Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Action Comics #80

Cover date: January 1945

Writer: Don Cameron
Pencils & Inks: Ira Yarbrough
Cover: Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye

"Mr. Mxyztplk Returns"

The dizziest of days in the life of Clark Kent began much the way any other day would begin, with the alarm going off. "Seven already," yawned Clark Kent. "And I've got to be at the office at 8 sharp for a special assignment." Rushing to work, Kent opens the office door to be greeted by Perry White. "Eleven o'clock! A fine time to come in! shouted White. "I had to send Lois to cover that story for you!" "Eleven," said Kent apologetically. "My watch reads exactly eight, and it's never been wrong before."

Dejectedly, Kent was given another assignment, and begins by taking a story from the local police reporter. Hurriedly, he typed up the story and took it into the editor. "What is this, Kent," yelled Perry White throwing the paper back at Kent. Rather than writing that Lefty Bragg had been arrested for a bank robbery, Kent had typed a story describing how Lefty Bragg had arrested the police commissioner for the crime. The day was not going well.

Later that morning, Kent saw Lois Lane return to the office and thought, "Maybe a good lunch will straighten me out". Walking over to Lois' desk, Kent said, "How about joining me for lunch, Lois?" "Why not?" she replied absently. But then she looked at him exasperated. "...But if you're trying to be funny wearing my hat ..." Reaching up, Kent realized that he was wearing Lois' hat. Slowly, Kent took it from his head, put it back on the hat tree and grabbed his own.

"I found a new place for lunch," bragged Kent leading Lois down the street. But when he opened the door to the "Wanta Pet Shop", Lois slapped him on the arm in disgust telling him that she did not think that was the least bit funny. Again, Kent was embarrassed because the restaurant he intended to go to, "The Dish and Spoon" was only three doors away. "Maybe you should go to the psychiatrist instead," grumbled Lois sweeping past him through the door.

Finally seated in the restaurant, Lois and Clark looked over the menu. "Maybe what I need is a good strong cup of cof---," choked Kent spilling his coffee over the table. "Someone pushed my arm!" he screamed. Having had enough, Lois stormed out in disgust. "Maybe I ought to get the police to lock me up for the rest of the day," thought Kent, dejectedly.

Just then, a high-pitched voice brought Kent back to the present. "You seem sad, my friend," said a small man in a bowler hat. "I've been sad, too, ever since you wrote those uncomplimentary stories about me for your paper. It's turned my whole world upside down." Suddenly Kent realized that Mr. Mxyztplk was sitting next to him at the table and then the whole room turned completely upside-down. "Get us down, you idiot," yelled Kent. "Anything you say," chuckled Mxyztplk, and just as suddenly tables and chairs fell to the floor. Behind an overturned table, Kent quickly changed to Superman and began to chase Mxyztplk. Zipping behind him, Superman made a mighty grasp and thought he had him, but with a "poof", Mxyztplk disappeared and was gone.

Later, back at the office, Kent tried to explain to Lois what he had seen, but Lois thought that was just a handy alibi. "I never really believed in Mxyztplk," she said in a huff not knowing that all the while, Mxyztplk was hiding in the trash watching. With a wave of his fingers, he magically animated a typewriter. Lois thought that somehow Clark had done this. Just as mysteriously, Lois' chair slid out, throwing her to the floor, and a trashcan flew through the air landing over her head. In the next instant, Mxyztplk appeared, hovering in the air. "What fools you mortals be," he laughed. "That's him," screamed Lois, pointing at Mxyztplk, who first whipped through the office creating havoc, then sped out the window with a wicked laugh.

That evening, Kent asked Lois to a movie and to Kent's amazement she agreed. As the movie reached a climax, two of the gangsters in the film began to fight. On the stage, Mxyztplk suddenly appeared. He walked up to the screen and proceeded to yell at the gangsters onscreen to stop fighting. Amazingly, the characters on the screen stopped, and looked down at him. Then, Mxyztplk actually entered the movie and brought the characters out onto the stage, and began walking them outside to continue their fight where they wouldn't upset the people in the theater.

The dumbfounded audience suddenly erupted into a panic. In the confusion, Kent slipped away from Lois and changed to Superman. Flying to the stage, Superman told everyone to remain calm. While the audience began to settle back in their seats, Lois predictably grabbed her notebook and headed out the door. "What a story this will make," she said, rushing out of the theater to file her scoop.

With Lois out of the way, Superman resumed his pursuit of Mr. Mxyztplk, racing into the streets, and searching for any sign of Mxyztplk. The sign came, dramatically, when the elevated train tracks suddenly became twisted and broken. Racing to the tracks, Superman saw a rail car roaring down the tracks. Grabbing the tracks, he prevented a crash, then pushed the cars to safety. With the disaster averted, Superman quickly repaired the damaged tracks and resumed his search for the mischievous imp.

