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Interview: Heath Corson on BIZARRO, DC Comics’ Wild New Road Trip Series

Interview: Heath Corson on BIZARRO, DC Comics’ Wild New Road Trip Series

Me am so excited that DC Comics am make new Bizarro book. Me am so stoked that me am stuck talking like Bizarro. Me realize how annoying this get though, so let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Now that Convergence has come to a close, we’re starting to get our first taste of the newly reformed DC Multiverse. One of the most exciting developments is that Bizarro is getting his own title and it has been described as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, but with Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen instead of John Candy and Steve Martin. So, basically the road trip from hell. If that logline isn’t enough to get you sprinting to your local comic book store, then I guess I don’t know you as well as I thought I did — nor do I care to.

The mini-series launched this past Wednesday as part of the roll-out of DC Comics new “DC You” initiative, which is a company-wide relaunch and reorienting of its core titles. Written by Heath Corson and illustrated by Gustavo Duarte, Bizarro #1 is both batshit insane and surprisingly heartfelt, humorous, and harrowing. In short, it’s a book that you need to read. In order to take you deeper into the ass-backwards world of Bizarro, I caught up with writer Heath Corson to talk about how the project came about, what would be on Bizarro’s road trip mixtape, and Corson’s surprisingly personal connection to the character (which we’ll show in an exclusive photo).


Heath Corson: Hey, Dan! How are you, buddy?

Nerdist: Hey, Heath – I’m doing well! I was very excited to hear that you would be writing this title. Was this something that you pitched? Was this something that they offered you? How did you get involved with Bizarro specifically?

HC: Well, when I was pitching my editor to try to find something that I could do, I was running through a list of something like seven or eight ideas, and at the bottom was this Bizarro idea that I thought of in the car while driving around, and I thought “Oh my gosh, this could be really funny!” I put it at the bottom, going “I love this idea – there’s no way they’re ever going to green light this.” And so then when my editor out of nowhere goes “You don’t happen to have a Bizarro idea, do you?” And I did! And I pitched him the idea. I go, “Yeah, it’s Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. They’re on a cross-country trip on the way to drop Bizarro off to Canada, which Jimmy tells him is Bizarro America.”

He’s like, “That’s really funny! Would you write that up?” And I was like, “Yeah!” And it turned out they were already talking to Gustavo, and Gustavo had put together all these sketches for Bizarro, for a new version of Bizarro. They weren’t really sure what they wanted to do with it yet, so they liked my pitch, and they liked his art, and they put us together, and that’s how we got to this Bizarro.

N: That’s fantastic. [laughing] It came to you in the car, of all places?

HC: It did. It came to me in the car in traffic, because I always loved those road trip movies. I love Vacation, I love Tommy Boy, and Midnight Run, and road trip movies were always so fun to me. I was like, how fun to do a road trip comic book, and who would I want on it? And for some reason, I just thought Bizarro was such an odd choice, because why wouldn’t he fly? And I was like, “Who would I put with Bizarro?” I was like, “Jimmy Olsen!” Jimmy Olsen is Superman’s best friend; why wouldn’t he be Bizarro’s best friend?

N: Did you run through any other potential people riding shotgun?

HC: You know, that’s a great question. I actually did. I was like, maybe it’s a female, maybe it’s a young girl, maybe it’s — I thought Blue Devil, I thought maybe it’s Plastic Man. I was like “That’s a little too off the deep end!” Plastic Man and Bizarro! And then I realized I needed — when I got to the Planes, Trains and Automobiles metaphor, I was like “Oh, I need a Steve Martin. I need someone who’s going to ground this and who’s going to be exasperated by him and roll his eyes all the time.” So I needed someone who was basically us, going “Oh my god, I’m so annoyed by this guy!”

And so I thought, who better than Jimmy, and to tempt fate, to dangle fame and fortune in front of him? The idea is if he can produce a coffee table book of him going across the country with Bizarro, he’s going to be rich and famous.

N: I knew Olsen had an angle! That little sneak!

HC: Right? And then the other thing is, because we have him doing it for the wrong reason, we have the ability to knock him around a little bit. We can punish Jimmy because he’s already doing this for fame and fortune. He lies to Bizarro’s face and tells him “I’m doing it because we’re best friends.”


N: Oh, no! Jimmy! How could you?

