The fledgling journalist and friend of Superman who is the junior colleague of Clark Kent and Lois Lane on the Metropolis Daily Planet. First introduced in the chronicles in November-December 1941 only as Jimmy, an "office boy" at the Daily Planet with a heartfelt longing to become "a real reporter" like his idol, Clark Kent (S No. 13/2), Jimmy is first referred to by his full name, Jimmy Olsen, in March-April 1942 (S No. 15/1) and continues to be referred to as the Daily Planet's office boy for a number of years (Act No. 71, Apr 1944: "Valentine Villainy!"; and others) until he is finally accorded the status of "cub reporter" in January 1954 (S No. 86/2: "Jimmy Olsen...Editor!"). Although Jimmy's real name is James Bartholomew Olsen (Act No. 203, Apr 1955: "The International Daily Planet!"; and others), he is almost always referred to as Jimmy.
In the early texts in which he appears, Jimmy Olsen is portrayed as a youngster about ten years of age (WF No. 6, Summer 1942: "Man of Steel versus Man of Metal!"; and others), but by April 1944 the chroniclers have begun to portray him as a boy of about twelve or thirteen (Act No. 71: "Valentine Villainy!"). More recent texts depict him as an adolescent somewhere in his late teens. In 1971 Jimmy explicitly states, "Huh! You can't call us kids! I'm over 21!" (SPJO No. 137, Apr 1971: "The Four-Armed Terror!")
In the course of his first two decades in the chronicles, Jimmy's hair is variously portrayed as blond (S No. 13/2, Nov/Dec 1941; and others), honey blond (S No. 13/2, Nov/Dec 1941), red (S No. 15/1, Mar/Apr 1942; and many others), light red (Act No. 188, Jan 1954: "The Spectral Superman!"; and others), and brown (S No. 40/3, May/Jun 1946: "There Is No Superman!"; and others). Since mid-1958, however, it, has been consistently rendered a bright red. Jimmy's freckles have been a standard feature of his appearance since 1942 (WF No. 6, Sum 1942: "Man of Steel versus Man of Metal!"; and many others).
Even during his apprentice years as an office boy, Jimmy Olsen is consumed by a burning ambition to become a real reporter. In November-December 1941 he gets his first byline, when he writes up an account of Superman's capture of the ruthless extortionist known as "The Archer" (S No. 13/2).
"You're an observant lad!" remarks Clark Kent admiringly after Jimmy has given him an important news tip in Summer 1942. "I hope to be a top-notch reporter like you some day!" beams Jimmy. "Any time you need help, feel free to call on me!" (WF No. 6: "Man of Steel versus Man of Metal!").
Despite his eagerness, however, and his irrepressible ambition, Jimmy Olsen remains the Daily Planet's office boy for twelve full years (Act No. 71, Apr 1944: "Valentine Villainy!"; and others), although Lois Lane does refer to him, in one early text, as "Jimmy Olsen, office boy, who sometimes pinch-hits as cub reporter, and may some day be big stuff!" (WF No. 13, Spr 1944: "The Freedom of the Press!").
From January 1954 onward, Jimmy Olsen is regularly referred to as a "cub reporter" (S No. 86/2: "Jimmy Olsen ...Editor!"), a designation that continues to be applied to him until his promotion by Perry White to the status of "full-fledged reporter" (SPJO No. 124/1, Oct 1969: "Jimmy Olsen's Girl Trouble!"). "Throughout the world," notes Superman No. 181/1, "Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane are known for their courage and ingenuity in getting scoops" (Nov 1965: pts. I-II—"The Super-Scoops of Morna Vine!"; "The Secret of the New Supergirl!"). Perhaps Action Comics No. 238 best describes his status during this period when it refers to him as the "star cub reporter of the Daily Planet" (Mar 1958: "The Super-Gorilla from Krypton").
Indeed, despite his youth, Jimmy Olsen has acquired experience and responsibility far surpassing that of most cub reporters. When Metropolis celebrates Boy's Day in January 1954, for example, Jimmy takes over the Daily Planet's managing editor's desk for twenty-four hours, performing his duties with remarkable professionalism. "That boy will be a good newspaperman someday!" remarks Clark Kent proudly (S No. 86/2: "Jimmy Olsen ...Editor!"). A year later, when the Daily Planet launches its new international editions, Jimmy Olsen is appointed editor of the Daily Planet's London edition (Act No. 203, Apr 1955: "The International Daily Planet!").
