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Comic Book / Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

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Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen is a series by DC Comics that ran for 163 issues from 1954 to 1974. It stars, well, Superman's friend, Jimmy Olsen.

Jimmy is Superman's Muggle Best Friend, a photographer at the Daily Planet where Clark Kent works as a journalist. Despite being The Everyman, Jimmy manages to get himself into numerous humorous situations involving superpowers (which usually had to do with an unwilling transformation or two), while also having to handle his romantic entanglements with Lucy Lane (Lois's sister). He's also got a supersonic wristwatch that allows him to summon Superman whenever he wanted. The hero must have regretted giving it to him, as Jimmy either called him to ask mundane favors or needed help from problems he constantly got himself into (including trying to arrest criminals on his own) on the assumption that Superman would come and save him. Maybe it was because of this that, like Lois, Jimmy often was a target of Superman's surprisingly mean sense of humor. And yet, Superman never took the wristwatch away.

The comic lasted into the 1970s, when, as with Lois, DC tried to make him a more modern, believable character. He got a new set of clothes (loooong after Archie had stopped using his own similar set) and had adventures that didn't involve Superman or zany plots. He even picked up the nickname "Mister Action" (despite not starring in DC's Action Comics).

Ironically, the weirdness came back with a vengeance when, of all people, Jack Kirby came along to write and draw the series. Kirby used the series to launch his New Gods saga — which means that, yes, Darkseid debuted in this title! Kirby also used the series to bring back his own, older creations, the Newsboy Legion (both as adult scientists AND as their teenage clones) and the superhero The Guardian. On top of that, he also invented the DNA Project (known now as Cadmus) that would later have an impact on characters such as Superboy with their cloning techniques. Oh, and in case you think he forgot about Jimmy, he added one more transformation to the character's collection: "Homo Tremendus", i.e. Jimmy as a berserking caveman!

Fittingly, the comic has since been seen as emblematic of the wacky pseudoscience plots that defined The Silver Age of Comic Books.

Compare Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane, which overlapped considerably; the two titles (along with Supergirl (1972)) were combined into Superman Family in 1974. The title was reused for Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen (2019).

