Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen is getting a revival, and while Lois Lane’s new book looks to take a more serious stance for the character, all indications are that Jimmy Olsen will be back to the kind of over the top silliness that defined his classic series.
I am not going to do another comprehensive overview of Jimmy Olsen’s adventures, the way I did with Lois Lane. Instead, I am going to do a shorter and more selective piece, looking at some of the weirdest transformation stories from the old series.
Jimmy’s transformations were of two types. He became a master of disguise, and in many stories willingly took on other identities. But there were also a lot of tales in which he underwent physical alterations, not always voluntarily.
This trend can be found right in the very first issue of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. 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. 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.
The most important of Jimmy’s transformations, or at least the most recurring, saw him take on the heroic identity of Elastic Lad. This took place for the first time in issue 31. Superman brings Jimmy a box he found floating aimlessly in space, and then flies off. Jimmy examines the contents, and fears that a green fluid might be liquid kryptonite. Trying to dispose of it, Jimmy just winds up breaking it and getting doused. The fluid winds up endowing Jimmy with the ability to stretch his body. This story pre-dates both the introduction of the Elongated Man, and when DC began to publish Plastic Man. They may not even have purchased Plastic Man from Quality Comics at this time, although it's not too long before they began to publish their books. Jimmy adopts the name Elastic Lad, but his costume is green, rather than the later purple one. He joins a freak show, but winds up falling into the hands of a criminal who pretends to be a scientist. He and his men trick Jimmy into helping them spy on the D.A., rob a bank and break into a vault. The crimes get Superman onto the case, and though there is kryptonite in the vault, Jimmy is able to use his stretching powers to overcome the bad guy. His powers wear off, which is blamed on kryptonite radiation, for no logical reason.
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 37 brings back the Elastic Lad identity, and introduces the purple costume. This time it's Professor Potter who creates the formula, which Lois mistakes for a soft drink. Both Jimmy and Clark drink it, and though Jimmy gets his Elastic Lad powers back, Clark does not gain them. This makes Lois very suspicious. Jimmy has a bit more fun this time around, using his powers to show off at a baseball game, and then cramming himself into a cannon meant to fire observational equipment to the Moon. He doesn't actually make it off planet, but he does get covered in green paint, and mistaken for an alien invader. Jimmy manages to elude his pursuers before the serum wears off. Clark resorts to using a curved mirror to create the illusion that he has gained stretching powers. It doesn't look very good, but I have to credit the artists with making it look like a mirror effect, rather than making it look perfect.
In Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 46 Jimmy takes another dose of Professor Potter's serum in order to entertain his fan club with tales of his adventures as Elastic Lad. Jimmy is so confident in his Elastic Lad abilities that he winds up in danger a few times, and Superman has to secretly intervene to keep him safe. The story kind of jumps from one thing to another. The last part of the tale has Jimmy spot a wanted man, and go into action to try to catch him. Superman keeps an eye on Jimmy, but is impressed with his resourcefulness as he corners the mobster and his gang. But then the powers wear off. Superman is about to step in to save Jimmy, but the boy's fan club show up, and help bring the bad guys down, simply by cycling into the mob and knocking them down.
In issue 54, discovering that a wrestling promoter is fixing the matches, Jimmy takes his Elastic Lad serum and enters the ring, accepting the standing challenge to all comers. The story is pretty light on plot, consisting largely of dynamic visuals as Elastic Lad wrestles guys in crazy costumes. The Ugly Superman, a professional wrestler who had appeared a couple of years earlier in the pages of Lois Lane's book, is in for the final match, and takes the Elastic Lad serum himself. Jimmy calls on Superman to help him against a more experienced and equally powered opponent.
Jimmy gets the opportunity to learn Superman's identity in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 62, as Jimmy inhales the fumes of a bottle that has lost its label, and winds up turning into Elastic Lad again. The first few pages are played for comedy, with some wonderful visuals as Jimmy goes off to fight crime in his stretchy identity. Then he spots a hole in the sky, and finds that it is a tear that leads into the Phantom Zone. Entering it, he is able to spy on Perry White, who does the dishes, contrary to gender norms from the time. Jimmy also checks on Lucy Lane, and finds that she holds him in higher regard than she claims. A nice touch. But then the Phantom Zone villains Jax-Ur, Dr. Xadu and Professor Vakox show up. They coax Jimmy into following Superman, and using his time in the Phantom Zone to learn Superman's real identity. Mon-El also pops up, pleading with Jimmy not to. When the critical moment comes, Jimmy closes his eyes and refuses to look. Coming back to the real world, Jimmy makes an impassioned speech about the importance of Superman keeping his identity a secret, and really bitches out Lois Lane. As Clark Kent, Superman pretends to take Lois's snoopy point of view, but is really impressed with Jimmy's loyalty. The story does weave a bit, but it's a good one.
