Category Archives: Jimmy Olsen #136

Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #136

Cooke Look: “The Saga of the D.N.Aliens”

I love the introduction to this issue: “It’s true! The Guardian is back! But — he is the Guardian of a new and frightening age! He is a child of ‘The Project,’ a new and far reaching experiment which could change humanity as we know it! For the Big Picture is unfolding, and each segment of it reveals the terrifying pattern of forces, the likes of which have never been seen on Earth! Yes — and the birth of forces which are yet to play their part in this great saga!”

This all is big, big stuff and we need time to process the implications, so it’s worth appreciating the nice balance of action and explication in this chapter of Jack’s big, big masterpiece.

Jack jams a lot into this issue, including a raucous slamfest between Giant Jimmy and The Guardian and the introduction of some particularly awesome Kirby koncepts, especially the Scrapper-Troopers and Dubbilex, the coolest D.N.Alien ever! There’s also tons of exposition expertly weaved in between the action — the Newsboy Legion dads telling the boys the fate of the original Guardian; Mokkari and Simyan explaining The Evil Factory and its connection to Apokolips; and Superman’s chatty, enormously informative tour of The Project with a flabbergasted Jimmy Olsen… (Poor Jimmy! Imagine having to take all that in after the previous issue learning there’s a veritable battalion of clones grown from his own DNA!)

We sense the Kirby juggernaut of hyperkinetic storytelling is about to come barreling at us helter-skelter again, why with the story’s final page depicting Mokkari and Simyan observing one of the “Unknown’s” eggs cracking open and we see, thrusting from the shell, one arm, then two arms, then… four arms??!! Oy vey, time to buckle up the seatbelt again, partners, cuz there’s another Kirby-driven bumpy ride ahead!

If I have any quibble with this issue, it’d be that Giant Jimmy is dispensed with rather quick-like and a tad neatly, encased as he is in a liquid nitrogen coating and plopped in Cryonic Capsule 31570, after the Scrapper-Trooper stealth attack — I guess the build-up had me hoping to see a more involved battle; but the coming “Four-Armed Terror” two-parter, culminating in the breathless, nail-biting suspense of the “Big Boom” and accompanying end-of-the-world (well, their world, for sure!) countdown to nuclear Armageddon… well, let’s just say the climax of Jimmy and the Newsboy Legion’s great adventure at The Project was worth getting to as soon as possible.

One question: Back in JO #135, the captain of the Mountain of Judgment, Jude, emphatically tells Superman, “You are needed at The Project!” Now, did they need the Man of Steel’s powers of deduction to find out who has been rifling their genetic material? Or is there anticipation of an invasion by the “rival Project”? Wouldn’t, maybe, a detective along the lines of Batman be more useful? (I keed, I keed…)

Day 78: D.N.Aliens!

During Superman’s guided tour of The Project, the Man of Steel points out the three categories of clones being grown: Normals, Step-Ups and Aliens.

Normals, I guess it’s safe to assume, are the rank and file who work at The Project and have been reproduced from the DNA of living, “normal” people (i.e., regular folks of average intelligence and abilities), including the Jimmy Olsen guards at the Duplication Section and Communications Division Gabbys. It may also be proper to include in this category those in the “Miniature Replica Files,” such as the Scrapper-Troopers and the miniature Supermen, Jimmy Olsens and Newsboy Legion members (both those at The Project and grown at the Evil Factory from stolen cells). The Guardian likely fits with this grouping, as do the “beasts of burden” at the Evil Factory and Floyd “Bullets” Barstow’s clone.

Because the duplicates seem to be of the same age as the “originals,” there has to be some age acceleration taking place and, with the D.N.Aliens (which may pertain to all products of both facilities), such a development is hinted at in the “Strange Stories of the D.N.A. Project” vignette, “The Alien Thing!!!” (The presence of the daycare facility may indicate some Normals are allowed to age at the normal rate.)

Step-Ups include The Hairies, the youthful and industrious technological geniuses of The Project (“They have evolved hair-triggered minds!” Superman tells Jimmy, “And they can come up with mechanical wonders like the Mountain of Judgment!“). The category may also include scientists, possibly Professor Packard, the surrogate father of Arin, the Armored Man. (I don’t recall any others being specifically referred to as a Step-Up…)

Aliens are actually a misnomer, as those in the category being discussed do come from people (or animals). Superman says, “The human cell has been subjected to a wide range of conditions — and has yielded some strange developments!”

