Superman Villains: A retrospective

Yep, I’m back with another of my comic book retrospectives. I need to write SOMETHING, so while my fanfiction ideas congeal again, I’m doing another retrospective since they seem to be popular here. That, and I love to steal d Galloway’s ideas. (Juuust kidding d! :wink: )


Quick: mention four Batman villains.Easy enough, right? The Joker! Catwoman! The Penguin! The Riddler! And I bet you can think of even more. They’re pretty well-known.

But try naming Superman villains: Everybody always says LEX LUTHOR!! Yeah, but who else? “Er, the robot guy. Brainiac or something. And the kryptonians guys, you know, from the second movie… wasn’t there an evil duplicate too…?”

Why are Superman’s enemies not so well known? He’s been around since 1938, he’s certainly fought a LOT of villains. You’d think they would be more famous. Heck, kryptonite is better known than most Superman villains!

Let’s take a look at the enemies cooked up to oppose the Greatest Superhero of All Time across the decades, and see if we can determine why they’re not as well known as he is.

Let’s start with the very FIRST Superman enemy: NO, not Luthor (though he was one of the first) but rather, the vile, fearsome Ultra-Humanite!!

… Who?

See what I mean? Who even knows today (other than comic book fans like me :stuck_out_tongue: ) who that is supposed to be?

Actually, Ultra only fought Superman a couple of times (twice I think) and then faded into obscurity for decades, until the 1980s. He’s actually better known as a foe of the Justice Society of America (the FIRST superhero group, predecessors of the Justice League.)

However, Ultra still deserves recognition for being (possibly) the FIRST supervillain ever, as well as (if my theory is correct) being based on the original concept for Superman himself: as an evil, telepathic mutant!

What, you didn’t know that!? Yeah, Superman was originally meant to be a VILLAIN! No, seriously. See here:

“Reign of the Superman” was a short story by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, in 1932, six years before their other version of the character (the one we know today) was published. Apparently, they were interested in the concept of humanity’s possible future evolution (it was a common theme in SF magazines and novels of the time) so their first version was a Superman who was mutant with incredible mental powers who tried to take over the world. This is almost completely the opposite of their second take, which is said to having been influenced by the novel “Gladiator” (no relation to the movie :stuck_out_tongue: ) which was about a superstrong man trying to be accepted by modern society. While the Gladiator character fails and dies, Jerry and Joe apparently decided that having such a person succeed would be cooler, and the rest is history.

Now, I’ve never seen any actual evidence that Ultra-Humanite was based on the evil Superman, but I think it’s a good guess. Like him, he was a bald mutant with great intelligence and mental powers. The name is obvious a derivative. He was also a cripple, which explains why he invented a brain-transplant process and had his brain transferred to… an actress’s body?? O_O

And if you think THAT was weird, check out what else he transplanted himself into in later stories: a giant subterranean insect (!!) and eventually, a white gorilla! He’s kept the ape body ever since. I guess he liked it. (You may have seen the ape version of him in the Justice League cartoon.) Ultra is also known as “the man who saved Hitler’s brain!!” (by implanting it into the body of a superhero, Dynaman) as seen in the (rather cool, but apparently non-canonical) DC comics miniseries, “The Golden Age.” (Ultra himself stole the body of Mr. America, another DC hero, in that story.)

And no, I have no idea what a “Humanite” is supposed to be. Why didn’t he call himself Ultra-Man or Ultra-Human? Where they copyrighted already?

Anyway, as mentioned above, Ultra is pretty obscure, and since mental combat is not Superman’s forte (except for his superhuman will power) I guess Ultra does not really make a good enemy for him. Plus, he was into being women and animals. Too freaky. :stuck_out_tongue:

Next: We get to Superman’s OTHER bald foe: Lex Luthor!!

Cool, a new retrospective! I likey, I likey!

This actually sounds really cool, mostly because I don’t even know that much about Superman’s enemies, other than the more mainstream ones (Luthor, Brainiac, the Phantom Zone Criminals, Bizzaro, etc.), and I ESPECIALLY didn’t know anything about the Ultra-Humanite. Most of my Superman reading lately has been from the Silver Age, where he spent more time battling rejects from a 1930s gangster movie than actually fighting supervillains.

Continuing the more-or-less chronological overview of Superman villains, we now turn to the one who is definitely his best-known foe ever: Lex Luthor!

You of course know who he is: the bald, mad scientist who’s always trying to kill Superman. But did you know that he was not supposed to be bald?

Yep. In what has to be one of the most fortuitous art errors in the history of comics, the guy who drew Luthor’s second appearance did such poor research that he mistook Lex’s bald assistant, Juno, for him! But everybody agreed that he looked better without hair, so it stuck!

In fact, they liked it so much, they decided to make the reason Luthor hated Superman so much be… that Supes caused his hair to fall off!

Yes, seriously!

To be specific: when they retconned Superman’s origin so that he was a superhero since he was a teenager (creating the whole “Smallville” concept, except in the TV show he doesn’t wear a costume) somebody decided that Luthor should also have been his enemy since then. I have no idea who came up with the hair loss thing or why, but here’s what happened: young Lex was already a genius, but a good one, AND he was a fan of Superboy! But, when one of his experiments starts a fire, Superboy bursts into his lab to rescue him. But he accidentally spills some chemicals on Lex’s head in the process, causing all his hair to fall. OK, anybody would be angry about that. But instead of, you know, suing Superboy or, better yet, using his genius to just regrow his hair, he swears to kill Superboy AND becomes a criminal. Kinda silly, isn’t it? You can tell why this story was ignored for a long time (though it wasn’t contradicted, either, so technically it WAS canonical until the end of the Silver Age of comics.)

Strangely, considering what a homicidal creep he was, people grew fond of Luthor, to the point he’s become as much a part of the Superman legend as Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen. In fact, various stories softened his character over the decades: there was the “Imaginary” (meaning non-canonical) story where Luthor is turned good by aliens, marries Lois (!!) and eventually fathers a son with her… who turns evil, and in the end kills his father. Ouch! For a Silver Age story, that was weird and tragic!

Another (canonical) story revealed Luthor had a long-lost sister, Lena, whose existence he tried to keep secret so she would not suffer the shame of knowing her older brother had grown up to be such an infamous villain.