In the texts, Jimmy Olsen is described as "observant" (WF No. 6, Sum 1942: "Man of Steel versus Man of Metal!"), "irrepressible" (Act No. 71, Apr 1944: "Valentine Villainy!"; and others), "conceited" (Act No. 269, Oct 1960: "The Truth Mirror!"), "impulsive," and "happy-go-lucky" (S No. 187/3, May 1965: "When Jimmy Olsen Stole Krypto from Superman"). Particularly when in pursuit of a hot news story, Jimmy is inclined to be "very curious and impulsive," a combination of traits which, notes Superman No. 173/3, "has often landed him in hot water!" (Nov 1964: "The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac!"). Jimmy also tends to be egotistical and boastful, often to the point of stretching the truth—bragging about his friendship with Superman, claiming as personal accomplishments things that happened by accident (Act No. 253, Jun 1959: "The War Between Superman and Jimmy Olsen!"; and others), often altering his account of events so as to place himself in the best possible light (S No. 171/3, Aug 1964: "The Nightmare Ordeal of Superman"; and others).
Jimmy Olsen is a close friend of Superman, although he does not know that Superman is secretly Clark Kent (S No. 145/1, May 1961: "The Secret Identity of Superman!"; and others). The texts repeatedly refer to Jimmy Olsen as Superman's "pal" (Act No. 198, Nov 1954: "The Six Lives of Lois Lane!"; and others), his "young pal" (Act No. 231, Aug 1957: "Sir Jimmy Olsen, Knight of Metropolis"; and others), and his "best pal" (S No. 131/3, Aug 1959: "The Unknown Super-Deeds!"; and others). Action Comics No. 210 counts him, along with Lois Lane and Perry White, among Superman's "close friends" (Nov 1955: "Superman in Superman Land"), and other texts list him among Superman's "best friends" (Act No. 243, Aug 1958: "The Lady and the Lion"; and others).
"The Thinker" has described Jimmy Olsen as "Superman's best friend" (S No. 93/2, Nov 1954: "Jimmy Olsen's Double!"), and Jax-Ur has referred to him as Superman's "best pal" (Act No. 310, Mar 1964: "Secret of Kryptonite Six!"). Jimmy himself has referred to Superman as "my best pal" (Act No. 302, Jul 1963: "The Amazing Confession of Super-Perry White!") and "my best friend" (S No. 178/2, Jul 1965: "When Superman Lost His Memory!").
"Superman has a warm spot in his heart for many people," notes Superman No. 93/2, "--but an especially warm one is reserved for his young pal, Jimmy Olsen!" (Nov 1954: "Jimmy Olsen's Double!").
Jimmy Olsen is fiercely loyal to Superman, retaining his faith in his "super-idol" even when, for the moment, the Man of Steel's motives are suspect or his actions unpopular (Act No. 312, May 1964: "King Superman versus Clark Kent, Metallo"; and others).
Over the years, Jimmy has built up an extensive (S No. 111/1, Feb 1957: "The Non-Super Superman"; and others)—and valuable (S No. 115/2, Aug 1957: "Jimmy Olsen's Lost Pal")—collection of Superman trophies and souvenirs, a collection to which Superman continually adds with exotic gifts from distant planets and other exciting memorabilia (WF No. 147 , Feb 1965: "The Doomed Boy Heroes!" pts. I-II—"The New Terrific Team!"; "The Doom of Jimmy Olsen and Robin!"; and others).
In addition, Superman has dedicated a room to Jimmy Olsen in his Fortress of Solitude (Act No. 241, Jun 1958: "The Super-Key to Fort Superman"; and others) and has provided him with a "special wristwatch" [see: Jimmy Olsen's Signal-Watch] with which the young reporter can "set off [an] ultrasonic signal"—audible only to Superman' s super-hearing—to summon the Man of Steel to his rescue. Even if Jimmy activates the ultrasonic signal on a distant continent, Superman can hear the signal and race to Jimmy's aid (Act No. 238, Mar 1958: "The Super-Gorilla from Krypton"; and many others). The ultrasonic signal broadcast by the "signal-watch" will not, however, travel through outer space (Act No. 262, Mar 1960: "When Superman Lost His Powers!").
Jimmy Olsen's friendship with Superman has had the effect of making the young journalist something of a celebrity (Act No. 210, Nov 1955: "Superman in Superman Land"; and others). The Jimmy Olsen Fan Club meets monthly in Metropolis (Act No. 286, Mar 1962: "The Jury of Super-Enemies!"; and others), and Jimmy has, on at least one occasion, been mobbed by well-wishers and autograph seekers (Act No. 210, Nov 1955: "Superman in Superman Land"). In addition to relishing the attention he receives as the result of being Superman's pal, Jimmy clearly envies Superman his super-powers and wishes he had them, at least in part because he feels that having super-powers would be likely to make him more successful with women (Act No. 283, Dec 1961: "The Red Kryptonite Menace!").
