Sunday, January 07, 2018

A Year of Mxyzptlk 1: Enter the Imp

Halfway through last year, pal Isaac Cates (editor of the very fun Cardoza Tales comic anthology series; Bully sez check it out!) posed the musical question "Has anyone ever compiled a list of ways Mxyzptlk has been tricked back to his dimension? I want to read that." See? It's right here!

Well, little did Isaac know (altho' I couldn't keep from hinting at it a little) that I'd already started planning 2018's "365 Days of," and the subject I'd chosen to spotlight is that extra-dimensional imp who keeps popping by to bedevil and baffle one of DC's greatest heroes. Yes, it's Bat-Mite Year!

Naw, I'm jus' kiddin' ya, it's A Year of Mxyzptlk, the character name I always have to copy and paste instead of spelling it out for myself! I'm sure I'll learn by the end of the year. And, while we're on the subject, there's two ways of spelling Mister M's magical moniker. We now spell it Mxyzptlk, with a "PT" in this middle of it (remember: to fit the increase in strength of the modern Superman, he's pretty tough!), but he was originally named Mxyztplk with a "TP" (no toilet paper jokes, please...I prefer to think that Golden Age Mxy was totally pixelated, in the sense that Carl Barks used it in "The Pixilated Parrot.") And that's today's edition of Mnemonics with Bully, which you can remember by keeping in mind the phrase Marshmallows with Batman. Either way, and this is the important part: I will endeavor to remain consistent and attempt to point out the moment in 1958 when Mxyztplk becomes Mxyzptlk. But the header of these posts and the blog labels will keep the modern spelling. All clear? Good. And, because I've found it hard to keep up a daily routine of themed posts (witness 2017's 365 Days of Defiance, which I'm still trying to catch up on), it's officially A Year of Mxyzptlk, with posts at least once a week and someones more frequently. Let's see together how far I can get through the Mxycanon, shall we?

Now let's get this out of the way before we begin, okay? Here's some of the things we all "know" about Mxyztplk/Mxyzptlk: he debuted in Superman #30, cover-dated September 1944. He comes from the Fifth Dimension. To get him to return, you must make him say his name backwards. Right? No! Everything you know (as the Firesign Theatre said) is wrong!

Let me MythBust the first bit (and kids, don't try this at home). While our idyllic imp was originally created for Supes #30, which likely went on sale sometime during the summer of 1944, a Superman comic strip story appeared earlier, making Mxyztplk's first appearance at least a couple months before the comic book. This serialized story ran from February through July '44, introducing not only Mxy but the gorgeous menace of The Most Beautiful Woman in the World! Are you sitting comfortably? Then, let's begin! It starts off innocently enough with Lois Lane getting Clark Kent to spend his lunch money on a fortune teller. Yeah, either way, you're gettin' baloney, Lois.

Superman daily newspaper comic strip (February 21, 1944), script by Whitney Ellsworth, art by Wayne Boring.
(From this point on, I'll identify the date of strip or panels within the alt-text of each image.)

CRISWELL GENERIC FORTUNE TELLER PREDICTS!: Clark will soon meet a mysterious, troublesome stranger! Really, they're introducing Steve Lombard this early?

Also, Clark's going to fall in love with the most beautiful woman in the world, which in 1944 would've been Betty Grable, or Rita Hayworth, or Hedy Lamarr, or...Lois Lane?!? Oh, come off it, Lois, ya conceited grumble grumble...

Returning to the Daily Planet, a great metropolitan newspaper, Clark is the victim of a practical jokester. Ah, so they did introduce Steve Lombard!

The pranks continue! Man, you'd think someone with reflexes of tomorrow could duck out of the way of the ink bottle of today. That's just another black mark on Mr. Kent, I'm afraid. And hey! There's a mysterious disembodied voice to go with those practical jokes!

At last! Ta-da! The very first appearance of the Imp of Impossibility, on March 1, 1944! Only a day after Superman's birthday!

The Funny Little Bald Man disappears (no doubt on his way back to the taping of The Benny Hill Show), and we discover that the Daily Planet payroll (which, as Lois established in the first strip, is going to be given out in two days) is missing! Thus begins the fall of all print media.

