Sunday, December 28, 2008

“Weird Christmas Tales” Chapter Four: Impulse and Plastic Man… Weird Christmas: Situation Normal All MYX-ed UP!

Previously, I defined the comic book “Weird Christmas Tale and why it is given a special place in our hearts, minds, and in this Blog. Then, we saw Bugs Bunny get a big (Weird) Christmas surprise, were ourselves surprised by The Flintstones and were saved from evil trees by The Simpsons. Once again, from my 2001 APA column The Issue at Hand # 57 , it’s time for some more “Weird Christmas Comic Book Fun”…

Our final “Weird Christmas Tale” moves along at a breakneck pace but, with THIS cast of characters, what else would you expect!

The Issue at Hand Is: IMPULSE # 57 February, 2000. Published by DC Comics.

(…First, for the uninitiated, an introduction to our players!)
Impulse: Bart Allen is “The Fastest Kid Alive”. Grandson of Barry Allen, better known as legendary comic-book hero “The Flash”, Impulse possess the gift of amazing speed and the brain of a Junior High student with Attention Deficit Disorder. Governed more by “impulse” than reason, Bart tends to “leap” first and, much later, may give the abstract concept of an associated “look” some marginal consideration.
Plastic Man: An accident at one of those ubiquitous chemical factories left the former “Eel O’ Brian” with the ability to stretch, shape, and form his body in an infinite number of amazing ways. With short, dumpy, straw-hatted, bow-tied comedy relief sidekick Woozy Winks, Plastic Man fights (…and often jokes) for good as a member of the Justice League of America.
Mr. Mxyzptlk: As some of you may know, “Mxy” is a magical, mischievous imp from the supernatural “Fifth Dimension”. This prankster’s passion is to bedevil Earth’s greatest hero, Superman, in repeatedly vein attempts to prove his own self-imagined superiority. A bizarre quirk in the governing laws of the Fifth Dimension requires that if Mxyzptlk should speak his name backwards while wreaking havoc in our own “Third Dimension”, he is instantly banished back to the Fifth Dimension for a period of at least ninety of our days! When this occurs, all magical manifestations of Mxy’s also revert to their “normal state”. Don’t look at me… What am I, a “dimensional lawyer”?!

Needless to say, when encountering Mr. Mxyzptlk, the primary objective is to get him (…by trick or other means) to say his name backwards! Fortunately, his foolish pride, staggering vanity, and obsession with the execution of his plans has resulted in a vast number of situations in which Superman and other DC heroes have gotten him to utter the magic word “KLTPZYXM”! And now you know everything necessary to read…

“A Plastic Christmas” 22 pages. Writer: Todd De Zago. Penciller: Ethan Van Sciver. Inker: Prentis Rollins.

Sneaking pal Woozy Winks inside the Justice League’s lunar headquarters to watch the classic Christmas film “It’s a Wonderful X-mas” on the JLA’s monstrous, high-tech video array, Plastic Man is interrupted by a priority call from Impulse.

It seems that, in his previous adventure, Bart was left holding a jug of dangerous technoplasmic-goop, and was advised that JLA headquarters would be the safest place to store it. On the word of kindly Woozy, and against his better judgment, Plastic Man allows Impulse transporter-access to the installation. Once there, Bart wants to see everything at once, and causes the expected amount of mayhem and destruction.

Meanwhile, in good ol’ Metropolis, back on Earth, Mr. Mxyzptlk is preparing
“…a timely Christmas caper for his favorite foil, Superman!”
At “Metro Music Hall”, the site of the annual Christmas musical pageant, Mxy has conjured-up a massive engine of destruction in a festive holiday guise. His “SANTAndroid Super-Bot”, a great weapon in the form of “Saint Nick”, is magically programmed to rain terror on the festivities and attract the attention of Superman. Like most of his past plans, the objective is simple…
Once his adoring public sees him battle and then slay – no pun intended – their precious Santa Claus… well, that’ll be all she wrote! ”
Alas for poor Mxy, Superman was, at the time, off in space participating in a prelude to what would become the most sweeping comic-book epic of 2001, the spectacular “Our Worlds at War”, and was unavailable to take the bait. So, when word of large explosions rocking Metropolis reached the Justice League’s monitoring system, it fell to Plastic Man to take the call. A tussle between Plastic Man and the imp results in a semi-conscious and semi-delirious Mxy being locked INSIDE the android. The result, looking to all the world, that Plastic Man has taken actions which have roughed up “Santa”, leaving the “jolly old elf” disoriented, dazed, and confused.

“Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanza! Happy Festivus!” the faux-Father Christmas spouts-off in rapid succession. Don’t recognize that last one? Neither did I until last month when, while watching late-night TV, I discovered it to be a bogus holiday observed by the family of George Costanza on SEINFELD!
It is at that point in the conflict that IMPULSE arrives on the scene… Oooohhh, Boy!

“HEY!!? What happened to Santa?!? What did you DO to him?!?! How’s he gonna to deliver all those presents tonight?! All those kids can’t be disappointed! He needs help, and he needs it fast – and I’m just the guy to do it!”
So, as if he’d read the earlier stories of Bugs Bunny and Fred Flintstone, and before Plastic Man can utter a syllable, Bart Allen, too, is off to “save Christmas”!

Dragging the malfunctioning “SANTAndroid” along at super speed, “…a well-meaning Impulse traverses the planet, aiding the ‘ailing’ Santa Claus – with the help of Mxyzptlk’s perpetually restocked magic sack – in spreading holiday joy throughout the world… in, might we add, record time!” Plastic Man finally catches up with Bart at the end of his “rounds” and explains the situation. They return, with “Santa”, to JLA HQ.

There, Mxy regains consciousness and threatens the heroes with magical means of torture and death… until Woozy Winks speaks up and (…like any good sidekick) expresses his faith in the shape-shifting abilities of his hero, Plastic Man!

Dismissing Plas’s talents as “bush league”, Mxyzptlk boldly declares that he can easily duplicate or surpass ANY shape, form, or object into which Plastic Man can transform. This results in Woozy and Impulse each calling out a series of names of various animate and inanimate objects, with each contestant rising to the challenge.

With the previously mentioned film, “It’s a Wonderful X-mas”, playing on a large background monitor, Woozy proposes the following…

Okay, Mr. Mixy-Fishsticks – howzabout becommin’ a character in my favorite movie?”
With that, Mxy suddenly vanishes and a black and white image of the imp appears on the monitor, hovering over the shoulder of a joyous “George Bailey” as he celebrates the generosity of his family and friends at film’s end.
A snap! I told you, I can do anything! And the name is MYXZPTLK, you doofus, not…

The sentence is never finished, because, without a word, Woozy aims a remote control directly at the monitor… and presses REWIND! Next, we hear…
     “…Dna eht eman si KLTPZXYM, uoy sufood, ton…”
And, with a frustrated cry of “NMAD!, Mr. Mxyzptlk is instantaneously transported back to the Fifth Dimension, where it is expected he will spend at least the first quarter of the year 2000.
The movie ends. Christmas (yet again) is saved. Superman is also saved -- from an annoying distraction, that is. The heroes momentarily celebrate. Plastic Man tells Impulse to GO HOME!” Plastic Man smiles. Good for Plastic Man! Good for Woozy!

By this time, readers, I expect you can pick out the various elements that make this a “Weird Christmas Tale”. A death-dealing Santa-Bot. Magically produced Christmas presents – which, presumably, VANISHED when Mxyzptlk did (…Hopefully, Mxy departed before dawn, or there are going to be a lot of astonished and unhappy children watching their presents fade into the ether come Christmas Morn').
An extremely innovative, tangentially Christmas-related twist on an old comic-book standard: Getting Mxy to say his name backwards. For this, writer Todd De Zago is to be commended!
Though, perhaps the weirdest thing about this story is that fact that even my oldest VCR does NOT emit the annoying squeal of “fast backwards sound” when in Reverse Scan mode – as might be heard on an archaic reel-to-reel audio tape system.

So, why would the ultimate high-tech video equipment installed in the Justice League Watchtower on the Moon be possessed of such a feature? Unless Batman planned to obsessively review the reversed lyrics of old Beatles songs for clues to various crimes, I haven’t the foggiest notion!

The final observation that can be made concerning these “Weird Christmas Tales” would be to consider their symmetry, or how they might otherwise relate to one another.

Our second and third “Weird Christmas Tales” feature THE FLINTSTONES and THE SIMPSONS, respectively. As phenomenally as The Simpsons has performed as a prime-time network animated series, it would probably not exist but for the pioneering success -- and inspiration on Simpsons creator Matt Groening -- of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s The Flintstones. One begets the other! Both do “Weird Christmas Tales”!

In addition, our pair of bookending “Weird Christmas Tales”, appearing in LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES COMICS # 99 and IMPULSE # 57, were released darned near – if not exactly – fifty years apart! We have celebrations of Christmas 1949 and 1999. One at the century’s center, the other at the century’s end!
I’m not sure what it all means… but I DO know that it means SOMETHING! And that is the fun of delving into ( Whoooo! Jingle, Jingle! Whoooo! ) “Weird Christmas Tales”. Share some with your loved ones this Christmas season!

Good Night and Good Christmas – Weird or Otherwise – Comics Reading.

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