Bizarro Back Issues: Bizarro Meets Frankenstein! (1961)
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.
It happened in 1961's Superman #143, where Binder was joined by Wayne Boring for "Bizarro Meets Frankenstein," a title that isn't quite as accurate as it might seem at first glance. And for those of you just joining us, we open on Bizarro World for a quick primer about just who these weirdos are and what they do. It's pretty standard stuff --- square planet, alarm clocks that tell you when it's time to go to bed instead of when to go to sleep, Halloween Eve is on the 24th of "Decumber," all that stuff --- but it really starts to go off the rails when Bizarro and his family start watching TV.
First, it's a scary movie, by which they of course mean a moldy old Charlie Chaplin feature, something that upsets the Bizarro children quite a bit. But when they switch to "comedy," that's where Bizarro has a problem.
Quick question before we move on here: Did werewolf movies used to have dudes just in straight up full suits all the time, with just the werewolf parts on the head and hands? Was that a thing back before they invented special effects? Did the sight of the full moon cause a man afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy to just take his tie off, unbutton the top button on his starched white shirt, and call it a day? Because this is what DC Comics would have me believe.
Anyway, the horror movie marathon that Bizarro World is intercepting live from Earth across the endless depths of space ends up setting Bizarro off something fierce when it declares that Frankenstein is the "World's Scariest Monster."
Bizarro is irate about this, taking it as a personal insult, and while I definitely think he's overreacting, I have to agree that he has a point. I am a noted Dracula partisan, but even if you're the biggest fan of the character, even you have to admit that there is no way, no way that Frankenstein is the scariest monster.
Also, Binder has cut all you pedants out there right off at the pass, so I don't want to hear it.
As Bizarro heads to Earth to terrorize the poor actor playing the fictional character of Frankenstein --- stopping on the way to put a scare into the Abominable Snowman, who is very real --- Superman is filming what might be the single worst PSA in a long history of terrible PSAs:
Imagine being the advertising director who was trying to think of a way to get children to brush their teeth, who had Superman --- actual Superman, the guy who saves the world --- ready to come in and help get the word out, and who came up with the idea of having Superman operate a puppet. A puppet of Superman. That is on screen while Superman himself remains behind a curtain, not being a visible part of the ad.
Super-puppetry isn't even one of his powers.
While that nonsense is going on, though, Bizarro's busting in on the actor playing Frankenstein --- who, it should be noted, is barely even afraid, which kind of undercuts B-1's whole point.
If Bizarro busted into my living room right now and chucked me out a window, I would be terrified well beyond the ability to form complete sentences, even the ones that included the word "Yipes!" This dude, however, is a guy who lives in the Silver Age DC Universe, and is barely even bothered by it. Frankenstein: 1, Bizarro: 0. Which, I guess, Bizarro would probably take as a win.
With the Monster himself sufficiently cowed, Bizarro sets about re-establishing his reputation by heading off to terrorize the rest of Metropolis's movie industry. Predictably, it all goes wrong on him. The showgirls that he tries to scare off think he's just an extra in an elaborate costume and ambush him with kisses, and then a couple of actors on the set of a Western get tanked on loco weed and hurt Bizarro in a place where even his invulnerable skin can't protect him: his feelings.
Even small children are immune to Bizarro's attempts at scariness, but in this case, it's because they're children raised in a circus who, according to Superman, think of Bizarro as "just another friendly freak."
Eventually, after taking an axe to the statue of Frankenstein in what is unquestionably the most metal moment of the entire story...
... Bizarro eventually manages to scare someone, except that he doesn't, really. Superman just rigs up a healthy dose of static electricity to literally make a bunch of stagehands' hair stand on end. Thus, Bizarro is mollified that he has regained his position as the world's scariest monster, and returns to Bizarro World, taking the tooth-brushing Supermarionette as a present for the kids. Everything goes back to normal and one assumes that 1961's The New Adventures of Frankenstein goes down as a classic of the genre. But more important than that, we all learn a very valuable lesson that I think we can all agree on:
Bizarro is, at the very least, slightly more frightening than Frankenstein.