Saturday, January 14, 2017

Superman and Batman: World's Funnest #1

"Last Imp Standing"

Evan Dorkin
Mike Allred
Brian Bolland
Frank Cho
Stephen DeStefano
Dave Gibbons
Joe Giella
Jaime Hernandez
Stuart Immonen
Phil Jimenez
Doug Mahnke
David Mazzucchelli
Frank Miller
Sheldon Moldoff
Glen Murakami
Norm Rapmund
Alex Ross
Scott Shaw!
Jay Stephens
Ty Templeton
Bruce Timm
Jim Woodring
and Chris Chuckry

Our cover by Brian Bolland and Chris Chuckry shows Mr. Mxyzptlk battling Bat-Mite over a large pile of deceased Batmans and Supermans from all sorts of different eras and worlds. From the Golden Age heroes to their animated versions, they all get killed by these two ultra-powerful inter-dimensional imps. This cover is also the cover for the 2016 trade paperback, World's Funnest, which collects 12 of the best stories with Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, going all the way back to Mxy's first appearance in 1944. (Sadly, this collection does not include Mxy's appearance in Young Justice, where Impulse and the Three Stooges taught the imp how to have fun.) This otherwise amazing collection fortunately is available digitally. And anchoring it is this 64-page Elseworlds tale, that put all the impressive credits in a fake ad for The Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk Extra-Dimensional Imp-Formational Society, with all the creators listed as members of said club.

Our story begins in the Silver Age, with Superman and Batman having captured Lex Luthor and Joker. Suddenly, the ropes holding the two villains unravel on their own, and Luthor and Joker try to make a hasty getaway. Suddenly, a couple of giant mannequins come to life, but Superman, Batman and Robin are easily able to take out the mannequins and recapture Luthor and Joker. Bat-Mite appears and admits that he freed the criminals so he could see his hero, Batman, in action. Mr. Mxyzptlk then appears and says he brought the statues to life to annoy his rival, Superman.

The two imps both accuse the other of getting in his way, and their fight starts sending a lot of magic around. Batman tries to stop the fight, but Mxyzptlk accidentally kills him. Bat-Mite weeps over the loss of his hero, and he kills Superman in retaliation. In anger, Mxy then kills Robin, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White. Supergirl, Batwoman, Batgirl and Ace the Bathound all show up, and begin weeping when they see everyone has died. So Mxy kills them, as well, and the Super-Pets when they arrive. Luthor and Joker begin laughing to see all these heroes perish, but Mxy doesn't like that, either, and he kills them, too.

The Justice League finally arrives, including Barry Allen, but Mxy easily takes them all out. The entire Legion of Super-Heroes shows up, but when they realize that without Earth's heroes to serve as an inspiration, they wouldn't exist. So they all vanish in a blink of an eye. Bat-Mite finally decides this is enough, and he begins trying to trick Mxyzptlk into saying his name backwards so he'll be sent back to his dimension. But Mxy doesn't fall for this trick, and as the two imps fight, they grow larger and larger, destroying everything in their path. They're eventually bigger than the entire planet Earth, and at this point, the Spectre steps in to try to stop them. But Mxy kills him by smashing Earth on his head. The imps keep fighting, destroying stars, planets and galaxies, until finally there is nothing left but whiteness. Mxy is glad the universe is gone because that means there's nowhere else for Bat-Mite to hide, but Bat-Mite realizes there are other universes he can teleport to.

Bat-Mite first heads to the Phantom Zone, which Mxy promptly destroys. Up next is the Golden Age universe with the Justice Society of America and Jay Garrick. Mxy kills them all, so Bat-Mite retreats to Earth-3, where the evil version of the Justice League, the Crime Syndicate, reigns supreme. (The Flash equivalent on this Earth is Johnny Quick, not to be confused with the good Johnny Quick we know and love.) These villains actually attack Bat-Mite, and Mxy saves him by killing them and destroying the universe once again. Up next is Earth-X, home to Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, but Mxy quickly kills them all, too.

Mxyzptlk then follows Bat-Mite to the world of Captain Marvel in the Golden Age. Mxy first encounters the Monster Society of Evil, and he decides they're all too stupid to live. Bat-Mite gathers up the entire Marvel family and begs them to attack Mxy. But the vengeful imp kills them, too, for being too silly. The next world is home to Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew, which Mxy hates even more. The two imps then appear in the real world and are immediately frightened by it all. They fly down to the DC offices, take a quick peak inside, then both decide to destroy this "wrong" dimension and pretend they never saw it.

Bat-Mite once again tries to trick Mxyzptlk into returning to the fifth dimension, but this time, Mxy realizes that if the fifth dimension doesn't exist, then he can't be sent back there. So Mxy destroys his home world, then follows Bat-Mite to Apokolips, which he promptly destroys. But Mxy leaves a dying Darkseid floating through space, so he can give him the fabled Anti-Life Equation before he dies. And the equation is simply Mr. Mxyzptlk plus Bat-Mite, which makes Darkseid laugh.

The next world is home of the Super Friends cartoon, featuring Wendy, Marvin and the Wonder Dog and the Wonder Twins. Mxy hates how when these heroes talk, the only thing that moves is their mouths and the general lameness of the Wonder Twins, so he kills them all. The next world is actually a storyboard for an episode of Superman: The Animated Series. Mxy naturally destroys this world, too, then follows Bat-Mite right into the middle of the famous Batman-Superman fight in The Dark Knight Returns. Mxy quickly kills Superman, but slowly, and brutally beats Batman to death, causing an abnormally high amount of teeth to fall from his mouth. Bat-Mite then retreats to a world that looks very familiar.

