Mr. Mxyzptlk(pop culture)
The mischievous magical mite with a mouthful of a name, Mr. Mxyzptlk (pronounced Mix-yez-pitelick) first pestered the Man of Steel in Superman vol. 1 #30 (1944), in a whimsical tale written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Ira Yarbrough. A derbyed and dapper little man shakes up Metropolis when he is struck by an automobile and apparently killed. Paramedics are puzzled when they are unable to lift the stretcher containing the pulseless victim, but when he springs forth, alive—“Confusing, aren't I?”—he steals their ambulance and drives it up the side of a skyscraper! After two more showboating appearances Superman arrives, but the “mad sprite” slips through his steel grip, bends like a rubber band to avoid his punches, and takes to the sky, prompting the dumbfounded Metropolis Marvel to mutter, “I thought I was the only man who could fly!” This is Mr. Mxyztplk (note the original spelling), a “courtjester” from another dimension, who exasperates Superman with his “perverted sense of humor” until the hero tricks Mxyztplk into saying his name backwards—“Klptzyxm”—the magic word that returns the nuisance from whence he came. Siegel's answer to Bugs Bunny, Mr. Mxyztplk (originally pronounced Mix-yizt-pulk, according to former DC Comics editor Alvin Schwartz) was created for Superman #30, which went on sale in early July 1944. When DC editorial director Whitney Ellsworth noticed the character pre-publication, however, he was impressed with the character's potential and rushed Mxyztplk into print first in a February 1944 Superman newspaper strip sequence. In Superman #30 Mr. Mxyztplk was bent on conquering Earth as its kooky king, but in his frequent reappearances—he popped up on the average twice a year throughout the Golden Age (1938–1954)—the “problem-pixie” seemed content to badger Superman with supernatural pranks like making rivers flow uphill or transmuting stones into rock candy. Despite his boundless magical powers, which were limited only by his writers' imaginations, at each story's conclusion Mxyztplk was formulaically outfoxed by Superman to say his name backwards, thus exorcising him from Earth. In 1946 he teamed with another pest, Lois Lane's niece, the prevaricating moppet Susie Tompkins, and joined Lex Luthor and the Prankster to “declare war on Superman” in 1950. Elements of Mr. Mxyztplk's mythos fluctuated in earlier texts. His place of origin was cited as a “weird,” “unknown,” or “other” dimension, the “multi-dimensional world” of Zrfff, and “Topsy-Turvy Land,” but by the late 1940s he hailed from the fifth dimension's Land of Zrfff. The duration of his banishment from Earth varied from an undetermined period to a month to 60 days, but it was consistently 90 days as of 1953. His costume was altered from his original purple tux to green permutations to his better-known futuristic orange togs with purple trim (with the derby remaining) by the mid-1950s. A typo inspired the imp's most noteworthy alternation: his name was alternately spelled “Mxyztplk” and “Mxyzptlk” (the letters t and p transposed) in Action Comics #208 (1955), and shortly thereafter he was permanently christened Mr. Mxyzptlk. With this change, the backward- spelling of his name became “Kltpzyxm,” pronounced Kel-tipz-yex-im. Historians generally regard Mr. Mxyztplk to be the Golden Age version of the character, and Mr. Mxyzptlk, the Silver Age (1956–1969) version; “The Menace of Mr. Mxyzptlk” in Superman vol. 1 #131 (1959) is considered the first official Silver Age appearance of the villain, his return from three years in publication limbo. The constantly expanding Superman family of the Silver Age afforded Mr. Mxyzptlk more characters to annoy. In addition to getting into the Man of Tomorrow's Kryptonian hair with shenanigans such as transforming a steel block into giant alphabet blocks (spelling “Superman is a blockhead”) and inciting riots by making money grow on trees, “Mxy” also bothered Supergirl, the Legion of Super- Heroes, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane (of whom he was sometimes enamored). He occasionally partnered with fellow sprite Bat-Mite to bedevil the Superman/Batman/Robin team in World's Finest Comics, had an impish girlfriend named Miss Gsptlsnz, and encountered Bizarro and Luthor. Even Superboy could not escape the pest: Mxy was retroactively inserted into Superman's adolescence as “Master Mxyzptlk.” Gil Mack voiced Mr. Mxyzptlk in 1966 in Filmation's animated The New Adventures of Superman, Frank Welker played the imp in 1986 on the ABC cartoon The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, where his name was pronounced Mix-elplick. During the 1970s Mego Toys produced an 8- inch Mr. Mxyzptlk figure and a 4-inch bendable figurine. “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” the Alan Moore–scripted two-part exodus of the Silver Age version of Superman (Superman vol. 1 #423 and Action #583, 1986), an “imaginary” tale (“Aren't they all?” asked the author), revealed a homicidal Mr. Mxyzptlk as the catalyst behind a series of events that led to the massacre of most of Superman's friends and foes. Mr. Mxyzptlk was reintroduced in Superman vol. 2 #11 (1987), after Superman's 1986 Man of Steel reboot by writer/artist John Byrne, where Mxy, at first calling himself “Ben DeRoy” (Byrne's jab at the Beyonder, the creation of his former Marvel Comics boss Jim Shooter), materializes in Metropolis from, like the previous continuity, Zrfff in the fifth dimension. Challenging Superman to speak, spell, or write his name backwards, Mr. Mxyzptlk flummoxed the hero by turning him into a look-alike of MAD's Alfred E. Neuman, making Lois Lane into a mannequin, and transforming the Daily Planet building into an ambulatory skyscraper, his reality-distorting magic fading after he departed Earth. Mr. Mxyzptlk has remained a recurring Superman foe since the late 1980s. He was taught how to lie by Luthor; engineered a race between Superman and the Flash; buddied with Bat-Mite; turned everyone in Metropolis into Mxy-clones; joined forces with Marvel's Impossible Man (Silver Surfer/Superman, 1996); lampooned 1992's bestselling “Death of Superman” milestone with a mock Mxy demise; had his powers stolen by the Joker, who used them to create a lunatic Joker-reality; and gave the Man of Steel and his wife Lois a glimpse at what their child might look like. From Superman's perspective, Mxy's visits each 90 days are far too frequent. Michael J. Pollard played Mr. Mxyzptlk on the live-action Superboy series (1988–1992); Howie Mandel portrayed a leprechaun version of Mxyzptlk in a 1996 episode of ABC's Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993–1997); comedian Gilbert Godfried voiced Mxy in several episodes of the animated Superman (1996–2000), with Sandra Bernhard as his supermodel-esque wife, Ms. Gsptlsnz; and an exchange student named Mikail Mxyzptlk (Trent Ford) has been spotted on the WB's Smallville (2001–present). In the 2000s DC Direct has released a Mr. Mxyzptlk coldcast statue and a plush toy.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.