HC: Yeah. I know, right? So he lies to Bizarro’s face, and so we can knock him around a little bit and punish him for doing so.

N: That’s awesome. So, now that we’re sort of exiting the other side of Convergence, where in the multiverse is Bizarro situated?

HC: Umm, it’s a good question. It’s a little bit of a different take. It’s more of a retro-take on Bizarro. We’re back to him being the alien. We’re back to him being inspired by Superman, and really wanting to be a superhero and wanting to do the right thing. And we have him running around, I guess it’s my and Gustavo’s version of the DCU — it’s a little bit more classic — we’re doing classic versions of these characters.

So we’re not really in continuity, and I asked my editor if that was a problem, and he was like “People are going to go, ‘It’s Bizarro. What are you going to do?’ Of course it’s OK!” So we’re sort of uniquely outside of continuity, and we can do some fun versions. For instance, in issue four we have Zatanna coming out, and it’s the classic top hat and fishnet Zatanna, who happens to be on tour in Branson, Missouri, when our guys intersect with her.

They go to watch her magic show, and Bizarro’s sitting there and he realizes he understands everything that she’s saying. So he can speak backwards. So he says “Me cannot do that!” So he tries it and it turns out that he’s a very powerful backwards magician in his own right, as well.

N: I like that you’re able to not necessarily be beholden to canon. I imagine it has a lot of cool liberties you’re able to take as a result of being Bizarro.

HC: It absolutely does. It allows us the chance to do that, because I guess the series is a little timeless. We’re going to feel a little retro, so it’s OK that we’re a little outside of continuity, because we can say, “Oh, this happened pre-New 52. This happened here. This happened in the 1960s.” You know? We’ve got Jimmy in his bow tie and his cardigan, which all the hipsters are wearing now, anyway, so he looks very retro, as well as very current.

N: One of the things that I really appreciate is that this sounds like it is a humor book, and that is something that you don’t necessarily see a lot, especially from a superhero comic. You get a little bit of that in Harley Quinn. That’s not to say that other books aren’t funny, but setting out to do a book that is steeped in humor is definitely a challenge unto itself. Was that at all daunting to you when you were pitching this?

HC: Incredibly daunting, but at the same time, that was the stuff that I loved growing up. I loved Ambush Bug, I loved Lobo, I loved The League of Substitute Heroes, I loved Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, and Justice League International. So I really wanted to capture, and be able to do my version of, some of those books that I grew up loving, and I don’t see on the stands right now. So, to be able to — to be given the responsibility to take on that kind of mantle is incredibly fun.


N: What was your earliest memory of Bizarro? When did you first fall in love with this character?

HC: You know, I remember when I was a kid — I was very young, I think I was like five or six or seven — they used to sell the little Blue Ribbon Digest books, which were reprints, and they used to sell them in supermarkets. I remember being a kid and loving those books, and my mom would buy them for me for like 99 cents at the supermarket and hand them to me while I was in the shopping cart.

They were reprints of comics from the ’50s and ’60s, and my first story of Bizarro was actually his first appearance in a Superboy Blue Ribbon Digest, and it told the story of this ray that this guy had created to make duplicates, and it was imperfect duplicates. He would shoot it at diamonds, and the diamonds would melt like ice, so it totally didn’t work. As he was leaving, he knocked it over and it hit Superboy, and it created Bizarro. Bizarro was the opposite of Superboy.

By the end of the story, Bizarro dies. Bizarro sacrifices himself. He blows up, and his radioactive ash that he turns into actually manages to give sight back to Lois Lane’s sister, Lucy Lane, who is blind. So it was this really wonderful story about this creature that was off and wrong, and he really wanted to do the right thing but couldn’t figure out how to do it, and everything he did was sort of heavy-handed and off-putting. It just came out completely wrong. I was like, “Oh my gosh,” — as a kid, you go, “I’m that guy! Bizarro! Everything I do feels like I fall down and I can’t figure it out, and I’m klutzy,” and I was like, “I get this guy.” I’m not sure I’m Superman, but I know I’m Bizarro.

N: It’s hard not to find yourself endeared by Bizarro, because even when he winds up messing everything up, he means well, and that’s very important. He always has good intentions!

