|Synonyms:||Bizarro Seven, Bizzaro 7|
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The Origins of the Bizarro Universe
Back in 1985 Annie and I had just discovered the joys of BLAKE'S 7 and were reading every zine we could lay hands on that had a B7 story in it. Unfortunately, back in '85 the vast majority of B7 stories were very grim. I'm talking GRIM. This made sense, given the general overtone of the show, but it got a bit ridiculous. I guess a lot of the original B7 fen perceived the show's ending as some kind of unavoidable karma that was to be faithfully adhered to, no matter what. There were exceptions, like the superbly funny GOOD CLEAN FUN that appeared in an early issue of B7 Complex, but in general, you could count the good B7 comedy stories on the fingers of one Space Commander's hand. Well, unrelenting karma is all fine and good, but as a steady diet, too much of anything sometimes causes an allergic reaction. In the case of Annie and me, we reacted with BIZARRO....
There are literal [sic] thousands of influences that contributed to the shaping of the BIZARRO universe. Annie and I drew heavily from many sources, including minds polluted by Danny Kaye, Mel Brooks, Jay Ward Productions, Tex Avery and Warner Brothers, Jean Shepherd, Don Martin, Gary Larson and many others. We also owe tribute to the suggestions or mad ramblings of many of our fellow fan associates (with whom I intend to get even, a little further along) and the actors of B7 themselves. Anyone who's actually seen these folks in action knows in short order that they are actually more Bizarro in real life than they resemble the characters from the show. Annie and I had no idea of this fact when we started writing. If it were not for the fact that we have numerous witnesses, I'm sure it often looks as If we've taken their behavior in public as a model for many of the BIZARRO premises. The plain fact is that the opposite is true...we wrote most of these tales before, and ever since it's been an eerie case of life imitating BIZARRO, not the other way around. Paul Darrow stated after the fact on stage in Trenton, New Jersey that if he could not have been an actor, he would have liked to be a rock star 'because they get to wear all that neat black leather and studs'. We had no idea Gareth Thomas is a birdwatcher, nor that he would love the 'cute little ducks' at the pond in front of the hotel at SCORPIO (boy, was that embarrassing!). And Michael is always 'that way'. Period.
To make matters worse, some of them have started writing B7 stories too (and I suspect at least one of them is putting Americans he's met into his literary effort, as models for characters. Better watch out, kiddies. It's all well and good to write 'get Avon' stories, but what the heck are you supposed to do when Avon starts writing 'get Avon' stories—?! I mean, gee whiz. For the record, although the actors are unaware of BIZARRO in general (which we prefer, for purposes of longevity), they have suggested ideas for actual stories. This makes perfect sense when you realize how brilliant most of them are at comedic portrayal.
Anyway, there are three basic rules of BIZARRO that have prevailed since the very beginning and they bear repeating herein. 1) If you're one of those fen who staunchly believes that the Dignity of the B7 characters must be forever maintained, BIZARRO is not for you. ('Dignity'?! These characters...? You're kidding, right? Hahahahah) 2) There is virtually no premise or basic concept in BIZARRO 7 that was not suggested by some thing in the BLAKES 7 series itself. You may have a bit of fun chasing some of the sources down, but most of the inherent comedy isn't that obscure. I mean after all. Captain Kirk never had parts of his own ship leap out and attack him like a cybernetic pit bull. Han Solo never squeezed telepathic rocks for moonshine. They never threatened some poor slob's record collection to make them join the Rebellion in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. And I can't think of a single piece of modern popular literature where the 'hero' becomes romantically entangled with the villainess on a steady basis (with the possible exception of the Batman's romance of Selina Kyle. I don't count Sherlock Holmes's 'admiration' for Irene Adler). Like I said, your basically funny show. And it's got one hell of a silly punchline, when you think about it.Although we are deeply grateful for all the reader appreciation, it also bears repeating here that Annie and I do have a very definite series of plans and a timeline for the BIZARRO universe and its characters. Not to denegrate the tribute, but we have to insist that the writing of BIZARRO stories be left to us, for many good reasons. Yeah, I know it's hard to believe, but all of this is actually going somewhere. (Frightening concept, no?)