♫ Here he is / Mister Mxyztplk ♫ Also, in the final panel, Superman asks the very same question that will baffle DC fans for generations. Remember, Kal: the "Q" is silent.

Man, check out those gorgeous Wayne Boring compositions of the Metropolis cityscape, of barrel-chested Superman, and of a two-dimensional Mxyztplk cannily portrayed in a two-dimensional medium. Never has an artist been more incorrectly named!

And now, one-dimensional Mxyztplk! You can see right through him. For further information on lesser dimensions, please consult Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott, Understanding Einstein's Theories of Relativity: Man's New Perspective on the Cosmos by Stan Gibilisco, or that episode of Batman '66 where Harry Mudd turns Batman and Robin into stamps.

And oh, that payroll money? It, like the quality of mercy, drops as the gentle rain from heaven. Down on the street below, hundreds of Metropolisians collapse in shock as dimes are driven through their skulls. Physics, dude!

Whitney Ellsworth has a really nice light sense of humor in his scripts, and he frequently shows how the actions of a Superman influence the ordinary joe, like here with bums Alfred and Herman. C'mon, Supes, would letting a quarter fall into their admittedly filthy hands have hurt anybody? Eh, I like to pretend that between today's strip and tomorrow's Superman arranges for a steak dinner and plenty of cherry pie to fall into Alfred and Herman's laps. Because he's Superman and that's what he does.

Meanwhile, on a passenger train hundreds of miles away but speeding towards Metropolis, we now meet the second major guest player in our Super/Imp saga: The Most Beautiful Woman in the World! And, of course, Lois still pouting about it.

Men love her! Women want to kill her!, her affect on rabbits is yet to be seen, so let's hold off on that one. She's so physically bee-you-tiful, this aptly-named "Miss Dreamface," certainly one of the earliest aptronyms in an entire fictional universe that will someday include "Roy G. Bivolo," "Edward Nigma," and "Hal Jordan."

Back in Clark Kent's desk drawer (filed under "M", of course), the two plots start to converge as Mxyztplk with a glance at the face that launched a thousand ships, well, one train, at least. Wait, how is Mxy gonna get him there without Clark giving up his secret identity?


Clark uses his X-ray vision to spy at Miss Dreamface through the obviously-not-lead-lined walls of the train and is instantly captivated by her. Meanwhile, in Metropolis, a cold chill runs up the spine of Lois Lane.

A quick switch to balloon-muscled Wayne Boring Superman, and Kal-El can do what he was sent to Earth to do by his late father Jor-El: spy on hot chicks.

And now fun-loving, harmless, goofball Mxyztplk is going to fool around with Superman a little bit by causing the train to crash. !Heh heh, that prankster! Always with the silly practical jokes HEY WAIT A MINUTE CAUSE THE TRAIN TO CRASH?!?

Mxy removes a vital piece of the treacherous railway overpass, and without time to zip to an mine in South Africa, dig out some iron ore and then smelt it into a bar of steel, Superman has to make do by becoming one with the track himself. Huh, pretty Zen, Supes!

Now wait, where have we seen that trick before?

And it's here that we'll leave the saga of Mr. Mxyztplk and Miss Dreamface and Monsieur Superman, and next time we'll present another few weeks of this very first Mxy story, in a segment I like to call "America's Top Model '44!" or,: "Dreamface the Nation!"


BK said...

Mr. Deeds was also pixelated.

Blam said...

This one's gonna be fun. (Not to suggest that's out of the ordinary. Comics oughta be fun, after all, which'd make a nifty name for a blog. Hmmm...) I've done such a poor job of keeping up with posts here that I finally resolved the other day to start from the most freshly dated entries and go backwards rather than continually attempt to find wherever I left off before and search out any other posts slotted in since my last perusal. That ain't an easy adjustment for a borderline-obsessive fella such as myself to make but ultimately it's the most thorough approach to head off missing out on a scintillating iota of perhaps my favorite Internet oasis. Excelsior! And, if necessary, Roislecxe!