Thursday, June 2, 2011

Episode #181: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated December 1955: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #9!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #9, December 1955, was published around October 18, 1955. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of 10¢. The editor was Mort Weisinger, 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 were reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman Family vol. I.

Jimmy Olsen, Cub Inventor began with him working hard on his new hobby, inventor. But things weren't going well. Despite some earlier failures, Jimmy had hopes for his robot cat, which would catch mice at super speed. While he was tinkering on his mechanical feline he spilled a beaker labeled Atomic Fuel. (I hope it wasn't radioactive.) The building superintendent entered Jimmy's workshop and complained about the noise he was making. The super put his hand in the puddle of the atomic fuel and put his wet hand on the top of his bald head as he talked.

After his robot cat ran in circles and then crashed into the wall, shattering in pieces, Jimmy burned the formula for his failed atomic fuel.

Meanwhile, Superman freed a security guard at a jewelry store, who had been knocked out and tied up. Thieves had stolen $1 Million worth of jewels, but had not left any fingerprints nor other clues. In the next panel we learned that the thieves were the gang led by Ghost" Gordon, who celebrated their perfect crime.

The Man of Steel flew to Jimmy's home, just as Jimmy was tossing out his failed Detectoscope. it was supposed to be able to detect crooks using the infra-red spectrum. The building super appeared, this time with a full head of hair. Jimmy's failed atomic fuel worked fine as a hair growth formula. Unfortunately, Jimmy didn't remember the formula, and only had one more container of the solution.

Jimmy's success led Superman to encourage his Pal to keep working, since he had proved he had some talent. Olsen tinkered with his space radar, hoping to find scenes of other planets. Instead, he began to receive voices quoting some famous quotes from colonial America. When Superman showed up next, he encouraged Jimmy to try to tune in to a few days ago to possibly identify the jewel thieves. The Man of Steel promised to tell Clark Kent about Jimmy's invention.

In the next day's edition of the Daily Planet, Jimmy read Clark's report about Jimmy's time radio. Ghost Gordon read with interest the part of Jimmy using his invention to find the robbers. The gang put on rubber masks to disguise themselves and pose as possible investors.

Meanwhile, Superman had to leave Metropolis and keeping an eye on Jimmy in order to save a distant town from an erupting volcano.

Jimmy saw the men approach, and became suspicious when one of them dropped a gun. He barely had time to hide his time radio and find a disguise. The gang entered Jimmy's apartment and offered $1 Million for the rights to his time radio. A bearded and spectacled Jimmy claimed to be Roger Todd, and Jimmy lived five floors up. The gang didn't buy it and tried to pull the beard off Jimmy, but found it was real.

Before they could begin to search the apartment for Jimmy, Superman appeared and captured the gang. He revealed the whole time radio was fake, and used to lure the diamond thieves into the open. The voices were only the Man of Steel using his super ventriloquism to throw his voice. Superman kept Jimmy in the dark so that his pal wouldn't tip off the crooks by accident. Jimmy's building super arrived, bald once again. The hair growth formula was only temporary.

Even though he earned a front page story assisting Superman in capturing the diamond thieves, Jimmy swore off being an inventor.

This story captured the humor of a bumbling Jimmy Olsen, similar to Jack Larson's role in the 1950's Adventures Of Superman TV show. This tale was full of wild '50's science fiction inventions, as well as another use of Superman's super ventriloquism. This is one of those stories that it's hard to avoid reading with a modern perspective. It seemed to stretch believability beyond the stretching point because of the extreme of Superman's odd silver age superpowers. I can believe a man can fly, but not throwing his voice miles away. It was humorous to read how some of Jimmy's inventions worked, but not the way he intended. I did wonder if an editorial mistake snuck through. At the beginning of the story, the bald man was referred to as the building superintendent, but at the end was called the janitor.

The most I can give this story is 2 Superman Capes out of 5.

The second story of the issue was The Million Dollar Question! It began as Jimmy received a phone call from Barton Black, who promised Jimmy a scoop if he would go to Black's penthouse. The next panel revealed that Barton Black was actually "Blacky" Barton, gang leader. Barton was watching the game show Millionaire Jackpot, where he had planted his entire gang in the audience until one of them got picked as a contestant. Gangster Leonard Lake finally picked.

The game show was so popular, even Clark Kent was watching.

When Jimmy entered the penthouse, he learned he had walked into a trap. Barton forced Olsen to provide answers to the topic questions, which were on Superman. Lake wore a ring that contained a miniature radio receiver. Black would radio the answers to Lake.

Jimmy provided the following answers:

The hottest temperature Superman endured was 11,000˚, when he brought back some stellar matter for a scientist to study.

