The Neglected Nemeses: Bizarro
When it was announced that DC Comics and Warner Brothers would be bringing new life into the Superman film franchise a few years back, rather than continuing the series Bryan Singer took over in 2006, one of the biggest wishes from fans was to have a more physical threat for the Man of Steel to oppose. Previously, Lex Luthor has been the main villain for Kal-El and I believe that to be ok– to an extent. While Luthor is the main baddie for Superman, he provides a cerebral threat and that’s about all we’ve seen. In the 1980 film Superman II, General Zod made an appearance and he and his cronies provided that threat, giving fans and movie-goers alike, a better action flick than the first outing (which is still a great film, by the way). And with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel coming out this year, we see the return of Zod and hopefully the physicality of Superman tested once again. But one way to all but guarantee a superior action film is to include a villain that knows nothing but physicality and Bizarro is one of those options. Let me admit this right from the get-go however: I do not feel that Bizarro should be the only villain in a film. I think it would be fitting for the baddie to be a pawn for a more intelligent villain, but more on that later. Let’s take a look at the history of The Beast of Steel.
Bizarro made his first appearance in 1958 in Superboy #68, where writer Otto Binder created the character as a “Frankenstein’s monster pastiche” that possessed all the powers of Superboy. Becoming an outcast, the teen version of Bizarro only appeared in a single comic book story. Shortly after, however, the adult version appeared in the daily Superman comic strip, also bringing with him his now synonymous strange speech patterns, with all of his comments meaning the opposite of what we are used to. He also wore a “B” on his chest, rather than the “S” Superman was known for. The comic strip writer had this to say about the character:
“I was striving, you might say, for that mirror-image, that opposite. And out of a machine which would reveal the negative Superman, came the mirror image — always remembering that in a mirror everything is reversed…. The times were such that one-dimensional characters, your standard superheroes, even in comics, seemed rather simplistic, like paper cut-outs. What was demanded was the full dimensional personality — a figure that carried a shadow, if you like. I was certainly inspired to some degree also by C.G. Jung’s archetype of “the shadow” — and Bizarro certainly reflected that, as well.”
Binder later revised the character to include the more well-known backwards “S”, the mirror image of Superman, in Action Comics #254 (1959). His popularity grew quickly and he was soon appearing in a number of issues and comic runs. The brutish character has also appeared in the Blackest Night story line in the Superman/Batman #66-67, as well as a short run in Solomon Grundy.
In the Pre-Crisis runs, a group of ”Bizarro’s” was created in the image of General Dru-Zod to dominate the world of Krypton. But because the world was not under a yellow sun, the creations had no power, but they still harbored the feeling and need to kill and destroy without hesitation. This was the reason Zod was banished to the Phantom Zone for 25 Krypton sun cycles. Some 12 years later, completely ignorant to these occurrences, a scientist on Earth created a duplication ray and while demonstrating the new equipment to Superboy, it accidentally duplicated the teen hero. The duplicate was quickly given the moniker of “Bizarro,” due to its white, pale skin, and erratic child-like behavior. Having been shunned by the town of Smallville, the creature left on his own and befriended a blind girl. Ultimately, Superboy was forced to do away with the doppelgänger using the remains of the duplicating ray, which acts as blue kryptonite, as opposed to green that it dangerous to Superboy.
Many years later, once Superboy has become Superman, Lex Luthor recreates this duplicating ray and uses it on the hero, hoping that he would be able to control the duplicate that is created. The resulting being, however, is confused, stating ”Me not human…me not creature…me not even animal! Me unhappy! Me don’t belong in world of living people! Me don’t know difference between right and wrong — good and evil!” Luthor is pushed aside and Bizarro attempts to emulate Superman, wreaking havoc on the city of Metropolis, even going as far as almost exposing Superman to be the reporter people know as Clark Kent. Naturally, Bizarro falls in love with Lois Lane, but to deter him, she gets her hands on Luthor’s duplicating ray and creates a Bizarro Lois. Instantly, the two doppelgängers fall in love and escape Earth to find a home where they can be themselves.
