Thursday, May 5, 2011

Episode #177: The Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated October 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #8!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #8, October 1955, was published around August 23, 1955. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of 10¢. Mort Weisinger was the editor, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. All three eight page stories were written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Ray Burnley, and have been reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman Family  vol. I.

The Betrayal Of Superman was the first story of the issue. It began with Jimmy going to the office of his friend, Private Investigator Dick Crane. Jimmy found Crane almost doubled over in pain at his desk, and called for an ambulance. Before he left for the hospital, Crane gave Jimmy an envelope from his latest client, Bart Gordon, and asked Jimmy to help him close the case. Crane had a reputation of never failing to close a case, and Jimmy promised to keep his friend's perfect record.

Later, when Jimmy opened the letter, he regretted making that promise. Gordon had hired Crane for a missing person case: the secret identity of Superman. Jimmy paced the floor at his home, torn between having to betray the trust of one or the other of his friends. He decided he couldn't turn his back on a sick friend.

After making some preparations, Jimmy put on a traditional detective's disguise and introduced himself at Gordon's home as Jr. Inspector Cedric of Scotland Yard. Gordon refused to reveal his reason for wanting to know Superman's secret identity, but in a thought balloon we learned that he wanted to blackmail the Man of Steel in order to get rich. He also had "Cedric" sign a list of terms that had to be met before earning the $1,000 fee: bring Superman in the flesh, not wearing a disguise and not a dummy (or, I would add, a robot), not in a dark room, and the Man of Steel would have no means of escape except by using his superpowers.

Later, after Jimmy returned to the Daily Planet offices, Clark gave Jimmy a list of Superman's scheduled public appearances that the Man of Steel "handed" to him. Jimmy used them to gather clues about Superman's secret identity. He found the Man of Steel's fingerprints on the cornerstone of a Metropolis orphanage after a dedication ceremony. Jimmy planned to take plaster casts of Superman's footprints in the sand after the Man of Steel launched a new riverboat. He would figure Superman's weight by subtracting the weight of the individual rocks from a pile that the Man of Steel lifted during another public appearance. Jimmy measured Superman's height from a cutout from the Man of Steel's demolition of that building, when he crashed through a wall. At a charity drive, Jimmy took close up photographs of Superman's face, and later drew various disguises on prints he had made.One even showed Superman wearing a pair of glasses. Jimmy found his man among the altered photographs.

When Clark went to a glass house exhibit, Jimmy, as Cedric, followed him. After Clark entered the glass house, Cedric called Gordon, who rushed to the glass house as well. As Clark looked around the glass house, Gordon approached him from behind. To test his suspicion, Gordon shot Clark in the back, and the bullet bounced off of him. Clark admitted to Gordon that he was, indeed, Superman, but before Gordon could see his face, he flew through a wall and escaped. After changing into Superman, he met both "Cedric" and Gordon, who claimed that his terms were never met. Superman reminded him that Cedric did indeed meet his terms. The Man of Steel then revealed that Cedric was none other than Jimmy Olsen, and let Gordon go. It wasn't illegal to attempt to learn Superman's secret identity. Not only was Gordon very angry, he was out $1,000, which is still a lot of money, and definitely was back in 1955.

It turned out that Superman was in on Jimmy's plans all along. Part of Jimmy's preparations was planning with the Man of Steel himself. Superman took Jimmy to the hospital so that he could give a recovering Crane his $1,000 fee. Crane was as happy with the fact that his perfect record was still intact as he was with the money. Jimmy gave Superman all the credit for solving his dilemma.

The next day Jimmy showed Clark one Superman photo that he had drawn a pair of glasses on, then ripped it up because he had drawn them so crooked. That gave Clark a lot of relief. Apparently a crooked pair of glasses on the Superman photo was enough to keep Jimmy from learning Superman's secret identity. As Jimmy wondered if he would ever learn the Man of Steel's secret identity, Clark winked at the reader.

This story presented a tough problem for Jimmy to solve, and he found a clever way to keep from betraying either friend. It was a pleasure to see the greedy Gordon foiled in his attempt to get rich quick. The only thing that didn't make sense was how Jimmy didn't learn that Clark was really Superman after he walked into the glass house. Or did he? I still give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

Superboy For A Day began with Jimmy joining Clark Kent at Smallville's Superboy Day. Jimmy met the parents of one of Clark's high school friends, Henry Crane. Clark learned that Henry had been missing since he left Smallville. Jimmy left Clark alone at the graves of his parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent. Jimmy toured Smallville's Hall of Superboy Trophies, and watched the residents admire the Superboy exhibits as much as he enjoyed the trophies themselves. That gave Jimmy an idea.

