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Bizarro: Superman’s Deranged Clone is a tragicomic anti-hero NOT!

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The 1950s were another time, especially in the pages of comics like Superboy where strange things happened regularly for our young superhero. As the decade concluded, things would not become more conventionally heroic by today’s standards. Yesterday’s standards, that’s another story. Anyways, Superboy met The Super-Creature of Steel named Bizarro in Superboy #68 (October 1958).

Often portrayed as a distorted and imperfect duplicate of Superman, Bizarro had different origin stories through the years, but he has chalky white skin and distorted features–and is often depicted with a backward “S” symbol on his chest. His actions and speech are often opposite or inverted compared to Superman’s. As a result, he became the source of humorous situations or, on the contrary, tragic ones.

Credits for the creation of the character are often given to writer Otto Binder and artist George Papp, but Bizarro came from the mind of another writer, Alvin Schwartz. He was going to introduce this distorted mirror version of the Man of Steel first in the Superman daily newspaper strip. However, editor Mort Weisinger had reviewed Schwartz’s work and passed the idea to Binder to use in Superboy. The newspaper strip ended up published later and that’s why Alvin Schwartz is not the credited creator of Bizarro.

Binder’s story is well-known now for being one of the best published at that time. That teenage version of Bizarro (it was in Superboy!) made only one apparition. He was a kind of monster version of Superboy, created by accident by a scientist on Earth who had just shown his new “duplicating ray” to Superboy. They had the same powers, but teen Bizarro was ugly. It became a tragic tale with a blind girl in the middle of it who didn’t see the monster others were afraid of.

Schwartz’s newspaper strip was about an adult Bizarro, one that had a larger impact on the character’s representation as it introduced his strange way of speaking–every comment made by Bizarro really means the opposite. Bizarro was a popular character and, as a result, he came back for multiple stories in the Bizarro World feature published in Adventure Comics from issue #285 to 299–those stories by Jerry Siegel had no connection to Binder’s work on Superman though.

Otto Binder had indeed continued to work on more Bizarro stories, notably “The Son of Bizarro” (Superman #140) in which, to find his lost first-born son, Bizarro commands a battalion of flawed Superman doppelgängers in a fight against Earth–previously to that, Lex Luthor had rebuild a “duplicating ray” to recreate Bizarro who ended up with a Bizarro Lois, the two of them left to find a new place to live in space and had a son–they lived on a cube-shaped planet known as “Htrae” aka Bizarro World.

For years, Bizarro kept coming back. He even joined for a short time the Secret Society of Super-Villains. He ended up dying once more after the Bizarro world imploded, but it was just before the DC Universe as a whole was rebooted in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The Post-Crisis Bizarros

Once the Crisis ended, it was a new Bizarro that was introduced. In Man of Steel #5 (1986), this new incarnation was a creation of Lex Luthor, an imperfect clone of Superman. Luthor ordered it to be destroyed. It survived though, but was intellectually limited. Being Bizarro, he ended up kidnapping Lois Lane. However, he didn’t survive long, a violent encounter with Superman led to his destruction. The story repeated itself with another attempt by Luthor. There were variations, but the story had a similar result–he died after being recaptured by Lexcorp.

In Superman (vol. 2) #160, during the “Emperor Joker” storyline, a more successful attempt at recreating Bizarro was realized. After the Joker tricked Mr. Mxyzptlk and gained nigh-unlimited reality-shaping powers, he decided to reshape the universe in his image. In that twisted world, Bizarro became the greatest hero. He survived but ended up in the hands of General Zod who tortured him–because he couldn’t do it to the real Superman. After months of that treatment, Superman rescued him and Bizarro took refuge in the Graveyard of Solitude, coming out from time to time to cause trouble or help Superman.

Much like the original incarnation of Bizarro, this version found its way to a cube-shaped Bizarro World where he created new Bizarros–Bizarro Supergirl would eventually end up on Earth.

Bizarro and the Outlaws

Once again, DC Comics rebooted its universe and Bizarro disappeared. He first reemerged during the Forever Evil event. And once again, Lex Luthor just wanted to clone Superman. He mapped the Last Son of Krypton’s genome and this led to Subject B-0 (A-0 was the first attempt, a complete failure). When the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 conquered Earth, B-0 was sent by Luthor to fight the invaders. He didn’t survive his confrontation with Earth-3’s Alexander Luthor.

And then, DC went through a Rebirth. But for once, Bizarro’s story was not about Luthor, Superman, or Joker. He was still a clone created by Luthor, but he was being held in the criminal Black Mask’s captivity. This put him on the same path as the vigilante Red Hood (Jason Todd). The two of them teamed up with the Amazon Artemis and formed a team of heroic Outlaws. 

Bizarro started as stupid as always, but an encounter with Luthor led him to gain a genius-level intellect for a limited amount of time. This doesn’t last, unlike his friendship with Red Hood. He also definitively proved his value as a hero when he chose to remain in Hell to save the world from a demon horde during the aftermath of the team’s battle with the evil Trigon.

But DC Comics keeps on going forward with new soft reboots and, now, Bizarro is a member of the Suicide Squad…

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