Soaring above the city, Superman heard people screaming on the riverfront. Before him, he saw a tidal wave rising up from the river, surging toward the docks. "Mr. Mxyztplk has gone too far this time," thought Superman. "A flood would cost lives and millions of dollars." Accelerating to a blurring speed, Superman flew directly into the wave. The force of his flight created a vacuum that drew the water back to the river preventing a flood.

Immediately, Superman resumed his flight above the city and finally found Mxyztplk dancing, merrily, atop the spire of the Emperor Building. "I've never had so much fun in my own world," he said gleefully. Looking up Mxyztplk saw Superman approaching. "Fancy meeting you up here, Superman," cackled the little imp. "Want to play tag some more?" Superman landed and placed his hands on his hips looking quite stern. "I'd rather talk sensibly with you. For instance. It isn't sensible to go around making trouble when I come along right behind you and undo it all, is it??" "Who cares!" laughed Mxyztplk. "Look at all the fun I'm having."

Superman had had enough, "I've got to make him say his name backwards," he thought In a fury, Superman began reciting every possible nonsense names. But all this did was to start Mxyztplk laughing hysterically. "QXTLMNZ!" Mxyztplk laughed out loud. "Imagine saying "QXTLMNZ" for "KLPTZYXM"! Oops!" Having said his name backwards, Mxyztplk began his journey back to the Fifth Dimension. "It ain't fair taking advantage of me," he moaned. "I'll get an inferiority complex." And with that, his voice faded into nothingness, and he was gone.

The next morning, Clark Kent approached the Daily Planet office with a smile and a spring in his step. "I ought to get a raise for bringing in this story - or at least a bonus." But, entering the city room, he found that was not the reception he received. Perry White and Lois Lane met him at the door waving a copy of the Morning Globe at him. "Explain this little item," demanded White. Under the heading, "Poet's Corner" was a verse that read, "Lois is homely, White's head is thick, My job at the Planet, Is making me sick." It was signed Clark Kent. "And I hope you won't try to blame this poem on Mr. Mxyztplk, along with everything else," said Lois, tapping her foot indignantly. Clark gulped audibly, and with that Perry and Lois turned and left grumbling to themselves.

"You might think Mr. Mxyztplk is funny but I don't," grumbled Kent. "For two cents, I'd speak the magic word and go after him just to get even."

2Story - 2: Comics are like any other medium... if something works, do a sequel. And that was exactly what happened with the case of Mr. Mxyztplk. Mxyztplk first appeared in Superman #30 (Sept-Oct, 1944) in a story called "The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk ". At the end of the story, the editors asked if the readers enjoyed the character and wanted him to appear again. The answer was obviously a resounding, "Yes", because less than three months later Mxyztplk made his second appearance, this time in Action Comics. However, if you think in terms of producing and publishing a comic, this story was probably completed before any letters could ever be returned to the editorial offices. As such, Siegel and Shuster had apparently planned for at least a few more appearances of Mxyztplk before they ever heard from the audience.

Unfortunately for the readers of Action Comics #80, this story was almost identical to the first story. Just as in Superman #30, Mxyztplk arrived on earth, performed a number of ridiculous pranks, with Superman racing behind him to fix the damage. After three or four pranks, Superman tricked (and here, rather easily) Mxyztplk into speaking his name backwards, returning him to the fifth dimension. To me, it appeared that the writer, Don Cameron, realized he had 12 pages of story and found the quickest way to get rid of Mxyztplk and close up the story. I think there was also the assumption that people who read Action Comics, did not necessarily read Superman, and vice versa, so this story would still be novel.

In 1945, Action Comics contained sixty pages. Along with a featured Superman story there were a number of other stories in each issue. Also appearing in Action #80 was a Congo Bill story (The Riddle of the Reservoir), a Vigilante story by the great Mort Meskin (The Pillage of the Parthenon), a Hayfoot Henry story by Al Schwartz (The Hair that Wasn't There), a Zatara story (Tumbling Timber), as well as a Casey the Cop filler and a text story. 'Not bad for ten cents.

2Art - 3: This story was drawn by Ira Yarbrough a long-time assistant in Shuster's Studio, who also drew the first Mr. Mxyzptlk story. Yarbrough's style was far more "cartoony" than other members of the Shuster studio but was a perfect choice to take on the story telling of the zany imp from the fifth dimension. For reference, The best way to quickly spot Yarbrough's art style is to look at the Superman figure, which always flies with his arms curled above his head and one leg tucked underneath.

Cover Art -?: The comic I used to do this review was coverless, so I do not actually know what the cover looked like. Several sources list the cover as having been drawn by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. If anyone has a JPEG of this cover, please forward it to me. I will include it in the review and be sure to thank the person who supplies the image in print.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”




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