Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Episode #187: Superman Family Comic Books Cover Dated March 1956: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #11 & World's Finest Comics #81!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #11, March 1956, was published around January 12, 1956. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of 10¢. The editor was Mort Weisinger. Penciller Curt Swan and inker Ray Burnley were the art team for all three 8 page stories in this issue, which were written by Otto Binder. All three stories have been reprinted in Showcase Presents: Superman Family vol. I.

The first story was titled Superman's Seeing Eye Dog. It began when Superman brought Jimmy a new souvenir, a jar of meteor dust that emitted x-rays. The Man of Steel explained that he had examined an iron meteor with his x-ray vision when it exploded. His examination determined that the difference between the frequencies of the two separate x'ray beams caused the explosion.

After Superman left, Jimmy tripped while he was going to place his latest souvenir with the rest of his collection. The jar shattered, and some meteor dust got in his eyes. Jimmy discovered that he had x-ray vision. He found a lost gold stick pin, and later noticed an ice cream vendor carried a concealed weapon. Jimmy exposed him, which wasn't a good idea. He learned that the vendor was an undercover police officer, and was lucky not to be arrested for interfering with an investigation.

At the Daily Planet, Jimmy asked Lois if she had change for a dollar, but then noticed that she only had 87¢ in her purse. Before Jimmy could discover what was in Clark's pockets, Kent left the room, claiming he had an interview to conduct. Clark took the opportunity to change into Superman and build something that Jimmy would need.

Jimmy learned another lesson about x-ray vision not always being fun when he set the piece of typing paper on fire as he was typing his news story. Superman appeared in time to extinguish the flames and give his pal a pair of lead lined goggles. Otherwise, Superman would not be able to use his own x-ray vision, in order to avoid causing a second explosion. The Man of Steel took Jimmy to an eye specialist. After the examination, the doctor informed Jimmy that the x-ray vision would disappear when the meteor dust left his system.

Outside the doctor office, Jimmy saw a blind man walking with his seeing eye dog. That gave him an idea. Using a similar harness, Jimmy became Superman's Seeing Eye Pal. He found an underground gas leak, a lost jewel in a jewelry shop, and a giant idol stolen from the Metropolis Museum. When Jimmy found a red hair on the idol, it made crime boss "Red" Redding Superman's prime suspect. The Man of Steel had no luck finding him in Metropolis, but Jimmy was able to use his x-ray vision to see through the disguise of a man on the street and find Redding.

Red was not happy, and pulled out his gun and fired at Jimmy. Olsen was unhurt because his x-ray vision melted the bullets. The lead fumes of the melted bullets stung his eyes, and Jimmy discovered that his x-ray vision power was gone.After Superman took Redding to jail, Jimmy buried the rest of the meteor dust in the ground. Having x-ray vision was not all it was cracked up to be.

I had to wonder if it was a good idea for Superman to give Jimmy a souvenir that emitted x-rays. It would seem that Jimmy would have eventually collected cancer. Also, was it smart for Jimmy to just bury it in the ground? Wouldn't that contaminated the ground? The story developed nicely as Jimmy struggled with his new ability as the novelty wore off. It seemed humiliating to see Jimmy in a seeing eye dog harness, but he didn't seem to mind and actually wanted to help his Super Pal.

When Clark Kent changed into Superman at the corner of the alley, did he use his vision powers to check for peeping toms. He seemed too out in the open to keep his secret identity safe.

Once again Jimmy used his wits to catch the bad guy. Quick thinking saved him again when Redding shot at him and Jimmy used intense x-rays to melt the bullets. This was the first issue of Jimmy Olsen where he gained superpowers, not counting the flying dream in issue #2.

The reason for Superman not using his x-ray vision being because of the difference in the wavelengths of the two different x-rays was a good example of comic book science. From the little bit of research I did, the range of x-rays on the electromagnetic spectrum is from 0.01 - 10 nanometers.

Still, I enjoyed the story and give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

Jimmy Olsen, Clark Kent's Pal began as Jimmy temporarily moved in with Clark while his own apartment building was repaired. Clark had to do some quick thinking when Jimmy was about to put his belongings in the closet where Clark had his Superman uniform hanging. He used his x-ray vision to fuse the doorknob, then opened another closet for Jimmy.

Having Jimmy live with him presented some problems for Clark with his secret identity. That night, Clark learned that Jimmy talked in his sleep.

The next day, Clark was surprised when Jimmy declined a chance to fly to Mount Everest with Superman. Jimmy acted as if he was bored hanging out with the Man of Steel, and preferred being with Clark.

