Monday, January 15, 2018

Action Comics #563 (1985)


Action Comics #563 (January, 1985)
"Black Beauty"
"Mr. Mxyzptlk, Media Star!"
"Jimmy Olsen--Blob!"
Writers - Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, E. Nelson Bridwell & Craig Boldman
Pencillers - Keith Giffen, Alex Saviuk & Howard Bender
Inkers - Bob Oksner, Dennis Jensen & Pablo Marcos
Colorist - Anthony Tollin
Letterers - John Costanza, Ben Oda & Milt Snapinn
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.75

Well, yesterday I announced my intent to cover one-hundred issues of Action Comics before the release of Action Comics #1000 (on April 18, 2018)... and, folks seem to be pretty keen on the idea!


Lemme tell ya, that was a relief.  I was halfway expecting a "Oh boy, this idiot's going to be talking about Superman until Spring...", but the response I received was all positive... even got some suggestions for issues to cover... one of which, we'll be chatting up today.

This suggestion comes from R.T. David... and it's a doozy!  Three wild pre-Crisis stories (that sorta evoke the Silver-Age) in an issue I just recently found.  I nabbed this during one of my first post-move bin-dives... which is likely why I forgot all about it.  I mean, just take a look at that cover... that's not an issue you're likely to forget you've got in your collection!

Sooo... let's get down to it.  Big thanks to R.T. and everyone who offered suggestions, I already have them pulled and ready to run!  Tomorrow we'll be covering a very special Guy Gardner issue.

To everyone, thanks for joining me on this Action-packed journey... and remember, if there are any issues you want me to ruin cover, just lemme know!  If you want to see if I already covered it, just click the handy Action Comics 100 icon to the right ->

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Our first story opens with our old friend Ambush Bug trying to repair a little "baby bug".  He's got the TV news on in the background... which includes, the tragic news that Chuckles the Clown has passed away!  Didn't even know he was sick!  Anyhoo, A. Bug keeps fiddling away at the baby bug... but winds up triggering some electrical discharge, blowing the poor thing to bits!  He then finds that he's changed color... first to pink... then to black?!



Black?  How can that be... he was nowhere near the Secret Wars!  I love that this gag was included.  Gotta tell ya, the hardest part about covering an Ambush Bug story is the fact that I want to include every gag!



Not wanting to face the world in his new duds, our man pops into a costume shop... and buys a cartoon horse outfit!  Well, I guess in some places that might be less conspicuous than a black Ambush Bug costu-- oh, f'rget it!



Across town, a man is trying to steal a television set from an apartment.  Well, since this is Metropolis, you gotta figure Superman's on the case.  The would-be robber is not terribly pleased to see the Man of Steel... and fakes motion sickness to avoid being flown away.  That is, until the "Rogue Horse" pops into the scene!  So freaked out was the robber, he hops into Superman's arms... and is totally cool with turning himself in.  At this point, Superman and Ambush Bug have themselves a little chat.



What we're about to cover is the secret origin of the Bug.  Ya see, there was once a man named Brum-El who lived on the planet Schwab.  One day he broke a chain letter (the same one Jor-El of Krypton broke, actually)... and the planet was doomed!  And so, Brum-El built a rocket... and decided to save his... clothes.  Also on board the ship was... a giant radioactive spider!



The ship crashed atop a building in Metropolis... where in one of the apartments our man Irwin dwelt.  He broke himself away from the television to check on the ruckus... and discovered a suit.  Since he never had a suit (but always wanted one) he decided to... er, adopt it.



Back on Schwab... the countdown to destruction is on.  Turns out the chain letter's warning didn't really pan out.  Brum-El sacrificed his entire wardrobe... for nothing!



Superman ain't impressed and flies away commenting how dumb Ambush Bug's origin story was... before, well... you know, putting two and two together.



Our second story stars ol' Mxy... who really wants to be a star!  During a meeting at the Galaxy Building, Clark Kent overhears the arrival of the thorn in his side... and engages in some old-fashioned super-ventriloquism in order to distract and "supe up".



Superman heads into Morgan Edge's office to find that Mxy's turned the place upside down.  Before Superman can act, Mxyzptlk zips out.  Our man wishes they'd instead been visited by Mr. Kltpzyxm... Mxy's Bizarro double who only does good deeds!  This'll be important later.



Clark brainstorms a way to get Mxy to bug back to the Fifth Dimension... and decides to offer him a talent contract from Galaxy Communications... with his name written backwards on it!  Well... it turns out that Mxy ixnayed the ackwardsbay itingwray.  No matter how many times Clark tries... he can't write the Imp's name backwards.  He checks with Lois... who is also incapable of writing anything backwards!



We shift scenes to later that evening where Lois and Clark attend the premiere of Galaxy's latest blockbuster.  Turns out this most definitely isn't the "director's cut" of the film... as Mxy now has a co-starring role!



Superman attempts to interject... but winds up just flying through the screen.  Whoops.  Elsewhere, Morgan Edge is about to... er, get down with his bad self with some good old-fashioned pornography.  Boy is he in for a surprise when the centerfold is... well, you know... Mr. Mxyzptlk.