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Catch Phrase: In the early days of his comic, Jimmy Olsen would think "Super duper!" to himself when something went off well. It didn't last and has long since fallen into obscurity.
  • Aliens Speaking English: One Silver Age story had Jimmy stranded on an alien world where everyone spoke English. The explanation? They had studied the universe's languages and adopted English as the most efficient! Never mind that English—with its various loanwords, silent letters, and how every rule has an exception—is far from the most efficient language on this planet.
  • Amnesiac Costume Identity: In one early comic, Jimmy is in disguise while on the job and hits his head. "Luckily", he happens to be carrying false documents that inform him that he is elevator boy Dick Hunter. When a group of crooks catches him eavesdropping and washes the dye out of his hair to confirm his identity, he's shocked to find out the truth.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: In issue #53, Jimmy transforms into a giant Turtle-Man.
  • Beardness Protection Program: Jimmy has been trying to invent something and he comes up with a mixture that causes fast hair growth while trying to make some kind of fuel. Later in the story, he sees that a couple of men are coming to get him and uses the mixture to grow a beard for a fast disguise.
  • Boss's Unfavorite Employee: Jimmy is almost always the first target of Perry White's temper.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The early stories were more likely to be grounded in real life, with Jimmy actually encountering and writing up semi-realistic events such as a trained dog scam or crooks stealing diamonds. They were also less goofy than later entries and Jimmy took a more active role in the resolution.
  • Enslaved Tongue: When Jimmy overhears crooks planning to kidnap him and force him to reveal Superman's identity, he tries to counteract this by taking a lie serum. Hilarity Ensues. When the crooks finally strap him to a Lie Detector and interrogate him about Superman's identity, he gets through it by claiming that it is Clark Kent.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: In one comic, Jimmy is captured by the bad guys so that they can use his signal watch to lure Superman into a Kryptonite trap. However, Jimmy plays with the frequency so that the watch sounds out "D-A-N-G-E-R K-R-Y-P-T-O-N-I-T-E". How he could do this, given that the signal watch supposedly operates on a frequency humans can't hear, is anybody's guess.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: At the end of "Superman's Phantom Pal", Superman explains to the Phantom Zone's villainous inhabitants that Jimmy Olsen didn't give in to the temptation to spy on his Secret Identity because of the boy's "loyalty and honor." He then finishes up his speech by mentioning bad people cannot understand this.
  • Evil Knockoff: One story has a scientist using a duplication ray on Jimmy. However, the ray had the side effect that the duplicate would be opposite of the original, creating a criminal double of the law-abiding Jimmy. Unfortunately, the duplicate was also smart enough to play decent initially, allowing him to cause a story's worth of havoc, including getting ahold of some Kryptonite to threaten Superman.
  • Forced Transformation: Jimmy's gone through a lot of transformations as a result of the Phlebotinum of the week. Some of the forms Jimmy was turned into include:
    • A werewolf (of the "really hairy man" type.)
    • A giant turtle-man (in effect, a Kaiju) (which becomes a Mythology Gag when Olsen scored a TV job as "Turtle Boy").
    • A human porcupine, with the ability to shoot quills!
    • A really, REALLY fat man.
    • A Neanderthal.
    • A Rubber Man named Elastic Lad (see Never Be a Hero).
    • A blob (when the Elastic Lad formula worked wrong). With an embarrassed grin and freckles.
    • A gorilla, more than once.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: A half-example appears in one comic. Jimmy, arriving in Metropolis for the first time, takes a job as a test subject for a scientist which ends up sending him to Krypton before the explosion. He spends the issue watching over baby Kal-El to give Jor-El and Lara time to complete the rocket. The time stream interferes with Jimmy's memory, meaning he has no idea this happened, but Superman remembers and befriends Jimmy because the teen saved his life.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision:
    • In "Superman's Phantom Pal", Jimmy gets a chance to see Superman changing into his Secret Identity. As Clark points out afterward, this would be "scoop of the century", but it would betray his friend's trust. Jimmy opts to shut his eyes.
    • In "The Legends that Came to Life", some magical phlebotinum affects the studio of a million-dollar game show Jimmy is participating in, causing the answers to become real. After escaping death when the living legends use him as bait for a kryptonite trap, Jimmy runs back to the studio...because he's figured out what's going on. Once there, he gives the wrong answer in order to create a new Superman to save his friend.
  • Friendship Trinket: Jimmy Olsen's signal watch was a symbol of the friendship between him and Superman, who had given it to him so Jimmy would have a way to contact him if he got in trouble.
  • Gladiator Revolt: In #159, the magical gem the Star of Cathay causes Jimmy to travel back in time and relive one of his past lives; that of Spartacus. Naturally, he leads a gladiator revolt which is crushed by a young Julius Caesar (and historical accuracy be damned).
