Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Jimmy Olsen (1964 - 1967: The New Look)


By Deejay Dayton
January 4, 2020 - 10:47

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Jimmy Olsen’s series embraced the excesses and lunacy of the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look, but frankly it didn’t have that far to go. Jimmy took on more identities during this era, becoming Insect Lad, impersonating Robin, and becoming a full fledged secret agent. His relationship with Lucy Lane also came to a climax, both as himself, and in the guise of Magi.

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While elements from James Bond made their way into many heroes books during this era, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 89 went further than any other, as Jimmy became Agent Double Five, referring to the number of letters in his name. After intercepting a message from a dying spy, Jimmy prepares himself with a variety of Bond-type gadgets, and heads out to Andulia to find a model of an artificial heart created by one of their scientists.

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The story makes the most of the various gadgets, a comb that changes the colour of his hair, a key that functions as a saw, an electro-magnet in the heel of his shoe. There are spies working against him as well, and the story climaxes with Jimmy taking refuge in a giant working model of a human heart. That’s a bit more Batman than Bond, but still so characteristic of the era.

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This period also saw one of my very favourite Jimmy Olsen tales, simply for the craziness of it all.  The story in issue 87 begins as Jimmy gets hit on the head by a falling flower pot, and gains the ability to accurately see future events. Hoping to have this happen again, Jimmy heads back to the Daily Planet, and gets Lois Lane and Perry White to start hitting him on the head.  When it fails, he begins hitting himself.  So hard that Jimmy knocks himself out, and needs to be taken to a hospital. At the hospital, Professor Potter determines that it was the combination of the blow to the head with the scent of the flower that caused Jimmy to be able to see into the future.  Just then, for no particular reason, the shelf above Clark Kent's head breaks.  It contains pots of the same flower that gave Jimmy his powers.  Lois comments that Clark must now have the exact same telepathic powers that Jimmy had.  The only way he could not is if he was Superman, and immune to the injury.  Yes, of course!  So Clark has to pretend to have a vision of the future, and then go into action as Superman to make the vision come true, all to prove to Lois Lane that he is not Superman. The torturous labyrinth of a story is so awful you just have to love it.

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Jimmy becomes the hero of a parallel world in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 93. Professor Potter has developed a machine that can transport someone to an alternate dimension, and tests it out on Jimmy, sending him to a world they call Earth-X, although this is not the Earth-X that the Freedom Fighters are from. On this world, Jimmy has great super-powers.  He meets Clark Kent, who is a science-fiction writer.  Clark has created a number of imaginary super-heroes, among them Superman.  Jimmy adopts the name of one of the characters Clark has created, Steel-Man, but chooses to dress in a combination of Superman and Batman's costumes, partly to hide his distinctive red hair. There is a criminal organization on this world, called the Luthar League, who use high tech weaponry in their crimes.  They are lead by a man who resembles the Joker. To Jimmy's great surprise, the Joker turns out to be a masked Clark Kent.  He is the criminal mastermind on this world.  He has created a machine that siphons off Jimmy's powers, leaving Jimmy as weak as he is on Earth.  Jimmy is able to take Clark down using Krypton gas. Most interesting (to me at least), because this is all presented as a real adventure on an alternate world, instead of as an Imaginary Story.

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Jimmy gets to use Lana Lang's Insect Queen ring in issue 94. A villain called the Bug is terrorizing the city, and Superman is off in space for a mission.  Jimmy manages to convince Lana Lang to lend him her biogenetic ring, so that he can becomes various insects as he battles the Bug. Jimmy does not fare well in this story at all.  The ring works for him, but he fails twice to stop the Bug and his men. Jimmy appears to fare better in his third encounter, in the guise of a ladybug.  But that's because it's not really Jimmy.  Supergirl has disguised herself as a transformed Jimmy, and defeats the villain.  All Jimmy really succeeds in doing in this story is getting to write it up.

