DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories

DC reaches back again into their archives to bring us DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories. Some of the all-time wackiest premises of superhero comics took place when the writers started playing “what if”. What if Lois and Superman got married? What if Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl got married? What if Superman had a non-powered son? What would happen if Superman died? What if Batman’s parents hadn’t died when he was a child? What if Batman and Superman were brothers?

DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories cover
DC’s Greatest
Imaginary Stories
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The stories reprinted here focus mainly on Superman, but three Batman stories are included, as are one Captain Marvel and one Flash. The Wonder Woman Impossible Tales, where she teams up with herself as a teen and as a toddler (Wonder Tot) didn’t make the cut, sadly. Many of the Superman ones are classics in their own right, such as the story of “Superman-Red and Superman-Blue” or “The Three Wives of Superman”.

The introduction by Craig Shutt points out how abbreviated these stories could be, including major events one after the other in order to fit a whole ‘nother kind of life for the heroes into their short lengths. That approach, putting more story in less space, contrasts with today’s tendency to put less story into more issues. As a result, these aren’t artistic masterpieces, but they sure are fun in their weirdness and sheer imagination, even if many of them do end badly. (Of course they do. You don’t want your readers to think that these one-offs would be better to follow regularly than the established series of stories.)

As always with these reader-friendly DC collections, the relevant reprint information is included in the table of contents, listing creators, locations, and dates of original publication. The existence of these Imaginary Stories, playful experiments outside the characters’ “proper” continuities, attests to how powerful they are. Not only did people want to tell stories about them, they wanted to tell stories about the stories about them.

8 Responses to “DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories”

  1. Phil Says:

    What interested me was how similar these stories are to fanfiction cliches – the focus on romantic relationships, the offspring stories, the fix-all-the-problems happy-ending story (Red and Blue), the darkfic (all of Superman’s girlfriends dieing horribly, Lex murdering Superman after feigning redemption).

  2. Johanna Says:

    Great point — maybe that’s why they’ve been popular? They get closer to what readers are wondering?

    I didn’t realize “everything goes to crap” was a fanfiction cliché, though.

  3. Phil Says:

    Oh yes. It’s broadly known as “darkfic”. Just try putting that word in a search engine along with the title of a show or comic and you’ll get all the tragedy, madness and depression you could desire. Along with quite a bit of gratuitous sicko violence, unfortunately.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Can I just take your word for it? :)

    Interesting, I didn’t realize that destructive impulse was so widespread.

    I tried it with the only show I’ve ever read fanfic for, “Remington Steele”, and luckily, didn’t find anything. Whew!

  5. Lyle Says:

    I hadn’t heard of darkfic before, is it driven by a desire to see bad things happen to the characters or a message of “we should appreciate what we have” — I’m thinking about how many What If? stories take a tone of “That story you wish went differently? Well, the world would’ve ended if that happened.” (Like the ‘What if Phoenix had lived?’ where everything seems fine until Scott dies and Jean loses control of her powers out of the grief.)

  6. Johanna Says:

    That’s a good reminder, Lyle, but I assumed what I did because of Phil’s comments about how detailed it is. If bad things happen, then yeah, the message is probably “this is the best of all possible worlds”; if bad things are described in copious detail, then someone’s also getting off on the execution (so to speak).

  7. Phil Says:

    Motivations for darkfic – quite often it’s an excuse to ramp up the angst and see how characters behave in extreme circumstances, which is what a lot of media fanficcers are deeply into. It’s also partly a writing exercise and a way to show that you aren’t over-idealising characters – part of the point is to extrapolate from the less sympathetic or moral moments for the characters in canon instead of just doing a “this is an alternate universe where everyone’s evil” story. There’s also an element of pure “see how edgy and controversial I am” in there somewhere.

  8. Phil Says:

    PS: Both Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and Watchmen (had it been, as originally planned, explicitly featured the Charlton superhero community) can be considered professionally-published good darkfic, in my opinion. The “loony Bruce makes Dick eat rats” subplot of “All Star Batman and Robin” can be considered professionally published bad darkfic.




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