With Update 2 now live in DC Universe Online, three more names have joined the ever-growing list of in-game characters who have crossed from popular culture into the online world. The Penguin and Two-Face are busy scheming over the future of Gotham, while Mister Mxyzptlk has taken to the streets of Metropolis to play his strange tricks. This week, I thought it would be fun to look a little deeper into the origin stories of the troublesome trio, as the same popular culture that makes these three characters recognizable may also cause some confusion when you run up against the in-game versions -- and their current motives. I should also note, lest the continuity fiends jump on me for it, that these origins are sourced directly from the DC Universe site.
First appearing in Detective Comics #58 in December 1941, the Penguin has had a number of different forms over the years. Depending on when you first encountered this iconic villain, you might think the Penguin is a deformed madman bent on infanticide, a dapper-yet-goofy villain, or a brilliant crime boss. Likewise, his overall look has changed throughout the source material. In the old 1960s Batman television show, the Penguin was a well-dressed regular-sized gentleman with a penchant for umbrellas, a distinctive laugh, and a campy sort of naughtiness. Tim Burton's Batman Returns portrays the Penguin as older and saddled with hideous deformities. These physical issues caused his patrician family to abandon him by dropping him into a sewer, ostensibly hoping he'd die there.
Meanwhile, if we look back into his current comics origin story according to the DC Comics site, we see that the Penguin has yet another different start and current life. Born Oswald Cobblepot, he is simply a small, overweight, large-nosed child who is awkward and shy. In the current version, Oswald's father develops pneumonia after being caught in a flash rainstorm sans umbrella and subsequently dies. This leaves Oswald's mother to take care of their awkward young son while running her own pet shop, which specializes in exotic birds. Stricken with grief and a crazed sense of overprotectiveness, Oswald's mother requires that her son carry an open umbrella everywhere he goes, lest he get caught in a flash rainstorm and die like his father. This in turn sets him up for a great deal of teasing from playground bullies who refer to him as "Oswald the Penguin" due to his large, beak-like nose, his weight (which made him waddle a bit), and his preference for the company of the birds at his mother's shop.
Flashing forward, we find Oswald has grown up and vowed to turn his hated childhood moniker into a source of fear. While the Penguin is a known criminal, Batman allows him to remain free so long as he works as an informant on larger criminal activities going on in Gotham. In this version of his origin story, he is not considered to be insane but rather is simply shrewd and scheming. As old criminal habits are hard to break, you can be certain that the Penguin is even now involved in shady underworld dealings that could cause Batman to rethink his uneasy alliance -- if he finds out.
Much like the Penguin, Two-Face is also an older character, first appearing in Detective Comics #66 in August 1942. Similarly, his origin is also muddied: Earlier versions note his madness is only due to his having acid thrown in his face, while later tales portray his madness as being present beforehand. Oddly enough, in comics history, Harvey Kent (as he was originally known before his name was changed to avoid potential confusion with Superman's alter-ego, Clark Kent) was actually cured of his disorder in the 1940s and had his face restored, which led to others taking up the Two-Face moniker instead. Of course, comics being what they are, this was later retconned so that the sane Harvey Kent was a denizen of an alternate Earth, while our own Earth contained Harvey Dent.
Currently, the origin of Two-Face is a very tragic one. Starting in his early childhood, Harvey suffered from bipolar disorder and paranoia, which he tried his best to hide. He was also abused by his alcoholic father, which in turn caused additional mental damage. This left him ripe for the severe mental breakdown that was yet to come. Harvey attempts to hide his mental issues and rage by becoming an ardent crusader for justice, and through his position as Gotham's DA, he wound up as a close compatriot of both Commissioner Gordon and Batman. His major break with sanity came when he had acid tossed in his face by Sal "Boss" Maroni, which left the left side of his face and his left hand horrifically scarred. The attack caused his latent madness to tip over into the dual-personalities of Harvey Dent and Two-Face -- he became a man obsessed with duality and the number two. Depending on the flip of a coin, sometimes Harvey's better nature wins out, and other times, Two-Face destroys things, even when it works against him.
While there are some odd stories on the origins of this trickster, Mister Mxyzptlk aka Mxy is a relatively straightforward character, at least in terms of comics. Debuting in Superman #30 in September 1944, Mxy was originally written as denizen from a world called Zrfff in the fifth dimension. His powers and abilities are based on the major differences between his home world and the Earth, much like Superman's own powers are due to differences between his home world and Earth. What is superhuman and high-powered here is ordinary there.
The one major difference between Two-Face, the Penguin, and Mxy is that Mxy is purely out for his own amusement. While he certainly performs acts that can be seen as evil, most of the time it's only because he wants to annoy Superman and waste the superheroes' time. While some earlier stories stated that Mxy could be sent back to his home dimension based on whatever goofy objective he made up for Superman to do, he currently has reverted to his original concept. Now, the only way to get rid of the multi-dimensional troublemaker is to somehow trick him into saying his name backwards, at which point he is banished back to the fifth dimension for at least 90 days. As to his place in DC Universe Online, this also seems consistent, as most of his current tricks are simply annoying and seem to be without permanent world-affecting ramifications.
Only the writers know for sure how the overarching game story will play out for these three troublemakers in DC Universe Online. If you're interested in checking out more of the lore for the game, even if you don't play, the DC Universe Online Legends comic series started up in February, so now is a great time to pick them up, since you can catch up easily!
Every week on Saturday, strip off the mask of your Alter-Ego and soar through the world of DC Universe Online with Krystalle, then catch up with Larry on Wednesdays as he showcases the superhero game on the Alter-Ego livestream. Send up a bat-signal to ping Krystalle or Larry with your burning questions. (Packages wrapped in green with a purple bow will be returned unopened.)