There’s something about a hero’s twisted duplicate that makes that villain intriguing. For one thing, the reader gets to see the darkest side of our hero through the doppelganger. Added to that, the power set of the villain will give our hero pause as he struggles to find a way to basically defeat himself. The character of Bizarro was the first and to this day, in my opinion, the best doppelganger super villain. Bizarro takes all of the elements of the “negative” version of the super hero and adds a touch of sympathetic character. His “backwards speech,” while annoying and sometimes confusing, is also endearing at the same time adding a certain innocence that belies the danger of the creature. The idea that this one time clone of the Man of Steel actually has an in-continuity planet out there somewhere populated with other Bizarro characters opens the doors for countless possibilities to complicate the life the World’s greatest super hero.
Bizarro was first introduced way back in a Superboy comic when Superboy was exposed to a duplication ray. The result was an imperfect duplicate of the Boy of Steel. Since then, Bizarro has been the number 1 member of the Bizarro World Thrae, a clone created by Lex Luthor, and the machinations of a Joker/Mkyzptlk team up. He’s been a comedic character, a dark and sinister foil for Superman, and a tragic figure in the Superman mythos. In every incarnation, he has presented multiple problems for Supes though.
Bizarro is a great villain to me because of how sympathetic the character is. Bizarro is a villain that often doesn’t mean to be as menacing and destructive as he actually is. As an imperfect duplicate of Superman, he shares with Superman his desire to be a hero, his desire for acceptance, and his desire for love. Often, the latter causes Bizarro to set his sights on Superman’s love, Lois Lane. Never inteding to hurt Lois, Bizarro gets himself in trouble by forcing himself on her and expecting her love. Of course, Superman won’t (and quite honestly can’t be expected) to tolerate this, so Bizarro will find himself having what he considers love to be taken from him. His desire to be a hero can be humorous as it is scary. In his mind, he is doing the right thing even when people are being hurt and dying. He’s bascially the special needs Super Villain. I don’t say that to be funny, rather to shed light on what makes Bizarro so sympathetic. The last time we saw Bizarro, his desire for a relationship with his father caused him to kidnap Jonathan Kent and take him to a world that Bizarro basically created…a Bizarro World. While this action had to be rectified and Superman had to go save his father, there is a touch of sadness to the idea that Bizarro longs for the same relationship that Superman was able to have with his father. Both of them. It is an interesting quandry for Superman because not only does he often have to trade blows with his imperfect duplicate, he also often has to find a way to teach Bizarro why he can’t continue the behavior. While Superman has to defeat him, he also doesn’t harbor ill will toward him.
With the imperfect duplicate of Superman comes a power set rivaling that of Krypton’s Last Son. The key to remember is Bizarro isn’t the OPPOSITE of Superman, rather he is, as has been stated, and IMPERFECT DUPLICATE. Ideally, Bizarro would have the exact same powers, weaknesses and intelligence. With the imperfections comes a few differences in the power set. While Superman has heat vision, Bizarro has freeze vision. Superman’s cold breath is imperfectly mirrored in Bizarro’s heat breath. The Man of Steel can’t see through lead, but Bizarro’s x-ray vision can only penetrate plumbum (Latin for lead). Bizarro does possess the ability to fly, invulnerability, and super speed. His super strength is often portrayed as being greater than Kal-El’s. In the recent “Escape From Bizarro Worl” storyline, it was revealed that under a blue sun, Bizarro has the power of Bizarro vision which allows him to create other Bizarro beings. It was in this way he populated the new Bizarro world.
Because of these similarities and differences in powers, a battle between Superman and his dark reflection is always a fun read complete with great action and Superman actually getting to do something fans enjoy seeing him do…punch someone. The one advantage Superman may have on Bizarro is his weakness to blue kryptonite which doesn’t affect Superman at all. The problem? Blue kryptonite is more rare than the green stuff that hurts and kills Superman. So often that particuliar plot device can’t be used to save our hero’s skin.
Bizarro’s biggest weakness as a readable villain is probably his “backward” speech. Hello means good bye, good bye means hello, if Bizarro says he wants to save someone, it usually means he wants to kill someone, and on and on it goes. The problem is there are apparently no set rules for the way Bizarro talks so from one writer to the next he may be completely coherent or completely confusing. However, when done right, the Bizarro talk can be funny and a bit endearing. Yes, I used the word endearing. It really helps the reader realize that this guy isn’t just not all there, but there is something seriously mentally wrong with the guy in a (as I said before) special needs kind of way.
While Bizarro isn’t as menacing as he was on Superfriends (yes, he was meant to be menacing and batantly evil), as twisted as he has been portrayed on Superfriends, or as loveable as he was portrayd on Superman the animated series, he remains one of the more interesting villains in the rogues gallery of Superman and is worthy of a slot on anyone’s top ten list.