Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Jimmy Olsen


By Deejay Dayton
Nov 18, 2016 - 7:45

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Long time supporting character Jimmy Olsen gained his own book during the period 1952 – 1955: We Don’t Need Another Hero, although apparently this had more to do with the popularity of Jack Larson, who played the sidekick on the tv show The Adventures of Superman, than with the cub reporter himself.  Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen debuted towards the end of the period, in 1954. Although this series would come to be noted for the bizarre adventures it contained, it began in a much more straightforward way, examining Jimmy's life as a reporter.  These first few issues give little hint as to where the series would go.

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The debut story is all about the various disguises that Jimmy uses when on the trail of a hot lead. Three new elements are added to Jimmy's world in this story, one of which would be of major significance.  He gets a helicopter, the Flying Newsroom, which would appear in many stories, and its pilot, Jumbo Jones, would serve, for a while, as a sort of sidekick for Jimmy. 

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Vastly more important, this story also introduced Jimmy's signal watch, which he could use to summon Superman with an ultrasonic zeee-zeee-zeee sound. Jimmy is on the trail of some jewel thieves in this story, and, with Superman's help, captures them and finds the stolen loot at the bottom of a lake.

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Only the final story in this first issue really hints at what the series would become. When Superman has to head off to help out at an avalanche, Jimmy decides to impersonate his pal, who was scheduled to appear at a bridge construction site. Jimmy shows an awful lot of ingenuity in the way he covers Superman's various powers, and at first his impersonation works very well. Things take a turn for the worse when his costume gets ripped off. 

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The workers feel very let down, and then the bridge starts to collapse as well.  Superman turns out to be in the crowd, and saves the bridge.  He had made it on time, but was curious to see how Jimmy would pull off his impersonation.  He even cheers Jimmy up at the end, telling him how impressed he is with the lad for trying to help out.

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The lead story in issue 4 is the first one in which Jimmy comes to Superman's aid, rather than the other way around. Jimmy becomes worried when Superman simply vanishes, and is not seen or heard from for days.  Dragging Jumbo Jones around, Jimmy uses the Flying Newsroom to track down Superman's movements before he went missing. He eventually tracks Superman to a ghost town, and finds the hero trapped in an old mine, where criminals used a kryptonite trap on him.  Jimmy frees Superman, saving his life. 

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Superman rounds up the bad guys, but there is yet a more noble deed that Jimmy takes in the story. Instead of allowing the Daily Planet to print the real story of what happened, Jimmy insists that Superman be credited with escaping the trap himself, so that other criminals would not believe it was so easy to kill him.  Even Perry White is left in the dark about Jimmy's rescue, and he mocks the boy for thinking he could help Superman.

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Jumbo Jones makes his final appearance in Jimmy Olsen 5, in a story which sees a new computer, called Scoop, installed at the Daily Planet. The inventor of the computer has also developed some new plastic handcuffs, which he demonstrates on Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  But oops, he forgot the key.  Now Superman is not able to go into action, so he uses his powers to prompt the computer, sending Jimmy out and helping him stop the crimes Superman is unable to.

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It's a fun romp, with a frustrated Clark also aiding the inventor in finding the handcuff key, so he can finally get into action as Superman.  At the end of the story, Lois asks the computer if Superman is Clark Kent. Superman causes the computer to give an indefinite answer, but then tries it himself.  The computer is certain that Clark is not smart enough to be Superman.

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Jimmy does not face any of Superman’s foes as of yet.  The closest he gets is in the final story from issue 5. Jimmy is held captive by a wanted murderer, who plans to use one of Jimmy's Superman souvenirs to help him evade capture. This allows Jimmy to tell a few brief stories of hitherto unknown Superman adventures, explaining the back stories behind the various objects. 

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Luthor's invisibility belt is the final story told by Jimmy, and the one that the bad guy decides to use. But Jimmy had not fully explained the belt.  When Luthor used it, he discovered that, being invisible, light rays did not reach his optic nerves, rendering him blind.  The same thing happens to bad guy, and the police are able to nab him.

Jimmy Olsen continues in the next period, 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age.

Jimmy Olsen: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 1 – 6 (Sept/Oct 54 – July/Aug 55)

Next up – Dawn of the Silver Age!


Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 12:13

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