Friday, June 4, 2010

Back Issue Review: Superman #140 and Bizarro Supergirl

In anticipation for the latest appearance of a Bizarro Supergirl in the upcoming Supergirl #54, I figured it was time to go to the back issue box and review Superman #140, the first appearance of a Bizarro Supergirl.

"The Son of Bizarro" was written by Superman legend Otto Binder and drawn by Superman legend Wayne Boring. I suppose almost everybody back then has reached legend status. I don't have this issue but it has been reprinted in Action Comics #347, Showcase Presents Supergirl Vol 1, Showcase Presents Superman Vol 2, and the recent Superman:Escape From Bizarro World trade paperback. It is from that trade that I obtained my scans.

The story opens with a nice little recap of Bizarro's prior history. That includes a nifty little scene were we see Luthor first use his imperfect duplicate ray which creates an ice cube from a diamond and an awkward looking 5-leaf red clover from a 4-leaf clover.

It also reviews the creation of the Bizarro world which is completely populated by Bizarro Supermen and Bizarro Loises. On the planet, Bizarro Superman sets down some rules. They hate beauty. They love ugliness. And it is a crime to create anything perfect on Bizarro World.

In this rendition of Bizarro, he says what he means even if it is in poor grammar. You don't have to try to figure out 'reverse speech' here ... something which occasionally gives me a headache. When Bizarro says he loves ugliness, it means he loves ugliness.

Nothing is easy in the life of Bizarro however.

Coming home one day he discovers that Bizarro Lois has given birth to the Son of Bizarro. Unfortunately he is a cute human appearing baby. Those 'normal' looks makes the baby a disgrace to the Bizarro World. After all, they hate beauty.

Still the parents love their little guy, so decide to raise him in hiding so no other Bizarros will see their shame. I assume time passes because the next time we see the Bizarro baby, he is more of a toddler than an infant.

Despite their best efforts to keep 'Junior' hidden from the populace, he is discovered.

No one is above the law, even on the Bizarro world. The masses quickly organize into an angry mob. The beautiful child cannot exist on Bizarro World! The mob gets the imperfect duplicate ray from Bizarro's Fortress of Solitude (located in the desert and filled with junk of course) with the plan to fire it at the toddler and create a more Bizarro-ly perfect child.

In some ways, Bizarro #1 isn't that different than us. Despite the law that he himself decreed, he wants no harm to come to his child. He loves the little guy just the way he is. In a desperate bid to keep his son away from the other Bizarros, he flies him into space and tucks his son into a nearby Sputnik-like space probe.

With the child not around, the crowd disperses. But when Bizarro goes back into space to retrieve his child, he cannot find the satellite! It is heart-breaking news as the loving parents realize that they have lost their son.

Or have they? It turns out that the probe was an Earth probe and is now being brought home by remote control. It is sort of a riff on the Superman origin but with a Bizarro twist. A father saves his son from doom by putting him into a space vehicle and having it go to Earth. Of course, since it is Bizarro, it is an unwitting trip.

And this being the Silver Age, you have to overlook any amazing coincidences.

Despite being brought back to Earth by automatic controls, the probe crashes to Earth. And it crashes to Earth near Midvale Orphanage, where Supergirl currently resides as Superman's Emergency Weapon in the guise of Linda Lee. And it is discovered by a couple who ask no questions how a child could be unharmed near a space crash site. They simply pick him up and drop him off at the orphanage. Ahhh .... the Silver Age. It is sooo gooey and sweet.

'Baby Buster' reveals his powers early on in his stay at the orphanage and Supergirl realizes she is going to need to work double time to keep his abilities hidden.

On top of that, she'll need to keep her super-identity secret on top of his abilities. The general public doesn't know Supergirl exists yet. As a result poor Supergirl is run ragged as she uses all her skills to keep Buster's abilities hidden.

Buster ends up escaping and flying across the countryside. As he approaches Metropolis, Supergirl has to give up the chase. There are too many people in the city who might see her and discover her existence on Earth.

Superman is able to corral him after some high-flying hijinks (for example Buster takes a bite out of a giant advertising ice cream cone) and flying back out into the country, runs into Supergirl.

