Tagged: Adventure Comics

Mike Gold: Bizarro – Who Am Him?

Bizarro Strip

One of the most enduring DC Comics creations, Bizarro has been with us since 1958 – either debuting in the Superman newspaper strip, according to editor Mort Weisinger, or in Superboy #68 according to where most baby boomers first found him. Either way, that original Bizarro was quite a different being than he is today. In fact, the personality, appearance and modus operandi of Superman’s brother-in-harms seem to differ with just about every use.

Bizarro 1Originally Bizarro was a sympathetic character, the result of an experiment that didn’t quite work. Half-Frankenstein’s monster, half-Quasimodo; he was a manufactured man who grew the most human of hearts over the course of his initial appearance in both the Superman strip and the Superboy story.

That Superboy story sold like a sumbych. Editor Weisinger started putting him in every Superman family title he could – cross-editor crossovers didn’t exist in 1958, except for the Superman/Batman stories in World’s Finest. In less than three years Adventure Comics cover-featured an ongoing Tales of the Bizarro World series.

In this series all the pith was removed and the creature and the stories were played for laughs. That wasn’t hard, as Bizarro’s superpower was to be and do the opposite of what the “normal” did. By now he had his own planet populated by equally imperfect duplications of other beings from both the reader’s universe and DC’s. Bizarro even introduced the Bizarro President Kennedy to the Bizarro Marilyn Monroe. This happened years before we found out that the real Kennedy and Monroe were making the beast with two backs right there in the people’s White House.

bizarro01Weisinger was a very, very well-connected man and he had many friends in high places. In 1976 I asked Mort if he had inside information at the time. He glowed, looked at me and said: “You know what they say.” I replied “Ummm… If I told you I’d have to kill you?” and Mort said “That’s right.”

The Tales of the Bizarro World stories lacked tension and the type of heroic action one associates with superhero comics, and because gravity does work it was necessarily lacking in internal consistency. After a little more than a year, Tales of the Bizarro World was replaced with Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and that ran for about seven years.

You can’t keep a good creature down, and Bizarro has reappeared with a frequency exceeded only by The Joker. But, as I noted at the outset, there was no external consistency to the character. He was a goofy monster, he was a confused construct, he was (most frequently) a monster who acted as a super-villain but with the motivation of a guy who simply does the opposite of what Superman would do. Maybe.

Bizarro 2I wish somebody would sit down and read Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein, published in the 1940s by Prize Comics. Many reprints abound; to start I’d recommend the one Yoe Books and IDW did in 2010. If you’ve never heard of it, it may very well be the best American comic book you’ve never heard of. Briefer is in the same league as Eisner, Cole and Toth, and he managed to tell a great many stories without tripping over the concept. Frankenstein was sympathetic and heroic, pithy and funny, and always a joy to read.

I like Bizarro, particularly that original newspaper comics story. And I like many of the various interpretations of the character that have come our way in the subsequent 58 years. Some are truly brilliant.

Despite DC’s multi-purpose guardianship over the decades, Bizarro has become an accepted term in the English language. The term “Bizarro World” is often used as a metaphor. It’s even in most computer spell-checkers.

And, really, who among us can’t identify with a character is constantly misunderstood?

Mindy Newell: Butterflies Are Timey-Wimey

Before I get started – or let’s pretend that I have just stopped time – just want to say regarding Martha Thomases’ column of last week:

Shit, Martha, why the fuck didn’t I think of writing that?

•     •     •     •     •

See, about two months ago I hurt my middle finger at work. It got caught between a stretcher and a door. The noted and very adorable Dr. Christopher Doumas used the C-arm to check it out. Nothing was broken – be thankful for small miracles, right? – but there was plenty of soft tissue damage, meaning I bruised the fascia, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Plus broken capillaries and such. Which caused my ahem middle finger to swell up and turn several shades of purple.

But you know how they say that soft tissue damage hurts worse than a broken bone? – well, maybe you don’t, but trust me, they do say that – so believe me when I tell you:

Goddamn, it hurt!

