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Bizarro Back Issues

Bizarro Back Issues: Superboy’s Romance With Cleopatra! (1961)

Adventure Comics #291

Every February, I like to throw a bit of a spotlight on some of the more romantic pieces of superhero comics, but with Superman, that's pretty hard to do. I mean, sure, he'd eventually settle down with Lois Lane in one of the better romance stories in comics history, but for a long stretch of his history, he did everything he could to avoid letting anybody put a ring on it. Whether it was Lois, Lana, Lori, Lyla, or even Marybelle, the hillbilly whose lack of double-L initials should've disqualified her from contention well before she was carried over the Marryin' Rock, that dude was simply --- and famously --- not interested.

What you might not know, however, is why. It turns out that Superman wasn't just trying to protect his girlfriends from those who might use them to strike at him; it was that all this time, he was still carrying a torch for his first crush: Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt --- and the fact that she died in 30 BCE didn't stop them from dating for a week when he was fifteen.

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Bizarro Back Issues: Clark Kent’s Hillbilly Bride! (1955)

Superman #94

Weird Silver Age comics are a finite resource. Granted, I could probably start now and do nothing but read weird back issues for the rest of my life --- which, believe it or not, is somehow not what I'm already doing --- but there were only so many stories produced in that era. With all the ones I've talked about over the years, I sometimes wonder if I'm on the verge of running out, and I wonder what my life is going to look like once I've taken you through every time Jimmy Olsen tried to date a viking robot, or Batman had to take on the scourge of gorilla crime.

And then I find out that there's a story I've never heard of before called "Clark Kent's Hillbilly Bride," and I realize that we've still got a long way to go before we're done here.

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Bizarro Back Issues: Superman’s Plot To Kill Superman! (1971)

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Superman is notoriously difficult to kill. It's kind of his thing, and even though people have been trying to pull it off for 77 years now, they've never really managed to. Even the most famous example of someone coming close had to involve an unstoppable giant bone monster in bike shorts and a spurious understanding of evolution, and even that didn't really work --- the main result was less shuffling off this mortal coil and more hanging around for a couple of years in dire need of a haircut.

But there is one person who might have a pretty good shot. Someone who knows all of Superman's weaknesses, and who has the resources to provide a squad of hitmen with everything they'd need to put a Kryptonite nail into the Man of Steel's coffin. That man is Clark Kent, and in Len Wein, Dick Dillin and Joe Giella's "A Matter of Light and Death," which opens with Clark hiring a trio of crooks to off his own alter-ego, and just keeps getting weirder from there.

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Bizarro Back Issues: A Christmas Story Of BDSM (Bondage, Deer, Santa Magic) (2005)

Sweet Rein, Sakura Tsukuba

Even though he has international influences that include a third-century Bishop from Turkey and European gift-giving traditions, I think it's fair to say that the modern version of Santa Claus is about as American as Coca-Cola. With as big a Santa Claus fan as I am, though, I'm always interested in seeing how other countries interpret the jollly old elf. That's what led me to Sakura Tsukuba's Santa-themed romance comic, Sweet Rein, and I think it's safe to say that it might just be the single weirdest Christmas comic I've ever read.

If nothing else, I don't think I've ever read another story that was built around the idea of Santa and a Reindeer falling in love through BDSM (Bondage, Deer and Santa Magic), and that's before you get to the part where they're both actually wide-eyed teenagers. Yes, even the reindeer. Especially the reindeer.

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Bizarro Back Issues: How Tharg Saved Christmas! (1981)

Tharg's Christmas Tale, 2000 AD

I have read a lot of Christmas comics in my time, and while I usually love them all with the unconditional affection of someone who goes around humming "Good King Wenceslas" in the middle of August, I have to admit that they tend to get pretty repetitive after a while. Even I can get tired of the endless string of halfhearted Christmas Carol parodies, which is why my favorite stories are always the ones that get a little weird. You know, the "evil robot santa" stories, or the "Batman goes back in time and recreates the universe and becomes the subconscious source of all Christmas Elf imagery" kind of thing. Those are the ones I really like.

So when I tell you that there's a story where Tharg, the mighty alien comic book editor who supplies 2000 AD with its weekly dose of Thrillpower, has to save Christmas after a bunch of readers wake up to bad presents on Christmas morning, rest assured that it is somehow even more amazingly bonkers than it sounds.

