Does karma ever enter into merely choosing a comic book to read? As we reach the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, let’s revisit this ten-year old entry from my “retired” APA and Fanzine column, “The Issue At Hand” (circa 2003), and relive what was for me a rather memorable experience. So, is everyone ready to travel back a decade? Let’s go…
November, 2003 saw the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the TV networks and other media were ablaze with commemorative specials and features. Many of them were quite interesting, providing me with new or additional perspective on the Kennedy years, during which I was a very little kid.
It just so happened that, during the fateful anniversary, I randomly selected (from a batch of recent purchases) and read the particular comic book discussed here… for the first time. I was so amazed at the unexpected twist this story took that I e-mailed any of my friends that might possibly have this issue in the dark and musty recesses of their collections and told them to read (…or re-read) it… RIGHT NOW! Let’s take a closer look and see why…
The Issue at Hand Is: SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN # 89 Cover Date: December, 1965. Published by DC Comics.
“The Infamous Four” 8 pages. Writer: Jerry Siegel (…Co-creator of Superman). Artist: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lettered by: Milt Snapinn. Edited by the legendary Mort Weisinger.
Click on any of the comic images to enlarge.
Though he needs little in the way of introduction, here’s some background information on our title character. From his online writings, cartoonist and comics historian Scott Shaw! offered the following…
“James Bartholomew Olsen (supposedly) first appeared in ACTION COMICS No. 6 (November, 1938) -- referred to only as an unnamed “office boy” – but it wasn’t until SUPERMAN Vol. 1, No. 13 (November – December, 1941) that his name was mentioned. In September/October, 1954, THE DAILY PLANET’s red-haired eager-beaver photographer and “cub” reporter finally received his own comic book series. SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN.
|SUPERMAN'S PAL JIMMY OLSEN # 1 (1954)|
“Reportedly, this was prompted by the popularity of likable young actor Jack Larson in the role of “Jimmy Olsen” in the syndicated TV series, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (1951 – 1957). In any event, Jimmy’s series went on to become one of the longest-running “Oddball Comics” of all time, as well as one of the most relentlessly kooky.
|Then, now, and forever: Superman's pal!|
|"The World of Doomed Olsens"...Yes, really!|
[JOE'S NOTE: "Even a WOMAN?!" HORRORS!]
|One of MY favorite covers! Talk about a "Doomed Olsen"!|
“AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR READERS! Every so often, we get a story which maintains its suspense until the very last panel. This is such a story… and we challenge you to guess the surprise finish. And please, after you have read it, do not reveal the ending to any of your friends!”
Yes, sir, Mr. Weisinger, sir! You can count on me, sir! I’ll not reveal the ending to anyone… except the readers of this fanzine […now BLOG]! Shhh! Don’t tell Mr. Weisinger about this, folks. He wouldn’t be at all pleased…
Anyway, editor Perry White assigns “cub-reporter” Jimmy Olsen to find a new angle for a story on the following week’s upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Determined not to submit a “turkey”, and in order to beat the “stuffing” out of the competition, Jimmy checks out one of the historical exhibits at the Metropolis Museum.
“According to this sign, the Indian tribe which celebrated Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, had a legendary medicine man…Red Hawk…who claimed that when he puffed his magic pipe inside that hollow totem pole, spirits would transport him into the future.”
Hmmm… I wouldn’t mind learning what “legendary medicines” that “legendary medicine man” was inhaling into his “legendary lungs”. But, rather than pursue THAT story, Jimmy secretes himself in the totem and puffs a piece of the “peace pipe”. Sure enough, as luck and the conventions of eight-page Silver Age comic book stories would have it, Jimmy is whisked off to the Metropolis of November 22, 2063!
There, he experiences the wonders of the World of Tomorrow – a contemporary wardrobe from a convenient “Clothes-O-Mat” machine, automated service at the “Interplanetary Food Emporium”, and instant dry cleaning while still in his clothes – as if he’d accidentally wandered into a JETSONS comic.
|Sing with me: "Meet JIM Jetson!"|
“That snooper will recognize us as The Infamous Four, the notorious space-pirate brothers, who are wanted on a hundred planets! If he tells the authorities we’re hiding here with our loot, while repairing our craft, we’re sunk!”
|Jimmy's a great reporter... Look how he gets his subjects to open up and TALK!|
|Say... has BLUTO traveled to the future with Jimmy?|
Heading for the safety of the totem pole, and a quick return to 1965, Jimmy hardly notices that the entire population of Metropolis is standing silent and at attention – transfixed at the spectacle of a towering holographic image of a man standing benevolently over the city.
|Run, Jimmy, run!|
Once again inside the totem pole (…which, thankfully, the authorities of that era didn’t cart away!), Jimmy fires up the magic peace pipe and, failing to follow the example of former president Bill Clinton, inhales his way back to the twentieth century.
He returns to the Daily Planet, sans story, bracing himself to face Perry White’s wrath. The Infamous Four fare even worse, as the next panel shows them being taken into custody by the laser-toting Metropolis Police of 2063.
|Nice touch that they addressed the matter of Jimmy's CLOTHES! It would have be easy (but annoying) to ignore.|
We’ll let the story’s dialogue will take us the rest of the way…
Metropolis Cop: “The Infamous Four. If you hadn’t been moving, when everyone else in America was standing motionless, we wouldn’t have noticed you and captured you!”
Infamous Four Gang Member: “Okay! But explain one thing to us aliens! Why did all those Earthlings stand still?
Metropolis Cop: “The answer is up there in the sky! That is a TRI-DIMENSIONAL SKY PICTURE… of JOHN F. KENNEDY, ONE OF OUR GREATEST PRESIDENTS! Today, exactly 100 years since he was assassinated on November 22 1963, the citizens of the United States paid respect to his memory… by standing still and silent for five minutes!”
Editorial Caption: “Jimmy will never know exactly what happened… but YOU do!”
We close with an inspiring image of JFK standing majestically over the skyline of Metropolis, 2063 -- and all I can say is WOW!