Jimmy Olsen, Life-Wrecking Idiot

Nick Peron
Comics DC
Comics DC

Who is Jimmy Olsen?

Introduced in 1938, Jimmy Olsen was part of the cast of characters regularly appearing in the pages of Action Comics and other titles featuring Superman. He was a freckled face reporter who worked for the Daily Planet. Back in 1954, DC Comics decided that Jimmy Olsen should get his own series. By this point, Jimmy had become Superman’s self-titled “Pal.” The stories, were about Jimmy’s wacky adventures and almost always ended with Superman coming to pull Jimmy’s fat out of the fire. They ranged from giving him silly super-powers to finding inventive new ways to fritter away Superman’s free time when the Man of Steel should be out saving the universe, or something.

I don’t know what the story behind the series inception was, but I could hardly believe that one day someone jumped out of their seat and said, “What we need is a comic where the main character has no super-powers and constantly has his nose up a super-heroes butt due to a stalker-like attachment to him!” I suspect the series was only green-lit so long as they filled the mandatory gorilla quotient imposed by the Comics Authority Code.

Jimmy Olsen #1 Cover

“What’s that Mr. Schwartz? You want me to stand next to Jimmy until every copy sells? OK!”

There was always one constant to the wacky adventures of Jimmy Olsen: No matter if he was fighting gorillas, dressing up like a woman or collecting Superman’s used tissues out of the garbage, it was the fact that he was a life-wrecking idiot.

Superman might be the biggest jerk on the planet, but he has burdened himself with protecting Earth, so we can cut him a little slack. Despite the tremendous burden on his life, Superman’s job is made that much harder thanks to Jimmy. From getting Superman to help him lose weight to become a jockey, or win marble tournaments, Jimmy is functionally useless unless the Man of Steel is around to literally wipe his butt for him. Because of the nature of Jimmy’s asinine needs, Superman has to frequently establish elaborate hoaxes or pranks on Jimmy in order to prevent the lad from getting into trouble or, more importantly, protect his secret identity. This is because, despite the fact that Jimmy claims to be Superman’s “Pal,” he constantly compromises Superman’s secret identity – sometimes on purpose – even though he knows that such an exposure would have grave repercussions. Yet, Superman continues to enable this behavior by keeping up this pretense that Jimmy is his “pal.”

It’s almost as if the Jimmy suffers from a combination of Dependent Personality Disorder and Superman responds with Passive-Aggressive Behavior. If you ask me, the last guy I want to be playing mind games with is a guy who can vaporize my head with a glance and has the strength to punch through an entire planet. As far as I’m concerned, Superman is a ticking time bomb, and Jimmy Olsen just has to do that one last thing that’ll set him off on a world destroying temper tantrum.

JimmyOlsen #115 Cover

Superman can be pretty sadistic when he’s angry.

Each Jimmy Olsen story plays out like this: Jimmy is investigating a story, usually gets into a jam, and then Jimmy uses the signal watch (that Superman gave him for some reason) to call for help. Superman then drops everything he’s doing to save Jimmy from trouble. These problems range from the mundane – like saving an old lady’s cat stuck in a safe – to his constant run-in’s with criminal types. If you’ve ever wondered why Superman hasn’t solved the world hunger crisis, it’s because he’s at the beck and call of a guy who’s primary skill seems to be getting captured by crooks. Fifty thousand people died in Peru because of an earthquake, why wasn’t Superman there to save them? Oh, sorry, I had to rescue my idiot “pal” from a shotgun wedding in the Ozarks. If don’t believe me, I’ve compiled this list of examples why Jimmy Olsen is literally the worst person ever.

Jimmy Olsen is Gullible

Jimmy is very easily led and manipulated into believing some of the most outrageous things imaginable. Mostly it’s Superman playing some sort of trick on Jimmy for one reason or another, other times it’s his friends, or at worst some kind of crook. Instead of developing a healthy mistrust of anybody in a position of authority, Jimmy plods through life believing almost everything anyone ever tells him. I think the root of all of Jimmy’s psychological problems stems from how many people have manipulated the poor dope over the years.

