SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #79 September 1964
Curt Swan and George Klein original artists
|Well, if there's one thing you've got to admire about Mort Weisinger's exploitation of the rabid Beatlemania that was sweeping America back in 1964, it's the expediency with which he managed to get a Mop-top themed story into production and--ZOOM!--out onto the nation's newsstands. That September cover date means the book actually was released sometime in late June or early July, only a handful of months after the Liverpool Lads first took the stage on February 9th, courtesy of Ed Sullivan. Conversely, Stan Lee didn't get his meager attempt at riding the wave, STRANGE TALES #130, into the hands of disappointed Beatle fans everywhere until much later, in mid-December, a full six months after Superman's pal gleefully bounded onto the bandwagon. Like I said, that's the one thing you've got to admire about this story. Would it surprise you overmuch if I added it's also the ONLY thing?...|
|We've dealt with the bitter taste Marvel's
muddled attempt to shoehorn the second British
Invasion into their still-emerging Universe
left in this observer's mouth in our previous
entry. My mistake then was having unrealistically
high hopes for Stan's episode. But even at
age 11, I had no such illusions regarding
what editor Weisinger was going to serve
up. I was just hoping against hope that "The
Red-Headed Beatle of 1,000 B.C.!" wouldn't
be TOO terribly silly. Well, upon rereading
it last night for the first time in decades,
it remains a remarkably unmemorable tale,
utilizing several standards Mortified gimmicks,
with the ballyhooed Beatles angle mostly
just unnecessarily piggy-backing the inane
Maybe they whole affair would've packed substantially more zest had regular Olsen artist, Curt Swan, been chosen to draw the 9 page story, but we readers weren't that lucky. Making a rare appearance outside of Superboy's milieu, instead, was George Papp, turning in an art job all too analogous to his descriptive surname. Never a favorite of mine, I've nonetheless subsequently come across reasonably strong work from the cartoonist dating back to the forties and fifties, but as with most of his stable of free-lancers, by the mid-sixties, Weisinger had managed to water down the styles of each one of them, and some suffered from the dilution far more than others did. Papp, I'm afraid, suffered. And in reading this Oddball adventure (Hi Scott!), so did I! Allow me, then, to--heaven help us all!--elaborate further...
The story starts proper only after we've been teased by one of Weisinger's typically enticing (or so he hoped) splash panels: Jimmy is pictured snapping his fingers, dancing about in a carefree manner, and just generally grooving to the hip sounds emanating from his (Black and White) TV one fine afternoon in his Metropolis apartment. Providing us with our sole glimpse of the shaggy-haired originals--albeit a decidedly tiny version thereof--belting out "I Wanna Hold Your Ha-a-a-nd!", the smiling redhead thinks,
"Man! Those Beatles are a blast! And I always seem to enjoy their music more when I wear my own personal Beatle wig!" (Hey, who DOESN'T?...)
But when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, a chagrined Olsen hastily hides his secret shame by stuffing it into his jacket pocket,
"Oh-oh! Someone at the door! It could be my girl friend, Lucy! I'd better hide this hair-piece! She might think this Beatle-wig fad is silly!"
Pal, what she definitely would think was silly was you going out and getting yourself a custom-made carrot-hued Beatle rug! Hey, even I think THAT was silly! But not to worry--it's not Lois Lane's temperamental sister at the door at all. Nope, just a guy dressed in what appears to be one of Buck Rogers old outfits...
"Olsen, I'm Kasmir, a time policeman from the future. The Legion of Super-Heroes detailed you to assist me on a vital mission into the past. My time bubble is waiting on the roof."
Well, while a startling request like that may take you or me aback, if only for a moment, our friend Jimmy immediately switches gears from the present and prepares to go into the past with a man from the future!
"WOW! A time-trip! I'm ready, sir!"
But maybe our impetuous cub reporter should've paused for a moment and taken a breath before leaping into the fray, as Kasmir (a Led Zeppelin devotee, perhaps?...) turns out to a criminal, and not a very bright one at that. Seems that after stealing the device, he didn't know how to run the blamed thing! However, since it was preset for 1964, he figured he'd trick honorary LSHer Olsen into propelling him into the distant past by, um, pretty much just telling him a simple lie and then asking him. Once back in the days of 1,000 B.C., he threatens the book's star with a heat-blaster, but luckily, Jimmy is saved from having TOO hot a time by a seemingly super-powered turbaned teen, going by the unimaginative and awkward sounding appellation of "Mighty Youth". Yup, it's yet another Superman analog! And yup, Jimmy is his pal! Who'd a thot?...