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Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 101 sees Jimmy make another trip back in time to Krypton. This completely ignores the earlier story in which Jimmy had become the babysitter for infant Superman. Here, Jimmy visits the Fortress of Solitude, only to find that Superman, Supergirl and even Krypto are in Kandor, taking part in celebrations to commemorate the destruction of Krypton.  Not happy celebrations, obviously.  Jimmy decides to travel back in time and prevent Krypton from blowing up. Jax-Ur and Professor Vakox (whose named is rendered Varox in this tale), spying on Jimmy from the Phantom Zone, learn of his plans, and are eager to help him succeed.  If Krypton does not get destroyed, there will be no Superman to stop them.  These use their mental powers to aid Jimmy in his time travel, but also plant a hypnotic suggestion inside his mind. Jimmy tries to warn the Science Council about the destruction of the planet, and forecasts things that do occur.  But this leads to Jimmy being considered a threat, rather than a helper. 

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He stops by to see Jor-El and Lara, but gets tossed out of their house. He does get befriended by a different scientist, and begins a romance with the guy's daughter.  Thanks to them, when he gets arrested on suspicion of causing the disasters he warned about, he is able to escape by becoming Elastic Lad.  Then the hypnotic suggestion by the Phantom Zone villains kicks in, and he is forced to free the pair of them. At the end it appears that the Phantom Zone villains escape from Krypton before its destruction, though Superman explains that the shockwave sent them back into the Zone.  Jimmy is forced to see the deaths of the father and daughter who helped him, before returning to the present.  Downer.

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Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 91 features Van Benson, the editor who has taken control of the Daily Planet when Perry White was appointed as a senator.  Jimmy finds Van Benson an even harsher taskmaster than Perry was.  When Jimmy reads about youth crime in his hometown of Mapleton, he pretends to be injured so that he can go there and get a story out of it.  This is, incidentally, the first time Jimmy's home town is identified. Jimmy goes undercover and joins a teen motorcycle gang, and after impressing them enough, is sent to steal a weathervane. These kids are clearly not into major crimes. The school teacher, who appears to be a plain Jane at work, has a much softer side, which Jimmy discovers as he tries to steal the weathervane.  But Jimmy gets betrayed, both by the teacher lady, and by another member of the gang, Chip. The gang is working for a guy named Quasimodo, who is a hunchbacked bell ringer, just like in Hugo's novel.  Jimmy is sent on a second theft, after failing his first, to steal from the church Quasimodo works at.  The hunchback captures Jimmy, and ties him to the bell, for torment if not death.  This time, Chip comes to rescue him. 

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Jimmy figures out that Chip is really Robin, who has also gone undercover to infiltrate the group. Superman and Batman have small roles in the story, but it really becomes an Olsen/Robin team tale, the first of quite a few that would appear in this book, although the Olsen/Robin team had already made a number of appearances in the pages of World's Finest Comics.  The objects Jimmy was sent to steal all contained spy cameras, and Quasimodo was using the street gang to retrieve these, which had been taking films of secret military experiments and inventions. With the street kids and Quasimodo captured by Olsen and Robin, Superman steps in to stop the big boss, cleverly named Mr. Traitor, from killing them all.

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Robin also plays a role in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 111. Jimmy tries to join Mystery Analysts of Gotham City, but gets rejected and storms out.  The Mystery Analysts had last appeared the previous year in Detective Comics, and would not actually be seen again in the Batman books for the next ten years.  This story reveals that Clark Kent is, for some reason, a member of that group. Jimmy heads to the Eyrie, the secret headquarters of the Olsen/Robin team, and enlists his friend's help in disguising himself as the Boy Wonder.  As Jimmy had learned the identities of Batman and Robin a few years earlier in World's Finest Comics, he also has to impersonate Dick Grayson successfully with Alfred and Aunt Harriet. Jimmy believes that he is pulling off his impersonation perfectly, and accompanies Batman as they go after the Scorpion Gang. Jimmy figures out that the gang is really the Mystery Analysts in disguise.  He had made a small mistake when he was with Batman, referring to the criminal gang without being aware that they had already been rounded up. But Batman and the other members of the Analysts are impressed with Jimmy's determination.  They explain that he was rejected simply because of his age, and make him an honourary member of the group.

