Saturday, April 18, 2009

Episode #68:Happy Birthday, Mr. Mxyzptlk!

Mr. Mxyzptlk's birthday is traditionally on April 1, according to , an appropriate day for him as much as Bizarro, or other jesters among Superman's villains such as Toyman or the Prankster. Of all of Superman's enemies, Mxy (as I'll call him for short) was more mischevious than evil. He has always been a prankster, from the golden age to today, although his appearance has changed over the years, as well as the spelling of his name. Also, even though he has not been an evil nemesis for Superman, he has probably been the most powerful Superman antagonist, since his abilities border on magic in Superman's world.

Mxy made his first appearance in the last story of Superman #30, The Mysterious Mxyztplk, the Sept./Oct. 1944 issue, published around July 5, 1944. He was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and this first story was inked by Ira Yarbrough, under the editorship of Jack Schiff. All of the basics of a Mxy story for decades to come were established in this first story, from the purple derby, to the almost magical pranks he would pull, to his return to his 5th Dimension home after he was tricked into saying his name backwards, Klptzyxm. In his first appearance the bald, impish figure was dressed in a purple suit to match his derby. He gets Superman's attention when he causes mayhem at a Metropolis City Council meeting being covered by Clark Kent and Lois Lane. When Superman appeared, Mxy jumped out of the window to escape the Man of Steel. Superman thought the man had committed suicide until he saw him floating away. When Superman flew after him, Mxy introduced himself and told where he came from. The imp came from the 5th Dimension, and since he comes from a higher dimension he was not bound by our laws of nature and his abilities seemed like magic to us. Mxy described himself as a court jester who peeked into the secret files of one of his world's most brilliant scholars. There He learned two magic words, one that would transport him to our world, which was never given that I'm aware of, and the other, saying his own name backwards, that would return him to his own dimension. During their conversation Superman tricks Mxy into saying his name backwards, in a clumsy way when read today, and the imp vanishes. The ways that Superman would trick the imp to return to his dimension would become much cleverer in future stories. This story was reprinted in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told HC & TPB and vol. 2.

Also in future stories, the spelling of Mxy's name would change slightly. The t and p would switch, and his name would be Mxyzptlk, instead of the original Mxyztplk afterwards. His attire would change sometime in the 1950's, and I could not pinpoint when or what issue the costume or spelling change occurred. Mxy's costume would be changed to a sleeveless orange futuristic suit with purple trim and boots, as well as the trademark purple derby. He would appear for the rest of the silver age and pre-crisis stories in this costume, as well as a fringe of white hair around a bald pate.

Future stories would explore Mxy's home world of Zrfff. It would first be named in the story Dimensions Of Danger, in Superman #33, March/April 1945, on sale around Jan. 5, 1945, and the story The Mxyztplk-Suzie Alliance in #40, May/June 1948, published around March 8, 1946. Zrfff was ruled by King Brpxz in the first story and Bprxz in the latter. As mentioned in his first appearance, Mxy was the king's court jester. Mxy had a girlfriend, named Gzptlsnz. (Apparently one thinkg that does not exist in the 5th Dimension are vowels for names.) All citizens of Zrfff had the same abilities as Mxy, and looked down on the inhabitants of Earth as primitives. In issue #33's story Lois said Mxy's name backwards and was transported to Zrfff. Superman followed her the same way. they were treated at first as zoo animals until Superman discovered the word that gave him the same abilities as Mxy. Then he turned the tables on Mxy, giving him a taste of his own medicine. To get rid of Superman and Lois, Mxy revealed the word that would return them to Earth. I could find no reprint information on the first story, but the latter story would be reprinted in the Superman In The Forties trade paperback.

In the story Mr. Mxyztplk Seeks A Wife, the first story of Superman #51, the March/April 1948 issue, published around Jan. 7, 1948, Mxy's King, not Brpxz, of the kingdom called Topsy Turvy World instead of Zrfff in this story (continuity not being invented in comics yet), comanded Mxy to marry his daughter, who was too ugly for Mxy. He lied to the king and said he was engaged to Lois Lane. The king gave Mxy a week to marry Lois, or else he would have to marry the ugly princess. Lois agreed to the proposal, if Mxy could prove he was a better reporter than she was. Of course Lois counted on Superman's help to beat Mxy so she wouldn't have to marry him. Because of his magical abilities Mxy defeated both Lois and Superman. Lois agreed to honor the bargain, but during the marriage ceremony Superman tricked Mxy into saying his name backwards and returnig to his world and the doom of the ugly princess. I have not read this story so I don't know how exactly Superman tricked Mxy. I wonder if Superman had Mxy say his name backwards during his vows, such as "I, Klptzyxm, take thee, Lois...". This story was written by Alvin Schwartz and drawn by J. Winslow Mortimer, whom Curt Swan would later replace as Superman artist in the 1950's. I could find no reprint information about this story.

