SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #118 March 1969
Neal Adams original artist
|By the pivotal year of 1969, the times they
were a changin', even in the hallowed if
decidedly stodgy halls of National Periodical
Publications, known to most of us simply
as DC Comics. In a curious pairing of the
old guard with the new, a dynamic new talent
named Neal Adams spent much of his first
few years in the business illustrating a
gaggle of preposterous covers for long-time
Superman Family editor, Mort Weisinger, himself
only years from finally stepping down from
that once influential position. The hipster
and the square--Neal and Mort made some sorta
Dubious Duo there at the tail end of the
sixties, lemme tell ya, and this silly little
tableau is all the proof I need to defend
|Of course, Adams had much better things to
do than actually illustrate the stories his
covers were based on, so in this particular
instance, dealing with as current a subject
as you'd likely to see in a DC Comic of that
era, Neal's proto-realistic modern approach,
perfectly suited to the topic, is unfortunately
nowhere to be found once the reader plunks
down his twelve pennies and opens the book.
Instead, head honcho Weisinger relies on
his regular Olsen artist, Pete Costanza,
to bring Jimmy's ill-advised tour of Hippieland
to life, and hoo-boy, I doubt there was anybody
else working in the field in '69 LESS qualified
to scribble up a tale torn from the day's
headlines!?! This isn't meant as an insult
to Costanza, please be assured, merely an
observation regarding his somewhat inappropriate
cartoony style, which, for better or worse,
would always reflect the glory days laboring
in the house Shazam built during the forties!
"Holy Moley, Billy--what's a Hippie??"
In fairness, Pete wasn't the ONLY one flailing
about without much idea of what was REALLY
happening, Mr. Jones--Mort and whichever
poor sap he bullied into typing up his nutty
tale were both blatantly clueless as to the
nature of the whole counter-culture movement,
and boy, did it show!!|
Where to begin? Well, how about when Jimmy enters Perry White's office decked out in his new look, his NOW look, ready and eager for his assignment covering Guru Kama's Dreamland Pad for Truth-Seeking Hippies? Showing off his new threads, this fine gem of happening dialog comes spilling out of his lips: "How's my weirdo costume, boss? Straight from the Hippie-land haberdashery!" Getting into the plot proper, it turns out that the Guru and his pal are really small time crooks planning to maneuver Jimmy into offing the Man of Steel, all while convinced he's merely acting out in a dream state. Y'see, these guys pump in exotic perfume from some very special flowers (poppies? Hmm, this drug analogy is a bit more on target than I originally thought...) and subsequently persuade their gullible longhaired charges into believing that their actions are merely dreams. The cover scene is essentially just one of these quasi-drug induced scenarios, and doesn't bear much discussion, though it does precipitate the stories' climactic confrontation between young redbeard and old bluehair. Fret not, as in the course of this eleven-page feature, all is righted, and our pair of con men wind up safely in police custody, thanks to some last minute intervention by the Big Red S. As in every Weisinger guided effort, there are any number of jaw-inducing leaps of logic as well as small cruelties that are brushed over ever so quickly, thus affording them a certain amount of unwarranted acceptance. Twas always so in the world of Weisinger, but somehow, such publishing peccadilloes seemed more endearing at decade's outset back when Mort was leading the pack and setting standards as opposed to ten short years later as he fumbled to keep up with a transitional field he didn't much care to make allowances for, bitterly clinging to his once-popular, but now sadly outdated, formulas. With that in mind, I'd like to take a quick look at one from column A and one from column B, if you don't mind.
First off, in the wayward logic category we have this small gem--eager to revenge himself against a Superman who was decidedly unappreciative of his happy hairy group and their less-than-pleasant picket signs, Jimmy schemes to outfit those self-same hippie dupes with necklaces made of kryptonite marbles disguised with a lead coating, rigged to shatter at the sound of an ultrasonic device--in this case, ironically, the very watch the big fella once gave his so-called pal, the device that'll now be used to summon him to his doom--but not really, since Olsen is STILL convinced these are all just liberating dreams that have absolutely NO effect on real life!! And guess what? THAT'S not even the plot point I'm objecting to!?! No, what's got me crazy is the so-called explanation as to WHERE and HOW the Cub Reporter got his hands of these deadly aggies. Pictured dipping into his Superman souvenirs, the Manson-like Olsen is shown pulling out a box full of small glowing spheres and thinking, "Superman once found these in space...Marbles that some kid played with on Krypton which turned to Kryptonite when their world exploded! Superman trusted me never to use them against him...but I will in this dream. HAAAA!"
Let me see if I fully understand this-- one fine day, Superman is out and about, flying in the deepest corners of space, and he comes across some deadly radioactive artifacts from his home world--marbles, in this case--and he DOESN'T turn around and speed off in the opposite direction as fast as he possibly can?? Instead, he somehow manages to bring these life-threatening baubles back to Earth (WHY? And for that matter, HOW?.. Oh, my head is starting to hurt!...)--and THEN GIVES THEM TO JIMMY OLSEN?!?! He DOESN'T lock them away under lock and giant yellow key over at his Arctic based Fortress of Solitude, oh no--he let's an irresponsible goofball barely out of adolescence keep 'em stashed under his bed in his Metropolis apartment? It…makes…NO…sense. NONE. But without it, Mort and his accomplice have to, ahem, DREAM up an ending that MAKES sense, and by 1969, those days were fading fast for the soon-to-be-retired Mr. Weisinger...
As for that OTHER matter, well, early on in our little playlet, Jimmy requests an increase in salary from his employer, without success. Soon believing himself to be under the dream spell--although we all know he isn't--the young Olsen returns to his bosses' office and proceeds to aggressively sucker-punch a startled Perry White smack dab on his jaw in full view of both Lois and Clark!?! The old man's gotta be thirty years his senior if he's a day, yet the most the disapproving onlookers can muster is Clark's "That was a rotten stunt, Jimmy!' and Lois' "Terrible! You should be ashamed!" And he should--but so should our disguised Superman, who let's the matter of his erstwhile pal's unprovoked attack on their mutual, older friend go by with only a mild scold. You'd think he'd wonder just what was up with his freaked-out freckled friend and investigate matters further, but no. At the very least, wouldn't it make him reconsider just where he leaves his deadly souvenirs--after all, if Jimmy loses HIS marbles, can Superman's be very far behind?...
Don't worry, kiddies, as good ol' Unca Mort has a moral tagged onto the end of his fanciful fable--just exactly what it IS is open to your own interpretation!! Y'see, having been set straight--in a manner of speaking--our chastised scribe returns to the Daily Planet offices only to be confronted by a still irate Perry White. Reiterating his denial of a pay raise for the red-headed reporter, Perry swiftly and decisively gives Olsen EXACTLY what he owes him--a good solid sock in the kisser!?! Never mind that, dumb as it was, the youngster was under the influence of some pretty shady characters when he gave Perry the old right hook, boys and girls--our lesson today is that revenge is the most important thing of all and while two wrongs may not make a right, they sure leave you feeling satisfied!! Hey, what OTHER message could you expect from a guy capitalizing on the then newly spawned hippie movement to concoct a tale about a Hate-In?? Groovy it wasn't, gruesome it was...
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