"Life Imitates Bizarro"
Some 1997 comments from Leah Rosenthal:
Sometimes stuff we observed Darrow doing in our company would find its way into serious or Bizarro stories. Much more often, however, we would write the stories (Bizarro in particular), and discover that the actors actually WERE much closer to the fan fiction characterizations than the original serious series depictions. For example, we saw an actual newspaper article in a Long Island newspaper about a man arrested for molesting ducks, and thought it would be funny if we had Blake's original accusation as duck molestation (rather than child molestation) in the Bizarro universe. Imagine our horror, a couple of years later, when we discovered that Gareth Thomas adored birds of every sort, and would frequent the pond in front of the Oak Brook Hyatt every year at SCORPIO con, luring the ducks with pieces of bread.This sort of thing happened with such frequency that our catch phrase eventually became "Life imitates Bizarro." 
From the editorial of The Bizarro Zine #1 (1988)
Although we are deeply grateful for all the reader appreciation, it also bears repeating here that Annie and I do have a very definite series of plans and a timeline for the BIZARRO universe and its characters. Not to denegrate the tribute, but we have to insist that the writing of BIZARRO stories be left to us, for many good reasons. Yeah, I know it's hard to believe, but all of this is actually going somewhere. (Frightening concept, no?)
From the editorial of The Bizarro Zine #2 (1989):
Some readers may wonder why Annie and I are stern about protecting the use of Bizarro in fanlit, even from those who are so appreciative. Unhappily, there is good reason. Rather than go into a lecture, I'll cite an example for you of what can happen. A friend of ours who also writes B7 literature composed and wrote a terrific B7 story with a smashing original idea to it. This friend submitted the story for publication, but there was a long delay before the zine went to press. In the meantime, another fan who had been temporarily rooming with our friend read this story, and she loved it too...so much so, in fact, that her admiration compelled her to write a sequel, without the consent of the Author. I suppose she regarded it as a tribute or something. Also without the consent of the original Author, this admirer submitted the sequel for publication in another zine. It was published long before the original story finally saw print! Needless to say, this is only one way in which the best of intentions can lead to the worst. The highest reward that any writer should expect is that people come to trust their work enough to keep giving them a try.
In 1995, Annie Wortham said:
We know darn well that if someone wants to write a story using Bizarro characters or ideas or settings, there is nothing in the world we can do to stop them. Nor do we particularly want to. We just don't want them to publish them and _call_ them "Bizarro" stories, because they aren't. They aren't "Official." Now, does anybody on this list (or in B7 fandom, for that matter) _not_ know that B7 fan fiction is not "official" B7? Frankly, any zine editor with any sense has placed a disclaimer in the front of their zine very carefully stating that the stories therein are _not_ sanctioned by the BBC, etc. There _have_ been Bizarro take-offs published, by the way, and I even published some of them myself and there have been "unofficial" stories written by others and published in the "Last Stand" universe, as well. When "Shadow at the Edge" goes into print it will contain a couple of filks based on the universe written by Jane Mailander and a cartoon done by Jane, as well.The one real problem we ran into early on in writing Bizarro was that a couple of folks wrote a "slash" Bizarro story and obviously we have nothing against slash but, if I'm remembering it right, they had Avon and Vila having sex and (at the risk of sounding like Craig *oh no!*) Avon and Vila are brothers in the Bizarro universe so it just didn't work for us. The fans who wrote the story, however, had done it all innocence... at that time I don't think we had revealed the relationship between Avon and Vila yet. Actually, looking back on it now from a different perspective, it might have been even funnier if we had just clued them in that Avon and Vila were really brothers.. imagine Avon's horror when he realizes he's committed incest with his creepy little brother... :) 
In 1989, the author of "Intergalactic Velvet," a story in The Bizarro Zine, wrote:
One of the earliest Bizarro tales written, it's also a favorite with readers. It was here that we got our first glimpse into the weird and tormented family life of Kerr Avon, mostly through his weird and tormenting elder brother. The name "Terrick", like Avon's allergies, was not a Bizarro invention. It was a sort of tradition in B7 fan literature that had gained general acceptance through common use (rather than any evidence in the actual series). In fact, the bit about the allergies had become something of a cliche even back before the 'second wave' of B7 fanlit. 
