The Prankster

The Prankster (real name: Oswald Loomis) is a fictional character and villain who appears in Superman stories published by DC Comics. The Prankster's first appearance was in Action Comics #51 in 1942.

The Prankster's particular gimmick was the use of various practical jokes and gags in committing his crimes. This, coupled with his cartoonish appearance, caused many to write him off as a "joke villain", until the early 2000s, when writers improved upon the character by giving him a more svelte appearance, as well as high tech weaponry that made him a more serious threat.

History

Comedian Oswald Loomis had his own sitcom called "Uncle Oswald", which was specifically tailored for his brand of comedy. Though successful for many years, the ratings eventually fell, leading to the show's cancellation. Due to typecasting, he found it difficult to find new employment. Angered and bitter that his gravy train had come to an end, Loomis sought revenge on the network executives that were responsible for his show's cancellation, but was foiled by Superman.

He was eventually given a younger, more athletic body presumably by Lord Satanus. His personality was changed as well, no longer an inept goofball, he was now an eccentric madman seeking to unleash his twisted brand of laughter upon the world. By this time, Metropolis had been upgraded by Brianiac 13. The Prankster took advantage of the new technology, creating high tech gadgets and weaponry, which retained a comical theme. He quickly challenged Superman again. By this time, Superman was suffering from kryptonite poisoning during their battle, and was hospitalized in S.T.A.R. Labs shortly therafter.

During the Critical Condition storyline, scientists learned that the cause of Superman's illness was a nanovirus carrying a small grain of kryptonite. They proposed to shrink Steel, Superboy, and Supergirl to microscopic size, and send them into Superman's bloodstream to destroy the virus. However, the Prankster subdued Steel, stole his armor, and attempted to sabotage their efforts. Though he failed, he escaped, with Steel's armor still in his possession. He used the armor to attack Supergirl, before Steel reaquired it via a remote failsafe.

The Prankster next performed a series of criminal favors for Lord Satanus, before losing favor with the demon. Later on, when Manchester Black revealed Superman's identity, the Prankster was one of many villains involved in the campaign to destroy Superman's life, though he forgot Superman's identity when Black was defeated.

