Monday, August 14, 2017

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #62

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #62 (July 1962) 
title: Superman's Phantom Pal
writer: Leo Dorfman
artist: Curt Swan and George Klein
cover: Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff
editor: Mort Weisinger

Supporting Cast
Perry White, Lois Lane, Lucy Lane, Superman

Mission Monitor Board
Elastic Lad and Mon-El

Jax-Ur, Professor Vox, and Dr. Xadu

Jimmy is cleaning his trophy room and finds an empty bottle among his souvenirs. He cannot recall what was inside, but sees a faint vapor and sniffs the opening. Still unable to recall the contents, he throws the bottle away.

After returning to the Daily Planet, Jimmy is confronted by an angry Lois. Due to a printer error, she mistakenly thinks Jimmy tried to take credit for one of her stories. She tries to grab him by the nose but is surprised to see it stretch inches from his face. Perry deduces that he must have taken the elastic serum that Professor Potter gave him, and Jimmy finally realizes what was in the bottle.

At Perry's urging, Jimmy decides to take advantage of the next 24 hours to do an article of a day in the life of Elastic Lad. 

Jimmy goes to help some children retrieve a football from a drainage hole and is not seen by a steamroller until it is too late. The kids are horrified thinking Jimmy has been crushed but relieved when Elastic Lad shows them that he can be flattened without harm. He then stumbles across the notorious Dagger Gang in the midst of a theft and confidently uses his abilities to capture the criminals.

After that impressive display, Jimmy decides to visit a local zoo and use his powers to put on a somewhat disturbing demonstration of how an anteater uses its tongue. He also steals a bite of Lucy Lane's ice cream. 

Things soon take a more heroic turn after Jimmy overhears a breaking news report. A cloud seeding experiment has caused a severe thunderstorm and flooding at the airport, and officials have been unable to warn an approaching plane not to land. Jimmy is able to stretch all the way above the clouds so pilots of the plane are able to see the warning sign he is holding.

While above the clouds, Jimmy observes a small "hole" in the sky. He peaks through and discovers that he has turned into a ghost. He realizes that he must be in the Phantom Zone, and that the rainmaking chemicals and severe electrical storm have torn open a tiny hole into this other dimension. Things once again take a less then heroic turn here as Jimmy decides to take advantage of the situation and play Peeping Tom on his friends, including Lucy Lane.

Jimmy is soon confronted by three Kryptonian criminals who were sentenced to the Phantom Zone, Jax-Ur, Professor Vakox, and Dr. Xadu. They try to threaten Jimmy but Mon-El appears and assures Jimmy that they are powerless to harm him. The super-villains improvise a new plan and tempt Jimmy with the prospect of learning Superman's secret identity.

The villains take Jimmy to see Superman just as he is changing back into his secret identity. Jimmy appears torn between his curiosity and his friendship with Superman. Thinking they have succeeded, the villains gloat that it is only a matter of time before Jimmy unwittingly exposes Superman's identity to the world. Disgusted, Jimmy uses his Elastic Lad abilities to leave the Phantom Zone through the small hole through which he entered it. As he departs, Mon-El begs him not to betray Superman by revealing his identify.

Back at the Planet, we learn Jimmy was able to resist the temptation and looked away before seeing Superman change to Clark Kent. Clark and Lois are surprised to learn that Jimmy did not take advantage of the situation, but he reminds him that even if he did not intend to reveal the secret, it would be possible for some criminal to force the information from him using hypnosis or a truth serum. He also shames Clark and Lois, telling them he is surprised that as Superman's friends they would risk betraying him just to satisfy their curiosity.

Well, putting aside the creepy peeping tom moment with Lucy, this story showcased a Jimmy that was more mature and confident than modern readers would probably expect to see in this era. He thinks quickly and does not hesitate in taking down the gang, and it was amusing to see him chastise Clark and Lois at the end.

Still lots of Silver Age silliness to be had. By this point, Jimmy should really know better than to sniff, touch, or even go near any item in that collection that he does not immediately recognize.

Having him demonstrate how an anteater eats made for an...interesting visual. It was nice to see Perry, Lois, and everyone so quickly accept Jimmy's powers without treating it as that unusual. That is really how people in Metropolis should behave towards the outrageous by now. Having Mon-El show up in the Phantom Zone to help Jimmy was a good use of continuity for this period.

The moment I had the most difficult time with was Jimmy stretching all the way to the sky to warn the plane. This is Silver Age comic book science and if I can accept him having stretching powers at all, that may seem an odd part to get stuck on. But still, imagining him being able to extend his body that far was the one moment my mind scoffed at.

A few words on the art. Opinions differ on Curt Swan, but I think he did a great job on this, particularly in handling Jimmy's powers and the Phantom Zone. His best panel had to be of "hen pecked" Perry White wearing an apron and washing the dishes while ghost Jimmy looked on. The pathetic expression he gave Perry was perfect.

Although Jimmy came through for Superman in the end, he did seem awfully tortured for a bit. He is a reporter though, and naturally inquisitive so I cannot fault him too much. Overall, a good story for Jimmy, with a tiny Legion connection to it through Mon-El.

1 comment:

  1. I would've liked to have had a story more like what was described on the cover: After rescuing the plane, Jimmy gets stuck in the Phantom Zone and has to try and contact Superman, who has to figure out how to get Jimmy alone out of there without letting the others free. That would have lent more weight to Jimmy's refusal to learn Superman's secret i.d. and the theme of friendship -- if your friend is there for you, you be there for him. Still, you're right that this was a very mature version of Jimmy. Integrity is, after all, doing the right thing when nobody's watching. (And Clark certainly had to note what Lois said about taking any opportunity to learn who Superman is.)

    You're also right that Elastic Lad being able to stretch into the rain clouds was a bit of a reach. (Sorry, couldn't avoid that.) Rain clouds are typically anywhere from 1-5 miles above the ground. Assuming mass and matter remain constant, Jimmy's body would have been smaller than a thread and the pilots would only have seen a sign blowing in the wind, wondering what was going on. That stunt, even for the Silver Age, was rather a reach. (Dammit!)