One is an extra-dimensional imp who causes no end of trouble for the Man of Steel.
The other is an extra-dimensional imp who simply wants to prove he’s the universe’s biggest fan of the Dark Knight.
They are Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, respectively, and for better or worse they have been mainstays in the worlds of DC’s two biggest heroes since their introductions.
With tales ranging from silly to outright irreverent, World’s Funnest collects some of the character’s biggest stories from over the years, giving readers a peek at the lighter side of the DC Universe.
First things first: look at those credits. If there’s an artist you like, they’re probably on there. Evan Dorkin, at the time best known for his comic Milk & Cheese, certainly attracted some heavy hitters for this one-shot, and it’s clear throughout that everyone is having a great time.
Unfortunately, though it’s a relatively enjoyable, the narrative is a bit shaky throughout, especially in the first half of the story. Things start off strong, with a pretty much perfect send-up of goofy Silver Age comics.
Everyone is all smiles, the dialogue is appropriately corny, and there are visual elements that would make Dick Sprang and Al Plastino proud.
Giant billows. Amazing.
Within moments, Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk pop up to torment our heroes, and in turn just outright murder everyone.
I get that it’s a farce, but seeing Robin killed with a giant hole punch or Supergirl smothered with a massive Kryptonite
Kleenex® facial tissue is a bit much. Granted, this is a comic about magic imps and flying super-people so “grounded” and “subtlety” are not in its vocabulary, but it… eh, just isn’t that funny at first.
After the shaky first twenty or so pages pass, though, it essentially becomes an excuse for modern artists to pay homage to the greats of yesteryear and it’s fantastic. Mite and Mxy go from universe to universe, be it Earth-3, the DCAU, or even the real world, destroying each in turn as they attempt to destroy each other. It’s seeing these different worlds with their different styles and tones that makes it a massively entertaining read, with each stop rendered appropriately and the tone finally settling on good-natured satire rather than hamfisted parody.
Every world they visit has its own treasures and in-jokes, and there’s hardly a dud in the bunch, but my personal favorites were the Fourth World and The Dark Knight Returns send-ups. The former sees David Mazzucchelli pulling off the best Kirby this side of Kirby:
Miller-world, on the other hand, has the most ridiculous hardboiled dialogue you can imagine, and Frank actually illustrated it so he’s at least in on the joke too.
And, true to form, Supes gets shafted as usual.
When Dorkin finds his groove, this book works pretty well, especially with the portrayals of the two imps: Mxyzptlk is an obnoxious jerk, and Bat-Mite is a powerful yet timid fan, and that’s as they should be. It isn’t perfect, or even great, but it’s enjoyable enough and works as part of a larger collection.
Plus, there are cameos from the two greatest DC characters ever:
Automatic four stars.
Not surprisingly, this is Mxyzptlk’s first appearance. Reading stories like these are fascinating, because so much has changed in comics’ storytelling and presentation in the past seventy years. (Spoilers: it’s really wordy.)
Superman creators Siegel and Shuster helm this story, which is a delight in itself, and while goofy and dated it’s still pretty fun. Mxy goes around causing trouble, as he’s wont to do, and including looking for his friend McGurk.
You know, just like on TV.
The story is only eleven pages, but it’s enough to establish the character as a possible recurring nuisance for Superman. He’s presented as more of a lowly jester who happened upon some magic as opposed to the powerful creature I’m more familiar with, but this early in history even Superman was still being figured out so those differences aren’t surprising.
What is surprising is how great it all looks. Granted, the panels have no doubt been restored and recolored, but Shuster really gives it his all and uses the limitations of the medium to his advantage. Sure, there are some goofy poses here and there, but a lot of the action is pretty fluid and clear for a 72-year-old comic.
Also, I say we bring this back.
Or… is that what Twitter’s for?
I love a good, grounded story as much as the next guy. Year One? That’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Batman stories of all time. It’s in my top five for sure.
You know what else I like? Batman and Robin riding around in a giant Batman mannequin.
