: It didn't last. I-I'm tired again. Can hardly move.
Maxwell: Your power is like a battery. It'll need-- recharging--after each use.
Linkara: (as Maxwell, clutching at his chest) I know this because... I'm also a biologist and a chemist.
Maxwell: Your one weakness-- will always be-- fatigue. But your speed will return--after you've rested.
Linkara: (as Maxwell) You've also got to eat your weight in nectar every day. Just FYI.
Maxwell: Never let anyone learn-- of your power. They'll all--want your secret. Scientists-- crime lords--the military... They'll-- never stop-- hounding you.
Linkara: (as Maxwell) They'll want your help reestablishing the space program. You mustn't do it.
Linkara (v/o): And thus, her father dies. And seriously, this is the fourth of these with dead loved ones. Did Stan think that was just a thing with all of DC's heroes? The only one who doesn't have a dead parent is Superman, but even then, for all we know, they could've been dead before the comic started. Back over to STEALTH, they finally figured out the time travel machine, demonstrating it by having a dog travel back in time and pick up a bone before it was taken off the ground and held by Zakara. And when the dog returns, the bone is no longer in her hand because it was taken by the dog in the past... even though they clearly remember it happening. It still happened from their own perspective, except it couldn't have, because the past was altered and...
(Cut to a clip of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me)
Austin Powers (Mike Myers): (cross-eyed) Oh, no, I've gone cross-eyed.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): You know, I made an entire video once about time travel being like a yarn ball, so I guess that's the theory they're operating with in this comic, 'cause otherwise, what the hell? In any case, one of the henchmen tries to warn her about something.
Zakara: Spare me your warnings while I savor our triumph!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Kelso: (to J.D.) Are you an idiot?
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): We cut over to Mary as she monologues to herself at her father's headstone. He apparently left her a whole ton of money, of course, and she promises to train in her powers and make a new life for herself. She goes to a deserted studio lot to start training. The place is shut down to a cinematographer strike, although apparently the guards are on strike, too, since they aren't around either. Testing her powers, she of course creates a sonic boom that trashes everything in her wake, is able to outrun an arrow, but what's more, she realizes that she ran faster than the speed of light when she actually saw herself start running again when she stopped.
Mary: And because I met myself before I left-- it means my speed let me travel back in time!
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching Invasion of the Neptune Men)
Tom Servo: That means lunch won't be till yesterday.
(Back to the comic again)
Mary: It's too unreal! How do I deal with it?
Linkara: (as Mary, looking up and stroking chin) Well, I could travel back in time and save Dad's life, but... (waves dismissively) Nah!
Linkara (v/o): Speaking of making the space-time continuum convulse and throw up, STEALTH creates a bracelet control for their time travel, sending Zorgul back in time with it to steal ten million dollars from an armored car robbery that had occurred the previous week. The henchman again tries to warn her about it.
Zakara: Be silent--lest I turn you over to Zorgul!
Linkara: Hey, could we travel back in time to when they were handing out brains and made sure you got one?
Linkara (v/o): As a reward for a job well done, Zorgul is brought to Zakara's private chambers for... well, you can see.
Zakara: This is the time to speak as--man and woman. You are man... and I am woman.
Linkara: (as Zakara) Let's talk gender politics, baby. (raises eyebrows suggestively)
Linkara (v/o): But it was all just a ruse. She swipes the time travel watch off of him and then goes back in time, blowing up her house and kill Zorgul. I'd compare this to the Joker killing Bob in the Tim Burton movie, but at least the Joker is insane and angry. Zakara is just plain asinine, killing off a completely loyal minion who has shown himself as being one of the few people she can rely on. I've never seen anything like this. Everyone already obeys her! Why the hell did she have to do that? Anyway, back over to a far less stupid person, Mary is in a motel and deciding she needs to avenge her father's death. As such, she's decided to become a superhero. She goes out and buys a bunch of supplies.
Mary: Good thing I know how to sew.
Linkara (v/o): I love how they had to justify Batman knowing how to sew by putting him in charge of a prison sewing machine, and here, it's just (as Mary) "Good thing to do this thing I've never brought up before."
Linkara: She also decides that instead of a regular mask, she'll wear a motorcycle helmet.
Mary: I can glitz it up with colored nail polish.
Linkara (v/o): And by "glitz it up", she means... do nothing to it, since the helmet is just a featureless white helmet, aside from the orange visor. But one thing I didn't notice from the cover was that the rainbow behind her actually comes from a bunch of tassels attached to the back of her outfit. You'd think those would just end up slowing her down by catching wind and whatnot, but I've got to admit, I do like that touch. But like last time, what I don't like is this stance. Instead of it being a bizarre pose that shows off her breasts and ass at the same time, as so often happens in comics, it's her left leg twisting itself to face a different direction, while the rest of her body faces the reader. Ow. Back over to our incompetent villain, she kills off more of her troops to keep them from creating another time travel device, claiming that whatever warning they had for her was obviously fake, even though she never heard what the warning was. Oh, and as we see, Zorgul survived having a house explode on him, just to ratchet up Zakara's list of failures. Meanwhile, Mary decides to try to track down STEALTH using the supposed notes her father had and heads back to her cottage. However, three STEALTH agents are already there... and just hanging out in front of the place waiting for her their conspicuous Matrix trenchcoats and black sweaters.
Linkara: So that's how Zakara got people to work for her: they're just as dumb as her.
Linkara (v/o): Mary changes into The Flash faster than they can see. They shoot at her, but of course, with her super speed, she just plucks the bullets out of the air and sends them hurtling away. After beating up the goons, she naturally interrogates them for information... er, just runs away. Huh. And we cut over to Zorgul storming through the streets of a city in tattered clothes. And aside from said tattered clothes, he's otherwise fine.
