Tuesday, July 4, 2017

TOS: Jimmy Olsen #63 Point-Counterpoint

The Legion of Super Bloggers Group Review on
Jimmy Olsen #63 (September, 1962)
title: "The League of Fantastic Supermen!"
writer: Jerry Siegel
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: George Klein
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein 
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board:  
Honorary Legionnaire Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl

Lori Lemaris

The Legion of Super-Villains (Lightning Lord, Cosmic King, Chameleon Chief, Sun Emperor)

While left alone at Superman's Fortress of Solitude, Jimmy Olsen is alerted by the bottle city of Kandor that four of their criminals are escaping. They are wearing Superman uniforms to make it appear that they are members of Superman's Emergency Squad. Jimmy uses the first weapon he can find against them, a Red Kryptonite ray, which alters them into four odd versions of themselves. From the future, four members of the Legion of Super-Heroes witness this incident in their time scope and kidnap the Kandorians in order to take the villains' places. When a Superman robot is unable to stop the villains, Jimmy calls for help from Supergirl, who is visiting with Lori Lemaris in Atlantis. Supergirl flies off to fix the damage that the four villains have done. They return to the Fortress, where they pretend to repent in order to return to the bottled city of Kandor and be sent to the Phantom Zone. Their eventual plot is to break all of the Phantom Zone villains free. Jimmy tricks them into returning to a different bottle instead of Kandor, and then Supergirl flies the LSV members back into the future, where she will then retrieve the four Kandorians.

Russell: This is Exhibit A for why I don't really care for Silver Age Superman Family stories. First of all, sure, okay, Superman leaves Jimmy alone at the Fortress. Superman trusts Jimmy about as much as he trusts anybody who isn't a Justice Leaguer, but still, the people of the bottle city of Kandor trusts him, too? Why doesn't he just press the button on his signal watch and call in the Man of Steel? Also, everyone in this story talks or thinks in explanations: ""If Superman returns unexpectedly he'll assume from these imitation costumes that we're members of the Superman Emergency Squad on a mission....and let us go!" Sure he will....if you think so!?!

Mike: I had a bit of a different reaction to this story because I am a fan of the Silver Age Superman era, including Jimmy's book. In his title, Jimmy is often the hero, and Superman frequently trusts him in ways we would find it hard to imagine nowadays, whether it is leaving him alone in the Fortress or giving him unknown alien artifacts to hold. Not defending the logic of it, but there is a certain charm to those moments. Of course, just as often, Jimmy and Lois got into trouble, and Superman ends up playing some trick to teach them lesson. 

Russell: Okay, I'll give you the basic plot of the story, bad guys from Kandor try to escape. So then they don't manage to return to normal size? Is that a thing in Silver Age Superman stories, little Kandorians flying around Earth? Then because four Kryptonian bad guys aren't bad enough, they have to be subjected to Red Kryptonite. Superman has a RAY for that?! But wait, there's more. Because this is 1962 DC, they don't kill Jimmy when they have the chance. They just fly away, and are....captured by FOUR OTHER BAD GUYS. From the future. Who take their place. Because that makes sense.

Mike: Well...little miniature flying Kandorians are kind of a thing at this point actually and the visual of tiny Superman flying around is entertaining. The Fortress is in part a museum so having a Red Kryptonite ray is not so crazy, especially in comparison to some of the other stuff he has lying around.  Having the LSV show up is a twist that seems more like the writer was just throwing ideas at the wall rather than attempting a clever reveal. But this whole story is really just Siegel throwing in as many ideas and elements from other Silver Age Superman stories as he can. The escaped Kryptonians' transformations even largely matched various transformations Superman underwent in the Silver Age. Lion-headed Superman, future-brain Superman, and old man Superman are all from previous tales. (No idea where green, pointy-eared Superman came from but there were a lot of strange transformations in those days).

It is interesting that they would choose this story to introduce two new LSV members, especially since they end up in disguise for the most part. We barely see any of Sun Emperor's costume, and we only glimpse Chameleon Chief's head before they don their masks. 