Jimmy Olsen lives alone in a Metropolis apartment (S No. 144/1, Apr 1961: "The Super-Weapon!"; and others). On one wall is a collection of large pictures illustrating Superman's origin (see Superman [section 2, origin]), including the explosion of the planet Krypton and the infant Superman's escape to Earth in a tiny rocket (S No. 123, Aug 1958: chs. 1-3—"The Girl of Steel"; "The Lost Super-Powers"; "Superman's Return to Krypton").
Over and above his skills as a journalist, Jimmy Olsen is an avid bowler (Act No. 317, Oct 1964: "Superman's Rainbow Face!"), can pilot a helicopter (Act No. 290, Jul 1962: "Half a Superman!"), and is fluent in Kryptonese, the language of Krypton, which is now spoken only in the bottle city of Kandor (S No. 158, Jan 1963: "Superman in Kandor" pts. I-III—"Invasion of the Mystery Super-Men!"; "The Dynamic Duo of Kandor!"; "The City of Super-People!"; and others). Jimmy's principal romantic involvement has been with Lucy Lane, the lovely blond sister of Lois Lane (S No. 147/1, Aug 1961: "The Great Mento!"; and others).
Jimmy Olsen's known relatives include his father, the explorer Mark Olsen.
In addition to the various undercover identities that he has concocted with the aid of the "trunkful of disguises" he keeps in his apartment, including a number of female disguises (WF No. 144: Sep 1964: "The 1,001 Tricks of Clayface and Brainiac!" pts. I-II—no title; "The Helpless Partners!"; and others), Jimmy Olsen has a pair of important, alternate identities: as Flamebird, he functions as Superman's partner on those occasions when he and Superman, employing the name Nightwing, undertake adventures together inside the bottle city of Kandor (S No. 158, Jan 1963: "Superman in Kandor" pts. I-III—"Invasion of the Mystery Super-Men!"; "The Dynamic Duo of Kandor!"; "The City of Super-People!"; see also WF No. 143, Aug 1964: "The Feud Between Batman and Superman!" pts. I-II—no title; "The Manhunters from Earth!"). As Elastic Lad, Jimmy serves as an honorary member of the Legion of Super-Heroes (S No. 172, Oct 1964: pts. I-III—"The New Superman!"; "Clark Kent—Former Superman!"; "The Struggle of the Two Supermen!"; and others). Interestingly, Jimmy is also, by virtue of his ancestry, the rightful king of the once-proud ancient kingdom of Vumania, although all that remains of Vumania in modern times is a barren desert island (Act No. 231, Aug 1957: "Sir Jimmy Olsen, Knight of Metropolis").
Occasionally, Jimmy Olsen and Superman undertake adventures with Batman and Robin, with Jimmy aiding Superman much as Robin aids Batman. In May 1964 Jimmy Olsen and Robin establish a secret headquarters together in an abandoned observatory which they dub the Eyrie (WF No. 141: "The Olsen-Robin Team versus 'The Superman-Batman Team!'"). The Eyrie is intended to serve as their base of operations on those occasions when they undertake joint adventures as the so-called "Robin and Olsen team" (WF No. 147, Feb 1965: "The Doomed Boy Heroes!" pts. I-II—"The New Terrific Team!"; "The Doom of Jimmy Olsen and Robin!"). In September 1964, as his way of rewarding Jimmy for being "such a loyal friend" to Superman, Batman entrusts Jimmy with the secret of his dual identity, pulling back his batlike cowl to reveal the face of millionaire socialite Bruce Wayne (WF No. 144: "The 1,001 Tricks of Clayface and Brainiac!" pts. I-II—no title; "The Helpless Partners!").
A number of individuals in various times and places are perfect Jimmy Olsen look-alikes, including the hoodlum Baby-Face (S No. 93/2, Nov 1954: "Jimmy Olsen's Double!"), the Kandorian "criminal scientist" El Gar-Kur (Act No. 253, Jun 1959: "The War Between Superman and Jimmy Olsen!"), and Zol-Lar, Jimmy Olsen's double in the Kandorian Look-Alike Squad. Superman and Batman encounter a Jimmy Olsen look-alike—also named Jimmy Olsen—during a visit to an extradimensional "parallel world" in March 1965 (WF No.148: "Superman and Batman--Outlaw!" pts. I-II—"The Evil Superman and Batman"; "The Incredible New Super-Team!"). The Legion of Super-Heroes employ a lifelike Jimmy Olsen robot in April 1962 as part of an elaborate hoax they play on Superman and Supergirl (S No. 152/1: "The Robot Master!"), and Superman encounters a lifelike android of Jimmy Olsen during a time-journey to Metropolis one million years in the future (Act No. 300, May 1963: "Superman Under the Red Sun!").