Like Mxyzptlk, Bat-Mite is introduced primarily as a comedic foil to Batman and Robin, though he mainly wants to use his powers to “help” the Dynamic Duo be the best heroes they can be.
As evidenced by the above image, it’s all silly fun, and Sheldon Moldoff gets pretty creative with how Mite uses his powers.
There’s a recurring gag where Batman makes up excuses for all the weird impossibilities, going so far as to pretty much use the old “weather balloon and swamp gas” excuse for UFO sightings. It is the funniest thing.
Also worth noting: Batman used to threaten to spank people a lot.
Papa spank indeed.
Dear Silver Age,
I love you.
This is pretty much World’s Funnest, Redux.
Even though it was published forty years prior.
You know what I mean.
Other than seeing just how weird stories could get back in the day, there isn’t too much to note here, though it’s nice seeing some Dick Sprang artwork. His Superman is a little shaky, with some weird proportions in some panels, but everything else is great.
Again, it’s not worth the price of admission, but it’s still fun.
I love it when comics do these little meta-stories. Sure, they can get either pretentious or lazy, but with six pages to burn? That’s long enough for a fun little romp.
Bat-Mite appears in then-editor Allen Milgrom’s office, demanding a feature in Batman Family. With every excuse he’s given, Bat-Mite brings in another member of the crew responsible for this very comic until they promise to give him the spotlight.
Nothing earth shattering, but again, it’s fun.
Same song, second verse. This time, Mite mouths off to legendary writer and editor Len Wein, with a resolution similar to Duck Amuck.
Speaking of, now is a good time for an intermission, so enjoy this classic Daffy Duck short.
This story is notable for two reasons. First, I believe it’s the first appearance of Mr. Mxyzptlk after the publication of Alan Moore and Curt Swan’s seminal Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? If you’ve never read that story, go ahead and go find a copy and give it a read. It’s rightfully regarded as a classic and one of the best Superman stories of all time, so it’s crucial reading for any and all fans.
Dont worry, I’ll wait.
Now that you’re back (or if you’ve already read it/didn’t listen), it’s worth noting that Mxy’s portrayal is fairly intense, and his demise is particularly gruesome. As I said, unless I’m missing an issue somewhere this was his first appearance since that story and his reintroduction to the DCU after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Debuting in the middle of John Byrne’s run on Superman comics that was absolutely amazing until it absolutely wasn’t, the imp comes around once more just to give Supes a hard time.
It’s actually a pretty great issue, and it reads even better in context with the rest of the run, but there’s one more thing that makes it notable.
The white suit.
The five o’clock shadow.
This is the guise Mxyzptlk takes for much of the issue, and it’s amazing. His name is an anagram of “Beyonder,” and his look is a parody of the Marvel character of the same name. I may be up-selling it too much, but that look is fantastic.
The moral of this story: at least read The Man of Steel. It’s great, and still my favorite Superman origin.
Now this is interesting.
Mr. Mxyzptlk comes around to aggravate Superman, only to find out he’s in outer space. Instead of bothering to go off and find him, Mxy sets his sights on the next most powerful man in Metropolis: Lex Luthor.
Having him interact with somebody besides Superman is a refreshing change of pace, but it’s almost shocking how malicious and violent Mxyzptlk is portrayed here.
Like, really, really malicious.
Regardless, it’s a nice twist on this type of story, and seeing Luthor do away with the imp in his own way is great.
Spoilers: he pretty much introduces Mxyzptlk to the concept of lying.
This just… I don’t know, maybe this book is getting to me and I need to lie down a bit. Something about this story rubbed me the wrong way, and I can’t quite figure out what it was.
It may be the writing and overall story I didn’t like: it follows Bob Overdog, a criminal being interrogated by Batman, as he tries to prove his (relative) innocence after a recent firefight. His alibi? A small imp dressed like Batman appeared and took them out himself.
It’s all presented as a drug-induced fever dream, it certainly looks like one too.