1) There’s a running gag in Bizarro 7 that Blake was arrested and convicted for molesting ducks (canonically, he was arrested for child molestation rather than for being a BAMF rebel.) The joke has Blake stating at least once in every story in the series: “I never touched those ducks!” He may not have touched those specific ducks, but he’s definitely depicted as overly-fond of waterfowl, though we’re never quite sure if he’s truly the pervy fowl-fancier the Federation made him out to be. Bizarro was so influential to the fandom, you’ll find duck jokes in many old-school B7 humorous stories.
2) Blake was a custodial engineer in both Bizarro and Down Safe universes, rather than the canonical highly-educated Alpha engineer who’d worked on the teleport project. He did work on the teleport project… he was their janitor!
3) Bizarro 7 used a “due to heavy Federation mind-wiping when captured, Blake spontaneously mind-wipes every now and again” meme that I use in my B7 universe, but to be fair, that was a generally popular joke used in many of the humorous B7 stories at the time. For a depressing TV show, Blake’s 7 had an awful lot of humorous stories written about it.4) The creators of Bizarro 7 liked to assign characters to their friends, subsequently using their friends’ characteristics to flesh out some of the more 2-dimensional Bizarro characters. Bizarro’s Avalon was based on a friend of ours whose family owned a Greek restaurant and catering business, so our Avalon was a caterer/restaurant owner who had her livelihood destroyed by the Federation and became a rebel leader. (I was “Anna Grant”—see my parody story “Taken for Granted”, which will be posted soon. )
Some Early Works
"The Thought That Counts" -- "This was one of the very first stories Leah and I ever wrote together and is a sort of precursor to our later Bizarro stories. A first or second season story wherein the crew learns a little bit about Auron biology.
"Vila Don't Lose My Number" -- "The first-ever Bizarro story. Vila has a run-in with a vice squad and a crocodile!" Miami Vice crossover, printed in Magnificent Seven #4 (1987) and reprinted in The Bizarro Zine #4.
- B7 Complex #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #16 (1986, 1987, 1988)
- The Bizarro Coloring Book
- The Bizarro Zine #1, #2, #3, #4 (1988-92)
- Highlander Bizarro Style (1990s?)
- The Chronicles #34 (1988)
- Everything But the Kitchen Sink #3 (1987)
- Fantazy #3 (1986)
- Gambit #1, #2, #6 (1987, 1988, 1990)
- Interface #12
- Last Stand at the Edge of the World (1987)
- Magnificent Seven
- Of Dreams and Schemes #5 (1986)
- Outlands #10 (1987)
- Shadow at the Edge (1995)
- Shadowstar #21/22 (1986)
- Southern Lights #2, #3 (1985, 1987)
- Southern Seven #1, #2, #5 part (1986, 1987, 1989)
I cannot begin to describe how wonderful these are. Even people who never heard of B7 like them. Part of what makes them so funny, I think, is the completely deadpan approach to the wacky Bizarro Seven universe. The accompanying visuals help, too. 
I did buy B7 Complex #11 and LOVED "Down and Out." I also very much appreciated the fact that Leah and Ann did a non-Bizarro 7 story. I was beginning to wonder if they had forgotten how to write anything else -- I am over-stuffed, over-anything-you-want-to-call-it on Bizarro 7 and if I never see another one, it'll be too soon. Yes, they were wonderful, but 10-15 stories is 8-13 too many, as far as I'm concerned. 
