Mister Mxyzptlk, sometimes called Mxy, is an impish supervillain who appears in DC Comics' Superman comic books.
He was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and first appeared in Superman #30 (September 1944). He is usually presented as a trickster, in the classical mythological sense, in that he enjoys tormenting Superman. In most of his appearances in DC Comics, he can be stopped only by tricking him into saying or spelling his own name backwards (Kltpzyxm - "kel-tip-zix-um"), which will return him to his home in the 5th dimension and keep him there for a minimum of 90 days. However, this specific limitation of the character has been eliminated since the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, upon which the character leaves only when he willingly agrees to do so after meeting some conditions he sets, such as having Superman succeed in getting Mxy to paint his own face blue.
In 2009, Mister Mxyzptlk was ranked as IGN's 76th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.
Mister Mxyztplk (the original spelling) was introduced in the Golden Age as an imp from the "fifth dimension." Not being bound by our physical laws, he can do things that seem to be magical. In his first appearance, Mxyztplk wreaks havoc across Metropolis by using his powers to pull all manner of pranks, first pretending he got hit by a truck and killed, then increasing his weight when the ambulance gets there and waking up to shock them. What's more, he destroys Superman's worldview of himself. Mxyztplk jumps out a window, fooling Superman into thinking Mxyztplk is committing suicide. When he appears unharmed, an astonished Superman exclaims "I-I thought I was the only man who could fly!!" He gives the Mayor the voice of a donkey, then blows papers over the town. Mxyztplk soon tells Superman that he is a jester in his home dimension, explaining why he uses his powers to play practical jokes. But one day he found a book which told him of this world.
Originally, Mxyztplk has designs on conquering the planet for himself, but soon settles for tormenting Superman whenever he gets the opportunity. His only weaknesses are that he cannot stand being ridiculed and if he says or spells his name backwards, Klptzyxm (kil-pit-ZEE-zim /k?lp?t'zi?z?m/), he is involuntarily sent back to his home dimension for a minimum of 90 days. He first gets fooled, when Superman asks what the word is, and he says Superman would have thought him stupid enough to say 'Klptzyxm,' before realising what has happened and being transported home. Mxyztplk often looks for ways to counter the latter weakness, but he always proves gullible enough for Superman to trick him time and time again. In the Golden Age, saying "Klptzyxm" will not only bring Mxyztplk back to the fifth dimension, but would bring anyone else saying it to the fifth dimension. To return to his/her home dimension, one has to say his/her own name backward.
Mxyztplk originally appeared as a small bald man in a purple suit, green bow tie, and purple derby hat. This was changed to a futuristic looking orange outfit with purple trim and white hair on the sides of his head in the mid-1950s, although the bowler hat remains adapted to the new color scheme. In Action Comics #208 (1955), the spelling of Mxyztplk 's name changed (by some accounts through mistake, though it was this very same issue where the costume and form change was done, suggesting it was intentional) to "Mxyzptlk".
It was explained in the Silver Age Superman comics that the reason that Mr. Mxyzptlk could affect Superman is because Superman is susceptible to magic, which established a major weakness for the superhero.
When Mxyzptlk's stunts causes a special appearance by Superman to be cancelled and children, who had done nothing to Mxyzptlk, to be disappointed, Superman himself decides to turn the tables and visit the 5th dimension (how is not explained), making trouble for the imp, who is running for mayor. When Mxyzptlk furnishes a huge supply of food for prospective voters, he says, "Eat up, folks, the food's on me!" Superman uses super-breath to blow the food all over the imp and then chortles to the voters, "Like he said, folks - the food is on him!" The imp tries to get the Man of Steel to say "Namrepus" (Superman backward),repeatedly - but that doesn't work; Mxyzptlk finally loses the election, and, his mission accomplished, Superman banishes himself back to Earth by whispering "Le-Lak" - his Kryptonian name (Kal-El) backwards.
After the establishment of DC Comics' multiverse in the 1960s, it was later explained that the purple-suited Mxyztplk (the T and P are transposed to slightly alter the name) lives in the Fifth Dimension connected to Earth-Two and the orange-costumed Mxyzptlk in the Fifth Dimension connected to Earth-One. The Earth-One version is also retconned into Superboy stories as the red-haired Master Mxyzptlk, who bedevils Superboy during his youth in Smallville.He even appears as a Deus ex machina to stop the Kryptonite Kid who was killing a helpless Superboy - so that he could continue to devil Superboy - and later Superman.