Anyway, I had to write an incident report, which meant I had to go to the boss’s office. The boss is from the Midwest, and, imho, the outfit that owns my ambulatory surgery center reflects that what’s the matter with Kansas? mentality. So I’m sitting there trying to write, which was extremely difficult because said middle finger was on my right hand, and I’m a “righty” – the only thing about me that is.

Just trying to use the keyboard was a pain in the ass – or finger – and I muttered “Fuck, that hurts.”

My what’s the matter with Kansas? boss looked very disturbed. Did she say, “I’m so sorry, Mindy.” Did she say, “Do you want an Advil?” Did she cluck and coo and offer other bromides?


She said, “Don’t use that language. It’s not professional.”

I looked at her. I thought are you kidding me?

And I said:

“I’m from New York.”


•     •     •     •     •

I will now allow time to resume its normal linear course.

I have always, always loved time-travel stories.

Last night I was watching The Timey-Wimey Of Doctor Who on BBC America when, all of a sudden during a commercial break, I remembered a Silver Age Superboy story in which the Boy of Steel discovers the origin of Cinderella’s glass slipper – all of which inspired me to write about time travel today. Anyway, I was sure the Cinderella story was featured on the cover. But guess what I discovered when doing my due diligence?

The Cinderella thingy was only a “side-trip” in a very famous and critical-to-DC-mythology story written by Robert Bernstein and penciled and inked by George Pepp. The story was “Superboy’s Big Brother” (Superboy #89, June 1961), featuring the introduction of Mon-El – whom I’ve also always loved, but that’s a topic for another day and another column. Leaving Mon-El to hang out at the Kent home with his parents, Clark goes to school ‘cause he has a test he can’t skip. I guess it was an English class, or maybe history, or maybe even creative writing because one of the questions on the test is about the origin of fairy tales and uses the Cinderella story as an example.  Clark remembers meeting the real Cinderella in the past. I guess to jog his memory – although since Superboy has super-memory I don’t know why it needs jogging – he decides to revisit the past to make sure he’s got the details right.

Clark asks permission to get a drink of water. (The teacher says okay, which means allowing him to leave the room during a test. Try doing that these days, kids!) Changing into Superboy, he flies through the time barrier to Egypt, circa 4,000 B.C. He takes a drink of water from the Nile – ‘cause, you know Superboy never tells a lie, and this way he can honestly tell the teacher that he got his drink of water. While getting his allotment of H2O, he sees an eagle steal a sandal from a girl putting a bassinet made from reeds into the Nile. There’s a baby inside. It floats down the Nile to where the Pharaoh’s daughter is bathing. The Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby in the bassinette, and names him Moses….

Strike that.

Superboy is about to go after the eagle when that super-memory of his is jogged once again, so he does nothing. Instead he watches as the bird drops the sandal in the Pharaoh’s palace. The Pharaoh searches for the woman whose foot fits the sandal. He finds her and makes her his queen. Aha! thinks Superboy. This is the Cinderella story he came back in time to see. Now it’s time to go back to school and finish that test.

So Clark writes up the story, but the teacher says he has no proof, so only gives him an 89. (Guess it wasn’t a creative writing class after all.) And Clark isn’t unhappy, because if he had aced it, the teacher might suspect he’s Superboy because Clark is so smart. (Huh?)

Meanwhile, suspecting that Mon-El is lying about being his brother – um, excuse me, but aren’t you the one who assumed that he was, Clark? – Superboy exposes Mon-El to a meteorite that looks like Kryptonite but is really made of lead.

Oops. Your bad, Superboy.

Mon-El is really Lar Gand, a native of the planet Daxam. And Daxamites can’t handle lead. In fact, it kills them. Like the Roach Motel: once they check in, they don’t check out. Swearing that one day he will find a cure to the fatal lead poisoning, Superboy has no choice but to send Mon-El to the Phantom Zone in order to save his life.

Leading in a timey-winey, butterfly effect way to the other time travel story that added-to-the-DC-mythology big time, the introduction of the Legion of Super-Heroes (Adventure Comics #247, April 1958, by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino). And if I have to recount that story, you shouldn’t call yourself a comics fan! J The Legion traveled through the time barrier by means of a “time bubble,” which maybe was inspired by the bubble in which Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, travels to Oz. Only they don’t ask Superboy if he is a witch. They also don’t think Krypto is a witch.