And how about an entire planet of people who worshipped Luthor as a hero? Yes, in one Silver Age adventure, Luthor ends up in a planet (which conveniently had a red sun, so Superman would not have powers there) whose population is endangered because their technology is failing. Luthor fixes it on a whim, and they declare him a hero for it- even renaming the planet “Lexor!” Superman was in fact a criminal there for arresting Luthor and taking him back to Earth. Luthor even fell in love with Ardora, a woman from that planet, and married her!

But he just couldn’t give up crime, especially trying to kill Superman (though some stories postulated that he wasn’t really trying; it was just his excuse for being a villain.)

It should be noted that for decades, Luthor wore no costume. It wasn’t until his Super Friends days that he started wearing that awful purple-and-green suit (which at least made sense in that it was loaded with kryptonite and other gizmos to combat Superman.)

By the 1980s, DC comic decided they needed to make Luthor a more serious threat. So they wrote a story where Luthor found himself a bulky suit on alien power-armor (again, purple-and-green) and could not resist using it to fight Superman. Except in the process, he accidentally destroyed Lexor, killing everybody there including his wife and infant son. And, of course, he blamed Superman instead of himself, and became a more vicious enemy.

And then came DC’s 50th anniversary series, “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, where history was (literally) changed and everybody was reinvented. And Luthor, instead of a criminal scientist, became… a ruthless business tycoon. Like Daredevil’s The Kingpin (or Iron Man’s Obadiah Stane) the new Luthor went untouched not because the heroes couldn’t kick his ass, but because they couldn’t prove his crimes. (Hey, it was the 80’s; corporate greed etc.) Luthor even ended up becoming President of the United States!!

Of course, eventually Superman and Batman manage to expose Luthor’s crimes, and he’s impeached. What does he do then? Go right back to using his ridiculously bulky power armor. Tony Stark would laugh his head off at his techology. (Note: in the Justice League cartoon, this storyline also happened, except Luthor never actually became President, though he came close.)

And of course, there’s also the Smallville version of the character, aka as “The Emo Superboy Show”, where Luthor was back to being a childhood friend of Clark Kent’s, though now he’s shown as a tragic, sympathetic character, who (for some reason) is doomed to become Superman’s enemy one day.

Personally, I don’t get Luthor’s appeal. Ok, the fact he’s a brain-over-brawn opposite for the godlike Superman works, but he’s been shown as being ruthless, even sadistic. He even once (in a 90’s comic) strangled a female reporter to death with his bare hands just to stop her from exposing him! Bet you his Smallville fans didn’t know that. Make no mistake, the current comics version of Luthor is a bastard, almost as bad as The Joker- he just has better publicity.

Funny note: Luthor is played on Smallvile by Michael Rosenbaum, who also voiced The Flash in the Justice League cartoon. In one episode, they had Flash and Luthor accidentally exchange minds, giving Rosenbaum a chance to play Luthor again, but as Flash! One of the funniest JL episodes of all.

Next: Yet ANOTHER bald villain: the nearly unpronounceable Mr. Mxyzptlk!

Hmm… name 4 Superman villians: Lex Luther (duh), Brainiac (again somewhat duh), Live Wire, Bizzaro. And just for kicks the last one I can name of the top of my head: Doomsday.
Although I must admit the only reason I can name most of those is from the cartoons and Smallville. Oh well.

I must admit I knew about Lex Luthor’s original motives… can’t remember from where but I knew he wanted to kill Superman just because he turned him bald. How petty can you get…

Anyway, nice to see you working on something again Wil.

Ooh, this one’s gonna be good! Funnily enough, I was just recently watching a bunch of Superman: The Animated Seires episodes on Youtube. The Mxyzptlk episodes are some of my favorites.

…is it sad that I can not only spell Mxyzptlk without thinking, but pronounce it?

If I remember correctly, the reason Lex was changed to a bald guy was because of the artist for the newspaper comic. Basically, he loved to draw bald villains, and decided on a whim to make Luthor bald just to suit his own fetish. Fortunately, the bald Luthor looked so badass compared to the comic’s version that the change was carried over.

It’s also interesting to note that the same newspaper storyline that made Luthor bald also gave him his first near-win over Superman. In his first Golden Age appearances, Luthor basically tried to prove brain superior to brawn, only for the Golden Age’s Super-Strong-McDumbass Superman to prove that physical violence and mindless destruction will trump intelligence anyday. In the newsies, he actually managed to trick Superman into a trap and freeze him into a block of ice; even when the Man of Steel eventually escaped, he was too weakened to get to Luthor before the scientist could escape. And this was before Kryptonite!

Sorry to barge into your thread like this, but I honestly love what few Superman newspaper comics I could get my hands on. (Only the first three years were collected in a now long out-of-print coffee table-covering anthology, and the handful of stories compiled on The Speeding Bullet) That, and if you’re doing Mxyzptlk, he actually appeared in the newspapers over half a year before the comics. Just a little trivia.

…is it sad that I can not only spell Mxyzptlk without thinking, but pronounce it?
Nah, I can do it too. :wink: Now, if you know the color of Supergirl’s panties, now THAT would be sad. :stuck_out_tongue:

If I remember correctly, the reason Lex was changed to a bald guy was because of the artist for the newspaper comic.

d: I got the info on Luthor’s sudden baldness from The Comic Book Urban Legend site, which is usually very accurate:

However, you ARE correct that a lot of the elements of Superman’s legend originated outside the comics (for example, originally Superman could NOT fly, but instead “leap tall buildings in a single bound!” It was in the radio show that the idea of him flying was introduced, and the comics just went with it, without so much as an explanation.) So who knows, there might be some truth to your theory as well.

Sorry to barge into your thread like this,

Don’t be, I’m just posting what I know and I’m definitely not an expert. :stuck_out_tongue: Besides, I welcome comments! :slight_smile: Please note however, that I’ll be sticking to the comic book version of the characters (for the most part.)

OK, now let’s move onto yet another baldie who hates Superman’s guts (what, are they jealous of his invulnerable locks? :smiley: ) with: Mister Mxyzptlk!