A 30th-century descendant of Mxyzptlk appeared in Adventure Comics #310 (July 1963) with similar abilities. Much crueler than his ancestor, this version kills most of the Legion of Super-Heroes until Superboy tricks him into falling victim to the same "Kltpzyxm" weakness, reversing the effects of his magic.
Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow
Mister Mxyzptlk continued to be a thorn in Superman's side for many years. Alan Moore offered a radically different interpretation of the character in Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?—a possible end of the adventures of the Earth-One Superman. Mr. Mxyzptlk (appearing in darker colors, and looking more sinister than in the past) explains that the big problem with immortality is finding ways to spend the time. He spent his first 2,000 years without moving or breathing, the next 2,000 years doing only good deeds, and the following 2,000 years being the mischievous character that he is normally portrayed as. He has now decided to try being evil, and is responsible for all of the nightmarish events in the story. Before attacking Superman, he remarks, "Did you honestly believe a fifth-dimensional sorcerer would resemble a funny little man in a derby hat?" His true form is described by Lois Lane as having "height, width, depth, and a couple of other things." He is killed when Superman sends him to the Phantom Zone at the same time that Mr. Mxyzptlk begins an escape to the Fifth dimension, tearing him in two. Remorse over the killing prompts Superman to drain himself of his powers with gold kryptonite.
Another final appearance of Mr. Mxyzptlk was in the final issue of DC Comics Presents. Here we have Jor-el's discovery of the Phantom Zone, and by the end of the story, the Phantom Zone, the 5th Dimension and the Bizarro World are all destroyed, and Mr.Myxlptlk, infilled by power endowed by a hideously disfigured wizard who was a denizen in the Phantom Zone, is transformed into an entity not even remotely human. He then throws the dead Argo City into Metropolis, littering it with tons of kryptonite and dead Kryptonians, and announces to an exasperated & horrified Superman that this was his last jest,that he'll never be able to top it, and so, says farewell to Superman.
Despite his odd story, Mxyzptlk made it through the Crisis on Infinite Earths relatively unchanged, although the unpleasant nature of his pranks and the psychological effects they had on others were played up more, such as when he animated the Daily Planet building heedless of the occupants inside who were being violently thrown around with its movements, at least initially; he also began smoking cigars. His first appearance in this new continuity saw him initially adapting the guise of "Ben DeRoy", an omnipotent mystery man with a conspicuous (and of course entirely intentional) resemblance to the Beyonder, who was turning the Marvel universe on its head at about the same time. He adopted his more familiar appearance when he was confronted by Superman, however. In early post-Crisis stories the "condition" that would send him back to the fifth dimension would be anything he stated it to be for the occasion; but since Lex Luthor taught him how to lie, making this meaningless, the stories have reverted to Mxyzptlk saying his name backwards. One of his most prominent storylines in this new continuity was the "Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite," when he provided Lex Luthor with a sample of red kryptonite that took away Superman's powers so long as Luthor never revealed to Superman that Mxyzptlk was involved. Despite Superman's lack of powers, he still risked his life to battle Mammoth and the mad scientist Thaddeus Killgrave, although he also called in Starman to impersonate him for a time. Eventually, the spell was lifted when Luthor told Clark Kent where the red kryptonite had come from, believing that he wouldn't be breaking Mxyzptlk's rule about not letting Superman know the truth if he told Kent and Kent told Superman. (In this story, Mr.Mxylptlk also turns out to be the Impossible Man and spends his off-time badgering the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Universe, in a 1-page aside.
