If you were a child in the DC universe, would you be able to tell Superman apart from Bizarro? Metropolis Grove is here to explore that very question. In a universe full of heroes, some people live outside the major cities where the heroes battle evil, so divorced from the greater DCU that they even question the very existence of the superheroes they only see on a screen.
And when a kid from Metropolis named Sonia Patel is dropped into the suburbs, she has to do her very best to convince her new friends that heroes like Superman really do exist. While the residents of Metropolis Grove don’t believe in Superman at first, this all changes when the trio discover a mysterious cave full of Super-memorabilia that they can’t keep to themselves, setting off a schoolyear full of drama, adventure and more than a few opportunities for a newfound friendship to test its limits before they realize the cave’s link to the erstatz Superman Bizarro.
CBR spoke with writer and artist Drew Brockington about adapting Bizarro for younger audiences, what it’s like to pull double duty on a comic and more.
CBR: I have to ask off the bat, why Bizarro?
Drew Brockington: When we had an initial pre-pitch meeting with DC they said “You know, you can have complete freedom to do whatever, it doesn’t have to fit into any canon.” We just don’t want another Bruce Wayne in prep school story. So then, I started going back and being like, okay, who’s a fun character? What’s something that I would want to talk about? And actually, some of it started with the setting first, with these kids in the suburb that don’t trust that superheroes are real.
The idea of Bizarro and Superman came up because I was like oh, if a kid saw Bizarro, they would just think it’s Superman. If this is their first superhero that they’ve ever seen that kind of shock and awe of just watching somebody flying in a cape and in a blue suit, their minds are probably immediately going to Superman. So then it started kind of building off of that idea. A little more of it became me saying let’s dig into more about Bizarro. Out of all the versions that exists of them, the one I really loved was one of the early versions where he’s actually just the unfinished clone from Lex Luthor lab. It gave me a perfect starting point for this story where, while trying to be a hero, all this clone can think about is that they are Superman. That’s all they know. And they’re just trying to figure out their way in the world. But they’re not there because they’re unfinished. Maybe they’re doing the normal Bizarro things along the way of trying to save a cat but causing a 50-car-pile up and lots of mass destruction in the process.
CBR: What do you think young readers are going to enjoy about Bizarro?
Brockington: I really liked him from from a goofiness of it, because he is that wide-eyed and getting his bearings on the world. If you’re a young reader, this might be like one of the first books of the superhero genre that you’re reading. You are also starting with a character who is trying to also figure out that same thing of what it means to be a hero and the type of thing that you’re also trying to learn. I really love that. I think Bizarro in Metropolis Grove approaches everything with innocence to where when he’s talking to the birds about where should he live, he is just like taking the world at face value. So I really like that about this Bizarro.
CBR: Bizarro has a very unique way of speaking, How did you approach writing that, for younger audiences?
Brockington: That was a really big learning curve because he’s so much of an opposite and in the negative. But I didn’t want the readers to be lost about what he’s actually trying to say and his point. So, my editor Christie Quinn, and I kind of went back and forth on like a little primer for how much Bizarro can we insert. We asked if we can we insert verses in the dialogue and everything. Some of that actually just came through how he acts like there’s a scene where the kids are throwing rocks at them and Bizarro’s friends are all afraid, but Bizarro is having the best time. So it’s just kind of giving Bizarro the chance to show that his reactions are sometimes opposites. But then in his speech making sure kind of boiling it down to the core of what he is trying to say and then how much of his speech pattern can I adjust to make sure that that’s still clear coming through.
CBR: You did double duty with both the writing and the art on the book, how did you approach designing Bizarro in your own style?
Brockington: That was really fun. Bizarro went through a lot of iterations from his initial pitch, he was a lot more like the big I guess hunky version of Bizarro that I’ve seen kind of like in Superman: The Animated Series. Then there’s Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen version and the Bizarro series that came out a few years ago. So I wanted to do this really big beefy Bizarro, but the original pitch was a lot more spooky looking. He had more of the jagged face and black eyes. So he kind of looked a little more monstrous. When the pitch was picked up, that was something that we wanted to kind of make Bizarro a little more approachable. So the the faces was made to have strong cheekbone features but then I just kind of made the eyes even more large to kind of play up that this is a clone in the process of growing and maybe isn’t fully finished. So humanoid, but you know, not fully rendered?
CBR: Was there anything that inspired this story directly?
