Here’s another issue of SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN that I got as part of my Windfall Comics purchase of 1988, where I bought a box of around 150 Silver Age comics from a guy I met at my local Post Office for the measly sum of just $50.00. There were proportionately more Mort Weisinger Superman titles in that box than anything else, as those books were largely considered worthless by collectors at the time. Nowadays, they’re appreciated a bit more, and looked back upon with some nostalgic fondness. In the 1980s, though, fans were embarrassed by these books as often as not. They wanted darker, more serious super hero stories, ones that woudn’t get them laughed at.
More than anything, it was the 1950s ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television show that made it possible for Jimmy Olsen to headline in his own comic book. While he’d been popular since the 1940s when he was introduced on the Superman radio program, it was the regular exposure to Jack Larson’s portrayal of the character that cemented him in the minds of young readers. It’s also worth pointing out that SUPERMAN’S PALL JIMMY OLSEN, like all of the Superman titles, was a top seller, easily outpacing all material that is considered superior for most of the decade. Jimmy may seem to be an odd subject to carry his own magazine, but audiences were ready for more Superman and liked the character from his media exposure.
In the style of the period, this issue of SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN contains three short stories, The first is written by the Man of Steel’s creator Jerry Siegel and drawn by John Forte. In it, Jimmy makes a series of mistakes while visiting the Smallville chapter of his fan club that Superman gets pissed off at him and dissolves their friendship. But of course, there’s something more going on behind-the-scenes, something complex and impractical. In this case, it’s that the so-called fans were really plants, part of the Superman Revenge Squad who are attempting to strike at the Man of Tomorrow through his friendship with Jimmy by causing those blunders to happen. But Jimmy is wise to what’s going on from the start, thanks to a ridiculous bit of nonsense; the Superman Revenge Squad’s members for some reason dislike ice, and so when none of the fan club members drink their soft drinks, Jimmy realizes that they are impostors. Sure, that all tracks, right?
House Ad time, this one once again for one of the upcoming DC Annuals, this one dedicated to Batman. Ira Schnapp’s work on these house ads was consistently beautiful.
The identity of the author of the second story in this issue is lost to the passing of time, but it was illustrated by Curt Swan and George Klein, who were the best combination of artists working in the Mort Weisinger editorial office during this period. Swan always did great work on Superman, but his softer, more Norman Rockwell approach really fit the ethos of Jimmy Olsen stories well. And he didn’t have a better inker during this period than Klein. His clean, diagrammatical artwork is a pleasure to look at all throughout this story, and he makes even the most ridiculous plot developments seem plausible in the direct manner in which he depicts them.
The story in this one involves Jimmy being turned into a robot by some Venusians after he’s subjected to rays which will otherwise turn him into stone. Jimmy doesn’t seem especially bothered by his new situation at first, but over the course of the story, he finds himself liking it less and less. But this is, of course, all a hoax concocted by some criminals who intend to use Jimmy to locate Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and then detonate a kryptonite bomb secreted inside Jimmy’s fake robot suit. Jimmy realizes what’s going on when he sees that the controls to the ship that brought him back to Earth from Venus were demarcated in English, so he and Superman get the jump on the bad guys, an all ends well.
Next comes the letters page, Jimmy Olsen’s Pen Pals. Editor Weisinger seems a hair more combative in this one, jousting with readers who attempt to point out seeming mistakes in earlier stories.
But it’s the third story in this issue that is something special. Like the second one, its writer is uncertain but again this one was illustrated by Curt Swan and George Klein. In it, on the important date of June 13, Jimmy begins a quest to locate Silver Kryptonite, a new form of Kryptonite never before mentioned. Kryptonite was like a magic charm in the Superman titles–while the green version was deadly to the Man of Steel, other varieties produced an array of different effects. So the introduction of a new type of Kryptonite would have enticed the readers of the book no doubt. After everybody tells Jimmy that Silver Kryptonite doesn’t exist, he begins gathering up silver objects to deliver to Professor Potter’s laboratory, where the scientist is experimenting with Silver Kryptonite.