Many of Mxyzptlk's later stories have a post-modern feel to them, similar to Ambush Bug, as he comments on editorial decisions, clichés of the genre, etc. This was most obvious in Superman: The Man of Steel #75, a pastiche of Superman's death in Superman volume 2 #75, where Mxyzptlk creates a duplicate of Doomsday. The confrontation culminates with Mxyzptlk meeting the Supreme Being who turns out to be Mike Carlin, the then-editor of the Superman titles, who promptly brings him back to life. Although Mxyzptlk does not appear in Grant Morrison's JLA, Morrison took advantage of certain similarities to tie Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt and Aquaman's nemesis Qwsp to the fifth dimension, implying the dimension may be the origin for legends of djinn. This story also saw the first Post-Crisis appearance of Mxyzptlk's Earth-One girlfriend, Ms. Gsptlsnz (described as his "quinto-partner"; pronounced Giz-pit-lez-nez or "Gizbie" for short).
In 2001, DC published BIZARRO COMICS in which Mr.Mxyzptlk's fighting an all-powerful entity named A who is conquering and wrecking dimensional worlds, incl. the 5th dimension, by use of toys & games. Mxylptlk retains the services of a version of Bizarro who calls him Greg, and pads the story out by writing & drawing 27 off-beat stories using the DC super-heroes, taking 160 pages.Bizarro is in 2 of them. Also of note is the depiction of Badhnissian thunderbolts and Zook's species as native to the 5th dimension.
In Countdown to Final Crisis, the modern Mxyzptlk claims to have always felt the need for a "public" in the third dimension, and Superman was not his first victim.
In Young Justice #3, Peter David showed Mxyzptlk's origins as a serious-minded researcher, who travels through time, summoned by computer-based occultists. He takes the opportunity to conduct some scholarly studies. He chooses to examine a Halloween party in Happy Harbor, focusing on the results of aging a portion of the teens and causing some of the others to frantically dance out of control. What Mxyzptlk doesn't know was that Robin, Superboy, and Impulse were hired by the town's adults to chaperone the party. When the boys confront Mxyzptlk, they realize that this was not the same Mxyzptlk whom Superman had regularly faced; indeed, he appears to not have even assumed the name 'Mxyzptlk' at this point, regarding it as sounding like something somebody randomly typed (which is, indeed, how the character chose his name in his first post-Crisis appearance). Upon discovering the chaotic future that awaits him, Mxyzptlk declares that he would dedicate his life to learning and knowledge. However, those words led to a shift in time, creating an apocalyptic world everywhere but outside the building where the Halloween party is being held. This is because Mxyzptlk was not left to annoy Superman. In order to avoid this, Robin, Superboy, and Impulse realize that they need to instill Mxyzptlk with his trademark wacky sense of humor.
A Three Stooges film is uncovered and watched via an old projector. Mxyzptlk is entertained by the comedy in the movies. He tries out a Stooge-style poke in the eye on Mick Gurk, the projectionist, finding the slapstick humor to his liking. He promises that, when it is time, he will hassle Superman as he is supposed to, in honor of Superboy, Impulse, Robin, and even Murno Gladst.
Time is restored to as how it should be... mostly. Outside the civic center is an unexpected Mxyzptlk theme park, the only change to the world.
However it appears that Mxyzptlk has forgotten this incident as the years have passed. When confronted by Superboy later on, the imp declares that he had no knowledge of his adventure with Young Justice. Whether or not this is true, or Mxyzptlk merely playing a trick on the Boy of Steel, is never revealed.
Improper Use of Power
In Emperor Joker, a multipart story throughout the Superman titles, Mxyzptlk has his powers temporarily stolen by the Joker; interested in seeing how somebody else would do at his job, Mxyzptlk intends to give the Joker only 1% of his power. However, the Joker tricks Mxyzptlk into revealing his secret imp name and thus acquires 99.9% of Mxyzptlk's power, leaving him mostly powerless while the Joker remakes Earth in 69 seconds to suit his own vision. The imp is also unable to remember what to do to break the chain of events that daily culminates with Superman being dragged back to Arkham Asylum by Bizarro. Fortunately, Mxyzptlk is able to reveal the truth about the world to Superman, who, despite his current lack of faith in himself — caused mainly by the fact that not even Lois Lane believes in him in this world — manages to find the power to break the cycle and defeat the Joker. As the Joker prepares to end existence, Superman realizes that, for all his power, the Joker still cannot erase Batman, as the Joker defines himself by his constant opposition to the Dark Knight, allowing Superman to shatter the Joker's control of reality. However, Mxyzptlk saves some of the Joker's creations and transfers them into the 'real' world, including Scorch, Gorgeous Gilly, the new Bizarro and "Ignition", a black-armored villain who first appeared in the Emperor Joker story but was created by someone else (exactly who has never been revealed).