It was Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes who, in “The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire” revealed that he had discovered a permanent cure for Mon-El. This happened in Adventure Comics #330, March 1962, by Jerry Siegel and John Forte. This is only a year for us poor Earth-Prime Homo sapiens who are cursed to experience time in a this-way-forward linear manner, but it was about twenty centuries as a phantom for poor Lar Gand.

No wonder he went nuts.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten, Esq



MIKE GOLD: The Bizarro Family – Marilyn Monroe and JFK!

Bizarro Mindy Newell’s column debut last Monday inspired me to trash the column I had in mind for today and instead tell you the story of Bizarro Marilyn Monroe and Bizarro John F. Kennedy. Well, let’s say postpone – the first rule of deadline writing is “thou shalt not never ever throw any idea out.”

Way, way back in the days shortly after newsprint replaced papyrus and the stapler revolutionized the magazine industry, DC Comics published a monthly called Adventure Comics. At this moment in time – February 13, 1962 – Adventure’s lead feature was “Tales of the Bizarro World,” based upon the popular characters running rampant through the DCU of the era. If you’re even thinking about asking if these stories were in continuity, please immediately see your doctor about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

DC’s approach to humor at the time allowed for inside jokes as long as they didn’t interfere with the story. Batman #66, “The Joker’s Comedy of Errors,” is perhaps the grossest evidence of this. The editor of Adventure Comics was Mort Weisinger, and there’s been a lot of stories told about the guy. He was rough on writers – they would have to pitch several stories only to be rejected and fed a premise to work on instead. I’m told some pitches would then be given to another writer. Perhaps the writer was better suited for the concept; perhaps Mort was just a sadist.

Anyway, what is less known is that Mort Weisinger was pretty heavily wired into the political and celebrity scene. The DC job was a three day a week gig, and he did a lot of writing for “legitimate” publications such as the highly credible newspaper magazine insert, This Week. I don’t know how close he was to the Kennedy family, but he ran in those circles.

What people did not know during President Kennedy’s life was something that is common assumption today: JFK had quite a sweaty relationship with Marilyn Monroe. The media knew all about it, but back then they didn’t print such stuff.

Boy, how times have changed.

So we pick up Adventure Comics #294 (cover-dated March 1962) and we find the story “The Halloween Pranks of the Bizarro-Supermen.” That’s an odd story for springtime. Halloween being what it is, various Bizarros dress up as Jerry Lewis, John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Bizarro Superman #1 (don’t ask) donned a Mickey Mantle mask. Marilyn was almost always seen next to JFK.

Was this a remarkable coincidence? The story was written by Jerry Siegel and, for the record, was drawn by John Forte. It certainly is possible that Weisinger fed Siegel the gag. According to second-class mailing permit stats, the average sale of Adventure Comics in 1962 was 460,000 copies. Even if Mort sent copies to some of his friends, I’m guessing the number of readers who did not get the joke was around… 460,000. The story went into a different direction, evolving into a saga about the friendship between Bizarro Krypto and Bizarro Lex Luthor, with Bizarro Kltpzyxm (sic) and the “real” Krypto tossed in for good measure.

Whereas there is no physical proof of a relationship between the two celebrity Earthlings, Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot makes a pretty good case and various confidants of both individuals have acknowledged the liaisons over the years. Marilyn died (one way or another) in August of 1962, a half-year after Adventure #294 was published. JFK was murdered 15 months after that – 48 years ago last week.

Now we flash-forward to 1976. DC President Sol Harrison thought it would be cool if I met Mort Weisinger because of our mutual interest in politics. Mort and I had a fascinating conversation that ran about two-and-one-half hours. I asked him about the Bizarro Marilyn / Bizarro JFK story. At first I thought I made him angry, but his broad facial gesture turned into a huge laugh. “You know, you’re the only guy to ask me that!” And that was his only response.