There actually appear to be three different varieties of D.N.Aliens:

    • Original creations developed by manipulation of human DNA, such as the original Alien Thing, Dubbilex, the Four-Armed Terror, and Arin, the Armored Man

    • Mutated humans based on a specific individual’s DNA, including the Giant Jimmy Olsen

    • Those people and animals subjected to Regressive Gene Induction, about which Simyan tells us, “Each animal become[s] its remote ANCESTRAL image.” This bunch notably includes the Loch Trevor Beastie, Angry Charlie and Jimmy “Homo Disastrous” Olsen

Let’s have a closer look at those three groupings:

Original D.N.Aliens

In the “Strange Stories of the D.N.A. Project” two-pager called “The Alien Thing!!!” we learn about the very first “Original D.N.Alien,” and it’s worthy of replicating Jack’s story verbatim:

The first genetic structuring to run wild in the laboratory almost proved to be the last!!!

When it quickly evolved to adolescence, The D.N.A. Project found trouble on its hands!! The battle with it lasted a day!! It was the first ‘D.N.Alien’ The Project had produced!! It grew fast! — And hostile! Nothing seemed to stop it!! Tranquilizing gas seemed to slow down its movement — but not the maturing process!! Somehow, its metabolism was wildly accelerating!! — Emitting great bursts of bright, searing, damaging energy!!

The disruptive force affected thousands of circuits — and cut off communication between The Project and the outside world!! Great shocks followed!! And cracks appeared in places where subterranean waters broke through to cause critical emergencies! And on the Zoomway itself, large fissures opened and yawned! The low casualty rate was an incredible part of the strange events!!! Then in a last, terrifying burst of body energy, the alien caused an aurora effect that could be seen for miles!!! It proved to be the last of him! He had literally burned himself out!! — And with such devastating force that his powdery remains shocked witnesses into silence!!!

The D.N.Alien, however, didn’t die in vain!!! His brief life left vital clues on how to keep succeeding D.N.Aliens alive!!!

Dubbilex, as we found in the previous entry, serves as a researcher at The Project and is developing his latent telekinetic powers, aiding Superman in the Cosmic Carousel affair.

The Four-Armed Terror, and his multitudinous brethren called Homo Usurpus, was bred by the Evil Factory from samples stolen from The Project. Superman says, “Among the living human cells [the Evil Factory] stole from The ‘Project’ was a special batch which had been treated in a manner to simulate Atomic War conditions! He could be bred for surviving Atomic War!” Whether these were mutated by Mokkari and Simyan with their Beta Gas is open to question, but the Terrors are apparently different than The Project’s prototypes as they actually consume radioactivity.

Arin, the Armored Man, was developed for interplanetary travel without the need for life support or artificial environment as he can travel in deep space as if swimming. His singular mission is to go live on a distant asteroid and protect the contents of his back-pack: Superman’s cell tissue and genetic code.

Mutated D.N.Aliens

Unless those miniature clones I’ve listed as Normals should be classified as such, I can only find the Giant Jimmy Olsen to belong under this heading. It appears that Mokkari and Simyan pilfered Jimmy’s miniature DNA (so to speak):

Simyan: With our superior equipment, we have rapidly established a project to rival their own! Now, from living cells we can produce what they do — human beings!

Mokkari: Of course, we stole the first samples from the Earthmen — but now we can make our own! We shall breed them in all sizes — as small as we want them — and as large as their destinies demand!

It is interesting that the closing “next issue” blurb in JO #135 is phrased as follows, illustrating the Guardian clone emerging from his Life Chamber: “Don’t miss his clash with the renegade replica! These are not ordinary humans in combat! This is a new breed spawned by a new concept! The DNAliens!” Is Jack telling us the Jim Harper relica is actually a D.N.Alien…?

Regressed D.N.Aliens

Technically, I wonder if these even belong under a D.N.Alien heading, but chromosome manipulation is in play here, so I’m going to take the chance. First, I’d like to point out the raison d’etre of The Evil Factory was initially to steal research from The Project and replicate their successes in cloning life and manipulating DNA. As we know, Mokkari and Simyan run the facility for Darkseid:

Mokkari: It is what we came here to do! To replace the Earthmen’s project — with ours! The Earthmen experiment for progress. But we work for Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips!

Simyan: Our off-spring shall bring Apokolips to Earth! Chaos in place of order! And from that chaos will arise the new masters of Earth — with the great Darkseid as their exalted leader!

