Thursday, September 22, 2011

Episode #197: Superman Family Comic Book Cover Dated August 1956: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #14!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #14, August 1956, was published around June 7, 1956. 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 pencilled by Ray Burnley. They were the art team for all three stories. Mike's Amazing World Of DC Comics lists Otto Binder as the writer of the first and third stories in this issue, and leaves the author of the second story unknown. The Grand Comic Book Database lists Otto Binder as the writer of the second story also. DC's slogan contest for 5,000 prizes was promoted on the cover, as well as most of their other titles this month.

The first story of the issue was 8 pages long, with the very non-PC title The Feats Of Chief Super-Duper. It began with Clark and Jimmy doing research at the Metropolis Indian Museum, for a Sunday feature on a legendary Lost Tribe. They were struck by the resemblance to Jimmy on one of the totem poles, created by the Ravensfoot tribe about Chief Super-Duper.

Later, Superman took Jimmy through the time barrier to the Old West of the 1800's. Superman flew through some salt flats, creating enough turbulence to throw dust into the air and seed the clouds to bring rain to a drought stricken area.

Superman dropped Jimmy off near the Ravensfoot Tribe's village, as he left to search for the Lost Tribe. Jimmy entered the village as a bolt of lightning struck behind him, fulfilling a tribal prophesy of the return of a Great Hero.

Jimmy introduced himself as Chief Super-Duper and attempted to play the role of a hero for the tribe.

When the Black Tomahawk Tribe approached, who had been on the warpath against the Ravensfoot Tribe
in the past. Jimmy quickly made a pair of stilts and approached the Black Tomahawks as the Ravensfoot Giant Warrior. He fell off the stilts when they stuck in the sand. The Black Tomahawks were insulted, because they had planned to trade with the Ravensfoot tribe, and decided to take their trade elsewhere.

Jimmy's second attempt at doing a super deed for the Ravensfoot tribe was to build a pair of giant tom-toms so that the tribe could use them to communicate long range. Unfortunately, the tom-toms were so loud that it made the tribe's babies cry and caused a herd of bison to stampede through the village, destroying it.

His third attempt at a super deed was to have the tribe build a giant canoe which needed100 braves to paddle. It worked fine until the river narrowed between two cliffs and the giant canoe broke apart on the rocks.

Superman finally found the Lost Tribe, trapped in a valley because of an earthquake. He smashed a new path to freedom for them.

The Ravensfoot tribe presented the totem pole with Chief Super-Duper to Jimmy, but instead of a token of appreciation, it was to ward off his evil spirit after the calamities that struck the tribe. It was their way of telling Jimmy to leave and don't let the door hit him in the butt on the way out.

Superman swooped up Jimmy at super speed so that it appeared to the tribe that he vanished in a blink. The Man of Steel and a dejected Jimmy returned to the 20th Century. Later, Clark cheered Jimmy up by presenting him with an award for helping bust up a crime ring with Superman. The award showed Superman and Chief Super-Duper.

While I felt bad for Jimmy, this was a character building story. Jimmy naively assumed that because he was more modern than the tribe in the past, he would automatically be their hero, without knowing their culture or way of life. It was like being a city dweller thinking he knew how to live off the land. Jimmy jumped to conclusions with the Black Tomahawk tribe, and created overly complex solutions of the giant tom-toms and 100 brave canoe. I hope that Jimmy learned that just because he lived in modern times, he didn't know everything. I give this story 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

The Meek Jimmy Olsen was the second, 6 page story in the issue. Jimmy, Clark and Lois walked to work, when they saw a sailboat advertising display blown down the street. Jimmy was about to run to grab it while Clark ran away (to change into Superman, of course), when Lois commented on the difference between the two.

Later, Clark and Jimmy interviewed an eccentric scientist who demonstrated his latest invention, a machine that would switch personality traits between two people.

After Jimmy knocked the scientist's Miniature Disintegrator (?) out the window, Clark climbed out of the window to retrieve it off the top of the sign which hung on the building under the window. He was afraid the sign wouldn't hold Jimmy's weight, so Clark secretly used his flight power to barely float above the sign. Jimmy assumed that the machine worked. As they left the Scientist's lab, Clark decided to use the situation to help protect his secret identity.