The three trophies on stage were from three of Superman's greatest enemies. Luthor had used the Superman alarm to serve as an early warning system to allow Luthor and his gang time to escape. Superman invented his own alarm to drown out Luthor's and allow the Man of Steel to capture Lex.

Toyman booby trapped a life sized boy doll with a bomb to allow him to escape capture. Instead, Superman blew the doll into the sky with his super breath, captured Toyman and threw the bomb high above them to explode harmlessly in the sky. The Man of Steel left the doll with Toyman in prison to keep him company.

The over sized jack in the box was used by the Prankster to hide from the police, but was captured by Superman.

Jimmy made the headline, Jimmy Olsen Saves Superman At Sea, come true when he saved the Man of Steel form a trap at sea. A boat of some crooks had lured Superman into a kryptonite trap when they broadcast a fake S. O. S. They tied him to the kryptonite rock and threw him overboard. Jimmy had been following the story in the Daily Planet's Flying Newsroom, and was close enough to dive into the water and cut Superman free from the kryptonite, at a depth of 28 feet.

That alarmed Clark because that was a fact only he and Jimmy knew. After transforming into Superman, he used his x-ray vision to discover Lake's radio ring, and began searching Metropolis for Jimmy.

At this point, Lake received the $1 Million Question: What Was Superman Doing In The Slide? It appeared to show the Man of Steel flying to Mars. Jimmy shared that Superman was actually saving the audience from an out of control planetary display at a planetarium.

Before Barton could radio the answer to Lake, Superman burst through the wall, which is always the cool way for a superhero to enter a villain's home. Lake was unable to answer the question, so he lost all of the money he had earned in the game.

Jimmy revealed that he had hoped to tip off Superman by adding the fact that Superman had been at the depth of 28 feet. Lucky for Jimmy, it worked.

This was a great story, with no weird powers, mostly. Jimmy was in peril, and Superman was unaware of his pal's danger. Superman's super alarm against Luthor was weird, and his super breath would seem to be close to hurricane force to blow something high enough in the air, I would think. But it was a clever way Jimmy found to alert Superman to the situation, and I give this story 4 Capes out of 5.

During the 1950's a number of TV game shows of the era were exposed for giving answers to some of their contestants, and the genre almost disappeared from the medium. The scandal was portrayed in the 1994 film, Quiz Show which is still available on DVD. The movie starred John Turturro and Rob Morrow, who got his break starring in the 1990's TV show Northern Exposure.

The Missile Of Steel began when an astronomical observatory discovered a wandering planet was heading for Earth. Superman planned to respond to the threat, but also needed to cover Metropolis for the rumored move to the city by the Brown gang. He flew to Jimmy's apartment, and spotted a boomerang from another planet. It was composed from a super strong but lightweight metal, and rested on a block of the same metal.

Superman molded the block of alien metal into a Superman robot and used the electronics of a remote control device souvenir to control it. Jimmy would use the robot to patrol Metropolis while the real Superman dealt with the emergency in space.

It was a good thing that the Man of Steel had anticipated things, because Brown had indeed planned a crime spree while Superman was gone. And he had an "insurance policy" against the Man of Steel. Brown's en robbed a jewelry store, but were stopped by the robot Superman. Jimmy was able to watch the robot in action on the remote control device's video screen.

Superman was able to throw the planet into the sun and return to Metropolis faster than expected because the planet was lighter than anticipated. He let Jimmy continue patrolling Metropolis because he seemed to be having fun, but Superman was able to switch places with the robot by creating a smoke screen.

The Man of Steel's plans backfired when he attempted to arrest the Brown gang. Brown revealed that his "insurance policy" was a piece of kryptonite. Jimmy saved Superman by throwing the alien boomerang out of his window and aiming it miles away using the remote control device. It knocked the kryptonite out of Brown's hand, out of range of Superman enough so that the Man of Steel was able to use the boomerang to puncture the gas tank of the gang's get away car.

After Superman took the gang to prison, he returned the robot and boomerang to Jimmy and his collection.

My first question is where were the cameras all around Metropolis that Jimmy used to follow the Superman robot? Or was it one camera that followed the robot? There was no explanation given how the remote control video screen worked. It didn't make sense that the remote control could guide the boomerang. It wasn't the fact that the boomerang was composed of the same metal as the robot that allowed Jimmy to guide the robot, it was the electronics Superman had placed in the robot that made it work. I did think it was clever for Superman to use a robot to protect Metropolis while he was in space. But it wasn't enough to give this story more than 2 Capes out of 5.

By far, The Million Dollar Question was the best story of the issue.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 29 titles carried the December 1955 or December 1955/January 1956 cover date.

Next Episode: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated February 1959: Superman #127 & Action Comics #249!

In 2 Weeks: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated January/February 1956: World's Finest Comics #80!

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