Snapshots of Jimmy Olsen #1: Silver Age Jimmy

Source: Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #1 (1954)
Type: The real deal (since retconned)
You read that right! Reign of the Supermen is on hiatus for 2015 while his pal Jimmy Olsen takes over your Saturday dose of Geekery! Here's a character that's suffered almost as many transformations and permutations as Superman himself, no Red Kryptonite required! He's been turned into a monster, reincarnated, sent back in time to play pivotal roles in history, inducted into the Legion of Super-Heroes (sort of), and put into all sorts of crazy situations. If there's a character that's more representative of DC's Silver Age craziness, I don't know who it might be.

Jimmy had been around since the 1940s thanks to the radio show (though you can point at an office boy in 1938's Action Comics #6 and say that's proto-Jimmy), but it's not until the 50s, and I think more pointedly, the start of his own eponymous series, that he truly becomes a comic book icon. His varied adventures between 1954 and 1969 make him much more than a teenage news photographer (Peter Parker still needs to send him a royalty check though) or the damsel in distress we see in Superman's own books. Built up as a (usually) non-costumed sidekick who calls Superman with his special Signal Watch when he's in trouble, he's allowed to become a true protagonist of the Silver Age in his own title. Superman isn't even really required.

And if I consider this to be the one true Jimmy Olsen, it's because the ghost of the Silver Age will forever hang on him. No matter how serious and reasonable the Superman mythos becomes, there will always be the temptation to turn him into Turtle Boy, or Elastic Lad, or give him some fantastic adventure, if even just for a fleeting issue. Jimmy is the original weirdness magnet - with apologies to Blue Devil - and the weirdness can never be kept at bay for long.

So in the coming year, we'll meet lots of versions of Jimmy: Transformations, alternate lives, ridiculous costumes, live action and voice actors, and many of them will be from the Silver Age. It just can't be helped. That's the real Jimmy Olsen. And these are his snapshots.


snell said...

"Peter Parker still needs to send him a royalty check though

Please...JJJ would have eaten Jimmy Olsen alive...

Story idea: Could Jimmy have worked for an editor who insisted Superman was a menace?

Andrew said...

When your power is the ability to call Superman down upon the heads of your enemies, I think you can probably work for pretty much anyone.

Really looking forward to this series!

Siskoid said...

And not just any Superman. Super-dickery Superman!

Snell: There was a falling out in the extended Byrne era, but if it happened in the Silver Age - and you know what, I'm sure it did - it would all have been some kind of hoax with a complicated explanation.


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