Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths: Mysterio (Part 2)

Welcome back to Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths, where we look back at the less illustrious moments in the history of your favorite comic book characters. Yesterday we were talking about Mysterio the Spider-Man villain who will be appearing in this summer’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Mysterio bills himself as a master of illusion, but he’s not really good at it. Let’s take a look at some of his less than memorable moments.

Early on in his career, Mysterio’s schemes were dependent on the fact that they were being played on a gullible teenager. Nobody with a shred of common-sense or in their right mind would fall for one of Mysterio’s schemes. The sad thing is he never really learned that vital lesson…

That time he posed as a psychologist

After a handful of defeats at the hands of Spider-Man, Mysterio decided to gaslight the super-hero by disguising himself as a psychologist named Doctor Ludwig Rinehart in Amazing Spider-Man #24.

Note to millennials: That’s not an iPhone hanging out of his pocket, that’s what they used for hearing aids in the 1960s.

Note to millennials: That’s not an iPhone hanging out of his pocket, that’s what they used for hearing aids in the 1960s.

With this disguise he easily convinces Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson that Spider-Man is dangerously close to suffering a nervous breakdown. Since Jameson has about as much journalistic integrity as the glory hole at Fox News, he jumps on the story without verifying the doctor’s credentials.

And how does Peter Parker handle the news?

Gosh, the newspaper that demonizes me all the time and has a history of publishing false stories about me is saying I might be losing my mind? It must be true!

Gosh, the newspaper that demonizes me all the time and has a history of publishing false stories about me is saying I might be losing my mind? It must be true!

Like I said earlier, the only way this scheme would only work on someone is if they are a gullible teenager. At this point in his career, Peter Parker has gullibility in spades.

To try and convince Spider-Man that he is going nuts, Mysterio then sets up a number of mechanical animals around the city that project images of some of the wall-crawler’s foes on nearby surfaces.

“If only I had some kind of sixth-sense power to tell me if these are actual dangers…”

“If only I had some kind of sixth-sense power to tell me if these are actual dangers…”

In this story, Spider-Man seems to forget that he has a spider-sense to warn him of any actual dangers. What makes this even more embarrassing is the fact that Spider-Man can’t seem to tell the difference from a real person and an image projected on a wall.

Regardless of how stupid this all sounds, it apparently works and Spider-Man pays a visit to Dr. Rinhart who continues to make the web-slinger think he’s cracking up with upside-down rooms and more projections. “Rinehart” then starts trying to convince Spider-Man that they only way he can help is if the hero reveals his true identity.

That’s it, just keep ignoring that I have no credentials hanging on my wall…

That’s it, just keep ignoring that I have no credentials hanging on my wall…

Back at the Daily Bugle, reporter Frederick Foswell — apparently the only competent guy in the newsroom — investigated Ludwig and realized he is a fraud. Realizing that his newspaper is going to be a laughingstock again, Jameson decides to go and give Rinehart a piece of his mind.

This is not how balanced journalism works.

This is not how balanced journalism works.

Jameson’s interruption foils Mysterio’s scheme allowing Spider-Man to discover that he was being duped the whole time. Once unmasked, Mysterio lays out his entire scheme…

Cue the sad trombone.

Cue the sad trombone.

pretending to be huge!

When Mysterio popped up again in Amazing Spider-Man #66-67, he lured Spider-Man into a trap where he made the wall-crawler think that Mysterio somehow shrank him down to size and trapped him on a model of an amusement park.

Women will no longer laugh at my penis size either! Bwa-haw-haw-haw!

Women will no longer laugh at my penis size either! Bwa-haw-haw-haw!

In reality, it was just a giant animatronic Mysterio robot operated from remote control in a real amusement park that was constructed in a warehouse. This time, Spider-Man remembers he has a spider-sense that can lead him to the real Mysterio.

Mysterio’s mistake was letting Spider-Man borrow his matches.

Mysterio’s mistake was letting Spider-Man borrow his matches.

Quentin Beck never learns from his mistakes and also runs out of ideas from time to time. As seen a number of years later, in Amazing Spider-Man #413, Mysterio tried the same trick. This time, trying to convince Spider-Man that he was trapped in a boys bedroom.

Spider'-Man’s clue that this wasn’t a real boy is because the kid didn’t try to pull his legs off or fry him with sunlight reflected through a magnifying glass.

Spider'-Man’s clue that this wasn’t a real boy is because the kid didn’t try to pull his legs off or fry him with sunlight reflected through a magnifying glass.

This time, Spider-Man has the situation figured out by page 4. If it wasn’t obvious enough, he was convinced that Mysterio was involved when the giant toys started coming to life and attacking him.

Somewhere a toy collector is openly weeping.

Somewhere a toy collector is openly weeping.

That Time Mysterio Ran a Retirement Home

Mysterio later took a break from wearing his fishbowl to run the Restwell Retirement Home from Amazing Spider-Man #193-199. The entire scheme involved him tricking his elderly tenants into signing over all their worldly possessions to him so that he cashed in whenever they died.

