Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Classics - Jimmy Olsen #106

How popular was Superman in the '50s, '60s and '70s? So much so that even his supporting characters got their own titles.

Surely the strangest example had to be Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen (though perhaps he just barely edges out the comic dedicated to Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane).

The problem was, Jimmy didn't have much in the way of personality. He was plucky and dedicated to his super-friend, but otherwise he was just a cub reporter. To make him interesting and/or entertaining, the creative teams had to really mess with him.

As a result, Jimmy underwent regular transformations into everything from a giant Turtle Man to a Werewolf or a superhero (Elastic Lad) - he even disguised himself as a "beautiful" girl more than once.

It was rarely done in a serious fashion - often Jimmy succeeds despite himself.

For example, in this issue he's summoned to the future (he's an honorary member of the 30th Century team, the Legion of Super-heroes. Why? Beats me). They need his help with an important mission - assembling stories for their newsletter.

So he wanders the city of the future, looking for stories (and failing, despite an array of odd adventures) - but thanks to a silly twist at the end, all ends well.

The story features nice artwork by Pete Costanza, though it suffers slightly in comparison to the art in the issue's second story by one of DC's best, Curt Swan.

The backup story (featured on the cover) has Superman exhibiting an inexplicable fear of common superstitions.

Jimmy is mystified as he urges his pal to smash a mirror or allow a black cat to cross his path - but Superman trembles with fear.

You'll be shocked to hear that it was a ruse to protect the Earth from an alien menace - but the real strength of the story is the terrific art by Swan, which includes one of the most dramatic panels I can remember of Swan's Man of Steel! (And that's saying something.)

Don't get me wrong, I love the "classic" Jimmy Olsen comics. They're lighthearted, fun, clever and completely over the top - the kind of thing you just don't see in comics these days.

But they are pretty silly.

Grade: C+


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