Jack Kirby’s version of Don Rickles roasts us all! – Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #141
Jack Kirby’s sojourn at DC Comics might not have been an unalloyed blockbuster, but it provided a fertile creative soil that helps populate that fictional universe to this very day. Really, where would DC be without the villain of all villains — Darkseid? We all know that the eventual Justice League movie will have the stone-faced ruler of Apokolips as the big bad, right? Right. Indeed, the entire Fourth World has become one of the cornerstones of Earth-1 and its environs. (The First Lady of Heroines, Big Barda, is alone worth the price of admission.) The New Gods, The Forever People, and Mister Miracle might not have had long debut runs, but their legacies speak for themselves.
Of course, there was also that improbably ancillary Fourth World book: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. We all know how Kirby took the reins of DC’s lowest selling book, because why not — you can’t crash a plane that’s already augured into the ground. And Jolly Jack made that former bastion of Silver Age goofiness (Jimmy Olsen, Harvester of Tears! Jimmy Olsen’s TV Show!), well, he made it, how shall we say, interesting. He injected a bit of zaniness into the Man of Steel’s world, which had become a tad staid by this point. Like the rest of Kirby’s DC experiments, it didn’t soar, but it was at least different. Kind of wacky, in a good, charming way.
And nothing was more wacky than when Don Rickles showed up.
Yes, that Don Rickles.
For a couple of issues the master of insults, the man who made a living out of roasting the whole world, graced the pages of the mag, and in issue #141 visited Morgan Edge at his GBS headquarters. Kirby gamely tried to replicate Rickles’ unique brand of humor, but like many of Jack’s attempts to be hip and with it, it fell a little flat:
We should note that there’s a metric ton of storytelling going on in this issue, with enough parallel narratives to make an episode of Game of Thrones green with envy. Not only is Superman adrift in space, but the Guardian is battling hoods in Metropolis. We sometimes forget how close the Guardian is design-wise to his fellow Kirby creation, Captain America. All you have to do is some recoloring in these panels and you have the acrobatic, shield-carrying Steve Rogers — Kirby certainly had a template:
Anyway, back to Rickles. Or Rickleses. Because Kirby didn’t just have Don to work with here. He also had his very own creation, the bumbling, costume-wearing Goody Rickles, Don’s doppelganger and a GBS employee. They come face to face at last!:
You’d think they’d be more surprised by how non-Kirby Jimmy Olsen looks like he hails from a different universe, but whatever.
This issue would be Don’s last appearance in the DC-verse — it remains unclear whether he was a) consulted about or b) aware of his cameo — but he didn’t depart before being posed in a most Kirby manner, square fingers and coming-at-you perspective and all:
I’m of a generation that grew up watching Scooby-Doo re-runs where there were bizarre guest-stars showing up every episode. Mama Cass. Jonathan Winters. Sonny and Cher. Hell, Batman and Robin. So this fits right into of that mold — with a distinct Kirby spin. Though Jack had an uphill climb replicating the distinct humor of Rickles — and failed utterly, it should be noted — this is one case where the mere effort is all that’s needed. Jack Kirby once threw Don Rickles (and his doppelganger) into a Superman comic book that also featured the Guardian, Lightray and boom tubes. One of the most important cultural contributions of the 20th century, no?