  • Greater Need Than Mine: In issue #11, this turns out to be why Jimmy has been apparently snubbing Superman for Clark Kent. While in disguise during a news hunt, he overheard two crooks plotting to kidnap him to deter Superman during a planned robbery. Knowing that if Superman knew, he would insist on guarding him to the exclusion of any other super-jobs he had lined up, Jimmy staged a "breakup" of their friendship to fool the criminals.
  • Henpecked Husband: A victim of the "henpecked boyfriend" variant; Lucy was as shrewish to Jimmy as Lois was to Superman (some would argue even more so). She would exploit Jimmy's desire to woo her whenever it suited her needs, often criticizing his efforts along the way, and then dump him as soon as she found a better prospect.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jimmy and Superman/Clark are very close friends. The two have no shame about expressing affection for each other either with words or with a hug, the newspapers ran stories on the relationship similar to a celebrity romance (though Lois' position as Superman's girlfriend made her just as famous) and Jimmy even spent the night in the Fortress of Solitude once after visiting the place for a story. However, both of them had romances with several women (most prominently Lois and her sister).
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: In one early story, Jimmy is being held captive and forced to give crooks trying to win a million-dollar game show answers about Superman. While explaining a headline about him saving the Man of Steel, Jimmy includes a detail about the rescue not included in the news story and hence something only he and Superman knew. Superman can see that the contestant isn't Jimmy and has in fact recognized him as a criminal. All this tells him his friend is in trouble, and he flies to the rescue.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Jimmy is a (sometimes) naive Nice Guy with blue eyes.
  • Interspecies Romance: Well, sort of. In one (in)famous story Jimmy is in Africa with a film crew, and a female gorilla falls for him, hard. Unfortunately for ol' carrot-top, she falls OUT of love with him just as hard.
  • Loser Friend Puzzles Outsiders: In one old comic, a teenage lifeguard keeps putting Jimmy down and scoffs about the absurdity of his reputation when Superman apparently ignores his "pal". (Said "Superman" is a crook.) Fortunately, Jimmy is nice enough not to taunt him about it when the relationship is eventually confirmed.
  • Kneel, Push, Trip: A variation in an old comic — a Planet employee called Jimbo Jones pretends to fall in front of a crook to trip him, whereupon Jimmy Olsen hits him, finishing the job.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: In imaginary story #57 Linda Danvers -Supergirl- and Jimmy marry. However, Linda is amnesiac and depowered when the wedding happens, and doesn't remember anything about her Secret Identity. When Linda regains her memories and her powers she decides she needs to tell Jimmy she is Supergirl but in a tactful way. Her "great" plan was to reveal Supergirl's existence to him. Then as Supergirl, she will make him fall in love with her. Then when he is in love with both Linda and Supergirl, she'll reveal she is one and the same. The plan gives Jimmy a massive guilt trip, as he is attracted to Supergirl but doesn't want to be unfaithful to Linda. When she reveals the secret, he is extremely relieved to find out he's been involved in a Two-Person Love Triangle.
  • Heroic Bystander: In the early story "The Hunted Messenger", Jimmy rescues a deliveryman from two muggers.
  • Mad Scientist: Often the cause of Jimmy's transformations was one of Metropolis' scientists doing an experiment.
  • Master of Disguise: While this became less common in the less serious later stories, early comics demonstrated that Jimmy could disguise himself so well that Perry, Lois, and even Superman couldn't figure out who he was. In one story where he disguised himself as a hobo, Perry pushed him back out of the office when he returned to type up the story.
  • Plot Allergy: One comic has an example of the "fake relationship hitch" variation; Jimmy notices a funny ticking sound whenever he's around Superman, which he thinks is his heart. He concludes he has an allergy to the Man of Steel and must stay away until he can find a way out of it, or he risks death by a heart attack. He eventually figures out that it was his signal watch, which malfunctioned and ticked whenever it was around gold.
  • Prophetic Fallacy:
    • In "The Amazing Spectacles of Dr. X", Jimmy winds up with a pair of spectacles that can see the future and sees a vision of himself drowning in a fishing accident soon afterward. When the day actually arrives, though, it turns out that the spectacles were showing him a public service announcement he had agreed to take part in about how an iron lung can save a person's life in a case like this.
    • In the later story "Jimmy Olsen's Blackest Deeds," Jimmy agrees to an experiment effectively testing reincarnation. He spends a few mental days as men connected to Julius Caesar, Richard the Lionheart, and Abraham Lincoln — only to discover to his horror that he apparently helped assassinate Caesar, deserted King Richard, and fell asleep, allowing Booth to kill Lincoln. Superman, who can also time-travel, explains a few details Jimmy didn't get, which shed an entirely different light on events.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: A group of crooks is running a scam with one pretending to be the Man of Steel and asking for money to guard various valuables. This attracts Jimmy Olsen's attention, as not only did the fake Supes fail to recognize him, but also he was aware that Superman would never ask for money for his services. The scam attracts further suspicion when Jimmy attacks and is easily able to give the fake Superman trouble, causing the crook to yell for his partners to shoot him "before he ruins everything!" A little late for that...
