August 1, 2021
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Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Jimmy Olsen #40

Jimmy Olsen #40

Cover date: October 1959

"Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal"

[reprinted in Action #343 - Nov. 1966]

Writer: Otto Binder
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: John Forte
Editor: Mort Weisinger

Reviewed by: Osgood Peabody

Click to enlarge



As the splash-page caption notes, "readers of Action Comics know, Supergirl has recently come to Earth possessing all the super-powers of her cousin Superman! For certain reasons, the very existence of the Girl of Steel is being kept secret from the world! But one day, Supergirl decides to reveal herself to Superman's trusted pal, Jimmy Olsen!"

We begin with Jimmy reviewing "Colonel Colby's Show of Wonders" for the Daily Planet. At the circus sideshow, Jimmy watches the Colonel (who could double for chicken entrepreneur Colonel Sanders!) introduce Thora, the world's strongest girl. But as the young girl lifts a one-ton weight, our intrepid reporter makes the astute observation that the Colonel's show might not be on the up-and-up. When the final act, a stone age caveman frozen in a block of ice, is unveiled, Jimmy has seen enough. He brazenly accosts the huckster and tells him he'll expose his sham of a show in the next issue of the Daily Planet. Colby threatens the reporter that "he'll be sorry", but Jimmy returns home to type his expose.

As Jimmy puts the finishing touches on his article, he suddenly gets paranoid that Colby will break into his apartment to make good on his threat. While trying to rig a tear-gas trap, he accidently drops the canister, temporarily blinding himself in the process. Meanwhile, the Colonel has trailed Olsen to his home. Jimmy opens his window to air out his place, and Colby listens in as the young reporter calls in to Perry White that he's been blinded, but that he'll hail a cab to deliver his story (gotta admire his dedication, that Jimmy!) Consequently, as Jimmy staggers into the street to hail a cab, the Colonel's all too obliging to direct him to his own car (while disguising his voice, naturally) and spirit away with our freckled friend.

Once out of town, Colby reveals himself, and menacingly tells Olsen he's taking him for a "ride". So Jimmy immediately punches the old signal-watch to summon his pal, but unfortunately the Man of Steel is on a mission taking photos of the earth's core and doesn't hear it - but someone else does! Linda Lee, pinch-hitting for her cousin, alertly hears the signal from her room at the Midvale orphanage and snaps into action as Supergirl! As the con-man pushes Jimmy from a bridge (not being one to beat around the bush, Mr. Colby), Jimmy loses consciousness as his head bangs against a girder (*ouch*) but Supergirl swoops to his rescue, unseen by Colby.

After Jimmy revives, he tells his unknown rescuer his story, and, in turn, she decides that she must reveal her existence to Jimmy to help him get Colby - he's Superman's pal, after all, so he can be trusted. She proceeds to recap her origin story for the benefit of Jimmy and the reader (her first appearance on earth only being 5 months old at the time!), but Jimmy isn't buying it. He's convinced that she's in league with Colby, who's trying to hoax him to discredit his reputation and prevent him from running his story. After all, who'd believe such a cockamamie tale about a chunk of Krypton surviving, a lead shield to protect the city from its Kryptonite base, a meteor storm destroying the shield, (well come to think of it, maybe Jimmy has a point, huh?) ;)

However, the Maid of Steel is determined to win Jimmy's trust "I must get Jimmy to believe I have super-powers or he won't signal me later to protect his life!" But, in an ironic twist on the classic Superman story "The Girl Who Didn't Believe in Superman", she finds that convincing a blind person of the existence of a super-being is not so easy. She begins by examining the reporter's pocket via x-ray vision, and telling him he's got exactly 75 cents. But Jimmy easily rebuts this, as he exclaims, "you must be Thora, that 'strong girl' who works for Colby! You simply saw me get change of a dollar at the sideshow when I bought my ticket!" Next, Supergirl tries to demonstrate her super-strength as Jimmy holds onto a huge tree trunk while she slices through it, but once again, Jimmy's not buying it. He's still convinced it's a set up, and that Colby and Thora had the tree sawed through in advance.