Jimmy took on other forms as well. In Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 44 Jimmy turns into a werewolf. Superman drops off a box of magical items with Jimmy. By this point, I am fairly certain that Superman fully expected Jimmy to drink the magic potion inside the box, which is exactly what he does. Just as it said it would, the potion turns Jimmy into a werewolf, and he changes form during a full moon, but back to normal during the day. Lucy Lane has a large role in this story, as Jimmy has to keep making excuses for his werewolf face, so that she will not suspect what has really happened. The only thing that will lift the curse is a kiss from a beautiful woman. Jimmy tries to get Lucy to kiss him, but she will not as long as he is "wearing" his wolfman mask. Jimmy even resorts to offering to pay random women to kiss him, but this fails as well. Superman gets involved, and arranges for Jimmy to get a kiss from "Miss X," who is really Supergirl, still unknown to the world.
In issue 49 Jimmy downs a serum created by Professor Potter, intended to make farm animals larger. I'm not sure it would actually have worked that way, as it just makes Jimmy grotesquely fat. There are a few different threads going on in this tale. As the cover implies, there is a visiting Maharajah whose life was saved by Jimmy, and who promises his weight in gems. But there is also a plot about jewel smugglers trying to take advantage of this situation. Mixed up with that is a Lucy Lane plot, as Jimmy tries to prevent Lucy from seeing him all fat. He gets into a Santa Claus disguise to avoid her, but she spots him at a carnival fighting with a fat woman, who thinks Jimmy is after her husband's job.
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 53 contains the infamous Giant Turtle Boy tale. Jimmy finds a chest washed up on a beach, and discovers an enlarging ray inside. Playing around with it, he enlarges a turtle, but also himself at the same time, which turns him into a giant, mute, destructive turtle boy, and so he goes on a rampage, as giant mute turtle boys tend to. He attacks ships and bridges, stuffing bits of them into a volcano. Typical giant mute turtle boy stuff. At the very end of the story, both Superman and Lori Lemaris get involved. Lori explains to Superman that an Atlantean villain, Goxo, had been manipulating the situation all along, telepathically controlling Jimmy. Superman uses Brainiac's shrink ray to restore Jimmy to normal, while Goxo is left to Lori and the Atlanteans.
In Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 65 Mr. Mxyzptlk rejects a marriage proposal from Miss Gzptlsnz. She then to Earth and proposes to Jimmy. He turns her down politely, but she overhears him talk to Superman about how awful she is. She uses her magic to turn Jimmy into the first animal he meets, which happens to be a porcupine. Miss Gzptlsnz refuses to change Jimmy back to normal until he accepts her proposal, so Jimmy is forced to pretend to fall in love with her. Of course, he also has a scene with Lucy Lane, just so that she can get all upset at his porcupine self. At the end, Jimmy gets a tattoo proclaiming his love, but spelling her name backwards. As with all 5th Dimensional beings, this causes the imp to return to her home dimensions, and removes the effects of her magic.
And now I can turn to the ultimate, the most iconic Jimmy Olsen tale from the period, the classic tale The World of Doomed Olsens, from Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 72. The story opens as Jimmy entertains one of the chapters of his fan club by showing off his various changes, taking the serums that turn him into Elastic Lad and the werewolf. But then a mysterious man, the Collector, shows up and kidnaps Jimmy, taking him to a far off planet. There, Jimmy is confronted and mildly attacked by alternate versions of himself, including Elastic Lad and the werewolf, as well as his fat self, the human porcupine, and giant turtle boy. Jimmy convinces his alternate selves that they should be working with him, rather than against him, and they turn on the Collector, who starts to make them melt into the ground. Superman flies by, and Jimmy begs for help, but Superman uncharacteristically doesn't seem to care.
