Saturday, August 6, 2011

Episode #189: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated April 1956: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #12!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #12, April 1956, was published around February 21, 1956. It contained 32 pages for the cover price of a dime. The editor was Mort Weisinger, and the cover was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Ray Burnley. They were the art team for all three 8 page stories, which were written by Otto Binder.

Jimmy Olsen, Prince Of Clowns began with the cub reporter interviewing one of the stars of the circus which was performing in Metropolis, Tad King. Tad was going to make his premiere performance with his famous dad Joe King, as the Clown King and Clown Prince. Tad was anxious about living up to his Dad Joe's talent as a clown.

Joe had a sad expression on his face as he finished his clown makeup and wardrobe. Tad asked his Dad if he thought he would make the grade. Joe, still frowning, told Tad to do his best. Joe then left to check on their props. A still anxious Tad tripped and hit his head on a travel case.

Jimmy helped Tad to a bunk. The Clown Prince had a nasty bump on his head. Jimmy noticed that Tad was about the same size and build that he was, which gave Olsen an idea. While Tad recuperated, Jimmy put on Tads' clown costume and clown makeup, and quickly memorized their act. The clown makeup hid Jimmy's true identity from Joe, who thought he was Tad.

The Clown King and Clown Prince began their act by driving their Dadmobile and much smaller Sonmobile into the ring. Suddenly the Sonmobile began to buck uncontrollably, almost throwing Jimmy out. Olsen was saved when Clark Kent, who was in the audience, secretly used his x-ray vision to burn out a spark plug wire. Jimmy ad libbed, acting as if it was part of the act, and got a laugh.

Clark used his x-ray vision again, and noticed that it was Jimmy, not Tad, under the clown makeup.

Between parts of the act, Jimmy asked Joe why the car malfunctioned if he had checked it out. Joe said that it must have been an accident. Joe offered his "son" a chance to bow out if he was too shook up from the incident. Jimmy wondered why Joe urged his "son" to quit so easily.

For the next part of the act, Jimmy grabbed some helium filled balloons, which slowly lifted him off the ground. Jimmy acted as if he was walking up invisible stairs, while Joe held his hand as Jimmy's sleeve stretched as he rose. Some of the balloons began to burst, and Clark, using his super vision, noticed that Joe was shooting pellets from his mouth. Jimmy was barely high enough so that Clark was secretly able to use his super breath to blow Jimmy to a trapeze bar. Olsen improvised some acrobatic moves, after feeling the gust that pushed him to the bar. He correctly assumed that Superman must be somewhere in the circus tent.

Clark left the audience to change into Superman in order to investigate why Joe was trying to sabotage his son's act. The Man of Steel talked with Tad in his tent, then x-rayed Joe's diary, to discover that Joe was purposefully trying to rig Tad's act for failure. He felt Tad's bad rehearsal showed that he wasn't cut out to be a circus clown. Then Superman's attention was drawn to Joe's circus scrapbook.

The next part of the act was for Joe to examine a dummy elephant while Jimmy threw a giant pill in the elephant's mouth. However, Joe had replaced the "pill" with a heavy stone. Fortunately for Jimmy, Superman burrowed up from underground and threw the pill into the fake elephant's mouth. As he did, the Man of Steel whispered to Jimmy to return to Tad's tent.

Joe saw Superman's arm and head emerge from underground, and finally noticed that it was a sweaty Jimmy, not his son Tad in the clown makeup. Jimmy excused himself to touch up his clown makeup.

A broken hearted Joe juggled some egg, one of which hatched in mid air with the bird flying away, while thinking that Jimmy was giving Tad a bed turn (false hope). The Clown Prince then returned to finish the act, doing a back flip off of a see saw and making a perfect landing. to loud applause from the audience.

As the clowns took off their makeup, Joe saw that it was Tad, not Jimmy removing his clown makeup. Jimmy had found Tad recovered when he returned to the tent to retouch his makeup, and Tad finished the act. Superman reminded Joe of the newspaper interview from his scrapbook, where Joe talked about having bad rehearsals but great performances.