Brockington: When I was starting on this my kids were just starting to watch movies and shows for the first time. We’ve been pretty sheltered from exposing them to too much too soon. One of the movies that we watched now, like, 10,000 times is The Nightmare Before Christmas. There is always an element that they play it out. They believe it so much, you know, they believe that story. The whole Santa Claus aspect and how that plays into it. This year at Christmas, we talked about Santa versus Jack Skellington coming. I like the idea of do you believe what you are watching on screens. That played into the setting of these skeptical kids live just outside of the city where so much happens. Superman is there and it’s constantly a focus point for epic battles and standoff. But because these kids are on the outside, where none of that happens in their town. So how much of that do they see? Or do they believe? Because everything they see is filtered through what they watch online or on the TV. There’s kind of a standoff between Sonia, the friend that comes from Metropolis, who has seen Superman and says it’s true. Then Duncan is like who is like “Yeah, but I’ve also seen wizards and Godzilla on TV and that doesn’t make it true.” It’s just like what do you believe in versus what we see.
CBR: How did you approach creating your cast of neighborhood kids and what was important for you in their creation?
Brockington: I wanted them to be very in the sense that like Bizarro is opposite Superman. Sonia kind of mimics that because she just moved from Metropolis to this suburb. They now live on a cul de sac and there’s woods behind their house. She’s the fish out of water. So the kids Duncan and Alice also live in that same neighborhood, they are the opposite to Sonia. Then they kind of grow together and can build off of each other. Kids can be instant friends with any anybody, you meet someone at the playground, and then boom, they’re like best friends for 45 minutes and then you both go home. So I love that aspect that at this age, that they’re at that, a new person moves to the neighborhood, and you’re instant friends with them. Then as you get to know them more, we start learning like, Okay, what is it that actually kind of ties us together and that shared experience of the Superman setting the stage is just that thing that unifies the trio.
CBR: What are some of the major themes that you wanted to include in your story?
Brockington: I like just being truthful. How much of the truth you need to have with your friends in order to remain friends. Because Sonia is putting the best foot forward but it’s not necessarily telling them the fact that she’s figured out that Bizarro is not Superman. She kind of wants that feeling to linger. So, some of it is what do I need to do to make sure we stay friends? And how much of myself am I being around these new friends to make sure that we’re still friends? In any new setting that you’re in, you can you grow and you learn, Bizarro just kind of learns a little more about being around people and being social from being with Sonia and Duncan and Alex.
CBR: In your creative process, do does the art come first in your mind? Or does the story come first?
Brockington: They happen at the same time. So there’s lots of pre-drawing of figuring out what the characters are going to look like, and their neighborhood and everything. When I actually sit down to write the script, I’m doing my rough page layout, at the same time, in order to make sure that the pacing and the story is all working together. I really like that method. As I’m writing, I’m also getting a feel for when the page turns are happening, when I want the reveals to be, and when the big two page spreads will be.
It helps in order to make sure that the reader is reading correctly as you’re looking through the book. That’s kind of how that turns out as well as planning the page layouts at the same time as the script. Then what happens is the artwork takes over and then I am filling in those panels as I’m getting more details, that’s where the script tends to start refining itself. Some jokes are changed or the character that I penciled comes across as a lot angrier than I initially wrote so I say “Oh, that’s a cool idea. How does that factor in?”
CBR: Was writing this any different than your own original work as it fits into the bigger fabric of the DC Universe?
Brockington: It was in the fact that and I’m really thankful that DC said “You have that sandbox to play in. Like, here’s the characters and let’s play in it.” There was some facts that I had to remind myself that I was in the DC world a lot. Especially because I was building the suburb. So, you know, everything was still kind of me designing the layout of this little town. With Sonia coming from Metropolis, I had to look back into Metropolis at things like where would she go to a park? What would she do for fun? And then looking into Bizarro and his characters. Like the things that he would collect and people that he would view as his foes because of his Superman knowledge were all things that needed to make sure feel very natural in this world. I wanted to make sure that none of that seemed forced, so I wanted to make sure that even though I was designing this new suburban town that it had that kind of seamless quality. That was really fun.
I really enjoyed the Superman research. I really, really geeked out when I realized like Sonia could be doing online research on TheDailyPlanet.com, and I had such a good time like reading Lois Lane bylines with pictures by Jimmy Olsen, like I got such a kick out of that. Yeah, there were little moments where is like the realization was especially because Bizarro has hidden so much in the book. He doesn’t make his reveal till about halfway through, where it’s like I’m just drawing another comic. and then all of a sudden that realization of like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is a DC Comic. This is cool.’ And I came through.
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