Superman decides that Buster should return to the Midvale Orphanage and that Supergirl needs to keep his identity secret. I'm sure Supergirl is thinking "Thanks a lot!" even though she says "G-gosh, what a super-job!"

For me, even worse than that, Superman decides that this unknown kid with superpowers could grow up and be his successor. Yeah ... perfect. Rather than his cousin who is training like mad, Superman should pick the mystery toddler as his eventual successor. This is the unsavory underbelly of the usually saccharin Silver Age.

At least Superman does the right the thing and gets Buster out of the orphanage quickly. A couple comes and adopts Buster ... a couple of robots that Superman has built, that is.

With Buster now tucked away in the Fortress, Supergirl takes on the role of Super-nanny. She has her Linda Lee robot take her place in the orphanage so she can take on the role of primary care-giver.

Look at how cute she is in her apron frosting a giant cake with a gargantuan frosting gun. Okay ... I know it is a little old-fashioned and probably politically incorrect ... but it's still cute!

Despite being away from the orphanage's school, Supergirl continues with her studies. As usual, there is a complex chemistry experiment as part of her homework. Despite gently warming a beaker with her X-ray vision, the experiment explodes ... right near the sleeping Buster. And when the smoke clears, Buster has turned into a Bizarro.

I love the shocked look on Krypto's face. Spectacular.

And at last we get our Bizarro Supergirl.

As Supergirl streaks out of the Fortress to see if she can figure out what happened to Buster, he turns the imperfect duplicate ray on her. The result is a Bizarro Supergirl.

Superman arrives and is confused by this whole scene. How did Buster become a Bizarro? And where did the Bizarro Supergirl come from?

Luckily, Buster lets Superman off the hook a little. He sees his reflection and reveals that he know looks like his real Mommy and Daddy.

With the truth out, Superman realizes that Buster belongs with his own people, with his own family. He entrusts Bizarro Supergirl to take Buster back to the Bizarro World. He also tells the Bizarro Supergirl that she should stay on the Bizarro World as well.

Bizarro Supergirl has a different idea though. She can't deny her maternal instinct. She loves Buster too much to bring him back. She wants to raise him as her own. She builds a small rock shack on Earth and sets up a little home.

Meanwhile, Bizarro Superman has continued to scour the universe looking for his son. When he sees Buster, as a Bizarro toddler, on Earth, he assumes the worst. Feeling that Superman has kidnapped his son, Bizarro declares war on Earth. And the other Bizarros must love forming angry mobs. They join their Bizarro #1 in forming a Bizarro army with the plan to overrun Earth and get Buster back. Hmmm ... 1oo,ooo super-beings declaring war on Earth. Haven't we seen this recently?

When Superman confronts Bizarro Supergirl to try to get Buster away, he is thwarted. After all, she is invulnerable too. Unable to pry Buster away, Superman realizes he needs to stop the Bizarro army before Earth gets attacked.

Donning a lead suit, Superman gathers a pile of Green Kryptonite and places it in the path of the rampaging Bizarro Army. He then fires the imperfect duplicate ray at the Green K. The result is the first appearance of Blue Kryptonite, the anti-Bizarro Kryptonite. Armed with this, Superman is able to drive the army back.

The Superman takes a piece of the Blue Kryptonite to Bizarro Supergirl's shack and uses it to get Buster back.

Taking Buster back to Bizarro #1, Superman and Supergirl are able to smooth things out. The war is called off and Buster is happy to be home.

On their way off the planet, Superman and Supergirl spy another Bizarro couple living in the deep woods. They also have a human appearing baby and have been living in shame and isolation. Serendipitously, the cute baby changes into a Bizarro baby before their eyes. Superman deduces that the initial appearance of the Bizarro baby is merely part of their life cycle, like a caterpillar before they become a butterfly.

So Supergirl isn't responsible for Buster transformation after all! It was all a Silver-y coincidence that he changed just as her chem assignment exploded.

Even though Buster is safe at home, the ramifications of this adventure aren't over. Bizarro Supergirl is on Earth. If she is seen, everyone will know that a 'real' Supergirl exists. Supergirl's 'secret weapon' status is in jeopardy.

That turns out not to be a problem. As Supergirl and Superman fly home, the come across Bizarro Supergirl's blue-tinged corpse next to a chunk of Blue Kryptonite she blundered into. You know, all she wanted to do was be a good Mommy. I don't know if Superman should really say 'it's better this way'. Shouldn't he be mourning her loss of her life?

