Undervalued Spotlight #168

superboy 68Superboy #68, DC Comics, Oct/Nov 1958

Superman turned 75 back in June and it got me thinking a bit about old Sups and his current situation.

Here’s the hero of heroes, the grand daddy of them all and yet we can’t seem to get him right for the 21st century. His movies seem to be constant re-boots trying in vain to find a right formula; his comics are underperforming relative to the Batman line, the JLA line and for a long stretch the Green Lantern line.

I for one would love to see a strong viable Superman, I for one don’t want to see Superman turn into a Mickey Mouse, a character long past relevancy but propped up by the corporation for symbolism and all that other stuff.

DC Comics has just launched Villains Month and in Superman #23.1 (also called Bizarro #1) we get Lex Luthor messing around with Superman’s DNA trying to create anti-Supermen so to speak. So Luthor is going to create a new Bizarro I gather.

The first thing I thought of was the old Bizarro of the Silver Age and I thought this would never work. Then I thought ‘wait a minute’ this is what we need. All the great heroes and villains need updating, the Joker of today certainly is not the Joker of 1963.

Yes a cool new approach to Bizarro if pulled off can only help the Man of Steel in his quest for more relevancy. Please don’t take the whole relevancy approach as a black and white issue. I know Superman is still a much loved character and I know he is still viable but surely you’ll agree more can be done with the character, something needs to change.

Anyway back to Bizarro, Bizaarro was a cool concept that was a victim of his times. These were that hay days of campy DC comics the 1950s and 1960s. The whole mirror image of Superman/ opposite of Superman concept needed more exploring perhaps in a more mature way. Perhaps he would make a great character in the next Superman film.

Something tells me a Bizarro done right could really work.

Perhaps it’s a good time to pick up a 1st appearance of Bizarro? I’m officially looking for one as of this moment.

Bizarro 1st appeared in Superboy #68 and was a hit. The Bizarro concept was moved to the main Superman title shortly thereafter, there was even a President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe Bizarro (Adventure #294 Stan).

Superboy #68 was written by Otto Binger and drawn by George Papp, the issue boasts a cover by Superman stalwart Curt Swan.

Not many copies trade because of the low amount that have been graded to date. Only 91 have been CGC graded as of this post with only 4 getting an 8.0 or better (the highest is a 9.0).

The most recent sale is a CGC 6.5 getting a very respectable $781 back in June of 2013.

I think this is the type of book you can dig out of old comic dealers’ DC bins at a con. The book has probably sat for a while and you may pick it up for a bargain.

The 43rd edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide shows $493/$847/$1200 as the 8.0/9.0/9.2 price splits.

Strengths that make this comic book a good long-term investment are:

  • 1st  appearance Bizarro
  • Unique villain not used nearly as effectively he should be
  • Currently priced cheap relative to other villains of the era (Batman #171’s reintroduction of the Golden Age villain The Riddler is worth more)
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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1600

8 Comments

  1. Great choice as always Walt! But don’t forget Smallville which not only included a very good Bizarro storyline, but also made the story of Superboy into a huge hit for many years! The Superman movies are clearly missing a trick by too much rebooting and trying to make Superman into Batman instead of celebrating his Golden Age qualities (which Smallville did very well), but at least they keep trying, I suppose. Smallville didn’t excite any interest in Superboy comics, which seems a shame, but then no-one tried much to sell the back catalogue of Superboy when the series was at its height… another missed opportunity perhaps…

  2. Yes, I read that Smallville did a good Bizarro and that perhaps will help in the long run. A small victory here and a small victory there can often help win a war.

    I’m not too sure about playing Superman too boy scouty though. I agree that is the characters essence but too goody goody doesn’t seem to cut it these days.

    I honestly believe all of us have the good of Superman in us but just surviving makes us do some not so nice things. Sups doesn’t need broody Batman type problems as you say but in my opinion he should speak to our inherent desires to be good and the issues that get in the way sometimes. I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud!

  3. Some of the past superman movies have focused far too heavily on Lex Luther when there have been dozens of other viable villians to choose from. For example, I am thinking that Brainiac would make a good future movie villan.

  4. So just out of curiosity what would ‘Bizarro done right’ look like? I hear those types of statements and they always strike me as odd because the point is moot. Anything done well, works. The trick is figuring out what ‘right’ looks like.
    I’ll be honest, I don’t like Bizarro and I never watched Smallville so I don’t know what that interpretation looked like, but when I think of Bizarro, I think of Super Friends Bizarro and how bad he was. The Bizarro of the 90’s Superman cartoon was a slight improvement but fundimentally wasn’t all that different. It’s unfortunate because I’ve always felt that Superman’s biggest flaw were his villains – he just doesn’t seem to have a villain that sticks the way that Batman’s villains do. Writer’s seem to go back to the same bag for new ideas. I was somewhat hopefull when I heard about H’el then quickly lost interest when I found out he was Kryptonion. That schtick is tiresome. Superman needs a healthy infusion of new unique villains not revamps/reinterpretations of old ones – what worries me is that it’s not really possible without changing the fundimentals of who Superman is, and everytime that’s been done it’s been met with resistence. I think the problem with Superman’s villains are a symptom of a larger problem that is Superman. Superman can’t change. We think that he has, but his core tennants have stayed the same for 75 years.

    Good article Walter, but I still hate Bizarro.

  5. Yeah I guess it’s easy to say “done right” would work but I still think I’m on to something…

    You kind of allude to it a bit in your comment when you questions whether its Sups that’s the problem.

    I don’t have the answer but I do know the stories of Superman facing off against his villains are not captivating us in the same was as say Batman’s battles against his villains.

    Redefining characters like Bizarro, who’s mirror image concept is well positioned to have Superman (and all of us as well) have a closer look at himself, could help redefine characters like Superman, the old routine has run out of steam.

    You make a great point with bringing in new villains, other heroes have successfully added to their villains line up along the years so why not Sups.

    Yes Nelson I know, you still hate Bizarro.

  6. I thought Smallville did a great job showing that Clark does have to struggle to be a good guy sometimes – they used the red kryptonite to bring out his bad side. If you haven’t seen Smallville, it’s really the perfect Superman vehicle – after the first season it just got better and better, and became absolutely addictive!

  7. Considering That Superman 1 and Superman 11 changed the way that we (the public) viewed comic book characters and cinema Walt, I have to disagree with you. In the right hands, Superman can again be the Foremost Comic Character.

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