Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The literary oeuvre of Jimmy Olsen

Reporter, photographer, man of action, turtle man, elastic lad, transvestite: Many are the faces of James Bartholomew Olsen of Metropolis. Come with me now as I explore another facet of the Olsen Experience: Best-selling author.

In Jimmy Olsen #29's "The Superman Book That Couldn't Be Finished", a publisher asks Jimmy to write a novel, a fictional adventure with Superman. Jimmy, naturally, figures that after all the real adventures they've shared, this should be a piece of cake*, and eagerly agrees. After securing his pal's permission to use his name and character in the book, Jimmy begins a tense tale of nuclear blackmail in which a stray bolt of lightning accidentally detonates The Bomb. Superman saves Jimmy, but...


"Superman and I would have nothing left to do." And now you know what caused the Great Disaster. Well, Jimmy, maybe Kamandi's up for a rousing game of pinochle.

For his next draft, Jimmy casts himself as the intellectual type: Having taken up science as a hobby, he invents a mind-reading helmet, which (being the good citizen he is) he uses to detect crimes and warn Superman. Until...


He's going to blow Superman's most closely guarded secret for national publication, and the only reason he can think of not to do it is that he doesn't know it. Some pal.

Note the progression of Jimmy's hair. That's how you know things aren't going well for Jimmy: His hair gets mussed.

Matters don't improve. Superman is dying of kryptonite poisoning and needs a blood transfusion...but the doctors can't break his skin. Superman travels to the past and becomes Samson...which can't happen because his hair can't be cut.


What did I tell you about Jimmy's hair?

So, of course, Jimmy shares his problems with Superman, and of course Superman has words of advice for his young pal. Eventually you will remember and write the book, he says with the confidence born of optimism, faith in his friend, and time travel.

I love this caption:


Wait. Wait. "We'll buy a copy and take it back to 1958"? But, causality... changing the past... existing in two places at the same time (or are Superman and Jimmy of 1959 dead?)...

Don't you see? This is the real origin of Infinite Crisis. This book that Jimmy never actually wrote, just retyped from a future edition. This "1959 first printing" that now never existed, because the first printing was a year earlier, in 1958.

Thanks a lot, Superman.

(Story by Otto Binder, art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley. Man, I love that look.)

* And this is only #29. Elastic Lad, King of the Giant Ants, the monster in extra-dimensional horror movies, the Giant Turtle Man--none of that has happened yet. Look at all the great plots they throw away in this story. I love the Silver Age.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

It's just occurred to me that this story will almost certainly be contained in Showcase Presents the Superman Family #2.