When Superman met the Mayor at the Hall of Superboy Trophies, Jimmy appeared in a Superboy costume. He talked Superman into reenacting some of his Superboy exploits, such as saving a man from falling from the Smallville clock tower (using a dummy of course) and saving a bank teller who had accidentally gotten locked in the bank safe.

A mysterious person started a fire in a junkyard. After Superman extinguished it with his super breath, he and Jimmy reenacted Superboy's plowing a long ditch to save the local neighborhood from flooding. On the site of the old Crane residence, they unearthed a giant tin cup that Superboy had used to catch hailstones during a severe storm. Cal Trent thought that Superboy's identity was now exposed, because he assumed that Superboy's fingerprints had been embedded in the metal. He thought that Superboy had been Henry Crane. Superman explained to Trent that he buried the cup upside down to cap an underground spring to keep the Crane property from becoming soggy.

Trent was still unconvinced until Mr. Crane brought news that they had received a letter from their son Henry, who had suffered from amnesia all these years, and had recently recovered his memory. Cal felt like a fool for keeping secret the wrong secret identity of Superman, but the Man of Steel appreciated how he had kept it a secret all these years, and felt that Trent could be trusted with the secret if he ever revealed it to him (which Superman didn't).

At the end, Jimmy got a Superboy costume to add to his Superman souvenir collection. If he expected to keep his collection in his home after he got married, I hope he found a wife who liked the Man of Steel as much as he did.

This was a fun, nostalgic story with a few quirks. When Superman reenacted the flood, he broke open a water main. I think damaging Smallville's infrastructure was a bit extreme for a reenactment. I'm sure Superman repaired it afterwards, but I wonder if he boiled everyone's water until it was safe to drink again? The story had its fill of typically weird super stunts, but it was touching to see Cal Trent keep Superboy's (Superman's) secret all those years. I also give this story 4 Capes out of 5.

Jimmy Olsen, Crooner was the third and final story of the issue, and was featured on the cover. It began with Jimmy getting over a cold as he worked on the story of the manhunt of Charles Gordon, bank embezzler. After a fruitless day of searching for Jimmy, Clark treated him to dinner at the Scoop Coop, a dinner club for reporters and their families paid for by the publishers of the city's newspapers. Diners "payed" for their meals in another way. They received a note (I assume from their waiter) to perform an act or skit.

Jimmy's payment was to sing like a crooner. He balked at first because his voice was still a little hoarse, but Clark encouraged him. Kent said that talent didn't matter, it was all in fun. So Jimmy got on stage and was an instant hit, especially with the teen aged girls in the audience.

The next week, Jimmy made a number of singing performances around Metropolis, followed by girls wherever he went. When he practiced his singing at work instead of working on the embezzler story, Perry White chewed him out. Jimmy quit his job because he felt he could be more successful as a singer.

When Jimmy arrived at a TV studio later that day for an audition, he was mobbed by admirers. Jimmy had to use his signal watch to call the Man of Steel to save him. After his TV performance, Jimmy wore a disguise to sneak out of the studio past his fans. As he passed the Daily Planet building, Jimmy began to have second thoughts about changing careers. When he bought a paper from a newsstand, he noticed a man walk by as if he was sneaking away from someone. Jimmy walked toward him and discovered that it was Charles Gordon in disguise. Gordon pushed Jimmy in a ditch, who was saved by Superman. The Man of Steel captured Gordon, and Jimmy decided he preferred life as a reporter.

Superman took Jimmy to one more singing engagement. His voice had finally cleared, but the tone that had attracted his fans was now gone, and he flopped. Thus ended Jimmy Olsen's career as the first American Idol.

The next day, when Jimmy went to the Daily Planet office to beg for his job, he was congratulated by Perry White for capturing the embezzler. Perry told Jimmy that he knew that quitting his job was only an act, and Jimmy was lucky to get his job back.

This was a fun, humorous, light hearted story about Jimmy's unexpected brush with fame, and how it went to his head for a while. In the panel near the end of the story where we first saw the disguise embezzler, he was in the foreground of the panel very prominently. In the next few panels we found out the reason why he earned such a close up. Jimmy showed some sharp instincts to pick up on his mannerisms to expose Gordon. I give this story 4 Capes out of 5.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, there were 31 titles that carried the October or October/November 1955 cover date.

Next Episode: The Superman Comic Book Cover Dated December 1958: Action Comics #247!

In two weeks: The Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated November/December 1955: World's Finest Comics #79!

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