Again, the primary purpose of the Evil Factory is to eliminate and replace The Project, as Simyan says while he and his partner overlook a scale model of The Project, “Yet, all this we must destroy! It shall become again as it once was — Empty! Silent!” Adds Mokkari, “We shall do it with the proper creations of the life we have bred here!” While they fail in “The Big Boom” to wipe out the government complex, they do The Project one better by introducing a new process to the game: Regressive Gene Induction.

(You know, despite the fact their plans typically fall through and thus repeatedly face the wrath of angry Darkseid, for only two guys, Mokkari and Simyan have made remarkable improvements on the discoveries of The Project, a “Manhattan Project” type endeavor that must employ hundreds, if not thousands, of specialists. The duo manipulates miniature DNA to make any size humanoid they desire; they improve on the Atomic War “survivor,” as Superman says, “Our rivals at the Evil Factory have produced another ‘first!’ That thing is absorbing and feeding on radioactive energy!” Plus there’s this new development…)

Mokkari: Regressive genes have proven a delight, haven’t they, Simyan!!

Simyan: Yes, it’s been exciting to see each animal become its remote ancestral image!!

It appears the Evil Factory, which we find is located in the highlands of Scotland, is letting loose the results of their Regressive Gene Induction research. Mokkari and Simyan, y’see, are able to turn any animal into its evolutionary predecessor, and many into hitherto before considered to be mythological creatures! The Apokolips scientists turn out a “‘way out ‘Animal Farm!!” including the Loch Trevor Monster, Griffin, Chimera, Unicorn, some Basilisks, and (who is to become Gabby’s personal pet) Angry Charlie (the antecedent of, what, a flea?), plus other beasties that emerge at the conclusion of this storyline. Natch, Jimmy O. gets the treatment and becomes a caveman Olsen! Zapping sinister rays on our hero, the two cackle:

Mokkari: Millions of gene nuclei shot through his open pores!!

Simyan: They develop like wildfire! Olsen will change rapidly!! Becoming what the gene dictates!! Sad to say — these are regressive and powerful!!

But, as always seems to happen, the hapless Evil Factory proprietors lose control of their creation but this time there’s no handy matter transmitter to get rid of the culprit, Jimmy “Homo Disastrous” Olsen! This Neanderthal Jimmy is fantastically powered and in perpetual rage, beating the crap out of an enormous saber-tooth tiger and short-circuiting the electric fencing that sets free an entire menagerie of monsters, including dinosaurs, huge sloths, wholly mammoths, gigantic rhinos, and innumerable other prehistoric creatures, all creations of Regressive Gene Induction…

Back when he was a mere homo sapien, Jimmy wondered about the implications of all this genetic engineering, “Superman! Do you realize what weird, and perhaps dangerous, channels are being probed here?” You said it, chum.

Day 77: Dubbilex!

C’mon, let’s be real for a minute: you have got to admit that Dubbilex is one of Jack’s coolest characters!

Yep, it’s that “weird and wonderful” Dubbilex, fave D.N.Alien of Superman and this writer alike, who radiates a kinda androgynous vibe in demeanor, mixed with an intellectual poise not unlike Mr. Spock, and a whole lot of Lucifer in his appearance! And mere words can’t explain why the horned, granite-colored researcher at The Project, with kinetic abilities and “E.P.S.,” dressed in the white-&-purple tunic, is just so awesome (but, rest assured, I’ll try… cuz that’s my job!); I mean you just gotta dig this hep cat!

It’s during Superman’s guided tour of The Project when Jimmy Olsen first meets Dubbilex, just as the Man of Steel’s pal is starting to wrap his brain around the notion of “Normals,” “Step-Ups” and… “Aliens”??? Jimmy is incredulous, asking his companion, “Do you mean The Project can actually grow ‘Non-Humans’?” Superman explains, “The human cell has been subjected to a wide range of conditions — and has yielded some strange developments!”

“Oh, come, now!” the skeptical reporter scoffs. “I’m just not ready to come face to face with campy bug-eyed monsters!” Superman rejoins, “No! But we do have Dubbilex!” Jimmy then says, “Dubbilex! I’d like to meet any guy with a name like that!” Superman replies, “You shall!” and he turns to a Project worker, who has his back to the pair, and hails, “What’s new, Dubbilex!” And, with that, in close-up, we encounter the devil-like, stony visage of one of the Fourth World’s oddest — and most endearing — cast members. “Hello, Superman! You bring another curiosity seeker, I see!” says the creature with reptilian eyes and yellow horns.