Theres no sympathy toward Overdog, and while I certainly understand that he’s a criminal and not exactly a nice person, the whole ordeal come off as mean-spirited.
Really, though, I think my main problem is the art. It’s just too weird. I’m reminded of the video for “Paranoid Android”:
When I looked O’Neill up I discovered he illustrated “Tygers,” a Tales of the Green Lantern Corps story written by Alan Moore and one of the more… unpleasant comics I’ve ever read.
Everything I’ve read so far in this collection has at least been enjoyable, but this is the first story I flat-out didn’t like at all.
You want to get on my good side? Throw in a reference to Batman ’66.
After the drag that was the last issue, this is a “return to form,” inasmuch as one of these stories can be, which finds Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk causing problems once again.
There’s a surprising bit of continuity, as the story opens with Mxyzptlk appearing to Overdog from the previous story in the collection.
Surprising because the former issue was from Legends of the Dark Knight, a series which typically dealt with Batman’s early years and had fluid continuity, and this issue is from a miniseries that sought to establish Batman and Superman’s relationship through the decades. I’ve never read it, but after reading this issue I want to.
The tricks and traps the imps lay are par for the course at this point, but there’s some remarkably strong character work here as well. Batman and Lois Lane share a moment where Bruce is remarkably vulnerable about his fear of loss, and Superman and Robin have a great conversation where Clark plants the seeds for Dick’s Nightwing persona.
Really, the best thing I can say about it is it made me want to read more, so I think I will. A real winner here.
Well color me surprised. This is the exact same team who brought us “Legends of the Dark Mite,” this time with an even longer story and pretty much the exact same tone, yet I actually kind of loved this story.
It may have to do with this story actually having a plot, rather than just being presented as some sort of haze or fever dream (at least not all the way through, anyway). We follow Bob Overdog once more, who wants to do good with his life and has rechristened himself Underdog. The action takes place during Bane’s orchestrated breakout of Arkham inmates during Knightfall, giving the proceedings an immediate familiarity. Bob escapes, only to stumble upon Bat-Mite once more. The imp, who was defeated by the monstrous Bane-Mite, seeks a champion to fight in his stead.
You know where this is going.
I love how that’s almost indistinguishable from the real AzBats costume.
Now dubbed Overbat, the ex-criminal traverses Bat-Mite’s universe in an attempt to prove his new heroic persona to himself. Pretty basic stuff, really, but the weirdness and bizarre visuals actually work in the story’s favor this time around.
I can’t quite put my finger on why, but everything just clicked for me this time around. The plot, as much as there was one, actually engaged me, and the satire and parody hit and had teeth rather than just being irreverent for its own sake:
Plus, it has hands down the biggest laugh of the entire collection:
And really, is there any gift greater than a child’s laughter?
Equal parts charming and tragic, they definitely saved the best for last. This two-parter finds Batman and Superman running across their pint-sized counterparts from another universe.
There’s just so much to like here. The doppelgängers come from a universe that is completely innocent and pure, where things like death and pain are nonexistent. For instance, the Waynes weren’t murdered, but instead pushed by a bully:
Vixen gets her powers from,,, less than feral creatures:
And Two-Face, instead of being horribly scarred, had a pie thrown at him:
Mike’s Green and Johnson balance the tone nicely, not letting things tip too far either way between cuteness and the weightier aspects of the story, and Albuquerque’s designs remind me of Li’l Gotham and the incredible JL8.
Things take a turn in the latter half of the story, as the revelation that Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite brought the world’s together leads to some serious consequences, but it ends the volume on a melancholic yet hopeful note by summing up Superman pretty well:
Bonus Material: Besides a bevy of stories in a single volume, nothing. Not really surprising, but still disappointing.
Overall: The very definition of a mixed bag, if nothing else this is a pretty good study of some of the weirder parts of the DCU. Not Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite are best used in small doses, and their shtick can wear pretty thin over 300 pages, but there are enough genuinely good stories and ideas here that it’s worth it to pick up on the cheap.