Aunt May is really accepting of being dumped in a retirement home.

Aunt May is really accepting of being dumped in a retirement home.

When you think about it, this actually makes some sense, how many people dump their elderly family members in retirement homes and forget them? One problem with that, Mysterio, is even the most negligent family members usually come sniffing around when there is a will to be read. In real life it would take one greedy family for him to get busted.

Still, I guess you don’t really need intricate illusions to fool an elderly person into signing over all their worldly possessions. We’re talking about a generation that can be easily fooled by people claiming to be a Nigerian Prince.

However, things don’t go so well when Beck gets an unexpected visitor.

Spider-Man’s most deadly foe, the dread Burglar! Uncle killing gun sold separately.

Spider-Man’s most deadly foe, the dread Burglar! Uncle killing gun sold separately.

Yeah, if Mysterio’s hairbrain scheme wasn’t convoluted enough, it happens as they were approaching the 200th issue of Amazing Spider-Man and the writers decided to use this as an excuse to celebrate the wall-crawler’s first appearance by bringing back the first guy he ever punched in the face.

So what's going on here? Well, we find out that the reason why the burglar broke into the Parker home all those years ago was because he heard that a mobster named Dutch Malone stashed a bunch of money in the house back before the Parkers owned it. TL;DR, the crook trashed the Parker house looking for it, couldn’t find it, then forces Beck to help him learn where it is.

To this end, Quentin makes Peter Parker think his Aunt May died so he stops visiting the retirement home.

“Yeah, actually quite common around here. You’d be surprised how many times these old people’s hearts give out after having gross retirement home sex. The autopsy report also said your Aunt was  swimming  in syphilis. The embalmer’s biohazard suit ripped during the preparation so we had to take him out back and shoot him in the head to prevent further spread of infection. Anyway, will this be a burial or cremation?”

“Yeah, actually quite common around here. You’d be surprised how many times these old people’s hearts give out after having gross retirement home sex. The autopsy report also said your Aunt was swimming in syphilis. The embalmer’s biohazard suit ripped during the preparation so we had to take him out back and shoot him in the head to prevent further spread of infection. Anyway, will this be a burial or cremation?”

The plan works for a bit, except for the fact that Mysterio uses his old alias, Ludwig Rinehart. Apparently forgetting that he has seen Mysterio with his mask-off multiple times, it’s this old alias that makes Peter remembering things and start putting two-and-two together.

By this point, Beck has gotten fed up of waiting for answers from either May Parker or the burglar and decides to go full Mysterio in order to get the money. He’s really bad at it since after failing to kill Spider-Man on two different occasions he just disappears.

You’d think he’d stick around and make sure his enemy was dead before leaving…

You’d think he’d stick around and make sure his enemy was dead before leaving…

Mysterio fucked off leaving Spider-Man to face the burglar alone. He eventually learns that the money both men were looking for was destroyed some time earlier.

Not knowing this, Mysterio later goes after the Parkers again. Having no new ideas he pulls that alien schtick again.

What’s even more incredible than all this is the fact that none of the dinner guests are laughing their asses off over how stupid this all is.

What’s even more incredible than all this is the fact that none of the dinner guests are laughing their asses off over how stupid this all is.

So yeah, Mysterio’s brilliant plan was to have his henchmen pretend to be aliens trying to steal an old mobsters money… for… reasons? By the way, this mobster was active during the prohibition era. How much money did you expect him to stash away? Given your special effects budget for this heist, you’d be lucky if you break even on this caper, Mysterio.

Needless to say, Peter Parker sees through everything and Mysterio discovers a design flaw in his costume in the most humiliating way possible.

Bubble-Head.png

Mysterio’s Biggest Boners

By this point, writers decided to play up Mysterio as something of a joke leading to some of his most ridiculous defeats. The character is reduced to a bumbling idiot.

For example, in Amazing Spider-Man #311, Mysterio tries to trick Spider-Man into thinking that an innocent person died while he was trying to stop a crime.

Nobody check for a pulse or anything…

Nobody check for a pulse or anything…

The reason is simple: To make Spider-Man lose his confidence and thus, easier to beat. However, the moment Mysterio faces his foe he reveals his entire scheme. Which, duh, gives Spider-Man his confidence back. You think Mysterio figured this out? Well…

YACReader - Amazing Spider-Man #311 (1989).cbz 2019-05-14 01.28.54.png

That’s nothing though, lets next take a look at Sensational She-Hulk #2-3. In this story, Mysterio is hired by the Headmen (super-villains who all have wacky heads) to kidnap the She-Hulk. Not learning his lessons from last time, he tries his old alien invasion trick. It works just as effectively.

Rule of thumb: Never stage a fake alien invasion on a character who can break the fourth wall.

Rule of thumb: Never stage a fake alien invasion on a character who can break the fourth wall.

Surprisingly, Mysterio succeeds and hands She-Hulk over to the Headmen. What do they want She-Hulk for? Well they needed a new body for their teammate, Chondu the Mystic.

