I’m a massive DC fan. I also like what Marvel has to offer, but for me, they will never reach the same heights as DC. This fascination started when I was kid. Watching Christopher Reeve’s Superman reversing time to save Lois Lane, tackle Zod, and even turn a lump of coal into a diamond, left me with a sense of wonder and excitement that still lasts to this very day. These movies (incl. Burton’s Batman) were a feast for the senses and certainly beat anything coming from our crappy two-channel Irish TV set at home! At the very least, they were responsible for establishing an early interest in all things geeky.
However, that was then, and this is now…and oh, how things have changed! And, although the critical response to the new DC line-up has been largely negative so far, I still find myself holding the flag high. If I’m completely honest, I actually enjoy the dark, gritty, and realistic tone of the movies. I like the characters too; Batman’s jaded savagery works in contrast to Superman’s quest for moral guidance. They are both struggling with issues of identity and, indeed, relevance. There are complex issues at play and it’s refreshing to see our heroes stumble a bit (or a lot!) before eventually finding themselves.
BUT…. given the overwhelmingly bad response to these movies, I can’t help wonder if we are perhaps ignoring the real, underlying cause of all of this discontent. Maybe it’s not the movies themselves that are the problem. Maybe we are simply just…
…tired of Batman and Superman?
There, I said it.
Besides the many issues plaguing the movies (and yes, even as a fan I do recognise them), what else can seriously be done with these heroes that hasn’t already been done before? Think of all the comics, the TV shows, the admittedly brilliant animated universe, and now the live-action cinema line-up…there’s a lot going on. And that’s not even counting the endless reboots and ‘rebirths’ that persist in renewing our understanding of who these characters are.
What we really need is a break…some kind of palette cleanser so that we can revisit it all again in a new light. We need a new type of anti-hero, someone weird, someone different, someone like…
Ok, maybe a little background is in order. The character, Bizarro, first appeared in 1958 in Superboy #68, and would go on to reappear in a number of other comics over the years. Clumsy, awkward and somewhat tragic, Bizarro is often depicted as a type of backwards Superman, possessing a range of reverse powers such as: flame breath instead of freeze breath, X-ray vision which allows him to see only through led, and vacuum breath instead of super breath. I first came across Bizarro in an episode of Superman: The Animated Series, called “Bizarro’s World“, and was blown away by his character. There are a couple of different origin stories for Bizarro, but most seem to gravitate around Lex Luthor and his passion for cloning experiments…ah, Lex, when will you learn?
One thing is important to understand though, Bizarro is not evil. In fact he quite often thinks he is actually Superman, which often leads to some funny misunderstandings when the real Supes turns up.
More importantly though, this could very well be the perfect vehicle to get DC Films out of their slump and get them zipping past Marvel. Many other fans have said it already, DC/Warner need to start taking more artistic chances…and this could be the way to do it.
What do I mean? Well, I’m glad you asked for here are: three reasons why DC needs to get busy making a Bizarro movie:
1: IS IT A BIRD? IS IT A PLANE? NO, IT’S…BIZARRO?
Let’s think about the character for a second. He is basically the Hulk/Frankenstein in a Superman costume. Incredibly strong, ugly, low IQ, but with a range of strange powers; the story possibilities are endless. Best of all, he doesn’t have to fit with the current timeline. For instance, just imagine the following:
A light-hearted adventure set in the 1950s – during the golden/silver age of comics. The classic characters could all be there but larger than life. There could even something 50’s themed – the distrust of foreigners, the fear of nuclear weapons, an attack from Mars? Maybe Bizarro was created as a result of an A-Bomb experiment?
Or, maybe something more modern? What about Mark Millar’s excellent graphic novel, “Red Son”? In case you don’t know, the story Red Son asks the question, “what if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?”. Maybe Bizarro is created by the Americans as a way to counter- balance this new red champion? Or maybe it’s the other way around? The end fight (or not) could be a battle of ideologies with neither side winning.
Or, even weirder still, what about “Mondo Bizarro World”? (Action Comics #263) Here Superman visits Bizarro’s world where everything is dilapidated and backwards. There is even a Bizarro Lois Lane at hand. No matter how hard Superman tries, he just cannot do anything right on this new planet and is even put on trial for his well-intentioned actions!
These are just three ideas that popped into my mind just thinking about the character…and that is only the tip of the iceberg.
Also, just in case any DC execs are reading this, why yes of course I will help you in developing a script for this! 😉
2: NEW STYLE OPPORTUNITIES
So, let’s sum up. We have a funky new/old character never before seen on the big screen. We have an endless supply of story directions that can either be made as a standalone output, or tied in somehow with the current universe.
Now it’s time to talk about another asset – the visual style.
Unlike the dark, gritty tones of the current DC universe, adapting Bizarro to the screen will need a different approach – something new, something refreshing… something daring. I have to think of Edgar Wright’s film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – which, even after all these years, is still one of the best comic-to-screen adaptations ever. It was a beautiful movie that made the fans happy and remained true to its source.
To make a Bizarro movie, DC Films will have to think along the same lines. Sure, they could follow Snyder’s style and stick to the dark and gritty. But there is room here to really create some magic. And, due to the craziness of the character, this new style could literally be anything! For now I am thinking along the lines of pop-art craziness mixed with animation and live-action. For instance, maybe Bizarro perceives reality as an animation? Maybe even with speech bubbles whenever somebody talks? Could be fun! Or if the DC Films really wanted to get crazy, they could create a series of events where Bizarro is blasted across several alternate universes – creating a new art direction for each universe he is in, perhaps even revisiting a classic scene from one of the earlier movies in the process… a cameo appearance by Christopher Reeve’s Superman maybe? Why not! Anything is possible.
Point is – for this to work, the movie will need to be bold and take chances. Playing safe cannot be an option. Which leads me to the main point…
3: IT’S FUN!
Pop question: what do the latest Thor, Dr. Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Deadpool movies have in common? The answer: humour! And guess what? Audiences really dig that. I know, I know, DC Films tried to do this with the ugly Suicide Squad – but they failed because it came across forced and unnatural. This is why a film dedicated to Bizarro could work. He’s a screwy side character who has more in common with Daffy Duck than he has with any of the other heroes. Done correctly, an off-the-wall Bizarro movie could rejuvenate the entire live-action franchise and lead to a much needed fresh start for DC.
So, that’s my two-cents! Keep in mind that Bizarro is just one option – there’s a whole sleuth of other cookie B-characters to choose from that have the potential to shake things up, e.g. Swamp Thing, John Constantine (yes, it has to be Matt Ryan forever!), Zatanna, Mad Hatter, Solomon Grundy, etc…the list is huge! I fully believe that each one of these – (re)done correctly with a bold new art direction – could be a massive hit.
I, for one, will continue to root for DC and I look forward to seeing where all this leads.
Article written by Shane O’Halloran. Have something to say? Leave a comment below or contact Shane directly via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or email. Or, you could just buy him a coffee if you like? (AKA a pint)