It’s maybe difficult to believe looking back on events from fifty years on, but the title above was one of the best-selling series of the 1960s. It handily outsold even the most popular Marvel books by far, and left more storied titles such as JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and GREEN LANTERN in the dust. Such was the overwhelming popularity of Superman in that time, and the omnipresence of the 1950s live action ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN show in syndication. Because of it, every kid knew who Jimmy Olsen was, and so they turned out to buy his comic book title in droves every month. It probably didn’t hurt things that editor Mort Weisinger kept his stories simple and almost diagrammatical, laid out in such a way and pitched at such a basic emotional level that even the youngest of readers could follow and understand them on an emotional level.
As was customary for Mort’s Superman books during this period, this particular issue carries three short Jimmy adventures, all between 8 and 9 pages in length. But Mort and his team could cram a lot of story into a mere 8 pages when they wanted to. In the opening story, written by Leo Dorfman and illustrated by the wooden John Forte, Jimmy gets a hold of information that indicates that Metropolis prison inmate #313 is actually his long-lost father, a criminal known as “The Brain.” Mark Olsen is ashamed of what this revelation will do to his son, and so he refuses to see Jimmy–a fact that just makes the Planet reporter work harder to get in and see him.
Of course, this all turns out to be a ruse. The Brain isn’t Jimmy’s father at all, but rather an agent for the Anti-Superman Gang. He gives Jimmy the location where the missing loot from his last robbery is buried, knowing that Olsen will call in Superman to come dig it up. But it’s really a buried box of kryptonite, and the Man of Steel and Jimmy are both caught in a lethal trap. But earlier,. Jimmy had saved the Brain’s life, and now he reciprocates, turning on his fellow criminals and giving his life to save the boy who isn’t his own son. A blurb at the end promises that the story of Jimmy’s genuine father will be told in a forthcoming issue.
The second story was a step up, at least in terms of the artistic size of the equation. It was illustrated by the Superman A-team of Curt Swan and George Klein, and written by Superman’s co-creator Jerry Siegel. The story’s a bit of a pot-boiler in which Jimmy is given the assignment by editor Perry White to do a feature on Mysteries of the Sea. Accordingly, the cub reporter attempts to solve the historic mystery of the Mary Celeste, a ship whose crew completely vanished during its voyage. Jimmy attempts to duplicate the conditions under which the original Mary Celeste sailed in an attempt to find out what happened to its manifest.
Unfortunately, the crew Jimmy mans his boat with turn out to be criminals who are looking to get out of the country before the FBI can locate them, and they soon overpower young Olsen. But at a certain point, they too all vanish, baffling Jimmy. It’s all part of their plan to escape the authorities and assume new identities, but Jimmy is able to see through their ruse and expose it. And Superman shows up to prevent the Mary Celeste II from being destroyed by a strange sea creature–said creature purportedly being responsible for carrying off the crew of the Mary Celeste years earlier, just as here it winds up grabbing and killing the criminals who were menacing Jimmy. Neither he nor Superman seem too worried about this loss of life, though.
The letters page, Jimmy Olsen’s Pen Pals, came next, and it was still focusing heavily on the younger end of the comic book readership. Most of the anonymous editorial responses are relatively playful, but with a bit of a bite underneath them. This wasn’t quite the warm and inviting circus of the Marvel letters pages.
The third and final spot was where Mort tended to run the stories on which he’d based his covers (or vice versa, as often the cover might be produced first and then a story written around it.) Possibly, his thinking was to force readers to read through the other two stories before their curiosity concerning the cover scenario could be answered. This story is also by Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan and George Klein, and it’s all about Supergirl getting a glimpse of Jimmy Olsen’s impending death after exposure to Red Kryptonite and her efforts to try to prevent this from coming to pass.
To make matters worse, the Red Kryptonite has taken away all of Supergirl’s powers except when she is in her Linda Lee guise. But she’s got a brainstorm: she’ll join the Daily Planet as a reporter and then get Jimmy fired. That way, he can’t be killed when the Planet helicopter crashes. Fr a Mort Weisinger story, this is actually a somewhat-reasonable plan. And she succeeds at it after a few false starts–only to discover that it was really criminal Marty Blake who resembles Jimmy who was killed in the Helicopter crash. Because just like the past, the future can’t be changed by the super-family either. Ultimately, of course, Jimmy ends up back on the Planet staff, and all’s well that ends well. Unless you happen to be Marty Blake, about whom nobody seems to really care.
One thought on “WC: SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #75”
Lot of cavalier loss of criminal life in this issue…