Friday, March 24, 2006

Super Duper!

Like Dorian, I've been reading the "Superman Family Showcase", which is pretty much all Jimmy Olsen.

Jimmy Olsen lore is like absinthe or cognac; it's meant to be sipped, not downed in gulps. I've been reading no more than one story a day, sometimes letting a story take me two days while I savor the insanity. I think poor Dorian's been chugging Olsen straight up, resulting in Jimmy Brain Jam. Take two delicious Hostess Fruit Pies with Real Fruit Filling, Dorian, and call Dr. Scott in the morning... .

Anyway, like Dorian, I'm annoyed by the fact that Jimmy Olsen has a stupid catchphrase he says two to three times each story: "super duper". But, ah, I remind myself: there's a reason for it.

While Jimmy Olsen was created in the comic books, he really only became popular because of the 1950s television show, "The Adventures of Superman". Jimmy Olsen was portrayed by the absolutely marvelous Jack Larson.

TV loves catchphrases ("Dyn-o-mite!"), and the TV Jimmy Olsen's was -- you guessed it -- "super duper". Larson, a superb actor, played Jimmy so low-key that he could get away with that sort of thing, without it becoming obnoxious.

The use of "super duper" in the Olsen stories in the Show is an attempt to echo the teevee show. But, since nothing in comics in ever "low-key", it's like a punch in the eye every time Jimmy says, "Super duper!"

Another Olsen gimmick the comics "caught" from the show was the whole "Don't call me 'chief'!" routine, which is clearly a vaudeville-style running joke that works well on the telly, but can seem forced and stilted in print.

Sadly, he who lives by the Olsen dies by the Olsen, and Larson was so badly typecast as Jimmy that he mostly left acting entirely after the show. Happily, the deeply talented Larson became and accomplished writer and producer instead, and was groovy enough to be buds with Montgomery Cliff, James Dean, Christopher Isherwood, John Houseman, and Virgil Thompson.

His groovyness was helped by being just about as "out" as gay men got in the 1950s; if only they had let Jack do some of those "Jimmy Olsen in drag" stories from the comics!


Anonymous said...

I could have sworn Jimmy Olson first appeared in/was created by the radio show (like Perry White), not the comics. Though, of course, my memory could be playing its usual tricks on me....

Michael said...

Larson's IMDB entry says he's got the role of Bibbo Bibbowski (former barrom brawler, later wowner of the Ace O' Clubs bar in the comics) in "Superman Returns".

Dorian said...

I've actually only been reading one or two stories at a time as well. I just loathe Jimmy that much.

(I feel like I should point out that the book was actually purchased for Pete, as he actually enjoys Jimmy Olsen stories. I just happend to start reading it first because he was out of town.)

Now, Jack Larson on the other hand...there's a Jimmy I can get fully behind. Er, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Wow, yes, Jack Larson was quite the handsome man. Whew, great headshot, really sexy.

Adam said...

Yeah, as I understood it, Jimmy started out in radio as 'the one that superman explained things to', (hence his nickname 'Well Jimmy') which was a kind of standard role in superhero radio drama. He then went to the comics from the radio, and from comics to TV.

You might hate Olsen, but Kirby's Olsen comics are a treat nonetheless. He really shifts the focus away from Jimmy onto all the other wacked-out stuff he was on about, and it works really well.

Scipio said...

" I just loathe Jimmy that much."


Anonymous said...

Did you ever read the one where Jimmy went back in time to World War II and became a Nazi officer who was decorated by Hitler and Goering for his service to the Reich?

No wonder the Nazis lost the war.

(I think maybe he acted as the Red Skull between panels and fought the Young Allies.)

Scipio said...

Oh, yes, I have. Little known fact: the Red Skull is, in fact, the Earth-M Jimmy Olsen.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Olsen was created in the comics, not the radio. His first appearance was all the way back in Action #8... which may be included in that recent Superman Volume 1 TPB.

Barrie said...

Quite worthwhile info, much thanks for the post.
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