That created problems for Clark when he needed to respond to a fire across town. Clark told Jimmy that he was going to take a bath, filled it with water, and stirred it at super speed so that the sloshing water would make enough noise to make Jimmy think he was bathing.

When Superman had to respond to an emergency at night, the Man of Steel put a dummy in his bed to fool Jimmy into thinking Clark was still in his bed. It was a good thing that Superman kept an eye and ear tuned to Clark's apartment, because Jimmy got up and asked Clark if he could close the window. Superman used his super ventriloquism to tell Jimmy to go ahead. Clark was also losing sleep worrying about Jimmy discovering his secret identity.

Clark and Jimmy were witnesses to a jewel robbery. Clark ran away, acting like a coward, to cover for his changing into Superman. But he never had a chance, because he had to run back and shield Jimmy from bullets fired by one of the thieves. Clark secretly deflected a bullet to flatten one of the tires of the getaway car and allow police to capture the robbers. Another bullet had hit a nearby lamp post, so Jimmy never suspected that Clark was Superman.

Later, Perry gave Jimmy a choice of covering Superman's destruction of a dilapidated statue, or go with Clark to cover a hockey game with Clark Kent. To everyone's surprise, Jimmy chose the hockey game with Clark. To cover for himself when he needed to leave to take care of the statue, Clark "broke" his seat, so that the usher would have to find him one separate from Jimmy. I wondered how Clark could cover the hockey game while he had to demolish the old statue. Maybe he used his telescopic vision.

Jimmy's snub of Superman made the Metropolis gossip columns, noticed by mobster "Safety" Stone. He told his gang they would pull their jewel heist without his "safety play" or back up plan. Jimmy happened to be outside the target of Stone's planned heist. Jimmy activated his signal watch, but it failed as the gang approached. Superman still came to Jimmy's rescue and captured the gang.

Jimmy explained that his snub was fake. He explained that he had disguised himself as a blind beggar, and overheard Stone talking with one of his gang members, planning to kidnap Jimmy Olsen to use as a human shield against Superman. Jimmy pretended to snub Superman so that Stone would be convinced no to go with the plan. Olsen didn't want Superman to feel obligated to guard him 24 hours a day and neglect other duties.

As Jimmy typed up the story for the next edition of the Daily Planet, Clark decided not to tell Jimmy that he had revealed his plan when he talked in his sleep.

Jimmy's thinking made sense, but how he expected the gang to find out about his snub seemed like a stretch. We learned why Clark didn't have a roommate. Keeping a secret identity would be almost impossible. How Superman covered for his secret identity did seem silly, stirring the bath water at super speed and using super ventriloquism.

However, it was admirable for Jimmy risking his own safety in order to not take advantage of his friendship with Superman. Not everyone would be so noble. For that reason I give this story 3 Superman capes out of 5.

T. N. T. Olsen, The Champ, featured on the cover, began with Jimmy and Lois having lunch together at a Metropolis restaurant. Jimmy punched an overbearing stranger hitting on Lois, knocking the jerk out. "Pugs" Orten, boxing promoter, noticed that the guy had actually stepped on a banana peel, which was the real reason that the guy was knocked out.

This gave Pugs an idea. He whispered something to his friend Punchy, who sat at his table. Punchy charged at Jimmy, claiming the unconscious man was his friend. Jimmy hit Punchy on the chin, and Punchy went down also. But he wasn't knocked out. He took the fall at Pugs' suggestion. Jimmy signed with Orten to become a boxer.

Jimmy was unable to ask Superman for his advice because the Man of Steel was at a nuclear power plant as scientists repaired the atomic pile.

At the gym, Jimmy knocked the small punching bag off its chain. Orten had filed the chain to give Jimmy a false sense of confidence. Pugs also ordered all of Jimmy's sparring partners to take a dive.

This succeeded in giving Jimmy a swell head. When a gorilla escaped a zoo, Jimmy went after the ape and knocked it out with one punch. Actually, Pugs had shot the gorilla with a dart rifle just before Jimmy hit it. And, of course, Pugs used the publicity to build up Jimmy even more.

Superman returned to Metropolis in time for Jimmy's Lightweight Champion of Metropolis bout against Gorilla Gordon. The Man of Steel used his x-ray vision and super hearing to learn of Orten's scheme. As Clark Kent, he visited Jimmy and brought him down to Earth by asking Olsen to hit him on the chin. After giving Jimmy a dose of reality, Clark told him he couldn't back out of the contract. With that, Jimmy went to the boxing ring.

