Category Archives: Jimmy Olsen #135

Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #135

Cooke Look: “Evil Factory!”

With this issue, the third of Jack’s run, the Jimmy Olsen segment of The Fourth World tetralogy is starting to gain texture, the pacing nicely building, and the storytelling just a smidgen more measured, as if the artist/writer was beginning to cozy into his new creative environs at DC and getting comfortable with a whole new set of characters. While we do get boatloads of exposition — hey, all that’s happened is a lot to take in; just check out how many entries we have for 66 pages of story thus far! — and, believe it or don’t, Jack throws in concepts he obviously plans for, but the ideas are coming at him so fast, sometimes he plain forgets and keeps in forward motion! Have a look-see at the “File 202” so prominently displayed as a major coming element on this issue’s splash page, and after finishing the entire JO run, you tell me what that dalgarned “File 202” is! (Hey, I can surmise it pertains to the coming “Four-Armed Terror,” but never be certain…)

A great deal of pleasure can be derived from this issue: the mini-Supes, Scrappers and Jimmys; the slightly mincing Mokkari and cravenly Simyan; the two Newsboy Legions joyful embrace; not-so jolly green Jimmy; and (sigh) a delightful “new” super-hero, The Guardian. Reading this specific comic book as a kid eased any doubt I might have had about where Jack was going (I mean, “Whiz Wagon”? “Hairies”? “Mountain of Judgment”? “Flippa-Dippa”??? In the beginning, as charmed as I was, I wondered whether or not this guy was sane!) and when I was finished with this issue I surrendered to a new existence as a fan for life. My motto became “Trust In Kirby: Maybe We’re Headed for Crazytown, But the Ride Sure Is Wild!”

I think I caught a hint that this guy Kirby was a genius early on, especially in his Jimmy Olsen series, when all of his abilities started to coalesce for me: His unique dynamic drawing style (even when muted by Colletta’s oft-inappropriate, feathery inks); his unrelenting, pile-driving, never look back storytelling; his delightful, sometimes wonky dialogue, so melodramatic and so… so Warner Brothers, I guess!; the overarching cheeriness of his comics, urging us kids to come along and have some fun; and, maybe the most important aspect, his lack of sentimentality about the nature of man but (albeit guarded) optimism for life itself: the vision of Jack Kirby.

While much of this issue is exposition and setting up for the “time-bomb” of the story to come, we still get to relish again one of Jack’s longest running devices: The good old fashioned slugfest, with “Giant Jimmy” beating the Krypton out of Kal-el… Nobody, but nobody does a fistfight better than the King!

Upon re-reading there’s always something new to find — or something I think I uncover — and I’m beginning to detect that while Jack depicts authority very often in light-of-day, clean cut imagery, there’s nuances and subtleties that show however good the intentions of the institutions of “our” side, disastrous badness just might emerge… The Guardian clone’s strange brain patterns, the mere fact DNA was used to grow alien monsters, the folly of building super-nuclear reactors in Metropolis’s basement, to name a few of The Project’s creating the opportunity for their own — and maybe our own — demise. Do I detect an uneasiness emerging from Jack about science and technology, and a yearning for a return to the Garden, so to speak, the pristine nature of New Genesis and the Wild Area?

Themes are beginning to take shape and come into sharp focus. And next entry, Jack lays his cards on the table just what the coming battle is all about, as we move on to the second-released title of his Fourth World opus. They belong to sunrise — they’re here in mid-day — to stop the spread of night! Yes, Kirbyheads, here come The Forever People of Supertown!

Day 30: The Golden Guardian!

Talk about an in-your-face ending to this ish! Here, comin’ rightacha, is the return of one of Jack and Joe Simon’s great 1940s super-hero creations (the last costumed hero the pair initiated for DC during the WWII era), The Guardian! Originated as a guardian angel of a group of paperboys, in 1942’s Star Spangled Comics, the adventurer is actually Suicide Slum beat cop Jim Harper, who apparently can justify his nightime vigilantism. The group headlined SSC until their disappearance after the war.

To be frank, The Guardian was a bald-faced swipe of S&K’s greatest creation, Captain America, right down to the shield (though the DC character’s accessory was in the shape of a police badge), only without the “Old Glory” color scheme and Harper didn’t have just one kid sidekick — the rookie-by-day had four: Scrappy, Gabby, Tommy and Big Words!

