A Tribute to the of

Quite some time back we reviewed the very first Bizarro tale from Superboy #68.  It's always puzzled me why this is seldom acknowledged when discussing the history of Bizarro, but nonetheless, Sage #26 covers that original tale and among other things I noted that even a Bizarro Batman came along later.

Over the years, Bizarro was mainly comedy relief.  The stories were a light, fluffy take on the Superman characters and Bizarro was typically more of a nuisance than anything else.  Sort of in the same vein at Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite.  

In 2006, however, under Alex Ross' "Justice" series, we saw a new (at least to this reader) take on the creature (image from 2010's Rough Justice).  Suddenly Bizarro was a huge menace and when he snatched Clark Kent up and he, Solomon Grundy, the Parasite and Metallo ganged up on our hero, it was no laughing matter.  At the end of the issue in a splendid series of bonus goodies, Bruce Wayne's private files in the Batcomputer had this to say about Bizarro: "It is more than a monster.  It is a caricature, a malformed shadow of everything that is Superman.  Like all our enemies, the monster is a reminder that our abilities and natures, if not properly guarded, can become weapons to be used against us.  Bizarro was created by Lex Luthor, in an attempt to use early cloning technology to find a means to kill Superman.  The results were less than perfect.  Once fashioned, even Luthor was incapable of controlling Superman's would-be duplicate. Bizarro can fly like Superman, but lacks the compassion that seems to mark the Man of Steel.  Instead of heat vision, Bizarro's glare freezes, killing everything in sight.  Instead of living like a man, this creature seems to relish its monstrousness. The creature is not as intelligent as Superman, which only makes him more dangerous.  Luthor may have built the engine of destruction he always thought Superman was."

Sort of an interesting evolution for a character that was treated in such a light-hearted fashion for so long, eh?  

Never fear, dear reader, for back in our beloved Silver Age, the Bizarro creatures weren't nearly as menacing.  Witness World's Finest #156 (+ house ad) from March of 1966 where the debut of Bizarro Batman is contained in "The Federation of Bizarro Idiots!"  Cover art was provided by Curt Swan on pencils with Shelly Moldoff on inks.  The story was by Edmond Hamilton with Curt again handling pencils with inks by George Klein.  Editing was by Mort Weisinger with an assist by E. Nelson Bridwell.  Also, this issue was the first in the series to use the infamous "Go-Go checks" on the cover and to contain the "Direct Currents" advertising page inside.  

The splash page sets the stage as the Joker is robbing a bank vault with the  aid of Bizarro Superman and Bizarro Batman because of course as lawmen, it's up to them to open the vault and stand guard during the robbery as a flummoxed Superman and Batman arrive to try and make sense of the scene.

The story starts with Superman and Batman embarking on a secret mission.  Oddly, they've been tapped to move the world's gold reserves, under the auspices of the U.N. to a distant planet to keep them safe.  Okay…  As luck would have it, Bizarro #1, "…a non-living, imperfect double of Superman," is monitoring from the square-shaped Bizarro world.  He just so happens to have an imperfect duplicator ray at hand and beams it at the monitor image of Batman creating Bizarro Batman.  In fact, the caption probably captures it best:  "And so a Bizarro-Batman is created on the whacky world where all earthly customs are backward, and everyone thinks in reverse!"  A couple of panels then offer a backstory of how things work on the Bizarro world, including a picture of their charter:  "Us do opposite of all earthly things…  Us hate beauty, Us love ugliness…  Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World."

Shortly, the World's Finest (Worst?) Bizarro Team arrive on Earth to cover for the real Superman and Batman, much to the shock and chagrin of Jimmy Olsen and Robin, who agree to team up with their respective, imperfect counterparts to keep an eye on them.

