Using his superior abilities. the Man of Steel would reliably prevail over brainy supervillain Lex Luthor and others of his 3D ilk, hauling them off to some good ol' 4D jail-time. But his powers, we might say, are merely super-- i.e.extraordinary human attributes of strength, speed, and flight. That's right: Superman's ability to fly was on occasion "explained" in the early Action Comics as a super-benign "side-effect" of certain differences in gravity, atmosphere, blah, blah, between his home planet and Earth (no indication e.g. that Kryptonians had such powers). Normal, terrestrial humans of Olympic ability can "fly" for instance at a little over seven feet; Superperson Clark Kent, however, simply raises the bar quite a bit. X-ray vision aside, he is after all a completely humanoid.ET or ALF, subject like us all to forth-dimensional natural law and its vicissitudes, plot-wise, including the ultimates: love and death. Not so for Mr. Myxyzptlk..
Supernerd! A daunting uber-villain, indeed. But that was the genius-part of Mr. M's first incarnation, now sadly gone. His Disneyesque appearance belied his almost unlimited powers and sometimes malicious nature, making him all the more sinister ,,, and most interesting. Some nice comic irony for a kid back then. And this super-imp could daunt. Through pure mischief and mostly harmless mayhem, he would annoy, confuse, and confound our superhero with some sort of incomprehensible interference that defied physical laws. ... before HE was "tricked" into returning to his 5D .world.
Not to get all mythic on you, but Mr. Myxyzptlk epitomizes the Trickster archetype ... as in Norse Loki, Anglo-Saxon Unferth (in Beowulf, and btw in my doctoral dissertation), Prometheus, Br'er Rabbit, a bunch of others that you can think of, and my nostalgic favorite: Froggy the Gremlin, from the radio and then TV program, Smilin' Ed's Gang. When it was time for hijinks on that kiddie show, after a story or a clip from an "old" western, old Ed would summon up Froggy with this stentorian call: "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!" And somehow POOF the squat little grotesquely bug-eyed gravely-voiced frog-puppet (no Kermit he) would appear (imagination-wise on radio) ... in a self-made cloud of smoke as he puffed away on a giant CIGAR stitched to his puppet-lips! See first picture above. Coincidence? I think not. Anyway, hilarity would ensue as Froggy did his magic mischief--I remember the late, late can't-hold-a-sneeze comic Billy Gilbert as a frequent guest bearing Froggy's brunt of practical jokes. Another plunk of his magic twanger, however (you are free to utilize this expression in other, creative ways, as us kids were wont to do) ... and POOF he was gone. As if to another dimension.***
Speaking of creativity, you've got to give credit the Action Comics guys for anticipating some of the current quantum-physical fooferah about extra dimensions (It's now up to eleven!) and multiverses of one kind or another. Of course they used this bit of science esoterica for good fun, but what fascinated me as a kid was that it severely challenged not just our hero's superpowers but his common-sense, intellect, and even identity, much like the crazy world of quantum theory does for us today. This antagonist was not only invincible, but in ways that the super-guy couldn't understand. (Okay ... he's non-common-sensically super, but his powers are enhanced anthropic attributes [again, aside from Xray vision], otherwise we would have a had time identifying with him as an archetypal hero ,,, as potentially one of us. Remember, his flying ability is sort of explained as extra-good high-jumping.)
"I thought I was the only one who could fly?" says the Man of Steel questioning his very identity in his first encounter with Mr. Myxyzptlk--in his oriiginal supernerd guise--when he apparently jumps to his death out of a window.. (I had to "wiki" this to get an example--plaudits to those rich folk who saved their old comic books--because it's been a long time.) Using his 5D powers, the little guy wreaks other mischief on Metropolis and its citizens including getting fatally hit by a truck and then shockingly coming back to life ... giving the Mayor a donkey's voice ... scattering important documents all over town, Pranks. Great kid-stuff, In fact, he lets slip to superman at one point that he is a court-jester by trade, back on his 5D home planet--explaining everything.
Of course Mr. Myxyxptlk has to be "vincible" in some way for Superman ultimately to prevail. Well, here it is (or was) ,, he's stupid. Or at base terminally childish .. and why our super-smarter hero can always plunk the little guy's twanger and outwit him back to his fifth dimension world for--get this--a minimum of 90 days. Time to prepare the next issue, presumably..Here's the trick: Mr. M inadvertently reveals to Superman that if Mr.M hisownself pronounces or spells or writes his name backwards ...to wit: Kltpyyxym--then POOF he;s gone. And Superman in extremis is able to get him every time with some ludicrously simple stratagem. "How do you spell that name backwards again?"--I'm making that up, but the ploys were on that level, as I remember. And POOF once again The play of wit and language and magic ... great fun. (I'll get more to the point of my return in next post, but this is just such fun.)
***More on Chicago's radio & TV personality Sm+ilin' Ed McConnell and the the death of a childhood hero in Mosteller Musings, as soon as I get the little-sister blog cranked up again..