WC: SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #54

This issue of SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN was another book that came to me as part of that Windfall Comics purchase of 1988, where I ran into a guy at my local post office who sold me a box of 150 silver age comics for fifty bucks. There were more Superman family books in that box than anything else, in large part I expect because these titles were only of limited interest to collectors in the late 1980s. Their greater age and scarcity has made them of greater value today, and their merits are a bit better appreciated in a historical context than they might have been back them (although it must be said, fan cartoonist Fred Hembeck was never shy about his continuing fondness for these books and their childish approach to storytelling.)

This was just another random issue of the cub reporter’s ongoing title, containing three short Jimmy Olsen adventures. But if anything raises it up above the level of an average release in this tit;e’s run, it’s the presence of artist Curt Swan. When this book was released, Swan was in the process of segueing over to being the main Superman artist, replacing Wayne Boring who had fulfilled that role for more than a decade, and whose style to then-modern eyes appeared a little bit quaint.Swan’s work defined the Man of Steel for two and a half decades, and his clean lines and elegant compositions fit in perfectly with the ethos of editor Mort Weisinger, who directed that each story should function almost like a storybook, with every possible event and action described to the audience in such a way that even the youngest readers could connect with what was going on. Mort’s comics weren’t especially action-oriented as a result, but they had an emotional depth that was quite hypnotic for a seven-year-old.

The opening story was written by Robert Bernstein, and it concerns Jimmy’s efforts to win $5000.00 for charity from a crooked wrestling promoter by donning his Elastic Lad costume and taking a swig of Professor Potter’s elastic serum. Most of the story concerns the amusing visual ways in which Elastic Lad is able to overcome his many opponents during the hour he must remain undefeated in the ring. In the end, the bad guy swipes Jimmy’s elastic drink and gives it to Olsen’s final opponent, the wrestler known as the Ugly Superman (they needed to get some more Superman content into this story somehow.) Despite now having no powers of his own any longer, Jimmy is able to triumph over ths final antagonist and win the charity money thanks to an inadvertent assist from Superman, of course. It’s a by-the-numbers tale, but it’s plenty of fun.

Pretty sure I’ve posted this Ira Schnapp ad for a pair of upcoming DC Annuals before with some other contemporaneous comic book, but it’s too good not to showcase again. In particular, that first SECRET ORIGINS Annual was a much-desired publication by fans of the Silver Age era, containing a number of key stories.

And as long as we’re here, here are three more Coming Super-Attractions, the 1/3 page house ads that Mort would use to pimp out his other upcoming releases. The remainder of the page features one of Herny Boltinoff’s gag cartoons, which were a regular feature in much of the DC line for many, many years. As usual, Weisinger relies on story hooks to attract young customers: young Lois Lane battles Lana Lang in Smallville! Perry White becomes the super-powered Masterman! A Bizarro Mxyzptlk! What kid could resist?

The book’s second story was also written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Curt Swan. It’s a wild story with an unbelievable explanation, one that stretches credulity to the very breaking point. In it, Superman’s imp nemesis returns to the 3-Dimensional world after his 90 day exile back to the 5th Dimension is up, intend on bedeviling the Man of Steel. But his hat blows off, and winds up accidentally in the possession of Jimmy Olsen. Donning it, Jimmy discovers that the hat is magical and grants his every wish! Of course, Jimmy is quick to wish for super-powers like those possessed by Superman–but without any vulnerability to green kryptonite in the bargain. As Jimmy tests his new flying power, he flies so fast that the friction burns away the hat, preventing him from making any further wishes. (Jimmy’s own clothes are unaffected because he conveniently wished that his clothing would become friction-proof. As he was wearing the hat at this point, it feels like a cheat that it wasn’t affected by the same wish–but moving on.)

