Monday, March 9, 2009

"Bat-Mite Meets Mr. Mxyzptlk"

Issue: World's Finest Comics #113

Cover Date: November 1960

Writer: Jerry Coleman

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Sheldon Moldoff

Cover Artist: Curt Swan

Synopsis: The story begins with a giant robot breaking its way into the Gotham City Bank. Bullets don't make a dent in it, but the citizens of Gotham need not fear, for Batman and Robin soon arrive on the scene. Inside the robot, two gangsters laugh at the thought of the Dynamic Duo attempting to stop them. Batman and Robin hop atop a large fuel tank and generate a flame that melts the tar in the road around the robot. Unfortunately, the robot is equipped with jets that allow it to fly and escape the tar. Luckily, Superman is in town (on assignment as Clark Kent) and throws a large boulder in the direction of the robot to stop it. As the boulder flies past the Dynamic Duo, it suddenly turns into a disproportioned figure of Superman and falls into the street. Such a transfiguration can mean only one thing: Bat-Mite has come to pay his favorite hero a visit.

Batman asks the imp why he is pestering Superman and Bat-Mite replies that he wants to see the Dynamic Duo perform incredible feats, not the Man of Steel. Superman's super-hearing picks up the robot's rampage and Bat-Mite tells him that he'd better allow Batman and Robin to tackle the mechanical menace. He looks like he wants to throttle the little Mite, but Batman keeps the peace and persuades Superman to let him and Robin try to handle it. Handle it they do, as they topple a statue onto the robot, damaging it and knocking out the criminals inside. At the same time, Superman is being terrorized by trees that have the heads of their animal namesakes. The blame for this is put on Bat-Mite, but for once, he is not responsible for the magical goings on, as Superman's imp foe Mr. Mxyzptlk appears. The pair of imps have a conversation about what they use their powers for, culminating in Mr. Mxyzptlk telling Bat-Mite that he and he alone annoys Superman. Bat-Mite declares that he'll do as he pleases, kicking off a magical battle for the (Silver) ages.

Mr. Mxyzptlk turns maple syrup on a billboard into the real thing, covering Bat-Mite. Bat-Mite uses his magic to spray it off himself into the street, a mess that Superman cleans up by spinning at terrific speeds and using his head as a mop. Mr. Mxyzptlk then turns a series of smoke rings solid, constricting Bat-Mite with them. Bat-Mite turns the smoke rings into lightning, throwing them at Mr. Mxyzptlk. At a standstill, they both disappear to come up with a plan to outwit the other. Later, Batman and Robin are driving on the outskirts of Gotham when a one eyed monster appears, courtesy of Mr. Mxyzptlk. The Dynamic Duo look doomed, but Superman arrives to throw the monster into space. Mr. Mxyzptlk tells Bat-Mite that that will teach him to pester Superman. Bat-Mite has never thought of himself as a pest, but the comment gives him an idea.

Mr. Mxyzptlk's next trick is to create a real volcano, which Bat-Mite turns into a pipe, causing Batman, Robin, and Superman to laugh. Not to be made a fool of, Mr. Mxyzptlk gives an abandoned storage house creature legs, sending it walking. Bat-Mite notices it resembles a caterpillar and turns it into a butterfly, prompting more laughter from the trio of heroes. Angered by the laughter, Mr. Mxyzptlk returns to the 5th Dimension to come up with a plan to make Bat-Mite miserable. Bat-Mite pats himself on the back for coming up with the idea to pester Mr. Mxyzptlk, but changes his demeanor as Batman, Robin, and Superman surround him with their arms crossed. After Bat-Mite returns to his dimension, Batman hopes that he doesn't return too soon, to which Superman adds that he hopes Mr. Mxyzptlk doesn't return at the same time Bat-Mite does. "Brrr...what a pair they make!"

Thoughts: Here it is, the first meeting of the magical imps of the DC Universe. This story takes a bit to build up, but once the players are assembled, it's a heck of a show. Page after page of alternate dimensional magic, as Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk try to one up each other. The main distinction between to two is that Mr. Mxyzptlk uses his powers purely to annoy, while Bat-Mite uses his to help his hero, unintentionally annoying him. It's a nice twist for Bat-Mite to intentionally turn to the path of pestering to turn the tables on Mr. Mxyzptlk. Although Bat-Mite is quite a pest in this story before that, mostly due to him throwing Batman and Robin at a tentacle monster. As with most Bat-Mite stories, this one is chock full of DC Silver Age fun. One panel has Bat-Mite replying "Impossible!" looking right at the reader when Batman mentions to Superman he and Robin might not be able to stop the robot. Another one has a smiling Bat-Mite saying, "What do all caterpillars finally become?", flying at Batman and Robin who look hilariously surprised. The biggest gut buster however is the previously mentioned scene where Superman cleans up the syrup. Spinning around upside down, using his hair as a mop, wearing a look of intense concentration. Silver Age brilliance at its finest.

The penciller for this issue is Dick Sprang, with inks interestingly enough by Sheldon Moldoff. Dick Sprang's interpretation of Bat-Mite is great, rounder and more like a little man than an imp (which is what the Mite's been saying all along). In my original post, I said I might prefer Sprang's interpretation to Moldoff's. Looking at some Bat-Mite stories after I read this story, I gotta say Moldoff is still number one. While Sprang's art is quality as usual, something seems off about it. I don't know if it's Moldoff's inks, but there seems to be a noticeable difference between his work in World's Finest and that of the Batman titles. While the story's a blast, I do have a few quibbles with it. When Bat-Mite first appears, Robin makes a comment that seems to hint it's Bat-Mite, but when the imp appears, he acts surprised. Likely a case of mismatched word balloons. Also, I really doubt that the statue falling on the robot would only knock the criminals out. Other than those two points, this was a great first meeting of DC's premiere magical imps, and as Superman forshadowed, it wasn't the last.

This story has been reprinted in the World's Finest Comics Archives Vol. 3 HC and the Showcase Presents: World's Finest Vol. 2 TPB.


Unknown said...

You fucking bitch ass misogynist

Unknown said...

You fucking bitch ass misogynist