Understandably shocked, Jimmy blurts out, “Great day in the mornin’!” and recovers with “Er — pardon my outburst! I don’t mean to offend, but you sure live up to your notices!” Superman explains the strange analyst’s public relations role at the complex. “Dubbilex is resigned to being The Project’s ‘conversation piece!’ He’s seen by every visiting V.I.P.!” Dubbilex offers, “There was one senator who called me the ‘Man from Mars!’ But, despite my origin, I’m as native to Earth as you are, young fellow!”

The super-hero accounts for the bizarre handle: “He’s named Dubbilex because his powers are still unknown! However, he’s a great researcher!” (And Trippilex would just be rude! And what does he order at the bar? Dos Equis! Bada-boom! Rimshot, please! … Sorry, hard to resist!) With that, the cub reporter introduces himself. “My name’s Jimmy Olsen! And it’s a great privilege to meet you!” Dubbilex is gracious, replying, “Thank you! I consider any friend of Superman as one of mine!”

As they leave the D.N.Alien researcher, Jimmy says to his pal, “Well, can you beat that! — A resident alien! Are there any more of his kind here?” Superman answers, “None of Dubbilex’s species, but, other types have been grown!”

That’s the last we see of this great, intriguing new character, until nine months later, in Jimmy Olsen #144, when Superman and The Guardian arrive at the Cosmic Carousel discotheque, in the “Suicide Slum” of Metropolis, by invitation of their new friend Terry Dean. Darkseid’s agents, The San Diego Five String Mob (and Barriboy) are there posing as musicians. As the gorgeous Miss Dean fails to drag the Man of Steel onto the dance floor, another provocative figure “confronts and surprises Superman!!”

Terry exclaims, “Hey! We’ve got a ‘U.F.O.’ on the guest list! Far out! Who is he??” Superman yelps, “Galloping Krypton!! Dubbilex!!!” And as an onlooker observes, “Man! This guy is weirder than moon rocks!” Superman, after asking, “Dubbilex! My favorite D.N.Alien!!! What in blazes are you doing outside The ‘Project’?” learns that Dubbilex is conducting some “field research” and has discovered a tunnel leading from The Project to the disco, excavated by parties unknown. The San Diego Five String Mob (and Barriboy) try to thwart the investigation, render the club into shambles, and is pursued by Dubbilex. When Superman and Terry catch up in the tunnel, the D.N.Alien is using his latent powers to levitate the denizens of Apokolips in mid-air.

“Like, wow, Mister Dubbilex!!” cries Terry. “How did you get them up there — and keep them up!??” The strange man with the power is unsure. “Well, I-I don’t know — yet!! But it did give me a slight jolt!! I think I can do it again!!” says he, putting his hands to the sides of his head, “But this time I’ll get them down!!” (At this, Superman says to himself, “Dubbilex is a maturing cell!! He’s developing kinetic powers!!”) Then, the caption reads: “A bright flash of crackling energy leaps from Dubbilex to his captives!!!” And the “rascals” (and Barriboy) are freed (and Terry and the D.N.Alien have a nice repartee: “Mister Dubbilex!! You’re weird!!” and Dubbilex replies, “It seems you’re correct, Miss Dean!”) and suddenly a Boom Tube appears!

When the otherworlders jump into the Boom Tube and Dubbilex asks, “What is that thing? It looks like it extends for miles inside!!” Superman gives an odd reply, barking, “Don’t go near it! Let these kids go!! And don’t ask questions!” The Man of Steel thinks about his meeting with The Forever People, his aborted foray into a Boom Tube, and the Super-War with Apokolips. Dubbilex (mistakenly drawn without horns on this one page in JO #146, or do they retract after he exerts his ever-emerging abilities?) says, “A million dollars for your thoughts, Superman!!” At which, our hero retorts, “At the rate your powers are developing, you’ll get them for free, Dubbilex..!”

(I say “odd reply” because I had never previously considered that Superman hadn’t allowed The Project, certainly a lofty government agency, one he was closely allied and was himself privy to their closely-guarded secrets, into his confidence about the threat of Apokolips. I just assumed, I guess, that though no one, none of the good guys, knows the location of The Evil Factory, higher-ups at The Project were surely aware it was Apokolips intrigue that was wrecking havoc at the installation. While I realize this isn’t precluded as Dubbilex might not have the clearance for such potentially panic-inducing information… but still, why would Superman want to keep such a cosmic threat a secret from government allies?)