After Jimmy throws a microphone at the Collector, who flinches, Jimmy suddenly realizes what is going on, and who everyone is. They are all members of the Legion of Super-Heroes. giant turtle boy is Colossal Boy, fat Jimmy is Bouncing Boy, Cosmic Boy used his powers to control the spines of the human porcupine, and Chameleon Boy and his pet Proty II were Elastic Lad and the werewolf. The Collector is really Mon-El, who clinched because the microphone has lead in it. Superman was part of this whole scam, which was really an initiation ceremony, as Jimmy gets inducted as an honourary member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Jimmy has an adventure with the Legion of Super-Heroes in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 76, which opens with a disastrous date between Jimmy and Lucy Lane. Ultra Boy and Sun Boy show up to bring Jimmy to the future, explaining that he has to take part in some Legion activities to maintain his honourary membership. Jimmy leaves with them, allowing Lucy to watch his adventures in the future with a special monitor. As they guys head off on a mission, Jimmy spends his time on Earth, working with Duo Damsel, Lightning Lass and Saturn Girl in succession. Jimmy takes his Elastic Lad serum, and stops a fleeing criminal, helps prevent a monorail crash, and joins in rounding up some escaped animals. In each case, the woman he is working with goes nuts over him, and he spends as much time fending off their advances. The three even wind up in a catfight over him. When Jimmy's powers wear off, the boys take him back to his own time, and we discover that the romance stuff was all a fake, designed to make Lucy jealous. But Lucy didn't watch any of. She just took a nap. So she is no more impressed with Jimmy than she was at the top of the story.
In issue 94 which Jimmy gets to use Lana Lang's Insect Queen ring. 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.
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 Luthor 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.
Jimmy Olsen and Robin had become a team unto themselves in the pages of World’s Finest Comics. So it’s not too surprising that Jimmy would try to adopt his partner’s identity in his own book. There are two tales about this, the first in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 111. Jimmy Olsen tries to join Mystery Analysts of Gotham City, but gets rejected and storms out. 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.
The second time is in issue 130. After Robin beats Jimmy out in a competition for the Young Man of the Year award, Jimmy convinces Robin to let him impersonate him again, this time in Metropolis, to show that he is Robin's equal. Robin is much more reluctant to agree this time, probably because Batman wouldn't be around in case Jimmy got into trouble. The city is being plagued by thefts committed by the Mercury Gang, and Jimmy does his best as Robin to stop them. His best is not terribly impressive, although he does pick up on the phony newspaper men by their misuse of newspaper jargon. But he gives the game away when he runs into Clark Kent. Robin knows Clark is Superman, but Jimmy doesn't, and so Superman picks up on Jimmy's deception. Good thing that he does, as he winds up saving Jimmy's life from the gang. But then the two work together to take down the rest of the gang, and Superman tells Jimmy that he may not be Robin, but he is the Boy Wonder's equal in determination. Awww.
Jimmy Olsen actually becomes a Bizarro, as opposed to having a Bizarro version of himself created, in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen 80. The story 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. 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.
I have already referred to the crazy romance between Jimmy and Lucy Lane, Lois’ little sister. Like Superman and Lois, they are severely dysfunctional, but made for each other. My favourite stories of theirs from this period appear over three issues, beginning in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen 74. Jimmy is on the hunt for a notorious jewel thief, and adopts the disguise of Magi the Magnificent, a stage magician, in order to pursue the man. Meanwhile, Lucy Lane is sent undercover to check on passenger service on the airline. She pretends to be an actress, Sandra Rogers. The two wind up meeting, and neither recognizes who the other truly is. It's like Shakespeare! Both find their new companion much more interesting and enticing than the one they are used to. At one point, the plane gets grounded, and the two rush off, only to meet up again as themselves at a costume party. For double the fun, the costumes they wear are inspired by the disguises the other one wore. Did that sentence make sense? It's all a lot of comedic craziness, but the two go through the entire story without ever figuring out who each other really is. Superman catches the jewel thief, because Jimmy is far too busy pursuing Sandra.
Magi and Sandra return in issue 78. Lucy Lane gets sent out to go undercover again, and decides to dress up as Sandra once more. Jimmy spots Sandra, and immediately rushes to become Magi the Magnificent again. They are both thrilled to see each other, and resume their big romance. But this time, internal doubts begin to gnaw at both of them, about the lies they are telling. As well, the more time they spend together, the more difficult it becomes to keep up the charades. There is a criminal in the story, who Jimmy alerts without using his signal watch, but that is really insignificant. Both Jimmy and Lucy want to stop the lies and reveal their true identities, but both are certain that this will cause the other one to reject them. So they each make excuses, and end their romance as the story comes to a close.
The Magi/Sandra saga concludes with an exceptionally strong finale 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. 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 license 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.