All April long, we'll be highlighting the wonderful world of comics, from interviews with creators and a look at the way the industry works to deep dives with our favorite characters, storylines, and controversies. Stay tuned for more throughout the month, and let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter @blastr!
Had any embarrassing pranks or practical jokes played on you today? Beware, the day is still young.
Whether it was due to the changing of the new year from April 1 to January 1 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582, or whether it had its beginnings in the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, there's no denying that April Fool's Day is the goofiest day of the year. The Holy Day of Pranks has some muddled beginnings back in 18th-century England, where the Brits set this time aside to honor a day devoted to jokes, pranks and general silliness and the frivolity soon spread around European cultures from there.
One hallowed arena of tricksters and pranksters is in the funny books of the comic industry. The business has a long history of creating heroes and villains who love to yuck it up, so, on the occasion of All Fool's Day today, let's examine a merry band of comic-book denizens who love to laugh and laugh loudly.
From Thor's half-brother, Loki, Guardians of the Galaxy's Rocket Raccoon and Batman's nemesis The Joker to the diminutive 5th Dimension dwarf Mr. Mxyzptlk, the green-skinned Impossible Man and the wily, willful Jester, here's a host of comics' most notorious mischief-makers to ring in April Fool's Day with a sinister smile. Sorry for the exclusion of Deadpool in this list, folks, but I've reached full saturation level on his antics and wanted to leave room for some lesser-known crafty folks. Hop on in, but watch your back!
The Norse God of Mischief seems to always have some sort of elaborate deception or intricate scheme up his royal sleeve, so don't trust him with any secret for an Asgardian second. First observed in Timely Comics' Venus #6 in 1949, Thor's half-brother's origin story was told in Marvel's Journey Into Mystery #112-113, where the runt-sized son of Laufey, king of the frost giants, was discovered by Odin during a battle on Jotunheim and taken back to Asgard to be raised as his adoptive son. Always trying to bring about Ragnarok or claim Odin's throne, he's probably hatching a nefarious plot against you or an Avenger at this very instant.
Created by writer Bill Mantlo and artist Keith Giffen, the wise-cracking weapons expert first appeared in 1976's Marvel Preview #7. Extremely sensitive about his cybernetic pedigree, this rowdy member of the Guardians of the Galaxy loves a good practical joke. In James Gunn's mega-hit movie, Rocket is the comedian who asks Star-Lord to snag an inmate's prosthetic leg as part of his plot to escape the prison, only to snicker later that he was just kidding and thought it would be funny. Keep your eye on him!
This impish jokester from the 5th Dimension has annoyed and tormented the Man of Steel since Superman #30 in 1944. Things must get pretty boring in his neck of the universe, so he's constantly looking for situations in which use his considerable aptitudes for bending and twisting the laws of physics to present the illusion of magic. Manifested by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and artist Ira Yarborough, he's well-suited to wreaking havoc across Metropolis for the sole purpose of his own amusement. Saying "Kltpzyxm" will not only bring Mxyztplk back to the 5th Dimension, but drags anyone else saying it to the strange zone, too. To return to his/her home dimension, one has to say his/her own name backward. Tog taht?
Here's another Golden Age villain who feels the itch of his true essence on April Fool's Day. Prankster was created by Jerry Siegel and John Sikela, first appearing in Action Comics #51. A primary foe of Superman, Oswald Loomis was once the dorky, buck-toothed host of WGBS TV's "The Uncle Oswald Show", a kid's program cancelled due to bad ratings. Angry over his abrupt dismissal, he became Prankster, a semi-serious antagonist who staged bizarre crimes and stunts in Metropolis like holding Lois Lane hostage and trying to marry her, gaining legal ownership over the entire English language and forcing money to bank employees during robberies.
Does the Clown Prince of Crime really need an introduction? Of course he does! Created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson, the green-coiffed, ghost-white villain first leaped into the pages of DC's Batman #1 in 1940. Though often pulling gag props from his stylish suit like acid-spewing flowers, trick pistols and smoking candy, he's also responsible for deadly deeds like killing Jason Todd and paralyzing poor Barbara Gordon. Not so funny. The nastiest, kookiest kind of arch-criminal has been causing chaos in Gotham for over 75 years and his insane giggle echoes through the pages of hundreds of classic issues. This week, it was announced that DC Comics will finally reveal the secret identity of The Joker in the upcoming Justice League #50. Any guesses on who it might be?
Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, failed actor Jonathan Powers first became The Jester in Daredevil #42 in 1968. An expert in acrobatics, hand-to-hand combatant and fencing, The Jester brings trouble to Hell's Kitchen with an amazing arsenal of smoke bombs, wicked toys, miniature robots, exploding popcorn, and even a one-man submarine. He's often seen spinning a lethal hypersonic yo-yo and dressed in a colorful harlequin costume, associating with Daredevil combatants Mr. Hyde and Cobra or trying to ruin Foggy Nelson's re-election campaign. Gets all his wonderful gadgets and toys from The Terrible Tinkerer. A smash at any All Fool's Day gatherings!
The mischievous shape-shifter from the planet Poppup is able to psionically levitate and alter his body into any imaginable form with the distinctive sound of "POP." Created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers, Impy made his initial appearance in Fantastc Four #11 in 1963 and was given his confounding name by The Thing. Poppupians reproduce asexually and can rearrange the molecules of their bodies at will into any form or function, from a bucket of water, a jet engine and Thor's hammer, to Captain America's shield, Galactus or the Silver Surfer's cosmic surfboard. Adept at popping up in hilarious and unexpected places while annoying the atoms out of most superheroes and villains in the known Marvel Universe.
Edward Nygma lives for the booby-trapped riddle, puzzling pun or deadly literary prank to tease his crimes anywhere he can distribute them in Gotham City. Created by writer Bill Finger and artist Dick Sprang, the wacky lawbreaker sporting his trademark question mark symbol first appeared in Detective Comics #140 in 1948 and has been trying to stump Batman for decades. Bizarre word games and rhymes allow glimpses into his twisted personality and his skintight cat suit or green business suit and bowler hat put him on the best-dressed supervillains fashion list.
Though more recently associated with Star Wars' Mark Hamill in the Trickster role on both the '90s and current The Flash TV series, The Trickster was first seen in Flash #113 from 1960 and created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. An unstable former circus acrobat named Giovanni Giuseppe, this troublesome villain uses a collection of practical joke-themed gadgets to commit his crimes and fool The Flash, including a pair of magical shoes that allow him to walk on air. This criminal mastermind has been to Hell and back and even killed by Deadshot before being resurrected by a Black Lantern ring. Hard to keep a fiendish fool down!