Joe and Tad went on to break box office records as a father and son clown team, according to the front page headline a proud Jimmy read in the Daily Planet. He was brought back down to Earth when Perry yelled at him for misspelling names in one of his reports, calling Jimmy a first rate clown as a reporter. Perry knew how to encourage a guy.

I missed the clues to the mishaps in the clown act, until after reading the story, then saw where Joe became a suspect. But then, I'm not good at picking whodunit. He seemed to forget what it was like when he was young, when you're more inclined to take risks.

It was a stretch for Jimmy to be able to memorize and perform the acrobatic clown act on such short notice, not to mention sounding like Tad when he talked to Joe. I did enjoy the scenes of the clown act, and Clark's secret use of his super powers. I'd like to see this clown act in real life.

This was a down to earth human interest story which reminded me of the 1950's Superman TV show. It was a touching father and son story. My own father passed away in 1982, and I have a 21 year old son, so stories like this mean a lot. There weren't any major heroics, just a touching personal story, and I give this story 5 Superman Capes out of 5.

The Secret Of Dinosaur Island began as Jimmy and Clark took the Daily Planet's Flying Newsroom to Mystic Isle to investigate rumors of dinosaurs. Apparently Clark has a helicopter pilot's license as well as Jimmy, and pilot Jumbo Jones didn't make an appearance. I wonder if he was laid off?

As they approached landing, they saw a brontosaurus, now called an apatosaurus. After landing, they left the helicopter to explore, but Clark suddenly became weak and dizzy, and returned to the Flying Newsroom. As Jimmy began to explore, a Tyrannosaurus Rex approached. Clark used his super breath to cause an avalanche and scare away the T-Rex.

Despite the scare, Jimmy began exploring Mystic Isle, but was soon approached, not by another dinosaur, but by a robot which had a sign on its chest, This robot is trained to smash your camera. Jimmy outsmarted the robot by escaping through a narrow crevice.

Clark kept tabs on Jimmy with his telescopic vision, and saw the robot approach the Flying Newsroom. Clark used his x-ray vision to fuse the sand near the helicopter into glass, causing the robot to slip and fall. Clark removed the internal mechanisms and wore the robot's lead body like armor. He was able to hear the supersonic signal recalling the Guardiac.

Clark was led to a cabin belonging to an ill scientist, Professor William March, a naturalist. He ordered Guardiac to bring a tape recorder. As he told his story, we saw it in flashback. While exploring Mystic Isle, he found a cavern which contained dinosaurs frozen in ice. Using heaters to thaw the specimens, he saw them come to life, and began studying them. To keep other people away he built the Guardiac robot. Experiments proved that the dinosaurs would not live over a year because of the modern air. He realized that he would not survive beyond the dinosaurs because of his own heart condition. March decided to leave his work to science after his death.

The Professor ordered Guardiac to scare off the trespassers without harming them, and to ruin their photos at all costs. Remaining in the robot shell, Clark ruined several of Jimmy's photographs on several occasions, then flew back to the Flying Newsroom ahead of Jimmy. He replaced the internal parts of the robot and sent it on its way.

Undaunted, Jimmy reloaded his camera and left to try again. A weak Clark left to find the robot, and it was here we learned that Mystic Isle was loaded with kryptonite. Clark again found the robot, and put on its armor once more.

Back at March's lab, we learned that he had placed the robot's mechanisms in a lighter steel suit. Jimmy was determined to keep the robot from ruining any more of his photographs. Jimmy dropped a rock on the robot's head to topple it, but did not realize that the rock contained kryptonite. He left the robot to finish taking his photos.

The robot was found by the Professor, who discovered Clark inside it. March learned that Clark Kent was Superman.

Later, in the lead robot suit, Clark moved at super speed to create a blur in front of Jimmy;s camera, so that his pictures appeared to be out of focus. Jimmy did not find it out until he developed the film on the trip back to the Daily Planet. He blamed it on defective film.