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Supergirl plays a part in the story in Jimmy Olsen 102, although the cub reporter never figures that out.  After testifying at a gangland trial, Jimmy goes into hiding, enlisting at Stanhope College. This is the same university that Linda Danvers attends, and the story references the earlier tale in which she went to work at the Daily Planet. Jimmy tries joining a number of sports teams. He is unaware that, at each try-out, gang members are trying to have him killed.  Linda uses her super-powers to prevent each death plot from working, but Jimmy winds up looking incompetent, and gets cut from every team.  This gives him a bad rep at the university, and none of the girls there will pay attention to him. As Jimmy prepares to leave and go back to Metropolis, there is one more attempt made on his life.  Supergirl goes into action to save him, but wears her Linda Danvers wig as she does so, to appear to have dark hair, and thus be Superman, rather than Supergirl.  Apparently it is easier to see her hair colour than the fact that she is wearing a skirt.

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The Legion of Super-Heroes appears in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 106. Jimmy is brought to the 30th century to help write the Legion's news bulletin. Mon-El, Brainiac 5, Element Lad and Duo Damsel appear in this story.  Three times Jimmy sets out to do an interview or a story, but each time he gets interrupted, and has to go into action as Elastic Lad. He does rescue a man from a safe, but the child he thinks he is rescuing turns out to be a doll, and he accidentally sets off an alarm at the museum.

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So Jimmy winds up not getting any stories, and feels like he let the team down.  But the next morning the Legionnaires present him with a copy of their bulletin.  Each of the acts he had performed had been far more significant than he imagined, and he proved to be the big hero of the day.

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A more unexpected team up appears in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 86, which brings back Congo Bill and Congorilla, last seen four years earlier in Action Comics. Jimmy heads to Africa on the trail of some criminals who are gathering kryptonite.  He looks up Congo Bill, who he had met in an earlier issue of this book.  Bill has been injured, and cannot accompany Jimmy, but gives him the ring which will enable Jimmy to trade bodies with the golden gorilla. So Jimmy becomes Congorilla as he pursues the bad guys.  They have a kryptonite attractor, though Jimmy manages to con them by building a snowman in a Superman suit.  The bad guys think that the hero was exposed to red kryptonite, and changed into a snowman.  Jimmy manages to destroy the attractor, just in time to prevent the gold kryptonite they are about to gain from reaching them.  Even more conveniently, the falling gold kryptonite stops the gorilla, in Jimmy's body, from running into quicksand. This is the final appearance of both Congo Bill and Congorilla until the alternate origin of the Justice League of America in the late 70s.

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Jimmy Olsen gains Colossal Boy's powers, and wears his costume, in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 77. Titano, who has been shown to be in the prehistoric era in story after story, just suddenly isn't.  Titano just sort of pops up at the Metropolis airport, as a plane that Lucy Lane is working on lands.  There is even a question among the characters as to how Titano wound up in the present, but "no time" to answer it.  Towards the end of the story, Superman makes a vague guess about a time warp being involved. But Titano is there, and must be dealt with, no matter how he arrived.  Superman seemingly forgets that the ape has kryptonite vision, until he gets hit with it. Jimmy decides to drink an enlarging serum that he happens to have, and toss on a duplicate of Colossal Boy's costume, and goes into action to take down Titano.  He does succeed at this, and then, just to be a jerk, threatens Lucy Lane's life, as seen on the cover. Jimmy's giant alien girlfriend, Allura, pops up at the conclusion, and brings Titano back to her world with her. 

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Titano doesn’t remain with Allura, though, making a return in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 84. After seeing a hit monster movie with Lucy Lane, Jimmy decides to direct one himself, and convinces a producer to back him.  Jimmy will play the lead, with Lucy as his romantic interest.  Jimmy gets Professor Potter to be the mad scientist, and casts Clark Kent as the villain's assistant.  They head out to a remote Pacific island to shoot, intending to get the scared reactions of the natives on film.  But that doesn't go as planned.  Jimmy uses his werewolf serum to become one, but the islanders laugh, thinking he is a monkey man. Potter then uses a time/space ray to bring Titano and a Kryptonian Flame Dragon to the island, but once again the natives don't react as planned.  They find Titano funny, and equate the Flame Dragon with the god of their extinct volcano.  Still, the movie does get made, with the help of Superman, but by the end, Jimmy is content to return to the Daily Planet. This is, incidentally, the last appearance of Titano during the 60s. 

