MIDLIFE CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS: MYSTERIO (PART 3)

Welcome back to Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths where we look back at the most embarrassing moments in the lives of your favorite comic book characters! This is part 3 on our retrospective of Mysterio, Spider-Man’s long time foe. You can catch up on the previous segments here.

When we last left the master illusionist he just shot himself in the fucking head. How can you top that?

He’s no Kurt Cobain, that’s for sure.

He’s no Kurt Cobain, that’s for sure.

Don’t Worry They’ve got a spare

Would you believe that Mysterio had successors? Not only individuals who took on his identity, but were inspired to commit crime in the name of the late Quentin Beck? It’s true. They were all just as bad as Mysterio because, as the old saying goes, imitation is the best for of flattery.

Daniel Burkhart

Daniel Burkhart was the first guy to take over the Mysterio identity, even before Quentin Beck blew his brains out. In fact, this second Mysterio made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #141-142.

Wait what..?

Wait what..?

If the above confuses you — since this story was published years before Beck’s suicide — then allow me to explain: Before Quentin ran his retirement home scam I mentioned my last edition, he trained Burkhart everything he knew before he faked his death so he could steal money from old ladies.

Anyway, Burkhart only had an edge over Spider-Man because, at the time, he was still reeling from the fact that the then recent death of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy.

There was a period of time when Burkhart abandoned his Mysterio persona in favor of being the new Jack O’Lantern in Spectacular Spider-Man #241 (He really likes hand-me-down super-villain identities). It’s all very complicated mess that was the result of writers being changed and taking the character into different directions, but suffice to say it was all part of a complicated scheme to get revenge against everyone who wronged Quentin Beck before his death. When he finally revealed his motivation in Spider-Man: Mysterio Manifesto #1-3, he was back to being Mysterio again. He was last seen clashing with another would-be Mysterio successor who we’ll explain below.

Francis Klum

Get bit and die from the venom, if we’re lucky.

Get bit and die from the venom, if we’re lucky.

First appearing in the mini-series Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, Klum isn’t just your average illusionist. Instead he’s a mutant who was part of Nazi experiments, has the ability to teleport, and was sexually abused as a child by his own brother. If this sounds excessive to you, keep in mind the character was created by Kevin Smith, the same guy who had the original Mysterio murder unwed mothers, emotionally manipulating former drug addicts, endangering babies, until shooting himself in the head. So yeah, are we surprised that Klum’s origin is just as fucked up?

Anyway, not only that, when he tried to shoot Spider-Man with a gun it blew up in his face because it was plugged with webbing. Horribly scarred, Klum then bought a hideout and Mysterio’s old gear from the Kingpin and planned to get revenge.

This led to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11-13. This happened during Civil War when Peter Parker revealed his identity to the world. Klum tried to get revenge by attacking Peter at the high school he worked at. This led to a battle between himself and Burkhart to see who was worthy of the Mysterio mantle. Burkhart was arrested and Klum was stabbed in the chest by another developing plot point and was left for dead.

He was resurrected during the Clone Conspiracy storyline. But his fate after that plotline is a big question mark.

Oh, and the original Mysterio isn’t really dead — or is he?

If things aren’t convoluted enough, Quentin Beck also returns in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11-13. Is he dead? Is he alive? What’s going on?

Well we’ll get back to that in a moment. Let’s rewind to a little earlier. Mysterio is one of the dead villains that appears in X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl limited series. That featured villains trying to force Doctor Strange to bring them back to life. Strange enlists the aid of Dead Girl to help him stop the plot. There’s nothing much to it except the fact that Mysterio is apparently dead and in the afterlife.

Case closed, right? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s get back to that Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man plot.. Is Mysterio really dead?

I’d say dead, but he never had much brains to begin with.

I’d say dead, but he never had much brains to begin with.

This story leaves us to believe the Mysterio is an undead agent of some supernatural forces that are directing the fate of others. In this instance, Mysterio is trying to make sure that Peter Parker does not quit his job at Midtown High because it is important to his fate. This story was written by Peter David, who almost always comes up with some religious/supernatural bent to inject into all of his stories. However, what the hell is going on here is cut short because Marvel was going to start up their Brand New Day event, cutting everyone else’s runs short.

