It Kinda Feels Like Bizarro World, Doesn't It?

DC COMICS PRESENTS #71, DC Comics, July 1984
I look out my Canadian window and it looks like I've had a change of neighbours (actually, the stoners downstairs just moved tonight, but that's not what I'm talking about). Is that really the U.S. of A. over there? Extreme makeover or Luthor's Bizarro ray? Inspired, I grab an issue of DCP featuring Bizarro World.

Well, the best thing about this comic is definitely the Eduardo Barreto cover. And it's kind of downhill from there, I'm afraid.

Bizarro World, a square planet created by Superman to house the imperfect duplicates of himself and his supporting cast (popularized by Seinfeld, comics newbies may remember), is an old pre-Crisis concept, and judging from this issue of DCP, I can't say I actually missed it. The problem here is that writer E. Nelson Bridwell mistakes "silly" for "stupid", and things quickly get out of control and unfunny.

It starts pretty well actually, with Bizarro-Superman hanging out with the Bizarro-Justice League who live in a sunk submarine (the opposite of the JLA's satellite). Yellow Lantern is their greatest hero because not only is he literally "yella", his power ring has long ago run out of power. So he's a powerless coward, and that makes him the best (see how this works?). The Bizarro-JLA's rogues gallery is pretty funny too, with the thoughtful Shaggy Man and the depressed Joker. These kinds of gags are what makes a Bizarro story work for about 8 pages - max! You smile, you say "Wait, Valentine's Day isn't the opposite of New Year's!", and you move on to the next comic.

The actual plot centers around the creation of a Bizarro-Amazo, the android that stole all of the JLA's powers. Well here, he takes powers from all the super-powered folks on Bizarro World (and there are hundreds of Supermen), but oppositely, he gives them to people who don't usually have powers (Yellow Lantern, Bizarro-Lois Lanes and Bizarro-Jimmy Olsens, mainly, but also Bizarro-Clark Kent... which is Bizarro in disguise!).

Ok, so that's all fine, but on page 8, the Bizarros head for our Earth and that's where it stops making sense (if you can call the preceding pages sensical). Really, what it did for me today is highlight everything that was wrong with the pre-Crisis DC Universe. It's not the concepts, it's a style unsustainable post-Silver Age and pre-postmodernism. For example, here's how Superman's pre-Crisis supporting cast usually dealt with proof that Superman was Clark Kent.
So if Bizarro shows up as Clark Kent, and Bizarro always does the opposite, then "it proves the real Clark couldn't possibly be Superman!" The caption answers back: "A shrewd deduction, Jimmy -- but dead wrong!" When the captions start trashing you, it's time to pray for a multiverse-crushing crossover event. But really, is it even an issue, Jimmy? He says it as if there was even a question about it, but Jimmy, one has glasses and the other doesn't, surely that's all you need!

Then, Jimmy develops powers. So does Morgan Edge, so does Lana Lang's floor manager... so Amazo is not only distributing powers to Metropolis citizens, but he's mostly giving them to Superman supporting cast members. That is just stupid. Not Amazo being stupid, but the story being stupid. Next thing you know the good guys are throwing abandoned buildings around, what looks to me like perfectly good real estate (no broken windows). People are either leaving Metropolis in droves because of the super-carnage, or that building was only "abandoned" because its tenants were at work. Either way, not good.
Anyway, because Amazo is stupid, he doesn't use all his powers, so Superman tricks him into thinking he's getting weaker and has to take back the powers he's given. So flying Jimmy hurtles to the ground. Here's something else that bugged me:
About a foot and a half off the ground, Jimmy has the time to think: "Hey, what's keeping him? I'm only inches from a dead end --!" First, by the time he can think that, it should sound like "Hey, wh--" SPLATTT! Second, Metropolis citizens are way too used to Superman saving their bacon. We see Superman and Bizarro save a total of two people in trouble because of their power loss (yes, that includes Jimmy). What if there were more? Jimmy really shouldn't feel invincible like that. It makes me hate him.

So Amazo undoes it all, goes back to Bizarro World and to become the greatest villain ever, deactivates himself. 8 pages of this is slightly amusing. By the time page 23 flips along, "amusing" has turned into "irritating". Do still love that cover with Yellow Lantern making like Aquaman though, but it's just not enough for even a retro-recommendation...
Here's hoping the new neighbours turn out better than the last ones!


De said…
Have you liked any of the modern Bizarro stuff?
Siskoid said…
Maybe I should do a Bizarro week? Themes just fuel a blog like nothing else...

To be fair, I do like the Silver Age stuff, though a little goes a long way.

Post-Crisis, there's the Bizarro "clone" stuff which plays on Frankenstein-ish pathos. It's ok, though a little dull (done better on the WB cartoon).

Then, I stopped following Superman, so if there was Bizarro stuff, I haven't really seen it. All-Star Superman did Bizarro justice (which is my reference to postmodernism), though many thought they were the weakest issues. And I can't argue with that.
Austin Gorton said…
' say "Wait, Valentine's Day isn't the opposite of New Year's!"'

Ah, you summed up perfectly my biggest hangup with Bizarro stories. I find myself dissecting the Bizarro-speak and questioning the antonyms the writer chooses. The problem, of course, lies in the fact that not everything has a direct opposite. Is the opposite of "I" "you" or "me"?

Like you said, its fine for 8 pages or so, but build a whole story around Bizarro (or even worse, an arc) and I'm too frustrated by the Bizarro-speak to care.

I much prefer the more modern, Frankenstein-ish Bizarro.

Having said all that, I'd definitely be up for a Bizarro week.
Siskoid said…
A quick mental census of my Bizarro resources tells me I have enough! So ok. Give me a couple weeks?

Next week is already set to be underdog week, but after that? Could be... could be.
SallyP said…
A little bit of Bizarro does indeed go a very long way, which is why Bizarro stories tend to annoy me after a few pages, and I have to keep thinking the opposite of what he's saying...and it's all too much like REAL WORK! I'm far far too lazy.

On the other hand, that picture of Jimmy wondering why Superman hasn't rescued him yet, DID make me smile. That should really happen more often.

Plus, I really do like Eduardo Barreto artwork.
Anonymous said…
great Bizarro post.