Superman encounters the couple once more many years down the road. Bizarro — now called Bizarro #1 — had gotten his hands on a version of the duplicate ray and created an entire race of Bizarros, who reside on a cubicle planet call Htrae (Earth spelled backwards). Bizarro #1 and Lois #1 were the parents of a child who is gifted with super powers, but also appears to be completely human. The Bizarros consider the child to be a freak of course, and becomes a catalyst for a brief war between Earth and Htrae. Later on, back on Earth, Bizarro confronts Superman once again, having gained new powers such as freeze vision. He unsuccessfully makes an attempt to kidnap Lois Lane. He briefly joins the Secret Society of Super Villains to battle the Justice League of America and Captain Comet.
In the Post-Crisis world, Lex Luthor once again sets out to destroy Superman by creating a clone of the hero. But, not knowing that Superman is actually an alien, the results are flawed and he has the Bizarro disposed of. The clone, having survived the ordeal, is mute and posses little intelligence and vague memories of Clark Kent’s life. Once again, he attempts to mimic the Kryptonian and kidnaps Lois Lane. The Clone is destroyed in a mid-air collision with Superman.
In a more recent depiction, Bizarro is actually a creation of the Joker. This version possesses all of the powers that Superman wields, but with a child-like mentality and method of speech. He was created when the Joker high-jacked the powers of the 5th dimensional imp Mr. Myxzptlk. An alternate version of Earth was created called Jokerworld — a perfect cube with Joker’s image depicted on each side– and Bizarro is deemed the planet’s greatest hero and the leader of the newly formed JLA (Joker’s League of Anarchy). Bizarro is eventually confronted and captured by General Zod , who proceeds to beat and torture him, based simply on the idea that Bizarro resembles his opposite, Superman. Eventually, Superman rescues the captured Bizarro and in order to help him adjust to the newly re-balanced Earth, the hero helps Bizarro rebuild his “Graveyard of Solitude.”
During the “Infinite Crisis,” Bizarro is duped into joining the reformed Secret Society of Super Villains by the Flash baddie Zoom. In the midst of the battle with the Freedom Fighters, he unintentionally kills the Human Bomb by hitting him repeatedly so that he can view the sparks of light that are emitted from the kinetic energy of the blows. Bizarro has had several run-ins with his former Secret Society ally Solomon Grundy. One of the most impressive of these meetings was during Blackest Night, when Bizarro confronted the Black Lantern version of Grundy and destroys him by flying into the heart of the sun.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I don’t feel that Bizarro could hold a film as the sole baddie and would work great as a pawn for someone higher up. An obvious choice would be Lex Luthor and I think the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story line, or a variation of it would be a great introduction. We know that Luthor will eventually find his way into the newly rebooted franchise, and I’m thinking that a few films in, Bizarro could find his way on-screen. I know that we have seen a version of Bizarro in Superman III, but (forgive me if I’m wrong, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film) he was more of an “evil” side of Superman that he was forced to repress rather than a flawed clone. The approach to this story and character could be handled in numerous fashions, but I’d like to see Superman face Bizarro reluctantly, almost having pity for the child-like doppelgänger, knowing that Bizarro isn’t responsible for his creation or his actions and battle him only to put him out of his misery. I know it’s an odd approach, but I think it could work pretty well. Along the same lines, I’m not looking for Bizarro to be wearing a sign around his neck with his name emblazoned on it, and I definitely don’t want him portrayed as a half-wit; rather a meek and confused being that is only doing what he is told.
Now, I had a difficult time coming up with who to cast for Bizarro. At first, I thought that whoever is playing Superman, such as Henry Cavill, could play both parts; it is a clone after all. But in looking at images of Bizarro, he’s never really been an exact duplicate of Superman; he’s always depicted differently, in a more ‘bizarre’ fashion so to speak. As I was searching through images and actors, I came across one that will likely cause a bit of a stir, but hear me out on this one. Kellen Lutz, most known for his roles in the teen phenom Twilight Saga films, would be a very intriguing choice for Bizarro. I recognize the fact that he is not a strong actor but he has a look that is quite angular and different if with a bit of modification, he could be made into a rather imposing character. Along with that, both he and Cavill stand at about 6 feet and have a similar build and could mirror each other quite well. Back to the acting thing for a bit. If you watched Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, Kellen Lutz played the role of Poseidon and in this role, he had very few speaking parts,, but he was able to do the role justice by his imposing size and demeanor, characteristics that you’d expect from Bizarro. My mind isn’t totally set on Lutz for the role, but I think it would be a different choice, and an unexpected choice. What other actors would like to see in the role? Would you rather see the character done in CGI? Talk to me!