Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Year of Mxyzptlk 2: The Super Case of Miss Dreamface!

Continuing our year-long coverage of the history of Mister Mxyzptlk (or, in this era, Mxyztplk) by reading, enjoying, and making a little bit of fun at the very first Mxy story in the 1940s syndicated comic strip! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fall in love, you'll lose your pants! But hey, enough about my blog, let's read on with the story!

Previously on Superman: During his first (1) appearance on Earth (2), Mxyztplk bedevils Superman (and mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent), under the guise of "having fun," which we here at this blog oughta know a thing or two about a thing or two. Mxyztplk causes a series of "accidents" to the passenger train speeding Miss Dreamface, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World™, towards Metropolis! Remember kids, this blog does not encourage the experience of "fun" by wrecking a train. Quite the opposite!


Panels from the Superman daily newspaper comic strip (April 17, 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.)

One of my great joys in discovering the Ellsworth/Boring Superman comic strip: I never realized it had such a good sense of humor. Ellsworth has a very light touch with comedy: it's not slapstick but he brings a lot of personality to short-term guest characters, like these two learned professors studying time and speed management alongside the railway tracks. They're pretty lovable ducks and really, I just commend them for getting away from the academic setting and out into the fresh air.


It's not the perfectest of scans or reproductions of what was some really fine-lined inkwork, but check Boring's technique, especially in the second panel below. The large splashes of dark ink and the outlined silhouette draw the eyes from the train down to the professors, and since the panel takes place immediately in the middle of one of the professors' lines, we can see just how flamin' fast that train is going (There's a 180-degree rule being broken here somehow too, but frankly, I don't give a fig about that. It's just that gorgeous!)


Lesser men (I believe I was mentioning Steve Lombard here only last week) woulda shrieked and ran and soiled their pants, but our intrepid academics actually stand their ground and attempt to push the near-derailed rushing train back onto the tracks. How they doin' that?!? Oh, yeah...Superman. (slaps hoof on forehead for not remembering to check the top of the newspaper strip for the title.)


This, I think, right here in this ordinary black-'n'-white newspaper comic strip right on the big-ass comics pages of the New York Telegram and the Dacron, Ohio Democrat-Republican and the Daily Planet and the Daily Bugle and the Hooterville World Guardian and the Daily Prophet and the Ankh-Morpork Inquirer, is the secret to the magic of Superman: he makes ordinary citizens believe in themselves.


Meanwhile, Miss Dreamface...oh, yeah, forgot about her!...Miss Dreamface is still rushing off to her destiny meet-'n'-greet with the Metropolis Marvel. Will her Mystery Date be a Lion...or a Luthor?


Watch Superman's eye lines here — he smartly doesn't want to look anywhere near Miss Dreamface's vexing visage. She must be realllly ugly, like Al Capp's Lena the Hyena! Or like Al Capp's political or social views.


Later, a crowd of stricken admirers show up at Miss Dreamface's Metropolis apartment, demanding to meet her. All of them are under the sexual spell of this saucy siren. Hey look, they're sportin' wood!


Supes puts an end to the battering ram boys's actions and what does he get for his troubles? Squat, I tells ya, squat. Also, he gets threatened by some palooka over on loan to DC from Timely's Yancy Street. Well, for that guy there's no place to go but up when Superman tosses him high into the Metropolis sky. Aw, man, Mister Ellsworth, you're gonna make me wait a whole day to see that guy splat on the ground when he comes down?


Naw, just foolin' ya. The Man of Steel catches him easily. And he makes a quip at the same time. Oh that Superman of mine! (swoons)


Meanwhile, Agatha, Miss Dreamface's governess/valet/personal assistant has apparently spotted something outrageously odd. Whatever could be frightening her so? Aw geez, she's lookin' straight at the fourth wall! SHE CAN SEE US! SHE CAN SEE US!


Oh no, let me correct that. The impish Mister Mxyztplk (oh yeah! Forgot about him.) has appeared in the apartment. What sort of mischief is he up to now OH MAN HE'S FALLEN IN LOVE WITH DREAMFACE. Men want her, women hate her, imps propose to her!


The Divine Miz D challenges Mxyztplk to prove his love by dispersing the horny horde below on the street. Mxy lover-leaps from the building as the lecherous legion discover there's something happening to them, that, had they had the vocabulary of a couple decades later, would have been described as blowing their minds. Wow! What is it? Keep in mind that this below strip was published on May 20, 1944, a Saturday — the strip wouldn't continue this story until Monday, so that's a heckuva cliffhanger to spend contemplating during a Wartime Sabbath, huh, kids?