It has also been implied that Mxyzptlk sees himself as serving an important purpose, in teaching Superman not to take everything seriously.
In Adventures of Superman #617 (2003), Mxyzptlk is reinvented as fraternal twins with an intense hatred for Superman. Amongst other things, they claim responsibility for the creation of the present-day Persuader. A year later, in Superman Secret Files and Origins 2004 (2004), he returns to his usual self following a fellow imp in the fifth dimension combining the twins with the classic Mxyzptlk, resulting in his normal form and personality.
Mxyzptlk formed a significant part of Greg Rucka's "Ruin" storyline in Adventures of Superman. His appearance here is similar to his Golden Age look, with the addition of a single lock of hair, resembling Superman's S-shaped forelock. This version of Mxyzptlk is less abrasive than he had been previously, and is portrayed as basically on Superman's side. The metafictional aspects of the character were also played up, as he visits the DC Comics offices in the real world, presented as fumetti.
At the same time, Mxyzptlk appeared in Superman/Batman #23. During this time, his appearance and costume are different from his most recent adventures with Superman. His appearance is similar to the more typical "modern" version of the character. He is trying to prepare Batman and Superman for the upcoming Infinite Crisis (while chronologically taking place before Infinite Crisis, the issue itself came out afterwards). The incident features alternate universe versions of Superman, Batman, and Deathstroke and implies much chaos that was not shown, such as the planet Mogo visiting Earth to reclaim an old land mass. At the end of this storyline, Mxyzptlk indicates he has erased the knowledge of Superman's identity from Lex Luthor's mind.
A weakened Mxyzptlk is seemingly killed by Ruin while protecting Superman. Art by Karl Kerschl.
After the fallout of the events of Day of Vengeance (and, while not mentioned, the corruption of the Fifth Dimension as seen in JSA), the removal of magic from the Earth leaves Mxyzptlk nearly powerless, wandering the streets of Metropolis and unable to remember how to pronounce the inverse of his name to return him home. Superman attempts to help him, but the two are then attacked by the villain Ruin. Ruin attempts to assassinate Superman with Kryptonite-based weaponry, but Mxyzptlk pushes Superman out of the way, taking a Kryptonite spear to the heart and vanishing. Right before he vanishes, he seems to whisper 'kltpzyxm'.
Mister Mxyzptlk makes a one-page appearance in Countdown #31. On a walk in the fifth dimension with Gsptlsnz and his pet goldfish named Superman, he is grabbed by someone or something unknown who then disappears with Mxy. It is later revealed in Countdown #23, Mxyzptlk was abducted by Superboy-Prime and imprisoned in the Source Wall. Prime has been apparently torturing the imp into helping him bring back his "perfect Earth", i.e. Earth Prime. Mxyzptlk mentions that he has been coming to Earth for centuries, and has been referred to by many names (Loki, Coyote, and Anansi). He is later sent back to his home by Annataz Arataz, the Earth-3 counterpart of Zatanna, whom Prime had also captured. Arriving in the fifth dimension, he proclaims to Gsptlsnz that he has escaped an encounter with "The Beast" (implying that the Fifth Dimension is aware of Superboy Prime, who is referred to as a being of pure evil). Knowing that Superboy Prime will kill every living soul in the Fifth Dimension in order to get revenge on him, Mxyzptlk proclaims that their dimension must be sealed off from outsiders immediately and that he can never return to Earth.
The New 52
In The New 52, Mxyzptlk's history in this reboot is revealed. He was a traveling wizard in the 5th dimension who entertained the King-Thing Brpxz of Zrfff. He did so by making 333 different 3-dimensional worlds, and by challenging heroes in each world, with everyone being entertained by the one hero who could win the challenges, Superman. This led to Mxyzptlk becoming the king's favorite entertainer, and winning the love of the king's daughter, Gsptlnz. However, it also led to jealousy to the now deposed original court magician, Vyndktvx. Vyndktvx eventually went mad, and tried to kill Mxyzptlk, only to kill the king instead. Vyndktvx was, however, able to frame Mxyzptlk for the murder.