Early Adventures (1938-1955)
In November-December 1941, the date of his textual debut, Jimmy, the Daily Planet's office boy, rescues Lois Lane from death at the hands of "The Archer" by pushing her out of the way of one of the villain's arrows (S No. 13/2).
In March-April 1942, after Lois Lane has been taken captive by racketeer Bill Talley, Jimmy summons Metropolis police Sgt. Bob Branigan to Lois's rescue. In this text, Jimmy is referred to by his full name—Jimmy Olsen—for the first time in the chronicles (S No. 15/1).
In January 1954 Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane are taken captive by the Cushions Raymond gang and held hostage aboard the villains' getaway helicopter while the criminals rob the Metropolis Bank. Jimmy and Lois are rescued by the Metropolis police, however, after the gang's helicopter has been forced to the ground by Superman (Act No. 188: "The Spectral Superman!"). During this same period, when the city of Metropolis celebrates Boy's Day and Jimmy Olsen is appointed managing editor of the Daily Planet for twenty-four hours, Jimmy assigns Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Perry White the task of solving the famous Hinkley Jewel Collection robbery, which has remained unsolved for seven years. Together the three reporters crack the baffling case, and when the villains invade the offices of the Daily Planet and hold Jimmy Olsen and Perry White hostage in the managing editor's office, Superman apprehends the criminals and rescues his friends from the criminal's clutches. "It's fantastic, Superman!" exclaims Perry White afterward. "Jimmy Olsen became editor...and solved the biggest crime in Metropolis records! I must be dreaming! I must be!" (S No. 86/2, Jan 1954: "Jimmy Olsen...Editor!").
In November 1954, Jimmy Olsen is kidnapped by a gang of criminals headed by The Thinker and replaced at the Daily Planet by one of the villain's henchman, a Jimmy Olsen lookalike named Baby-Face. Baby-Face comes within a hair's breadth of murdering Jimmy, but Superman apprehends the criminals and rescues his young pal from their clutches (S No. 93 Nov 1954: "Jimmy Olsen's Double!")
In February 1955, Superman sets out to teach Jimmy Olsen a well-deserved lesson in the follies of showing off, only to have his well-intentioned effort backfire when a series of bizarre coincidences combine to convince Jimmy—as well as his employers on the Daily Planet—that he has somehow become endowed with the extraordinary abilities and intuition of a "super-reporter", enabling him to unravel unsolved crimes and perform other journalistic miracles by means of his remarkable, inexplicable "sixth sense" for news. Unwilling to publicly humiliate Jimmy, Superman feels obligated, for a time, to make his young palâ€™s wildly improbable news "hunches" appear to come true, as when he surreptitiously entices a Metropolis numbers racketeer into making an attempt on the life of a city councilman after Jimmy has predicted that such an attempt will take place, Ultimately, however Superman confides to Jimmy that it in he who has been responsible for Jimmyâ€™s reportorial super-feats, and, although the two friends never divulge the truth to Jimmyâ€™s colleagues on the Daily Planet, it is clear that Jimmy has learned a much-needed lesson in humility (S No. 95/3: "Jimmy Olsen, Super-Reporter!").
In April 1955, after having been appointed editor of the Daily Planetâ€™s new London and Paris editions respectively, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane set out to launch their new foreign editions by obtaining exclusive interviews with Pietro Paresca, "the most notorious smuggler in all Europe." Taken captive by Paresca and his henchmen aboard their sloopâ€”and told that they will be put to death as a grisly lesson to other snooping reporters, Jimmy and Lois are rescued soon afterward through the heroic intervention of Superman (Act No. 203: "The International Daily Planet!").
In May 1955, Dan Wheeler and his henchmen attempt to make Jimmy Olsen their dupe in a scheme to lure Clark Kent to his doom in retaliation for Kentâ€™s Daily Planet exposÃ©s of their various swindles. Captured by the criminals and locked in an animal cage, Jimmy manages to escape on his own, and Wheeler and his cohorts are apprehended by Super man (S No. 97/2: â€œThe Big Game Hunt of Metropolis!â€).
