aka Jimmy Olsen
Jimmy Olsen created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Elastic Lad created by Otto Binder and Curt Swan
NAME + ALIASES: James "Jimmy" Olsen
Mark (father, deceased), unnamed mother (deceased)
Legion of Super-Heroes
Action Comics #6 (Nov. 1938)
Radio: Adventures of Superman (15 April 1940)
Comics, named: Superman vol. 1 #13 (Nov. 1941)
As Elastic Lad: Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #31 (Sept. 1958)
Granted honorary Legion membership: Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #72 (Oct. 1963)
Jimmy Olsen is the perennial "pal" of Superman, Clark Kent's coworker at the Daily Planet newspaper. The character was introduced early in the Golden Age of comics, and was featured in the Superman radio and television series. He continues to appear in all media alongside heroes from Krypton today.
The character was awarded his own series — Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen — in 1954, beating out Lois Lane by several years. Early on, a theme was established wherein Jimmy's would temporary gain super-powers during an adventure with Superman (who appeared in every issue). Throughout the 1960s, Jimmy Olsen naturally then teamed with the Legion of Super-Heroes (as Elastic Lad), which is the focus of this profile.
Jimmy Olsen's first appearance is considered to be Action Comics #6 (Nov. 1938), which featured an unnamed and bow-tied "office-boy." The character was then fleshed out as a character on the Adventures of Superman radio series (episode airing 15 April 1940). In his next comics appearance, he was also called "Jimmy" by name, in Superman #13 (Nov. 1941).
The definitive account of Superman's first meeting with Jimmy Olsen was told in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #36 (Apr. 1959). In post-Crisis continuity, their meeting was reinvented in World of Metropolis #4 (July 1988).
Jimmy Olsen ended with #163 (Feb./Mar. 1974), and it included a notable stretch by Jack Kirby, who wrote and drew issues #133–148 (1970–72). This was part of Kirby's New Gods tetralogy that introduced many of the iconic New Gods characters — including Darkseid.
The Road to Super
James Olsen was orphaned as a young child after his family fell victim to a train crash. His mother perished and his father, Mark, was washed down a river. Little Jimmy was taken in by an orphanage, adopted, and taken to live in a "remote mountain area." His father continued to search for him while pursuing his career as an archaeologist. Mark and his colleague Hal Rand wound up in trouble in the Yucatan in Mexico, where Mark perished. Rand was the one who eventually located Jimmy, and told him of his father's fate. (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #124) Note: It's unclear whether "Olsen" was Jimmy's given or adopted surname.
Jimmy Olsen's first encounter with Superman happened when Olsen responded to an ad in the newspaper calling for a volunteer to take a "trial flight of a new ship!" The ship turned out to be a time ship invented by one Professor Crane. Crane sent Jimmy 20 years into the past — to Krypton! Olsen met Jor-El and Lara, and baby Kal-El. This was just before Krypton was self-destructing and Jimmy actually helped the Els prepare Kal for his journey to Earth.
But when Jimmy recrossed the time barrier, his memories of this trip were erased. Crane believed that his invention had been a failure. Not long after this, Superman noticed Jimmy searching for a job and offered him a position at the Daily Planet. The hero also instructed him, "wear this special ultrasonic signal-watch ... you're going to be my pal!" (The watch was an invention from the Adventures of Superman television series.) (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #36)
As an office boy, then cub reporter at the Daily Planet, Jimmy was privy to much of the goings-on between Lois Lane and Superman, and their wild adventures. (Action Comics #6, Superman vol. 1 #13)
Being relatively close to Superman's unpredictable life, Olsen very often found himself in the middle of a crisis. In many tales, he even gained super-powers and took heroic aliases. A pivotal moment in Jimmy's fate came when Professor Potter visited the Daily Planet offices to demonstrate a new technology. He applied his "z-rays" to Olsen and transformed the young man into an evolved human, with a big "cosmic brain of the future!" Future-Jimmy quickly became a menace, and Potter destroyed his invention. (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #22)
Prof. Potter reappeared many times, but he was not the original source of Jimmy's most well-known alter ego, Elastic Lad. Jimmy gained the ability to stretch and reshape his body from an alien chemical brought to Earth by Superman. He sought a cure from Professor Bolton, who blackmailed Jimmy into performing super-feats against his pal. After Superman caught Bolton, Jimmy was "cured" of these powers. (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #31)
The next time Olsen gained stretching powers, it was thanks to a serum created by Professor Potter. Thereafter, Jimmy seemed to have a supply of the serum on hand and would drink some whenever it was needed. (#37)