During the first round Jimmy got clobbered. Clark shot  a paper clip at the bell to end the round early, before Jimmy got knocked out. During the second round, Clark secretly used his super breath to keep Jimmy from falling  after being punched. Clark used his x-ray vision to slightly heat up the lens of a TV camera above the ring to shine a light into Gordon's eyes, causing him to miss, during the third round. To everyone's surprise, Jimmy still had some wits left in his head to notice Gordon's weakness, dropping his guard against a left hook. Jimmy punched Gordon with a left hook, knocking him out.

Orten fled with as much cask as he could grab, since he was unable to pay off his gambling debts. Superman captured him and forced him to confess to his scam in front of the boxing crowd. Superman told Jimmy he was proud of him for hanging in there, but Jimmy felt more like a chump than champ.

This was my favorite story of the issue, as Jimmy used his battered wits to beat the odds. Plus, what's not to like about a boxing story. It was another typical Jimmy story as he got in over his head and allowed himself to get an inflated ego. It captured the feel of a Jack Larson Jimmy Olsen story form the 1950's The Adventures Of Superman TV show. Why Clark/Superman would allow Jimmy into the ring after deflating his ego is beyond me. But it did make a great ending to the story. What's not to like about an underdog coming out on top, and I give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

World's Finest Comics #81, March/April 1956, was published around January 31, 1956. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of a dime. The editor was Jack Schiff and was drawn by Win Mortimer. The twelve page Superman/Batman story was titled The True History Of Superman And Batman, written by Edmond Hamilton, pencilled by Dick Sprang and inked by Stan Kaye. This story was reprinted in Batman In The Fifties and Showcase Presents: World's Finest vol. I.

The story began with Superman removing some animals he had previously brought to the Metropolis zoo. He then built an ark and brought them back to the zoo in the ship.

In Gotham City, Batman and Robin towed a single engine aircraft behind the Batplane, after previously saving it from crashing. They released the plane, allowing it to make a soft crash landing in the ocean. Then they submerged the Batplane, retracting its wings and towing the plane underwater back to the airport.

In a flashback, the previous night, historian Ka-Thar from the year 5956 appeared in the Batcave. Batman and Robin summoned Superman, and Ka-Thar revealed that his purpose for coming to the past was to settle a dispute with rival historians. He demanded that the heroes redo their deeds again as he had written them in his history, or Ka-Thar would reveal their secret identities to 1956 America.

Batman and Robin were concerned that Superman would be unable to redo his feat of saving both Gotham City and Metropolis from the same tornado.

Superman began his quest by replacing a dam built with blocks of stone with one built with one piece of stone he carved from a mountain, after freezing the river with his super cold breath. Lois met Ka-Tahr, and became very interested in his future history about Superman.

Batman and Robin purposefully sped up the planet display at a Planetarium to redo their rescue of the audience according to Ka-Thar's version of the event.

Next, Superman redid his move of an orphanage building, with the orphans still inside.

Bruce released a crook from jail and recaptured him according to Ka-Thar's history, by lassoing him from the Batmobile. It turned out that the crook was actually a disguised Batman, and Robin was disguised as Batman in the Batmobile. The real criminal had remained in jail.

Batman figured a way to keep Ka-Thar from forcing Superman to redo his tornado feat. when challenged, Ka-Thar admitted that his threat to expose their secret identities was a hollow threat. If they were exposed, his history would have been proven false. Superman reminded the future historian that he had saved the two cities by erecting a barrier, because he had formed a barrier of wind by flying around the tornado at super speed. Satisfied, Ka-Thar returned to his own era, having discovered that Superman and Batman had performed their super deeds according to both versions of the future's history.

Lois was disappointed, not because she didn't learn Superman's secret identity, but because she failed to learn who Superman would eventually marry.

I never got the point of this story. Making Superman and Batman redo their feats to fit his history was fraud. Worse than plagiarism, it was changing history. It was a silly story from beginning to end, almost as much of a waste of my time as it was for Superman, Batman and Robin.And what was it with people from the future, that Superman and Batman would feel compelled to believe someone just because they claimed to travel from the future, like the Earth Bureau of Investigation story we covered last episode. Usually I like Edmond Hamilton's stories, but this is the worst story he's written, so far. I wonder, was he pressed to meet a deadline and desperate to come up with a story? I would rate this story a 1, but with the great Dick Sprang art, I'll give it 2 Superman Capes out of 5.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 32 titles carried the March or March/April 1956 cover date.

Next Episode: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated May 1959: Superman #129 & Action Comics #252! (This is the200th individual episode of this podcast!)

In 2 weeks: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated April 1956: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #12!

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