We next see the trio in Terry’s office, as Dubbilex is practicing his newly-acquired powers on the bodacious proprietor of the Cosmic Carousel. In the full-page splash (with the header caption: “And if you think the Evil Factory has a corner on the ‘weird events of the century,’ consider the situation of the other half of the ‘good guy’ team!! — Superman, the Guardian, and Dubbilex, the D.N.Alien who are enmeshed in a deepening mystery in the heart of Suicide Slum!!!”), a crackling glow of energy emanates from the D.N.Alien’s noggin to a floating Terry Dean. “It’s amazing, Dubbilex!!” says Superman, “Your developing powers are beginning to actively manifest themselves!” The ever-gracious Dubbilex replies, “With a beautiful volunteer like Miss Terry Dean — who knows what wonders I could perform?!”

The startled woman stammers as she is magically lifted from her chair and turned upside down, “I-I’m rising into the air — lifted by some unseen force!! Oh, wow!! This experience has some scary angles!” Dubbilex suggests, “Be calm, Miss Dean!! I’ll let you down as easily as I can!!” On standby, the Man of Steel cautions, “Careful! Careful! Here she comes! Good work, Dubbilex!! You’re able to control a most interesting faculty!!”

Safely landing, she gushes, “Gosh! That was exciting!! If I told my friends about it, they’d laugh me out of town!! Mister Dubbilex, you’re weird and wonderful!!!” But the one-of-a-kind genetically engineered being is concerned. “By your standards, Miss Dean!! But what are mine? What is emerging from this brain of mine??” Superman suggests, “It might be a form of E.S.P. — only ten times more potent!”

Suddenly The Guardian pokes his head out of a trap door leading to the tunnel and shares some interesting hearsay: “‘E.P.S.’ is more like it, Superman! ‘Extra-Physical Status!’ I’ve heard the geneticists at The ‘Project’ discussing it!!”

Alas, that’s all we hear of this intriguing new development and, just before we see the last of Dubbilex (and The Guardian and Terry Dean, for that matter) in Jack’s Fourth World epic, Superman ponders the Big Picture while the group ponders what forces built the tunnel. He thinks, “The point is that the war between New Genesis and Apokolips — now involve The ‘Project!'” Dubbilex suddenly turns to Superman and tells him, “I got that thought, Superman!! — It’s most interesting!! I’d like to know — more –” The Man of Steel asks patience and flies down the tunnel to take a ride to Supertown… but that’s another story…

Dubbilex has tons of potential and he most certainly was nicely played in the series. He possesses an inherent likability and wonderful oddness, and the fact Jack doesn’t travel down the obvious super-hero narrative route — to portray him as a forlorn and angst-ridden creature, the only one of his species — is delightfully refreshing. Despite his devilish looks and stoic demeanor, he fits in nice and cozy, like an old shoe, with the gang and with the entire Fourth World, and Dubbilex remains an unforgettable character! Double thumbs up!

Day 76: The D.N.A. Project!

In the pages of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, the role of The Project, that capacious subterranean high-tech complex staffed by military personnel, government scientists and some strange-looking folk, is exclusively assigned to the agency called the DNA Project. Now, whether the entire Project is devoted to cloning human beings — and other humanoids — is open to question. I say this because, as you can imagine, if the Fourth World had run its intended course, The Project had great potential to be a catch-all organization for all sorts of activity, thus rife with story possibilities. But, much as I’d love to extrapolate on what could have been, let’s focus on the fertile material actually presented in the published comic series, rich stuff indeed!

Upon arriving at the Project Zone via the tunneled Zoomway and passing Checkpoint 10, the Whiz Wagon is parked and Jimmy, Superman and the Newsboy Legion enter Admittance Section 22 of The Project. An armed guard (one of many), machine gun trained on the visitors, directs the Man of Steel to the Cell Duplication and Replica Refining Section, where the boys attend a surprise meeting with their fathers. Meanwhile, as they stroll through high-tech, heavily secured corridors, the red-headed Daily Planet reporter demands some answers from Superman about the place. “This project is a vast underground complex!” says his friend. “The Hairies were grown and raised here!” Jimmy gives a double-take, “Did you say grown here? What do you mean?” Superman replies, “I mean, the genetic code has been broken, Jimmy! The DNA molecule has given up its secret! — The secret of life itself!” The young man is flummoxed. “What? You mean — ? You mean — ?” The Man of Steel nods and says, “I mean that human beings like yourself can now be produced from an individual cell! That the human gene can be manipulated and controlled to fit a desired pattern!” Jimmy remains aghast, retorting, “I don’t believe it! — I-it’s just too fantastic!” And, as the super-hero adds, “What’s more, The Project can make replicas of any living man!” they encounter a living clone of James Bartholomew Olsen, the sentry labeled Jimmy Olsen No. 43, who tells the “original,” “We Jimmy Olsens are a popular category in the duplication section!”