Don’t feel sorry for Jimmy, though. Just because he’s gullible doesn’t make him worth of our pity…

“The Scoop of 1869” – From Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #7

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Oh gosh — you also forgot what a telephone looks like, you idiot.

Jimmy is invited to join the Ink Aces Club, a special club of really awesome reporters. Which is surprising since Jimmy routinely breaks every code of ethics a news reporter has. The reason is because his membership is sponsored by Superman, who has spent most of his adult life manufacturing news for Jimmy to report on. Not exactly an unbiased opinion.

Jimmy has to go through an initiation test and is asked to go and follow up on reports of a scientist who has invented a time carpet. Yes, you read that right, a carpet that travels through time. Initially, Jimmy thinks it’s a hoax cooked up by a crack pot, but soon finds himself seemingly transported to the year 1869.

JimmyOlsen #7 - Scoop of 1869 02

I’m not sure if I should put much faith in a scientist who doesn’t

know the difference between a location and a direction.

Then he joins a local newspaper and witnesses the first rail spike being laid on the national railroad. The whole time, Jimmy continues to forget that modern conviences of the 1950s do not exist in this era. He manages to get the story through sheer determination. However, it also turns out that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax, facilitated by Superman. The Man of Steel built a giant recreation of a western town, used conveyor belts and marionettes to pass it off as something out of the American Frontier.

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Jimmy learned a valuable lesson that day: Never trust anyone over 30.

All this was part of some bizarre initiation rite that was put on by the Ink Aces Club and Jimmy totally fell for it. Somehow the idea of a “time carpet” seems far-fetched to Jim, but apparently he can be tricked into thinking he’s in the Old West with a bunch of puppets and some paint.

“The Merman of Metropolis” – From Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #20

“I know Lois, I’ve been standing here the whole time.”

Trying to explain the level of insanity on display in this story is a good way to get a throbbing headache, but I’ll give it a shot: Clark Kent, for whatever astronomically stupid reason, decides  to write his secret identity down on a sheet of paper that he will seal in an envelope not to be opened until the year 4900 AD. Which I’m sure if mankind lives that long we’ll all nicely wait until the proper date before we open that envelope. Other than the obvious stupidity behind this idea, Clark also decides to do this while he’s at work at the Daily Planet.

JimmyOlsen #20 - Merman of Metropolis 02

Clark seems to forget that his identity is public knowledge 20 centuries prior to the year 4900 AD.

When Jimmy comes and interrupts Clark, he puts his hand on the note. Because the ink is still wet, it imprints Superman’s secret identity on Olsen’s hand. To make matters worse Superman apparently used a special kind of ink that would require constant soaking in water order for it to wash off.

JimmyOlsen #20 - Merman of Metropolis 03

Whatever you do, don’t look up”touching the mermaid” on urban dictionary.

Superman then creates an elaborate hoax to convince Jimmy that he can breathe under water. This is facilitated with a marionette of a mermaid that gives him a ring that the “mermaid” claims will allow him to breath under water. Jimmy really has a problem telling the difference between living things and puppets. I’d hate to see this kid trying to make sense of the Muppet Show.

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Superman also seems to forget that he used to date a for-real mermaid.

Also I should point out that this is the second time Superman uses puppets to trick Jimmy – so easily duped is Jimmy that he’ll fall for the same trick multiple times.

So how does Superman get Jimmy to breath under water? I’m glad you asked, here’s Superman’s explanation:

JimmyOlsen #20 - Merman of Metropolis 05

Obviously the writers of these stories didn’t let pesky things like “science” and “biology” get in the way of their story writing.

JimmyOlsen #20 - Merman of Metropolis 06

“But Clark, that’s not how…”


I think what makes this even more mind numbing is the fact that Jimmy notices the writing on his hands almost immediately and doesn’t (a) recognize it as backwards writing and (b) try to decipher what it means.

Next Time on Jimmy Olsen, Life-Wrecking Idiot:

In the second part of this article, I take an even deeper look into the life of Superman’s pal. Is he just a lovable good-natured boy, or some kind of disturbed ego-driven monster? Come back tomorrow and find out!

Nick Peron
Stand-Up Comedian from Ottawa, Canada. Long time contributor at the Marvel Database Wiki. Banned in China.