At first glance, Bizarro seems like a simple, dumb version of Superman. Recent interpretations of the character depict him as a super-sized simpleton designed to pound the Man of Steel. As a result, he’s often dismissed. Villains like Lex Luthor, Braniac, and Zod overshadow this underrated powerhouse, and it’s time people realized his worth. Introduced in Superboy #68, Bizarro has since undergone many transformations, the value of his character always at the mercy of the writer handling him. In a continuity so fraught with discrepancies, it’s unsurprising that the villain’s history contains a number of vastly different origin stories.
The original came to be when a “duplicate ray” struck Superboy and created an imperfect opposite of him. Subsequent versions of the character depicted him as the monster we’re now familiar with, but even those iterations differ. Lex Luthor would later build another ray and create a modern Bizarro, one that matched Superman’s strength, will, and superhuman abilities. The Joker even created his own Bizarro at one point. Bizarro fascinates us not because of his many versions, but instead because of what he represents. We’d even venture to say that Bizarro possesses more qualities of a great character than Superman does, and here’s our case.
15. HE’S MORE COMPELLING
Don’t get us wrong: Superman can be extremely compelling. Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman illustrated that perfectly. However, we believe that Bizarro takes Superman’s appeal to another level. He functions primarily as a villain, but he’s been known to engage in occasional heroics when the situation calls for it. Imprisoned by his own warped logic, Bizarro is rarely given the opportunity to truly choose his path.
He was forced into existence by the madness of his creators, granting him the strength and power of Superman but robbing him of the goodness that makes life fulfilling. His power to love and act on that love despite his many imperfections makes him a character worth some examination. It’s easy for Superman to love. Natural, even. Bizarro is different. As an engine of hate and hubris, he’s not meant to love. The fact that he can fight this madness intrigues and excites us.
14. HE’S TECHNICALLY STRONGER
Recent interpretations of Bizarro boast a strength that not even Superman can match. His imperfections often prevent him from accessing his full potential, but he still proves formidable for the Man of Steel in any given situation. In addition to his staggering physical capabilities, Bizarro also possesses a mental strength that even Superman would have trouble matching.
It takes immense strength and willpower for him to resist his inherent indecencies and become something more, something better. He beats back the rage churning and roiling inside him, but only when he wants to do so. Despite his strength of body and mind, he usually indulges his darker, more inherent instincts by pummeling Superman and wreaking havoc wherever he goes. He’s still a villain, but damn is he a great one.
13. HE CREATED A WORLD
Yep, you read that correctly. Bizarro takes off, creates his own world, and founds a society that flips our customs and cultures on their heads. Known as Htrae (Earth spelled backward), the planet contains Bizarro versions of Superman, Lois Lane, and other characters. Most know it as “Bizarro World,” but for the sake of subtlety the writer decided to flip Earth around and hope it sounded cool.
The original Bizarro tacks on a “#1” to his name to ensure that his fellow Bizarros know where they came from. The planet is a cube, making it easy to spot and even easier to differentiate from other planets. Bizarro even populated it with Bizarro clones of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, who of course was popular amongst male Bizarros.
12. HIS INTELLIGENCE
Bizarro was created by people who knew that Superman could only be beaten by a creature who could overpower him. Even The Joker, a highly intelligent supervillain who ranks as one of the greatest threats in the DCU, recognized Bizarro’s ability to take down the Man of Steel. At one point, Luthor created a Bizarro that was superior to the other clones in both strength and intelligence, creating a foe so formidable that not even Superman could take him down.
The villain thought to take Lois to an abandoned warehouse, recreate Metropolis, and stage a rescue to mock Superman’s heroics. He also abducted Luthor’s child and attempted to launch her into space. The guy exhibits the forethought and cunning needed to carry out such plans, suggesting that he’s not as dimwitted as his clones would have you believe.
11. HE IS STRENGTHENED BY GREEN KRYPTONITE
While Bizarro isn’t without his weaknesses, he sports a strength that remains vital to both our point and his advantage over Superman: green kryptonite. Superman’s greatest weakness is Bizarro’s greatest strength, which is significant because green kryptonite quickly becomes much more common on Earth (ahem, the Batcave).
