Ferlin Nyxly was the curator of the Metropolis Music Museum. He had low self-esteem, thinking of himself as an unattractive loser. One night, while examining some recent gifts that were discovered buried beneath an ancient, forgotten city, he discovered the Devil's Harp. While holding the harp, Ferlin thought about it and he wished that he had the talent to make music. Shortly afterwards, while sitting at a piano, Ferlin discovered that he could play magnificently. Unknown to Ferlin, Timos Achens lost his musical talents at the same time Ferlin gained his.
Some time later, one of Ferlin Nyxly's concerts was upstaged by Superman when he stopped an assassination attempt at the venue. When Ferlin noticed that the audience wasn't paying attention to his playing, but instead still talking about Superman, he was enraged. Afterwards, while again holding the Devil's Harp, Ferlin wished that he could fly and suddenly found himself floating in the air. At that same moment, Superman (and the Sand Creature he was pursuing) lost his ability to fly.
Ferlin then put on a Pan costume, so that he would look more like a demigod than an ordinary loser. Thinking that he at least didn't have to be poor anymore, Ferlin robbed a money truck. When the guards shot at him, Ferlin made himself invulnerable.
Still angry at Superman, Ferlin went on WGBS and challenged Superman to a death duel. When Superman arrived, Ferlin had the harp steal Superman's speed and strength as well, and was beating Superman until the Sand Creature arrived. Superman cried out for the Sand Creature to destroy the Devil's Harp, which Ferlin had dropped on the ground. When the Sand Creature smashed the harp, Ferlin fell unconscious to the ground and Superman's powers were restored.
Months later Ferlin went in search of the mysterious ruins where the Devil's Harp had been discovered. He found a strange alien city and within it found a suit of armor that he then put on. There was a sling attached to the armor which could shoot projectiles which could disintegrate objects and the sling also enabled Ferlin to fly. Ferlin returned to Metropolis to once again confront Superman but he was defeated easily after Superman was warned about Ferlin's trap by a boy whose mind had been swapped with a cat's.
Years after this Ferlin went searching for UFO's since he had determined that he could defeat Superman with otherworldly technology. While looking for a UFO that had been spotted nearby, Ferlin accidentally fell from a cliff, badly injuring himself. The alien in the UFO, named Brakha, saw him and healed him. Ferlin repaid the alien by attacking him and taking over his ship. He then used the ship to attack Metropolis and Superman. Ferlin was winning the battle and had short-circuited Superman's mind when Brakha arrived to help. Brakha planted a device on Superman which enables others to control his body until his mind could be restored. Superman's body was then controlled by Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and Morgan Edge in the battle against Ferlin Nyxly. Ferlin was frightened by Superman's maniacal actions and surrendered.
In the new 52 continuty it was revealed than Nyxly was the son of Clark Kent's landlady, Mrs. Nyxly. However, what everybody ignored (Ferlin himself included) is that Ferlin was really a fragment of the damaged 5-d body of Vyndktvx, summoned by Mr. Mxyzptlk as part of his counter attack trick (which included living a long 3-D human life in Metropolis) and wait for Superman to triumph over Vyndyktvx's final attack. When the evil imp retired himself again to the 5th Dimension, Ferlin was integrated again with him and ceased to exist in the 3-D world.