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Indie comics luminaries Carol Lay, (Story Minute), Evan Dorkin (Milk and Cheese), and Dylan Horrocks (Hicksville) take on the overly-familiar likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the same way that the late-80s hip-hoppers like Public Enemy, De La Soul and Eric B. and Rakim cribbed beats from their parents' record collections. The results are just as fresh.
--Baltimore City Paper.
Daddy smells like waffles.
--a chicken, legally adopted by Mr. Mxyzptlk

The cover by Matt Groening shows Superman's imperfect duplicate, Bizarro, blowing from soap pipe square bubbles containing befuddled renditions of DC Comics' superheroes. On the 200+ pages within, an assortment of less-than-mainstream writers and artists reinterpret the world's most famous super-hero pantheon, with occasionally brilliant results.

Bizarro, first published in 2001, sandwiches its tales between the beginning and ending of a story that could take place in DC continuity: Bizarro and Mxyzptlk must join forces to defeat a game-playing super-alien. The introductory section seems overly long; the conclusion makes amends with some truly inspired silliness. We know that in a book this strange Bizarro needs must emerge victorious, and his triumphs at Finkelstein and "Behind the Rock Music" testimonial, free form prove genuinely entertaining.

Still, it's what's between these two slices of surreal life that sells this sandwich, and the fixings are decidedly mixed.

The best of the anthology works very well. The largely dialogue-free "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Babysitter" by Kyle Baker and Elizabeth Glass provides an amusing-- and somewhat disturbing-- look at Clark Kent's childhood. In Dylan Horrocks and Jessica Abel's "Clubhouse of Solitude," Supergirl and a retired Mary Marvel meet at a coffeeshop and engage in girltalk. It plays entirely as such a meeting might, if the DC Universe were real, and the effect is both charming and disorienting. Possibly the most original story in the anthology, it could actually take place in a regular DC comic; it just typically wouldn't.

Likewise, mainstream heroes such as Warlock and Animal Man have explored existentialist dilemmas before. None, however, have quite the bitterly comic effect of a story, written by Chris Duffy of Nickelodeon magazine, in which the original Green Lantern fails to dissolve some of his creations, and they are forced to come to grips with their lives before they fade to nothingness. In yet another story, Joe Average Guy becomes a Green Lantern Corps reservist.

And so it goes. Ariel Bordeaux and Ellen Forney send Wonder Woman to a poetry slam. Evan Dorkin and Stephen Wiseman present a grim view of sidekicks' lives. Love and Rockets' Gilbert Hernandez reconceptualizes the Justice League of America and their opponents as feuding children. Andy Merrill and Jason Little present a postmodern Aquaman adventure told by a kid playing with his bath toys. Batgirl appears as a junior high student with a teen witch fixation.

Other efforts prove less successful. A handful of idiosyncratic Batman adventures appear. While fans might find it interesting to see the Dark Knight presented in these odd contexts, most of these tales don't really amount to much. Among them, "Who Erased the Eraser?" perhaps provides the most original look at the bat-mythos.

Bizarro Comic won "best anthology" at both the 2002 Harvey Awards and Eisner Awards. The best of its stories will appeal to a broad audience, but most have been written for people with an established interest in comic books. Despite the shifts of context, they've been written with DC's approval-- and a fannish affection for the original characters.