In fact, we don’t see Mysterio again for 3 years, and it’s in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man.

wtf - He hops dimensions now?

Short answer: Yes. This is going to get confusing. Get a scorecard to keep track.

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3 introduced what everyone thought was the Ultimate Comics version of Mysterio. He starts off as a glib crook who wants to “change everything” but doesn’t really do much to explain it. What he does do is kill the Ultimate Kingpin.

He used lasers to push a fat man out a window.

He used lasers to push a fat man out a window.

He then went on to fight Spider-Man a bunch of times throughout the course of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1-6 and Ultimate Spider-Man #151-154. In every case he gets close to defeating Spider-Man, or revealing his identity, and then flees. There’s also a pointless plot where he prevents the Black Cat from stealing the Zodiac Key, only to try and sell it to her, and then lose it.

All of this, of course, was written by long time Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis. This was also near the end of BMB’s exclusivity contract with Marvel Comics. I’d like to think he really popped his nut after Siege and he was just throwing shit at walls to see what stuck. I doubt he intended this to be anything but an Ultimate Comics version of Mysterio.

Mysterio of Two Worlds

That was until the Spider-Men mini-series the long awaited cross-over between the Spider-Man of the mainstream Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Spider-Man. By this time, the Ultimate Spider-Man was Miles Morales, the last good idea Bendis had before he left Marvel.

In Spider-Men is was revealed that, somehow, Mysterio built a portal to the Ultimate Universe and decided to mess around with that world using android avatars between what he was doing in the regular Marvel Universe.

I really wish he’d take that avatar and use it to go fuck himself.

I really wish he’d take that avatar and use it to go fuck himself.

So is Mysterio back from the dead now? Is he still super-natural? Ha, ha, ha, foolish reader! You’re not going to get an answer that easily!

Suck on this readers

Before they did the big reveal in Spider-Men, Mysterio was also appearing in the core Marvel Universe. He first surfaced in Amazing Spider-Man #618-620 during the Gauntlet storyline where old Spider-Man foes were reintroduced and given upgrades.

With puns like that, I wish you still had a hole in your head.

With puns like that, I wish you still had a hole in your head.

In this story, Dan Slott has Mysterio claim that he actually faked his death this whole time. Which doesn’t make any sense. However, this is the same story where this happens…

Shhh, don’t say that too loud, some idiot writer might actually make that part of continuity.

Shhh, don’t say that too loud, some idiot writer might actually make that part of continuity.

So was he lying? Is he telling the truth? Was he just fucking around? Again, a whole lot of nothing. During the reset of Slott’s run on Spider-Man, Mysterio makes some regular appearances as an ally of Doctor Octopus, but still no answers. Spider-Men comes and goes without any explanations. He appears in Spider-Man/Deadpool and Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider and still no clear answers.

That is until Nick Spencer’s most recent run on Amazing Spider-Man. In the first issue of that series. After yet another failed fake alien invasion scheme (yeah, he still runs out of ideas) he is confronted by a strange entity that reminds Mysterio that he was brought back from the dead for a reason.

Burying Mysterio in rats and bugs is too good for him but you can’t have someone drown in a sea of shit in a comic meant for kids.

Burying Mysterio in rats and bugs is too good for him but you can’t have someone drown in a sea of shit in a comic meant for kids.

So is this an explanation? Not really, because this plotline is still on the go as I write this. On top of that, while this mysterious bug-guy is still lurking around in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Mysterio has been dragged into the unrelated plot going on in the Dead Man Logan limited series where he is manipulated by Neo-Hydra, fakes his death (again) and retires to a sanitarium after retiring as Mysterio, again.

Aren’t they doing more Mysterio stuff because of the new movie thought?

Yes and no. See, here’s the thing. Even though Far From Home is due to come out July, Marvel isn’t doing much to showcase Mysterio before the movie. The only other thing going on right now is Symbiote Spider-Man, a five issue mini-series written by Peter David. That story takes place back when Spider-Man was still wearing the Venom symbiote, because that’s not nearly done to death as going back to Peter Parker’s early days as Spider-Man.

So will they ever clear this all up? They haven’t sorted out the Mysterio mess in the past 13 years, I’m not going to lose any sleep if that trend continues. Mysterio sucks.

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.