It’s a good thing that Jimmy now has super-powers as it turns out, as he soon spots Professor Lang being menaced by some giant ants that he’s discovered. The ants are malevolent, but Jimmy’s powers give him teh upper hand–until the ant leader reveals that they’ve got Superman a prisoner, held under the influence of kryptonite. The ants force Jimmy to lead their attack on civilization, which he does, until he’s able to make a break for it and rescue his pal. But at a crucial moment, Jimmy’s super-powers wish wears off, and he’s hypnotized by the ant leader to serve him. Jimmy instructs the ant that he is riding to bring the kryptonite closer to Superman, as he’s doing on the cover of the issue, finishing the Man of Steel off. And that’s when one of Superman’s robots wakes Jimmy up. Yes, much of this has been a dream sequence–but not just any dream. You see, Mxyzptlk had secreted some Red Kryptonite within his hat band, and so when Jimmy gained his super-powers, while he wished that Green-K wouldn’t affect him, he said nothing about Red-K. And the way the strange substance affected Jimmy was to cause him to black out and have these vivid hallucinations. Superman sent a robot to roust Jimmy because he himself would be vulnerable to the Red-K. Yeah, it’s a tremendous cop-out, but far from the worst transgression of this sort that Mort’s books would engage in.

Letters page! All of these letter writers certainly sound as though they’re relatively young, for all that Mort may have cleaned up some of their spelling and grammar in order to publish their missives.

And this Ira Schnapp ad for the first BATMAN ANNUAL tops off another filler comedy strip by Henry Boltinoff. This one’s a reprint, as it turns out, having first appeared a decade earlier in THE ADVENTURES OF ALAN LADD #9 in 1951.

The author of the final story in this issue is uncertain, but it was once again drawn by Curt Swan. And it continues Weisinger’s strange interest in having his characters transformed back into babies. Seriously, I don’t know what it was all about, but if you were a character in the Superman titles, you could expect yourself to be de-aged back to toddlerhood, likely several times. There must have been something to this idea that caused readers to react well to it, because Mort id it again and again, regardless of the series. It all starts with Jimmy becoming aware that his would-be girlfriend Lucy Lane prefers older men. That’s no problem for Jimmy, who has some of Professor Potter’s aging serum left over from an earlier adventure. Unfortunately, the serum has gone bad, and de-ages Jimmy into a child.

Hoping that Lois Lane has access to an antidote since she wrote up the story about the previous use of the serum, Jimmy heads over to the apartment Lois shares with her sister Lucy. And hilarity ensues, as the pair assume that the now-child Jimmy was teh victim of a kidnapping. What’s more, Lucy’s older beau turns out to be a criminal in disguise, and he winds up abducting Olsen for real. Fortunately, Jimmy is able to flag down Superman with his playsuit’s cape, and the Man of Steel obligingly not only doesn’t scold him for his misuse of the serum, but uses his powers to make it appear that Jimmy is super-powered and has become a baby to locate and take down the criminal. What a pal! Of course, none of this really makes much sense outside of teh wacky world of Weisinger, but again, it was all done in an entertaining and daffy fashion.

4 thoughts on “WC: SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #54

  1. Note in the first page, Jimmy is seeing Clark up close without his glasses, and there’s no you-look-like-Superman element. The third panel, where Clark is thrown, is nice in terms of him looking un-Superman-like via posture and badly-fitting suit. It helps show that the disguise isn’t just the glasses, but body language and overall clothing.

    The hat story was obviously written to justify the cover. But I’m undecided if all the plot contrivances take it to a level of being entertaining via sheer audacity, for distracting from an ending of “it was all a dream” (well, mostly a dream). I would have thought Mxy had some way of keeping his hat on his head while flying around – this can’t be his first windy day. And I don’t think it’s ever been a magic hat elsewhere. Plus if the hat contains important stuff, he should be able to just magic it back to him. Mxy trying to affect Superman with red K also feels wrong – he doesn’t have any need for it, and that’s not his style.

    I hope Jimmy and the robot have some sort of way to decontaminate the room where they just dumped all that red K powder onto the floor. You’d think the robot would put the contaminated hat into a lead box and then throw it all into the Sun, rather than creating more of a hazardous waste area.

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  2. I’ve read often in your blog about the guy at the local post office who sold you a box of 150 silver age comics for fifty bucks. Just wondering – did you ever bump into him again? I could picture him nabbing you the next time at the post office, saying “Listen, about those comics – I think I’ve made a mistake…”

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  3. The Ugly Superman story was reprinted later but for some reason expanded with some added panels and more wrestlers.
    There’s also another Ugly Superman who appeared in Lois Lane a couple of years earlier. As he got plastic surgery, I assume this is a separate wrestler. Another example of Weisinger recycling tropes that sell, I presume.

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