(Say it with me: Mix-Yes-Spit-Lick! Or, Mixy to his friends. :slight_smile: )

Mix is “an imp from the 5th dimension”, or to be precise, a little bald, cartoonish man wearing a derby hat and purple clothes. Like everyone in his universe (that would later be named Zrfff) he had magical powers that he could use for almost anything, such as transforming people and things, even Superman (I don’t know this for a fact, but this might be the origin of Superman’s “weakness to magic”- that is, to justify why Mix’s powers could affect him when nuclear bombs could not.)

It turns out that Mix was the Court Jester of his kingdom, but he was BORED with his job because all the other imps had “lame” senses of humor. Not he, he was a master prankster (or so he thought anyway). Somehow he found about Earth, and Superman, and, annoyed by the hero’s oh-so-righteous personality, started playing pranks on him with his powers. In fact, he actually challenged Superman to stop him: he told Supes that, if he could trick Mxy into saying his name backwards (Kltpzyxm) he would return to his world. Superman actually found a way, and true to his word, Mxy left…

…for a while, only to return later. Hey, he said he would leave, not that he would STAY gone, did he? :wink: In his next appearance, Mix had a different challenge for Superman (to trick him into painting his own face blue, I think) which the hero still managed to do. And so they went for years…

By the Silver Age of comics (which began in the mid-50’s) Mix was reinvented: now he looked less cartoony, had a futuristic costume (but kept the hat) and had a little more hair, but was still partly bald. He was for the most part the same character, except now saying his name backwards was the only way to send him back to Zrfff (for 90 days.) I guess they got tired of inventing new gimmicks for him, or they wanted a explicit weakness for the otherwise godlike character. Also, being banished this way undid any changes he caused.

Of course, this being the era of the “Super Dickery” Superman, he actually got even with Mix once: he went to Zrfff and started bothering the imp there! Apparently, the modern Mxy is not a jester but an important figure in his own world, and Superman started ruining his duties there. (No, I don’t recall why Mix just didn’t turn Supes into a mouse or something.) In fact, It turned out that, if Superman said his own name backwards in the Fifth Dimension, he would be sent back to his world, too! As you can guess, the story was about Mix trying to trick Superman into saying “Namrepus”; after many attempts, he succeeded-

-and nothing happened! Superman, satisfied that he’d gotten even with Mxy, then left, with the imp wondering what went wrong.

(If you know your Superman, you know that the reason was- because Superman is NOT his real name! Nor is Clark Kent, either; it’s Kal-El, his kryptonian name.)

One thing that I must point out, is that Mixy was NOT evil. He may have been a pain the butt (his most diabolical idea, in my opinion, was when he reversed the gender of EVERYONE on Earth except Superman, just to spoil his relationship with Lois! :hahaha;) but he would NEVER hurt anyone on purpose. The reason I note this, is because Mxy’s last Silver Age appearance, in the infamous story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” revealed that the evil being who had caused all of Superman’s friends and foes to kill each other was- Mxyzptlk! The story reinvented him as a bored godlike being who only pretended to be a harmless imp because he felt like it, but had now decided to be evil. Superman is forced to kill him, which leads him to quit being Superman since he had broken his sacred “never kill” vow. Never mind that a) it was an accident, and b) he saved the world in the process. Definitely my LEAST liked Superman story ever. Thankfully, it was never canonical.

In fact, the Silver Age Mix was so set against killing that, in the story where he had teamed up with Mr. Mind (the intelligent alien caterpillar who is one of Captain Marvel’s enemies) in order to bedevil their mutual enemies, when he found out that Mind intended to kill the entire human race, he actually said his name backwards willingly, banishing himself and ruining Mind’s plans!

After DC comics’ big Post-Crisis reboot, Mxyzptlk was pretty much the same, except he was back to only going back to his world when he felt Superman had outsmarted him. He was also stupid enough to gamble his powers to The Joker- and losing, resulting in Joker ruling the World! (until tricked out of the powers as well.)

Mxyzptlk also appeared in the Animated Superman TV series, where he had his original appearance, and was voiced by Gilbert Gottfried (Iago on Aladdin) which I think was a nice touch. However, this Mix was a moron, with Superman able to trick him almost effortlessly.

Mix may not be known well as a Superman villain because, as I pointed out, he’s not- he’s more of an annoyance, and is thought of as fitting better in the more kid-oriented stories.

Next: The Green Man From Outer Space: Brainiac!

Maybe I read “Whatever Happened?” wrong, but…that wasn’t an accident. Superman deliberately murdered Mxyzptlk or whatever. By the time he got to that point, his childhood friends were dead, his dog had sacrificed himself, he had to deal with a visit from a past version of the now-dead Supergirl, and to top it off, the guy responsible for the whole mess…did it all for kicks. Superman WAITED for Mixy to see the Phantom Zone Projector, WAITED for him to freak out and start to say his name backwards, and THEN pulled the trigger. He could have done it at any other point, but he DELIBERATELY held off until Mixy placed himself in a position where he could be destroyed. Hell, Superman flat-out ADMITS THIS TO LOIS A PANEL LATER!

Sorry, sorry. Like you, I really hate that story. I like the absolute ending, but everything else was pretty much summed up the many problems of the Dark Age…BEFORE the Dark Age had even really started.

Good read so far. Looking forward to Brainiac.

d: The way I remember it, Superman said he could not be sure that he did not kill- whatever that “Mxyzptlk” thing was- on purpose, at least subconsciously, and as long as there was a doubt, he no longer deserved to be Superman. (Yeah, that was a load of BS, but so was the rest of the story.) However I COULD be wrong, I only read the story once, and that was over 20 years ago, nor do I feel like ever reading it again, so I guess we’ll just have to leave it there.

(And once again: I do NOT mind corrections or additional information, in fact I welcome them! :slight_smile: )

OK, now let’s move on to the next Bald Superman Villain (yeesh, just join the Hair Club For Men already, you guys!): Brainiac!

Of all of Superman’s villains, Brainiac has to be the one who has undergone the most radical changes in appearance and nature. As originally introduced, Brainiac was a space criminal, a green-skinned alien who had artificially given himself “Twelfth-Level Intelligence!” (Compared to humans’ lowly level-six intelligence… according to him, anyway.)

