So I was watching the episode “Mxyzpixilated” from season 2 of Superman: The Animated Series, featuring, as you might guess, Mr. Mxyzptlk. At one point during the story, Clark Kent is scanning the Daily Planet funny pages, into which Mxyzptlk has inserted himself as one of the strips:
Thanks to the miracle of DVD technology, and my obsessive need to repeatedly pause and look at details of cartoons that otherwise would just flash by onscreen, only barely noticed by the viewer, I was able to get a better look at the other strips on the page. According to the episode’s commentary track, the other strips are in-jokes and references to members of the production team, in addition to being parodies of popular comics.
Of the production team members referenced, the most recognizable is, of course, Paul Dini, one of the prime movers behind DC’s animation initiative. Here he is in a parody of Calvin & Hobbes:
The next strip is, of course, a parody of Peanuts, where the “punchline” is (again, according the commentary) a direct quote from the person being caricatured:
The next parodies Dick Tracy, and I’d almost rather read this than what’s going on in the real Dick Tracy strip right now:
And here’s the Mxyzptlk strip, credited to Superman’s (and Mxy’s!) creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster:
And the last looks like a parody of, if not the strip Momma, then at least of cartoonist Mell Lazarus’s style, with a pretty brutal last panel (what you can see of it) which they probably only got away with due to it only appearing onscreen for a split second:
Whenever brief gags like this flash by, I wonder if there were kids watching this as it originally aired, or during reruns, who were tantalized by the quick glimpse they were able to grab, who knew there was more there than what they saw, but missed their chance to see what was there. Even if they recorded it on their VCR, getting consistently clean stills when pausing the tape was never a sure thing. And beyond even that, I wonder if the people behind the cartoons ever thought there’d come a time when in-jokes like these would ever become easily accessible to anyone outside of the team that actually produced these shows.
Well, okay, they probably did, fans being obsessive about this sort of thing and all (like, oh, say, screen-capturing the frames in question and straightening them out). But I certainly wanted to show my appreciation for the extra level of detail and humor added into what is already an excellent cartoon.
EDIT: I’m being told in the comments section here that the Modern Masters Volume 3: Bruce Timmbook includes the above artwork in full, and is much more clear than in my screenshots. So check that out if you get a chance!