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Corson Maps Out “Bizarro’s” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”-Style DCU Road Trip

by  in Comic News Comment
Corson Maps Out “Bizarro’s” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”-Style DCU Road Trip

Heath Corson has been angling to transition from producing and writing animated films like “Batman: Assault on Arkham” and “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis” to working in comic books for a few years, so when he was asked by DC Comics to pitch a few series, he had a list ready and waiting.

At the very bottom of the list was a madcap, buddy road trip comedy in the style of John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” with Jimmy Olsen playing the straight man role of Steve Martin’s character Neal Page and Bizarro headlining as John Candy’s lovable loser, Del Griffith. Editor Eddie Berganza loved the idea, and “Bizarro” was born.

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With the six-issue miniseries arriving in stores this week, illustrated by artist Gustavo Duarte of “Monsters and Other Stories” fame, CBR News spoke with Corson to learn more about his dynamic duo. And while the writer hinted that Bizarro might be looking for his bestie in all the wrong places, what with Jimmy Olsen beginning the trip while attempting to ditch the fractured mirror Superman, the unlikely duo might just figure out how to get along before they hit the 49th parallel and a arrive in a place known as Bizarro America — or Canada, to us non-DCU residents.

CBR News: I never missed “Super Friends” as a kid, and I have loved Bizarro ever since. While often used for comic relief, Bizarro was easily one of the scariest supervillains in the Legion of Doom because you didn’t know what he would do next.

Heath Corson: Bizarro was the worst possible addition to the Legion of Doom. [Laughs] Think of all of the times that you would have to wrangle Bizarro. What a terrible idea to put Bizarro in the Legion of Doom. This is a guy that is not going to listen. He’s going to wander off in the middle of a fight. He’s going to eat everything in the break room. It’s the worst plan. “Nice one, Luthor. Aren’t you supposed to be a genius?”

You’re right, but he’s been downright scary too. There was an arc in “Action Comics” by Geoff Johns and Eric Powell of “Goon” fame that was pretty dark. Is Bizarro too doom and gloom to headline an all-ages book?

You’re right. There is a version of Bizarro that is the cracked mirror of Superman that is Superman’s greatest fear. He is alien that no one will understand. No one will get that what he is doing is right. In a sense, it is his cracked reflection. It is his worst fear made flesh. There is that. But that’s a very Frankenstein-like, dark take on the character.

But that’s not we’re doing here.

What is the secret origin of “Bizarro”?

I write a lot of the direct-to-DVD movies for DC Entertainment, and when I was in New York promoting “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis,” I actually cornered [editor] Eddie Berganza, who I’d been talking to for, like, two years as I’ve been trying to break into writing comics, and started going down my list of pitches. At the bottom of my list, I had this crazy Bizarro idea that just made me laugh. I knew it would get a laugh, but there was no freaking way that anyone would do it.

The idea was, Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” It’s Jimmy and Bizarro going cross-country together, getting into scrapes and screwing each other up. I thought it was a really funny idea but there was no way that anyone was crazy enough to do it. So I’m talking to Eddie, and out of nowhere he says, “Do you have a take on Bizarro?” I said, ” I do,” and I told him exactly what I just told you. He laughed and said, “That’s great. You have to write that up for me.” And that’s it. It’s Bizarro as this big, good-natured goof that just wants to be loved, and Jimmy Olsen as our exasperated straight man.

After having seen the first couple of scripts, [DC] asked if I would mind if the series could be promoted as all-ages book, and I didn’t because that wouldn’t derail me on any level. It’s not unlike the fact that “Superboy” was an all-ages book and “Action Comics” was an all-ages book. This is an all-ages book like “The Incredibles” is all-ages. We’re not talking down to anyone, and we’re not gearing it for a certain sector, “Bizarro” is just a book that kids can absolutely read and adults can absolutely read. I’m not making references or jokes that aren’t supposed to go over their heads. It’s like a Muppet movie or a Pixar movie. It’s going to hit all four quadrants.

