Superman: Special Reports

Bizarro

Author: Sean Hogan (shogan@buckho.com)

Last updated: May 6, 2002



Superboy #68 The Bizarro story is really a variation of the Frankenstein's monster story - complete with scientist/creator and pathetic/sympathetic creature. The main difference in the comic version is that the "monster" is an imperfect duplicate of our super-powered pal.

Bizarro first appeared in Superboy #68, a 1958 story written by Otto Binder and drawn by George Papp (reprinted in). According to the introductions by Mike Gold and John Byrne in the trade paperback The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, the story was an adaptation of a Superman newspaper strip - although the comic book story was published first. Neither give any more information on the newspaper story.

In the Superboy story, Professor Dalton is developing a duplicator ray. The test is unsuccessful as it creates only imperfect duplicates (a copied jewel that melts like ice; a uranium sample that is not radioactive). As Superboy prepares to leave, the Professor stumbles against the machine, causing it to cast its ruby glow over Superboy before it explodes.

Lying amidst the glowing debris is a figure dressed in Superboy's costume (the costume is an exact duplicate for some reason - even the chest emblem). However, when they turn over the figure, they find the being's skin is pasty white and the face is chiselled and angular. The Professor tells Superboy that the inert creature is made of non-living matter and is not alive.

Yet, somehow, it lives. While the Professor and Superboy are out of the room, disposing of the debris, the creature awakens and wanders into the streets of Smallville.

Binder adds two further elements that surface in every Bizarro origin story - the imperfect speech (his first words are "Uh -- who -- me?") and that someone within its hearing conveniently describes it as "bizarre" (in this case Superboy saying "Gosh, that creature is bizarre!") causing it to say "Him call me ... Bizarro! Is ... that my name?"

The pathetic, misunderstood monster flees from an angry and fearful mob. With dim recollections of Superboy's life, Bizarro first goes 'home' to the Kent farmhouse where a frightened Ma asks him to leave ("She hate me too?... My own Mom?... She turn me away ... sob!")

Bizarro tries to adopt another farmer couple and even wears a scarecrow's clothes as his 'secret identity' -- which he quickly learns is no disguise at all when the townspeople flee from him. Bizarro's attempts to make friends backfire because of his weird appearance and short temper. The only one to befriend him is a blind girl, Melissa.

In the final act of this tragic three part tale, Superboy learns that Bizarro can be harmed by the radioactive pieces of the machine that created him "It's quite logical!", he exclaims, "When the planet Krypton exploded, my kryptonite was formed from each of the fragments! Similarly, when the machine which created Bizarro blew up, each fragment of the broken machine became his... kryptonite!"

With questionable ethics, Superboy decides that he can destroy Bizarro "for Smallville's sake!" since "you're not a living creature!".

However, to Superboy's surprise, Bizarro doesn't try to flee, but instead rushes at Superboy and the deadly metal. The impact shatters Bizarro, whose body becomes a cloud of molecules. The vibrations from the collision reach Melissa below and restore her sight. Superboy is left to wonder whether this was a strange coincidence or whether Bizarro sacrificed himself for his only friend.

Bizarro was soon re-introduced in July, 1959 to the adult Superman in a two part story in Action Comics #254 & 255. Lex Luthor, learning of the Smallville experiment, duplicates Prof. Dalton's ray and shines it on the adult Superman to create classic Bizarro. To Luthor's surprise, Bizarro arrests him. To Superman's surprise, Bizarro starts to court Lois Lane since this Bizarro has Superman's memories. Lois saves herself by using the Bizarro ray to create her own duplicate, Bizarro-Lois. The happy Bizarro couple leave to find their own world where they later create duplicates of themselves and other Superman supporting cast members. In Action Comics #264, the Bizarro World is sculpted into it's familiar cube shape.

Bizarro's were a popular staple of Silver Age Superman comics, leading to Bizarro duplicates of Superman (with the first proudly wearing his oversized medallion proclaiming him as "Bizarro No. 1") and his pals (especially Lois, Jimmy, Perry, Supergirl and the entire JLA).

The Bizarro's even had their own world (a cubed version of Earth named Htrae) and their own code of conduct"Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World" (from "The Halloween Pranks of the Bizarro Supermen", originally in Adventure Comics #294 and reprinted in the collection, Superman In The Sixties). A collection of Bizarro World stories from the Adventure Comics run in 1961 and 1962 written by Jerry Siegel are in the collection, Tales Of The Bizarro World.