Olsen's stretching powers were once reactivated just by inhaling from a bottle in his own trophy room. This led him to literally stretch himself into the Phantom Zone, where he met its notorious villains and the future Legionnaire, Mon-El. (#62)
Jimmy Olsen first encountered beings from the 30th century when he became mixed up in a time-travel plot devised by the Legion of Super-Villains. Supergirl helped him defeat them. (#63) The next Legionnaire he met was Element Lad, who came to the 20th century to help Jimmy celebrate the 25th anniversary of Superman's arrival in Metropolis. (#70) Jimmy Olsen finally visited the 30th century for himself, after the Legion of Super-Heroes tested him, then they awarded Elastic Lad with honorary membership in the Legion. (#72)
Along with Pete Ross (Superman's childhood best friend and fellow honorary Legionnaire), Jimmy Olsen participated in a bizarre Legion contest devised by Proty II to commemorate Superboy's history. The result was the reelection of Saturn Girl as the Legion's leader. (Adventure Comics #323)
When Jimmy Olsen became engaged to marry a woman from another dimension named Rona, Legionnaire Ultra Boy visited the 20th century to bring him a wedding gift from the Legion. (The marriage was called off after Rona was revealed to be a notorious murderess.) (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #73)
Light Lass, Saturn Girl, and Triplicate Girl pretended to be in love with him and had Jimmy perform three super-feats as Elastic Lad. This was all in a futile attempt to make Jimmy's girlfriend, Lucy Lane (Lois's younger sister), appreciate him more. (#76) Jimmy later returned to the 30th century to announce his engagement to Lucy. They married but were forced to annul it when they realized that Jimmy's vengeful old admirers would never leave them alone. (#100) Note: Lucy Lane first appeared in Jimmy Olsen #36 (Apr. 1959).
Several times, Jimmy assumed the super-powers of various Legionnaires. When confronted by Titano the Super-Ape, Jimmy donned a duplicate of Colossal Boy's costume and took another serum that temporarily gave him super-growing powers. (#77) At Jimmy's request, Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, and Saturn Girl visited the 20th century and imbued Superman with their own powers — and with a dose of Olsen's Elastic Lad serum — after Superman had temporarily lost his own powers. (Superman vol. 1 #172) He tried a serum that was intended to give him powers like Star Boy's, (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #88) and the Legion once sent him duplicates of their costumes that temporarily granted him those Legionnaires' powers. (#99)
Jimmy's association with the Legion drew attention from other future villains. Kasmir, a crook from the 30th-century, stole the Legion's time bubble and kidnapped Olsen, forcing him to travel back to the year 1000 B.C. (#79) And the Legion of Super-Villains returned to brainwash Jimmy Olsen into killing Superman. (#87)
When the Legion summoned Jimmy to serve as a 30th-century reporter, it was Elastic Lad who wound up making headlines instead. (#106)
Astonishingly, Superman and Jimmy Olsen were among the first Earth people to meet Darkseid, the master of Apokolips. Darkseid would live for a thousand years and rise again to become one of the Legion's greatest challenges. (#134)
The last time that Jimmy Olsen interacted with the Legion, prior to the "Crisis on Infinite Earths," was when he summoned them to the 20th century to help Superman stop Mongul, who was attacking the solar system with a Sun-Eater. (DC Comics Presents #43)
Note: Lois Lane once became "Elastic Lass," in Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #23 (Feb. 1961)
Over the course of his Silver Age adventures, Professor Potter caused Jimmy Olsen to gain many different weird powers. These adventures were collected in 2007 into the trade paperback Superman: The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen. It reprinted Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #22, 28, 31–33, 41–42, 44, 49, 53, 59, 65, 72, 80, 85, 105, and Superman Family #173.
Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #93 (June 1966) Steelman [aka the Batman-Superman of Earth-X aka Jimmy Olsen]
Super Lad (Jimmy Olsen)
Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #39 (September 1959)
Jimmy, while wearing a Superman costume, attends the launching of an engineless rocket into outer space by Superman. To get a scoop, he sneaks aboard to take photos, and ends up traveling through space. When he crash-lands he finds that he now has super-powers and can live out his super-fantasies. But he can't maintain a secret identity because everyone calls him Jimmy Olsen.
Same story? Super-Lad [aka a superpowered Jimmy Olsen of Earth on planet Zolium]
Nightwing and Flamebird
Three times, Jimmy teamed up with his pal Superman to beecome a costumed duo called Nightwing (Superman) and Flamebird (Jimmy). These took place in the bottled city of Kandor, where Superman was without his own super-powers.