Lois was not the only Superman supporting character that Mxy would cause trouble for. In Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #52, April 1961, published around February 16, 1961, Mxy would fall in love with Lucy Lane in the story Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man, The story was written by Jerry Siegel, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. When Lucy rejected Mxy because she already had a boyfriend in Jimmy Olsen, Mxy uses the Wolf-Man potion and his magic on Jimmy to once again transform him into a teen wolf man. to change Jimmy back to normal, Superman had Supergirl, disguised as Miss X, kiss Jimmy, as she did the first time he became Wolf Man. Because of Mxy's magic this didn't work. Superman then has Lois and Lucy Lane, Lori Lemaris and Lana Lang kiss Jimmy. This didn't work either, but Jimmy was one happy wolf man. Mxy's girlfriendMiss Gzptlsnz appeared and kissed Jimmy, curing him. She then tricked Mxy into returning to Zrfff, where she explained that her magic cured Jimmy. By this did she mean it wasn't the kiss itself? That's the kind of thing that will keep Earth scientists awake at night trying to find the answer. I could find no current reprint edtion for this story. It was reprinted in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #122, the Aug./Sept. 1969 issue, published on June 19, 1969.

Superman would once again get a little back on Mxy in Action Comics #273, Feb. 1961, published on Dec. 29, 1960. In the issue's first story, The World of Mr. Mxyzptlk, written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Al Plastino, Mxy's interference forced Sueprman to cancel an appearance at a Smallville orphanage. After he tricked Mxy into saying his name backwards and returning to Zrfff, Sueprman followed him to Zrfff and interfered with Mxy's campaign for Mayor. Mxy got Superman to say his name backwards, "Samrepus", which did not make him return to Earth. After Mxy lost the election Superman said, "Le-Lak", which was Kal-El backwards, out of Mxy's hearing, so Mxy never discovered the name that would send Superman back to Earth. This story was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman vol. II.

Mxy made his first appearance in a Superboy story in Superboy #83, the Sept. 1960 issue, published around July 7, 1960.While Curt Swan and Stan Kaye created the cover featuring this story, which was written by Jerry Siegel, the story was drawn by George Papp. A Kryptonite Boy and Dog chased Superboy and Krypto across the Earth, changing everything they touch into kryptonite. A younger Mxy, with red hair instead of gray, and more of it, appeared and transported the two villains into the 5th Dimension and changed everything that had been transformed into kryptonite back to normal. Mxy revealed his motive was that he wanted to pester Superboy, which he could not do if he were dead or exiled. I'm sure Superboy would come to thank Mxy for small favors. I could find no current reprint editions for this story. Mxy would appear in a number of Superboy stories.

The Legion of Super-Heroes would meet a 30th century descendant in Adventure Comics #310, the July 1963 issue, published around May 29, 1963. In The Doom Of The Super-Heroes, written by Edmund Hamilton and drawn by John Forte, a villain called Mask Man killed the Legion except for Superboy. When Superboy discovered that Mak Man was a descendant of Mr. Mxyzptlk and made him say his name backwards, the Legion members came back to life and only Superboy remembered the Legion's last stand. This story was reprinted in the Legion Of Super-Heroes Archive vol. 2 HC, and Showcase Presents: Legion Of Super-Heroes vol. I TPB.

A more friendly descendant of Mxy would appear in Adventure Comics #355, April 1967, on sale February 26, 1967. The story The War Of The Legions was written by Jim Shooter, drawn by Curt Swan and inked by George Klein. The Legion was defeated by the Legion of Super Villains but was saved by two aromored individuals who defeated the evil Legion. they would be revealed as the 30th century descendants of Lex Luthor and Mr. Mxyzptlk, who were good guys. A grateful Legion would induct them as their newest members, but were never seen again in another Legion story. This story has been reprinted in the Legion Of Super-Heroes Archive vol. VI hardcover.