It’s blue kryptonite that weakens Bizarro. However, it’s much less common than the green variety, making one of his few weaknesses difficult to acquire and use. He’s invulnerable otherwise, a juggernaut not to be jettisoned from the ranks of supervillains. Imagine a Superman without a Batman brandishing spears with glowing green tips at him, threatening to use it against him should he ever go rogue. That’s Bizarro. There’s very little Batman can do against such a force. Sure, he could find a way to weaponize it, but it wouldn’t be easy or cheap.
10. HE IS EASILY CLONED
There’s no way for Superman to ever truly beat Bizarro until every clone, every piece of him is destroyed. That won’t happen, especially because Luthor (or some other scientist) will keep making copies. Not every Bizarro clone possesses the strength of the original; Bizarro Lois, Bizarro Marilyn, and many of the other clones on Htrae aren’t nearly as strong as him.
However, there have been Bizarro copies of more powerful beings such as Wonder Woman and Supergirl. Just goes to show you that anyone can be cloned as a Bizarro, and that’s terrifying. With each new clone, there’s an opportunity to perfect the imperfect beast. Many of Luthor’s experiments have not been entirely successful, but he has managed to create Bizarros that are a cut above the rest.
9. HIS HEROICS ARE RARE BUT MORE MEANINGFUL
Terrifying potential aside, Bizarro is sometimes compelled to act as a hero to those in need of one. These instances have become increasingly rare as the canon has progressed, but Bizarro was once a “good” guy. In Forever Evil, he attacked an alternate Luthor known as Mazahs, sacrificing himself for Luthor and helping beat the people terrorizing his world.
Another instance (one that should and will be known) involves an early incarnation of Bizarro deliberately destroying himself to save Lois Lane’s blind sister. He collides with a destructive machine during a fight with Superman, an act of heroism that grants the younger Lane sister a better life. Each time Bizarro steps away from darkness and into light, that step means something. It’s important to remember that Superman saves people every day. When Bizarro does it, it’s far more memorable.
8. HIS POTENTIAL IS STAGGERING
If you thought Bizarro’s numerous demonstrations of strength were impressive, just wait. His potential extends far beyond what he could ever show us due to his inherent imperfections. However, should a writer ever decide to unleash Bizarro’s true potential upon a hapless Superman, there’s very little the Man of Steel could do. It would be a thrilling confrontation, to be sure. A confrontation that Superman would probably lose.
He’s already far stronger than Superman physically, so imagine what he could do if he had access to his actual capabilities. It’s a terrifying thought, but it’s also a fun one to ponder. It’s honestly realistic to say that, given free reign physically and mentally, the monster could take over the planet single-handedly. He’s an incredible beast with incredible powers, and it’s high time we gave him the attention he deserves.
7. HE’LL LIVE AS LONG AS LUTHOR DOES
Superman’s refusal to kill presents a number of problems. Because he won’t kill Luthor, he’s actually allowing Bizarro to exist in perpetuity. As long as Luthor lives, so will Bizarro. Luthor probably knows he can create Bizarros until the day he dies, making Superman’s fight against him somewhat futile. Not that the Man of Steel has a choice. As long as he’s breathing, he’ll fight the good fight and lose every time.
We’ve seen so many Bizarros because Superman just won’t end it. It’s one of the many moral dilemmas that makes him so compelling, and it’s Bizarro’s belief in opposites that helps make him so fascinating. The two truly are the perfect villain/hero match-up, but we believe Bizarro wins every time. It may not always be a physical win, but it’s certainly a win.
6. HE FORCES SUPERMAN TO CONFRONT HIS MORALITY
Okay, so this entry was split into two. This tackles the moral side, and the other addresses the physical side. If Superman decided to go rogue and start toppling cities, he’d basically be Bizarro. The beast forces Superman to consider his own power, presenting a number of ethical questions with which he must grapple. The true power of Bizarro lies in his ability to undo the good his enemy does and become his single greatest foe because of it.
