I Just Finished – Superman (1939) #202

I have a great fondness for Giant-Size comics. When I started reading, DC was in its phase of publishing its most popular comics as 100-pagers, with a wealth of reprint material from the 1940s up through the 1960s. It was a great way for a new reader to get immersed in the history of the characters, and, of course, a kid got the equivalent of four comics for little more than the price of two. I have no problems with comics for adults, but I think it’s important to keep them accessible to kids. Childhood is where we really learn to dream and imagine.

Anyway, I grab 80-page and 100-page issues from the past whenever I can. This one doesn’t offer much variety. It contains reprints of Bizarro World stories which had run monthly in Adventure Comics only about five years before this issue was published. They’re a bit repetitive—Bizarro’s obsession with Frankenstein shapes at least two of the stories. But they’re fun, especially when other members of the Superman family guest star. There’s not much depth to 1960s DC stories, at least those published before they shook things up around 1968; but they’re almost always fun.

One thing I find odd, in all the play that Bizarro got as a character in the 1960s, his origin was never represented in the course of my readings. Any time he appeared, we were  just told he was the result of some scientist pointing an imperfect duplication ray at Superman. Although, in one story in this issue, we’re told it was pointed at Superboy instead. 

The truth, according to Wikipedia, is that Bizarro did appear first as a teenager in Superboy (1949 series) #68, in a story scripted by Otto Binder, creator of the Legion of Super-Heroes, among other things. Teen Bizarro, created by Professor Dalton’s duplicator ray, was a figure of tragedy, hating his own, ugly appearance, wanting only to be loved by humans who feared him. He took his name from the fact that Superboy described his appearance as “Bizarre.”

Teen Bizarro did not survive his initial outing, but writer Alvin Schwartz included an adult Bizarro in the Superman newspaper strip the same year that the Superboy story came out. Schwartz apparently maintained that he created the character independently, and before Binder published his first Bizarro story. It’s hard to know what actually happened. In the comics industry, especially in 1958, ideas were passed around freely in editorial offices, with little regard as to ownership, since the company owned everything. It’s quite possible Schwartz and Binder were each fed ideas from the other’s work.

At any rate, Binder was the one who brought the adult Bizarro to comic book life, in Action Comics #254, the first half of a two-part story, which also introduced his Bizarro bride. Lex Luthor, it turns out, found the plans for Dalton’s duplicating machine and built a new one, in hopes of causing Superman some trouble. “Trouble” comes in the form of the creature falling in love with Lois Lane, but Lois solves her own problem by using the duplicating ray on herself to create Bizarro Lois. The two fly off to space to live happily ever after. It’s a shame these three stories weren’t included in the collection.

 

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