(Whoa, that was a cool introduction!) :wink:

Brainiac used his power to invent quite some amazing technology, the most outstanding being his force field (that not even Superman could break) and a shrinking ray powerful enough to shrink entire cities down to the size of scale models! Brainiac in fact did go around stealing cities from various planets, then charging them ransom for returning them. This included Kandor, a city from Krypton, though the planet exploded soon after the theft, so Brainiac just kept the city- in a bottle-shaped device that simulated Krypton’s environment- as a souvenir. After his first encounter with Brainiac, Superman recovered Kandor but the shrinking machine had run out of power, so there was no way to return the now-microscopic Kandorians to their normal size. So Kandor ended up as another cool display in Superman’s fortress, though he did promise them that he would find a way to restore them to normal, which he did- but not until the early 1980’s.

Brainiac became a very popular villain. So much so, that when the comics introduced the 30th Century’s Legion of Superheroes, one of them was Brainiac 5, a descendant of the original villain! While B-5 had inherited his great-great-grandfather’s intelligence, he was determined to do good with it, to clear his family’s name.

…However, in yet another sign that DC Comics never patrolled their continuity particularly well, a later Superman story established that Brainiac was actually an android! This of course meant that he could not be Brainiac 5’s ancestor. They had to explain it later by saying that Brainiac had been created by the Computer Tyrants of the planet Colu in the form of a Coluan to infiltrate them, and he in turn adopted a Coluan child to increase his disguise. It was this child who was Brainiac 5’s true ancestor.

It should be noted that, in popular culture, the name “Brainiac” has been used as a pejorative on intelligent people, at least in the past. It is not clear if this was because of this character. Another story claims the character was named (as were many others) after the Univac, and early type of computers Or perhaps it was after Multivac, a computer in Isaac Asimov’s science fiction stories. There was also a Mexican horror movie in the 60’s called The Brainiac, about a brain-eating alien, but that was the title given to the English dubbed version (it was titled “The Baron of Terror” in Spanish.)

Brainiac became one of Superman’s best known villains, teaming up with Lex Luthor in several occasions, and being a regular member of the Legion of Doom (in the Super Friends cartoons.)

Still, by the 1980s, DC comics felt that the character had to be reinvented to be made more sinister, as they had done with Luthor. In fact, it was in the same comic that Luthor got his power armor that the change took place (but in a separate story.)

Basically, Brainiac, who had been trapped inside his own Death Star-like space base by Superman, tried to escape by teleportation, but something went wrong. He was instead turned into a cloud of sentient particles! These particles traveled trough time, all the way to the beginning of time, where they encountered “The Hand That Created The Universe”, and it tried to destroy Brainiac, but it escaped back to its base, where it had its machines recreate it into a new form- looking sort of like an robotic skeleton:

Oh, and it was now supposed to be a “techno-organic” being rather than just a robot. Ironically, he acted less human in this form, and its main directive was now to… find the means to destroy He Who Would Destroy Him. (Not Superman. God. Yes, GOD. Personally, I think Brainy just went mad and imagined the whole time travel thing, but it was never explained either way.) Anyway, its plans always ended up endangering Superman and others, so it was still a menace. I found this new version quite pathetic, but at least it had a pretty cool spaceship:

Some of you may have seen the “skeleton” Brainiac in some of the later Super Friends episodes (AKA The Super Powers Show) though no explanation about its change of forms was given on TV, that I remember.

Thankfully, “Skeletoniac” didn’t last long. The big DC Reboot of 1985/86 had Brainiac return as…

…A stage magician?

Yup. Apparently, as a way of explaining his silly name, John Byrne (the writer/artist in charge of reinventing the Superman mythos) introduced us to Milton Fine, a minor psychic who was known as “El Brainiac!” and who claimed an evil presence from the planet Colu was trying to possess him. It turned out that he DID possess enormous psionic powers and, under the alien’s control, went in a rampage that Superman stopped. Though at first it wasn’t clear if he was right or if his mutant powers had driven him mad. (As you can guess, he WAS saying the truth; the real Brainiac was a Coluan named Vril Dox, who betrayed his people to serve the Computer Tyrants, and was rewarded by being disintegrated. But, like the previous version, it continued to exist ethereally, and was indeed trying to use Milton’s body and powers. Ironically, a brain operation to remove a tumor (which was blamed as the cause for Milton’s “hallucinations”) instead effectively wiped out his personality, leaving the alien Brainiac in control. Poor fellow.)

Afterwards, Dox used his technology to change Fine’s body into a version of his original one (though he kept Milton’s goatee.) He also kept the name out of cruel irony. Oh, and he made a spaceship identical to the “skeletron” Brainiac’s; he claimed the idea “came to him in a dream.”

(Funny note: According to some Hollywood rumors, this version of Brainiac was going to be used on the fifth Superman movie- played by Tim “The Tool Man” Allen! However, that movie was never made.)

Brainiac’s next mayor reinvention came with the Animated Superman series in the 90’s. For some reason, not only they used the Brainiac-as-an-alien-robot idea again, but they made it Krypton’s main computer, and had it decide to abandon the planet to its doom. This Brainiac had the “pure logic but with universal destruction goals” personality of the skeleton Brainiac, but looked like the original. As fans of the series know, this Brainiac not only joined forces with Luthor but physically merged with him (as seen in a long-running plotline in the later Justice League cartoon). Luthor actually enjoyed the merger (as it gave him access to the stolen knowledge of entire worlds) and his obsession with finding and rejoining with Brainiac was his final motivation in the League series. Too bad for him, Darkseid joined with Brainiac first. But Luthor helped the heroes defeat the Darkseid/Brainiac combo in the series’ finale.

Currently, the comics have finally decided to return to a robotic version of the character, very similar to the animated one in that it’s an ancient computer that steals knowledge from entire worlds; however, they claim that it has been creating “lesser versions of itself” for centuries, and that the Brainiac who possessed Fine was one of them. (Where does that leave Brainiac 5 again? I don’t know. The Legion ALWAYS gets screwed whenever DC wants to retcon its continuity.)