Superman is, of course, concerned that Jimmy and Potter are working on something that can harm him, but despite his best efforts, he can’t get any information about just what the mythical Silver Kryptonite is. And that’s because the entire thing is–you guessed it–a hoax perpetrated by Jimmy. The characters in Mort’s books never did anything in a straightforward manner if the same thing could be accomplished through a hoax. In this case, it’s all been a cover to keep Superman from finding out about a silver statue that is being made to commemorate the 25th year since he arrived in Metropolis and became the city’s protector. Of course, this doesn’t really work in-world at all, given that Superman’s age has consistently been given as 29. But this issue was published on the 25th anniversary of Superman’s first appearance in ACTION COMICS #1, and so it was a celebration of the character and his history more than his adventures in his fictional world.
9 thoughts on “WC: SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #70”
As corny and ridiculous as these issues were it’s amazing that they were that popular. Sad commentary on sixties youth. Of which I am one.
I bought ‘Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen’ from the first issue until it was taken over by Kirby. Jimmy was the first sidekick character that really appealed to me. It was because Jimmy was a good guy who volunteered his time to help others — mostly poor kids, orphans or with some kind of health issues. Jimmy did less of it in the TV show, but on radi and in the comics it was frequently featured
On TV, I thought Perry’s obvious affection for the boy came because Jimmy was an orphan who talked his way into a copy boy job. It isn’t every editor who would take a junior répéter/photographer on a fgishing trip. Listening to the radio shows, I found out that Jimmy’s mother raised him alone. So, only half an orphan.
But when was the notion that SUPERMAN is 29 actually first asserted? I think that may actually not be a thing until the ‘70s (if E. Nelson Bridwell were here, he could tell us!) it’s my contention that Weisinger had no interest in (nor possibly even awareness of) Schwartz’s parallel-world scheme, and considered the guy who debuted in 1938 to be the exact same guy who was there in 1968. Consider his appearance, which is definitely that of a well-preserved middle-aged man. I also note that Superboy remained in the same early ’30s timeframe until almost the end of Weisinger’s tenure. And Lois’ desperate and eccentric antics seem less odd if you are looking at her as an aging spinster who has in fact been strung along for decades. Jimmy is a strange figure, of an age and social status that is hard to parse, but consider him as a man child like Dennis Day’s character on THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM and see if that doesn’t track. But he’s certainly older than Kirby’s Olsen, who is himself seemingly older than the “Mr. Action” ‘70s Jimmy. Personally, I like all three!
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I wish I could be more specific, but I DO seem to recall that at some point in the 1960s Superman’s age of 29 was mentioned in a comic. I seem to recall it as not being in a story, but more in an informational profile (like maybe in an annual?).
I think that up to the eighties or late seventies, Superman was perceived closer to his 40s than 30s. He started to slowly de-age from the Bates/Maggin era. You get a lot of clues about him being a 40-something in silver age stories and over-35 in bronze age. Mort and his writers surely can do the math here, so I think that Supes being 45 as many mainstay actors of the era (Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck…) was not perceived as “old”. Swanderson Supes in 1970 looks quite mature, and If you read the miniseries “Superman 2020”, Kal-El was drawn as a very old guy, making him way into his forties in 1980. They later retconned this, but clearly Swan was OK in considering the big guy much older than 30.
I remember having this book when I was a kid. I also had the Batman annual that was advertised here. If only I still had those books!
“Superman Revenge Squad’s members for some reason dislike ice, and so when none of the fan club members drink their soft drinks, Jimmy realizes that they are impostors.”
So they’re British?
The Batman Annual house ad (and most of the cover lettering) looks like the work of Gaspar Saladino to me, as well as the Superboy Giant groovy-looking house ad a couple posts ago.
“Jimmy realizes what’s going on when he sees that the controls to the ship that brought him back to Earth from Venus were demarcated in English, so he and Superman get the jump on the bad guys, an all ends well.”
Okay, so it’s official, even wacky Jimmy Olsen from the Silver Age is quicker on the uptake than Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.