During this initial tour of The Project, Jimmy learns tissue samples were previously taken from himself and the Newsboy Legion (without consent) at the Daily Planet Dispensary. (Interestingly, Superman willingly donated his DNA to the effort; more on that soon…) Looking into a Magno-Microscope, Jimmy exclaims, “Good Lord!” as he views tiny versions of himself! In short time, he then learns “a good captain of detectives,” also deceased, has been cloned and is witness to Micro-Paratroopers, tiny duplicates also known as Scrapper-Troopers, parachuting all around him.

Jimmy marvels at the extraordinary compound as Superman renews the guided tour. “It certainly is big!” Jimmy says. “The corridors seem endless, Superman! And so do the personnel!” His companion replies, “They belong here, Jimmy! The Project grows its own!” Observing full-size clones of Gabby, Jimmy says, “Yeah! It’s never-ending surprises!” The reporter then turns to face his pal and says, “I can’t get over it! You knew about ‘The Project’ all this time!” “From its very inception!” responds Superman. “My cell tissues were the first grown when the genetic code was broken and deciphered!

(The Man of Tomorrow ends by saying, “But that’s another story! ‘The Project’ is the big one!” Great Krypton! What a way to dismiss such a huge bombshell and ya gotta wonder just what amazing tales could have sprung from that chestnut in Jack Kirby’s seemingly-infinite imagination! Talk about super-soldiers! (Fear not, those in the know: We’ll talk about Arin, The Armored Man, soon enough!) Another story, indeed…)

The pair stop at a console and Superman pushes a view button, revealing giant metal cylinders amid pink Kirby krackles. “Here life is grown in special tanks! Life planned for specific tasks! This is where The Project acquires its personnel!” Pressing the button again, we see a caregiver playing ball with little children. “Here is one of the nurseries, Jimmy, where the young Normals are carefully raised and tutored.” His pal asks, “Did you say ‘Normals,’ Superman? Do you mean…?”

“Well,” Superman answers, “the human cell is still a pliable mystery! Experiments have produced the ‘Step-Ups!'” Just then a three-wheeled vehicle passes them as the old bearded driver, driving two younger passengers, beckons to Superman, “Hi, Superman! Don’t forget our Friday Night ‘Sing In’! Bring your friend!” “Thanks! We’ll be there!” replies the Man of Steel. “Say!” says Jimmy, “These kids look like the ‘Hairies’ who live in that mountain-sized van that runs on the Zoomway!” Superman concurs, “The ‘Hairies’ came from this group! These are our ‘Step-Ups!’ They have evolved hair-trigger minds! And they come up with mechanical wonders like the Mountain of Judgment!” Jimmy exclaims, “Wow! And it all began with reading a little DNA molecule!” Superman goes through a doorway and says, “Yes, there are rooms of charts explaining it all!”

Inviting Jimmy to view the complex diagrams, Superman explains, “In these charts, Jimmy, lies the essence of ‘The Project!’ The Secret of LIfe, long hidden in the ‘DNA molecule,’ has been extracted and is now being used for mankind’s benefit!” As they enter another room, he continues, “There is constant research going on all the time! As it expands, new problems arise!” Turning to wall signs, the top two reading “Normals” and “Step-Ups,” Jimmy points to the last one. “I’ll bet! Look at that bottom category! Aliens!

We’ll leave the tour for today, as there will be a discussion covering that bottom category very soon indeed, so let’s mosey over to some Jimmy Olsen back-up tales and look at a few other aspects of The D.N.A. Project:

(Background comment: Mokkari, looking over a scale model of The Project and its Wild Area environs, in the ish of JO we’re currently covering, explains why the location was selected: “Thus we have it — the vast American underground preserve, in which ‘The Project’ was built. This was originally a mammoth cavern!“)

In “The Torn Photograph” segment of “Strange Stories of The D.N.A. Project” (JO #144) the opening caption reads, “Even greater than the mystery that shrouds the activities within the top secret project, there is the untold saga of the clearing of the mammoth cavern in which it’s based!” The tale explains, “In the early days of The Project, spelunking teams of cave explorers were sent into the bowels of the Earth on survey missions!!!” A team called Probe Six finds a prehistoric forest of vegetation, swamps and wild — apparently very wild — life, which leads to demise of the exploratory team, despite efforts with dynamite and weapons. All that is left of their travails and that “Lost World” is a torn photo (must have been a Polaroid) of an apish creature advancing on the camera with stone axe ready to descend…