It isn't long until the backward ways of Bizarro Batman have Robin pulling his hair out.  He drives on the wrong side of the road, interferes with a police chase by scattering cigar ashes from his "useless belt" into the face of the driver of the police car.  His "useless belt" is filled with the sorts of things you might expect in addition to the cigar ashes:  Cigarette butts, bottle caps, rusty nails and used chewing gum.  He then announces that the Batcave is too hard to find, so he designs the Bat Tower, complete with marquee and other signage so it's easy to see Batman and Robin's HQ.

Things aren't going any easier for Jimmy as Bizarro No. 1 has erected the "Fortress of Crowds," a huge, ramshackle building with its own signage, stocked with screwy weapons and a truly frightening laboratory amongst its features.

The imperfect Superman then begins to do his "good deeds," by scattering garbage throughout Metropolis' parks and making rock walls in the streets to alleviate the traffic problem.  Later he gets into his "secret identity" striking a bizarre figure indeed on the streets.

On the distant world where the real Batman and Superman have completed the interplanetary Fort Knox, they little realize what awaits them back on Earth.  It isn't long, however, that they discover the mayhem being caused by their imperfect doubles.  

Part II, "I Was an Idiot for the F.B.I." opens with our heroes trying to reason with their doubles, showing them what heroes on Earth do, but they just don't get it and in fact, glance admiringly at the portrait of the Joker on the wall.  They state they'll undo the "rotten deeds" that have been accomplished.  Superman has had enough by then and hurls his Bizarro duplicate into the atmosphere and back toward Bizarro world, but Bizarro #1 won't be thwarted so easily and soon returns with a boulder, distracting the World's Finest Team long enough to scoop up Bizarro Batman and take off.  

Soon the idiots are making good on their vow by perpetrating a jail break for the Joker, who is delighted with the assist.  Bizarro #1 inducts the Joker into the F.B.I. officially declaring him a member in good standing of the Federation of Bizarro Idiots.  Unwittingly, the duo begins to help the Joker plot his next crime.

At a ball that evening, the Joker arrives on a skateboard to relieve the wealthy guests of their swag while the Bizarro's distribute junk to the guests to replace their "trash."  When the real Batman arrives, his Bizarro counterpart brings the "useless belt" into play again, flinging a handy banana peel the caped crusader's way.  Making their getaway in a dilapidated Bizarro Batmobile, the Joker is horrified that they've gone to the highly visible Bat Tower, where, of course, the real heroes arrive and to their surprise the Bizarro's are happy to turn the Joker over, because, of course, he deserves to be rewarded for his deeds by going to prison.  

The imperfect pair continue to go about their opposite ways, causing more mischief and headaches until Batman and Superman decide the only way to get them out of their hair is by a diversion, and what better one than flying to the Bizarro world to create their own mayhem?  Soon they're fixing buildings, straightening roads, embellishing structures with precious gems; in short anything offensive to the Bizarro sensibilities.  

Naturally it isn't long before the Bizarro's arrive on their world, furious at what Superman and Batman have done.  They angrily banish them from their world and vow to stand guard forever against their return. 

A parade is held for the Bizarro's complete with booing and thrown garbage and the respective teams are happy to be back to their respective normality, ending this 18-page piece of merriment.

A short Tommy Tomorrow backup tale fills in this book, which was a fun change of pace.  I suspect it must have been the same for the artists and editors, though I imagine it got a little complicated for Curt Swan to constantly have to remember to draw the "S" shield backward on Bizarro's chest and cape and to do those extra, quartz-like features on their faces and bodies.

The Bizarro concept has been around for a long time now, and this story is representative of what Bizarro was meant to be, which was a nuisance and headache rather than a full-blown menace.  For an interesting and uniquely Silver Age artifact, I'll give this one an 8 on the rating scale.  

If you've got your own favorite Bizarro recollection or questions or comments or what have you, feel free to drop me a line.  I'm always available at professor_the@hotmail.com

We hope your summer is off to a great start and we'll try to be a small part of it as this feature rolls forward.  C'mon back on the 1st of July for the latest installment and in the mean time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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