by Martin Maenza and Starsky Hutch 76
Nearly a half-dozen of the creatures scurried out of the cracking Earth in the center of the floor.
“Mole men?” Kristin Wells repeated with some disbelief. “He can’t be serious.”
Superman frowned. “When it comes to Mxyzptlk, serious is totally thrown out of the vocabulary.”
Mr. Mxyzptlk rubbed the crystal pipe in his fingers. “Why, Supes, you cut me to the quick! Can’t you see I’m a changed man? I mean, really.” He stopped to brush his other hand over the very conservative, fatherly 1950s attire he had placed himself in. “Don’t I look like a responsible kind of fellow?”
“No!” Superman snapped, slightly losing his temper. “I’ll deal with you after I deal with them. This will just take a second.” The Man of Steel turned to fly at the creatures.
Much to his surprise, he found that instead of being able to launch himself into a sustained flight through the air, he merely was able to leap at them. “Great Rao! Not only has he altered my costume, but he’s changed my powers, too!”
There was a slight chuckle from the unseen audience.
Mxyzptlk chuckled, too. “Just trying to make things a bit more simple, Supes.”
The Man of Steel grumbled under his breath as he took to the center of the group of mole warriors and started swinging. I don’t know if these creatures are real, magical constructs, or other transformed victims, he thought, knocking away the pointy weapons that were prodded at him. Best to just disarm them and hope for the best.
“Me help, too!” little Jasma cried, ready to jump into the fray.
Gerta Gim-Ze put her hand on the girl’s shoulder and held her back. “No, child,” she said. “You let Daddy take care of those pests.”
Kristin Wells felt frustrated. I want to go and help, too, she thought, but that little creep’s magic has also countered my powers. This was the first time since she had gotten Kryptonian abilities to replace her future technology-based ones that she missed the old way she did things.
Just then, the ground beneath the three woman cracked and gave way.
Superman, in mid-battle with the mole warriors, turned at the sound of the screams. He saw the three women drop into the ground through a huge sinkhole.
“Great Krypton!” He shoved the moles off of him and darted for the hole. Without another thought, he jumped down into the darkness and vanished.
Mxyzptlk laughed. “Now for even more fun.” And with that, he vanished with a pop.
Just as all this was going on inside the Kent household, Jimmy Olsen was approaching the house from the outside. He parked his red Toyota in front of the house and took two grocery bags from the backseat. These backyard barbecues are becoming a regular tradition since Clark moved out to the ‘burbs, Jimmy thought to himself. Got plenty of sirloins here, chips, Jasma’s favorite cookies, and of course Steve’s bringing the beer. Jimmy chuckled to himself.
He hoisted the bags and slammed the car door with his hip, turning to walk toward the front door. He stopped short at the odd sight that greeted him.
The front yard was littered with every possible element of suburban bad taste. “Jeez,” Jimmy said under his breath. “Did Clark buy stock in lawn flamingos or something?” This wasn’t like Clark at all, he thought to himself. There were yard gnomes, too. And that lawn jockey was the worst.
Suddenly, one of the flamingos turned toward him and let out a fearsome screech. It launched itself into the air and flew at him, causing him to drop the bags as he dived out of its path. The others followed suit.
“What the heck?!” Jimmy exclaimed, swatting at the flamingos as they buzzed around him. One of the gnomes launched itself onto his leg and bit him as it hung from his pants.
“Agh! Get off me, you little freak!” Jimmy exclaimed, trying to shake it off.
Jimmy turned as he heard a creaking sound. It was the lawn jockey turning in his direction. The creak was a panel of its lantern swinging open. A look of horror crossed Jimmy’s face as a burst of flame erupted and flew toward him, and he dived toward the bushes.
“A lawn jockey with a flame-thrower?!” Jimmy exclaimed as the shrubbery before him burst into flames. “That’s crazy!” He moved away from the heat and watched as the lawn ornament moved closer on its short little legs. Unlike the flamingos that were now focused on munching on the broken cookie bag on the sidewalk, the jockey was still intent on attacking the redhead.
This is like something out of some kind of surreal nightmare, Jimmy thought. And that can only mean one thing…
Jimmy realized that if he wanted an answer, he would have to get to the house. Sizing up the competition, he decided he could outrun the little attacker. He bolted up to his feet and sprinted toward the house.
The jockey spun about, its lantern opening with a creak. Flames shot forth. Jimmy did a quick dive and roll across the grass. The fire barely missed him. “Whew! That was close!” He tumbled to his feet again. “Not far, now…”
“Jimmy!” a voice called. “What the hell?”
Jimmy Olsen and the lawn jockey both turned to see a brown-haired man stepping out of a sports car. The lantern spun about in the jockey’s hand.
“Steve! Look out!” Jimmy cried.
The former pro athlete-turned-sportscaster saw the fire swelling. “Whoa!” he exclaimed. The fire shot toward him. Luckily for Steve Lombard, he was still in decent shape and worked out four times a week. He was able to spin about and avoid the attack.
“Steve! Be careful!” Jimmy called.
The jockey turned back toward it first prey. The lantern creaked.
There was a loud bong as something slammed up against the jockey’s head. Before the iron attacker could turn, it was hit again with another object and another and another.
Jimmy smiled as the sixth beer managed to knock the jockey to the ground. “Steve, hurry!“
The sportscaster ran past the flamingos and joined the redhead. “Jimbo, what is going on around here?”
“Not sure yet, Steve,” he said. “We’d better get inside, though.” The flamingos had just finished off the last of the cookies and were looking up to find their next meal.
The two men ran up to the porch and reached for the doorknob. “Sounds good to me,” Steve said, “but someone owes me a six pack of beer.”