A Bizarro Mxyzptlk would appear in Adventure Comics #286, July 1961, published on May 31, 1961. The cover featuring this story was drawn by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. Bizarro, Private Detective was written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by John Forte. Bizarro #1's son palyed around with the duplicating ray. When he aimed it in space the ray hit Mxy, creating Bizarro Kltpzyxm, who refused to say his name forward to escape. Doing everything opposite from Mxy as any good Bizarro would Kltpzyxm instead took his punishment willingly. This story was reprinted in the trade paperback Superman: Escape From Bizarro World.

The most unusual Mxy story appeared in Superman #349, the July 1980 issue, published April 7, 1980, under the editorship of Julius Schwartz. The cover for The Turnabout Trap was drawn by Ross Andru and inked by Dick Giordano. The story was written by Martin Pasko, pencilled by Curt Swan, inked by Frank Chiaramonte, lettered by Ben Oda and colored by Adrienne Roy. In this story Clark Kent returns to the Daily Planet and finds that the genders of the staff have been switched, and their names accordingly. The kent reporter is Claire Kent, and Superwoman is a separate person. Apparently Mxy did not know Clark's secret identity, with all of his 5-D magic. Clark guesses that Mxy is behind everything when he discovers the reports about Mxy are about a male, not a female imp from the 5th dimension. After he tricks Mxy into saying his name backwards and everything returning to normal, Clark finds a Louise Lane at the Daily Planet offices. But instead of being Lois as a man, it is her cousin instead. I could find no reprint information about this story, but a web site has the enitre story on line at . It's worth it.

Mxy's last pre-crisis appearance was in Action Comics #583, September 1986, published on June 26, 1986, part two of the story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?. written by Alan Moore, with cover and story pencilled by Curt Swan. Murphy Anderson inked the cover while Kurt Schaffenberger inked the story. At the end of the battle, after some thought, Superman realizesd that Mxyzptlk was behind everything because he was the only villain that had not yet appeared. Mxy revealed himself, looking a lot more sinister than he had ever before. Mxy revealed that he had been mischievious long enough and had decided to become evil, starting with Superman's death. Superman carried Lois to the Phantom Zone room, where he activated the Phantom Zone Projector at Mxy, at the same time Mxy said his name backwards to return to the 5th dimension. Mxy is torn in half, between dimensions, and killed. For breaking his vow to never kill, Superman walks into the gold kryptonite room in the Fortress of Solitude, permanently removing his super powers.

Mxy's first post-crisis appearance was in Superman #11, Nov. 1987, published on Aug. 11, 1987, under the editorship of Mike Carlin. The cover and story to The Name Game was created by John Byrne. In the story a Ben DeRoy takes Lois to lunch, even though she had never met him before. Strange things happen around them, such as, an annoying cigar smoker's hand bursts into flame, Ben and Lois walk on air down the street during a rainstorm but don't get wet. When Ben tires of Lois and fancies a department store mannequin, they switch places. The mannequin comes alive and Lois takes her place and is transformed into one herself. When Superman investigates DeRoy reveals his true form and, after transforming Superman into weird copies of himself (similar to some silver age stories) he types his name on a giant typewriter as Mr. Mxyzptlk. Mxy challenges Superman to make him say his name backwards. After some more Mxy weirdness Superman challenges Mxy to type his name again because he didn't believe that was his name. When Mxy types his name, instead of Mxyzptlk it came out Kltpzyxm. Superman had switched the keys so that the M typed the K and so on. Mxy honored his bargain and disappeared, and everything returned to normal.

Mxy next appeared in Superman#31, May 1989, published on March 21, 1989,during the SupermanIn Exile storyline. This time he dealt with Lex Luthor, who in some ways was more effective than Superman in dealing with Mxy because he refused to play by Mxy's rules. After an issue of typical Mxy craziness Luthor and Mxy signed a contract stating that Luthor would not attack Mxy during the life of the contract. After Mxy signed it, Luthor hit him with every weapon at LexCorp's disposal. When a very singed Mxy confronted Luthor, he simply answered that he lied. Mxy was so outraged that he returned to his dimension. And so Mxy learned to lie.

