Tuesday, October 23, 2018

TOS: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #106 Point-Counterpoint

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #106 (October 1967)
title: "The Lone Wolf Legionnaire Reporter!"
writer: unknown
artist: Pete Costanza
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board:  
Honorary Legionnaire Jimmy Olsen, Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Duo Damsel, Element Lad

Dreaded Dead-Line Doom

Jimmy Olsen is called into the 30th Century in order to help write this month's issue of The Legion Bulletin. As hard as he tries, though, Jimmy can't seem to find any news worth reporting on.

The story begins with Jimmy as Elastic Lad performing in a charity show for Metropolis Children's Hospital. 
Mike: Normally I tend to love the splash pages we get during this era, but something about the one in this issue does not look that appealing. I feel like it should, with so much going on, but that sad sack image of Jimmy in the center just does not seem nearly as well drawn as he looks in the rest of the issue.
Russell: I had to look again on the upper right-hand corner of the splash page where it says, "Guest-starring Jimmy Olsen." This is a Jimmy Olsen story, isn't it? Very weird, and got me started on this story in a weird place.

As soon as his show is over, Jimmy is called into the future by the Legion of Super-Heroes. Using their Time Cube, they whisk him into the future. Although Jimmy is concerned that there is some huge menace that they need his assistance with, they quickly explain that this month's issue of the Legion Bulletin is going to press in three days but there aren't any articles written for it yet. 
Mike: I am willing to go alone with the premise of why they need Jimmy here, but should the Legion really have classified their call as an emergency? Sure, teenagers are prone to being dramatic but does the risk of not putting out the Legion Bulletin qualify? (Although if I lived in that century, I'd sure as heck be a subscriber!)
Russell: I actually think this is within the vernacular that Brainiac 5 would utter. It's a "special emergency" that "only (Jimmy) can handle." In other words, boring work that needs a Honorary Legionnaire's attention while the rest of the team handles more important things, like the UP-Dominators War.

Duo Damsel is the only Legionnaire on the Bulletin staff who is on Earth, and she needs Jimmy's expert reporting skills to finish the issue. After getting out-fitted with futuristic clothes (that look oddly like his traditional outfit, with bow-tie and all) Jimmy heads out to track down some news. 
Mike: So they still have paper editions coming out in the 30th Century? And bow-ties are still a thing? It's tempting to make fun of that jacket but given how big collars will get in the decade or so after this was published I guess its' not so bad. I did like the encephalo-typer...while the name is dated now, as is the idea they will still be printing paper copies, that device otherwise seems like exactly the sort of technology that could exist for reporters a thousand years from now.
Russell: My thought on this page is, why do all the 30th Century buildings look like rockets? Or are those actual Legion Cruisers?

Jimmy uses his Legion flight ring to explore the future city of Metropolis. He sits in on a seminar on criminology but finds it boring. 
Mike: Seeing Jimmy use the flight ring makes me wonder why we never saw them or a similar device get mass produced for the general population? Or did we? I guess they could be regulated so the sky is not filled with people but then Jimmy probably should not be using it. I am having some trouble staying engaged with the story so far...getting easily distracted...
Russell: I LOVE how Jimmy tries to be studious and nearly falls asleep. That seems like Jimmy's personality to a tee.

Jimmy hits on the idea of interviewing the Chief of the Science Police. He makes an appointment, and decides to take the monorail so he doesn't get lost. However, from his monorail station he sees what he thinks is an injured girl on the tracks. He stretches like a coiled spring to stop the train. It slows enough for him to rescue the girl, but "she" turns out to be a life-like doll. He is late to his interview and the SP Chief couldn't wait. 
Mike: On the one hand, it seems just using his flight ring would have made for a much easier rescue, but despite that it was still nice having Jimmy not hesitate to come to the rescue. It was also interesting to have Jimmy actually struggle and be injured slightly. A good scene for him even if the girl turned out to be a doll...
Russell: My thought every time I read this page is, he ISN"T coiled up like a spring! The editor was asleep at the wheel when he read this page, because the text and illustrations absolutely don't match.

The next day, Jimmy enters a bank with the idea to write a comparison article about how bank safety has changed in 1,000 years. However, all thoughts of the article are forgotten when he finds that someone has been trapped inside the bank vault. Jimmy calls Mon-El to rescue the man, but the bank lock is atomic-powered, so Mon-El is concerned that if he breaks it open it will explode, causing death and destruction. Jimmy decides to stretch into the vault lock and then "jimmy" the controls of the atomic timer, re-setting it and causing the vault to open.
Mike: The story perked up for me a bit as Jimmy plays hero a second time, even if the nose reset looked ridiculous. Nothing stranger than we might see in an Elongated Man or Plastic Man story though! And this time he really did save the day.
Russell: But, Mike, how in the world did 20th Century Jimmy know how to reset the atomic timer?!?

The next day, Jimmy heads to the Metropolis Museum. He sees a display of badges worn by historical lawmen. Intent on reading all of their biographies, Jimmy accidentally breaks the display case. This causes the alarm to go off. In a panic, he thinks the armed guards are after him. He trips them up and escapes from the museum as more guards rush in. 
Mike: Hmmm...not the most heroic move tripping up the supposed guards and running away. Jimmy did smash the case but it was an accident. Yet he "can't waste time" being questioned? Not the sort of behavior Superman would approve of, even if it does end up working out here.
Russell: My thoughts exactly. NOT the actions of an Honorary Legionnaire. So, of course, I knew something else was going to happen....

