Dynamite has sent over a writer's commentary from Sholly Fisch on Mighty Mouse #4. The issue has cover and interiors by Igor Lima.
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Y'know, when you're writing these commentaries late at night, you start to wonder (or, at least, I start to wonder) whether anyone's really reading them, or whether you're just entertaining yourself. I wondered the same thing a couple of decades ago, when I was writing for Marvel's in-house promotional magazine, Marvel Age, and one of my regular columns was a year-by-year history of what happened in Marvel's comics during a given year.
After a while, to see if anyone was paying attention, Marvel Age editor Jim Salicrup (now editor-in-chief at Papercutz) suggested, "When you do the next one, why don't you just make it all up?" So I wrote an entire column about Conan fighting animal gods named after Winnie the Pooh characters, the debut of a fictional Marvel hero called Lectronn Master of the Atom, an issue of The Avengers drawn by famed illustrator M.C. Escher, Captain America's sidekick Bucky returning from the dead (How crazy would that be?)…and on and on, illustrated with fake covers by my good buddy, longtime penciler James Fry.
As it turned out, we learned that people were indeed reading the column but not necessarily getting the joke…when I inadvertently drove up the price on an obscure back issue of Avengers because fans were finding it in stores for two bucks and snapping it up, thinking it was the nonexistent M.C. Escher issue, worth hundreds of dollars. (As amused as I was, I did feel a little bad about them spending their money. But, realistically, it was a cheap back issue and the real story in that issue was pretty good, so there wasn't much harm done.)
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I'm kind of tempted to just make up the whole commentary this time, without any regard for what's actually in issue #4. ("OMG! Did you see Mighty Mouse kill that guy?!") But I'll resist the temptation…probably. I guess you'll have to go read the issue to be sure…
Oh, by the way, an amusing postscript to the Marvel Age story popped up around 20 years later, when I was stunned to find James's and my fictional Marvel superhero, Lectronn Master of the Atom, fighting alongside Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the rest in the middle of Marvel's Civil War crossover. So I guess he's a real, fictional Marvel superhero now. Who'da thought? I figure we'll be seeing a big-budget Lectronn movie any day now.
But I probably should start talking about Mighty Mouse, shouldn't I? Well, let's see… Out of necessity, Mighty Mouse #3 was a fairly talky issue as Mighty Mouse and Joey figured out answers to lots of questions about how Mighty Mouse came to the real world, how to get him home, how cartoon physics work in the real world, and so on. So I decided to compensate this time, with an issue packed wall-to-wall with all-out, hoo-hah action.
I bet that, when you first started reading a story about a lonely, bullied kid in issue #1, you didn't expect that, a few issues later, the Earth would be under attack by an alien invasion, did you?
Here, in the space of a few panels, we really see the heart of who Mighty Mouse is: Without a second thought, Mighty Mouse forgets about getting home, throws himself into danger, and flies off to defend a planet that he didn't even know existed a couple of days ago. And, at the same time, he's concerned about Joey's safety too. Why? Because Mighty Mouse is a hero.
More all-out, hoo-hah action. The invasion intensifies! Mighty Mouse joins the fray! Kapow!
Remember how Joey kept trying to protect Mighty Mouse by keeping him a secret? Well, that cat (or, I guess, "alien cat") is pretty much out of the bag from this point on. Despite the shock you can see on all of the humans' faces when they first encounter this super-powered cartoon mouse, they're no fools. They're awfully grateful for anything that saves their lives (and their day, of course).
Okay, imagine you're a big-city cop. You've seen it all, you've done it all, and despite its dangers, you figure the street holds no more surprises for you.
And then your world's invaded by cartoon alien cats.
These pages are designed to capture two things: First, to make this feel like the real world despite the insanity that's going on, we needed to establish the cops' incredulity and their initial refusal to take an invasion by cartoon alien cats seriously. Then, immediately afterward, we needed to show exactly why this really is a deadly threat – namely, cartoon invaders don't fall down and die when you shoot them. All of the weapons that humans rely upon to keep them safe are useless.
Plus, while all of that is going on, Officer Betances is starting to put the pieces together…
Some more all-out, hoo-hah action. The police might not be able to hurt the cartoon invaders, but Mighty Mouse can. Of course, they can hurt him too…
In thinking about the aliens' weapons, I purposely gave them some "straight" science fiction weapons, like ray blasters that demolish streets and buildings, and some goofy cartoon weapons, like the giant tennis racquet. All of it's intended to strike a balance between making readers see these guys as a genuine threat while also keeping their cartoony nature very much front and center.
Mighty Mouse is caught on news video. Yup, there's no turning back now.
In my commentary on issue #3, I talked about planting stuff early in the series that only becomes important later on. There are a bunch of examples in this issue, as we pick up on things like whether and how cartoon physics work in the real world, Joey's drawings, or even the running gag of Joey's indignantly correcting people every time they call his action figure a "doll."
But one of the biggest examples is Officer Betances. When she first showed up last issue, I doubt many readers guessed that she'd turn out to be our female lead. ("Or at least one of our female leads," he said, hinting mysteriously at issue #5.) But, as I was plotting out the series, I realized fairly early on that we were going to need someone who could be the link to hook Joey up with the authorities. Otherwise, there's no way that a kid like Joey could ever get the people in charge to listen to him — especially in the middle of the carnage that's tearing through the city — even though he knows much more about what's going on than they do.
Betances actually wound up being one of my favorite characters in the series – smart, capable, and courageous. I suspect that, sometime after this series ends, she won't be a beat cop forever.
The cavalry arrives! But all it really does (at least, so far) is up the ante by escalating the firepower…and show how dire the threat really is. Even a full-scale artillery barrage just leaves the invaders shaking off some soot.
Incidentally, if you remember the scene in issue #2 where Joey worried about the police or military finding out about Mighty Mouse and maybe dissecting him, well, we're pretty much there now. The police know. The military knows. Is dissection waiting in the wings? I'm afraid that's a question that'll have to wait to be answered next issue. Right now, everyone's kinda got their hands full with this alien invasion, y'know?
Speaking of which…
Okay, so maybe the humans are helpless against the aliens, but it's no big deal, right? After all, Mighty Mouse is on the job, and he can beat them singlehanded, can't he?
Mmm…maybe not. As Joey points out, Mighty Mouse can fight the aliens, but there's a full-blown invasion going on, and he can't be everywhere.
At precisely that moment, we see Mighty Mouse doing his level best to save the day, only to start to fall under the crush of the invaders' overwhelming numbers. (Funny how that timing worked out, isn't it? It's almost as if some guiding, writerly hand was trying to prove Joey's point.)
Yet, even while risking his life against overwhelming odds, Mighty Mouse still takes a moment to thank the troops for their service. Why? I said it before, and I'll say it again: Because he's a hero! In your face, [fill in the name of your favorite dark vigilante antihero here].
Then, when everything is at its darkest, and it looks like all hope is lost…
…it's Joey to the rescue! Joey's inner heroic nature – the aspect of himself that he's fantasized about since issue #1 — finally emerges. He even enters with the exact same line that Mighty Mouse used when their positions were reversed last issue.
At last, the battle is joined, and the stage is set for our senses-shattering finale next issue, loaded with – you guessed it – all-out, hoo-hah action!
Oh, and while you're anxiously waiting to read next month's thrilling climax, feel free to leave a comment or something to let me know if you're actually reading this commentary. Hey, if you leave me wondering, I really may be forced to make everything up next time.
Assuming I haven't already made everything up this time, that is…