That would come into play the next time that Mxy returned, in Adventures Of Superman #463, Feb. 1990. Mxy corners Superman and Wally West Flash to race around the world on a course created by him, with lots of suprises during the race. Mxy had said that he would return to his dimension if Superman won, but when Flash barely won, Mxy revealed he had lied. He thought that Superman was a sure bet, so he would leave if the Flash won, and so he did. This story was reprinted in the trade paperback Superman Vs. The Flash, which has an Alex Ross cover.

Mxy would return in Superman #49, part one of the five part Krisis Of The Krimson Kryptonite story. This time Mxy would work with Lex Luthor. He gave Luthor a red rock, callling it red kryptonite. This version of red k would remove Superman's powers, and the only deal was that Luthor could not tell Superman. The story continued in Adventures Of Superman #472, Starman #28, Action Comics #659 and Superman #50. Luthor unwittingly broke the bargain when he told Clark Kent about it during an interview. After being thrown out of LexCorp, Clark's poowers returned. Mxy returned, inside the red k, changing it to look like his face, and challenged Superman to hit Luthor. When Superman refused, Mxy made it easy on him by growing a Luthor skin cell on the rock into a fat giant. superman obliged and Mxy returned to an unnamed but obvious world of the Fantastic Four. This story was reprinted in the trade paperback Krisis Of The Krimson Kryptonite, which is out of print.

The next time Mxy retuned, he decided he would die. In Superman: Man Of Steel #75, titled The Death Of Mr Mxyzptlk, Mxy creates a double of Doomsday, called Bada Bing Bada Boomsday (years before the HBO series Sopranos). He removes his own powers and helps Superman in the fight. After his death Mxy meets the Supreme Being, a caricature of DC Editor Mike Carlin, who sends him back. I could find no reprint information about this story.

As mentioned last episode, Mxy visited the Joker in Arkham Asylum in the Emperor Joker storyline told in Superman #160-161, Adventures Of Superman #582-583, Superman: Man Of Steel 104-105, Action Comics #769-770 and Emperor Joker #1. The Joker tricks Mxy out of most of his poers and creates his own Bizarro World. Mxy would eventualy recover his pwers and retreive a few inhabitants of Joker's world, including the latest version of Bizarro Superman. This story was reprinted in the trade paperback Emperor Joker.

In Adventures Of Superman #646, Jan. 2006, in the aftermath of the Days Of Vengence storyline where magic was removed from Earth, Clark Kent finds a dazed and confused Mxy living on the street like a homeless person. As his memories return Mxy helped Superman find the villain Ruin. Mxy would sacrifice himself by blocking a kryptonite spear with his own body. With what seemed his last breath Mxy said his name backwards and vanished, to the 5th Dimension?

In Action Comics Annual #10, in the story Superman's Top 10 Most Wanted, Mxy is listed as having last appeared on Earth 190 days ago, but no one knows why he hadn't appeared at his normal interval of 90 days.

In Countdown #31, while walking in Zrfff with his girlfriend Gsptlsnx, an unknown person abducts Mxy and vanishes. In issue #23 it is revealed his kidnapper was Superboy Prime, who trapped Mxy in the Source Wall and tortured him in an attempt to restore his home of Earth Prime. Another prisoner, the Earth 3 version of Zatana, used magic to return Mxy to Zrfff. Mxy told Gsptlsnx that he would never go back and that the 5th Dimension needed to be sealed immedialtely. Could this be why Mxy had not been seen on Earth, as referred to in Action Comics Annual #10.

An interesting version of Mxy appeared in All-Star Superman #6, March 2007. One of the future Supermen was Klyzyzk Klzntplkz, the son of Superman Pruple and Quinto-Queen Gzntplzk of Zrfff in the 67th century.

Mxy has appeared in various Superman cartoons on TV, but the only onel I'll mention was in Superman: The Animated Series during the 1990's. He was voice by Gilbert Gottfreid. If there was anyone who was perfect to portray Mxy, it was Gilbert Gottfreid.

The next episode of the Superman Fan Podcast is another prequel to the Superman In Exile storyline, titled Superman Goes Gangbusters!

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at . Send e-mail to .

The theme music for this podcast is Plans In Motion, composed by Kevin MacLeod, part of the royalty free music library found at the web site .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Superman Fan Podcast and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

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