Turns out Mxy's really serious about being a pop-culture phenomenon.  Good thing there was no such thing as online social media back in 1985!  Anyhoo, we shift into a montage... and can see that the Imp has caused all sorts of mischief inserting himself into all kinds of events.



Finally, Clark has a plan!  Superman and Morgan Edge approach Mxy with... a contract... a legit one.  They also have him read over the poster they produced for his brand-new show.  A poster which claims that Mxyptlk is greater than his Bizarro double, Kltpzyxm.  Pop!



Our third and final story concerns Superman's Pal.  We open with Superman hauling away a glass globe... inside which, is a freckly blob.  I wonder who that might be?  Well, I suppose that's a silly question considering the title of the story, eh?



Now the question remains... how did Jimmy Olsen turn into a blob?  Well, it turns out earlier that day he went to the museum to retrieve many of his adventure artifacts.  Things like his Elastic Lad serum... and a, er... "glowing paperweight" from the planet Ravager.  Hopefully not that Ravager.  Anyhoo, he bores Lois with his trinkets during an elevator ride.



Once outside, Jimmy notices a little girl falling from an apartment window.  Acting fast, he takes a swig of Elastic-serum... only, it transforms him into... well, a blob.  He is still able to save the child by breaking her fall.



Passers by, however, think the blob was trying to attack the girl... and proceed to pelt him with garbage.  So far it's just a regular day in the life of James Olsen, right?



It isn't long before a full-on mob assembles around our boy... including Lois Lane, who... seeing Jimmy's clothes strewn about believes that the blob must've eaten him!  Well, stands to reason...



Jimblob manages to escape the unruly masses by slipping into the... alligator-infested Metropolis sewers.  I mean, what?  Are we supposed to believe that the sewer-system of Metropolis is teeming with 'gators?  Underworlders, sure... but alligators?  C'mon.  Anyhoo, Jimmy is able to escape again... and actually makes himself useful by scaring some battery thieves.



After that, Jimmy... get this... decides to pick up his date for the evening... as a boy blob.  Really.  Suffice it to say, she's not too keen on this idea.



Dejected and rejected, Jimblob returns to the streets... where he finds himself surrounded by police officers... with their guns drawn.  Luckily, Superman finally wanders by... and loads the blob into the bubble from the open.



He brings him to a far-off planet... and it begins to downpour.  Before he (or we) knows it, he's changed from annoyingly ugly blob back to a annoyingly ugly boy.  Superman reveals that while Jimmy's artifacts were in the museum... the Ravager paperweight must have let off some radiation... which somehow fouled the Elastic-Serum (and probably everyone who went to visit the exhibit!).



We wrap up with Superman (and Pal) returning home.



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Now this... was a blast!

It's so weird... if an issue like this were to come out today, it would be looked at as something of a "throwaway".  Probably because we don't get too many "done in one's" these days... if this were to come out, it would likely be cutting into an ongoing story.  I think back to that odd issue of Action Comics (vol.2) that was all Bizarro from a few years back (2015?)... that felt so out of place, and not in a good way.

With all that said... this was great!  I think we started off hot with the Ambush Bug story... and went down from there.  So, let's start our discussion by chatting up the weakest (in my opinion) of the three stories... the Jimmy Olsen one.

Maybe it's just my knee-jerk bias to Jimmy Olsen... but I definitely had the least amount of fun following his blobby adventure.  He just comes across as so annoying.  I mean, even as a blob... he still manages to have a "punchable" face!

I feel like this was the most Silver-Agey of the three stories presented... so it's hard to actually get mad at it.  I'll just say that it wasn't as fun as the other two, and move on.

The Mxy story, however, was a bit more fun.  The other day we talked about how writers would have to be a bit creative in how they used the Yellow Peri's powers.  They'd need to come up with a sort of "monkey's paw" result to her magic spells to make her something of an unwitting foil.  That sort of creativity needs to be present when coming up with ways to get Mxy to say his name backwards.  We've covered him before on the humble blog... and it never ceases to surprise me when a writer is able to "pull it off" in a fun way.

Here, we get a mention of Mxy's Bizarro double... which presents Superman with a loophole in which he can write the Imp's name backwards... without actually writing a backwards word!  Pretty sneaky, Supes.

The definitely highlight (at least for me) would have to be the Ambush Bug opener.  So whacked out... and so much fun.  This story pulls no punches, and doesn't pretend to take itself too seriously.

From Ambush Bug talking "jive"... to an E.D. joke... to a Secret Wars mention... and a gag at Superman's origin's expense... this was a story you have to see to truly appreciate.  Honestly, the opening story was so much fun, it could've been followed up by sixteen blank pages... and I'd still recommend you track down this issue!

It doesn't look like this issue is available digitally... however, if you're down for just the Ambush Bug story (and don't mind black and white art), the opener is included in SHOWCASE Presents: Ambush Bug (which looks to be, unfortunately out of print... but shouldn't be too terribly hard to track down).  It might just be easier to track down this issue... any way you do it, I'd recommend that you do... it!

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Letters Page (featuring The Mad Maple!) in which they discuss Action Comics #559:


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