Anyway, Brainiac is definitely among the best known Superman villains (mostly from his Legion of Doom days) and is among my favorites, as well. However, I feel that his constant reinventions probably only serve to confuse the fans about exactly who Brainiac is supposed to be: A robot? An alien? A technorganic being? A telepath? A planet-eating computer? Stick to one version, already!

Next: Finally, a Superman Villain with hair! Even if it’s all messed up: BIZARRO!

One of the thigns that annoyed me about his animated appearances? Every so often, brainiac would show facial expressions. And that’s not Brainiac to me. He’s supposed to be cold and emotionless. He doesn’t get surprised. He certainly doesn’t smile maliciously. every time Is aw this, i got annoyed.

by the way, are you going to mention Lobo, too, or is he not a superman villain per se? I was never quite clear on him. But then, lobo can be whatever the hell he wants to be in my book.

What! Bizzaro Superman!? You’re breaking the bald c-c-c-combo before getting to the Parasite?

Actually, when Brainiac first appeared, he had a 10th level intellect. Later on, after Superman had captured him and trapped him on another planet, Luthor found out about the whole thing and freed him. He also decided to operate on Brainiac’s wiring, giving him the heightened intelligence. (Of course, being Luthor, he also put in a few self-destruct devices to make sure his new “partner” didn’t turn around and kill him.)

I mostly remember that issue because it actually brought up a good point. At the end of the issue, Brainiac and Luthor are both captured, shrunk down, and brought to Kandor to stand trial for the former’s shrinking the city. However, Luthor actually brings up a good point: if Brainiac hadn’t shrunk the city down, everyone in that courtroom would have been killed when Krypton went boom! Not that it makes Brainy a hero, but it DOES point out a rare grey area that Silver Age comics don’t like to talk about.

And next up is Bizzaro! Awesome, my favorite Superman villain!

by the way, are you going to mention Lobo, too, or is he not a superman villain per se?
Not really; he’s more of a Justice League villain. Besides, if I covered everybody that Superman has ever fought in his 70+ years of publication (that includes Popeye and Muhammed Ali btw) this list would never end! I’m only doing those villains that I feel are particularly noteworthy only (including a few obscure ones like Ultra-Humanite.)

What! Bizzaro Superman!? You’re breaking the bald c-c-c-combo before getting to the Parasite?
I’m going in more-or-less chronological order here. I started with the villains introduced in the 40’s and now I’m working on the ones from the 50’s, and so on until the present. I’m definitely covering The Parasite too, but he came out in the 60’s. But don’t worry- there’s still plenty more follicularly-challenged Superman villains to cover! :wink:

Gallo: Thanks for the correction on Brainiac’s intelligence (though note that later versions don’t mention Luthor’s “help”; it might have been forgotten or ignored.) And you’re right that the Kandorians DO owe Brainiac their lives; did it earn him any leniency?

OK, Me Am Not Going Now To Cover Imperfect Superman Duplicate, Bizarro!

The first Bizarro was created by a scientist who invented an experimental matter-duplicating machine- but something was wrong with it, and all objects it duplicated were somehow “imperfect”. Then the scientist accidentally stumbles and the machine’s ray hits Superboy, who was there to watch the test (how convenient) and it creates an “imperfect” Superboy- with chalk-white skin and an angular face!

(Note how this Bizarro speaks normally and his “S” insignia is not reversed, both traits that would later become identified with Bizarro.)

The creature, who gets called “Bizarro” for the way it looks (obviously a play on the word “bizarre” though I have no idea if the term bizarro was based on him or if it already existed in popular American culture) escapes, since it has all of Superboy’s powers- but is too childlike to understand the damage it causes. It is feared and rejected wherever it goes, but is befriended by a blind girl (a Frankenstein reference, maybe?) Superboy discovers that the blue remains of the duplicator are like kryptonite for Bizarro (and is told by the scientist that the creature is “not really alive”, thus making it OK to kill it. Again, how convenient.) As it turns out, Bizarro’s death somehow cures the blind girl. Nice bittersweet ending.

Years later, Luthor recreates the “imperfect duplicator” and uses it on Superman, hoping to create a creature that would destroy the hero. However, it turns out the adult Bizarro thought of itself as a hero, so he arrested Luthor! :smiley: Still, his attempts to be a hero only caused chaos, especially when he decided to court Lois Lane! Fortunately, Lois (being useful for once) came up with a solution: she used the duplicator to create a Bizarro-Lois, who Bizarro then picked up and took to another planet, which they then populated with more Bizarros… except, most of them were based on themselves! Therefore, the first Bizarro-Superman took to wearing a sign around his neck to remind everyone that he was “Bizarro #1”! Silly, aren’t they?

In addition to more Bizarro-Supermen and Bizarro-Loises, they would later make bizarros out of all of Superman’s supporting cast, and even the Justice League and Legion of Superheroes! (Though the later two only appeared in a few stories.) There was also a bizarro-kid, though I don’t know who they copied him from. …Unless… he was just born!? But, but, they’re not alive!! Oh great, now I have images of bizarro-sex in my head! :eek:

The bizarros became popular enough that there were actually a few stories dedicated to them, “Tales of the Bizarro World”:

Yeah, Bizarro World was CUBIC- but that wasn’t it’s natural form; Superman changed it for them. (Yeah, by this point in time, Superman was so powerful he could CREATE OR DESTROY WORLDS! O_O ) By now the bizarros also were more than just retards, they had started using the reverse-logic which they’re also know for- enjoying being beaten, giving away money, etc. I never really liked this aspect- how did they know what they should do backwards and what not? Shouldn’t they walk upside down, wear their clothes backwards, etc? Though I admit this is probably their greatest appeal to kids, especially if they’re named “Calvin”. :wink:

One thing that always bothered me: if the bizarros were creating themselves with the imperfect duplicator… shouldn’t their duplicates be perfect instead? Or at least, MORE imperfect? As it turns out, one Lois Lane story had a malfunction of the duplicator create a perfect Superman duplicate, who proceeded to propose to Lois (she thought it was the real one, but he eventually devolved into a normal bizarro, if I remember right.)

