Bizarro had proved to be such an entertaining “villain” in the Superman books that he was given his own series, Tales of the Bizarro World, in Adventure Comics during the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age. The strip played for laughs, and though it does become a bit tired and repetitious, some of the stories achieved a kind of manic brilliance.
Tales of the Bizarro World begins as the back-up feature to Superboy in Adventure 285. The entire run would be written by Jerry Siegel, with art by John Forte. Bizarro, his wife, children and square planet, had all been introduced in the various Superman books by the time this series began, but it opens with a re-introduction of the backwards way of life on Bizarro World. The story in this issue, such as it is, deals with Bizarro’s son, who risks passing in school because he has been giving correct answers.
He fails because, while sleepwalking, he carved a bizarre version of Mt Rushmore, and everyone is happy. In the middle of this, Superboy and Krypto stop by for a visit, as Superboy time travelled to the present, and saw Bizarro World for the first time. Really, the only purpose in this is so that Bizarro Krypto can be created, and Superboy is forced to play baseball and re-enact the cover image.
Bizarro decides to become a private detective in Adventure 286, and is summoned to the Palace of Junk by the mayor, to figure out who filled it with works of art.
This one has a fairly coherent plot by Jerry Siegel, while still maintaining the Bizarro lack of logic in his “investigation”
Ultimately, it turns out that the culprit is a Bizarro Mxyzptlk, accidentally created by Bizarro, Jr.
After being yelled at by Perry White for not getting any good stories, Jimmy sees a spaceship, apparently being boarded by Superman, and stows away. Of course, it was not Superman, it was Bizarro, and Jimmy winds up on Bizarro World in Adventure 287. He starts working at the Daily Htrae, under Bizarro Perry White, but has even less success than he does on Earth, as he cannot grasp what makes news on Bizarro World.
Jimmy just wants to head back to Earth, but as long as he keeps bombing out with his news stories, the Bizarros have no intention of returning them. Finally, Jimmy creates a Bizarro version of himself, and is punished by being sent back home.
Jerry Siegel has a lot of fun with the Bizarro tale in issue 288, as Kltpzyxm (the Bizarro Myzptlk) gives Bizarro Lois super-powers. Bizarro then spends the story trying to prove that Bizarro Lois is really Stupor-Woman, in a wacky variation of the standard Superman/Lois Lane plot.
The real Mr Mxyzptlk shows up at the end of the story, removing Bizarro Lois’ powers and causing everyone on Bizarro World to forget everything. Cause what’s a story without memory loss, right? How many issues have ended with this ploy now? I forget.
Bizarro goes time-travelling in Adventure 289. He promises the citizens of Bizarro World that he will find real heroes from the past that they can feature on tv on their world, and heads in search of the Abominable Snowman, Frankenstein’s monster and the Devil. In each case, it is Bizarro himself who is assumed by people in that time period to be the monster he is seeking.
He winds up in the prehistoric era, and runs into Titano, who he calls Tiny. and returns to Bizarrow World to tell them all about the great hero he found. He is accused to ripping off King Kong for his story about Tiny, which makes Bizarro World cheer him, for hoaxing them all. Bizarro logic, what can you do?
The Bizarro World story in Adventure 290 is probably the most serious tale of the run, if only because they risk the destruction of their world. Creatures made of blue kryptonite (which is deadly to Bizarros) emerge from underground and begin attacking. The Bizarros respond by cheering them on. Jerry Siegel includes a detail that no other Bizarro story will acknowledge, that only Bizarros based on Superman are vulnerable to blue kryptonite.
So a squad of Bizarro Loises are sent out to fight. In the end its Bizarro Jimmy Olsen who saves the day, creating Bizarro versions of Superman’s lead suit, which protects them and allows them to defeat the creatures.
Bizarros are almost invariably presented as confused but well-meaning. They may be destructive, even deadly, but are not malicious. The story in Adventure 291 introduces three residents of Bizarro World that break that mold. They kidnap Bizarro Lois, and force Bizarro to commit crimes before they will free her. He heads to Earth and begins a sort of rampage, although since the Bizarros value what humans consider worthless, his “crimes” are more like good deeds. He gets them garbage, worn out tires and sawdust, and thrilled as they are, the evil Bizarros keep demanding more treasures.
It’s Superman who steps in to save the day, disguising himself as Bizarro, he leads the three to a planet made entirely of coal. The evil Bizarros are in such glee that they reveal Bizarro Lois’ location. Superman intuits that the evil Bizarros are so greedy that they will never leave their planet of riches, and as they never appeared again, it seems he was right.
Bizarro seeks to make a horror movie, and uses the Imperfect Duplicator Ray on a caveman, creating Apollo, the most horrifying thing they have ever seen, in Adventure 292. This story is pretty simple, played entirely for the laughs of a handsome man being considered ugly. Bizarro versions of Lana Lang and Lucy Lane are also created in this story, though they really don’t do much.
Poor Apollo cannot understand why everyone on Bizarro World fears him, except for an insane Bizarro Lois who falls in love with him. Eventually Kltpzyxm uses his magic to turn Apollo back into a caveman. He goes on a destructive rampage, and everyone loves him for it.