In a series of thought balloons, we learned that Clark had burrowed into a geyser before they left. This would hide the island in a fog to keep explorers from finding Mystic Isle again. That way Professor March could use his remaining time to finish his research, then leave his work to science once he and the dinosaurs were gone. This was the deal Clark and Marsh made to keep their secrets safe.

Once the Professor died, Clark would arrange it so that Jimmy would break the story about the late dinosaurs of Mystic Isle.

This was another great story in this issue. It had it all, dinosaurs, Clark's secret revealed. Maybe it's a good thing Lois doesn't find out Clark's secret identity. Otherwise she'd have to live the rest of her life alone on a deserted island. I liked how Clark's weakness was a mystery in the first part of this story, and also rate this story 5 Superman Capes out of 5.

The Invisible Jimmy Olsen began as Clark and Jimmy left the Daily Planet building for different assignments, Jimmy had some interviews to do around town, while Clark needed to finish his expose on "Blacky" Blake's crime ring.

Jimmy interviewed Doc Brane, a scientist. In his lab, Brane put Jimmy in a clear glass chamber in which he teleported Olsen to the Fourth Dimension. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to bring him back. Jimmy left Doc's lab and walked, invisible, through Metropolis, while Brane worked on a solution.

The Daily Planet even published a front page article asking for any information about the missing cub reporter. Jimmy returned to the Daily Planet offices and tried to convince them he was still there. He picked up a copy of the paper in front of Perry White, who thought he was hallucinating. Jimmy picked up the nameplate at his desk in front of Lois, who had the same reaction.Faring no better with the office boy, Jimmy rode the city bus, for free, to Clark's apartment.

Clark watched in shock as the invisible Jimmy typed a message on Kent's typewriter explaining his problem and asking him to contact Superman. Before Clark could respond, Blake and his gang barged into Clark's apartment and tied up Clark.

Jimmy took Clark's report, which the gang saw float in air, and hid it in Clark's freezer, then took an ice cube and touched it to Blake's neck. Blake thought he had been burned, and suspected that Clark was Superman. He was convinced when Jimmy used a letter opener to cut Clark's bonds. When Blake swung a fist at Clark, Jimmy blocked it with a steel paperweight. Jimmy then pushed Blake's gun when he shot at Clark, so that the bullet hit the wall next to Clark.

Blake and his gang surrendered to Clark, but said that they'd get the last laugh when they told everyone in prison that Clark was Superman. After police took the gang to prison, Clark left to "find" Superman. The Man of Steel took Jimmy to Doc Brane's lab and placed Jimmy in the chamber. Superman used giant forceps to pull Jimmy out of the chamber and back into the 3rd Dimension.

Jimmy returned the favor by writing what became a front page story how he had simulated Superman;s powers to save Clark from the Blake gang. Superman used his x-ray vision to spy on Blake as he read the story, furious that he had been duped. The Man of Steel was grateful that Jimmy was able to cover up his secret identity after unwittingly exposing it. To show his appreciation to Jimmy, Clark offered to take Jimmy to a movie, but Olsen declined to see The Invisible Man.

This was a common way to end a silver age story, have the characters go to a play or movie that had a title relating to the plot of the story. This particular story also had the same feel as the 1950's Superman TV show. There were a number of episodes that had stories involving brilliant but absent minded scientists whose inventions didn't quite work.

For the second consecutive episode, we had a story with one of Superman's supporting cast rendered invisible by entering the 4th Dimension. Jimmy was able to operate in the normal world a lot easier than Lois. The plot had triple jeopardy, Jimmy's invisibility, Clark captured by the gang and the exposure of his secret identity. This was a fun story with plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and I give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

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

Next Episode: Superman Comic Book Cover Dated June 1959: Action Comics #253! with the first solo Supergirl story!

In 2 weeks: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated May 1956: World's Finest Comics #82!

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