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Author Topic: The greatest Mr. Mxyzptlk tales  (Read 13159 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: June 15, 2007, 11:23:18 AM »

My personal favorite Mxyzptlk tales are by Martin "Pesky" Pasko, who was a party to "resuscitating" many members of the Superman Rogues Gallery (this was the guy that brought back the original Toyman, and had Bizarro returned to his roots as a sympathetic, mentally challenged dupe. Pasko also created the Atomic Skull, the second Metallo, and Master Jailer.

The reason Mxyzptlk never worked for me before Pasko - and never worked after him, for that matter - is because Mxy's an example of LOST IN SPACE thinking in action. By that I mean that in a show like a Western, if a bear or an Indian attacks someone, they give an explanation for what led it to do so.

With LOST IN SPACE, though? "Let's have a big monster come out...and it'll kill a whole bunch of people! Ooo-rah!"

Same thing with Mr. Mxy: why does he bother with Superman, anyway? It always came off as an insane whim.

Marty, though, gave Mxy something of an inner life other than just attacking Superman. For instance, he had Mr. Mxyzptlk fall in love and get married.

When Mr. Mxy's marriage didn't work out (because it turned out his wife wasn't really beautiful at all - which in and of itself was good characterization of Mxy as a shallow, inconstant person - he decided to turn his wrath against Superman and his love in SUPERMAN #349.

At the time, it should be remembered, a running subplot was Pasko had Superman and Lois get serious. Tying that recurring story into this one, Mxyzptlk's logic was this: why should Superman be enjoying life and love when he wasn't?

Suddenly, we had a reason for why Mxy went after Superman: envy, but a kind of envy born out of ego and narcissism.

That's why Mxy's such an entertaining character, who trascends his origin in the usually dimwitted category of lame prankster sprites like Quisp or (shudder) Bat-Mite. He's an interesting person onto himself. Mxy works whereas these other characters don't, because things about him make sense: it's perfectly in character for him to have hideous fashoin sense, for instance, because that's the kind of guy he is.

Another of my favorite Mxyzptlk stories, apart from the one where he got married, was the Jim Shooter/Swan Legion story in the 1960s, a part of the battle against Prince Evilo, one of the uber-rare (perhaps only) occasions where Mxyzptlk battled both Superman and Mon-El.

This story is terrific because it had Mxy with HAIR.

This is the exchange that really got me to love Mr. Mxyzptlk:

SUPERBOY: Most of your creations usually disappear or return to normal after you leave. We're here to get something for the Superboy Museum.

MR. MXYZPTLK: I can understand that...I am pretty terrific!

(Suddenly we understand why Mxy wears a bowler hat: he's insecure about his baldness. I can totally see Mxy going bald and panicking about it.)

With the greatest respect to Alan Moore, I think Mxyzptlk is one of those characters of the Super-Mythos, like Supergirl, that he doesn't "get." For instance, the appearance by Szazs (Mxy Brand X style), which has him be a danger because he thinks so differently than human beings that he causes trouble unntentionally.

The reason Mxy is enjoyable to read about is because he's so blustering and egotistical, with hideous fashoin sense, so very funny and understandable, not because he's alien and incomprehensible.
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MatterEaterLad
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« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2007, 03:33:20 PM »

Mxy as jealous doesn't interest me, I much prefer his original stories, all-powerful but with the mind of an adolescent (at the stage of Ashton Kuchher wanting to "punk" people)- challenging the Man of Steel because he's a symbol of more mature power.  Not being a Bronze Age fan, I'm lukewarm about the Master Jailer in general, but at least he's a new character with specific newly-revealed events to be jealous about.
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Permanus
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« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2007, 09:53:33 PM »

It says even more that Mxy's reaction to his failed marriage was to create a world in which all the sexes were reversed, almost as though he was challenging Superman to get it on with "Louis" Lane. There are probably many layers of subtext to investigate there. This is a beautifully weird story, and it gets extra weirdness points for having been published at such a late date (1980 or so, am I right?).

By and large, I like the idea of Mxy stories more than their actual execution. In some ways, he's a perfect Superman villain because Kal can't confront him directly and has to rely on his wits to outsmart him. Unfortunately, this is rarely well brought off, despite the fact that it has plenty of narrative and comedic value. I agree with Julian that Alan Moore's depiction of Mxyzptlk was a bit jarring, but I don't think he meant it as his ultimate take on the character; he was just monkeying around with that, because what the hey, right? As it happens, he could probably have written a rollicking oldschool Mxy story - anyone remember his Swamp Thing story "Pog", with its take on Pogo? Moore can do anything. Of course, I idolise him, so my view is sightly biased in this regard.