When the Kandorian scientist Van-Ol invented an method to enlarge his shrunken city, Superman knew that the process would instead destroy Kandor. He and Jimmy ventured into Kandor disguised themselfs as Nightwing and Flamebird, in order to infiltrate Ol's compound. In Kandor they had no super-powers and wore utility belts and jet packs. A distant relative of Superman's, Van-Zee helped them and also donned the Nightwing costume. (Superman #158)
In their next outing as Nighwing and Flamebird, Jimmy and Superman were summoned to Kandor when the "Thief of Kandor" was terrorizing the city. This was actually Nor-Kann, who was hypnotized by the Superman Revenge Squad, and gained super-powers with a ring that collected yellow sun energy. When Superman came down Scarlet Jungle Fever, it was down to Flamebird (Jimmy) to try to catch the thief. During this tale, Nor-Kann set a Kryptonian telepathic hound on Jimmy; it befriended him instead, and Jimmy dubbed him the "Nighthound." When he recovered, Superman rode with Jimmy on the back of a dragonlike being called a Winged One to solve the mystery. (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #69)
Their final time in costume involved an adventure with Batman and Robin. It began when Batman was injured by a bullet that had richoeted off Superman. This made the Dark Knight feel inferior and he fell into a depression. Jimmy and Superman concocted a plan to help restore his self-confidence — with a trip to Kandor. They showed the Dynamic Duo their Kandorian costumes and the Nightcave. (World's Finest Comics #143)
After this handful of adventures, Van-Zee and his friend Ak-Var became Nightwing and Flamebird on a regular basis. (Superman Family #183–194)
In the future, Jimmy Olsen became a major figure in news publishing and broadcasting. By the year 2230, he had fathered a family line that led to Jimmy Olsen IV, who was the great, great grandfather of Kristin Wells. Wells came back to the 20th century to meet Superman and herself took on the costumed identity of Superwoman. (DC Comics Presents Annual #2) Jimmy Olsen IV also had a sister named Lois. (Superman #400)
After Crisis on Infinite Earths, everything about Superman's continuity was rewritten. This wiped out all of Jimmy Olsen's adventures with the Legion.
One post-Crisis tale paid homage to Elastic Lad when Jimmy Olsen was briefly given stretching powers by the Eradicator. The experience was traumatic and extremely painful to him. Mercifully, the change was short-lived. Jimmy never called himself Elastic Lad. (Adventures of Superman #458)
In 1994, the Legion itself was also totally rebooted (known here as "the Reboot"). Jimmy had no interaction with those Legionnaires.
In his post-Infinite Crisis origin, Jimmy was the son of Dr. Sarah Olsen (an archaeologist); his father was a Master Sargeant at Ft. Bridwell. When they disappeared, he went to live with neighbor Tess Haslip, who was then killed by the mob. Jimmy ran from danger and eventually became a zealous paper boy, drawing the attention of Perry White of the Daily Planet. Superman broke up the gang that harrassed Jimmy and Clark Kent befriended him when he was hired at the paper. (Superman #665)
Jimmy played a major part in the storyline of Countdown, which led up to Infinite Crisis. An unknown killer was eradicating the New Gods and Darkseid, always a step ahead, collected the souls of the dead inside a "Soul Battery" (modeled on a Mother Box). He chose Jimmy as the host for the Battery, and it gave Olsen unpredictable super-powers, including elasticity (Countdown #49) and firing porcupine quills. (#44) Jimmy even sketched himself wearing costumes for each, labelling them "Elastic Lad" and "Human Porcupine," (#42) but settled on Mr. Action (#41) and tried out to join the Teen Titans. (#39–38) When Darkseid tried to retrieve his prize, the Atom intervened and entered Jimmy's body. (#3) Jimmy manifested his greatest power yet, as a giant turtle-like monster. The Atom succeeded in removing the Battery, destroyed it, and the souls departed. (#2)
In 2007, the original Legion's continuity was more-or-less restored as Retroboot continuity in the DC multiverse. It is unclear whether Elastic Lad's history with the Legion is a part of that continuity.
As Elastic Lad, Jimmy Olsen had the ability to stretch his body to fantastic lengths, tie himself in knots, and mimic simple objects. The ability originally came from an alien chemical, but in subsequent appearances he reactivated this ability by ingesting a serum made by Professor Potter.
Elastic Lad wore a rubber suit that would flex along with his body.
» FEATURED APPEARANCES:
- Adventure Comics #316, 323, 365
- Batman #238
- DC Comics Presents #93, Annual #2
- The Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 2 #300
- Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #3
- Superboy vol. 1 #185, 205
- Superman Family #178
- Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #31, 37, 46, 54, 62, 72, 76, 100, 101, 104, 105, 106, 111, 124, 140
- Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #7
- Action Comics #583
- Countdown #49
- Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1, 5
- JLA: The Nail #1
- Tiny Titans #22
- Superman Family #164–222 (1974–1982)
- Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, 163 issues (1954–74)
- Superman: The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen, trade paperback (2007)
- Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen Special, 2 issues (2008–09)
- Jimmy Olsen, 12-issue limited series (2019–20)