Bizarro Byrne-d

When John Byrne was given the task of re-starting the Superman legend, he chose Bizarro to be the subject of the fifth chapter of Superman: The Man Of Steel miniseries. Drawing heavily on the original Superboy story, Byrne has a scientist (this time, Dr. Teng, under the direction of Luthor) scan Superman's cellular and molecular structure and use the data to build a duplicate.

The duplicate emerges from the coffin-like matrix chamber, apparently perfect, but quickly collapsing and beginning to crystallize. With Bizarro's introduction, we also meet the blind girl -- this time played by Lois' sister, Lucy Lane. As in the original story, everyone flees from the monster, except for the blind girl (disturbingly, Lucy attempts a suicide dive from her apartment, only to be saved in mid-plunge by Bizarro).

The unnamed creature (it doesn't speak in the story and there is only one short, quick reference to it as 'bizarre') even dresses in a version of Clark's clothing and goes into the Daily Planet. During the fisticuffs that follow, Superman notices that his opponent seems to be crumbling.

Superman's microscopic analysis reveals that the creature is not organic, but its structure only mimics living cells. He decides to use his full strength against it, while convincing himself that, "Our ugly friend is some kind of android -- an artificial being -- just one step ahead of a robot".

The final act takes place on Lucy's balcony. Lucy describes how her vision seems to be returning since her encounter with the chalky Bizarro Superman. During an aerial battle, Bizarro deliberately lures Superman towards Lucy's apartment before meeting in a head-on collision. The particulate fallout restores Lucy's vision completely.

Superman #87 Bizarro's World

Surprisingly, for a character as popular in the Silver Age as Bizarro, and one who gets an entire issue devoted to him in the re-defining mini-series, Bizarro tales have been extremely rare in the post-Crisis continuity.

In fact, he doesn't return for eight years, until 1994's five part "Bizarro's World" arc (triangle titles 1994 10-14; also in trade paperback). The story takes place during the period that Luthor resurrected himself as his own son, Lex Luthor II. With a mysterious plague decimating his cloned body, Luthor and his aide, Sydney Happersen, try to resurrect Dr. Teng's cloning experiment from ten years earlier
The story starts in Superman #87, and as in the earlier experiment, the cloned Superman - seemingly perfect at first - collapses and begins turning into the chalky and chiselled Bizarro. Awakening, it blasts Happersen in his face with its heat vision, and escapes.

During that issue and The Adventures Of Superman #510 it builds a Bizarro Metropolis inside an abandoned warehouse and captures Lois to live with it. Bizarro's idea of duty is to continually place Lois in danger so that he can heroically rescue her. As he explains (unlike the original, this version can talk in halting Bizarro-speak,) "Loiz always in dain-jer here! Prom-izz!". Ever resourceful, Lois manages to escape on her own.

Action Comics #697 In Action Comics #697, Bizarro is trying his hero tricks on the real city - heat welding a drawbridge that he thinks is breaking apart. Superman decides to communicate with his fists first and plows into Bizarro. Although he manages to hurl Bizarro spaceward, he has to remain to repair the massive damage done to the city as a result of the conflict.

With his patchy memories, Bizarro decides to return "home" - to Smallville and "Lah-nah". After another tussle when Superman arrives, Bizarro returns to Metropolis and his "Loiz" in Superman: The Man Of Steel #32.

Lois realizes that Bizarro is a misunderstood monster who has "the understanding of a small child" and is trying to do good in his own distorted way. He even steals a giant diamond ring prop as a present to Lois so that she won't be mad at him.

Enter the Guardian who convinces a reluctant Lois to let herself be used as bait to capture Bizarro. When Bizarro arrives to save her, he is hit with a massive jolt of electricity. The creature tells Lois, "Will always save you, Loizz! Me ... love you!".

Luthor reclaims the dying Bizarro in the final chapter, Superman #88, and puts the creature through a series of tests to determine whether its body will reveal secrets that would save Luthor's body. When Superman and Lois arrive to rescue Bizarro, a super-powered examination makes him realize that this being is "more organic -- more human" than the original Bizarro.

Still, the effort comes too late for Bizarro and, uttering tender words to Lois, its body undergoes a final crystallization and dies.

