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Jimmy Olsen: Odd man out of Man of Steel and his own comic book – Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #94

June 8, 2013

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Man of Steel looks like it’s going to be fantastic, but there’s been something missing from the barrage of promotional imagery leading up to next week’s big release. Not the familiar red briefs — though they’re gone, too. No, the missing element from all the glorious promotional material is none other than Superman’s bestest pal, the befreckled, camera-toting Jimmy Olsen. No Olsen? Isn’t that some manner of blasphemy, far greater than Lois being a redhead and Perry White being black (OH THE IRONY)? In the trailers we’ve seen a young woman in the company of Laurence Fishburne’s White, as they both flee for cover with Metropolis crumbling around them. Has Jimmy undergone a sex change? Would that be better or worse than no Jimmy at all?

The sad lack of Mr. Olsen reminds one of this cover. Glum and shunted to the side yet again.  

There’s been a definite running thread in the long run up to Man of Steel: that the producers wanted to excise much of the old-timey frippery associated with the character, starting with the Victorian strongman undergarments. And there was perhaps no greater trove of Silver Age silliness than Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. Time and time again we’ve looked at issues here on the blog, and whether it’s been Lucy Lane getting decked by a kangaroo, smelly hippies, or Jimmy harvesting super-tears, it’s always been a profoundly silly ride. Maybe Olsen personifies the fat that’s been trimmed in the interests of realism — a scapegoat if you will.

This issue’s cover story is no different than the others listed, though it perhaps lacks the distilled, 100-proof slap-happiness of its kinsmen. Yes, Jimmy gets replaced by a new J.O., and it’s all (so it seems) his own damn fault.

Before we get to that, we should note that the other story in this double feature has Jimmy going after a bug-themed villain, with the help of Lana Lang’s magic Insect Queen ring (remember that?), that let’s him change into the insect of his choice (sort of like the ad infinitum suits in Iron Man 3). Here’s a sample (art by George Papp):

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I think that’s enough of Jimmy’s giant furry abdomen for one day, thank you very much. We do not dig, sir.

On to the main attraction, written by Leo Dorfman with art by Pete Costanza. It starts with much hullabaloo about a new Jimmy Olsen TV show:

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(*We know — All Comic Book Readers.)

So Jimmy is going to have his own prime-time series. Good for him. The thing is, this sudden success swells his ego, and he starts turning his back on the people in his life. He snubs Lucy Lane, and, even worse, he draws the spurned ire of the bow-tied virgins in the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club:

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Hell hath no fury like a basement-dwelling dweeb scorned. BURN YOUR BOW TIES! BURN THEM UP!

Still, Jimmy’s a little peeved that people (rightly) see him as at best a moderately effective assistant to Superman, the greatest hero of them all. To prove his derring-do bona fides, he embarks on a series of stunts that would make the Flying Wallendas, Houdini and Evel Knievel all proud. Well, except for the fact that he botches all of them, necessitating an unappreciated Superman rescue in every instance. First up, it’s walking the tightrope:

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Foiled there, he moves on to plunging over a waterfall in a plastic bubble:

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An aside: Why would Superman have to swim up the falls? Couldn’t he just fly up to where he needed to be? Is he showing off? Does Jimmy have a point?

Finally, Jimmy dons a flying squirrel outfit for some skydiving hijinks:

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Yes, Superman has to bail him out of that one, too.

All this leads to a final sundering of the Superman-Olsen duo, and a nationwide (worldwide?) talent search for his replacement. It’s a veritable cattle call for narrow-shouldered nerds:

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Yet it’s the Herculean ginger from the front cover that wins the new role as Superman’s Pal. Josh Oberlin is his name, and yes, there’s cosmic synergy in him having the same initials as Jimmy. Jimmy’s replacement leads to a downward spiral: his show gets cancelled (no Superman, no show) and soon he’s flat broke. Enter a wealthy collector of rare items — named the Collector, natch (no relation to the Elder of the Universe) — who had approached Jimmy earlier in the story, interested in purchasing some of his trophies and momentos. He’s a shady sort, but now Jimmy turns to him for a cool million dollar check. The Collector inspects his loot, and is especially excited to find a gem that lets him read minds, which will come in quite handy in his *gasp* robberies.

NOT SO FAST:

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Okay. Whatever. (Superman got a warrant? Does he also Mirandize crooks?)

It turns out the whole Olsen-Superman falling out was an act. A needless, stupid, pointless, dumb act, all to foil the elaborate schemes of the Collector. And you thought The Sting was complicated. So Jimmy is still the Pal, and Josh takes his unexpected demotion surprisingly well, and doesn’t drive the scrawny Jimmy into the ground like a railroad spike:

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You read dumb stuff like this, and you’re not so upset about Jimmy Olsen (maybe) being left out of the Man of Steel excitement.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. m.l. post permalink
    June 8, 2013 11:39 pm

    If getting changed into a woman in the new movie is how Jimbo finally ends up, I’d say he’s (she’s?) getting off easy. Better then getting turned into a tree, or a spider, or a large headed being from the future, or a giant rampaging turtle…WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THAT KID ANYWAY?!? Most people, if they were Superman, would have been tempted to boot his freckled rear end off the planet years ago. I’ve known kids who were trouble-magnets, but…sheesh.

  2. wordsmith permalink
    June 9, 2013 11:16 am

    I’ve not read this story, but the Powers That Be approached actor Jack Larson about starring in a Jimmy Olsen TV series which would have incorporated footage of his friend, the late George Reeves, which, for some reason, Larson found ghoulish, ignoring how much money he could have made.
    Will you be writing a review of “Man of Steel”? I’m already looking forward to reading it.

    • June 10, 2013 10:01 pm

      I should have the Man of Steel review up by Friday morning.

  3. docvoltage permalink
    June 10, 2013 12:21 pm

    Given how many oddball transformations Jimmy went through in comics, the obvious choice for the new movie would have been: TRANSGENDER JIMMY OLSEN !

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