A tip of the green visor to the Grand Comics Database for confirming the data, and to Bizarro Mindy Newell for pushing the snowball, umm, up the hill.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

Preview: 7 Warriors #1

Written by Michaël Le Galli
Drawn by Francis Manapul
SC, 32pgs, FC, SRP: $3.99
COVER :Francis Manapul
Diamond Code: SEP110849

From the fan-favorite artist of The Flash and Adventure Comics comes 7 beautiful women, 7 WARRIORS! In 6th century Libya, the capitol of an ancient nation is surrounded by the Persian and Byzantine armies. Seven are chosen to save the heir to the kingdom. Seven Warriors. Seven… sexy, gorgeous women? An exquisitely rendered tale in the vein of 300, written by Michaël Le Galli and drawn by Francis Manapul.

MIKE GOLD: The Superman Rebus

If my calculations are correct – and that might be a first – the comic book advertised in the house ad above was released 53 years ago this week. DC fussed with the cover dates since this book was published, but I think I’m on this one. The house ad itself was designed so that the production department could easily swap out the covers, and here’s three of the others to appear in that slot:

(Don’t be concerned about Superman having a different cover date; DC had different schemes for monthlies, 8x yearlies, and bimonthlies.)

In 1958 those were four extremely compelling covers. Superman having a new power was a big deal, and rainbow covers always sold better than the norm. “Jimmy from Jupiter” was a very strong concept back at that time, and it was one of the first of the famous Jimmy Olsen transubstantiation stories.

The same thing is true for the Superboy story. It introduced Bizarro, the first super-villain to become an adjective. Editor Mort Weisinger knew he had a good story after its Superman-oriented dry run in the newspaper strip: he hyped it in the previous issue of the title, which was a rare event.

But that Adventure Comics cover was the killer: crossovers were few and very far between, and time travel crossovers were all the more rare. This issue must have sold well, as Mort endlessly repeated the stunt with other characters. Today we’d think that a no-brainer, but back in 1958 it was a very big deal.

So it was a good week or two for the Superman Family. And it was a very good week for me, as I had just turned eight years old and was at the optimum age for these stories.

Even then, my father was concerned about my obsession with comics. He didn’t have a problem with comics per se, just the fact that it became my religion. It was sort of a Jazz Singer thing. But we were visiting a relative and my father wanted to keep me occupied, so we stopped at a drug store next to the relative’s apartment building and he told me I could pick out three. I already had the Superman, so I had to pick from Action, Jimmy Olsen, Adventure, and Superboy. Of course I begged for all four – I would have anyway, but this time I was as insistent as I was ineffective.

Problem, problem. I had been waiting for the Bizarro story for at least a month, and the Superboy – Robin crossover was more important than life itself. So the choice came down to “The Jimmy From Jupiter” and “The Shrinking Superman.”

I chose Jimmy.

The problem is, even though that issue of Action Comics was redistributed two weeks later I never found it on the newsstands. In fact, I didn’t find it until nearly 15 years later, and it cost me over ten bucks.

I told that to my father, thinking I could guilt-trip him by exploiting his deep appreciation for the buffalo. But, as usual, he outwitted me. Dad said that I was eight and I would have not kept the book in good condition and, therefore, would have bought it on the collector’s market anyway.

He nailed me.

One thing more. This house ad? It spawned a deep love for rebuses. A teevee game show called Concentration where the gimmick was getting the contestants to solve a rebus took to the air the very same week as these various Superman titles were released. To add insult to injury, the original run of the show ended 14 years later, roughly the same time as I bought “The Shrinking Superman” at a comic book convention.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil 

#SDCC: DC: Superman: Two Worlds panel

#SDCC: DC: Superman: Two Worlds panel

It’s going to be an exciting year for the Man of Steel: Superman group editor Matt Idelson, writers Geoff Johns (Adventure Comics, Superman: Secret Origins), Greg Rucka (Action Comics), James Robinson (Superman), Sterling Gates (Supergirl), and Renato Guedes (Superman) discussed what the future holds for the current New Krypton status quo and answered fan questions. CBR has the liveblog, but here are some highlights:

