After writing animated movies about DC superheroes, Heath Corson was desperate to get DC editors to let him write a comic book — like, stalker-level desperate, he says. But when he finally got DC Group Editor Eddie Berganza to listen to some pitches, he was shocked to discover the publisher liked his crazy Bizarro idea, featuring Jimmy Olsen taking Bizarro across the country on Route 66, planning to drop him off in "Bizarro America" (or in other words according to Corson, Canada).
In the new title, which features an innovative new look by Brazilian artist Gustavo Duarte, Bizarro crashes onto Earth, then sees Superman and decides to mimic the hero, fighting for "lies, injustice and the Bizarro American way." But when Bizarro's presence in Metropolis becomes a problem, Jimmy Olsen is tasked with getting rid of him — touching off a story that Corson likens to a "buddy picture" as the two travel across America.
Corson, a screenwriter and producer best known for DC animated films like Justice League: War and Batman: Assault on Arkham, said he hopes to get readers to identify with Bizarro. "He's this joyful, awkward, klutzy outcast that desperately wants to be loved but can't ever seem to make anything come out right. In other words, me in middle school," Corson explained. "I kept saying that he's not this frustrated monster but more like this raw, exposed nerve, desperate for friends. See? Me am Bizarro."
The title is listed as all-ages, but Corson said it's all-ages like The Incredibles, meaning it's not aimed at kids, but is OK for anyone to read. Bizarro also leans heavily on humor, with Corson listing Justice League International and Howard the Duck as influences, and it joins several other humor comics that DC is trying out in June (presumably influenced by the success of its Harley Quinn comic).
For more about Corson's take on Bizarro (as well as a first look at Kyle Baker's variant cover for Bizarro #1), Newsarama talked to the writer about the new title.
Newsarama: Heath, your career has certainly included plenty of superheroes as you've written animated films. What brought you to writing about superheroes, and what do you enjoy about them?
Heath Corson: Well, I'm a huge superhero fan and have been since childhood. So, to get the chance to play in these toyboxes with these characters has been a non-stop dream come true for me.
For me, superheroes are modern day mythology, wrestling with big Shakespearean emotions and concepts: Honor, duty, betrayal, loyalty, identity. Who wouldn't leap at the chance to write them?
Nrama: And now you're getting to dive into the source materials — print comic books. What interested you about writing comic books, and how did you end up writing for DC Comics?
Corson: As a lifelong comic fan, writing a comic book felt like dreaming an undreamable dream.
Honestly? I kept banging on the door and hounding them until they finally listened to my pitches. But in the interim were years of emails, stalking editors and pointing to my animated movies playing at their booths begging: "I wrote that. Please let me write a book. Please?"
True — security was called. More than once. But it was worth it.
Nrama: How did the Bizarro project in particular come about?
Corson: When I got the opportunity to pitch editor Eddie Berganza, I had about six or seven ideas to bounce off of him. So I'm pitching these other ideas and out of nowhere Eddie says: "Do you have a take on Bizarro?" Oddly enough, I did.
At the bottom of the list was this crazy Bizarro idea, called Bizarro '66 (off the Batman '66 book), which was basically Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen on Route 66 going across the U.S. to drop Bizarro off in "Bizarro America" (A.K.A. Canada). It was at the bottom because I thought it would get a laugh, but I also thought nobody would be crazy enough to let me do that book.
Aaand… it turns out that DC is just crazy enough to let me do that book.
Nrama: Let's discuss the lead character a little. Most people are at least a little familiar with Bizarro from either the comics or the animated universe. But who is he in your comic? How do you introduce him?
Corson: Bizarro is an alien from a distant planet rocketed here. His rockets give out right above the Earth and he crashes into our planet, spotting Superman saving an airplane (that he destroyed on his fall, by the way).
Bizarro is inspired by Superman. He wants to be a hero like Superman. So he puts together his own cosplay Superman outfit and runs around Metropolis trying to do uphold "lies, injustice and the Bizarro American way."