Bizarro Luthor gets created in issue 293. And as Lex Luthor does bad deeds, Bizarro Luthor of course does good deeds. But when Bizarros try to do good deeds these often turn out badly. So when Bizarro Luthor tries to do good deeds they turn into bad deeds but not really bad deeds, more like…
My brain hurts. Although this story is really fun, overall the series is beginning to feel repetitious, and the constant inclusion of new Bizarros means that few actually get to do anything significant in the story. While Bizarro Luthor gets the spotlight in this tale, a Bizarro Bottle City of Kandor and Bizarro Superman Emergency Squad are also created in the tale, but pretty much shoved to the side.
Jerry Siegel hits the gold mine with Adventure 294, with my favourite Bizarro World story. In truth, I was disappointed the first time I read it, as it appears in the Overstreet Price Guide listing as “Bizarro JFK and Marilyn Monroe,” and I was fully expecting those people to appear in the story. But once that disappointment passed, I was able to enjoy the story hugely on its own merits. It’s Halloween on Bizarro World, and they don masks of terrifying creatures – such as JFK and Marilyn Monroe. Jerry Lewis is another, and Mickey Mantle. Seems like there is a hint of something subversive in this scene. Including a baseball player is bound to make one think of Marilyn’s ex, Joe DiMaggio. Just having her and JFK in the same panel is enough of a sly wink.
The story then becomes about joyously torturing Bizarro Krypto, who runs away from home, seeking love. Bizarro Lana Lang treats him too well, but Kltpzyxm sends him against a variety of deadly beasts. Bizarro Krypto murders them all, and then sobs because he has no more friends to play with. So Kltpzyxm brings the real Krypto to Bizarro World, and the two dogs fight viciously, until Krypto saves his counterpart from blue kryptonite. Bizarro Krypto then heads to play with Bizarro Luthor, who is trying to make the cube shaped Bizarro World a globe, but Krypto makes the robots he sends out play paddycake with each other instead.
In the end, he returns home to Bizarro. The final panel is so twisted. Is it funny, frightening, or sad? All three really. There are only a couple more Bizarro World stories before the end of the run. None of them top this one for sheer insanity.
Bizarro Lois becomes a successful wrestler in the story in Adventure 295, but her string of victories could see her exiled from Bizarro World for being a winner. Bizarro decides he must create a new Bizarro in order to defeat her, so he creates Bizarro Titano, who has blue kryptonite vision instead of green.
In the big match, Bizarro Titano runs away, which the Bizarros think is because he is frightened, so he is proclaimed the winner, and Bizarro Lois is safe from exile. To me this story sort of falls flat. It even seems like Jerry Siegel feels there is something off, with his declaration in the final panel “Are you annoyed, irritated, confused? Go sue Bizarro World!”
The Bizarro World series takes a different slant in issue 296, playing as a parody of the popular Perry Mason tv series. It’s not a bad story by any means, but again indicates this series has lost some of its steam. Bizarro Jimmy Olsen is the prime suspect, and Bizarro becomes his defense attorney – although on Bizarro World that means he is trying to get his client convicted and executed.
There are some funny moments, and opportunities for many of the Bizarro World residents to appear. In the end, it turns out Bizarro Perry White was not killed, in fact he has been in disguise as the judge throughout the trial. He wanted to make sure there was a really boring news story that day.
The Bizarro World story in Adventure 297 opens with a line up of all the Bizarro versions of the Superman family that have been created during the run of the series. The story, such as it is, has Bizarro travelling through history and messing things up.
He makes Isaac Newton discover the fig newton, instead of gravity. He prevents the assassination of Lincoln, and instead has Booth murder George Washington.
He even goes so far as to re-shape the Earth, making it a cube like Bizarro World, so that Columbus’ ships wind up sailing off the edge. Sadly, the ending makes it all a dream.
Adventure 298 contains a story in which another Bizarro, envious of Bizarro #1, impersonates him and has him do things that we would consider rational, like repairing a roof, but which get him thrown into the Bizarro World insane asylum. All the Bizarros in there do things in a rational way, which makes them insane. Bizarro #1 has to try to prove he is sane, by doing insane things, but they never quite work out the way he planned.
It’s cute, but even I find the series wearing a bit thin by this point. The stories consist largely of the same joke, the backwards way of doing things, and that can only play out on the monthly basis for so long before it starts to go stale.
Tales of the Bizarro World came to an end in Adventure 299 with another tv parody, this time of Car 54, Where Are You? Bizarro and his son come to Earth to get jobs as police officers, and wackiness ensues. Being Bizarros, they of course help the bad guys and cause more trouble than they are worth, but the police captain has no idea how to get rid of them.
Finally, after a bump on the head, he awards Bizarro a gold badge, which so offends him he heads back to Bizarro World. A plot that is so very sitcom really would have suited another writer more than Jerry Siegel, but as he was the only writer on this strip, that was not to be.
Bizarro and his family and friends would continue to appear throughout the Superman books. There would occasionally be one-shot Bizarro World stories, but never again an actual series.
Tales of the Bizarro World: Adventure Comics 285 – 299 (June 61 – Aug 62)