Spotlight Sunday 3.25.18
There were a lot of options to choose from this week – especially considering I picked up some things I should have picked up last week – and I could have finally had my chance to write about the always outstanding work of Brubaker and Phillips, but ultimately my decision was made for me as a result of watching an award-winning movie. There am not spoilers ahead for…
Writer: Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason and Joe Prado
Cover: Patrick Gleason
“Bizarros aren’t exactly the easiest folks to talk to.”
Last night I watched The Disaster Artist, a movie based on the book of the same name by one of the stars of the cult-classic bad movie The Room, which told the behind-the-scenes story of the making of that infamous piece of American cinema, focusing in particular on the auteur behind it, writer, producer, director, financier, actor, and possible vampire, Tommy Wiseau.
If you’ve never seen The Room, well, I don’t exactly recommend it, but it tells the story of a man named Johnny who has it all – good friends, a loving girlfriend, a good job – and then loses it all when his best friend and girlfriend betray him.
Despite the odd twists and turns the story takes, there’s really not much more to it than that, but what makes it a cult classic on the midnight movie circuit and beloved by fans of terrible cinema everywhere is the combination of laughably amateurish production and performances, and the general failure at mimesis, of making the movie in any way lifelike.
The people in The Room may look like people, but they don’t really behave like people in a way that tracks with what we know about human behavior, or how the world works. They don’t talk the way we talk, using idiosyncratic expressions that nobody uses (Oh hi, Bonus section!), and they don’t react to events and revelations the way that humans do.
It is, quite frankly, bizarre.
Watching a competently-made movie about one of the most incompetently-made movies of all time – particularly during the sequence in which they played their recreations of some of the movie’s scenes side-by-side with the originals – served as an impetus to set aside all other options this week and focus on a story that features characters who, like those in The Room, don’t behave in a fashion that aligns with what one might expect.
(Also, I’ve come to believe that the mysterious Tommy Wiseau – no one knows where he’s from, how old he is, or where he got the millions of dollars he used to make his movie – is actually a Bizarro. I don’t think there is any other possible explanation. It makes perfect sense. The weird way of talking, and of viewing the world. The pale, chalky skin. The overall Frankenstein’s monster vibe. The only real question is, who is Tommy a Bizarro version of?)
Bizarros have a long history as part of the Superman mythos, with the first Bizarro introduced in a Superboy story sixty years ago, with different versions – and an extended Bizarro family, and ultimately an entire Bizarro world – popping up throughout the years.
The basic idea behind Bizarro is that he is a mirror image of Superman, with all the same abilities, but without the same sensibilities, as the key thing to remember about mirror images is that they are reversed.
Of course, Bizarro is not simply a mirror image; he’s a distorted fun house mirror image. The term “imperfect duplicate” is the most common descriptor, and it fits, as, despite claiming to be the opposite of Superman, such attempts at being an antipode to the Man of Steel are performed, well, imperfectly. Sure, Bizarros say “Hello” when they mean “Goodbye,” but they don’t say the exact opposite of every word when they speak, nor do they act with a directly opposite intent, and they tend to not be particularly malicious, irrespective of the virtuousness of whomever they may be a reflection.
The “imperfect duplicate” description is, of course, something of a narrative cop-out, given that it would be a daunting task to attempt to create exact opposites of characters, and something has to be done to make their speech and behavior at least somewhat understandable. (Indeed, in the story in which he closed out the pre-Byrne era of Superman, Alan Moore had Bizarro realize how imperfectly he served as the antithesis of Superman and committed suicide upon deciding that his biggest failure in that regard was in being alive at all.)
In the days before “Rebirth,” the Lois and Clark with a son named Jon were not native inhabitants of the continuity of “The New 52,” being remnants of a vanished continuity, who lived on the Earth that was like, but also not like, their home in secrecy, raising their son in a small, rural area known as Hamilton County. After “Rebirth” led to the merging of timelines, they still lived in Hamilton, but had moved there not to hide, but rather to provide a quiet, safe home for their son, who had yet to develop the powers that are part of his Kryptonian heritage.
Eventually they learned that, like them, the people of Hamilton had a secret; they were actually all aliens stranded on Earth. Some time after that, the Kents decided to move back to Metropolis, despite Jon’s objections about leaving behind his friends, such as his former neighbor, Kathy.