(Cut again to the MST3K gang as they watch Hobgoblins)
Crow: So, the result of this complete immolation is just... minor redness and irritation.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Zorgul shows up at headquarters, pissed off as all hell, but Zakara lays the charm on quickly, claiming his death was an accident and she was preparing to go back in time to rescue him. Zorgul, being just as much of a doofus as everyone else, buys it. She even says that Zorgul is now their second-in-command and is in charge while she goes scouting around the past to see what stuff she wants to steal.
Linkara: Which means the entire thing of her killing Zorgul was not only idiotic, but pointless, too. (gives a thumbs-up while smiling)
Linkara (v/o): Mary locates the headquarters of STEALTH, thanks to her dad's notes, but she's soon captured. They at first want to kill her, but Zorgul decides that they should wait for Zakara to return. When Mary overhears them outside her cell talking about wanting to hold the mayor and his staff hostage, she comes up with an escape plan. She starts pushing out underneath the door, confusing the guards since there shouldn't be any ventilation in her cell. They open it up to take a peek, and thus The Flash zooms out and starts tying people up with a lengthy firehose, punching out anyone else along the way. However, she stops to confront Zorgul, since he's the miniboss and all, and tries to superspeed-hit him a bunch of times. However, even with superspeed punches, the dude survived an explosion and being buried under a bunch of rocks and rubble, so he shrugs off her attack. However, she is able to maneuver around his own attacks and then electrocute him with a mop, bucket and broken electrical wires.
Linkara: The true enemy of STEALTH: the janitorial staff.
Linkara (v/o): She even implies that she killed the guy. What's with all of Stan's heroes being so bloodthirsty? Zakara teleports back, but the side effects of the time travel immediately kick in, what they were warning her about. Apparently, prolonged use of the time travel causes her to rapidly age until she falls over dead. And thus, our brave hero defeated the villain by... not doing anything to her. Well, okay, she defeated her organization, but given both were supposed to have the time travel ability, you'd think that would've played into their final confrontation.
Mary: The late Miss Zakara needed a special device to travel in time. But I can do it with my own natural speed. And because of my own altered D.N.A... I won't have to worry about aging, as she did.
Linkara: Hummingbirds are also known for pulling things out their asses.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Mary swearing to use her power to honor her father and fight evil... while Reverend Harold P. Satan continues to not actually do anything, but say he'll totally do something at some point.
Linkara: (holding up comic) This comic is... (hesitates) I don't know, it's kind of a mixed bag, but I do think I actually like it.
Linkara (v/o): I think a big part of why is the artwork. It's just so bright and colorful. This is the work of Kevin McGuire, who was especially excellent at facial expressions in his work, and we really get to see it shown here, with a wide range of emotions all across the board. The fight scenes are well-handled, and the design for The Flash is refreshing in its more original take. The origin itself is not really all that special and doesn't make a lick of sense. We never learn what that green fog was, which admittedly has storytelling potential, but is unsatisfactory for a self-contained story. The villains are utter morons, defeated more by their own bottomless stupidity than The Flash coming in, but are still just dangerous enough that they need to be dealt with. I think the idea might have been that since The Flash in comics usually embraces the silly pseudoscience of superheroes more than other books, they just roll with it. It makes for a fun, if stupid, book.
(Cut to a montage of shots of the "Just Imagine" series)
Linkara (v/o): Since it will probably be a while before we start looking at any other of Stan Lee's DC Universe, I guess I should give some final thoughts on the experiment based on the four books I reviewed. Here's the problem with them as I see it. As I've stated before, the primary difference between Marvel and DC is in how their heroes generally are depicted. DC has heroes that you look up to; Marvel has heroes you can relate to. And honestly, that's the biggest shortcoming with these reimagingings. Stan just doesn't write larger-than-life, heroically inspiring characters like Superman or Wonder Woman. Batman was probably the best one, because he did reimagine Batman under that same kind of situation: a black teen, downtrodden and unfairly accused of a crime... Sure, it wasn't racially motivated, but still... rebuilding himself after prison and becoming a self-made fighter for justice. That, is relatable. Wonder Woman was okay in that department, but it didn't emphasize enough Maria dealing with extraordinary things outside of her normal control. Her dad died and then she just kinda forgot about him. Hell, same thing happened with Superman. His girlfriend's murder is built up as something significant to the character... and then she's pretty much discarded. No time is spent mourning the dead. Death shouldn't be pulled like this just for dramatic effect; it needs to have a consequence. Sure, I called Lyela's death a fridging, but it's more just a complete waste, since it doesn't even motivate Superman. As I keep joking, he just wants us to MAKE OUR DAMN SPACE PROGRAM! The point is that Lee's strength as a writer, even with his goofy, Silver Age, overexpository, and purple prose-based writing style, is in creating characters who are relatable to the audience. When he tries to write beings with godlike powers, beings that are supposed to be paragons of our greatest virtues, it just falls flat.
(Cut back to Stan Lee's version of The Flash)
Linkara (v/o): The Flash had the potential of being just as good as Batman, but there's less of an arc for Mary's character. She just experiences tragedy and has to deal with the consequences of it. Still, she's relatable in that regard, so it really does help make her likeable for the readers and want to see where her adventures take her.
Linkara: Next time, we return to Patreon-sponsored reviews with... well, something else I never thought we'd see around here: Super Sentai. Face front, true believers, we're talking about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers source material next time.
(End credits roll)
I just realized I could have made a bunch of Nappa jokes about Zorgul given how he looks. Damn.
I also think it's kind of lame that Stan had to repeat similar names – Mary and Maria? Come on, Stan, you're better than that.
Another thing in all of these books? Bald villains.