HC: He totally means well! But he’s a bull in a china shop, so it’s so hard, because he’s SO annoying sometimes! But at the same time, this isn’t a guy who’s trying to do the wrong thing. He’s always trying to get it right.

N: Did you find yourself talking like Bizarro while you were writing?

HC: Yeah. It’s really hard to get into, and it’s really hard to get out of. Because you’ve got to figure out what it is he’s actually saying, and then how to flip it so it’s clear, but it’s also in Bizarro-speak. So I’ve had to come up with some sort of clever ways to say some of this stuff.

N: Do you ever have to subtitle it for yourself? Like, “Let’s write this out normally, and then let’s Bizarro it up”?

HC: Yep! That’s exactly right.[chuckles]

N: So with this series, is it planned to be ongoing? Do you have a planned number of issues in mind?

HC: Right now, we are a mini-series, but when I pitched the book, I pitched twelve issues. I pitched a year’s worth of stories. So I’ve got tons of story left over, and I’m hoping that at some point we’ll get to move forward and either do a second series, or go ongoing, or hopefully people will like it enough that they’ll buy into our little tale of Bizarro, that we can do some more.

N: What are you hoping that people take away from this book most?

HC: Umm – that’s a great question. I think it’s just that — that, you know, you’ve got to judge people by what their intention is. I think that we see a lot of people, and they sometimes say the wrong things, or they do the wrong things, but you’ve got to really go to their heart, and go to their intention. That’s really the soul of Bizarro, and that’s why Jimmy and he find common ground, because Jimmy knows that he’s not a bad guy – he’s just sort of a doofus.


N: Obviously, a big part of a road trip is making mixtapes, stuff like that. You want good tunes for all your cruising around. What would be the number one track on Bizarro’s road trip mixtape?

HC: You know, it’s so funny that you ask that, because I actually have been making a whole bunch of playlists to play while I write. If I was Bizarro, the number one song that he plays over and over and over again is Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball”.

N: [laughing]

HC: He thinks it’s so funny. It’s actually in the first issue three times! It’s on the radio in English, it’s on the radio in English again, and then it’s on the radio in Spanish. Bizarro loves that song, and at some point he’s going to actually sing “Bizarro am a wrecking ball,” because that’s how he feels. He thinks it’s such a beautiful song.

N: That’s so wonderful to hear. I’m sure Miley would also be touched to know Bizarro’s a fan.

HC: I’m sure she’d like that.

N: And before I let you go, can you please explain what’s going on in this photograph.


Photo by Bruce Corson

HC: So here’s the story: I remember being a kid – we had just moved to Chicago. I was maybe seven years old. I was feeling down on myself. I was like, “You know what I love? I love Superman. Superman’s going to make me feel better!” So I made my own Superman outfit, right? That included me looking in the mirror and putting the “S” on in masking tape, because that was all I could do.

I made my dad take pictures of me. The photo credit should say Bruce Corson on your site. He took the pictures, and I put masking tape on my wrists like they were chains, and I snapped through them. I went, “This is awesome! I’m Superman!” So when I got this job, I said to my dad, “Will you dig up those pictures and send them to me, because I just got this job, and these guys will get a big kick out of seeing me dressed as Superman.”

So my dad sends me the pictures, and because I had put the “S” on in the mirror, it’s on backwards.

N: That’s great.

HC: So I realized, I’m not Superman at all. Me am Bizarro.

N: That is amazing! You were cosplaying as Bizarro before you ever knew it.

HC: It was amazing. Before I even knew it! Literally in my head, I was like “Oh, I’m dressed as Superman.” And when I saw them, my jaw dropped. I’m like, “Oh my gosh. Me am Bizarro.”

N: This book is destiny.

HC: And then when I was showing everybody at DC, they were like, “That’s got to be Photoshopped.” I was like, “No, that’s all for real.” And it ended up making its way into the book, because that’s how Bizarro puts the “S” on, is in the mirror, which is why his “S” is on backwards.

N: That’s such a nice, personal touch. I love that.

HC: Who would have ever thought that I’d be writing Bizarro, coming from a personal point?

N: Yeah, right? But you know what? That’s what we need. That’s what Bizarro’s been missing.

HC: [laughing] That’s what Bizarro’s been missing, is someone who really gets in there and understands.

So that’s my coda there for you – me am Bizarro.

Bizarro #1 is available now.

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