On Monday: BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA HE PANTSED 'EM! Except for Superman. Now we know why Supes wears his underwear on the outside: for protection against getting his tights pulled down. You don't tug on Superman's cape, and even more, hands off the red Jockeys for Super-Men, bub!


I really like the punchline to the next day's strip, too.


Later, back at the Daily Star Planet, Clark Kent meets Ted Spence, who as a boy knew Miss Dreamface as a plain-faced child and has always been in love with her, even before she gained her amazing ship-launching face. Well, join the club, Ted, and OH HEY DON'T JUMP OUT THAT WINDOW jeez he's always pullin' that! Obviously, Superman saves him, but I'll leave that part out because a) you knew he would and b) it's not as good an attempted suicide scene as the one in All Star Superman. Still, Clark, maybe close that window, huh?


Back at Miss Dreamface's Dream Apartment (Agatha action figure sold separately), Mxyztplk continues to woo the femme fatale, who is rapidly running out of things to hide her face behind. Whatsa matter, Wayne Boring, you not up to the task of showing us how mind-breakingly beautiful she is? Or is ya...chicken? Chicken! BUCK BUCK BUCK BUCK BUCK Note: please do not ever taunt Wayne Boring about his art skills because he will destroy you. I did it once, but I think I got away with it.


Dreamface persuades the other-dimensional imp into a partnership...might we call it a...SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP?!? No. No, we might not. Because that's copyrighted by Marvel and anyway, it's still over thirty years in the future.


Having seen Superman rescue Ted Spence from falling out of the Daily Planet building, Mxyztplk kidnaps Ted under the belief that Ted is important to Superman. But it turns out that Miss Dreamface remembers Ted from their youth together! (I know, I know...take a minute to write it all down on a flow chart and color-code it with your magic markers to keep track of it, that's what I did.) Then, Superman enters, and WHAT'S THIS? This machiavellian moll manipulatively man-handling the Mast Mon of Mypton? Sorry, I ran out of alliteratives there.


Next time: Oh boy, how's Superman gonna get outta this one? Wouldja believe...by giving in?!?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Today in Comics History: Steve Rogers buys a new script font from Comicraft


Panels from The Adventures of Captain America #1 (September 1991); script by Fabian Nicieza; pencils by Kevin Maguire; inks by Joe Rubinstein; colors by Paul Mounts; letters by Richard Starkings

Monday, January 08, 2018

Today in Comics History: Emperor Norton has fallen and he can't get up


Panels from The Sandman (1989 series) #31 (October 1991), script by Neil Gaiman, pencils and inks by Shawn McManus, colors by Daniel Vozzo, letters by Todd Klein

I think that the following page-and-a-bit is my favorite single scene of them all from Neil Gaiman's Sandman.



Where have you gone, Emperor Norton?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.



Today in Comics History: Doc and Marty meet the Flintstones


Panels from Back to the Future (2015 IDW series) #16 (February 2017), story by John Barber and Bob Gale, script by John Barber, pencils and inks by Emma Vieceli, colors by Jose Luis Rio, letters by Shawn Lee

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.)



Today in Comics Comic Book History of Comics History: Debut of both the Syfy and Gorilla Channels


Panel from The Comic Book History of Comics (2016 series) #1 (November 2016), script and letters by Fred Van Lente, pencils and inks by Ryan Dunlavey, colors by Adam Guzowski

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Today in Comics History: Jessica Cruz bakes a Three Kings cake just for me

Well it really isn't just for me, but when someone in comics makes cake, I like to think I can have a big slice. Anyway: Happy Epiphany Day!


Panels from "The Epiphany" in DC Rebirth Holiday Special one-shot (February 2017), script by Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala, pencils by V. Ken Marion, inks by Mick Gray, colors by Tony Aviña, letters by Josh Reed

The 1990 2018 Marvel Age Calendar: One Singular Sensation

Calendars! You can't live with 'em, you can't live without 'em. And I, as shown by my falling behind a few months last year while trying to bring you calendars at the top of every month, can't keep up with 'em. Let's try again harder this year, shall we? After all, calendar months come every...well, month at a pre-determined time, and it shouldn't be that hard.

I do hope you got a nice calendar or two for Christmas, or, if you're anything like me, wait until after the holidays and buy them for half price. 'Course by then the selection is pretty spare and you have to take your chances that the one you're waiting for will be sold out. Hey, there's no Doctor Who 2018 calendar, but there is a lovely calendar I picked up based on Doctors, the Korean soap opera, and there's rather fewer Daleks and Cybermen and rather quite a bit more romantic crushes and disappointed parents. Geez, Hye-Jung! Be a doctor already!