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Brainiac appears in a two part story that ran in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 86 and 87. The tale begins as Jimmy Olsen gets seriously injured, and suffers brain damage. Superman is not able to do anything to help his friend, but Brainiac shows up, and offers to cure him.  Superman accepts Brainiac's offer, not realizing that Brainiac intends to implant a computer brain inside Jimmy's head, one that he is able to control. After running a couple of tests to make sure Jimmy's computer brain is working properly, Brainiac put his plan into action.  He uses an invisibility ray on himself and his latest super-weapon, and then has Jimmy summon Superman with his signal watch.

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In the second half, Brainiac, invisible, uses Jimmy to lure Superman, and tries to kill him.  The attempt fails and, more significantly, Superman discovers that Brainiac is not an alien, but an android.  This had been revealed to readers a while earlier, in the pages of Superman, but the hero had never been aware of that fact.  Brainiac makes a deal with Superman, to restore Jimmy's mind in exchange for his freedom, and Superman agrees. Brainiac wastes no time moving onto a new scheme, enlisting the aid of Lex Luthor, as well as the Legion of Super-Villains, Lightning Lord, Cosmic King and Saturn Queen.  Saturn Queen forces Jimmy to go to the Fortress of Solitude and steal some kryptonite, as well as Kandor.  Jimmy returns with the kryptonite, but explains that he could not find Kandor.  Then the villains get him to summon Superman, and Saturn Queen commands Jimmy to use the kryptonite on his friend.  Superman pleads for his life, offering the villains weapons and powers.  Awkwardly, he offers Saturn Queen youth and beauty.  Sexist moment. The villains ponder the offer, but decide to have Jimmy kill Superman instead.  But then they all wind up trapped in "force pearls."  It was not kryptonite that Jimmy took from the Fortress, but Kandor in a kryptonite looking case.  The Kandorians were the ones to create and emit the force pearls to save the day.

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Jimmy Olsen actually becomes a Bizarro, as opposed to having a Bizarro version of himself created, in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 80, which begins with Jimmy wearing a Bizarro mask around the Daily Planet to freak people out.  He keeps wearing it as he heads over to visit Professor Potter.  Potter happens to be experimenting with a Bizarro duplicator machine, and when he sees Jimmy enter, he assumes this is a Bizarro Jimmy.  So rather than asking questions or anything, Potter fires the ray at the boy, in order to turn him normal, but the ray turns Jimmy into the Bizarro version he had been masked as. This affects Jimmy's brain as well as his appearance, and he goes through the next few pages of the story driving Perry White up the wall as he writes articles about completely un-newsworthy events.  Bizarro Jimmy also meets with his fan club, and encourages them to trash his stuff. Superman then brings Jimmy to Bizarro World.  There is already a Bizarro version of the boy there, but the two don't get into any conflict when they meet. 

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We see Bizarro versions of many of Jimmy's friends, and there is even a Bizarro version of the Beatles. Bizarro Luthor tries to cure Jimmy with some altered blue kryptonite, but all this does is restore Jimmy's mind.  That's not such a good thing, as the boy is no longer content and fitting in on Bizarro World with a rational mind. The ending really only works through Bizarro logic.  Bizzaro Jimmy uses the duplicator ray to create a Bizarro Professor Potter, who then builds an imperfect version of the imperfect Bizarro duplicator ray machine, which then turns Jimmy back into a human.  If you didn't completely follow that, be happy.  You are not a Bizarro.

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Jimmy goes Bizarro again, at least in appearance, in issue 87.  The tale opens on Bizarro World, as Bizarro Jimmy Olsen is sent to Earth to get a good scoop for the Daily Htrea. Jimmy tries to help his alternate self by dressing up as a Bizarro and performing at a rock venue.  He does a horrible job, intending to get lots of negative feedback from the audience, which to a Bizarro would be a good thing. But instead, he is a huge hit, and the Bizarro beat is a smash.  Bizarro Jimmy Olsen is forced to return to Bizarro World without a good scoop, and for this is punished with a promotion.

