Thursday, June 30, 2011

Episode #185: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated February 1956: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #10!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #10, February 1956, was published around December 1, 1955. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of a dime. Mort Weisinger was the editor, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Ray Burnley, who were the art team for all three 8 page stories. They were written by Otto Binder, and have been reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman Family vol. I.

The first story of the issue was titled Jimmy Olsen's Martian Pal. It began with Jimmy involved with his latest hobby, ham radio operator. For you trivia buffs, his call sign was WX-5-YZ. After contacting someone in Bombay, India, Jimmy received a message from someone who claimed to be from the planet Mars.

Jimmy and his new radio friend discussed what life was like on Mars, then the Martian claimed to see smoke from an extinct  volcano near Metropolis, using his Martian telescope. The Martian claimed that it would erupt in an hour. Jimmy used his signal watch to alert Superman. The Man of Steel was suspicious of the supposed Martian, but carried his pal to the volcano in question, just in case. Sure enough, right on schedule, the volcano erupted, and Superman made quick work of it, plugging it with a giant rock.

We learned that the Martian was actually gangster "Sparks" Sloan.

Back at Jimmy's apartment, Superman read a Daily Planet article about the Astronomy Society offering a $50,000 reward to anyone who solved the mystery of the Martian canals.

The Daily Planet ran a front page story of Jimmy contacting a Martian ham operator. That evening Jimmy contacted his "Martian" friend and asked about the canals.

"Sparks" Sloan told a story about a comet impact that caused cracks worldwide on Mars. Martians built giant chains that kept the planet from breaking apart.

Jimmy was sure he would win the Astronomy prize. But before he could dream about what he could spend his prize money on, he was soon visited by Sloan and some of his henchmen. Sloan revealed his plot, to get Jimmy to win the prize for his gang. To convince Jimmy, Sloan and his gang had planted explosives in the extinct volcanic crater, to detonate at the right time.

Suddenly, another voice claimed to be from Mars. He explained that the canals were to drain lava away from the Martian cities. This stranger then said that he had looked through his telescope, and asked why a lake north of Metropolis seemed to have a gold tint to it instead of blue. Slaon assumed it was because there was gold at the bottom of the lake.

Sloan and his men took Jimmy to the lake in question, only to find Superman emerging from underwater and throwing mud in their faces. So Sloan and his men were taken to jail for the intent to steal on private property, and Jimmy was left to ponder the mystery of the Martian canals.

In these first ten issues of Jimmy's title, whenever Jimmy began a new hobby, it always spells trouble for Superman's Pal. We see the gullible Jimmy once again.

It doesn't seem to make sense that the Daily Planet would publish a story about Jimmy contacting a Martian. It seems to be more fitting for the Weekly World News that we find by the cash register at grocery stores.

Also, Sloan's plot to embezzle the Astronomy Prize using Jimmy seems like too complicated a scheme to work. It would take more than the word of Superman's Pal to convince the Astronomy Society that his theory  on the Martian canals was correct.

What made me like this story more than I otherwise would have is the fact that Superman used Sloan's own scheme against he and his men. It showed the Man of Steel's cleverness in picking up on the hoax by the lack of a gap in the transmissions between Jimmy and the Martian. Superman realized that there should have been a four minute gap between transmissions, taking into account the amount of time the radio signals should take to travel between the two planets.

This is why I rate this story 3 Superman Capes out of 5.

The second story of the issue was titled, Jimmy Olsen's Forgotten Adventure! It began with Jimmy dying his red hair black and donning glasses and the uniform of an elevator operator in the Briggs Building of Metropolis. The reason for the disguise was that, after conducting an interview at the Briggs Building, Jimmy had recognized a gangster entering the office of music instructor Maestro Mason in the same building. After witnessing other suspicious characters entering the same office, Jimmy became suspicious.

As Jimmy walked to the Briggs Building, a brick fell off of a scaffolding and hit him on the head. The only injury Jimmy seemed to suffer was amnesia. Looking at the identification in his pocket, Jimmy leaned his name was Dick Hunter, occupation elevator operator. He didn't realize that it was a fake I. D. as part of his cover.

Jimmy worked an elevator, and one of the riders was Maestro Mason himself. In a thought balloon we learned that he had noticed Jimmy snooping around, unaware Jimmy was the elevator operator in the same car.

As Mason left the elevator and was about to enter his office, a piece of paper fell out of a file he carried. Jimmy saw it and left his elevator to pick it up. It was a music sheet with the odd title. Avoid Sing Sing Trouble With Maestro Mason's Technique. Jimmy was turned away by someone at the door, who looked through the peephole.

When it was time for his lunch hour break, Jimmy was able to sneak into the dark office behind another suspicious character. Jimmy watched Mason instructing the assembled criminals in evading the police through using the underground subway and drainage systems. To hide from everyone, Jimmy ducked into a sample of water pipe. But when the criminals practiced walking through the water pipe, Jimmy attempted to sneak out the other end, only to be caught.