But as Wolverine will show you, sometimes calendars are confusing and difficult to use, inspiring anger and resentment over their smug thirty-to-thiorty-one day a page format and their self-satisfied proclamation of Canadian holidays that we don't get to take off. National Gordon Lightfoot Day is on November 17? Well, thanks so much, Maple Syrups of the North Calendar 2018, but I don't get that day off from work or school or whatever it is I do all day! I curse at thee! Even though you are scratch and sniff. Yum.


Panels from Wolverine (1988 series) #49 (December 1991), script by Larry Hama, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Hilary Barta and Dan Green, colors by Steve Buccellato, letters by Pat Brosseau

Anyway, my point (and I do have one) is that this year for 2018 I do not possess either a Marvel or a DC Comics calendar that could be used for 2018. The year I was looking for was 1979, technically identical to 2018, but I could not find affordable copies of either Superman: The Movie 1979 Calendar or The 1979 Mighty Marvel Incredible Hulk Calendar. That Hulk calendar is really pricey on eBay! Why so expensive, Bruce? Price of purple pants go up again this year? (You can see pages from the '79 Hulk calendar over at the Big Glee blog, however, so take your peepers over there and open 'em up wide.) On the other hand, I could offer you, straight from England, this weird-ass sideways 1979 Roy of the Rovers calendar which only goes up to August because all I could find was the cover image. Keep track of all your football club matches and brawls using this calendar, the official favorite of the blonde guy in red and yellow (the Birmingham Batsons?) and that guy in blue who looks like HOLY COW IS THAT '70S FOOTBALL HITLER?!?


Cover of Roy of the Rovers (1988 series) #118 (Fleetway, 13 January 1979), artist uncredited

Maybe you'd prefer to see the tall and skinny Grendel. I'm sorry, I'll read that again. The tall and skinny Grendel 2001 calendar.


"January" in Grendel 2001 calendar, text and paintings by Matt Wagner

Man, I'm not allowed to look at that one too long, not with those two big pointy things.

Suitable for all ages, though, is this dandy it-also-works-in-2018 1962 Batman Pin-Up Year-at-a-Glance Calendar, which hangs in the very Batcave itself because Alfred was tired of Bruce not flipping over the pages at the end of the month, preferring to "detect" what was going to be the picture rather than just finding it out. Curiously, Bruce was nearly always right.

"The 1962 Batman and Robin Calendar" from Batman Annual (1961 series) #2 (Winter 1961)
(Click picture to It's Big for You in '62-size)

Please excuse the scanning fold that goes across the middle of the calendar because they didn't print it in the exact center of the comic. We like to refer to these months as "The Months Robin and Batwoman's Heads Fell Off."


But y'know, the calendar I can provide for ya all year 'long is the 1990 Marvel Age Calendar, which lines up perfectly with our ultra-modern, jet-packed 2018, so we can relive those wondrous days of multiple cover gimmicks and short-lived, quickly cancelled Marvel series. Ah, it won't never be like that again!

"The 1990 Marvel Age Calendar: January" from Marvel Age #86 (March, 1990); text by Chris Eliopolous and Barry Dutter, art by Ron Zalme, colors by Gergory Wright
(Click picture to Janufize)

Yes, once again the Marvel Age calendar features Forbush-Man sidebars and color highlight of lots of birthdays for Marvel writers and artists, so be sure to bake a cake every day. It also spotlights the usual very corny humor, like this nod towards Johnny Carson's famous "Carnac the Psychic" routine:


Ah, remenber when all it took for a guy to be disqualified from running for the Presidency was being unable to spell "potato?" AHHHHHHHHH I MISS THE NINETIES PLEASE BRING 'EM BACK NOW

Monday, January 01, 2018

Today in Comics History: Vigilante breaks up yet another traditional Winter Cannon Party


Panels from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

Today in Comics History: The WOR-TV Weather Copter Crew resorts to making up weather for themselves


Panel from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

Today in Comics History: Exiles from ski resorts haunt the night streets of Manhattan


Panel from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

Today in Comics History: The Ninja Turtles get hooked on cheesesteak sandwiches


Panel from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

Today in Comics History: Batman just straight-up mugging guys now


Panel from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

Today in Comics History: Vigilante interior-monologues a plug for his new comic


Panel from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

Today in Comics History: Somehow, Ed Koch has become police commissioner of Metropolis


Panel from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

Today in Comics History: Jimmy Olsen pastes another photograph of a convicted criminal in his crush book


Panel from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

Today in Comics History: Clark Kent lives in a hotel room, apparently


Panels from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik