Tuesday, August 7, 2018

TOS: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #99

Jimmy Olsen #99 (January 1967)
title: The One Man Legion 
writer: Jim Shooter
artist: Pete Costanza
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and George Klein
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane 

Mission Monitor Board:
Honorary Legionnaire Jimmy Olsen in the identities of Element Lad, Lightning Lad, and Sun Boy.  Cameo by Superman

Opponents:
The Weapons Wizard

Synopsis:
Jimmy receives a special birthday present from the Legion of Super-Heroes. He is given costumes matching those of Lightning Lad, Element Lad, and Sun Boy which give their wearer the powers of each hero. Jimmy tries to use the super-powered costumes to battle the evil Weapons Wizard and his army but things do not go as planned. Before finally turning the tables on the villain, Jimmy gets beaten, shot, electrocuted, frozen, blown up, and almost drowned. If you hate Jimmy Olsen, this is the story for you! 
Jimmy is preparing to spend his birthday with Lucy Lane aboard a new supersonic airliner when a present suddenly materializes in his room. Inside he finds a Legion flight ring and the costumes of Lightning Lad, Element Lad, and Sun Boy. A note explains that they were created by Brainiac 5 and that wearing them will temporarily give him the powers of each Legionnaire.
Mike: That is a heck of a present to give Jimmy. Looking back, it is odd how important Jimmy suddenly became to the Legion that they would do stuff like this. Yes, he is Superman's pal, but the Legion did not have much interaction with the adult version of the Man of Steel. Despite Superboy's membership, it seems odd they would befriend his pal from fifteen to twenty years in the future. And trust him with that much power!
Russell: By this point it has been, what, two or three years since Jimmy was shown visiting the future? Since Adventure Comics #323 (August 1964). So it does indeed seem weird for them to celebrate his birthday. Is this maybe this 21st birthday? That would be a big deal, I guess. Besides, as an honorary Legionnaire, wouldn't he already have a Legion flight ring?
Also, does anybody else think it weird that these uniforms could somehow give Jimmy these specific super-powers?! Lightning Lad and Sun Boy got their powers accidentally, and Element Lad's "power" is natural, so the whole plot seems weird right from the get-go.
The supersonic jet is attacked by the villainous Weapons Wizard and his army, and the passengers are taken prisoner. Lucy is strapped to their "Death Chair" and will be annihilated in one hour if Jimmy does not reveal Superman's secret identity. After an attempt to fight back fails, Jimmy uses his flight ring to flee.
Mike: The Weapons Wizard is a great example of that classic Silver Age bad guy who seems capable of such amazing inventions that he is really wasting his time being a super-villain. As we will see later in the story, he has created what is essentially his own version of a Green Lantern ring. He could make billions by becoming the DC version of Tony Stark if he wanted.
Russell: Okay, you pick that nit, and I'll stick to nit-picking the Legion related stuff, haha!

After discovering that his signal watch was taken, Jimmy dons the costume of Lightning Lad and takes on the Wizard's army. He comes close to zapping the Wizard but is stopped when the villain's girlfriend steps in. Taking advantage of the distraction, several soldiers knock down Jimmy. They dowse him with liquid rubber to disable his electric powers and deliver a pretty good beating to him. He gets away but not before getting bombarded pretty mercilessly by some cannon shells. 
Mike: Jimmy takes a heck of a beating throughout this issue. Despite the flight ring and special costumes, it feels like he should have died at least a dozen times. In each section, he seems to get at least one or two panels where he successfully uses his abilities. But then there are seven or eight panels of him just getting taking massive abuse.
Russell: I actually liked the scene of Jimmy fighting back as Lighting Lad, but then when he starts to lose, I agree, he loses very very badly. Wouldn't any one of those cannon shells have killed him dead?
Jimmy tries again using the costume of Element Lad and fails pretty miserably. He comes under missile attack and tries to retreat over the ocean. A soldier uses a freeze ray to trap Jimmy in ice. As he tries to free himself, he is grabbed by a mechanical claw that tries to drown him. Several divers also attack with sonic guns, and Jimmy is only saved when the Weapons Wizard arrives to finish the job. The villain's girlfriend intervenes, giving Jimmy time to escape.
Mike: This chapter is really his worse showing. He does not even get one blow in before a missile attack forces him to withdraw. He does have a few moments to shine later on during the ocean battle, but he also gets frozen, almost drowned, and is attacked with those sonic guns. This is just pathetic. 
Russell: Which is really sad if you think about it, because Element Lad's abilities should have been able to stop the Weapons Wizard...er....cold.

Jimmy tries once again, this time using Sun Boy's costume and things at least start out well this time. He actually succeeds in dispatching a number of troops and equipment before coming face to face with the Weapons Wizard. Using a special ring, the Wizard drops a boulder on Jimmy. Jimmy gets free, but the combined efforts of a missile launcher and several hydroguns prove too much for him.
Mike: Jimmy actually started off pretty strongly this time and took out a good chunk of the Wizard's army. He also has one good moment against the Wizard himself when he melted the ground underneath him. But that missile launcher attack...again, Jimmy should be dead!
Russell: I couldn't help but thinking that this is what happens to Legion recruits who don't know what the hell they're doing. Powers without planning or intelligence lead to disaster, clearly.
The Wizard lines Jimmy up with the other captured passengers to be executed via firing squad. When he discovers his girlfriend trying to free Jimmy, he adds her to the line up as well. With his bonds slightly loosened, Jimmy is able to get to a vial of the formula he uses to become Elastic Lad.
Mike: I guess the Wizard no longer cares about discovering Superman's identity. Wasn't that the entire point of his plan in the first place? I was never clear on whether he wanted the plane and getting Jimmy was just an accident, or if it was all to get Jimmy. Seems like he has shown himself more than capable of building a plane as advanced or probably more advanced that the one he captured.
Russell: Yeah, by this point the whole plot contrivances are gone; it's just Jimmy fighting against bad guys. Thank goodness the moll had a heart of gold. But why didn't the Weapons Wizard just kill Lucy on the Death Chair and save himself a bullet? She *was* already strapped into it, after all...
Jimmy is much more effective as Elastic Lad than he had been using the Legionnaires' powers and quickly subdues the Weapons Wizard and his army. He recovers his signal watch and calls Superman.
Mike: Jimmy goes from getting his butt kicked repeatedly to suddenly being almost too good at super-heroing. In two pages, he easily takes down the entire army and the Weapons Wizard. Based on his performance here, he should just become Elastic Lad full time and join the Justice League.
Russell: I don't know about that, but I do agree he was 100% better as Elastic Lad than he was as any of the Legionnaires. But...does he carry a vial of Gingold Lite with him wherever he goes? How convenient. And speaking of the Justice League, did Elastic Lad ever meet the Elongated Man? That team-up seems like a natural.
Jimmy explains to Superman everything that occurred. They overhear the Wizard's girlfriend declare that she still loves him despite what he had done. Superman then uses his power of super-hypnotism to make her forget all about the Weapons Wizard and her love for him.
Mike: That is pretty messed up Superman. Just casually brainwashing someone to erase bad memories. No disturbing moral implications to see here. Plus, unless he also changed her basic personality, there is no reason to think she will not continue making bad choices.
Russell: This is absolutely NOT the ending I was expecting. I figured we'd get a Lucy and Jimmy reunion and Jimmy could milk his super-heroics for a few kisses or heavy petting. Where did Lucy and the other passengers go? They don't really play any role at all at the end.

Mike: This was a weird story, even by Silver Age Jimmy Olsen standards. I am not sure if I liked it, or was more just amused by it. It is so rare to see a main character take the abuse that Jimmy got here. And over and over again.
Russell: This was probably the weirdest Silver Age story I've read. I feel like I say that every other time I read a new Silver Age story, but....! Jimmy getting Legionnaire powers for no scientific or logical reason, and then not being killed by bullets, cannons, or drowning, and then Superman swooping in at the last minute (literally) and screwing with a woman's personality.....yeah, this one's a keeper.

2 comments:

  1. Now let's be fait to Jimmy, folks. True, having powers alone isn't enough to prevail. But, Jimmy has had no practical experience with super-powers other than Elastic Lad's, as the story clearly admits, so he can be forgiven an underwhelming performance. And, give props to the Weapons Wizard for tactics. He and his men never let up on Jimmy, going from one weapon attack to the next, never giving him a breather or a chance to mount a defense or a proper counter-attack. That's something a lot of other villains almost never do, which usually contributes to their defeats.

    I also noticed that when Jimmy becomes Elastic Lad, his Sun Boy costume stretches and deforms in the same way his purple E.L. longjohns do. Otherwise, he would've oozed out of it and he'd be elongating around in his actual birthday suit (I know, not in a Silver Age story). Maybe Legion costumes are made from some sort of 30th century version of unstable molecules. (Did Reed Richards somehow visit a parallel future time? I smell fan fiction!) Hey, maybe THAT'S why Jimmy didn't get turned into lunch meat from all those missiles and exotic weapons - his costumes protected him. Not such a silly idea in the context of a story like this, although I agree that Jimmy shouldn't have survived; how he's even able to stand up after all that is puzzling (#ludicrous).

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  2. As Anon points out, Jimmy had practice as Elastic Lad and was much more effective in that role. He does also say that the vial of elastic fluid must have fallen into his case when he was packing. Also Elastic Lad and Elongated Man did meet up (along with Plastic Man and some other character) in "The Elastic Four. https://comicvine.gamespot.com/elastic-four/4060-61894/characters/

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