There was also an episode of “Super Friends” with a bizarro Justice League. And he appeared in the Superman animated series, if I remember right. Bizarro also was supposed to be the villain of the Superman IV movie, as a Superman clone created by Luthor that eventually deteriorates into its more familiar form, but due to some copyright conflict they used that awful “Nuclear Man” instead. Boo.

One Superman story from the early 80’s had Bizarro’s powers (which until then were exactly the same as Superman’s) reversed by… being hit by a meteor? Now he had Cold Vision, Fire Breath, X-Ray Vision that could see through lead but nothing else, etc. I don’t know why this was done, other than to make Bizarro #1 stand out among the rest. I liked it, even if it made no sense.

As you may guess, after the DC Reboot of '86, Bizarro was reinvented too- except now he was a clone of Superman, that failed because Superman’s alien DNA was too complicated to copy well. This meant Bizarro was now a living being, and was dumb but no longer had reverse-logic or reversed powers. This Bizarro also died while restoring a blind girl’s vision, like the first one.

There were a few more clone-bizarros created, though they were all killed by a clone-killing disease. However, a more “typical” Bizarro was created later when Joker took control of the world (as mentioned above under Mxyzptlk) and somehow remained after things were restored back to normal. This Bizarro is more of a menace because he tends to work for villains like Luthor and doesn’t care if he kills people (just more proof that modern DC comics suck.)

There were also bizarros in the 2008 miniseries “All-Star Superman” though that series was not canonical. (In this version, the bizarros are actually ceated by a “living planet” as a way to absorb people, like in the movie “Solaris”. Curiously, one of these bizarros was a “reversed version” named "Zibarro"that could speak normally but had a reverse-colored costume.

Bizarro is definitely one of the best known Superman enemies (though he was a menace only by default, he might actually not count as an villain.) However, I wonder how many people really understand what he is supposed to be; (Jerry Seinfeld, in his TV show, made the idea of a bizarro being “an opposite version of yourself” popular on his TV show, which is not entirely correct.)

Next: Not one, not two, but SEVERAL villains for the prize of one (including at least a BALD one!): The Phantom Zone Villains!

He did appear in the Animated series - his origin is pretty much exactly that. In fact, it was Mercy Graves, Luthor’s assistant, that gave him the name. A deteriorating Clone of superman, obviously confused, approaches Mercy and asks, rather pathetically, “What… am… me?” And Mercy responds “Bizarro is what you are.” And thus the name stuck. he supposedly died at the end because even Superman was unsure if he could withstand 40 kilos of high-grade explosives rigged to destroy the lab Bizarro was created in.

He showed up later, having survived, and still confused but thinking he was the real superman. he found out from a tv report about Superman’s supposed “fortress of Solitude” and traveled there, freeing a little dog… thing, and called it Krypto. There, he found the embedded memories his aprents left him, combined with Brainiac’s recorded knowledge of Krypton, and developed a desire to turn Earth into Krypton again - complete with its demise. Luckily, Superman stopped him, and brought him to his own planet which he could protect. And Bizarro, being rather content, stayed there, saving stone-made “citizens” from dangers - that heusually had to fabricate himself. he was quite content with this… until Mister Mxyzptlk got involved. (he got in trouble for that - he was actually banished to Superman’s dimension without powers for 90 days for going back on his word to “stop bothering Superman for Good”, and if he did a good deed in that time, he’d get to return.) After that, he returned to Earth, convinced that Superman had tricked him and thought he was dumb, caused trouble, realized his mistake when Superman saved him from the Metropolis Special Police Force, and returned back to his new planet - with Mxy joining him as the “innocent bystander” that needed saving all the time. And that was the last that happened until he returned for Justice League Unlimited, I believe.

Actually, the Kandorians counter-argued that they MIGHT have survived, pointing out Argo City. This is, of course, a bullshit argument. Argo City survived because they built a shield to protect everyone. (I have no idea how a bubble would protect someone from THE PLANET FUCKING EXPLODING UNDERNEATH, but it’s the Silver Age.) The Kandorians did listen, but instead tried to rocket off the planet. Problem was, it was pretty clear their chances of survival were low, thanks to the Kryptonians having no space program, Jor-El having cobbled the thing together in a hurry, and there not really being enough room on the rocket for EVERYONE IN KANDOR. So, in short, Brainiac DID save their asses.

They, of course, find him guilty, and would have executed him. I forgot the ending, but the two villains escape. Brainiac goes into hiding, and Luthor heads to Lexor for a while. Oh, and we also find out that Brainiac is the last of the machines (the Coluans having overthrown their masters during his absence), and as such, killing him would have been the same as genocide. And what about proportionate punishment? Some nut blows up the moon? Phantom zone. Some guy inadvertantly saves your city? KILL HIM!

I also found the issue where Bizzaro-Baby is born. He actually starts out looking human, which makes him the subject of repulsion on Bizzaro-World. So, he gets sent to Earth, where Supergirl tries to take care of him. However, he actually turns into a Bizzaro on his own after a few weeks; unfortunately, Supergirl caused a chemical accident before this, and thought SHE HAD TURNED HIM INTO A BIZZARO. Once Bizzaro No. 1 found out, he mobilized THE ENTIRE PLANET’S POPULATION, flew down to Earth, and promptly waged war on the Superman Family until they gave their baby back.

So yes, you should only love your children if they look perfect, and aren’t some sort of deformed freak. Stupid Silver Age writers…

V: Thanks for the information on the Bizarro from Superman: The Animated Series. I saw his first appearance, but not the rest (I really need to catch up with S:TAS one of these days.)

D: Brainiac was technically just a kidnapper for stealing Kandor; however his attempts to kill Superman certainly made him deserve a harsher penalty. Then again, being a robot, they could just have reprogrammed him, no? I never really got that part…

So… there WAS such a thing as Bizarro sex?? Oh my God… the images! In my head!! (SOFTER!! SOFTER!!) AAAAARRRGH!!!

(Beats his head with a hammer.)

