Styles is Wild, Bizarre, Bizarro
Hello, nerds! Welcome to Seattle. In honor of your arrival in my town, and in lieu of the original content I had oped to present to you on sunday at ECCC, I present to you “Taking Acid and Talking About Superman With a House Full of Thalidomide Castoffs”, or “Jimmy Olsen’s Kookie Scoops” from Adventure Comics #287, August 1961, by Jerry Siegel and John ‘Not the Fugee’ Forte. (Siegel was already in his late 40s by this point, which may explain the overabundance of faux-hep words like “punk”, “kookie” and “whacky”, but then again it may not.) I’m afraid that no text can convey the utter weirdness of actually reading the comic, but we must try to do our best.
As we open this mind-boggling story, ace “newshawk” Jimmy is being bawled out by editor Perry White for turning in a story headlined ‘City’s Water Commissioner Takes Ocean Cruise’, which I pretty much have to agree is lame, as eye-grabbing headlines go. Perry tells Jimmy to find big news stories, like “if the moon rises in the morning instead of the sun”. Although this seems like it would be a tough assignment, Jimmy reluctantly agrees. Then Perry tells Jimmy not to call him chief.
The next morning (this is panel four — let it never be said these stories don’t move along at a rapid clip), Jimmy is driving around “on his day off” (why we need that information, I’m not sure; maybe so as not to make us lose faith in Jimmy’s work ethic), and happens to see a huge spaceship parked next to a tree. No one else apparently saw the ship, even though it’s right there in the open next to a major thoroughfare. Jimmy decides to investigate, his razor-sharp reporter’s instincts clueing him in that a extraterrestrial landing might be just the sort of big story Perry would enjoy. Oddly, while he is running towards the ship, he sees Perry himself — as well as Superman — getting onto the ship, which doesn’t even pique his curiosity. I guess that’s why Jimmy makes the big bucks, split-second editorial decisions like this one. He boards the ship and it takes off with a “vrrooommmm”, like a hot rod.
Once on board the spartanly outfitted craft, Jimmy learns that the passengers are actually Bizarro Perry White and Bizarro Superman No. 1. The old editor of the “Daily Htrae“, Bizarro World’s leading newspaper, has retired (wouldn’t you retire before you get old on Bizarro World? Or maybe you retire first, and then start working? Look, I don’t know the intricacies of Bizarro society. I’m just asking.), and Bizarro Supes gets the bright idea to duplicate our Perry White and make him the new editor, instead of just having one of the other Bizarros do it. Makes sense, right? To build a spaceship and fly all the way across the universe to clone a newspaper editor? Sure. Then Bizarro Perry “hires” Jimmy to work for the Htrae by way of having Bizarro Superman threaten to hurl him bodily into space if he doesn’t agree. That’s how Bernstein got his gig at the Washington Post, oddly enough. BS calls Jimmy a “lucky redheaded newshawk”, but they don’t kiss.
Next we have the requisite tour of Bizarro World: pink angular buildings, taxmen giving people money, a flag with stripes in the inset instead of stars, the Bizarro Code. Jimmy sees a clock with the numbers in the wrong order and says that it’s “utterly useless”, showing why he’s a reporter and not a linguist, a designer, or a logician. He describes his surroundings as “mixed-up”, “peculiar” and “kookie”.
On the job at the Daily Htrae, Bizarro Lois (one of them, at least) takes a shine to young Jimmy, leading him to say “jeepers”, though not out loud. Bizarro Perry (who smokes exploding cigars that say “BANNG!”) tells Jimmy to go out in search of a scoop. Jimmy’s as big a failure on Bizarro World as he is at home, career-wise. He does as instructed, discovering a fire at the “movie theatur”; calling the fire department, he is shocked when they provide future inspiration to a young Mike Judge by pouring gasoline on the fire. Rain soon puts out the fire, and he turns in the story to Bizarro Perry, who is outraged, saying the story is dull and boring. In addition, BP is infuriated that the Htrae‘s rival paper, the cleverly titled “Daily Noose“, scooped them with the greatest newspaper headline I have ever seen: “MARSHMALLOWS GET TOASTID IN THEATUR FIRE; THEM SURE TASTE GOOD!”. Then BP tells Jimmy to call him chief. Jimmy says “This Bizarro whackiness is getting me!”. I can dig it, Jimmy, but sadly, we’re only on page 6.
“Pesty” Bizarro Lois offers to take Jimmy to lunch to make him feel better. She eats a whole turkey, because she’s on a diet. Jimmy is kind of an ungrateful prick to BL. “A moment later”, he sees a couple of Bizarros breaking into prison (“here, it’s the opposite!” says Jimmy, for the sake of the handful of cretins who haven’t gotten the gag yet) and reports it, only to be yelled at by Bizarro Perry (“BANNG!”) for another boring story. Jimmy: Bizarro world is “nuts”; Bizarro Lois “gives me the creeps”.
One panel later, with absolutely no explanation or backstory whatsoever, a bunch of seriously creepy-looking aliens invade Bizarro World for no discernable reason and the entire planet is suddenly in the midst of a huge interplanetary war. This all happens in one panel. The aliens (who say “Yowrp-pp!” when Bizarro Krypto chases one of them) are stunned, as is Jimmy and anyone else still reading this, when the Bizarro Army, which apparently consists of 6 Bizarros in army helmets, stops fighting to play with a dog. They get the aliens to leave by giving them “worthless stuff” like gold and fresh fruit. Yes, fresh fruit.
Jimmy turns in a story about the war, only to be scooped again by the Daily Noose‘s story “Dog Bites Man” (Krypto Bites Alien, actually, but hell, who cares at this point? It’s still more newsworthy than some dumb war). Jimmy says “that’s just the opposite of what Earth editors consider important!”, finally wising up a good 10 pages after all the 6-year-olds at whom the comic was marketed did.
Jimmy is in the pits of despair over his failure as a reporter on Bizarro World. I was really rooting for him to commit suicide at this point, but alas: Bizarro Lois has arranged for him to win the “big prize”, which he thinks is a flight back to Earth but turns out to be marriage to Bizarro Lois.
When Jimmy says he doesn’t want to marry a wealthy, influential woman who has done nothing but be kind to him, a bunch of Bizarros justifiably threaten to pound the shit out of him, because Bizarro Lois is their sister. This makes no fucking sense from a logical standpoint, since all the Bizarro males are clones of Superman, but whatever: who’s still splitting hairs at this point? The Bizarros have developed an incest taboo and then failed to observe it, instead folding it into some weird cross-species polyamory. Why not. My appetite is whetted at this point to see Jimmy pulverized into a fleshy mush by four pissed-off, batshit-crazy Supermen. No such luck, though: Jimmy, who describes himself as “tee-rific”, sneaks into “a lab” and creates a Bizarro Jimmy, who marries Lois instead. I’m personally disappointed that we don’t see more of Bizarro Jimmy: he would presumably be intelligent, interesting and kind, seeing as he is the diametric opposite of Earth Jimmy.
As “punishment” for “losing such a great catch”, Jimmy is sent back to Earth in a different spaceship. Bizarro Superman No. 1 throws the ship into space to propel it, which means he’s not only a billion times stronger than Superman but has great aim too. I wish he’d just thrown Jimmy into space without the ship like he was going to in the first place. When he gets back to Earth, Jimmy is so happy to be home that he says “Gosh, I even enjoy being bawled out by the real Perry White”, who is ragging his ass again for being such a shitty reporter. Jimmy apparently didn’t think being flown to an insane alien world, where he witnessed a massive interplanetary war and figured out how to clone himself, would make a good enough scoop.
You suck, Jimmy Olsen.