Due to Kasmir's heat ray damaging the time bubble after missing its target, the erstwhile pilot, everyone's stranded in the past, y'see, but happily, no one seems to mind overmuch. So, after donning some standard fashions of the time, Jimmy goes about attempting to make a little money. Working as an junior-level assistant to a tight-fisted sheep herder barely pays slave wages, so our entrepreneurial youth concocts a unique way to add to his meager salary: by picking up the scrap wool that's left lying around, he then weaves the strands together, making a dozen wigs, all of which he dyes black. Next, he gathers up his ram-horn and a small, bongo-like drum and goes off into the center of the village. And THEN--well, let's just let the caption and the curious youths who gather around him explain...
"Later, Jimmy begins a weird performance..."
"Who is this strange fellow who twists and twitches like a beetle on a hot stone?"
"That catchy drum-beat! I can't keep my own feet from twitching!"
Jimmy pauses his "weird performance" to shill in his best Colonel Parker mode...
"Hold everything! You can't do the Beatle dance without a Beatle wig! Get 'em while they last. A silver piece each!"
"I'll take one!"
"Aren't they darling?"
"Presently, the market-place is rocking..."
"YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!" Jimmy warbles as the kids dance joyfully--if spasmodically--as a passing old man gives him SUCH a look....
"Crazy, man!", he thinks as he beats the drum, Ringo-like, "Imagine starting a Beatle craze thousands of years back in the past!"
Yeah, just imagine. Imagine all the people who'd find the whole thing hopelessly stupid! But now, let's get back to the main plot, such as it is, okay? After Jimmy is imprisoned on some bogus charge, he uses his little horn to summon Mighty Youth to bust him out--hey! Just like his Superman signal watch!--and discovers his benefactors true identity when his turban slips off. Noticing his long black hair--hey! Just like the Beatles! (only Olsen DOESN'T think that--someone surprisingly missed an obvious correlation here, folks...)--Jimmy immediately surmises that his hero is a young Samson! Yes, gang, besides being a Beat music fan, Jimmy is also a learned Biblical scholar! He proves this latter point of mine when, turban back on head, Mighty Youth encounters a smitten young brunette by the name of--yup--Delilah! This chance meeting causes Jimmy to ponder the role she's destined to play in Samson's future--as well as this totally obligatory and self-serving (for Mort) observation--
"Strange how Delilah's name contains an LL, just like the girls in Superman's life!"
Yeah. Strange. And totally irrelevant. Speaking of the Big Red S, though, you'll be relieved to know that he swoops in in just the nick of time to rescue his wayward pal from the machinations of the always plotting Kasmir! Seems he used the Legion's Time Bubble Locater to track Jimmy down, and the story winds up with Supes knocking down some columns to put the kibosh on Kasmir, eerily anticipating Samson's destruction of some temples in HIS future. The future of the past, that is...
And if you think THAT'S confusing, wrap your brain around THIS one: teenage Samson shakes hands with the adult Superman in the the stories third from last panel, and our hero thinks, "Samson doesn't know it, but I've already met him...as a grown man!" The big event happened in ADVENTURE COMICS #257, we learn in a footnote, back when the Man of Steel was still the Boy of Steel.
Meaning--follow me here--teen Superboy met adult Samson, and then years later, after he had grown to be the mature Superman, he then met teen Samson! Teen Samson of course has no idea of these myriad encounters, but my question is this: did adult Samson say to Superboy when they got together, ""Hey, I met your father when I was but a Mighty Youth!" I couldn't tell you, as I don't own that particular ADVENTURE COMIC, but y'know, I have my doubts...
Before flying home to their own time era, Jimmy gives one last performance in the next to last panel just for his blue-suited buddy, echoing the cover scene almost word for word, the only difference being Superman amends his dialog to, "You seem to be as popular as Ringo, the Beatle drummer!", just in case some readers weren't sure WHICH Ringo the Kryptonian was talking about! (Hey, it could've been Lorne Greene's gunslinging "Ringo", the subject of the "Bonanza" star's one-- and only--hit record, y'know. Well, it COULD'VE...) Once home, and in the issues ahead, that's pretty much the last we ever hear from Jimmy on the topic of the Mop-tops. Who knows--he most probably switched fave raves and moved on to a far more suitable band...
Like the DC5, maybe?...
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