It’s a power that neither Braniac nor Darkseid could ever hold, and that sells us on him even more. Bizarro remains mostly unaffected by the moral questions that plague Superman, freeing him from ethical restraints and allowing him to unleash upon an unsuspecting world. He can destroy and demolish uninhibited (for the most part), and there’s very little that can persuade him to do otherwise.
5. HE IS WHAT SUPERMAN COULD BE
Now that we’ve addressed Superman’s fears, let’s take a look at what he scares him so much. Basically, Bizarro is a Superman that doesn’t hold back. He’s a Superman that is so consumed with destroying the actual Superman that pulling punches or softening his blows doesn’t even occur to him. He’s designed by and for Luthor to take down the one being the billionaire despises most. That certainly doesn’t include holding back, and it certainly doesn’t mean showing the Man of Steel any type of mercy.
Superman is afraid of both the havoc Bizarro wreaks and of Bizarro himself. He sees himself in a mirror and that is his greatest fear. Bizarro is Superman’s fear personified, a mighty meathead capable of terrible things. The repercussions of his creation extend far beyond the destruction he can cause, as is evidenced by the frequent, emotionally charged confrontations between the two.
4. HE CAN BE MORE FUN TO WRITE
Bizarro presents writers with the unique opportunity to peel back his layers and imbue him with a life that is complex and complicated. It hasn’t been done satisfactorily yet, but writers have definitely tried. There’s just not enough of him to truly dissect, and we feel that he hasn’t been explored to his full extent just yet.
Don’t get us wrong: Bizarro has a long and storied history within the DCU, but many of the iterations we’ve seen have not pushed his boundaries — they haven’t truly tested him as a character. We can see current Superman writers Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi penning a solid Superman/Bizarro story, but they would need to create a new Bizarro that possesses the cunning and strength required to beat Superman for good. Otherwise, he is just the mindless beast people believe him to be.
3. HE CAN BE MORE FUN TO READ
Of Superman’s many villains, Bizarro holds the most promise. The dynamic between him and the Man of Steel is a relationship that warrants deep, thorough exploration. We can’t imagine Braniac, Darkseid, or Zod entertaining us the way Bizarro could. As readers, we want to see Bizarro come into his own and prove himself even more of a challenge for Superman.
That’s asking for quite a bit, but it can and should be done. There have been plenty of great Bizarro stories published in years past, but we haven’t been treated to one in quite a while. Maybe the editors at DC will see Rebirth as an opportunity to bring the character into the new canon with a solo title while still appearing in Red Hood and the Outlaws. It’s unlikely at this point, but who knows? We can hope.
2. HIS RAGE MATCHES SUPERMAN’S LOVE
Angry characters are usually more interesting than overtly loving ones simply because we like to wonder why they’re always so angry. Why is Bizarro angry? What makes him tick? He’s angry because Luthor engineered him that way. He’s angry because Superman goes against everything in which he believes. He thinks that the end of Superman will be the end of true moral and physical opposition, and nothing can dissuade him from carrying out his mission.
The character of Bizarro interests us so much more than Superman does because he just hasn’t been represented and depicted well. This battle between rage and love is always compelling because it’s not your average good versus evil confrontation. Rage isn’t necessarily always rooted in evil, and that’s worth exploring in a character like Bizarro.
1. HE’S BASICALLY A MORE POWERFUL LUTHOR
The modern incarnations of Bizarro are usually extensions of Luthor’s beliefs. Lex Luthor believes that Superman does more harm than good, so he creates a being that does what he can’t — physically take on the Man of Steel. He imbues this being with the same hatred that threatens to drive him mad and unleashes him with the hope that Superman will finally fall.
This makes Bizarro the equivalent of a more powerful Luthor. All of the desires are still there, but the difference is that Bizarro can use that desire and actually have a shot at winning the day. Should Superman ever fall to Bizarro, Luthor will win the world. Easily. Many of the Justice League’s members couldn’t ever hope to best such a beast, even when they unite under a common goal.
Have you discovered a newfound love for Bizarro? Let us know in the comments section!
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