Like pretty much everyone else who owns a Wii U and a pretty healthy amount of nostalgia, I've been devoting a whole lot of time to Super Mario Maker lately. It's great, but while it does a fantastic job of making the actual process of building the levels really fun and intuitive, seeing all the stuff that everyone else is coming up with really makes you want to step up your game and do something that goes above and beyond just getting Mario to the goal.

As a result, I've been looking around for inspiration in some of the... less beloved corners of Mario's history, something that led me to the Nintendo Comics System and the Super Mario Bros. comics that Valiant published way back in 1990. And folks, those things raise a whole lot more questions than they answer.



If memory serves, the comic was based on the same strange interpretation of the already-strange source material that was used for the cartoon segments of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show --- which, just so we're clear, was completely different from the equally strange live-action version staring Captain Lou Albano that aired on the same show. That's how confusing things are getting before we even get onto page one.

To be fair, I don't envy the people who were behind the comics (and the cartoon) for having the task of trying to put together a coherent narrative based on the events of a game that included plot elements like mushrooms that made you double in size and other, angrier mushrooms with tiny little feet that were constantly trying to kill you. That's not a whole lot to work with.

But that said, these comics... well, they're not the best Mario stories I've ever read, but they're definitely interesting in their own way.



Take, for instance, "Cloud Burst," a weird little ten-pager that ran in Super Mario Bros. #5 (credited to the creative team of Bill Vallely, Mark McClellan, Dan Danglo, P. Zorito, Jade, and Andrea Brooks), in which we learn just enough about the government of the Mushroom Kingdom to realize that we know absolutely nothing.

And we also learn about their... very interesting takes on designing chairs.


Yep, those definitely look like mushrooms all right, and that is definitely the only thing they look like. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Anyway, the plot in this story is that Princess Toadstool's crown going missing, which, in all honesty, is only slightly more complicated a plot than "run left-to-right and jump when necessary," but don't worry. It'll get there, and it starts when we find out that the crown isn't just a piece of flashy headgear. It is, in fact, a necessary element of national government.



As an added bonus, we also get a brief appearance from the Princess's dad, who --- despite never having appeared in any of the games --- was presumably added to the story to explain why the Mushroom Kingdom and its thriving floating brick business didn't immediately collapse with the kidnapping of their monarch. The point is, she needs the crown or else she can't be re-coronated, which, as we all know, is definitely a thing that happens to royalty on a regular basis.

As for who it was that made off with her princess hat, you probably suspect that it's Bowser's latest evil plot, but it turns out that he's also a victim, having lost his own crown to a similar theft. And that's when we find out that it's all an inside job.



Ah yes, Lakitu, the enemy known for throwing things out of his flying cloud. No one would ever suspect that he was putting things back in the cloud. It was the perfect crime. There's just one thing that he didn't count on --- one thing that no criminal ever counts on:




This entire page is amazing. The oddly civil conversation between Mario and Bowser about his head getting sunburned is actually a great little gem in this comic, but Luigi having all of his clothes stolen while he is wearing them is delightful. You're left to wonder whether Luigi is meant to be that dimwitted, or if he's just playing along with it in order to buy more time. It's like a version of Columbo from an alternate universe where Robert Culp was replaced with a giant lizard.

It's also worth noting that Lakitu is hoarding coins in his floating cloud --- which is also fully sentient, although I'm not sure why that bothers me more than anything else in this comic --- despite the fact that the Mushroom Kingdom's economy is nebulous at best. I mean, the only thing the coins ever seem to be good for buying is another Mario, and if you ask me, they've got enough trouble with just the one. One and a half if you count Luigi.

In any case, Luigi notices that there's an "escape hatch" in the cloud, which looks exactly like the plug in a bathtub, which is about when he decides to sum up this entire comic:



And with that, the literal weight of Lakitu's sins comes crashing down on Bowser, raining ill-gotten gains on his entire army and putting an end to their latest march on the castle. And among the treasure that rains down on their heads like the vengeance of God himself are both Bowser and Princess Peach's crowns, which neatly restore both monarchies --- or at least, one monarchy and one monarch's ability to walk around outside without getting a sunburn and freckles on his bald spot, something that may have actually been the most sympathetic element of the story. But that's beside the point: What matters now is that everything is back to the way it should be.

Well, almost everything. I don't think Luigi ever gets his clothes back.



Thus, the latest attempt to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom is stopped without Mario actually having to battle an army himself, because really, who wanted to see Mario actually fighting against Bowser and his army of monsters? You know, like he does in the games? The games that people love enough to buy these comics? Probably nobody.


Best Super Mario Fan Art Ever