Superman #160 Opposites Attract

Superman #160 by Jeph Loeb (with art by Ed McGuinness & Cam Smith) introduced a new version of Bizarro in the Superman: Arkham and "Emperor Joker" stories that ran through the Super-titles in the summer of 2000. This version is still chalk white, but not chiselled and angular. Instead he is massive with maniacal eyes and yellow teeth. Instead of the imperfect speech of the original Bizarro, this one always says the exact opposite of his true meaning ("You no give up, Superman. Me no kill you"). He wears an oversized medallion that proclaims him as "Bizarro # 1" (not quite the same as the smaller medallion on the Silver Age Bizarro which said "Bizarro No. 1)

In the special, Superman: Emperor Joker, we learn that the magical 5th dimensional imp, Mr. Mxyzptlk, got bored and decided to give a portion of his powers to the Joker to see what would happen.

Fecal matter meet fan.

After lots and lots of chaos, the universe is apparently set to rights and Bizarro # 1 and the rest of the strange beings of Joker's court are put to rest. But apparently it's only for a nap, as the Emperor Joker characters start appearing in the DC Universe proper, with Bizarro # 1 himself showing up in Superman #164 (the issue with the cover of Superman's cape and the "Vote Lex 2000" button).
Bizarro recruits Jimmy Olsen to once again be his sidekick, Gravedigger Lad (from the Emperor Joker storyline). Jimmy has no memory of either that time or of this Bizarro. Supergirl intervenes and after a slugfest between the two, Jimmy finally figures out Bizarro-speak and orders Bizarro not to go to the moon. At issues end, while Bizarro cools his heels on the moon, another Emperor Joker era character, Ignition, captures Bizarro to "take you before my master. Train you. Teach you. Ready you for the great darkness that is to come."

Action Comics #785 Bizarro reappears in Action Comics #785 with a striking cover by Ed McGuinness & Cam Smith. The story inside is drawn by the guest team of Duncan Rouleau and Marlo Alquiza. Joe Kelly uses a backward format to the story with 13 scenes running in reverse order. It's not terribly clear what's happening as Bizarro is being manipulated in the woods of Pokolistan (homeland of the mysterious General Zod) by some strange imps.

Zod appears and tells Bizarro that "You chose an inopportune time to resurrect, wretch!". Fisticuff's ensue and come to a draw when Superman intervenes. It isn't easy to tell what is going on in the story (and I read it from back to front), made even more confusing by that annoying Bizarro reverse-talk. The issue is obviously a chapter in a longer and more involved storyline.

Hopefully when Bizarro's full story is finally told (apparently during the summer of 2002), the events of this issue will be easier to understand.

In the meantime, Karl Kesel (along with art from Terry & Rachel Dodson) had lots of fun with Bizarro #1 in Harley Quinn #17-19. Teaming up the warped mind of Joker's former gal-pal Harlequin with the twisted thinking of Bizarro made for an interesting tale as Kesel also throws in Poison Ivy, Rose & Thorn, Jimmy Olsen and the making of the Bride of Bizarro.

Superman #181 Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness and Cam Smith have some fun of their own in Superman #181 in a very special April Fool's Day issue, when Superman and Bizarro awaken to find their minds and bodies switched. Lots of good old fashioned madness and mayhem ensue, with flashbacks providing clues about Bizarro's creation and return (apparently Mxyzptlk put the Emperor Joker characters on a magic bus to preserve them just before reality was restored) along with hints about the evil plans of General Zod, Ignition and - on the final page - one other surprise villain.

Bizarro Wannabe's

While not a Bizarro story, Superman Special #1 (1992) by Walter Simonson (doing story and art), pays tribute to a classic Silver Age story arc about Superman's sand-based doppelganger. The story about an almost perfect duplicate draws upon the same Frankenstein based theme as Bizarro. When Denny O'Neil tried his hand at Superman in 1971, he decided to weaken Superman by having a mysterious sand-creature absorb and steal part of his powers. The story started in the classic Superman #233 which had a dramatic cover showing Superman bursting kryptonite chains to the words, "Kryptonite Nevermore!" (reprinted as part of DC's Millennium line).

The Simonson Special homage's the story arc and wraps it up in fifty pages. When an experiment to synthesize kryptonite at a LexCorp facility goes awry, it changes the deadly substance into something harmless. As in the original story, when Superman is threatened with the rock, he calmly picks it up and eats it ("Needs salt").

The explosion which accompanied the change had blasted Superman into the ground. Later, when Superman flies over that site, he experiences dizziness and a subsequent loss of some of his powers.

The creature which arises from the sand, stalks Superman, stealing his powers and intending to take his life. Superman flees to his Fortress and springs his trap on the Sand Superman (incidentally -- I think this issue holds the record for the first same sex superhero kiss despite the claims of that latecomer series, The Authority, as Superman plants one on his pursuer). The resolution is clever and I won't ruin it here, but kudo's to Walt for the clever ending.