Jimmy sulks back to the Legion Club-House, where he falls asleep without having written one good article for the Legion Bulletin. 
The next morning when Jimmy wakes up he is surprised to find out that Duo Damsel completed the Legion Bulletin without him. Well, without his knowledge: she ended up writing up his exploits from his three days looking for a story: rescuing the experimental robot-child that had been stolen and vandalized, finding the flaw in the bank vault, and nabbing the Uniform Gang who was in the process of robbing the Metropolis Museum; it was they the guards were after, not Jimmy. 
Mike: Well, Jimmy got real lucky in the end there. Turns out he did not trick and flee from a group of guards after damaging the museum's property but instead stopped a group of thieves. Something tells me Duo Damsel's story may not be the most accurate or truthful on the details of that adventure.
Russell: Fake news? LOL.

Mike: This is a tough one for me to summarize my feelings on. I did not hate it by any means. A few good moments, but also lots of odd ones, and the overall story never felt that engaging. While Jimmy does come off as heroic at times, despite the museum incident, he is not portrayed as being much of a reporter. And the Legion had what really amounted to only a cameo role. Despite being a fan of Jimmy Olsen and his title, this story just lacked a sense of fun that was often there.
Russell: I don't know, I'm not as big a fan of these Jimmy Olsen stories as you are but I am a sucker for well-meaning characters who sort of accidentally fall into success. Jimmy did his best here, and although he is portrayed as something of a bumpkin, the Legion does understand that he did three good deeds in three days. That's pretty good. This is the kind of Jimmy Olsen Legion story I would have liked to have seen more of. I actually wish there had been a sequel, because then maybe we could have learned more about 30th Century Earth culture. Jimmy makes a great "point of view" for us readers, and stories set outside the actual Adventure Comics series would have been a great place to show us more of/about the Legion's worlds.
On the other hand, where does Jimmy go at night? He never changes his clothes, after three days? That's more that I would like to have seen. Jimmy hanging out with, say, Mon-El or Element Lad (Legion orphans who are assumedly living at the club-house) would have been cool.

As a last note, here is the panel in its entirety of Jimmy looking at various past lawmen's badges. Id did some cursory investigation and could only find things about four of them. I wonder if they were actually friends of artist Pete Costanza or other "in-jokes" of men the creators knew? Anybody know anything about any of these men? Funny how "Joe Frazier" from Los Angeles has nothing to do with a certain professional boxer who came on the scene a few years after this story saw print.
Allan Pinkerton (8/25/1819~7/1/1864) Famous for founding the Pinkerton Detective Agency as well as helping to establish the US intelligence services (FBI and Secret Service).
Marshall Tom J Smith (6/12/1830~11/2/1870) A real-life marshall from Abilene, TX, had coincidentally (?) appeared on a recent (1965) episode of Death Valley Days starring Ronald Reagan
Sheriff Pat Garrett (6/5/1850~2/29/1908) Famous for having killed Billy The Kid
William Tilghman was a Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (1806~1827) Not sure if he had been a lawman before that, or if this is not the same man

Science Police Notes:  
  • The Time Cube made its debut in Adventure Comics #349, created by fellow-Honorary Legionnaire Rond Vidar. 
  • The Legion Bulletin newsletter is never, to my recollection, mentioned again. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 7 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 3.


  1. Question: why is this story considered a TOS story? Is it simply because Jimmy is an honorary member, so when the Legion appears in his book, it's treated as Legion canon, as opposed to other Legion appearances? Just asking. :)

    It's funny that Duo Damsel -- the Legionnaire who can split into two people -- still needs outside assistance when a printing deadline looms. (And I agree with the question as to why the Bulletin is still PRINTED in the 30th century.)

    Why didn't Jimmy simply FLY AFTER the monorail and follow it to his destination? That way, he wouldn't have gotten lost, made his appointment on time, and spared himself the agony of d'feet. (sorry, couldn't resist).

    So Jimmy "cracked the most burglarproof safe in the universe with EASE." Right. It's real easy for 30th century crooks to get their hands on elasticity serum so they can slither their way into the safe's innards. Okay, resetting the timer MAY be considered a flaw, but given its location and how relatively difficult it was for Jimmy reach it, I don't see that knowledge being advantageous.

    Jimmy not changing his future-clothes for three day is not surprising. The Legionnaires themselves have never worn anything other than their costumes, even when they are relaxing and indulging in their various pastimes (just look at all those intro scenes from past stories). Maybe 30th century outfits don't soil or stain as badly as contemporary clothing. The idea of off-duty wear for the team didn't really start to become a thing until the 1970s. As to where Jimmy goes at night, that "encephalo-typer" is probably just as slow as the old IBM typewriters, and Jimmy WAS struggling to pad out his 'articles'.

    I've never thought much of Pete Costanza's art, but he really drops the ball in those final two panels. I know that at DC, the script came before the art, but he leaves way too much empty space in panels that have only one word balloon each. And that last panel, with the Legionnaires waaaay in the background, makes them seem dismissive of Jimmy and turns Mon-El's little 'joke' into a rather snarky barb.

  2. I have to say that I love the cover. Something has been lost now that the 4-color process has been outmoded. The brightness and spacial depth outshine most modern covers with their deceptive simplicity. Want more kids to pick up comics? Go back to covers like these.

  3. The "Legion Bulletin" may not be mentioned again, but it was mentioned previously in "Evil Hand of the Luck Lords" so it wan't just a one-time thing.

    1. Hey, wasn't the reader's mail page on one of the Legion books called "The Legion Bulletin"? I know it was once called "The Legion Outpost", but was "Bulletin" also used?

    2. There was actually an earlier reference in Superboy 93. Chameleon Boy talks about the "Super Hero Club Newspaper". That was in December '61.

  4. I am amazed, given the Legion's popularity, that there is no mention of them on the cover.

    I did not know this story existed until a few years ago. Although odd, it was kind of fun to see a different side of the 30th century.