Even as she carries him through the air in mid-flight, Olsen stubbornly insists the rush of air he feels is being produced by a wind machine! The Girl of Steel even takes the trouble of flying him to the Sahara Desert (!) and the North Pole (!), but even then our intrepid reporter is convinced that the extreme heat and cold is generated by heat lamps (!!) and a butcher's refrigerator (!!). Jimmy next comes up with his own idea, as he pulls out a transistor radio, and listening to the Metropolis Rodeo Show, challenges the supposed Girl from Krypton to tell him what act is on at that moment. But when she comes up with the right answer, Jimmy attributes it this time to an "ear-trumpet" she's using to overhear his radio!

Supergirl next flies off and retrieves a pair of scissors, and let's Jimmy try to cut her hair. Surely, he won't be able to deny this proof of her invulnerability? And sure enough, at first Jimmy appears to be dumbfounded. However, Supergirl overhears trouble at the aforementioned rodeo, as Jimmy has left his radio on, and the Girl of Steel observes via telescopic vision one of the cow-punchers being dragged by an ornery bull. Inexplicably, she decides the best course of action would be to hurl the scissors she's holding long-distance to sever the rope(!!). Naturally, Jimmy then becomes suspicious when he asks to examine the scissors, and Supergirl is too flustered to respond.

Finally, after getting completely exasperated, the Maid of Steel is relieved to see Superman tunneling up from the earth's core after completing his mission, and with a discreet puff of super-breath, re-activates Jimmy's signal-watch. Superman bursts out of the ground just as Supergirl jets away, and Superman & Jimmy promptly round up Colby, who Superman unmasks and reveals to be "Big Con" Colby, a career con artist wanted for murder. Days later, with his sight back, Jimmy jokes with his pal, "Can you imagine Colby trying to hoodwink me with that ridiculous Supergirl hoax?" Supergirl looks on via telescopic vision from Midvale, and notes to her chagrin, that "as far as Jimmy's concerned, I guess I don't er... exist".

4Story - 4: This tale is a landmark for at least one reason - it's Supergirl's "coming out" party. Just a few months removed from her introduction in Action Comics #252, this is her first appearance outside of her own feature. In the next few months, she would begin popping up all over the Superman family universe, even taking a trip back in time to visit Superboy!

4Art - 4: In my eyes, Curt Swan & John Forte drew a beautiful Supergirl, and one who looked like a rather mature and engaging young woman. I'd like to think that this was done deliberately to make her more of a match for young Olsen than the wide-eyed innocent version being drawn by Jim Mooney in her regular feature in Action Comics, but perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.

4Cover Art - 4: This tale wasn't cover-featured, being buried in the "middle 8", usually reserved for a filler story - but it was granted a top-side blurb on the cover that reads "Extra! Jimmy Olsen teams up with Supergirl!" The cover features a nice Curt Swan & Stan Kaye rendering of "The Invisible Life of Jimmy Olsen".

So Supergirl's integration into the Silver Age "Superman family" began in the unlikely pages of Jimmy Olsen, and at least initially, it was her most frequent guest-stop. In fact, we soon find that she develops a bit of a fascination with our red-headed reporter! Could her closing remarks in this story really be interpreted as a forlorn lament?

I've made it a habit of exploring what has come to be known as "Silver Age" Superman, or more specifically, the heyday of editor Mort Weisinger's tenure on the Superman books. In that exploration, I've found some of the more intriguing and amusing stories to be those involving the Man of Steel's supporting cast.

Take, for example, Jimmy Olsen & Supergirl - you'd think adventures pairing Superman's pal and his cousin would be infrequent, but over a span of just 2 years (1959-61) they shared 4 memorable tales, as well as a couple of, shall we say, strange interludes.

For some reason, I have a great affection for these stories that I can't fully explain. There is the theme of mistaken identity in each one, an old Weisinger stand-by. But whereas this device was often used (especially in Lois Lane) rather maliciously (i.e. to "teach Lois a lesson"), the examples here are rather innocuous misunderstandings, and while the reader is in on it from the beginning, poor Jimmy is always out of the loop.

I also get the sense that during this period, as Weisinger was still forging the elements that would come to define Superman's Silver Age greatness, that he was experimenting a bit with the relationship between these 2 characters and maybe not sure himself where he would take it.


Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

1938-1949

1950-1959

  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1986

Compilation Volumes

Miscellaneous

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