Meanwhile, Kristin Wells, Gerta Gim-Ze, and Jasma Kent stood in a stone-carved cell staring through cell bars at their captors. A large, musclebound mole man stood impassively before the cell holding a big, fearsome spear.
“Mole men! I can’t believe it!” Kristin said. “We’ve gone from a ’50s sitcom to a ’50s sci-fi serial!“
Jasma tugged on the hem of Gerta’s dress and looked up, “Are these the moles from your garden, Gertie?”
Kristin shook her head and gave a half-smile at the child’s innocence. “No, Jasma, I don’t–“
“Yes!” a voice interrupted imperiously. “A thousand times yes!”
Startled, the three females turned in the direction of the voice and saw an older mole man dressed in regal robes enter the prison area. “We are those moles of which you speak.”
“You are the moles that have been tearing up my vegetable garden?!” Gerta exclaimed.
“And for that you tried to wipe us out. But now we have the upper hand,” the mole king said. “And our fallen mole brethren shall be avenged!“
“Do you know how hard I worked on that garden?” Gerta said.
“Hath not a mole eyes?” the mole king said, waving his hands dramatically. “Hath not a mole hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? If you prick a mole, does it not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not chitter? If you poison us, do we not die?” He gave a dramatic pause. “And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?“
“Oh, my,” Gerta gasped, covering her mouth with her hand.
“This is just too weird for words,” Kristin groaned.
Inside the Kent house, the imp known as Mr. Mxyzptlk floated as he watched several floating TV sets. On one was a powered-down Superman in a retro version of his costume as he battled several fearsome-looking mole-man soldiers. On another was Jimmy Olsen and Steve Lombard as they fought off kitschy lawn ornaments brought to life. On another was Kristin Wells, Gerta Gim-Ze, and Jasma Kent sitting in a cell, prisoners of the mole men he had created from the pests that had plagued Gerta’s vegetable patch.
“This is just too much fun!” the imp snickered. “But something’s missing. Those sitcoms never had such a small family. Leave it to Super-sap to get it wrong. There were three on Father Knows Best. He’s got Kitten, but where’s Princess and Bud? I’d zap his cousin over and have her play Princess, but she had to go and take a dirt nap.”
Another TV blinked in and he said, “He’s gotta have someone I can use. Even if I have to make that Lane dame wear a poodle skirt.”
Suddenly, two images came on-screen, and he exclaimed, “Perfect!”
With a flash of light, two new players appeared. Lydia Lee, the Supergirl from the future who was now living in the present, and Kent Shakespeare, the son of the late Bizarro Number One, who was now human and living with John and Mary Shakespeare.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Lydia exclaimed, looking down at the poodle skirt she was wearing.
Kent Shakespeare reached up to his head, finding the beanie he was wearing, and gave the propeller a spin. “Cool! Can I keep this?”
Lydia looked down at her clothes and realized they had changed. Gone were her Danskins that she had been wearing during rehearsal, and in its place was a blouse and poodle skirt. One minute I’m in the bathroom on break in the Broadway district, and the next I’m here! she thought to herself. Glancing about, she recognized where here was.
This is Clark’s new place, she realized. She looked down at the dark-haired little boy next to her. But who is this? she thought, noticing that the child seemed obviously unfazed by whatever had just happened.
Then she glanced up to the ceiling and saw the cause of all this floating alongside a number of television monitors. “You!” Lydia exclaimed, recognizing Mxyzptlk.
Just then, the front door burst open. In tumbled Jimmy Olsen and Steve Lombard.
Lydia noticed a change in their appearance when they crossed the threshold. Gone was the color from them, and their clothes had changed, too. Steve was now dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans, with a big cardigan sweater with a huge M on one side. Jimmy was now dressed in a shirt and pants with a bow tie. Somehow that look seems to fit him, Lydia thought.
Steve slammed the door to keep out the lawn attackers. He started to say, “We should be safe he–” Then he noticed his hands and clothes. “What the–?”
Jimmy wasn’t startled at all by the transition. He saw Lydia, whom he did not know, but was surprised to see Kent Shakespeare. Uh-oh, he thought. This is big if the kid is here! Then he glanced up to where Lydia was looking. He frowned at seeing the imp. “You!” he exclaimed, though his reporter instincts already had an inkling who was involved.
“You! You! You!” Mxyzptlk spat in frustration. “I swear, if I hear someone say that to me one more time today, I’m going to turn them into a sheep!“
“Where is the Kent family?” Jimmy demanded. “What did you do to them?”
Mxyzptlk smiled. “Oh, them? They’re on a journey to the center of the Earth with a bunch of mole men I dug up.” He giggled at that, and the invisible laugh track roared at the joke. The others looked around the room at the sound of the uproarious laughter but saw no source.
Lydia did her best to keep herself under control. Even though she hardly knew the two men and the boy, she had heard of a few of them. They certainly didn’t know her, and she was bound to try to keep her super-identity a secret if possible. Such was expected living in the twentieth century now. “Superman will stop you!” she said defiantly. “He always does.”
“I doubt that,” Mxyzptlk replied. “He went after the mole men, too, but I am sure he’s having a difficult time.”
Steve turned to his friend. “Jimbo, any idea what we should do?”
Jimmy frowned. “I’m thinking, Steve. I’m thinking.”
“Don’t strain your brain, red,” the imp taunted. “In fact, why don’t you four join the fun?“
Suddenly, a hole opened in the floor underneath the foursome, and they all tumbled into the darkness. The invisible audience applauded. Mxyzptlk took a little bow as the hole in the earth closed up again. “Thank you, thank you,” he said. “But let’s follow them and see what happens next, shall we?”
And with that, the imp vanished.