This next Super Mario Adventure comic, similar to “Just Desserts”, is riff with potential but falls short of narrative closure. It’s also a little goofier, more cartoony than the typical batch of comics in the anthology. Mario and Luigi are kinda tossed aside here as the comic relief, focusing on King Toadstool and Princess Toadstool. The next comic will play around with the brothers and their relationship; but this will give me a good opportunity to discuss the dynamics of the daughter/father relationship here.
King Toadstool isn’t that smart. He’s a loveable teddy bear, in which both words – “teddy” and “bear” – have tremendous weight. He doesn’t really think in terms of what’s best for Mushroom Kingdom, seemingly more content to sleep, eat, work in his garden, and otherwise sit around. (On occasion he will exercise a tremendous amount of rage, but it’s pretty rare, and usually comes from somewhere incompetent.) He loves his daughter, that much is for sure, but otherwise seem clueless when it comes to relationships, both private and public. It’s pretty clear the Mushroom Kingdom would be in shambles if it wasn’t for Toad, newcomer Wooster, and, most importantly, Princess Toadstool.
Every comic representation of Princess Toadstool has always been amazing; even the worse stories have managed to make the pink-dressed princess endearing in some way. She is also the most consistent. She balances herself between a classy, formal, slightly naggy feminine figure, and a badass, sarcastic, aggressive, fighter. The balance is less practical and more hilarious, but it also gets the job done. It’s pretty cool to see in this comic how she bounces back and forth between girly and grizzled.
We begin with a pretty solidly constructed establishing panel:
Note the Betty Boop-esque anthropomorphism with the flowers. Yeah, we’re in the cartoon realm here. It kinda reminds me of the judgmental bushes in “Piranha-Round Sue.” Seems the artists tend to use the anthropomorphic construct on background objects to reflect the overall tone of the panel in question. I can’t say it’s too effective – I mean, the dialogue and the coloring already reflects that – but it also a good visual cue to showcase that what you are reading is not, in any way, supposed to be seen as real or realistic. We’re off to a whimsical start.
The king walks inside the palace to answer a phone call – but is annoyed when it’s revealed to be a prank. But, by Bowser? More foreshadowing. I like how quick the tension starts – this is only the second page. What’s he up to?
While I love Princess Toadstool’s reaction to the muddy mess her father left (even the most machismo guys would flip a shit at that), seeing the Mario Bros. mistake the footprints as free dancing lessons is lame, even by 80s and 90s standards. Even if they’re being funny about it… I don’t know. It reeks of randomness, or more appropriately, a joke for joke sake, without putting too much thought behind giving the Mario Bros. any credibility. They’re kind of worthless throughout this comic. Also, Princess Toadstool’s direct comment to her father about “just growing old”? Surprisingly dark and somewhat cold. But, seriously, this is how she is. It’s crude, but so princess-y, and so amazing.
Princess, being practical, calls for a carpet cleaning service. Who arrives? Why, multiple pidgits (the black bird thing from the first page)! Also, they arrive in a van, which means the Mushroom Kingdom has cars. Nice to know they aren’t a completely nature-oriented species. (They also have airplanes and blimps, which appear later.)
So they clean the carpet, while Mario, Luigi, and the King continue to dance in the suds. It’s eye-rollingly annoying, and the jokes are the weakest elements here. There’s being silly, and being stupid, and when most of the cast just acts dumb, it drags everything down – which includes an insanely moronic future comic called “Duh, Stupid Bomb” later in the series. But I digress. As the carpet is conditioned, familiar Bowser-hands add in the secret ingredient Flying Carpet Juice, which looks like grape juice. As the namesake, the carpets begin to fly. In a pretty egregious error, the entire carpet doesn’t fly, but the various small rugs the characters HAPPEN TO BE STANDING ON fly. Also, why they just don’t jump off is unclear, especially the brothers, who are master jumpers. Just… guh, frustrating.
But we get some great Princess Toadstool moments. In the midst of carpet chaos, she has a profound thought:
She then starts bitching about stuff. Say what you will, but if this was happening in my house, I’d suddenly be mad about everything, too.
Which leads to my favorite moment – Princess Toadstool swearing. Twice:
Sure, it’s edited. But it’s there. She clearly drops to F-bombs as she reaches the (sigh) Koopa Zone (is this King Koopa’s airspace? How’d he negotiate that, right over the palace?!). Watching her Majesty just work through these panels is quite a delight. She’s commanding, snappy, random, and concerned all in the span of a few pages. And, with a bit of hypnosis…
On closer inspection, this is a REALLY crazy moment. Notice the King immediately assuming his bad parenting. Take a gander at specifically what the Princess is wearing. Notice how she suddenly has complete control of the carpet. She even fucks with a random bird, who calls her a “punk teenager” (in case you didn’t get it). The funny part is that I could really see her being like this with not that much of a nudge. She’s incredibly snarky throughout the comic, who has more of a hipster personality more than anything, personified through some feminine wiles. It’ll be much clearer later on.
Nothing comes of any of this though. Mario sits on some plant food, which spills onto some beans, which grows into a giant beanstalk. They climb it in what seems to be like some attempt to grab her, but —
— she slams into the beanstalk instead because she was talking shit to a blimp. Kinda cute, but she’s falling, and about to DIE. Luckily, King Toadstool redeems his parenting skills:
And all is well. Mario and Luigi were useless all throughout, and Koopa got his, although in a whatever-kind of way. Still, King Toadstool’s lines in that panel are as sincere as they come. You cannot deny that father-daughter love, no matter how old Princess Toadstool wants him to get.
“Magic Carpet Madness” is pretty weak all over, but the nice moments with the Toadstool family dynamic have some solid underpinnings that will be worked on and refined in future issues. We’ll see more Princess Toadstool awesomeness in the next couple of issues as well, but next up is in-depth look at the Mario/Luigi relationship, one that will be a treat to explore and write about. That idea of Luigi being second to Mario’s heroics and character? Think again.