This is a very good issue in the context of the Silver Age Superman mythos. It includes a nice primer of Bizarro life and is the first appearance of Bizarro Jr., Bizarro Supergirl, and Blue Kryptonite. One thing I can't help but notice is how small Supergirl's skirt is as drawn by Wayne Boring. In some panels it looks more like a tutu ruffle instead of a skirt.

For a Supergirl collection, I would rank this issue of low importance. This Bizarro Supergirl wasn't seen again and it has no long-lasting implications for Kara. That said, if I see it in decent condition for the right price, I would probably buy it.

I can't wait to see the new Bizarro Supergirl.

Overall grade (through the eyes of nostalgia): B+


Anonymous said...

Wayne Boring drew Supergirl as a Marilyn Monroe-esque bombshell, she is supposed to be fifteen she looks twenty five with a giant bouffant hairdo as well.
Just an idle observation....

John Feer

Anj said...

Wayne Boring drew Supergirl as a Marilyn Monroe-esque bombshell, she is supposed to be fifteen she looks twenty five with a giant bouffant hairdo as well.

I have to say, despite the obvious incongruity in her age and appearance, the more I see Boring's version of Supergirl, the more I like it.

Nikki said...

Its because mystery baby is a boy, its rife through Silver Age comics that Supergirl is a second class successor and person because she's a girl. Some fans still think like that, when asked who should succeed Superman they will say Conner for no logical reason than his masculinity. A Superman must be followed by a Superman, a Supergirl/Superwoman is wrong in their view. I think these comics justify my aversion to Superman. Reading this as a Supergirl fan, how can you like Superman?

Nikki said...

Also, Sueprgirl's skirt is of Churchill proportions here. So much for sweet, innocent, not skanky, pre crisis Kara and we haven't even got to the 70's yet!

Gene said...

Nikki wrote:

"I think these comics justify my aversion to Superman. Reading this as a Supergirl fan, how can you like Superman?"

Yeah and after everything was said and done, SHE sacrifices HER life to save his in COIE. Kara certainly gave more than she received in the Silver Age.

Anj wrote:
"Supergirl takes on the role of Super-nanny."

Great review Anj!
I would love to see a lighthearted story along those lines where Kara and Steph are stuck babysitting a delirious/possessed/mischievous Damien in the Batcave. Instead of watching movies and eating pizza, they have to put out one fire after another. "No Damien! Put down that Kryptonite laser pistol..."

Anonymous said...

I don't even want to think about Bizzaro world sexual habits!

Anonymous said...

IfBizzarro does everything opposite that means when they have sex mabye the woman...AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Thats just wrong! I'll never get that image out of my head! Wouldn't bizzaro be the one to giv birth then... OH MY GOD THAT WOULD HURT!I hate the guy who got me thinking about that!

Marie Ruggirello said...

I was a Bizarro Supergirl at the Motor City Bar in New York City on October 31, 2001. See it here:

Ok. If Supergirl's existence is a secret, why does she have to change into her costume?

Why does she refer to herself as a "human Supergirl"? She's Kryptonian.

I have no problem with Supergirl's over-developed appearance. She is, after all, an alien and from a Super-hot race at that!

Anonymous said...

" I think these comics justify my aversion to Superman. Reading this as a Supergirl fan, how can you like Superman?"

Very easily, since characters are not to blame for being terribly written at some points?

Some fans use the Joe Kelly's run or "H'el on Earth" to justify their aversion to Supergirl. They'll point to those issues where Kara is behaving as an asshole or being completely un-heroic and ask how can you like Supergirl?

Do you think it is fair judging the character for Supergirl (volume 5) #12? No, of course not. That is terrible writing that doesn't reflect Supergirl's nature because that is not how she is usually written and it is usually ignored or retconned out for a reason.

I am a fan of both cousins. And I find the whole "I'm going to hate or put down this character to make my favorite character look better" attitude silly.

Martin Gray said...

I’ve finally read this issue. Oh boy, some of the finest examples of Super-Dickery ever. Those poor robots driving into the quicksand. Bizarro Supergirl better off dead because she’s so ugly... it’s all so sad!