Action Comics Annual #8 Another version of Bizarro appeared in the 1996 Action Comics Annual #8 in a story by David Michelinie with art by Kieron Dwyer. Set in the far future (this is one of the "Legends Of The Dead Earth" annuals), this Bizarro is the fading star attraction of a down and out amusement park (the cubed "Bizarro World") who is about to be replaced by the new, Barney-like kid favorite, Quedzl.

It is a well written (and well drawn), humorous tale of redemption as Bizarro learns to be a hero and to save a young boy and his own cubed world (my favorite quotes from the story are the Popeye-like, "Me am ... what me am!" and Bizarro's comment to the bad guys that, "Bizarro World place for fun -- not guns!").

Superboy encountered a Bizarro version of himself in the 1995 Year One themed Superboy Annual #2 (written by Karl and Barbara Kesel with pencils by David Brewer and with a host of inkers). Superboy is recalled to Cadmus, which has discovered a chamber filled with alternate Superboy clones. Doctor Packard explains that these 12 containers were failed attempts to create a new Superman (Superboy being #13).

The only normal looking body was from the first attempt, but Packard dismisses it saying "I used an inherently flawed process. Maturation was halted when cellular instability was detected."

Any guesses on what happens next?

One loud "SHKRASSH!" later, the gang finds the container smashed and a wet, slimy trail leading away from it. Everyone sets out on a monster hunt and, during the inevitable fight as Superboy tries to capture the clone, it returns the attack saying, "Ha! Me understand! Me must show am worthy of name Superboy! Clever test! Me not fail!".

A more important test follows as Superboy and the young Bizarro have to team up to save the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion. Afterwards, Superboy finds his fellow clone injured and dying as its body continues to degenerate. The adult Newsboys tell Packard that the failed LexCorp process "only imitates DNA! That makes it inherently incompatible with any living tissue! He started dying the moment you created him!"

The Annual is also notable in that it reveals the person whose cell stock was used to create Superboy and his clone kin (not that you'll find out from me here). Although Bizarro Superboy dies, life goes on for our young hero and the issue ends on a happy note, with the supporting cast celebrating Superboy's first birthday.

Supergirl gets a bizarre version of herself in Supergirl #30-31. Peter David (with Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs) has the protoplasm that went down the drain in issue #1 reassembles itself and returns to confront Supergirl. The creature isn't your typical Bizarro. She calls herself Matrix and has lumpy purple protoplasm instead of the chalk white Bizarro look. Thematically it draws upon the Bizarro legend as being the opposite of Supergirl - even to a backwards "S" on her shirt. It also draws upon the Sandman Superma= n story by having the doppelganger intent on absorbing and replacing Supergirl. In the end, the remainder of the protoplasm is taken away, leaving the possibility of it's return

PAD returns to the theme in Supergirl #62 & 63 when cloning technology and magic combines to create a Bizarro-Supergirl, courtesy of cast regular, Buzz, and his pal, Two Face. This Bizarro-Supergirl uses the annoying reverse-speech pattern of the Loeb Bizarro #1 and the usual brawl occurs. The story gets somewhat sidetracked and muddled by the Joker: Last Laugh mandatory cross-over tie in for issue #63, but has some great moments (especially Bizarro-Supergirl discovering the joy of electricity). The issue ends with the creature disappearing, leaving Supergirl with many questions about the clone's powers. Bizarro-Supergirl isn't just a throw away character owever, as PAD weaves her into the ongoing storyline about Linda Danver's search for the missing Supergirl (Linda and Supergirl having been separated following a demonical dust-up in Supergirl #50).

While it wasn't about "the" Bizarro, A. Bizarro got his own four issue miniseries in 1999 (written by Steve Gerber with art by Mark 'Doc' Bright and Greg Adams). When an employee of LexCorp gets the Bizarro treatment, the newly awakened creature decides to learn the meaning of life in a wonderfully weird story. Park your expectations at the cover and enjoy the ride. Since Al Bizarro is alive and procreating by the end of the story, it seems possible that there may be a future for the Bizarro clan.

Finally, it's back to the source when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (along with Anthony Williams and Tom Palmer) merge the Superman and Frankenstein myths in the prestige format, The Superman Monster, also from last year. The team does a nice job inserting Superman into Mary Shelley's classic story and remaining true to her original novel.

Y'know, if Steel got his own Bizarro, I bet it could engineer a cubical world and populate it with lots of interesting characters - including one that would proudly wear an medallion proclaiming itself "Bizarro No. 1".

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