(By the way, I remember the Prince Evilo story, and I love the fact that Superboy and Mon-El travel back in time to encounter a young Mxy to steal his hair, as though Superboy were somehow doomed to make his future enemies bald. Is that the same story where Shrinking Violet has to perform microsurgery with tiny bits of kryptonite on Superboy and then escapes through his tear ducts, or am I mixing it up with something else?)
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« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2007, 05:59:16 PM »

I always wondered were bat-mite and mxy from the same place?
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2007, 02:30:03 AM »

World's Funnest is one of the greatest Mxy tales, IMO, and easily fits into Pre-Crisis continuity.

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JulianPerez
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2007, 09:00:30 PM »

Quote from: Permanus
It says even more that Mxy's reaction to his failed marriage was to create a world in which all the sexes were reversed, almost as though he was challenging Superman to get it on with "Louis" Lane. There are probably many layers of subtext to investigate there. This is a beautifully weird story, and it gets extra weirdness points for having been published at such a late date (1980 or so, am I right?).

Yeah, July 1980.

Well, I assume the reason Mxy did what he did was because he wanted Superman to be unhappy just as he was, after his marriage failed, so he created a circumstance where he and Lois COULDN’T be happy.

Also, what you’re saying is precisely what I liked about Superman 349: it wasn’t immediately obvious that it was a Mxyzptlk story.

Usually they have a particular format (Step 1: taxicabs in the city start turning into frogs, Step 2: Superman shows up, Step 3: Mxy starts causing buildings to come to life with people inside them, Step 4: Superman pulls a big con on Mxy to say his name backwards). Things can succeed by formula and fail by formula too, but it was refreshing for Pasko to do away with the formula altogether.

And it wasn’t immediately obvious all of it was a Mxy creation even when they drop the bombshell that Mxy is, because of his vanity, still male in this gender-switched world. This is the story got me wondering if there might be ONE Mxyptlk for all earths, because I just assumed that was the explanation for the Mxy pic.

Not to get off-topic, but I always found it interesting that Pasko was one of the sole writers to get a lot of mileage out of Superman’s Super-Hypnotism power. The Master Mesmerizer had him hypnotize an entire city, and this story had him hypnotize Dude Wonder Woman. This perhaps, is the one weakness of the story: it’s always been established that Super-Hypnotism is a peculiar property of Superman’s eyes, so Superman using a reflection of light to hypnotize isn’t how his powers work.

Quote from: Permanus
(By the way, I remember the Prince Evilo story, and I love the fact that Superboy and Mon-El travel back in time to encounter a young Mxy to steal his hair, as though Superboy were somehow doomed to make his future enemies bald. Is that the same story where Shrinking Violet has to perform microsurgery with tiny bits of kryptonite on Superboy and then escapes through his tear ducts, or am I mixing it up with something else?)

Interesting observation about baldness, though the implication in the story is they just cut some of Mxy’s hair instead of actually making him bald…they even say as they leave Zrff, that “That’s what you’ll look like when you get older, if you’re curious!”

That wasn’t this story, but you’re in the right ballpark: Shrinking Violet’s shrinking journey into Superboy (some years before the Roy Thomas-Neal Adams journey into the Vision) was the story right before this one, “The Outlaw Legionnaires” with Miss Terious and Sir Prize – really Star Boy and Dream Girl. Considering the severity of Star Boy’s transgression (murder, even in self-defense) it’s hard to imagine Star Boy coming back to the Legion any other way other than Superboy’s last Legion request.

Incidentally, one of Levitz’s more inspired ideas was that Saturn Queen was one of Prince Evilo’s ex-wives.
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« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2007, 12:32:27 AM »

One of the potentially-interesting post-Crisis ideas was that Mxyzptlk created Red Kryptonite.  I've speculated that maybe a stronger tie with Red K was in order -- perhaps the reason Mxyzptlk became interested in tormenting our favorite Kryptonian was because the explosion, perhaps in conjunction with baby Kal-El's space warping ship, shoved a bunch of Krypton into Zrfff.  It gave a dimension of bored imps something to do besides compete in the Impolympics.

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« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2007, 12:46:01 AM »

I always wondered were bat-mite and mxy from the same place?

Originally, no. Although in recent years I've come across mistaken references to Bat-Mite being from the Fifth Dimension too. It was just some remarkably similar, unidentified dimension but with the difference that they didn't seem to have the "saying your name backwards sends you back" conditions.

Not that it mattered, because nobody ever learned Bat-Mite's real name...

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