Later, Jimmy covered the flight of an experimental aircraft, but the pilot had not appeared yet. Superman was keeping an eye on Jimmy. Since Jimmy also had a pilot's license, Superman crushed a piece of iron and hurled the particles into the back of Jimmy's coat. The Man of Steel then disguised himself with a suit, hat and beard, and held a briefcase with a magnet inside, standing directly behind Jimmy. The iron particles in Jimmy's coat were drawn to the magnet and kept him from stepping forward. Jimmy thought that the personality machine was working on him again.

After Jimmy went to bed, Superman used his x-ray vision to check on Jimmy, and saw that his Pal had jammed a chair under the doorknob.

The next day, Superman saw Jimmy standing next to a water tower at the training facilities of the metropolis Bears. The Man of Steel knew Jimmy was contemplating climbing the water tower to get a peek at a new star athlete the team had signed. Superman chiseled a slab of rock and chiseled a fake Daily Planet headline, Cub Reporter Hurt Climbing Tower. He flew it over Jimmy slow enough for him to see it, but fast enough that it worked as a subliminal message, so that Jimmy thought better of climbing the tower.

Later, Clark and Jimmy covered an exhibition of experimental robots. One of them, which had spinning blades, became out of control and approached the spectators, when Clark ducked under the spinning blades  to deactivate the robot.

After that, Clark decided that Jimmy had had enough, and returned to the inventor's lab. The scientist had lost interest in his personality machine and dismantled it. He was working on his next invention, a way to communicate with ants, and was close to a breakthrough. I don't doubt it.

Superman found Jimmy in a marshy area to interview a uranium miner. Jimmy hesitated walking over a narrow wooden pathway. The Man of Steel used his super breath to push Jimmy across the wooden path. Later, after changing into Clark Kent, informed Jimmy that the machine had been dismantled, he was glad to be back to normal.

This seemed to be another pointless story, with Clark needlessly manipulating his friend to protect his secret identity. Crackpot scientists were a common theme in the 1950's Superman TV show. In this story, Jimmy was as naive as Jack Larson portrayed him on the show.

The story had more crazy silver age solutions, like the iron particles in Jimmy's jacket. I would think that either the particles would just leap to the magnet, or else Jimmy would feel the impact of the particles on the back of his jacket, if they were embedded enough to keep him from stepping forward.

I also had to wonder how the rock slab Superman carved into a newspaper headline would keep from breaking, as fast as Superman needed to fly it above Jimmy.

Finally, I didn't understand Clark's thinking. Unless the machine was going to remain in use, how did he think he could use it to protect his secret identity. Once it was dismantled, he was back to square one in protecting his identity. I'm not a big fan of Let's Fool Jimmy stories, and seeing his low self esteem, so I have to give it 1 Superman Cape out of 5.

The third and final story of the issue, The Boy Superman, was 8 pages long.

Clark Kent returned from an assignment on the Daily Planet's Flying Newsroom. As he landed on top of the Daily Planet building, he was met by Lois Lane. The problem was that, on his return trip, he had stopped to extinguish a big fire. As he changed into his Superman uniform, the right sleeve of his shirt and coat were burned, exposing the blue sleeve of his Superman uniform. Before leaving the helicopter, Clark hid his Superman uniform on the Flying Newsroom and planned to retrieve it later.

Perry ordered Jimmy to cover a trial in a nearby city. To get there on time, Jimmy piloted the Flying Newsroom. He was hit by fog during his flight, and a helicopter blade clipped  a mountain cliff. Jimmy managed to make a safe landing, but discovered that his signal watch malfunctioned again. (Jimmy really needs to have it fixed. When he searched the Flying Newsroom for some warm clothes, he only found the Superman uniform Clark had hidden aboard.

While the Superman uniform didn't fit, being invulnerable it was well insulated. The cape served as a warm hood to keep his head warm. Jimmy made his way down the mountain, and met a mountain family, who thought he was Superman. To show his super strength, they asked Jimmy to pull out a tree stump. Jimmy was happy to oblige, if only to prove that he wasn't the Man of Steel. By coincidence, a boulder rolled down the hill and dislodged the stump, but the mountain family thought that Super Jimmy had done it himself since they didn't see the boulder.