…Ok… I’m Ok now… Let’s continue…

The fact that The Phantom Zone Villains survived Krypton’s destruction to plague Superman years later was, ironically, the fault of his own father- Jor-el! Being one of Krypton’s greatest scientists, Jor discovered the existence of a limbo-like dimension and decided that it would make a good prison for Krypton’s criminals. You see, in the “zone”, everything becomes ghost-like, so anybody put there could not harm anybody else (not even other prisoners.) They could see and hear what happened on the physical universe, but could themselves not be seen or heard, nor affect the outside world directly (though the zone DID grant limited telepathic abilities to its “inmates” that they sometimes used to influence -but never directly control- people outside of it.) It was considered a bad enough existence as to serve as a punishnent for criminals. During the few years between the invention of the “phantom zone projector” (the device used to send things into the zone) and Krypton’s explosion, quite a few people were condemned to it.

There was also a “phantom zone visor” that allowed people to see and communicate with the zone’s prisoners.

(If any of these ideas sound familiar to fans of Ben-10, it’s because that series shamelessly ripped off the Zone idea. Then again, the very premise of that show was based on DC’s old Dial H for Hero series, and no, it wasn’t a coincidence, the show’s producers used to work in comics.) >:(

Most of the “zoners” are not terribly remarkable, were it not for the fact that, under a yellow sun, all of them have the same powers as Superman! (Though Supes could still kick the butt of most of them- he’s better built and is a better fighter- on the other hand, the criminals had numbers on their side.) Fortunately, they rarely escaped, and only once in a mass escape (that I know of.) The most notable Zone Prisoners were:

  • Jax-Ur, a (bald!) inventor responsible for the destruction of one of Krypton’s two moons (ironically presaging the planet’s later fate) with some nuclear weapons he was designing. Note that it was actually an accident, though he WAS planning on using those weapons to rule Krypton. Still, he caused the deaths of hundreds of colonists, so he was given a life sentence in the zone (and since people don’t age in the zone, that meant he was meant to stay there forever.) It was this incident that led to the cancellation of the Kryptonian space program, which explains why there were not spaceships available to escape the planet when it exploded (except for the prototype Jor-El built in his laboratory, that he used to save his baby son). This means that indirectly, Jax caused the deaths on nearly every other Kryptonian.

-General Zod was a would-be dictator - he tried to conquer the planet with an army of artificial duplicates (not unlike bizarros) but was defeated and sentenced to the zone. Zod is usually the one who takes charge of the other criminals when they escape the zone. He’s also the best known zone villain, thanks to the great performance of actor Terrance Stamp in the second Superman movie (KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!)

-But by far the most vicious zone criminal was Faora. Don’t let the fact she was a woman fool you; she was a manhater (not sure why) who was condemned the the zone for torturing and killing men. On top of that, she was an expert on a kryptonian martial art that used “pressure point attacks” to immobilize her foes, making her one of the few zoners who COULD kick Superman’s butt by herself! (Yeah, I know everybody does the “pressure point” thing these days, but back when she was introduced it was a still a new thing in popular culture.)

Faora actually escaped the zone on her own once, since she had greater mental powers than most other zoners, and made a mental link with a psychically-gifted earth man who mistook her for the ghost of his dead wife. Cruelly, she played along until their bond was strong enough to pull her out of the zone. Strangely, her psychic powers were never mentioned again. Maybe it was for the best, she was Mary Suish enough already.)

The above three villains worked together often (despite Faora’s hate of men) and set up the tradition of the escaped zone villains being a trio. However, the actual identities of the trio have varied with time, though there’s usually a leader (Zod, usually), an evil female (Faora, or variations on her) and either a scientist (Jax-Ur) or somebody to act as “muscle”. This was seen in the Superman movies, were the trio was made up of Zod, Ursa (a Faora stand-in) and some guy named Non.

Of course, other zoners escaped or were used in stories, but there were too many for me to list here. I’ll mention, though, that at least one zoner was actually a hero- Mon-El, Superman’s “older brother!” Well, not really; It was all a case of mistaken identity. Mon-El was really Lar Gand of the planet Daxam, who gained similar powers to Superboy’s on Earth but suffered from amnesia, so the young hero mistook him for his brother (never mind that he never HAD a brother, the only evidence was a map made for him by Jor-El, but hey, it was the Silver Age.) “Mon-El” ends up exposed to lead (which is like kryptonite to daxamites) and the only way to save him was to send him to the Zone, until a cure could be found… however, that only happened in the 30th Century, meaning he spent a thousand years in the zone, taunted by the villains there (though he in turn often warned Superman of their plans) until Brainiac 5 (of all people) found a cure for him, and he returned to Earth and joined the Legion of Superheroes.

There was a “Phantom Zone” comic book miniseries where the mass escape I mentioned above happened, published sometime in the early 80’s; sadly, I missed it, and I can’t seem to google up enough information about it. If anybody knows about it, please let me know!!

On the other hand, they did a “last” Phantom Zone story just before the Crisis reboot where it was revealed that the “zone” was actually the mind of a godlike being who was “sleeping” and when it awoke, it killed everyone inside. Ugh.

After the reboot, there was a new rule imposed by DC’s editorial that Superman would be the ONLY surviving kryptonian, because otherwise he “would not be special” (??) This meant there could no longer be a Supergirl or a Krypto and certainly, no Zone Villains. (Note this rule was set in the same days that DC couldn’t make up its mind about which Pre-Crisis stories counted and which did not, causing a continuity mess. Funny how they enforced the WRONG things, huh?) Eventually, though, they found a way to bring them back: it turns out that, in order to explain how Superboy could have been a member of the Legion of Superheroes when the new Superman never was Superboy, they invented a “pocket universe” where that part of the past was preserved (note that this was in itself a violation of the post-Crisis rule that there were no more parallel universes) and it was from there that Superboy came from. However, Superboy was killed off (for no reason other than not having to use him anymore, I guess) which left his universe defenseless against the Zone Villains when they escaped. The Luthor of this world sent a Supergirl (actually an android he created) to ask the “true” Superman for help, but it was too late- the Pre-Crisis Zone Trio ended up killing the entire human race race of that world! Superman, in turn, depowered them using “gold Kryptonite.” But (in a twist controversial to this day) decided they deserved to die for their crimes, and as the only person left to judge them in that world, he used (regular) kryptonite to kill all three of them! The post-Crisis Superman never explicitly had a no-killing oath, but this incident traumatized him to the point he had to leave Earth (with a little prodding from the telepathic Brainiac) which led to his meeting Mongul and the Eradicator (more on them in coming entries.)

