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Identity Crisis

Episode #20 - Identity Crisis
Original Airdate - September 15th, 1997.

Superman encounters Bizarro, an imperfect genetic double of The Man of Steel, who tries to take Superman's place as Metropolis' hero.

Media by Stu
Pans by Bird Boy
Review by Barry Allen
Credits:
Story by Joe R. Lansdale and Robert Goodman
Teleplay by Robert Goodman
Directed by Curt Geda
Music by Kristopher Carter
Animation by Koko Enterprise Co., LTD., Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD.

Voices:
Tim Daly as Superman/Clark Kent/Bizarro
Dana Delany as Lois Lane
Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor
Lisa Edelstein as Mercy Graves
Robert Ito as Dr. Teng
John Rubinow as Helicopter Pilot
Joe Lala as Matire D'
Kendall Cunningham as Tommy
Ryan O'Donohue as Boy #1
James Cronin as Boy #2
Video

Screen Grabs







Pans



The story of Bizarro is decades old, dating back to SUPERBOY #68 in 1958. Yes, Bizarro did, in fact, first appear in Superboy. In the tale, Superboy killed him even though there was no indication he was being malicious in his mischief. Bizarro reappeared again in Action Comics #254, as created by Lex Luthor, and has been among the most enduring aspects of the Superman legacy, even surviving the Byrne revamp. (In fact, readers of THE MAN OF STEEL by John Byrne will remember that Bizarro actually appeared in THE MAN OF STEEL mini-series, which I will address later.)

General information borrowed from page 110 of Superman: The Complete History by Les Daniels. GOOD: Through the years, as fans became more and more mature and jaded, Superman appeared to be a corn-ball. He delivered cheesy speeches when he saved people. He fought blindly against bad in a black and white world, and rarely encountered, or questioned, gray areas. He was just a chronic do-gooder, and that made him boring and unlikeable to scores of fans.

In SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, especially in the earlier episodes, the creators made a very visible effort to make sure that they weren't recreating the Silver Age Superman—no corny speeches. It's very apparent that they strove to make Superman a man of action in this series, and not a man of so many words. While this worked less well in later episodes, it was striking in the beginning.

"Wow! Superman is actually cool!" so many of my friends said when the series debuted. So when I saw the opening sequence of IDENTITY CRISIS, I was worried.

"Superman's talking like that again? What is this? Superfriends?" Superman flew away after delivering a public service message to the boys, and I was shuddering. "Did Superman actually tell that boy, 'I know it's tough to avoid a dare, but sometimes being brave means using your head'?"

He did. I was ready to turn off the episode until I saw Clark Kent fly out of Lois's car, and watched in disbelief as Superman caught him. It was a brilliant attention getter. By definition, attention getters are usually there for the sake of getting attention, but this one actually functioned well in the context. I still didn't understand what was going on until I saw the white skin coming through.

SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES adapted the story of Bizarro brilliantly and very nearly flawlessly. By no exaggeration, this was one of the greatest episodes of the cartoon in its fifty-four episode long run.

Once I discovered that it was Bizarro who delivered that truly awful dialogue, I came to love those sequences. Although I'm not sure about whether the writers intended to have Bizarro speaking like the Silver Age Superman because they wanted to illustrate how Bizarro was trying too hard, or because they wanted to illustrate externally that this was NOT Superman and viewers should be suspicious from the beginning of the episode. Either way, it worked fantastically. It was a great nodd to the Silver Age Superman without diluting the impact this more silent Superman has.

This episode also showcased a character that was drastically under-featured as the series progressed: Lex Luthor. I was so pleased to see his appearance, after a few episodes from which he was absent or where his appearance was less than spectacular. Here, Luthor shone. He appeared to be the calculating, evil villain that he should have been throughout the whole series. It was also made perfect sense; both pre- and post-Crisis, Luthor was behind the Bizarro project in his pursuit to create an army of Supermen all under his control.

As far as the images of the clones themselves, rarely have we seen in this show something as striking as all of those tubes' lights being turned on, revealing the inhuman clones forming within. It was a rarity in this show, and it all others that such a discomforting image would be presented, and I thought it was handled well. I don't mind admitting that it sent a slight shiver down my spine to see all those things with their blank stares being grown. That's the kind of horror that I like seeing Lex responsible. It wonderfully illustrates the depths of Lex's evil and how OBSESSED he truly is with Superman.

Bizarro's "heroic efforts" were actually rather comical and did not appear to be shoe-horned in. It made sense that he deteriorating brain would make those mistakes, the destruction of the building and the opening of the bridge. It was also nice to see how quickly and effectively Superman averted the disasters. He didn't seem to struggle with catching the wrecking ball and and he exerted [what seemed like] an appropriate effort to stop the boat. He wasn't making excessive grunting sounds like usual; he seemed just more super.

Bizarro's self-sacrifice in the end was touching, however predictable. I seem to recall in the 5 part arc BIZARRO'S WORLD that ran through the Superman comics in about 1995, Bizarro also sacrificing himself, but because I do not have the issues to reference, I am not sure. It could also be argued that the Bizarro of THE MAN OF STEEL was something of a hero when he was destroyed in front of Lucy Lane, whose vision was restored; there could be an interesting case made, anyway.

And hey, how about Tim Daly doing the voice of Bizarro?! What about that, huh?

BAD: The bad of this episode was simply non-existent. I loved it all. It was a shining example of all things that SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES could have, and should have, been if it was better handled.

QUOTES:
KID 1: Hang on Tommy!
KID 2: Just climb down!
TOMMY: I'm scared! I can't move!
KID 1: What if he dies?
KID 2: I'm not telling his mom.

CLARK: You go on ahead, Lois, I feel like walking it off.
LOIS: Are you nuts? We're miles from nowhere! What about the story?
CLARK: You know us Country Bumpkins. Ten miles to school and all that.

SUPERMAN: Excuse me. I know you're a busy man, but I am dying to get your autograph.

BIZARRO: What am me?
MERCY: BIZARRO! That what you am.

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