Daddy smells like waffles.
–a chicken, legally adopted by Mr. Mxyzptlk

“Indie comics luminaries Carol Lay, (Story Minute), Evan Dorkin (Milk and Cheese), and Dylan Horrocks (Hicksville) take on the overly-familiar likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the same way that the late-80s hip-hoppers like Public Enemy, De La Soul and Eric B. and Rakim cribbed beats from their parents’ record collections.”
Baltimore City Paper.

General Information

Title: Bizarro
Authors: various.
Illustrator(s): various.
Original Publication 2001.
Cover Price: US: $19.95 Can: $32.95.

Available cheaper at Amazon.com.

Winner of the 2002 Harvey and Eisner Awards for Best Anthology.

Premise:

A game-playing alien holds the 5th Dimension hostage, and Mr. Mxyzptlk, desperate for help, seeks Superman.

He gets Bizarro instead.

The ensuing battle sandwiches a collection of stories which feature familiar characters in unfamiliar contexts. Ariel Bordeaux and Ellen Forney send Wonder Woman to a poetry slam. Evan Dorkin and Stephen Wiseman present a grim view of sidekicks’ lives. Love and Rockets‘ Gilbert Hernandez reconceptualizes the Justice League of America and their opponents as feuding children. Batgirl appears as a junior high student with a teen witch fixation. Andy Merrill and Jason Little present a postmodern Aquaman adventure told by a kid playing with his bath toys. Et cetera.

The results are uneven.

High Points

The best of the anthology works very well. The largely dialogue-free “Letitia Lerner, Superman’s Babysitter” by Kyle Baker and Elizabeth Glass provides an amusing– and somewhat disturbing– look at Clark Kent’s childhood. In Dylan Horrocks and Jessica Abel’s “Clubhouse of Solitude,” Supergirl and a retired Mary Marvel meet at a coffeeshop and engage in girltalk. It plays entirely as such a meeting might, if the DC Universe were real, and the effect is both charming and disorienting. Possibly the most original story in the anthology, it could actually take place in a regular DC comic; it just typically wouldn’t.

Although the confrontation between the Bizarro/Mxyzptlk team and the game-playing alien builds slowly, “Finkelstein” and “Behind the Rock Music Testimonial, Free Form” had me laughing aloud.

Low Points:

The 236-page anthology features a lot of filler, particularly given its price. Many of the artists and writers present a genuinely weird view of a hero– Batman, in particular– and then do nothing much with the premise. And so Hawkman tries to rescue a bird’s egg, Billy Batson turns into a different, inept super-hero, and Kamandi plays in a rock band. It’s odd, but not very entertaining. Dull pieces like “Wonder Girl vs Wonder Tot,” by Andi Watson, Mark Crilley, and Lee Loughridge far outnumber the better ones.

The Scores

Originality: 6/6 The best work in this anthology is highly original.

Artwork: 5/6 This varies, but is generally quite effective.

Story: 3/6 With the next four categories, I had to give a mediocre score, for reasons explained under “Low Points.” The best is good; there just isn’t enough of it.

Characterization: 3/6:

Emotional response: 4/6

Flow 3/6

Overall: 4/6

In total, Bizarro receives a score of 28/42.

Portions of this review appear in my write-up for E2