DCAU #159: Mxyzpixilated

IN THIS ONE... Mr. Mxyzptlk faces off against Superman every three months.

CREDITS: Written by Paul Dini; directed by Dan Riba.

REVIEW: Judging from comments made to me, Gilbert Gottfriend's Mxyzptlk is popular, but I'm not completely enamored with him. Face it, Gottfried's voice is MEANT to be annoying, and having him absurdly shout for McGurk (Young Justice would eventually provide an explanation, but that's a different universe), gets old fast. And I'm always a little bored with stories in which one random, magical thing happens after another, especially if they're all going to "turn" into dreams/illusions at the end. Because everything is undone, including the supporting cast's memories, once Superman has sent Mxy back to the 5th Dimension, the stakes are lowered tremendously. It allows Superman to blow his secret identity without a thought, for example. It certainly doesn't help that the Man of Steel consistently has the upper hand over Mxy, who at no point provides a tangible threat to his opponent. His first few appearances on our plane end incredibly quick and because he's as stupid as a Loony Toons villain. Perhaps that's why he chooses to make himself a physical threat to Superman in his last couple encounters, but that seems wrong and out of character, even though it provides a good joke in spending three months building an exoskeleton only to return seconds after leaving, without us even seeing how he was defeated.

The show's makers are having fun. That, at least, is appreciated. Setting an episode across more than a year is bold. The insertion of references from the comics and television shows is cute. And Paul Dini's version of Miss Gzptlsnz provides the kind of classic sitcom hijinks that work well for Mxy and his world. The frustrated sexpot sidekick is kind of his thing, and not particularly family-friendly, but the gags in the 5th Dimension, as she gets progressively more tired of Mxy's obsessions and his withholding attention, are amusing. But I just can't get that excited at surrealism like Superman fighting Rodan's Thinker, or the Kents as chickens, or more animal transformations later, or the slightly unearned yet very obvious sky-writing shtick. The magical bits lack magic for me, I guess, though Mxy's final disappearance, turning into a deflating balloon is damn near perfect.

IN THE COMICS: Mr. Mxyzptlk was created by Siegel and Shuster in 1944's Superman #30 under a slightly different name (Mxyztplk), but looking pretty much like this (the Silver Age+ version is less cartoonish and his principal color is dark yellow). The bit with the truck at the very beginning is right out of that first story. As is the original stories, the imp from the 5th Dimension returns to his home plane if he is made to say/spell his name backward, but like the post-Crisis stories (in which he would come up with different tasks for Superman to accomplish each time), he can only appear every 3 months on the dot, when our dimensions intersect. Mxy turns Lois into a horse - a reference to her centaur fling with Comet - and Jimmy into a turte - a reference to his Turtle Boy identity. He also makes the Kents' cat Streaky fly, a reference to Supergirl's magically-superpowered cat (the streak in its fur is completely different though). Miss Gzptlsnz was another 5th-dimensional imp who tortured Jimmy Olsen once in the Silver Age and was referred to as Mxy's girlfriend (Jimmy Olsen #52, 1964); she was imp-like rather than human-looking. A character by that name has appeared from time to time in the comics. How Superman shaves is taken directly from the early post-Crisis comics. The Daily Planet's comics page includes strips that reference the show's staff and non-DC comics, including a Dennis the Menace/Calvin & Hobbes amalgam that stars Paul Dini, a Peanuts spoof starring Glen Murakami (and apparently Shane Glines), and Dan (Riba) Danger the Dick Tracy look-alike signed Harry Thatcher (read: Terri Hatcher, TV's Lois Lane). The way Superman initially pronounces Mxyzptlk is out of Super-Friends, but he's immediately corrected.

SOUNDS LIKE: Stand-up comedian Gilbert Gottfried plays Mxy, of course; his voice is unmistakable. His other best-known cartoon voice is Iago the Parrot in Disney's Aladdin. Gzptlsnz is voiced by Sandra Bernhard, also best known for her stand-up, and as Nancy Bartlett on Roseanne.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - An amusing distraction, but low on substance.


American Hawkman said...

My favorite episode of the series, bar none. Since we see early on Mxy has no intention or capacity to really hurt Clark, the humor element is allowed free reign, and it's blatantly cartoony. I may enjoy some episodes more individually once, but I always come back to this one to rewatch.

Anonymous said...

I fault the series for doing empty "villain of the week" stories, but in this case it works. This one doesn't take itself too seriously, it makes Mxyzptlk appropriately cartoony, and there is no beating the scene where Gzptlsnz counts down "3 ... 2 ... 1 ...". There is even a happy ending of sorts, where Mxy begins to notice a much more direct route to personal fulfillment.

And there's no #*$&# Metallo in this episode. God, I hated the Metallo episodes, all 3000 of them.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

This was my introduction to Mxy, and remains probably my favorite as well. It's fun to see Superman outwitting an opponent rather than punching them, I think the humor (absurdist especially; I love the month of 'Pants') works well, and Gilbert Gotfried is a natural fit. This was the one that really got me watching STAS (and the DCAU, by extension), in the first place.

LiamKav said...

I'm with the commentators. I've only read two Myx stories (Emperor Joker and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?) which are probably not good representations. At the start in was dreading it, as I also hate random "wacky" stuff. In live action is can sometimes be fun as it requires some work, but drawing the Kents as chickens isn't any more effort than drawing them as human. If the whole episode was going to be a build-up to Superman sending him home, I probably would have hated it. The fact that he succeeds immediately, and then treats Myx with mild annoyance is what makes it work. Rather than being about Lux torturing Superman, it's Superman torturing Myx. And that's much more fun.

(Also, his girlfriend is clearly Jessica Rabit, isn't she? That's not just me?)


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