Admittedly, The Guardian, with his great cyan-&-gold ensemble (was the helmet gold-leafed?), served as permanent guest-star within the breathless exploits headlined by The Newsboy Legion, but the audacity of S&K of virtually transplanting Timely’s “Sentinel of Liberty” and making a home for him at their new publisher, The House of Superman, was exhilarating and apropos of the creative team’s tenacity and chutzpah. (The duo suspected they were being cheated out of royalties by Timely publisher — hence their move — and they only produced ten issues of Captain America Comics… but, boy oh boy, what star-making issues they were!). Here was a S&K action hero smashing, punching, flying, exploding from the page… Yowza!

I’ll confess, too, that though I had zero prior knowledge of the character, upon first seeing this very same final page of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #135, The Guardian instantly became one of my favorite super-heroes (a very short list). Why he’s never caught on in the “DC Universe” to much of a degree is a shame; maybe because he’s a Cap rip-off? But that’s one of the main reasons I dig the hero — it’s S&K stealing from… S&K!!!

But, wait, this isn’t the original Guardian. This one has been grown from the dead cop’s DNA in The Project from a test tube by Harper’s former wards. And, there is something even more different about Guardian 2.0… The clone complains of feeling out-of-sorts… Doc Big Words worries that the resurrected Harper has “some strange unidentifiable activity in the brain area,” and later agrees that though, “He’s physically perfect and well-adjusted mentally! But in his brain is something common to all of the living products of our genetic labs! Something still elusive!”

Alas, Jack never expanded on these tantalizing hints of storylines to come, and while the hero only guest-starred in a small handful of JO stories during the Kirby run, The Guardian of Metropolis was a joy to behold!

Coming Soon: After tomorrow’s JO #135 round-up, we finally advance to the second title in Jack’s Fourth World opus, The Forever People, so grab your Mother Boxes, buckos, cuz the Super-War heats up Big Time! (Remember, we’re dissecting the 4W chronologically, looking at each issue in the order they were published.)

Day 29: The Project’s Life Chamber!

Just what have the former members of the original Newsboy Legion been up to at The Project? What could possibly bring a teacher, geneticist, social worker and medical doctor together at the U.S. super-secret scientific facility? (Mr. Dippa? Apparently he’s a babysitter!) The mystery begins to be answered as the men entrust Jimmy by revealing a personal project of their own:

In the giant petri dish called a Life Chamber by Jack, their experiment speaks, is agitated, demands freedom! And who can this replica be? The humanoid tells the doctor it is prepared to be released from the growing booth: “Yes, I am strong! Strong! Let me out! My mission is to defend — to protect! You face disaster! Let me out!

Are you folks ready for one of the biggest debuts in the Fourth World run? Well, watch out! He’s almost here!! Hang tight, Kirby fans!!! A Golden-Age “newbie” is coming rightatcha!!!

Day 28: The Incredible Jimmy!

Here, finally, is the reveal of just who is under that hood! A giant green clone of Jimmy Olsen, hellbent on crushing the life out of J.O.’s best pal, attacking Supes with “almost galactic force”! Bred by The Evil Factory, its “prize giant” has a singular mission to destroy the Man of Steel, who is “The one ally of Earth,” Simyan explains, “who could successfully defend them against us.”

I am led to believe that Jack did have some big plans for Superman in his Fourth World mythos (later recognized by stalwart creators including John Byrne and Bruce Timm, in comics and animation respectively, who both integrated elements of the Apokolips-New Genesis War into their own Superman projects), and the more you think about the melding of the two — Superman and Super-War — the more apropos the connection. I’ll wax on when we discuss Supes’ guest-star turn in The Forever People #1, but just gotta say, man, what coulda been!

It’s a delightful twist to have another freakish version of Jimmy tramping through the pages of his comic book, one that harks back to the wonky Weisinger-edited tales of Jimmy as a werewolf, or giant turtle man, or super-fat man, stories that were actually a lot of fun, if rankly juvenile. For the life of me, I can’t imagine Jack sitting down and reading the JO run before commencing on the title, but still, it’s a nice echo, whether intended or not.