The “Tales of the DNA Project” two-pager in JO #148 has this intro: “During the routine physical examination of a maturing ‘DNA-Human,’ the subject, who represents a special experiment, suddenly became violent and attacked a security guard present in the room!! Had he proved the theory that crime was transferrable [sic] through the human cell? Was there such a thing as the… Genetic Criminal” Model Four, a beefy, tough-looking fellow, pounds the tar out of his adversary, who calls him a “second-rate human!!” But we learn Model Four’s foe is a foreign agent and he is seized by security personnel. We learn: “Many DNA subjects acquire a sharp sense of ESP!” — That’s extra-sensory perception, a sixth sense, kids! — and that he was “grown from the cell tissue of Floyd ‘Bullets’ Barstow!! — A gangster executed for murder!!

Please allow a little question or two of the big developments going on… Just what in the name of Sam Hill is the government up to here? The U.S. of A. is surreptitiously stealing the D.N.A. of its unwitting citizens and harvesting clones to remain in (perpetual?) servitude of their vast underground complex? The clones are being gestated in giant tanks and then live in a subterranean world, rarely (if ever) seeing the light of day? And why no mention of the accelerated growth process these replicants are assuredly subject? Obviously, our encounters with the clones of the Guardian, Scrapper, Gabby and Jimmy all reveal relatively intelligent, level-headed humans… so what’s the secret of getting them so mature so fast? And the “Bullets” Barstow vignette: Scientists are growing humans to settle their nature versus nurture theories? What would have they done with Model Four if criminality was a genetic trait? Lordy, lordy, these questions boggle my wee mind!

(Please don’t get me wrong here with my ponderous asides: I’m not intending to criticize Jack’s storytelling or concepts here, more marveling at the apparent implications within and the seemingly endless, infinite story possibilities that could have been built on this fantastic foundation. It is so much fun just contemplating the marvelous implications of it all… so you’ll please forgive me, yes?)

Day 75: The Fate of Jim Harper!

What if were you?

What if you devoted your entire adult life to law-enforcement and, perhaps, in a more dissimulating occupation to fight crime, risking life and limb for the public good; what if your reward, in the end, as life bleeds out, was to have an agency take what is the essence of everything you are and, to serve them, to grow another… you?

If Jim Harper, the alter ego of the hero of Suicide Slum, The Golden Guardian, could look down onto our world from the pearly gates, maybe he might ponder the strange new questions raised by artificial replication of human life. Maybe, ya think, he might be angry, believing he had sacrificed quite enough, thank you, for the betterment of mankind. Well, at least, the improvement of a quartet of Metropolis street kids back in the day…

It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what has transpired at The Project. That is, whether the men formally known as the original Newsboy Legion took it upon themselves to create a clone of Jim Harper to reintroduce The Guardian to the world, or if the genetic scientists of the vast government enterprise had exactly that intention. It seems, in our tale, that it was the idea of the adult compatriots of the original super-hero because they couldn’t bear to let him go… ?

Let’s re-examine a scenario from our previous issue of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen (and, fear not, effendis — we’ll quickly get up to date): After the grand Zoomway adventure, Superman, Jimmy and the new Newsboy Legion are taking their first stroll together through The Project. The Man of Steel escorts them (as he himself must pass various security checkpoints) and “Suddenly, there is the whir of hidden mechanisms — and great steel doors open!” Superman tells his pals, “Here comes your first big surprise, my friends!”

“And indeed it is!” the caption reads, “For facing the boys are ‘originals‘ not seen by the general public since the ‘1940’s!‘ But the Newsboy Legionnaires of today call each of them ‘DAD!'” And sons and fathers share a happy respite reacquainting themselves. It seems all the patriarchs are employed at The Project! Later, as the Giant Green Jimmy is bearing down upon The Project, Jimmy confers with the fathers after Superman is momentarily knocked unconscious by the monster with the synthetic-Kryptonite coating.

Gabby, Sr.: We, the first Newsboy Legion, were called here to help do a job — I, Gabby, a teacher!

Big Words, Sr.: Yes, and I, the original ‘Big Words,’ am here, as a geneticist!

Scrapper, Sr.:
I, Scrapper, became a social worker — But I’m needed here, too!

Tommy, Sr.: And I, once the kid they called Tommy, was summoned here as a medical doctor! Like you men, I can’t save the day — but, like you, I know who might!

At this, Doctor Tom pushes a button to open a chamber door. Inside is the Life Chamber containing a newly grown James Harper.