John Byrne was the pioneer to all the fucked up fan-artists you now find on DeviantArt.

John Byrne was the pioneer to all the fucked up fan-artists you now find on DeviantArt.

Mysterio doesn’t have anything to do with this body-dysmorphia plot, he really just exists to give the writers and excuse to have Spider-Man guest star in a comic book. After he is paid, he is quickly spotted by Spider-Man and arrested.

You’re a master of illusion and you can’t tell the difference between real money and counterfeits? You suck Mysterio.

You’re a master of illusion and you can’t tell the difference between real money and counterfeits? You suck Mysterio.

I don’t think I need to tell you She-Hulk gets her head back on her body, so we’ll just move on to the next example, which is by far the most humiliating defeat in Mysterio’s history.

That Time Mysterio Got Beat Up By Kids

In Power Pack #55, Mysterio decides to get back into the fraud game. This time he is trying to buy out the tenants of a co-op building. Why does he want the building? None of your fucking business, that’s why. Anyway, because the tenants are reluctant to sell, Mysterio uses his special effects techniques to make it seem like the building is haunted. His biggest trick? Making it look like ghosts are coming out of the toilet.

However, he has the monumentally bad luck of trying this scheme out in the building where the Power Pack live. The Power Pack, if you care, are a bunch of kids with superpowers.

Mysterio was watching people pee?

Mysterio was watching people pee?

When the Power kids discover Mysterio the battle lasts a single page.

YACReader - Power Pack #55 (1990).cbz 2019-05-14 01.53.09.png

This is a guy who has usually fought Spider-Man over the course of a 10-15 pages of your average Spider-Man comic book. Here he is getting his ass handed to him by a bunch of kids in a story about toilet ghosts. Not only that, but there are multiple instances where the characters point out that Mysterio’s plot was exactly like an old episode of “Scooby-Doo”. Which is pretty much the writer’s way of saying they were too lazy to come up with an original story and just didn’t give a fuck.

That Time Mysterio Tried to Commit Suicide by Daredevil

After being a pathetic joke for years, Kevin Smith tried to make Mysterio a serious criminal in Daredevil (Vol 2) #1-7. In this story, Mysterio discovers that he has lung cancer and a brain tumor. You know, the usual “you’ve got one year to live” plot where the villain comes up with some final master plan to finally be recognized as a master criminal by shattering a heroes life, driving them crazy, and them making said hero kill him. Does he go after his constant foe? Nope…

To be fair, the Clone Saga didn’t make much sense to readers either.

To be fair, the Clone Saga didn’t make much sense to readers either.

So he chooses Daredevil and after paying the Kingpin to learn that the hero is secretly Matt Murdock, he goes about trying to wreck his life, and holy shit, he gets savage. First he crafts a scheme to convince Daredevil that he is protecting a child that might be the second coming or the Anti-Christ. How does he do this… Well…

This is not the most appalling thing he did. Keep reading…

This is not the most appalling thing he did. Keep reading…

And what happens after the girl is convinced to hand the baby over to Daredevil?

Yeah, shit is getting dark.

Yeah, shit is getting dark.

Then he plays into Daredevil’s religious belief and confuses him with drugs so he tries to kill the baby not just once, but twice. To the point where the baby has to be taken away from him because holy shit Daredevil, you can’t kill a baby, you monster!

I wasn’t joking!

I wasn’t joking!

If that’s not enough. He frames Murdock’s pal Foggy Nelson for the murder of a woman he had a one-night stand with. Oh, and he also convinces Matt’s girlfriend Karen Page that she has AIDS before he hires Bullseye to murder her.

Man, not even the Kingpin was that cold…

Man, not even the Kingpin was that cold…

When Daredevil finally figures out that Mysterio is behind it all and confronts him, the villain does his big reveal in the hopes that Daredevil will kill him. To the surprise of nobody, Daredevil doesn’t. Like the comic book readers who read this whole arc, Daredevil does an eye-roll and points out how unoriginal any of this all was. Kevin Smith, in a moment of self awareness, unabashedly takes a page from J.M DeMatte’s playbook and has Mysterio shoot himself in the fucking head.

Well if you’re going to be derivative, you may as well cite your source.

Well if you’re going to be derivative, you may as well cite your source.

But Wait There’s More…!

As anyone who has read comic books long enough can tell you, death in comics is not forever. So it should hardly be a surprise that Mysterio comes back from the dead and it only gets more fucking convoluted from here.

That’s right, this Midlife Crisis is going to have three parts! Check back tomorrow for part 3 of our retrospective on Mysterio!

Nick Peron

Stand-Up Comedian from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been writing articles about popular culture on the internet for almost 20 years. He has written for destroythebrain.com, as well as the now defunct micro-shock.com and bthroughz.com. More recently, he had been a fan contributor at www.fandom.com and has been an active contributor to the Marvel Comics Database for over a decade. He also had a bit role in the film Sexsquatch. His biggest claim to fame however is the fact that he has been banned in China.