This is solicited as a six-issue miniseries. Is there a story arc, or are these done-in-one adventures?

There is a through line. Jimmy and Bizarro have to get to Canada, which Jimmy tells Bizarro is Bizarro America. Jimmy’s plan is to drop him off and head back, and the underlying dynamic is that Jimmy is doing this for the wrong reason. We know that he is doing it for fame and fortune, even though he is lying to Bizarro’s face, telling him that they are doing it because they are best friends. Bizarro is doing it because he loves Jimmy and he wants to be Jimmy’s best friend, and he knows that he’s good friends with Superman. These are two characters that are not saying the same thing, and that’s our through line. As that becomes clearer and clearer, it starts to cause problems, which is going to be really fun.

How did you land on Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen as the Steve Martin to Bizarro’s John Candy?

At one point, we experimented with a new character and making him the partner, but I have to say, playing off the aforementioned cracked mirror, if you have Bizarro and you have Jimmy, who is supposed to be Superman’s best friend, there is a weird symmetry there that makes perfect sense. It’s Jimmy Olsen. He’s Superman’s best friend — why wouldn’t he be Bizarro’s best friend.

In the Superman/Jimmy Olsen relationship, there is clearly a status difference. But Bizarro thinks Jimmy is the smartest guy in the world. They are equals. Even though Bizarro is the powerful one and has the superpowers, he relies on Jimmy for practically everything. As an example, Bizarro doesn’t have a credit card. Bizarro doesn’t have money, so Jimmy is footing the bill for this whole thing.

In a larger sense, their relationship is a relationship of equals. There is not the status that you see between Jimmy and Superman. You will see Jimmy warming up to this guy,and becoming best friends, much like Steve Martin and John Candy in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” It’s also like “Tommy Boy” with Chris Farley and David Spade. These guys are a classic comedy duo, and nobody else really fits the bill like Jimmy. Jimmy Olsen has such a rich history within the DCU, there is so much to play off.

Does Superman play a role in “Bizarro”?

[Pauses] Superman appears. Clark appears more. I found it more fun to write Clark as a friend to Jimmy, because that’s a character that can really be truthful with him — even as he’s lying about everything that he is. [Laughs] They can talk in a way that co-workers can talk and B.S. and be up front with each other in a way that Superman would never be with Jimmy. But you might see Superman pop up here or there. His shadow is long in this series. I don’t think you could do it without him ever appearing anywhere.

If the series is well received, do you have more stories to tell with Jimmy and Bizarro?

Absolutely. When I laid out my pitch, I basically pitched two story arcs — two six-issue series — a full 12-issue year. I would love to keep going with these guys. I’m having a blast writing them.

The solicitation to Issue #3 teases a bounty hunter named Chastity Hex, a name that sounds eerily familiar to a certain other bounty hunter. What can you tell us about her?

Chastity Hex is a bounty hunter that is on the trail and runs across our boys in an Old West ghost town, and they end up having to team up and help each other out. You will see some more interesting takes on characters from the DCU as our boys go all the way across the country. We’ll see some familiar faces. We’ll get some new faces. It’s going to be a lot of fun as they fumble their way to Bizarro America.

If Bizarro is the good guy, who is the bad guy?

In the first issue, the boys run afoul of Regis “King Tut” Tuttle, who is the most powerful used car salesman in Smallville — the Pharaoh of fair-o deals. He runs an Egyptian-themed car lot and he becomes our bad guy for the very first issue. And, there are other bad guys. There are evil-doers that Jimmy and Bizarro have to help put down.

Is this series set in current DCU continuity?

It is set in the DCU, but it’s the “Bizarro” version of the DCU. [Laughs] Our Superman is not beardy Superman. Our Batman is not the Bat robot with Commissioner Gordon at the helm. We’re doing classic versions of the characters, which I don’t think will confuse anyone because, as my editor said, “It’s ‘Bizarro.’ People will just shrug.” It makes it a lot easier because I’m not tied to continuity so we get to do whatever we want. [Laughs]

“Bizarro” #1 by Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte is available on June 3.

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