It's the DC Universe in the '90s, filled with new, legacy characters, new outfits and powers for existing characters, and a prevailing tone of "edginess." Impulse (a great spokesman for this era) is the first to spot Bat-Mite, calling out the "fat elf in the freaky-looking Batman suit." But then Impulse wonders if this simply is Batman's new look, noting that you never know these days. Everyone else, except Nightwing, seems intent on killing Bat-Mite, and the poor imp tries in vain to explain who he is.

But nobody here has ever heard of Bat-Mite. The imp runs away from this crowd in tears, looking for Batman to set everything right. But Batman hasn't heard of Bat-Mite, either. So Bat-Mite decides that these mean and scary heroes with all their nasty weapons are actually evil impostors, and he kills them all. Mxy arrives just in time to watch Bat-Mite kill the last remaining heroes and ultimately destroy the entire universe. Mxy is impressed by this, but he still wants to continue his fight.

Our next stop is the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, with Wally West sadly holding the empty uniform of Barry Allen, and Superman explaining to everybody that the Anti-Monitor has finally been defeated. Mxy kills everybody, leaving Superman for last, who sadly asks if all their efforts to save the universe were pointless. Mxy thinks for a moment, then says, yes, it was all meaningless, and he destroys this entire universe, as well.

We then quickly jump around to a bunch of different worlds, seeing Rip Hunter in the Time Stream; the Atomic Knights; classic Wild West heroes; the Charlton heroes of Blue Beetle, the Question and others; World War I; Amethyst in Gemworld; Heaven (showing Perry White finally meeting Great Caesar's Ghost); the Revolutionary War; World War II; Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth; the Space Cabby; Booster Gold; the Tangent Heroes; 'Mazing Man; Sugar and Spike; the Challengers of the Unknown; the DC One Million heroes; Abra Kadabra; the Reverse Flash; Batman Beyond and many more. And every single one of them was killed by Mr. Mxyzptlk.

Mxyzptlk follows Bat-Mite to the Kingdom Come world, where Bat-Mite has stolen the Jay Garrick helmet from this world's Flash for some reason. Mxy destroys this world as well, then tries to throw a bomb at Bat-Mite. But he uses the Flash helmet to bounce the bomb back at Mxy, and he blows up. But he's fine, because he's, you know, Mr. Mxyzptlk. However, that explosion did seem to calm Mxy down. He slowly starts laughing, and Bat-Mite gradually joins in. The two imps laugh and laugh about how fun it was to destroy the entire multiverse, and just like that, they return to the Silver Age world they started on, saying they'll meet up again the same time next Tuesday. As Batman and Superman take Joker and Luthor away, they both get the sense that some great cosmic joke was being played on them. But they quickly shake this feeling off as lingering effects of Joker's laughing gas, completely unaware that Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite are gleefully laughing at the heroes behind their backs.

This was a wonderfully hilarious story that lovingly teased every different incarnation of DC Comics. No matter what the era or style is, there's always something to make fun of, and this comic did a great job of finding those goofy elements to exploit. And what made everything a hundred times better were the people who made this comic. Instead of getting somebody else to mimic the unique styles of Frank Miller, Alex Ross or Bruce Timm, DC actually brought in Frank Miller, Alex Ross and Bruce Timm, and it makes all the difference. This comic is great for all fans of DC, but especially students of DC's history.

Now, before we move on, I have a bonus story to review. This trade also includes a Bat-Mite story from 1995 that features a small, Impulse-Mite cameo I was unaware of.

Mite fall

Script-Mite: Alan Grant
Art-Mite: Kevin O'Neill
Color-Mite: Digital Chameleon
Lettering-Mite: Clem Robins
Ass't-Mite: Chuck Kim
Editor-Mite: Archie Goodwin

The cover by Kevin O'Neill gives us a good idea of what this story is — a goofy, over-the-top retelling of the classic Batman tale, Knightfall.

In this story, we learn that Bat-Mite's dimension is full of other chubby imps who all love dressing up and acting like superheroes and supervillains just like him (but he's the only one who comes to Earth from time to time). The events in this dimension run parallel to Earth's, so when the real Bane unleashed the lunatics of Arkham Asylum to weary and weaken Batman, the Bane-Mite did the same thing to Bat-Mite. And the results turned out the same, with Bane-Mite beating and breaking Bat-Mite.

Bat-Mite used the last of his strength to come to Earth to find a hero to save his world. But since the real Batman was too weak, Bat-Mite turned to a reformed drug dealer named Bob Overdog (whom he met in Grant and O'Neill's 1992 Legend of the Dark Mite). Bat-Mite gives him the ridiculous suit we see on the cover, turning him into Overbat, and, long story short, Bob destroys Bane-Mite through the power of pure goodness. But with Bane-Mite defeated, Bob succumbed to temptation and tried some of Bane-Mite's drub, Toxik, which caused his head to explode. The Mites mourn Bob's death and decide to honor his heroism with a giant gold statue at a ceremony attended by Flash-Mite and the very rare Impulse-Mite.

This was also a pretty fun story, although the dark writing and grotesque art kept me from fully enjoying it. But I did like the unexpected surprise of the Impulse-Mite. It's always nice to see your favorite character included in other stories, even random, utterly goofy stories like this.

Next time will be another cameo appearance, but it will be in continuity and a bit more serious in Hourman #22.

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