A Bizarro Kind of Love

Artwork by Tem Levins. Scene from The Amazing Adventures of Superman written by Benjamin Bird (Capstone Publishing).

If Superman turned on us, we’d be toast.

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…” This old timey description doesn’t really do justice to what we have come to know of the hero’s capabilities. Back in the 1940s, mistaking a superhero for a bird or a plane was the best they could do, because that was pretty much what they had. Nowadays, Superman’s pantheon of villains and intergalactic foes has progressed far beyond human technology, requiring Superman to exceed his previously known limits—after all, he has to be a match for whoever attacks the earth. And he is. His powers (unless you throw kryptonite into the mix) are nearly limitless.

So what would happen if he was to turn evil? He’s only human, after all. Well, actually, he’s not, but you know what I mean. Earth would face the most powerful villain it has ever seen.

But I’m not scared. Because Superman’s not real, you say? No! That’s just crazy talk. I am not afraid of my hero turning bad because he constantly reveals his gentle nature and compassion for the small, the weak, and the needy. To me, Superman is the embodiment of love because he wills the good of all others—even though he really doesn’t have to.

He treats Bizarro, not like the monster that everyone else sees, but like a child who needs assistance.

Superman’s encounters with Bizarro are my favourite examples of this. I like to think I’m kind of a niceish person, but if I was faced with a warped clone of myself who had all of my ninja powers but lacked my even temper and responsible conscience, I’m not sure how kindly I’d react. More to the point, Bizarro thinks that he is Superman; he has all the strength and abilities of Superman, but none of the intelligence (or good looks). Bizarro’s Kryptonian powers, desire to be a hero, and mind of a (befuddled) child make him extremely dangerous. And to top it off, anyone who looks at him is repulsed and terrified.

In the Superman the Animated Series episode, “Bizarro’s World,” Superman goes out of his way to understand the poor dude instead of just defeating him. Bizarro, having found the Fortress of Solitude, discovers the history of Krypton. He is told by Brainiac (the information orb in the Fortress) that he is Kal-el, so believes himself to be a hero. And he wants to be a hero so bad. Unfortunately, this leads to his putting several different groups of people in danger and, with almost every action he takes, he shows how dangerous he is. He loves Lois, which immediately and repeatedly puts her in danger. He almost blows up Metropolis—on purpose—because he thought it was the right thing to do. He literally can’t do anything right, hard as he might try.

Prudence might suggest that someone as powerful as Superman who has zero impulse control should be imprisoned—maybe even destroyed. The fact that he was made in a lab by Lex Luthor might provide additional argument for his destruction—he’s not even a real guy—he’s not natural. He is mistaken for Superman once in a while since, from far away, they resemble each other. A less personally secure hero might want to get rid of him just for that reason.

Superman goes out of his way to understand the poor dude instead of just defeating him.

But, his pitiful brokenness evokes sympathy in Superman. He treats Bizarro, not like the monster that everyone else sees, but like a child who needs assistance. He is downright tender with him. Superman has to use force to stop Bizarro from his accidental path of destruction, but does his best to guide him and make him feel loved and useful. Superman even comments that Bizarro “has a good heart.”

Trusting in Bizarro’s desire to do good (even when evidence showed that he isn’t really capable of it), Superman found him an uninhabited planet to take care of. He went out of his way to give Bizarro what his heart desired most—to be the hero, the caretaker of something. He even brought along the horrifying beast that Bizarro made a pet of (a creature he named Krypto) so that he wouldn’t be lonely, ensuring Bizarro would have something to love and protect.

Was this a smart decision? Letting an incredibly dangerous being go free? I’m not sure. But I do think it was the right decision.

The charity with which Superman answered Bizarro’s threatening behviour is, to me, as loving as you can get. To look beyond what is presented at face value—particularly when it is ugliness—to truly see and respond to the deeper need… that is true love.

That kind of love is how I hope the people I care about most look at me—my family, my friends, and my God. They see past the ugliness that I’m presenting at the moment, offering me more than what I deserve and what will make me feel truly fulfilled, useful, and loved. That’s what Superman is like all the time—he looks beyond his own need, and often beyond his own desire, to effect the good of others—the good, the bad and the ugly. How can you not love Superman for that? I sure do.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" is available from Paulist Press.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Latest posts by Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry (see all)