  • “Hunt for Reactron” will be a Supergirl/Action
    crossover in October, with both series co-written by Gates and Rucka
    for the arc. “It’s a big story with a lot of big, crazy action. And a
    lot of fighting,” Gates said.
  • Geoff Johns briefly ran down what would appear
    in Adventure Comics, drawing laughter when he mentioned “the good
    Teen Titans.” He also said, “If you don’t like Krypto, don’t read our
  • The final three issues of the 12-issue World of
    New Krypton
    will be an arc tying together developments on Earth with
    those on New Krypton.
  • “Coming out of ‘Codename Patriot,’ we’re going to finish the finish
    the book up to #700, with ‘Mon-el, Man of Valor,’ which will see him
    return darker, with a new purpose, and a new costume.”
  • The Superman Annual will be about the history of Daxam with art by Javi Pina.
  • Sterling Gates mentioned September’s Supergirl Annual, which is
    the origin of Superwoman. “Secret Files” comes out in conjunction with
    “Codename Patriot,” with art by Jamal Igle, Francis Manapul, and more.

  • “You’ll see every Legion in Adventure Comics eventually,” Johns said.

There’s a lot more at the liveblog, so go forth.

DC Comics Names ‘Origins and Omens’ Line-up

DC Comics Names ‘Origins and Omens’ Line-up

This February, nineteen core titles from the DC Universe will feature “Origins and Omens” backup stories. “Origins and Omens” lays the groundwork for the upcoming Green Lantern: Blackest Night miniseries and more in 2009.
These “Origins and Omens” issues are solicited in the December Previews and are scheduled to arrive in stores in February. DC Comics will announce the full lineup of writers and artists contributing to these stories soon.
Watch for “Origins and Omens” stories in these issues:
•           ACTION COMICS #874
•           ADVENTURE COMICS #0 — Specially priced at just $1.00!
•           BIRDS OF PREY #127
•           BOOSTER GOLD #17
•           GREEN LANTERN #38
•           GREEN LANTERN CORPS #33
•           NIGHTWING #153
•           OUTSIDERS #15
•           ROBIN #183
•           SECRET SIX #6
•           SUPERGIRL #38
•           SUPERMAN #685
•           TEEN TITANS #68
•           TITANS #10
•           VIGILANTE #3
•           WONDER WOMAN #29
Also this month, watch for Adventure Comics #0, reprinting one of the cornerstone stories of the DCU with a special price of just $1.00 and featuring its own all-new “Origins and Omens” tale! To celebrate the upcoming Adventure Comics #1, this issue reprints a Silver Age classic from the title’s prior volume — Adventure Comics #247, the first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes! Adventure Comics #0 also features a new cover by Aaron Lopresti that’s an homage to the original.

The story also serves as the inspiration for Geoff Johns’ episode of Smallville, scheduled to air on January 15.

Superman to go AWOL from ‘Action’

Superman to go AWOL from ‘Action’

DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio told Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times that he’s really excited by the titles coming out these next few weeks that wrap up long-running events including Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P.

“We did Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis itself so this has been a long story for us. I feel we’ve accomplished a lot of goals and we created a lot of excitement. But more importantly it’s a point of change for us in DC Universe again. And once you know the ending is coming, it’s in sight, that’s when you start getting worked up about what’s coming up next. That’s what I really get jazzed about. We have two really big events that spin out of Final Crisis each in its own way and affecting our key franchises, Superman and Batman. The first thing we’re going to see is called Battle for the Cowl, that’s going to be a book that features nearly every member of the Batman family   

“We have a writer-artist team on this right now that’s scouring every book possible to see what they can include in these two-page spreads they want to build of all the characters that inhabit the Batman universe. So it’s a lot of fun for us. I always like those things because it’s a big noisy adventure book. And whenever you do one of those, the level of excitement is always right there on the page. You hopefully have people respond properly to that.”

DiDio revealed that one status quo-changing element will be Superman vacating Action Comics in the near future.  The only time he was absent from the book was during the months he was dead and others vied for the right to inherit the name.