The New 52

In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), Prankster is one of the criminals that is plaguing Chicago. He has disabled New Western Station which Mayor Wallace Cole was about to reopen. The Mayor of Chicago later learned from the police that Prankster was behind the disabling of New Western Station. Prankster later captures John Conaway at the Museum of Science and Industry and wrapped him with insulation that he had sold to dozens of homeowners in Illinois claiming that it would reduce the risk of electrocution. Unfortunately, it did not work and it had contributed to several deaths. So, just to be sure that the insulation works, the Prankster has wrapped John Conaway in it and tied him up to a modified Tesla coil. If the insulation works, he should survive the shock that's about to come. As the coil is about to be turned on, Nightwing arrived and saved John Conaway much to the annoyance of Prankster. In retaliation, the Prankster hacks into Nightwing's heads-up display blacking out his vision. Though Dick does reasonably well by sound alone, Prankster responds by producing a loud noise and locking him into a glass box. As it happens, the glass box is designed to demonstrate the phenomenon of backdraft. Prankster explains that there are two hatches to choose between for escape, but one will introduce enough oxygen to the box to cause an explosion of backdraft while the other leads to safety. If he does nothing, the fire in the box will consume all of the remaining oxygen and he will suffocate. Unfortunately, Nightwing will have to be able to see to select the right hatch. And, at the moment, the only way to see is to remove his mask in front of an active camera. After Nightwing breaks free from the trap, Prankster begins to run as Nightwing traps him in a bolo. Nightwing is forced to change his plans again as the police arrive upon noting with some amusement that the Prankster is wearing high heels. He behaves as though the Prankster (who is a wanted criminal) is his hostage and whispers that he can get them both out of there, so long as his mask's vision is reactivated. Dropping a smoke bomb, Nightwing allows the Prankster access to his hands and once he can see again, he offers the Prankster a grappling line and instructs him to wait for him on the roof. He then attacks the police, drawing their fire. The Prankster has no intention of sticking around, but in his attempt to get away unseen, he is unexpectedly faced with Nightwing's fist knocking him unconscious. Prankster wakes unmasked, and with Nightwing waiting for him with coffee and donuts. Nightwing explains that he needs help tracing an old email back to its source, which means putting a known hacker in front of a computer. Prankster agrees to help only if Nightwing will stop hunting him. Prankster determines after hours of work that Tony Zucco spent two years in an Illinois state correctional facility during the same time as William Cole (the brother of Mayor Wallace Cole) which is particularly interesting since Zucco sent the email from inside City Hall. This evidence points to a man named Billy Lester, who records show didn't exist until three years ago, and now works for the mayor. The Prankster warns that the Mayor isn't the man he appears to be. Having gotten the information he wanted, Nightwing handcuffs the Prankster to a pipe and leaves him for the police. The police come up on the roof where Nightwing had left the Prankster, but he is nowhere to be found. Only his mask remains as a reminder that he is still out there. Prankster gathers an army of followers who sympathetic to his cause. Upon hacking every screen in the city, Prankster states that the Mayor Wallace Cole isn't what he claims to be and has been harboring Tony Zucco. Prankster then takes a group of police officers hostage where he has been tying them to an automatic weapon where if they move, they will die. He explains that all of this carnage is merely in keeping with the precedent that Mayor Wallace Cole set profiting while the innocent suffer. He explains that if the Mayor pays back the money he took, they will all live. If not, they will live for as long as they can stay still. Since the Prankster first issued the mayor an ultimatum to pay back 52 million embezzled tax dollars or the people of Chicago will suffer just like the city has been suffering. Of the policemen the Prankster held hostage at gunpoint, only five survive. An electronic attack on the transportation grid overloaded traffic lights. Explosives at the Navy Pier caused a flaming ferris wheel to cause a lot of damage. As a result, the city was put on lockdown, while protesters at City Hall demanded their money back. All the while, Mayor Wallace Cole claimed that he had done no wrong. Prankster's army of followers have been causing havoc in Chicago. Upon capturing a Prankster follower named Danny, Nightwing learns where Prankster can be found. Prankster later appears in Mayor Wallace Cole's office where he shoots down the Alderm. As Nightwing attempts to rush Zucco to jail, the man shouts from the back of the Wingcycle that Wallace Cole became mayor of Chicago because of two events. The first was a train line that he and his brother William convinced City Hall to run through their old Pilsen neighborhood. When the project's electrical engineer Harold Loomis died on Halloween, William took the fall. The chaos that the Prankster is causing isn't because Wallace Cole stole money from the City. It's because he wants payback. The Prankster is Harold Loomis' son. Tony had learned this because he shared a cell with William Cole, who had received a reminder from the boy of the crime he had committed: the same mask that the Prankster wears today. It is no coincidence that the Prankster's crimes are taking place in October. Tonight is Halloween, and the Prankster intends to bring things to a boil tonight. Meanwhile, Wallace Cole professes his innocence to the man holding Chicago hostage who turns out to be Oswald Loomis. Angrily, the Prankster explains that the Coles took away what he had loved most and profited from it. So, now he is returning the favor by taking away what was most important to Wallace Cole....the love of Chicago. By going after real corrupt politicians at first, the Prankster established a certain trust with the people of Chicago that he only targeted criminals. So, they would certainly believe him when he accused the mayor of corruption. Blowing up the L-train allowed his people the time they needed to fill old Pilsen station with enough explosives to collapse the south side. Tossing Wallace a remote, he delights in reminding that the only one who can stop the countdown is the man Chicago hates the most. As Wallace runs down the street toward the station, the Prankster fires off a shot, drawing the citizens' attention to the mayor. If the mayor even survives their attempts to get justice by beating him savagely, he may not get to the station in time. Rushing, Nightwing has Zucco get the mayor away from the blast radius, just as he feels the Prankster hacking into his mask's lenses again. Having learned already, Nightwing activates a kill-switch that lets him see again, but by the time he does, the Prankster is long away. Despite that success, is attacked by the Prankster just moments after getting to shore. Suddenly, though, he falls away as three shots hit him in the shoulder from the three bullets shot from Tony Zucco's gun. Dick is relieved to see that the bullets went clean-through, and Oswald Loomis will survive. Wistfully, Tony Zucco explains that he had only started carrying a gun in the first place because he worried that he'd have to kill Nightwing on this encounter. Instead, he had used it to help the vigilante. As the police arrive on the scene, Nightwing swings away, leaving Tony Zucco and Prankster to face justice.

During the Forever Evil storyline, Prankster is among the villains recruited by the Crime Syndicate of America to join the Secret Society of Super Villains.

Other Media

The Prankster appeared in an episode of the 1967-68 animated series The New Adventures of Superman (now retitled The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure) titled "The Prankster". His appearance is significantly less gaudy than that of the comics, as he is portrayed as a short man with a hook nose wearing a slouch hat, who speaks in a nasally voice. When Superman sabotages a potentially dangerous prank of the Prankster's by making it that the Prankster steps right out of a joke shop into a river, he becomes enraged, showing the Prankster is not as receptive to being victim to the same type of practical jokes he enjoys inflicting on others. In "The Men from A.P.E.", he appears as a member of A.P.E. (short for Allied Perpetrators of Evil) alongside Lex Luthor, Toyman, and Wicked Warlock in a plot to get rid of Superman.

