Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Magical Identity Theft, World Conquest and Cute Little Bunny Rabbits

Well, darn it. A couple of months ago, as part of my series on Weisinger-era Superman stories, I wrote about Mr. Mxyzptlk and commented that I didn't want to have to write any more posts in which I had to make sure I spelled the annoying little imp's name properly.

But now I feel obligated to cover this more modern Superman story to back up a point I made in that post--thereby requiring me to make sure I spell "Mxyzptlk" correctly.

It can't be helped, though. In that earlier post, I talked about how characters like Bizarro and Mxyzptlk (Thank you, God, for cut and paste) were important additions to Superman's mythos, because they allowed an occasional burst of whimsy to enter the DC Universe.

And even as late as 1981--just a few years before DC first rebooted their universe and graphic novels such at The Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns pretty much tossed all sense of whimsy (and often all sense of fun) into the cosmic wastebasket--DC was still willing to take comic book logic to its silliest extremes. And the world is a better place because of this.

DC Comics Presents #33 & #34 (May & June 1981) starts off with Superman mysteriously finding himself in Captain Marvel's uniform, stripped of super-senses (but still with the super-strength and speed that Marvel also has). Over on Earth-S (the Marvels at this time existed in a different dimension than did the main DC Universe), Captain Marvel finds himself in Superman's uniform--with the extra powers added on to his

The Man of Steel zips over the Earth-S and the two compare notes. But the person responsible--Mr. Mxyzptlk--soon shows up to take credit and gloat. In the Earth-S dimension, his magic is amped up, so he's created a barrier to trap Superman there and spend years tormenting him.

This actually makes good comic book sense. On Earth-S, the most powerful heroes (the Marvel family) have powers based on magic, so the idea that dimension has more magic is pretty reasonable.

Anyways, Mxyzptlk isn't alone. He's teamed up with Mr. Mind, the super-intelligent evil worm from Venus and King Kull, the immortal super-strong barbarian who wants to conquer humanity. He's amped up their powers with his magic, making them all nigh-impossible to beat.

By the second issue, everyone is back in their correct suits, but the villains are still winning. Mxyptlk zaps Superman and Marvel in another dimension--Funny Animalville, where they find themselves desperately trying to protect panicking crowds of anthropomorphic bunnies against a giant robot rabbit operated by Mr. Mind. In the meantime, King Kull has taken the United Nations hostage, beating up Miss Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. for good measure.

But there are two things that might give the good guys an edge. First, Mr. Mind and Kull are so murderous that Mxyptlk is having second thoughts about teaming up with them. Second, the heroes get an unexpected helping hand from: Captain Marvel Bunny!

Gee whiz, I love this stuff. The script is by Roy Thomas (with Gerry Conway getting credit for the plot in the first issue), so the appearance of an obscure character from the 1940s isn't surprising. (Captain Marvel Bunny first appeared in Fawcett's Funny Animals in 1942.) The art by Rich Buckler is clean and sharp with some nice use of panel designs. And the comic book logic in the plot is flawless. The existence of an infinite multiverse means that there must be a funny animal dimension out there somewhere--allowing it to interact with the mainstream DC Universe is a wonderful idea. It's yet another example of the importance of allowing an occasional burst of whimsy into a comic book universe, reminding us that comic book stories above all else should simply be fun.


  1. I have these two issues in my collection, and now I'd like to dig them out for a fresh look.

    I, too, really love this story. It plays by the rules...Superman is still Superman, Captain Marvel is still Captain Marvel, but the status quo gets a good working over and a lot of wacky humor ensues. The characters aren't trivialized or diminished by the events of the story...if anything, they emerge stronger than ever. And the addition of Captain Marvel Bunny (elsewhere known as Hoppy the Marvel Bunny) puts this one over the top!

    Superman had a similar adventure in the first issue of "Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew". Comics like this remind me of films that combine live action with animation. In capable hands, they create memorable, magical stories.

  2. Now I wish I had included the phrase "the characters aren't trivialized or diminished" in the original blog. It's the perfect way to phrase it. Thanks for your comment.


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