  • Rod And Reel Repurposed: Jimmy unravels a mystery involving some thieves partially by finding a fishing hook too big to be for any fish in the area. Therefore, he deduced that the crooks were hiding their loot underwater and went fishing for it. (Superman quickly slipped it on the hook to prevent it from taking as long as it might otherwise.)
  • Scheherezade Gambit: Jimmy pulls this on an escaped murderer in "The Story of Superman's Souvenirs." "Killer" Burke corners Jimmy in his apartment and orders him to provide some gizmo to help him escape the law. Jimmy had to tell him why some of them wouldn't work until he found a way to turn the tables.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage: In one What If? comic, Jimmy and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) get married while Kara/Linda Lee Danvers has temporarily lost her powers and her memory of being Kryptonian to Red Kryptonite. When the effect wears off, she concocts a plan to minimize the shock to her new husband: she will get him to fall in love with her as Supergirl and then tell him she and Linda are the same person. The plan flops because Jimmy, while attracted to Supergirl, stays determined to remain faithful to Linda. Luckily, he tells her about it, letting her know he really doesn't dislike her alter-ego, and the story ends with Jimmy happily accepting that his wife is a superheroine.
  • Soda Can Shakeup: In "Jimmy Olsen, Juvenile Delinquent!" in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #40, Jimmy goes undercover in a gang of juvenile delinquents. The practical joker of the gang's current shtick is shaking up bottles of soda water and spraying people with the contents. This causes trouble when he does it to Jimmy, as it washes the black dye out of his hair and exposes him as an imposter.
  • Stab the Scorpion: In one issue, Jimmy experiences previous lives, including one Janus Ocellus, who was a favorite of Julius Caesar's. To his horror, he discovers that Janus was apparently involved in Caesar's assassination; in fact, he jumps forward into the future just as Janus raises his dagger. However, Superman checks this out and uncovers that Janus had infiltrated the conspiracy to save Caesar. The raising of his dagger was supposed to signal Caesar's guards, who were delayed by a group of escaped gladiatorial lions.
  • Stringing the Hopeless Suitor Along: This was a common plot in Silver Age stories about Jimmy Olsen and Lucy Lane. Lucy disdained all Jimmy's efforts to woo her, but as soon as some other girl made a move on him, she would become extremely jealous. This resulted in the "success" of the relationship being a Yo Yo Plot Point.
  • Superdickery: An abundant and reliable source. Plenty of covers feature Superman or sometimes Jimmy being a total dick, regardless of what happens in the actual story.
  • Superpower Silly Putty: The patron saint of this trope. Jimmy has had (and lost) so many superpowers that there is an entire collection called The Many Transformations of Jimmy Olsen.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: In "Jimmy Olsen, Clark Kent's Pal", Jimmy wonders how Superman knew that he was in trouble and where to show up. Clark, with whom he had been rooming temporarily, provided the answer to the readers — the young reporter had given his plans away the previous night by talking in his sleep.
  • Taking the Bullet: Jimmy volunteers for an experiment that sends him back in time to experience the lives of men who match his genetic structure (effectively reincarnation). He discovers to his horror that one of his previous incarnations ran away in battle, dooming Richard the Lionheart. However, Superman, who used his own time-traveling abilities to check the incident, tells Jimmy that "Sir Oliver James" actually saw a traitor aiming a fireball at Richard. He died taking the blow for the king.
  • Transformation Comic: As the comic continues, Jimmy is transformed into something, sometimes powerful, sometimes just weird or embarrassing, basically every other issue.
  • Trauma Button Ending: In "Love Me, Love My Beast", Jimmy nearly gets drained of his life force by a vampiric alien posing as a pet. At the end of the story, he runs away from a young woman who tries to ask him to hold her dog's leash.
  • Undying Loyalty: While the Silver Age is mostly known for Superdickery, multiple stories still exist proving Jimmy's status as "Superman's pal." From sacrificing multiple opportunities to learn his Secret Identity, to helping him with criminals armed with Kryptonite, to standing up to a fully-powered-up Kryptonian to ensure the currently-powerless Superman was protected note , Jimmy's loyalty to Supes trumps any sacrifice or risk it might involve.
  • Wounded Hero, Weaker Helper: Multiple situations spring up in which Superman gets incapacitated and Jimmy ends up taking charge to save his life.
    • "The Disappearance of Superman": A group of crooks pull a Wounded Gazelle Gambit on Superman and bury him in a mine with a hunk of Kryptonite. Luckily, Jimmy succeeds in tracking him down and digging him up. Jimmy even lampshades how bizarre the situation is as he's pulling rocks out of the way.
    • One incident gets referenced passingly in "The Million-Dollar Question." Crooks tied Superman to a Kryptonite boulder and threw him into the ocean. Unfortunately for them, Jimmy arrived on his heels, expecting a news story. The young reporter dived a considerable distance after him and cut him loose.