The Prankster also appeared in the 1988 Superman episode "Triple-Play" voiced by Howard Morris. His look and modus-operandi were taken straight from the comics. He kidnaps the Metros and the Goliaths (the two baseball teams competing in the World Series) and transports them to an uncharted island in the South Seas. His motivation for the abductions was that he was a baseball junkie who blames Superman for sending him to jail whereupon he was not allowed to watch baseball, blames Lois Lane for writing the article that sent him to jail, and blames Jimmy Olsen for taking the pictures that went with that article. Now he was going to enjoy the World Series all for himself in the solitude of the island. The Prankster then makes the baseball teams play against his team of robots, and forces Superman to be the pitcher for the robot team by threatening to kill the captive Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Judge Cook (who had proceeded over Prankster's trial) if he does not cooperate. Fittingly after being sent back to prison for the kidnappings, the Prankster is seen sniveling and whining about being barred from hearing news of the World Series to the prison guards who bark at him "No baseball for you for a long time!"

The Prankster appeared in two episodes of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman portrayed by Bronson Pinchot. Here his name was Kyle Griffin, a man who was sent to jail five years earlier due to one of Lois Lane's articles. Griffin is assisted by a man named Victor (portrayed by Rick Overton) who is skilled at electrical engineering but lacks social graces which explains why the Prankster is the only man who would befriend him. In the first episode titled "The Prankster," Griffin escapes from prison and goes after Lois posing as her secret admirer. The Prankster's comic book identity was referenced when Lois suspected the admirer was an old school acquaintance named Randall Loomis, who's ruled out as a suspect when Lois and Clark learn he's now a wealthy man about to move to Paris with his wife. He then plotted to capture Lois Lane and demonstrated Victor's disintegrator ray on a nearby truck as part of a plot to disintegrate the Daily Planet. While Superman withstood the disintegrating ray in order to save the Daily Planet, Lois breaks free and manages to subdue the Prankster and Victor just as Superman arrives. The Prankster and Victor are later arrested by the authorities. He later returned in "The Return of the Prankster" where Prankster and Victor have escaped from prison. This time, Prankster is joined by his father Edwin Griffin (portrayed by Harold Gould) who was also put away because of a theory that Jimmy had. In Prankster's latest plot, Victor invents a light ray (disguised as a camera) capable of "freezing" people in their place which Prankster used to break out of prison where they froze the guard in the laundry room. Prankster and Victor first use it when they infiltrated Lois' apartment and froze her. Prankster then had Victor switch the device to flash mode in order to take a picture of her with Prankster in it stretching Lois' lips with his fingers. Before the effects of the light ray wore off, Prankster and Victor escape leaving a photo of him and Lois in Lois' hand. While in a condemned building, Prankster and Victor then work to upgrade the light ray to freeze even Superman where he also plans to use the device to kidnap the President (who was visiting Metropolis at the time to present the award for the lowest crime). Victor gives Prankster the photo-conductive cell despite a rat interference and has him pick it up again. With the light ray improved, Prankster and Victor plan to raid the Metropolis Department of Light and Power to obtain a micro lens as Edwin Griffin infiltrates disguised as a painter to get the company's chairman out. While Victor controls all of the lights in the city, Prankster later calls Lois Lane stating that he has an "electrifying story" that he had shut down the airport. When Lois goes to Metropolis Department of Light and Power and finds the workers frozen in place, Prankster was ready for Lois' arrival. Prankster and Victor try to get Lois Lane to say "Help Superman" with Prankster turning up the boiler pressure as Lois is chained up. Superman answers Lois' call as Prankster's device doesn't work on Superman. Prankster flees as Superman frees Lois before the boiler exploded. Prankster later modifies the light ray so that it can freeze Superman. Victor tells Prankster that Lois might have some file on the computer at the Daily Planet. While in their van, Prankster and Victor use the light ray on a piano mover and a woman with a baby carriage as their test subjects with Superman managing to save the woman and her baby before the piano can fall on them. Prankster and Victor then infiltrate the Daily Planet and freeze everyone in place so that Prankster can hack Lois Lane's computer in order to find info on Superman. At their hideout, Prankster and Victor find the information where Superman was temporarily blinded by Dr. Neal Faraday's ultra-violent light beam causing Prankster to find a way to strengthening the light ray in order to freeze Superman. Upon tapping into the phone lines, Prankster and Victor disguise themselves as waiters in order to freeze Lois Lane. Prankster then calls Clark Kent to tell Superman that he can find him and Lois Lane in the penthouse of Lakeside Tower. When Superman arrives finding Prankster, Victor, and Lois playing Pinochle, Prankster manages to successfully freeze Superman in place and push his frozen body off the balcony where Superman lands on the newsstand. Prankster then pushes Lois off the balcony where Superman moves in time to catch her. Bobby Bigmouth tells Lois and Clark about where Prankster's hideout is where they find a map of the route used by the President's motorcade. Prankster, Victor, and Edwin then block off the motorcade where they use the light ray on their van to freeze Lois and everyone else so that they can kidnap the President. Using special red contact lenses created by Professor Hamilton, Superman manages to hide in the President's limo and fool Prankster and Victor by pretending to be frozen in their place. Prankster is then frozen in place upon his contacts being knocked off. Prankster and Victor are then arrested by the Secret Service as Edwin states that he should've had a daughter.