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Bizarro Back Issues: The Strange Secret Of The Cat-King Of Crime (1952)

Batman #69, DC Comics

Even though Catwoman is generally considered Batman's primary love interest, Batman and Catwoman have had a pretty rough road. They haven't exactly been faithful to each other over the years, and while everyone talks about Batman's dalliances with characters like Silver St. Cloud, Talia al-Ghul and Julie Madison, no one ever really brings up his rivals for Catwoman's affection. Like, say, that time that a retired Selina Kyle was almost lured back into a life of crime by the swooning, heart-eyed King of Cats.

It happened back in 1952 in a story that just keeps getting weirder, to the point where the army of trained cats that rob a jewelry store is the least bizarre thing that's about to happen.

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Bizarro Back Issues: Batman In The Worst Thanksgiving Ever (1954)

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The time is once again here for Thanksgiving in America, and while most of us just use the holiday as an excuse to binge on turkey, there is a deeper meaning behind it. It's the day that we set aside to honor the time that the Native Americans helped out the Pilgrims, who would not have otherwise survived the harsh winter in their new home. Things eventually turned pretty sour between the two groups, but that first Thanksgiving stands as a testament to the power of people helping each other through the rough times.

However, Batman apparently never got the memo about brotherhood and equality, which is why a 1954 story in Detective Comics #205 found the Dark Knight traveling back in time to drop the hammer on Gotham City's indigenous population in the name of Bat-Imperialism and discovering "The Origin of the Bat-Cave!" It's one of our favorite crazy stories, and we're rerunning this classic Bizarro Back Issues feature this week in honor of the occasion.

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Bizarro Back Issues: Batman Battles The Completely Nonexistent Threat Of Witchcraft (1965)

Detective Comics #336

Batman is no stranger to the supernatural. I mean, he's been fighting vampires since 1939, and there was an animated series only a few years ago that prominently featured the idea that he has special Batarangs made of space metal specifically for the purposes of beating up ghosts. It's a thing that he does, and unsurprisingly, he does it well. Except, of course, for that stretch where the Comics Code wanted to assure people that while benevolent alien newspapermen and bachelors in Dracula suits with teen sidekicks were a-okay, witchcraft was something that definitely, definitely did not exist.

Which, of course, did nothing to stop it from being the source of Gotham City's latest crime wave.

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Bizarro Back Issues: Bizarro Meets Frankenstein! (1961)

Superman #143, DC Comics

First things first: Bizarro is terrifying. Yes, with the exception of maybe two stories, he's been played for laughs for around 57 years, but if you stop to think about it for a minute, the very idea is one of the most sinister things superhero comics have ever come up with; someone who has all of Superman's powers, all of his unstoppable indestructibility, but a concept of morality that exists in complete opposition to Superman's, and that will not, that can not ever change? It's harrowing.

But as scary as he might be, I don't really consider Bizarro to be a Halloween monster. "Supervillain" isn't quite right either, but there's nothing about Bizarro that I'd think would put him in competition with, say, Dracula or the Wolfman. But then again, I'm not Otto Binder, who apparently thought that Superman's imperfect duplicate battling it out with Frankenstein for the title of the greatest of all monsters was something that should definitely happen. You know, except for the part where it's not actually Frankenstein.

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Bizarro Back Issues: Beowulf vs. Satan vs. Grendel vs. Dracula (1975)

Beowulf, DC Comics

I'm always on the lookout for spooky comics to write about whenever the weather starts to get cold and the scent of pumpkin spice is carried aloft by a chill wind, but after years and years of doing this, I sometimes worry that I'll run out. I mean, there is a theoretically finite amount of weird old comics floating around out there, and once you've already talked about that issue of Star Trek where they find a haunted house in space and fight Dracula, it's easy to think that here might not be a whole lot left to talk about.

That's why I was so glad when reader Ian McDougall recommended that I dive into the back issue bins and find a copy of 1975's Beowulf #6, which he describes as a comic where "Grendel vies with Dracula for Satan's throne, Beowulf solves a maze by punching it." And folks, if there is a sentence that will make me read a comic faster than that, I have not found it.

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