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Jimmy has to go up against the Kandorian Look-Alike Squad in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 83. The story begins as a mysterious bomber threatens the lives of Superman's friends.  To keep them safe, Jimmy contacts the Look-Alike Squad, and has them step in as Lois Lane, Lucy Lane, Perry White, Clark Kent, and Jimmy himself. The double for Perry White is really a traitor, and is working with the Superman Revenge Squad, the ones behind the bomb threat.  It was designed to get Jimmy to bring the Look-Alikes out of Kandor.  Together, the fake Perry and the Revenge Squad try to control Jimmy's mind, to make him expose the other Kandorians to gold kryptonite, and then kill them. Jimmy messes up the plan by including the Perry White double in his attack, which leads the man to confess.  But even this was not really needed, as Jimmy, the Look-Alikes, and even Superman were already on to the scheme, and just playing it out while Superman hunted down the Revenge Squad.

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The third and final Magi and Sandra story appears in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 82. Lucy Lane dresses up as Sandra after getting into a fight with Jimmy.  She does this just to help her remember her romance with Magi.  Jimmy sees Sandra, and immediately gets back into his Magi outfit, and the two have a passionate reunion.  But the problems from the second story come back quickly, and both of them are consumed with guilt about their lies, and fearing rejection if they tell the truth. Jimmy decides he has to end this situation for good, and uses a drowning child as an opportunity to kill off Magi.  It's a bit of a preposterous scene, Magi "drowns" while three men, who could easily reach him, simply don't try. Knowing he will never get Sandra, Jimmy proposes to Lucy. With Magi supposedly dead, Lucy decides there is no point is carrying on as Sandra, and so she accepts.  The two get married, but both regret it even as it happens.

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Then, immediately after the ceremony, Lucy discovers Magi's costume in Jimmy's room.  She confronts him, as well as revealing that she is really Sandra.  After some mutual shoving of wedding cake into the other's face, the pair are also delighted to discover that the justice of the peace who married them had let his licence expire.  They aren't married after all.  But boy are they suited to each other, as both seem to realize and accept in the final panel. 

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Perhaps because of this, Jimmy Olsen and Lucy Lane really head to the altar in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 100. The story opens as Jimmy goes to pick Lucy up from work, and hopes to take her to a Beatles concert that night.  But Lucy is busy making out with one of the airline pilots.  Too bad. Jimmy decides that he needs to be bigger and more aggressive to win Lucy, so he takes the super-strength potion that he had been given by Rona a few years earlier.  He goes to beat up Lucy's date, but the potion wears off and Jimmy gets trounced instead. Still, Lucy is impressed, and agrees to marry Jimmy at long last.  There is a surprising reference to LSD in the story, which perhaps is an allusion to all the bizarre adventures that Jimmy has had over the years. Jimmy travels all the way into the future to announce his wedding, showing up at a meeting of the Legion of Super-Heroes to let Saturn Girl, Duo Damsel and Light Lass (who is shown as Lightning Lass, erroneously) about his forthcoming nuptials. Miss Gzptlsnz views this all from the 5th Dimension, and disguises herself as Supergirl in order to give Lucy a wedding present.  Although we do not know the exact nature of her plot, it's clear that this is designed to ruin things for the couple. Jimmy and Lucy get married, with Lois and Perry White at the wedding, as well as Superman and a robot standing in for Clark Kent.  Superman begins to suffer bizarre transformations every time Lucy and Jimmy kiss. Though they cannot quite figure out the reason for this, the connection is unmistakable, and the pair decide that they have to stay apart for Superman's sake. 

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But Jimmy longs to see Lucy, and uses his Elastic Lad serum just to give her a note and some candy. Miss Gzptlsnz cannot resist gloating, and shows up, revealing how she spiked Lucy's lipstick with red kryptonite, which is causing the changes.  Rona, the 7th Dimensional villain shows up as well, as does another one of Jimmy's old girlfriends.  Even though the kissing problem gets taken care of, Lucy decides that Jimmy has simply too many ex-girlfriends who are likely to cause problems. So the pair decide to have their marriage annulled.  That's really depressing, although neither Lucy nor Jimmy seem particularly upset about the situation.  It also means there is little reason to ever have Jimmy go out with, or pursue, Lucy Lane again, and indeed their relationship peters out after this. There is some fun stuff in the story, and it’s a suitable anniversary issue, but the ending just doesn't play right.


Jimmy Olsen continues in the next period, 1967 – 1970: It’s a Happening!

Jimmy Olsen: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 77 – 111 (June 1964 - July 1967)

Next up – Martian Manhunter!

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Last Updated: January 4, 2020 - 21:47

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