Of course, Metropolis soon gets sick of him and wants him gone. Jimmy Olsen takes it on himself to rid Metropolis of Bizarro.
The character always fascinated me because he's this joyful, awkward, klutzy outcast that desperately wants to be loved but can't ever seem to make anything come out right. In other words, me in middle school. I kept saying that he's not this frustrated monster but more like this raw, exposed nerve, desperate for friends. See? Me am Bizarro.
Nrama: So Jimmy Olsen is an ongoing part of the comic?
Corson: Jimmy is the co-lead of the series. It's a buddy picture. Jimmy is our Steve Martin to Bizarro's John Candy. He thinks that in taking Bizarro on this road trip, he'll get fame, fortune and a coffee table book out of it. But, because he's doing it for the wrong reasons, it gives us the ability to knock him around a little. Make him pay for it.
Nrama: Are there are other characters from the DCU who will run into Bizarro?
Corson: Yes! One in particular, quite literally.
But the answer is yes. Lots. Not who you think either. Nope, not him. Or her. You can stop guessing now. No. Nope. Afraid not...
Look, it's Bizarro, you have to figure our guest stars would be a little bizarro as well, right?
Nrama: Since you had a whacky pitch for Bizarro ready to go, it sounds like you were already a fan. Are there any depictions that stick out in your memory?
Corson: Oooh. I grew up reading the DC Comics Blue Ribbon digests which repackaged stories from the '50s and '60s, so I remember all the really fun, crazy, backwards Otto Binder and George Papp Bizarro stories from Superboy.
Other notable versions I loved were the great Bizarro redesign by Ed McGuinness, the Grant Morrison Bizarro story in All-Star Superman, the Bizarro Comics anthology and, of course, the animated version in the Legion of Doom.
Nrama: You mentioned earlier that you were surprised DC loved your Bizarro '66 idea, but looking at June's line-up, DC seems much more open to humor comics — particularly after the success of Harley Quinn (a book that's mentioned in the Bizarro #1 solicitation). But is Bizarro from the same vein as Harley Quinn and other humor comics?
Corson: Bizarro is a buddy road trip comedy. Different kind of comedy but still in the fun, out there, character-based comedy vein as Harley. Other humor comic influences include Justice League 3000, Howard the Duck, Justice League International and Ambush Bug.
Nrama: DC is also introducing some new art styles to their comics in June. How did you end up working with Gustavo Duarte on this book? What did you think of his art as you were developing the idea of this book?
Corson: Gustavo is great. They showed me his Bizarro sketches and I thought, "This guy is perfect." Full stop.
Nrama: Why does his art fit with the story you're telling?
Corson: His take just fit so well with how I was thinking of the character. His art style is cartoony but still manages to bring so much heart and humanity to these characters, which is exactly what we needed.
We've been having a blast together. I send him jokes and ideas and he'll send me sketches and pictures of pages. We crack each other up. We have a lot of the same comedic and animation references, which gives us a nice shorthand.
Nrama: With an all-ages label, there might be expectations of the type of situations he'll find himself in. How much does this comic meet those expectations — and in what ways is it breaking them?
Corson: The book is all-ages like The Incredibles is all-ages — meaning it's appropriate for younger readers but not skewed towards them. I think that's a slightly different take on all-ages than I've seen in comics for a while.
Nrama: The comic has been advertised as a six-issue series. Is there room for more?
Corson: Yes! This is my first comic ever! I'm bubbling over with ideas. I've got enough for... Well, at least eight issues. Ten if Gustavo does a bunch of splash pages.
No, just kidding. I would love to keep going. There is no way I can cram everything I want to do in six issues. If people enjoy it, we'll keep doing it.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Bizarro?
Corson: The best thing about writing a Bizarro book is when people on Twitter say they hate it, you can pretend that means they love it. Boo-ray!