Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jimmy Olsen #94

Jeez, Supes, did you have to rub his face in it by picking a new buddy with red hair and the initials "JO". Of course, these covers hit on common teenage themes of rejection and alienation. Who hasn't had a friend who suddenly becomes enamored of the new guy in town?

The opening story features Jimmy as "Insect Olsen". With Superman away in space, a new criminal named the Bug has begun a crime wave. Lana Lang is worried that he will try to steal her insect ring, and so she gives it to Jimmy for safekeeping. But just then:

Hmmm, Spider-Boy? As it happens, in the letters column of this issue, there's a missive claiming a resemblance between Jimmy and Peter Parker:

Those are pretty flimsy comparisons, and you'd have a hard time convincing me that Jimmy Olsen ever tried to avoid trouble.

At any rate, he saves the window washer, who turns out to actually be a private detective who's got a tape of the Bug discussing his upcoming crimes. Conveniently for plot purposes, the tape is slightly damaged so that Jimmy only gets partial details and has to fill in the blanks. But his deductions always turn out wrong:


But in the finale, Olsen, transformed into a ladybug, foils the gang and captures the Bug himself. Not! Instead, he is saved by the God(ess) in the Machine:

Comments: A more perfect example of the problems with the Jimmy Olsen title would be hard to imagine. Yes, it's somewhat amusing to see Jimmy's problems defeating the Bug. But in the end, he has to do it himself, or else he's not much of a hero. The art, by George Papp is serviceable but nothing special.

The second story is the cover one, and it's drawn by Pete Costanza. I like Costanza's art, but it has a cartoonish, old-timey feeling that didn't suit DC's house style in the 1960s. In the story, Jimmy Olsen is being given a big build-up for a new TV show featuring his adventures. As you can see here, even the target audience recognized the problems pointed out above about his characterization:

And we quickly see that stardom has gone to his head, as he refuses to sign autographs for his adoring public. When Life Magazine comes to inteview him at his new penthouse digs, he claims to be bored with his Superman trophies.

Alright, so I'm already guessing that this is some sort of plot by Superman and Jimmy to trap the Collector. This is one of the problems with Weisinger's puzzle covers; they almost always boil down to a plan to catch a crook or fool some aliens.

Jimmy gives Lucy Lane the cold shoulder here:

Of course, the continental dish's name is a combination of Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot, two of the hottest women on the silver screen at the time. Jimmy also snubs his fan club members, resulting in a bit of a bonfire:

Even the girls in his fan club wear bow ties? When rival reporters begin needling Jimmy about his only being famous because he's Superman's pal, he decides to show of his own abilities. First he tries a tight-rope act between two skyscrapers. But the rope breaks and he's only saved by the guy in the cape. And the same thing happens when Jimmy decides to go over Niagara Falls in a plastic bubble. When he jumps out of a plane followed by a parachute, a sudden storm blows it away and he's only saved by, you guessed it.

Jimmy's getting a little tired of the Man of Steel always horning in, and so he announces that he's no longer Superman's pal. There follows the contest to determine a new buddy, and Josh Oberlin is the winner. Meanwhile, Jimmy gets fired from the Daily Planet for always showing up late, and his TV show is canceled due to poor ratings. Desperate for cash, he shows up at the Collector's fortress to sell of his Superman trophies for a million dollars. The criminal is careful to check Jimmy for any microphones or listening devices.

Included are some items that would be very valuable to a crook, like this one:

But when the Collector opens up his lead-lined vault to reveal items he's stolen, Superman bursts in. How did he know the vault was open, with no "bugs" on Olsen or in the trophies?

There follows a needless explanation of how Superman and Jimmy collaborated on all his failed stunts, and a mention that Josh Oberlin will forever after be Jimmy Olsen's backup as Superman's pal. If he ever appeared again, the GCD doesn't have a record of it.

Comments: Overly predictable, but entertaining. Jimmy Olsen would remain a strong-selling title for the next few years, but the silly stories and immature nature of the title character probably ensured the steadily declining sales that the book showed for the next several years, as the Baby Boom turned into the Baby Bust and publishers tried to sell their wares to an older audience.


David said...

Cool review. I dislike Costanza's art on Jimmy Olsen quite strongly. In fact, it pretty much ruins this period for me.

Funny, I don't remember minding him so much on Fawcett's assorted Marvel material, but maybe that's because Cap encouraged artists to be cartoony, whereas the Superman titles during this period were defined by the more illustrative work of Swan and even (compared to Costanza) Al Plastino. I'm guessing that the more Costanza tried to get away from "cartoony", the more his stuff fell apart.

Amanda H. said...

HA, a Beatles reference. This pleases me :D

BTW, I just started following your blog early this morning and haven't looked through all your posts yet. I'm trying to get my feet wet in the whole comic book-verse because of the style and I'm trying to inject a bit of it into a webcomic. (the way they're inked and colored, the dynamic poses and even a bit of the campiness :P)

Anyway, yeah. Great blog XD

Pat said...

Thanks, Amanda! There's quite a bit of material in the archives.

David, I agree that Costanza's style didn't fit DC's in the 1960s, but I like it still. He did a fair amount of work for ACG before coming over to DC.