PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Bizarro World

Michael Arner

Traveling the less-trodden path of the 'alternative' usually rewards. The concept of letting alternative creators play with their favorite DC Comics characters is a refreshing change from the mundane DC world.

Bizarro World

Publisher: DC Comics
Length: 202
Writer: Various Authors
Price: $24.95
Item Type: Comic
Publication Date: 2005-02


Alternative music fans may know Bizarro as the title of The Wedding Present's 1990 album. Others may know it from the now classic TV show Seinfeld. Jerry mentions Bizarro during the "Man Hands" episode describing the backwards group that reflects Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George. I first learned about Bizarro from the also-classic Challenge of the Superfriends cartoon series that ran in 1978 (and still gets rerun today). Bizarro was a member of the Legion of Doom; a gathering of evil foes whose transport looked like a disembodied Darth Vader mask. Bizarro, the opposite Superman, first appeared in Action Comics #254 (7/59).

In 2001, DC Comics released Bizarro Comics, an original graphic novel written by some of the biggest names in alternative/mini comics. (One story, "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Babysitter", was published by DC in a comic that was recalled and destroyed at the 13th hour.)

Bizarro World is the sequel that expands upon Bizarro Comics' original premise -- the DC world as viewed by artists and writers out of the mainstream -- by using more diverse DC Comics' characters, but unfortunately forgets about the beloved Bizarro. Of the 35 stories, only two feature Superman's mirror image. This is a small, but not fatal criticism. The wide array of characters includes Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Superman, The Spectre, Aquaman, Supergirl, The Justice League, Flash, and many more. The entire 202-page book couldn't sustain its entire length with just Bizarro tales, so the additional breadth of characters is acceptable.

Chip Kidd and Tony Millionaire's Batman and Robin story featured intriguing though not entirely appealing artwork, but the story was finished too quickly and without a satisfying conclusion. The eight-page length limits them to a certain extent, but other creators do not suffer from the same problem. A more concise idea is fully realized in Andy Merrill and Roger Langridge's Superman Christmas legend, which only uses five pages to make you rethink your holiday celebrations.

Comedian Patton Oswalt's Batman story, featuring Bob Fingerman on art, featured a clever but somewhat transparent idea. Still, the story was quite enjoyable, and one of my favorites in this book. Former Soul Coughing singer, Mike Doughty, combines heartache with open-mic mentality, highlighted with some nicely detailed artwork by Danny Hellman, to give readers an Aquaman tale that leaves the reader wanting more, not because it doesn't end strongly, but because it's just so good.

The Justice League's almost-dialogue-free story, by writer Eric Drysdale with incredible Tim Lane artwork, sums up in five pages what I'd love to see more of in comics: friendship. Unfortunately, if you aren't familiar with the individual personalities of the characters, the tale accomplishes little, a danger anytime one works with characters with such an involved backstory.

The star of his own cartoon series, Krypto (Superman's Dog), is presented by Paul Dini and Carol Lay and uses just two pages to tell a simple, yet complete, appetizer. If you enjoyed Steven T. Seagle's It's a Bird graphic novel, Dylan Horrocks and Farel Dalrymple's "Dear Superman" tale is another touching and personal story with a surprising and effective ending.

Bizarro World is typical of most anthologies in that some stories are great and some just aren't. You also get a chance to sample writers and artists that you may have heard of. Tomer and Asaf Hanuka were completely new to me, but their tale sums up the entire Batman mythos in just five pages. Outstanding detail and stylistic artwork highlight Batman helping a young girl's trauma from meeting the Joker. Stories like this demonstrate the strengths of both comic books and the anthology format: brilliance and economy.

Although the book featured strong and unique tales, the anthology does have some problems. The table of contents featured page numbers for the individual tales, but the numbers weren't printed anywhere on the pages themselves, so what's the point? Also, many stories were either bland and uninteresting, or just plain stupid. With the high price point of this book, I expected more enjoyable stories and stronger quality control from DC.

The really good stories more than make up for the abundance of lesser works. I recommend this collection only if you can get it heavily discounted. Otherwise, wait for the cheaper paperback version. However, if you are a big fan of indie comics and names like Eddie Campbell, Harvey Pekar, Don Simpson, Kyle Baker, Peter Bagge, Maggie Estep, and Chris Duffy, you may just want to purchase this immediately. Like the non-mainstream tunes of The Wedding Present, traveling the less-trodden path of the "alternative" usually rewards. The concept of letting alternative creators play with their favorite DC Comics characters is a refreshing change from the mundane DC world. I just expected better.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.