“So this is a lot of fun for us,” he said with a laugh.  “I think that’s going to get people excited and scratching their heads and wondering what’s going on. In his own book, Superman, there will be a dramatic turn as the hero leaves Earth and it seems like he’s leaving for good. We’ll follow his adventures in space more so than his adventures on Earth, and that’s a big and exciting thing. We’re also bringing back one of the old-time favorite titles of DC Comics, Adventure Comics. It will be back with a new No. 1 and with new stars but old stars at the same time. It’ll be pretty easy to guess who will be the stars of Adventure Comics if you know who the title was most identified with…”

The title was the home to the Legion of Super-Heroes from issues 300 through 380 and with their title cancelled, they are the most likely feature. DiDio stressed the Legion will remain vital to the DC Universe once their current miniseries Legion of Three Worlds conlcudes in early 2009.

‘Smallville’ Gains its Saturn Girl

‘Smallville’ Gains its Saturn Girl

Stephen Stohn reveals on his Alexz  Johnson fansite that she will portray Saturn Girl on Smallville.  The eleventh episode this season, written by Geoff Johns, will introduce Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Cosmic Boy as visiting Clark Kent from their thirtieth century home. This is a direct adaptation of their legendary first appearance in 1958’s Adventure Comics #247.

Sohn wrote, “Yes, to answer questions that people keep asking me about: the rumors that Alexz is guest-starring in the long-awaited ‘Legion’ episode of Smallville are true… she is filming this episode as she awaits the final mix of what may be the final song for her album…"

The episode will most likely run in December but has not been officially announced nor has the casting for the other Legionnaires. Over at IGN, Johns this week said the flight rings will be in evidence but not their traditional comic book togs. It also happens to be one of the few episodes to feature Kristin Kreuk’s Lana Lang, taking place one show after the Chloe Sullivan /Jimmy Olsen wedding, airing November 20. Johns described one of her scenes as "powerful" and "heartfelt".

"I love who they have playing the Legion,” Johns said without naming name. “They look great. I’ll talk more about them when they’re announced. But they freaking rock. Legion rings, the villain’s weapon — holy shit, wait until you see him — ‘Grife!, they are the Legion."

And who is Alexz Johnson?  She’s a singer/songwriter who has been nominated for Canada’s Gemini acting awards, winning for the first time in October. She has been seen in Final Destination 3 and So Weird plus was the lead in Canada’s teen drama Instant Star.

Remembering Jonathan Kent

Remembering Jonathan Kent

In today’s Action Comics #870, Jonathan Kent dies. Again.  While this is his first death since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, it’s a significant alteration to Superman’s status quo. ComicMix asked historian John Wells to take a look back at the character’s role in Superman’s life.  Graphics were selected and are courtesy of our pal Mark Waid.

A bitterly fought election had come to a close but the victor had little time to enjoy himself.  Instead, still in a rage over a blackmail attempt targeting his family, Jonathan Kent clutched his chest and collapsed, dying in the arms of his wife and son.  Speaking of this pivotal event in Smallville’s 100th episode (January 26, 2006), executive producer Al Gough told TV Guide that this was “part of the Superman mythology that was always going to have to be told.”   But did it really correspond with the comics?

In the beginning, Ma and Pa Kent didn’t exist at all.   As far as Action Comics #1 (June 1938) was concerned, the infant Superman was simply discovered by a passing motorist and dropped off at an orphanage.  And, even with a considerably longer account, the 1939 Superman comic strip stuck to that particular detail.  Ultimately, it was 1939’s two-page origin at the front of Superman #1 that set down many of the details that fans would consider sacrosanct.    Here, the Kents were actually shown discovering the super-baby’s rocket and asking a relieved orphanage to adopt him.  And, as the vignette concluded, Clark Kent was seen standing at his foster-parents’ graves, inspired to honor their memory by becoming Superman.

The subsequent Superman radio show sidestepped the issue of Clark Kent’s formative years altogether.  In this one, the passing motorist didn’t find a baby.  Inside this rocket, he found a full-grown Superman ready to take on the world.  Yikes!