It’s interesting, too, that the creature has a certain resemblance to another giant green behemoth prone to rage, one The King co-created at the competition nine or so years earlier, though where’s Green Jimmy’s purple pants? Watch out, kids, OLSEN SMASH!

The synthetic Kryptonite has helped the monster to smackdown Superman, and the creature is determined to destroy the entire Project…

Day 27: The Penetrator Beam!

Have ya wondered how Simyan and Mokkari are able to steal through the super-tight security of The Project to swipe cloning technology and DNA samples? Ponder no more as the caveman-looking Apokoliptian agent whips out the handy Penetrator Beam ray cannon, which Simyan uses to zap the berserker, a not-so Jolly Green Giant rampaging through the Evil Factory, out of their hair and into The Project to kill… (gulp!) The Man of Steel!

(To catch up with our tale: While Superman continues his tour of The Project with Jimmy, The Evil Factory’s keepers are applying a finishing touch to the oversize being they’ve grown from pilfered genes, spraying the caged humanoid with synthesized Kryptonite, which now gives the guy the ability to conquer the Last Son of Krypton (and just happens to turn his epidermis green). Mokkari and Simyan report by television to Darkseid, who berates the pair with a lecture on duality: “…Who can deny the power of the other side? Death can eclipse life! A great lie can smash truth! And the answer to a finely disciplined Superman is what you have created — a chaotic fury of a thing…” But, alas, the monster decimates his confinement cell and attacks the pair, and Simyan realizes he can save his partner with the right Kirby kontraption!)

Day 26: Jimmy Olsen XLIII!

Wouldn’t you think, coming face-to-face with a clone of yourself, grown from cells taken from unsuspecting you during a routine workplace medical check-up, wouldn’t you be the tinsiest bit concerned that your D.N.A., the essence that is you had been stolen and there were hundreds of your duplicates being used by the government in place of “authentic” humans?

Apparently not our intrepid Daily Planet reporter, James Bartholomew Olsen, who greets a double — designated Jimmy O. 43 — with no more than a startled gasp, while he takes a tour of The Project hosted by his pal, the Man of Steel (who knew the cell tissue of Jimmy, the Newsboy Legion, and even his impervious self was being nipped). Consider the ethical implications! Would this lead to a Blade Runner-like future?

After encountering No. 43, Jimmy is led by Supes into a laboratory where, the red-headed journalist looks through a “magno-microscope” to see a bunch of tiny underwear clad mini-Jimmys, as small as dust motes, unconscious. Our super-hero tells the kid, “Yes, they’re real, Jimmy! They’re you! — and they are in shock! Some outside agency has rifled our replica section!”

(Interesting how Superman uses the plural possessive for The Project. Hard to say he isn’t a staunch ally of this questionable government endeavor, huh? And also, the accelerated growth process isn’t even hinted at — the cloning procedure seems to develop the replicants fully-formed… never mind being grown with clothes on!)

Day 25: Legionnaires At Ease!

A marvelous moment, calm and joyfilled, as the two Newsboy Legions, the old and new, greet one another with affection and delight. Even Flippa-Dippa’s father (this, as is obvious, is a meeting of fathers and sons) is there, who was not a member of the original Suicide Slum gang, but apparently pals around with the guys.

We soon learn that the fathers have been at work at The Project, on their own secret enterprise, one that involves an old ally of the grown-up Legion. We’re also informed about the adult occupations of the men in this issue:

Gabby, Sr., is now a teacher; “Big Words,” Sr. (still no first name given) is appropriately a geneticist; Scrapper, Sr., is now, natch, a social worker; and Tommy, Sr., is currently a medical doctor. Flippa’s dad? Not so sure…

Linking the Golden Age kid gang to the present was a splendid touch in not only adding some continuity and relevance to the concept, but it also gave readers a sense of Jack’s own history as a comic book creator through the decades. Always a forward-looking guy, it’s remarkable the artist/writer resurrected characters of a bygone era, so it reveals an affection he held for the boys and their erstwhile protector (whom we will soon learn much more about, Kirby fans!).

Enjoy the friendly moment, fathers and sons, ‘cuz things are about to heat up!

Day 24: The Project!