In July 1955, after Clark Kent has infiltrated the â€œBig Guyâ€™sâ€ mob by posing as a safecracker, the criminals take Jimmy Olsen captive and order Kent to murder Olsen to prove he is really a criminal. Through a ruse, Kent pretends to kill Jimmy and then secretly engineers his escape, and soon afterward, as Superman, he apprehends the â€œBig Guyâ€ and his henchmen (S No. 98/2: â€œClark Kent Outlaw!â€).
In November 1955, Jimmy Olsen is among the throng of merrymakers who attend the gala opening of Superman Land (Act No. 210: â€œSuperman in Superman Landâ€).
Later Adventures (1956-1970)
As Jimmy becomes older, his drive, curiosity, and imagination lead him into a series of incredible adventures (see his stories as Elastic Lad; and his heroic service as Flamebird), romances, detective scenarios, and sticky situations. Olsen can be naive, ambitious, and self-sacrificing depending on the situation. Serums transform him into Elastic Lad, a wolf boy (SPJO No. 44, Apr 1960: "The Wolf-Man of Metropolis!") and give him the colossal size and power to necessary to defeat Titano (SPJO No. 77, Jun 1964: "The Colossus of Metropolis"). Jimmy also becomes a giant super-turtle (SPJO No. 53, Jun 1961: "The Giant Turtle Man!") and gains porcupine-like spines (SPJO No. 65, Dec 1962: "The Human Porcupine!").
Olsen has an interesting relationship with the similarly-aged Supergirl, initially he does not believe in her existence (see Colonel Colby), but it is the Girl of Steel's kiss that initially breaks the spell of the wolf boy, and her kiss again that fails to break it the second time when the werewolf spell is cast by Mr. Mxyzptlk (SPJO No. 52, Apr 1961: "Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man!").
Ambitions for fame result in Jimmy dating beautiful young starlets (SPJO No. 56, Oct 1961: "Jimmy Olsen's Sweethearts!"), meeting celebrities and starring in movies (SPJO, No. 64, Oct 1962: "Jimmy Olsen, Hollywood Star!"), becoming the leader of a rock-and-roll band with a smash hit single (SPJO No. 88, Oct 1965: "The Swinging Superman!"), and lead to his attempts to make motion picture films (SPJO No. 84, Apr 1965: "Jimmy Olsen's Monster Movie!").
Many of these exploits are aided by his friendship with Professor Potter, who lends Jimmy inventions that further his plans. Despite Jimmy Olsen's increased independence and impact on the world, it still falls to Superman to remedy most of the bizarre situations he gets involved in.
Jimmy is also well-known as the de facto leader of The Jimmy Olsen Fan Club, an organization of young boys dedicated to celebrate his many astounding adventures, and takes an active interest in the leadership of the group.
In October 1969, Jimmy is promoted to the status of "full-fledged reporter" (SPJO No. 124/1: "Jimmy Olsen's Girl Trouble!").
Latest Adventures (1971-1986)
In his latest adventures, Olsen matures considerably and becomes quite serious and competent, perhaps moving away from his previous lifestyle of glamour and sometimes somewhat accidental bumbling. He becomes involved with the new Newsboy Legion and the secret research complex, The DNA Project that often leads to him playing a key role in opposing the minions of the villainous New God, Darkseid.
Although that association eventually falls away, Olsen becomes an investigative reporter of considerable skill. Unfortunately by this time, his signal watch has become well-known and criminals capturing him often take the precaution of removing it to prevent Superman from rescuing him. Fortunately, Olsen has grown much more resourceful and formidable in combat, so he is often able to engage criminals without any help. Examples of the new Jimmy Olsen, a true "Mr. Action", include his adventures with the Metropolis police (SPJO No. 159/3, Aug 1973: "The Day They Unmasked Mr. Action!") and his helping inner city children triumph over crooked politicians (SPJO No. 155, Jan 1973: "The Downfall of 'Judas' Olsen!").
In other exploits, Olsen goes on to: battle Diana Savage in a race to recover stolen paintings (SF No. 167, Oct/Nov 1974: "A Deep Breath for Mr. Action!"), stand up to evil magicians (SF No. 170, Apr/May 1975: "The Kid Who Adopted Jimmy Olsen!"), go undercover to investigate the murder of a country-western singer (SF No. 176, Apr/May 1976: "Jimmy Olsen, Nashville Superstar!"), team with Lucy Lane to thwart aliens using Superman as a pawn (SF No. 179, Sep/Oct 1976: "I Scared Superman to Death!"), and break up a nefarious diamond smuggling operation (SF No. 183/2, Jun 1977: "Short-Circuit a Smuggler!").
(See also Jimmy Olsen of Earth-2)