In the last issue, while out visiting Kathy, who, being an alien disguised as a human girl, has powers and access to advanced technology, was entertaining Jon by using a portal to view other worlds. One such portal gave them a view of Htrae, the cube-shaped world that is home to the Bizarros.
On Htrae, they observed Boyzarro, the Bizarro version of Jon, who, as something of an opposite, is angry about having been forced to move to the Bizarro version of Hamilton from the Bizarro version of Metropolis, and decides to not run away.
Which is to say, he decides to run away. He manages to breach the barrier in Kathy’s portal and makes his way to Jon’s bedroom in Metropolis, which is where our story this issue largely begins, as Jon works to understand and befriend his twin.
Things go awry when Superman walks in and Boyzarro mistakes him for his own father, whom he’s not mad at (is mad at), and a fight breaks out that nearly causes a tragedy, for which Boyzarro is not sorry (…you get the idea, right?), and so, satisfied that Boyzarro means no harm, and realizing that Boyzarro’s parents must not be worried sick about him, Superman decides to help bring him back to Htrae.
Upon arriving in Kathy’s lab in Hamilton, Superman, Jon, and Boyzarro are surprised to see that another Bizarro has made his way through: Robzarro.
Robzarro – the Bizarro Robin – followed Boyzarro’s tracking signal in an effort to bring his best friend back home.
Robzarro is one of the best bits in the book; unlike Damian, he’s friendly, respectful of his elders, and is warmly affectionate with the standoffish Boyzarro.
There’s one small problem with the plan to bring Boyzarro back to Htrae: he wants to go.
I mean, he doesn’t want to go.
Still, when Jon and Superman find Boyzarro sitting next to a stream and trapping a cat in a tree, Superman manages to convince him that he needs to return to his home.
Superman: What don’t you say? Can we not give it a shot?
Boyzarro: Superman bad. Me…don’t trust.
Upon their arrival on Htrae they are greeted by Loiz (Bizarro Lois), who is not relieved to see her son, and she provides the second-best bit in the book:
Things go south when Bizarro himself shows up and is not angry about Superman putting the moves on his wife. Superman punches Bizarro all the way to the moon – which is the payoff to an earlier comment in the book – to give themselves some breathing room, and then heads off into space to attempt to reason with Bizarro.
Before he gets there, though, we see Bizarro on the moon watching his world losing its cube-shape and becoming a sphere, which is part of a plan brought about by the Super Foes-kidnapping Legion of Fun!
I have to admit that one thing that bothered me a bit in this issue is the revelation that Superman and Lois have someone stationed in Hamilton to spy on Jon when he visits, a girl who calls herself Nobody – an ally of Robin, who, like Damian, was trained to be an assassin – and is able to render herself invisible. That seems…off. I know that it comes out of concern for Jon less than out of a lack of trust, but still…it just seemed gross and out of character.
In any case, the best bit in the book happens early on, before Clark walks in on Jon and Boyzarro, as the two parents, thinking their son is asleep, are engaging in a little bit of Netflix and chill:
Lois: Superhero. Husband. Either way, you’re the same man I chose to share my life with.
Clark: You could have had anyone.
Lois: And you could’ve married Wonder Woman.
Clark: Diana doesn’t have a Pulitzer.
Lois: And don’t you forget it, mister.
It’s a little thing, but I always like to see Lois get at least some of her proper due.
This was a fun little, fast-paced diversion, with good Bizarro designs, and ultimately, while there were weightier, more substantial books I could have chosen this week, a little fun was something I needed.
All I really have to say about Deadman #5 is that at one point, Dr. Fate says this to Etrigan:
“You can hear a rat pissing on cotton.”
Okay, my one observation is that everyone in this book is a dick to everyone else. It’s like reading something by Mark Millar, or an issue of The Avengers from the late ‘60s.
Beyond that, an invading army is descending upon Nanda Parbat, and its defenders defeat the various soulless members of the army – robots, who talk just like people whose dialogue is written by Neal Adams – and zombies, then let the ensouled invaders in through the gates, because it’s the nature of Nanda Parbat to bring forth inner peace and cause people to give up their evil ways. And then Deadman heads in to talk to Rama Kushna, whom, despite his belief to the contrary, he’s never actually met.
That am not do it for this week.
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(I’m not taking any chances on you misunderstanding by using Bizarro speak for this part.)