Powers and Abilities
Mr. Mxyzptlk has access to fifth-dimensional technology that appears to be magical to third-dimensional beings. His abilities are limited only by his willpower (he could, for example, make Superman morbidly obese by snapping his fingers). His only apparent weakness is that whenever he speaks his name backwards, he is shunted back to the fifth dimension, and all effects of his "magic" vanish, making everything as it was before he appeared. Although Mxyzptlk's gullible nature often makes it easy for Superman or other individuals to trick him into saying his name backwards, it is only a temporary deterrent; after ninety days, he can again visit Earth at will.
Though easily the most powerful of Superman's recurring enemies, Mxyzptlk is simply a fun-loving prankster who prefers to use his power for childish antics and light-hearted harassment rather than intentional malicious evil, as he would get bored very quickly by doing so; thus he is more of an annoyance to the Man of Steel than a true threat.
Paradoxically, Mxyzptlk (at least in his pre-Crisis persona) is actually somewhat protective of Superman because, in his opinion, Superman's generally serious demeanor makes him an exceptionally entertaining target for pranks. For example, in DC Comics Presents #34 (June 1981), Mxyzptlk, prompted by his endless search for distraction, teams up with Captain Marvel's archenemy Mister Mind to double-team their foes, not realizing that Mind, unlike himself, is a ruthless murderer. When Mind threatens their enemies with death, Mxyzptlk, who until that point was mostly indifferent to Mind's intent on world conquest, emphatically declares,"Superman lives, or I want out!" When Mind, deeming Mxyzptlk no longer necessary to his scheme, threatens the imp, Mxyzptlk voluntarily says his name backwards, shunting himself back to the Fifth Dimension and undoing everything he had done to help Mind thus far (the story also unexpectedly involved Hoppy the Marvel Bunny). Mr. Mxyzptlk also made an unexpected save when the Kryptonite Kid had defeated Superboy and was about to kill him. He wished to keep Superboy (and Superman) around so he could go on pestering him.
Though the exact limits of Mr. Mxyzptlk's powers are unknown, his power apparently dwarfs that of even third-dimension cosmic beings. During Grant Morrison's Justice League run, the higher-dimensional nature of Mxyzptlk's fellow genies was played to its logical conclusion of possessing power 'two degrees of infinity' higher than any normal beings; Qwsp refers to himself as encompassing both time and hypertime in addition to our spatial dimensions, and another djinn named Lkz overcame and imprisoned the hostless Spectre without apparent trouble. Later, during the Emperor Joker storyline, this is expanded upon: the Joker, possessing the same powers, is able to unweave the very fabric and laws of the cosmos, and render the less powerful than normal Hal Jordan Spectre into a deranged puppet, Mxyzptlk explaining that he has the power to do what the Joker is doing to the world but never uses it because he would run the risk of destroying reality from the strain he would be subjecting it to and thus leave himself with nothing to do the next day. In the Day of Vengeance miniseries, the Spectre easily overpowered Jakeem Thunder and his 5th dimension genie, Thunderbolt. However, the Thunderbolt is limited by its master's ability to verbally frame a wish. Also as seen in the an issue of Adventures of Superman during the Ruin story line, Mr. Mxyzptlk's was weakened because of the Spectre's attempt to destroy magic, so much so that he could not remember how to say his name backwards to go back to the 5th Dimension.
Also, Annataz Arataz was able to prevent Mxyzptlk from using his powers while Superboy-Prime's prisoner, preventing the imp from escaping (Prime himself being immune to all magic). Though Zatanna of the normal DC Universe was shown to have been equal to Zor, the Rogue Time Tailor during Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory (Zor being an entity capable of bending space and time with magic). The 5th and 6th dimension beings' power levels have not yet been fully explained.
A point as to the nature of Mr. Mxyzptlk has been raised in Batman #680. Batman asks his 5th Dimension counterpart, Bat-Mite, if he is really an imp from the 5th Dimension or just a figment of his imagination. Bat-Mite responds that the two are one and the same: the 5th Dimension is imagination.