Russell: So Jimmy tries to use a Superman robot to stop the action figures. Smart boy. When that doesn't work, he calls Supergirl. Via a rocket messenger. Okay.....Also on the right track, but WAAY old school. Not sure why he didn't just call his pal, even if he was "away." But okay. Supergirl is kept busy when the small LSV men destroy a dam. She has to repair the damage, giving the bad guys time to escape. Then as they fly back to the Fortress they tell all of us their plot....which, I'm sorry, seems pretty silly. They're willing to get sent into the Phantom Zone on the assumption that their special anti-gravity belts will be able to open a rift? Seems risky to me.

Mike: There is an argument to be made that Jimmy calling Supergirl first does make some sense if Superman is off on an important special mission. Having her hanging out with Lori Lemaris when Jimmy found her was the part that seemed more surprising to me, but it is consistent with the fact that this story is just jamming a ton of Silver Age Superman elements in it. The villains' plan is definitely a risky one, and it is hard to imagine they would take such a chance.

Russell: With a set-up like this of course we know that Jimmy is going to find a way to outwit the Legion of Super-Villains. Still, another Superman robot has the time and ability to create a fake Kandor that not only fools the bad guys, but also is made of material that Lightning Lord can't smash? But doesn't Cosmic King have the ability to alter any material via super-alchemy? So can't he change the glass to paper? And also, sorry, but....according to my research, Jimmy hasn't ever met the Legion of Super-Villains. So how does he know how to stop them?!

Mike: A great deal does have to happen very quickly here for the story to wrap up the way it does, and the Superman robot was a bit too easy an explanation for the fake Kandor. There is a chance that since Lori read the LSV's minds she could have given Jimmy the information on their powers. Yeah, not explained, but still...

Russell: Well the art was nice. And Supergirl supporting Jimmy is a nice switch from the idea that Jimmy was incompetent. Clearly, he is not as dumb as everyone seems to remember him from the TV show and the movies.

Mike: Agreed on the art and seeing Jimmy as the hero. While it may not have made for the most coherent story, it was still a treat to see so many elements and ideas from this era of Superman get featured. There was the Fortress of Solitude, the Bottled City of Kandor, red kryptonite, Superman robots, Lori Lemaris, the Phantom Zone, and the reappearance of several of Superman's past transformations. It was nice to see the LSV's roster expand, even if they were in disguise for so much of the story that it was probably not the best showcase for the characters. That just goes back to how much they jammed in here, but still fun in the end.

Russell: A little bit of trivia about this story and the reason we are reviewing it here today. Although this was the first appearance of Chameleon Chief and Sun Emperor as members of the Legion of Super-Villains, they did not re-appear for more than ten years. They were never given any back story origins, unlike the "founding members" of Lightning Lord, Cosmic King, and Saturn Queen. I think because the cover doesn't show the LSV on it that most people as well as editor Mort Weisinger forgot about them. Then in early 1975 this story was reprinted in Superman Family #169, and Asst Editor E. Nelson Bridwell probably brought these two characters to then current Legion writer Cary Bates' attention. And that is probably why they re-appeared two months later in Superboy/Legion #208. Atleast, that makes sense to me.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This is the second chronological appearance of the Legion of Super-Villains after their debut in Superman #147. However, founding member Saturn Queen does not appear.  
  • In the letter's page of this issue editor Mort Weisinger comments that the Legion is going to get their own series, starting in Adventure Comics #300. 

This story was reprinted in Superman Family #169. Because it is difficult  to find and only nine pages long, the Legion of Super-Bloggers re-presents it to you here in its entirety. Please, judge its merits on your own....!

This story features the actual debuts of LSV members Chameleon Chief and Sun Emperor. Although many sources, including Who's Who In The Legion #4, claim that they first appeared in Superboy/Legion #208, that is incorrect.


  1. They probably made the incorrect statement because everybody wanted to forget this story. But at least Chameleon Chief is smart enough to realize that he doesn't need a head-mask, unlike Chameleon Boy in the first Universo story.

  2. Glad to see you will be covering these out of the way Legion related stories.

    Definitely a kitchen sink story. But I am impressed by how much got crammed into 9 pages.


  3. I'm sorry but I wouldn't buy a single "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olson" as a youth as he was just plain L-A-M-E !

    The other was "Lois Lane" !