The family Jimmy first met showed him country hospitality by cooking him a big meal. He took a few minutes to fiddle with his signal watch to see if he could fix it. While he had his back turned, a bear reached through a window and ate everything on the table, then ran off. When the lady of the house returned to the kitchen, she thought Jimmy had polished off the meal already. Just so he would fill his empty stomach with something, Jimmy asked for dessert. That only confirmed to her that his super appetite meant that Jimmy was Superman.

The news quickly spread throughout Hogfoot Hollow, or Holler, as we say down here in the South. The Mayor wanted Super Jimmy to marry his daughter, Petunia. But first, scare off a bear that had been stealing their food. This might have been the same bear that stole Jimmy's meal. Jimmy gladly marched into the bear's cave, if only to prove to everyone that he wasn't really Superman. His plan backfired when the bear rushed out of the cave, and didn't stop running. What only Jimmy knew was that a skunk had scared the bear out of the cave, but there was no convincing everyone that he was Superman.

Moose Morton, Petunia's jilted suitor, and the biggest man in Hogfoot Hollow, challenged Superman. Jimmy was glad to see him. Taking a beating was worth the price of getting out of the wedding.

Just then, Clark appeared in the skies over Hogfoot Hollow, following the flight path of the Flying Newsroom under cover of a fog that covered Metropolis. Just as Moose was about to clobber Jimmy with a thick branch, he saw Clark flying behind everyone else and dropped the wood as he fainted.

Petunia's five brothers got Jimmy dressed in his tuxedo. As Jimmy marched to his doom, I mean the wedding, a revived Moose approached behind Jimmy, ready to clobber his rival with a large rock. Jimmy slipped on a banana peel dropped by a boy eating the fruit. Moose said that his rock must by "Kryktynite". A quick thinking Jimmy pretended that it was a made a mad dash for freedom.

Clark Kent had been able to secretly retrieve his uniform, and as Superman carried Jimmy back to the Flying Newsroom and eventually Metropolis. At the Daily Planet offices, Jimmy warned Clark not to be caught dead in Superman's uniform. As he looked at the reader, with Jimmy behind him, Clark agreed, but for a different reason.

This story was almost a Jimmy Olsen meets The Beverly Hillbillies, or the Darling family from The Andy Griffith Show, two comedies from my childhood in the 1960's. The plot of this Jimmy Olsen story had a number of plot devices common to stories about hillbillies or country people.

Someone mistook someone or something as something it wasn't, which was the plot for about three fourths of the episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies. In this case, everyone in Hogfoot Hollow thought Jimmy was Superman, since he was wearing his uniform. Check.

The Mayor or the richest man in the area was eager to get his daughter married off, like Mr. Darling of The Andy Griffith Show. The Mayor of Hogfoot Hollow wanted Jimmy to marry his daughter Petunia. Check.

There's always a country boy who's the biggest man around, like Jethro Bodine of The Beverly Hillbillies, and someone who is jealous about someone else marrying the pretty girl. Moose was the biggest man in Hogfoot Hollow, and he was in love with Petunia. Check and Check.

I did have a few nit picks about this story. First of all, if a helicopter blade clipped something, not one blade would be damaged, but all of them. Also, more than likely, Jimmy would have had a hard crash landing, depending on how high he was, and possibly would have faced serious injury.

It didn't make sense that the family would not have heard or seen the boulder roll down the mountain and uproot the tree stump. That was too close for comfort for Jimmy as well. He could have been planted in the ground just as easily as the stump was uprooted.

I did like how Jimmy's plans to prove he wasn't Superman continued to backfire on him , confirming in the minds of everyone in Hogfoot Hollow that he was Superman.

Finally, of course Jimmy never suspected that Clark Kent was Superman, and was more than willing to keep quiet about finding his uniform aboard the Flying Newsroom. I don't think Lois would have been as cooperative.

This was a fun and humorous story, and I give it 4 Superman Capes out of 5.

Elsewhere in DC Comics, 35 titles carried the August or August/September 1956 cover date.

Next Episode: Superman Comic Books Cover Dated October 1959: Superman #132 & Action Comics #257!

In 2 Weeks: Superman Family Comic Books Cover Dated September 1958: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #15 & World's Finest Comics #84!

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