Zone criminals also appeared in Superman:TAS, though they sort of combined Zod and Jax-Ur in one character, and replaced Faora with a butch woman named Mala ("which is Spanish for “evil female” Ohh, subtle. :stuck_out_tongue: )

Next: We go back to the 40’s to cover a villain from that era I totally forgot about (shame on me!) The Terrible Toyman!!

And here I thought the Toyman was another justice league villain.

I suspect a lot of ‘League’ villains are actually Superman villain rejects that are too uninteresting to antagonize on their own.

The Toyman is probably the second most reinterpreted Superman villain (after Brainiac). Introduced in 1943, the Toyman is Winslow P. Schott, one of those “gimmick villains” who had no powers, but had a genius intelligence that he used to create deadly “themed” weapons (toys, in his case) that he used to commit crimes… instead of, you know, using his talents to become rich the LEGAL way. But hey, it’s comics. (This point is actually addressed with Toyman, later on.)

The Golden and Silver Age were full of this type of crook; in addition to the Toyman, Superman also had The Puzzler and The Prankster (think The Riddler and The Joker, only lame. So lame, I’m not covering them, except to mention the ONE thing Prankster is remembered for: copyrighting the ALPHABET, so people had to pay him whenever anything was printed. Haw!)

Winslow resembled nothing more than a villainous Benjamin Franklin:

(He also seems to shop at the same clothing store as Austin Powers.) :smiley:

I think I read somewhere that his origin involved having a bully break his favorite toy as a child, so he grew up obsessed with toys and angry at society.
(Hey, it beats becoming a villain because of losing your hair!) :stuck_out_tongue:

There’s nothing really wrong with The Toyman; it’s just that… well, he doesn’t sound like a Superman foe, does he? He sounds more like he’d fit in with Batman’s collection of psychos. Most of histoys couldn’t even scratch Supes (unless, like every crook in Metropolis, it sometimes seemed, he’d found some kryptonite. You know, for a rare radioactive element from a planet in another solar system there sure was a lot of it on Earth!)

Still, I guess the reason Toyman remained (relatively) popular is because… he was charming. I mean, compared to most other villains, he comes across more as a quirky grandfather than a killer, doesn’t he? In fact, during the 70s, they allowed him to retire as a villain, starting his own company, Schott Toys! This was probably done so they could replace him with a more “villainous” version: the second Toyman!

This guy was called Jack Nimball, and it seems he just picked up the Toyman name and M.O. just because the original had abandoned it. Some of you may remember him as a member of the Legion of Doom in “Super Friends”. He didn’t have any powers either, or any of the original’s charm. He was in fact, soon killed off (in the comics) by the original Toyman, who had returned to crime after his toy company failed. This is somewhat controversial, as some people feel that Winslow would never kill, but I’m not sure if that was true in the Golden Age.

In any case, people liked Toyman more as a recurring, humorous character, ala Mxyzptlk. In fact, he was the villain in one of my favorite comic stories ever…

…Where Superman met Santa Claus!!

Yeah, seriously!!

The whole thing turned out to be just a dream Superman had, though. …Or was it? :wink:

Anyway, as you can imagine, Toyman was again reinvented after the 1986 reboot. He was still the same, mostly, except his new origin had him mad at Luthor (the businessman one) for firing him from his toy making company. Otherwise he was still like the old Toyman…

…Or at least, at first.

In the 90’s, in a story that intentionally riffed on how villains were only popular if they were vicious (like the new take on The Joker) Schott, believing himself to be unpopular for being “lame” decides to become more sinister, and not only changes his looks, but kidnaps a group of children. And when one of them tried to escape, he…

…Stabbed him to death.

You read that right. A CHILD WAS KILLED IN A SUPERMAN COMIC. In semi-graphic detail. To make things worse, this was the son of Cat Grant, a semi-regular character who was a friend/rival to Lois and Clark. A pretty brutal way to write him off the series (and ruin her life.)

It was at this point that I realized that there actually WAS such a thing as an intentional “darkening” of DC Comics. I mean, I’d expect something like this in this Batman, maybe, but in SUPERMAN??

Good thing we still had Superman: The Animated Series… which also had its version of Toyman, too. While creepy (this Toyman wore a doll mask all the time) he was never as bad as the Psycho version of the comics was.

Now, this Toyman was willing to kill, so he wasn’t a joke, and in fact, in the famous Justice League episode where Superman is believed to have died, it was Toyman who “killed” him! (It turned out is was a mistake; his “disintegrator ray” was actually just sending things to the future.) He came THIS closed to being killed by Wonder Woman in revenge, until Flash stopped her. A powerful story moment.

A later episode has him as a member of Luthor’s Society of villains (aka as the Legion of Doom by another name) and defeated the superpowered, psychotic Killer Frost when she attacked him. I actually cheered him that time. :wink:

This Toyman also had a “partner” named Darcy, who was actually an android he created. Sadly, she “died” when she turned on Toyman to try to save Static’s girlfriend (from “Static Shock!”) from him.

Recently, the comics have revealed that the crazy, killer Toyman was just a robot that the REAL Toyman had built but that it had escaped from his control. I hope that’s true, though we only have his word on it.

Toyman suffers from the same problem as Brainiac and the Phantom Zone villains: people know about him, but the versions clash- older fans probably remember the Super Friends version, and younger ones, the Superman/Justice League one.

Next: The Man With The Kryptonite Heart: Metallo!

Ah yes Metallo! The one villain I remember more from the animated series more than any other villain (except for Luthor of course).

Seriously, the last two episodes of Justice League were Toyman at his most badass. Not only does he defeat villains that should have, by any respect, ground him to dust, not only is he one of the few to survive the ressurection of a god, but he also kills a dozen Parademons. With Nerf rockets. Exploding Nerf rockets.

I’ll confess: I don’t know anything about Metallo. I’ve certainly heard of him, but never really looked into his character or his appearances. Maybe it was the name. I mean, METALLO? That just seems to scream “writer with too much coffee/too little sleep.” In other words, the entire Silver Age.