Bizarro, Superman’s dimwitted doppelgänger, has been reintroduced to DCU continuity via the currently running and increasingly maligned “Forever Evil” cross-over event. He was given a spotlight issue in October’s “Villain’s Month” featuring in Superman 23.1, and has since turned up in the pages of “Forever Evil” as a not quite cooked clone of Superman that Lex Luthor had been growing. For long time fans of Superman like me the idea of the Bizarro clone is a welcome return to a time when the character was more then a freakishly muscled, childlike clown created by the Joker. In fact, Bizarro’s introduction to the New 52 has been one of my favorite reboots thus far.
Bizarro first appeared in the pages of Superboy #68 published in 1958. That Bizarro was actually pretty similar to the Bizarro of the 2000’s introduced in Emperor Joker: a bit slow and clumsy and even wore the stone medallion emblazoned with “Bizarro #1″. Between 1958 and 1984 Bizarro made numerous appearances in the various Superman and related titles such as “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen”, and “Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane”. The character never developed a great deal from his initial introduction: always simple, always speaking in that backward manner.
After 1984’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” a lot of DC’s characters got rebooted as creators updated them for a new universe and the brave new world that was the 1990’s. The first appearance of Bizarro in the post-Crisis continuity occurred in John Byrne’s seminal “Man of Steel” mini-series in issue #5. Lex Luthor secretly tasked his chief scientist, Dr. Teng, to scan Superman’s genetic structure. Dr. Teng successfully cloned Superman but wasn’t able to fully duplicate the precise genetic coding of the sole surviving Kryptonian. Quickly after it’s “birth” the clone began to become disfigured turning into a mindless beast that would have destroyed a large swath of Metropolis but for Superman’s intervention.
The idea of cloning remained a major theme in the Superman titles of the late-80’s and early 1990’s, inspired by real world science. While Lex Luthor II (the supposed son of the first Lex Luthor) continued to try and clone a Superman of his own, CADMUS embarked on a cloning experiment that would give birth to the post-Crisis Superboy during “The Death of Superman”, and a whole “Underworld” of CADMUS clones living in the sewers of Metropolis.
In 1994 Lex Luthor succeeded in a second attempt at cloning Superman based on the previous work of Dr. Teng in a five issue storyline entitled “Bizarro’s World” that spanned Superman #87, The Adventures of Super #510, Superman in Action Comics #697, Superman: The Man of Steel #32, and Superman #88.
The creative teams writing the Superman books at the time raised the stakes for Lex Luthor revealing that he himself was a clone of his former self, and was taken by a mysterious disease that was rampaging through all the clones in Metropolis. This Bizarro #2 was a means of finding a way to cure Luthor’s terminal condition. Unfortunately for Luthor Bizarro #2 went the way of the first Bizarro and became a simple-minded, backwards doppelgänger of the Man of Steel.
This time the writers made Bizarro a more compelling character having him recreate a bizarro Metropolis in an abandoned warehouse near Hobbs Bay, and kidnapping Lois Lane to protect her. Ultimately Bizarro’s intentions were good hearted if dangerous, and it led to a number of confrontations between Superman and Bizarro. In an effort to get Bizarro back before he is killed Luthor is able to get CADMUS to use technology they had developed to capture him, but in order to do so they need some live bait. It became clear through the story that Bizarro maintained some of Superman’s memories and as a result shared a genuine love for Lois like Clark Kent loved Lois. As a result she was chosen to lure the creature into the trap.
The story ends with Bizarro’s capture and a brief confrontation between CADMUS’ Guardian and Lex Luthor over the ownership of the creature. Lex takes the creature back to his labs for experimentation. In one last heroic moment Bizarro, dying in Lois’ arms, uses his heat vision to destroy Luthor’s lab equipment making it impossible to use him for the billionaires salvation.
Bizarro’s World is likely the very best treatment of Bizarro ever written. The character was recast from a dim-witted mongoloid of the Silver Age and transformed into a compelling character, albeit a short lived one. By the time the character was re-introduced to DC continuity in 2000’s Emperor Joker in which he was returned to the less compelling pre-Crisis archetype.
Return of the Clone
I always wished that Bizarro #2 had lasted longer then the five issues he got, but it seems that after waiting for twenty years I’m finally getting my wish. The Bizarro of “Forever Evil” seems to be picking up where 1994’s Bizarro left off. He is again a clone of Luthor’s but this time he’s a darker character. He’s clearly dangerous, but seems to be accepting Luthor’s commands to kill without question. A recent development in “Forever Evil #4″ is building sympathy for Bizarro.
For my part, I hope the creators continue with this for a while.