A vast American underground preserve, hidden in a mammoth cave under the foundations of Metropolis, The Project is an enormous Federal scientific complex devoted to DNA research and experimentation. Jack tells us it’s “a new and far reaching experiment which could change humanity as we know it!” Comparing it to the Manhattan Project, Superman tells Jimmy and the boys, “Even as the A-bomb began a new era for man — this project may begin a new history!”

Supes is a big supporter of the program, which grows its own clones to staff the huge facility (some for secretarial tasks, others for military duty), so much a booster he donated the first cells to be grown into duplicate beings! (What happened to that backstory!)

While it appears Jack, pretty much confirmed as a Kennedy liberal Democrat and no Nixon fan, had a generally optimistic view of a government devoted to the betterment of its peoples (think moonshots, not Vietnam), ya gotta wonder, if the saga had kept going, whether the dark side of The Project itself would have eventually come to fore. Perhaps we get a glimpse when Jimmy says to the Man of Steel, “Do you realize what weird, and perhaps dangerous, channels are being probed here?”

When Supes gushes to his pal, “The Secret of Life, long hidden in the DNA molecule, has been extracted and is now being used for mankind’s benefit” by The Project, and you see evidence of unethical cloning of unsuspecting donors, and the possible use of clones as slave labor, you just gotta ask the big guy, “For whose benefit?”

At least The Evil Factory is upfront with its intentions!

Anyway, the place is rife with story possibilities and we’ll meet a bunch of groovy inhabitants in the entries to come…

Day 23: Mokkari & Simyan!

The proprietors of Darkseid’s earthbound DNA experimental lab, The Evil Factory, are, we presume, recent arrivals from Apokolips via the Boom Tube, and have set up shop in The Wild Area. Their mission: Steal cloning secrets and cell tissue from the nearby top-secret scientific organization, The Project, and “grow their own.”

While making only a handful of appearances in Jimmy Olsen, the mismatched pair make a delightful impression as almost comedic Fourth World villains. They’re craven cowards before Darkseid’s admonishments, bowing on their knees, head to the floor… Maybe it’s droll to suggest, but when Mokkari, the yellow-skinned tall fella with neato facial tatts, is being attacked by Jolly Green Jimmy later on in this ish, his desperate whining for Simyan (the shorter, Neanderthal-lookin’ gent) suggests perhaps a more intimate relationship between the duo…? I mean, they are all alone, besides the mindless clones, in that dark house of horrors…

ANYWAY, there’s a slight bumbling aspect to the pair — like they are always screwing things up and desperate to avoid Daddy Darkseid’s punishment — and for bad guys engaging in horrific experiments to serve the Greatest Threat To Earth EVER, hand it to Jack for some innovative character development!

Given his apish looks and knuckle-dragging saunter, Simyan is obviously named for “simian”; Mokkari, besides the resemblance to Mercury, I’d reckon Jack just thought it was a cool sounding name… [Consensus, on the FB community page and this blog, suggests that Jack was actually deriving Mokkari from “mockery,” which certainly makes sense, as the dude is making a mockery of The Project by perverting its aims with The Evil Factory.]

I still can’t get over what a cool facial design the Yellow Man sports! Nice stuff for a third-tier cast member.

(Yeah, I skipped over a villainous character in this chronology, but the Big Green Guy has a much more startling reveal later on in JO #135, and, anyway, Mokk and Sim have been lurking under masks these past few entries… It was time! And, one more thing, sorry if I missed posting yesterday; it’s hard to tell as I, on occasion, pre-post and looks like I mixed up… LOTS going on at Casa Cooke…)

Day 22: The Evil Factory!

Things start to get truly foreboding with our first wide-angle look at the Apokoliptian “rival Project” called The Evil Factory, run by the sinister odd couple, Mokkari and Simyan. Allusions of the Auschwitz-Birkenau laboratory of Josef Mengeles, the Nazi doctor called “Todesengel” — The Angel of Death — who conducted horrific genetic experiments on concentration camp inmates at the notorious Nazi extermination camp.

Jack had no illusions about the potential dark side of DNA research — humans to be cloned and used as slaves — and as The Fourth World is essentially an allegory of the duality of mankind, it is only fitting that The King gives us a glimpse at the chamber of horrors built to suit Darkseid… a rancid comparison to the noble and life-enhancing organization called “The Project.”