One of the things that I think sets the BIZARRO stories apart from the other humorous &/or satire-parody series is that they are stories in their own right, with an internally consistant universe of reference points and realities. The people are as fully characterized as they are in many 'real' stories; Avon's accepting that Vila gets lonely fits and putting up with his chattering, as one example, yet It's all so marvelously skewed—in the middle of something serious, Vila's list of things not done yet include attending a NASFIC Con. (I think I have, once or twice. I think he'd have a riot; Vila'd fit into the fannish-party mode really well. My favorite illos included the concert scene with Avon in long hair and Roj looking like Springsteen; Avon throttling the bejesus out of Terrlck; Servalan wearing a pound of soot and a vicious look after the Blake twins from Hell blasted Space Central; and the mutoid troopers waiting patiently while Louise (she is a riot—I can see why Blake wanted to go to Cygnus Alpha) blasts Travis across the room. 
I discovered BLAKES SEVEN this summer as it completed its final run on Channel 28. With a bit of calling around, I've managed since to see the whole series and stumbled upon BIZARRO along the way. I love BIZARRO. Your Avon is almost more wonderfully attractive than Paul's! I'd hate to see them meet the original versus the BIZARRO. Whew. And your Blake's definitely funnier than you-know-who. Gad, I miss them all. 
I just finished reading BIZARRO ZINES #1 and #2, which I had picked up-at a convention a couple of weeks ago. You almost got me arrested, I was laughing so hard in a public place! They were great! I especially loved what you did with Jenna and Cally. All too often authers ignore them to concentrate on Blake and Avon. Thanks again for noticing the ladies! The illustrations were great, too. The Liberator in the parking lot was gut-splittingly funny...I am enclosing a s.a.s.e. so you can let me know when (I hope) you will publish BIZARRO #3...The zine that will rescue us all from our lack of things to laugh at in life!...I also await (with barely concealed skin rash) the BIZARRO COLORING ALBUM... 
A friend of mine introduced me to zines a few months ago and now the addiction is insatiable. But to make matters worse, she let me read BIZARRO! I may have to sue you and Ann for internal injuries! Words fail me in really expressing my feelings about BIZARRO but thanks for creating it. What really amazes me is that no matter how "off the wall" the situation, I can see the "real" characters acting that way. With a whole new issue of BIZARROI may O.D...but laughing isn't a bad way to go... 
There are now 4 volumes of the collected Bizarro stories, originally scattered through many op zines. This is the most alternative of alternative universes. It is absolutely hilarious, and must be seen to be believed. The illustrations by Leah R. are part of the experience. 
Bizarro is hilarious if you have the same sense of humour as the writers, and are familiar with the old movies they're cheerfully ripping off and poking fun at. It would probably pay to borrow a copy first or just buy one issue, and if you roll on the floor laughing at that one, then you'll roll on the floor laughing at all four. They are some very good cartoons in it. 
What's the first zine you read? Name the fandom if you can't name the zine.One of the four Blake's 7 Bizarro zines by Leah Rosenthal and Annie Wortham, can't remember which one. I laughed so loudly and helplessly it unnerved the cats who fled the room. I bought the rest, two of them second-hand I think. Some of the humour is too American to really fit the British B7 (Halloween I ask?) but in this case they're so funny I just don't care. 
The tone of Blake's 7 was often dark, frequently even tragic. Unsurprisingly, much of the fiction of B7 fandom echoes this tone. Except for the wacky, subverted, Looney Tunes version to be found in Leah and Ann's Bizarro 7 Universe. These zines (and the delicious cartoon stylings of Leah Rosenthal) prompt the hapless reader to chuckles, snickers, snorts, and outright guffaws. They are a hoot, and I treasure their irreverence. 
- comments by Leah Rosenthal at Lysator (25 Mar 1997)
- from Lysator, 1995, Annie Wortham
- from The Bizarro Zine #2
- From the notes to the story We're the I.L.A. and We're Proud of It!
- Ashton Press, 1998
- from Judith Proctor's site
- from a letter of comment in "B7 Complex" #14
- from the LoC section in "The Bizarro Zine" #3
- from the LoC section in "The Bizarro Zine" #3
- from the LoC section in "The Bizarro Zine" #3
- from the LoC section in "The Bizarro Zine" #3
- Subject: Fan fiction posted at Lysator on Dec 2, 1992.
- from AltaZine #2
- Fannish 5 on zines by Vilakins, November 24, 2003
- comment by kslangley at What was your first fandom?, August 28, 2016