I remember this issue of SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN as being pretty good, even though it’s been likely decades since I last read it. It headlined another Imaginary Story, editor Mort Weisinger’s way of allowing his writers to work outside of the confines of the tight continuity that he’d established across all of the Superman titles. Imaginary Stories allowed for characters to marry, die, procreate and to finish out their stories in some hopefully surprising fashion, without upsetting the apple cart that was the larger Superman line. These stories became so prevalent in such a short period of time that other companies began to make reference to them (“Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary tale!”) when they were promising big developments in their own efforts. But they still remained among the most fun and memorable Superman stories published in this time period.
The cover story was written by the Man of Steel’s creator Jerry Siegel during the brief period of a couple of years where he was back working under the tyrannical Weisinger. But this only lasted until Siegel made moves to reclaim the rights to Superman when the strip’s copyright renewal period was up, and once he’d done so, he was once again tossed out on his ear. The artwork was by Kurt Schaffenberger, whose cartoony and open style was a wonderful match with this sort of story. His version of Superman always contained just a hint of Captain Marvel, and no wonder–Schaffenberger had drawn the Big Red Cheese’s adventures before publisher Fawcett left the business and he migrated to DC/National.
It’s only a short 9 pages, which seems truncated for a typical Imaginary Story. In it, in the future, Jimmy Olsen’s astronaut son falls in love with the daughter of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Lola Kent, who is secretly Supermaid. But Lola’s parents forbid the pair from marrying due to the typical concerns about how Supermaid’s enemies could strike at her through her loved ones. Ultimately, using a special herb he discovered on a spacewalk, Jimmy Jr. is able to concoct a serum that gives himself as well as Lois Lane and super-powers, making his elopement with Lola possible. So everybody is happy, and Superman reveals all of their secrets to the world. but he’s acted rashly, as in the final few panels, an unseen Luthor releases a gas that neutralizes Jimmy Jr.’s super-power formula–so now the world knows he’s Supermaid’s husband and he’s got no super-powers to protect himself. Whoops!
We’ve run this house ad previously, but as it falls at this point in this issue, why not show it again, as it’s pretty compelling. SECRET ORIGINS in particular was the wish-fulfillment of a lot of readers who came on the scene later, after many of the new DC revivals had been started. You got a ton of cool origin content for just a quarter here.
The second of three Jimmy adventures in this issue was also written by Jerry Siegel, but this one was illustrated by John Forte. Forte was one of the journeymen of the Weisinger office, an artist he used for years whose work wasn’t especially dynamic or fluid. What is was, though, was clear–like looking at diagrams or a schematic. As Weisinger was slanting his output to be understandable to the very youngest readers, that clarity above all else was a must, and so Forte was a regular contributor to the line. In this story, Jimmy finds that he has become a bad luck jinx after encountering a strange trinket while in Smallville investigating a story.
The trinket turns out to be a part of the spaceship that carried Kal-El from doomed Krypton to Earth. It was designed to safeguard the ship by repelling ino-concentrated meteors away from it. And every instance of Jimmy’s jinx has involved iron being repelled from his area. After Superman works this out and explains the cause of his problems to Jimmy, the Man of Steel carries away the trinket and presents it to U.S. President John F. Kennedy so that it may be used in national defense. It’s a really weird end beat for this story, but Weisinger was a big Kennedy booster and he featured the popular and photogenic President and his family on a regular basis until the Chief Executive’s unfortunate assassination.
Next up was the Jimmy Olsen’s Pen Pals letters page where the readers could share their opinions of Jimmy’s latest adventures and stories. You can see how much of an influence the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television program was having by the very first question. More than anything, it was that series that made Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane household names and gave them the popularity to win their own series. For much of the 1960s, SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN, like the other Superman titles, was a top-seller, easily outperforming the entire Marvel line and pretty much everything put out in the other DC editorial offices as well. Such was the power of television.
And there’s no way we can pass up another Coming Super-Attractions house ad, in which Mort pimped the other books he was then releasing. As usual, these were heavily weighted towards concept rather than visuals. Mr Mxyzptlk returns! Brainiac returns! Supergirl teams up with Luthor! The Bizarros do more stupid things! There was an assuring sameness to these titles–they were always familiar even as they teased with the promise of all-new wonders.
The final story in this issue was written by Robert Bernstein and illustrated by Al Plastino, another of Weisinger’s journeyman artists. It’s a celebrity guest-star extravaganza as jimmy winds up dating the most eligible women in the world as part of an effort to make his sometimes-girlfriend Lucy Lane jealous. So we see Jimmy in this story in the arms of Marilyn Monroe, Tuesday Weld, Gina Lollabrigida (who turns away Rock Hudson to be with Jimmy), Brigette Bardot and Jayne Mansfield.
Of course, it turns out that these aren’t the actual starlets but rather members of the Metropolis Look-Alike Club, who have gone along with Jimmy in this effort to dazzle Lucy in exchange for a write-up in the Daily Planet. And of course, the scheme comes to light before it can reach fruition–so the story ends with Lucy pissed off at Jimmy again, and Jimmy even more on the outs with her than he was at the tale’s beginning.