Mason thought he looked familiar, and noticed Jimmy's hair had been dyed. After removing the hair color, Mason recognized Jimmy, and that was how Olsen found out his real name. Mason ordered Jimmy held in a room with bars covering the window. The room had a chalkboard and a hand bellows, so Jimmy used the erasers to create a cloud of chalk dust, and used the bellows to create a Morse code message with the chalk dust.

Luckily for Jimmy, Clark had been patrolling Metropolis using his telescopic vision while looking out the window at the Daily Planet offices. As Superman, he captured the members of the criminal school, and burst through the door to free Jimmy. Olsen tripped over a piece of the shattered door and banged his head on the floor, regaining his memory, except for his time with amnesia.

The banner story on the front page of the next day's edition of the Daily Planet was about how Jimmy exposed a crime school. Unfortunately, Jimmy didn't remember a moment of it.

This was probably my favorite story of the issue. While some of the crime tips made less sense than others, I did like how Jimmy was able to use his wits in uncovering the crime school and alerting Superman. I give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

Jungle Jimmy Olsen was the final story of the issue. Jimmy and Clark sailed to the Yucatan to do a story of the legend of a Jungle Boy, and try to discover if he existed or was a myth. A native in the area indicated the Jungle Boy lived in the Black Jungle.

After finally setting up camp, Clark left Jimmy to guard the camp while he scouted the area. As Superman, he searched the jungle at super speed and discovered that there was no Jungle Boy.

While Clark was gone, Jimmy fell asleep, and was awakened by a tribe of monkeys that wrecked the camp and drove Jimmy away by ripping the clothes off his back. He found an animal skin left by some trapper, and used that to wear over his underwear. Jimmy decided to indulge himself and swung on vines and yelled at the top of his lungs, until the vine broke and he fell in water. He discovered he had lost his voice from too much yelling.

When Clark returned to camp he discovered that it had been destroyed and assumed that Jimmy had failed in his duty. Two explorers drove up in a jeep, towing a cage meant for the Jungle Boy.

Jimmy appeared, all muddy, and Clark decided to teach Olsen a lesson. Kent pretended not to recognize Jimmy, and the explorers captured Jimmy and put him in their cage. Jimmy found a piece of bark and some charcoal from a fire. Before he could write a message, Clark used his x-ray vision to ignite the bark.

To test Jimmy, the explorers offered him a hot dog or a piece of raw meat. Of course, Jimmy reached for the hot dog, but Clark switched the two, so Jimmy grabbed the raw meat and shoved it in his mouth before he realized it. Then they gave Jimmy a can of beans and a manual can opener. Before Jimmy could open the can, Clark used his super breath to blow them out of his hands so that Jimmy appeared more primitive.

When the explorers put the sign Missing Link on the cage, Jimmy shook the cage in rage.

A herd of buffalo stampeded toward them, and Jimmy was let out of the cage. While the explorers ran for their own safety, Clark pushed Jimmy toward the head buffalo while he squeezed the nearest rubber tree. Clark was able to squeeze out enough rubber to slow the stampede enough to allow Jimmy to jump on top of the lead buffalo and steer the herd away, before falling into another pond.

This time Clark pretended to recognize his pal, and the explorers drove away after making a quick apology. During their return voyage home, Jimmy took the blame for failing to guard the camp causing his troubles, and Clark felt Olsen had learned his lesson. Clark got a last laugh when he presented Jimmy with his animal skin for a new souvenir.

My first thought after reading this story was, What happened to the mild mannered Clark? With friends like that, who needs enemies? I've seen enough nature documentaries to know how dangerous monkeys can be. If they could rip Jimmy's clothes off, how would he have been able to drive them off if he had stayed awake. And why would Clark assume right away that Jimmy had shirked his duty? My first thought would have been if Jimmy might have been attacked by a jungle predator.

Clark went out of his way to secretly use his superpowers to make Jimmy seem wild and primitive, after allowing him to be put in a cage like a wild animal. Kent also risked Jimmy catching food poisoning from the raw meat. Then Clark risked Jimmy getting trampled by the stampede. If I had been treated like that by a friend I would wonder why they now hated me?

I don't know what surprised me more, Clark's treatment of Jimmy, or the fact that originally I liked this story. It was like watching one of the villains on an episode of Survivor. But as I prepared my notes for this episode, the more I became upset by Clark's treatment of Jimmy. The saddest part of the story was the end, when Jimmy took the blame for everything that had happened to him. He acted like someone who had stayed too long in an abusive relationship, blaming himself for the abuse he received. Originally, I would have given this story 3 Superman Capes out of 5, but after thinking about this story closer I have to give it  O Capes.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 30 titles carried the February or February/ March cover date.

Next episode: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated April 1959: Superman #128 & Action Comics #251!

In 2 Weeks: Superman Family Comic Books Cover Dated March or March/April 1956: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #11 And World's Finest Comics #81!

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