Scrapper, Sr.: Tommy — do you think he’s ready?

Big Words, Sr.: I think so! I’m glad we left the boys with Flippa Dippa’s dad!

Gabby, Sr.: This has been our little secret up till now —

Jimmy: You men have been developing a replica of your own?

Tommy, Sr.: Yes! He was one of us — a good friend — A good captain of detectives — who died in a battle with thieving hoods recently! But not before I —

Jimmy: Doctor! You took a living tissue sample from this wounded man?

“Suddenly Jimmy peers deeply within the depths of the Life Chamber!

Jimmy: No! — He was no ordinary policeman! I remember his story! He was more like Superman himself!

Gabby, Sr.’s statement of “our little secret” could be typical hyperbole, as it is very hard to imagine the super-tight defense of The Project wouldn’t be aware of such an ambitious and expensive (I mean, that Life Chamber must’ve cost some bucks, know what I’m saying?). But, then again, the denizens of The Evil Factory are keeping the security personnel hopping, that’s for sure…

Back to our current story: After the defeat of “The Incredible Jimmy” by the Scrapper-Troopers, we witness Mokkari and Simyan report to their master, Darkseid. The King of Evil chagrins his servitors and tells them with the next plan “there must be comlete, thorough success!” The proprietors of The Evil Factory discuss the coming age if their nefarious deeds bear fruit: “Our offspring shall bring Apokolips to Earth! Chaos in place of order!” says Simyan, “and from that chaos will arise the new masters of Earth — with the great Darkseid as their exalted leader!” Then, perched atop a cherry-picker type of crane, they overlook a (conveniently labeled!) “great model of their rival project in its entirety!

Ponders Mokkari: What should their next project be? “Except for the giant Jimmy Olsen, we have grown nothing but mere beasts of burden!” Suddenly Simyan reminds him of the cell tissues raised in beta gas. “But they are ‘unknowns!’” protests his yellow-faced companion. “Even as they grew — they hid from us!” They enter the Lower Level Control Bubble and — holy H.R. Giger! — they look out over a vast chamber filled with giant egg sacs, sinister mists of beta gas wafting overhead… !

Cut to the new Newsboy Legion meeting the Guardian, who is a bit out of sorts…

Scrapper: Wow! Da Guardian! Where ya been all dese years?

Tommy: I’ll bet our dad’s know!

Big Words: There was a policeman named Jim Harper known by the old Newsboy Legion — Did you know him?

Gabby: Know him? I’ll bet he is Jim! C’mon, ’Fess up!

The Guardian: I-I would like to answer all your questions — but I somehow feel so — strange

Suddenly, the “Dads” burst into the room.

Gabby: The “all clear” has sounded! How is “Model One”?

Flippa Dippa: Model One’? Don’t tell me all this heah fuss is bein’ made over a phony Guardian!

Tommy, Sr.: He’s every bit as real as the original Guardian! And, after watching him on the tele-monitor, I’d say he’s magnificent!

Tommy: Dad! What are you trying to tell us? What happened to the original?

Tommy, Sr.: The other men will fill you in! I’m busy!

Scrapper, Sr.: Ya might as well have it straight, kids! The original Guardian is dead! During the years we grew to manhood, we lost track of him!

Big Words:
Of course! You were all pursuing your separate careers!

Gabby, Sr.: The Guardian vanished when Jim Harper was transferred to the detective division, in another precinct!

Big Words, Sr.: Not long ago, we were called to Jim Harper’s bedside! He’d been fatally wounded in an action with fleeing criminals!

Gabby: (Blub) (Sniff) Don’t tell us da rest — I’ll cry

Tommy: Wait! Before he died, Jim Harper confessed he’d been the Guardian — Didn’t he?

Big Words:
Yes! But we just couldn’t bear to lose him! When the original Jim Harper passed on, he left behind a still-living cell tissue sample!

Flippa Dippa’s father: So, ‘The Project‘ grew a new Guardian! I’m glad that Flippa-Dippa and I are part of the kind of friendship you share!

The story of Jim Harper doesn’t end here. There’s still the issue of who killed him and what will happen to that “Mister Rat,” but we’ll save that for when the time comes.

There you have it, friends. “We just couldn’t bear to lose him.” So they clone him!?

Part of me believes Jack is being overly optimistic, neglecting to think through the ethical considerations that arise with human cloning. But I’d betcha there was something to come in the unfinished saga percolating in Jack’s noggin. All this talk about “strange brain activity” in The Project’s clones might be a foreshadowing of a deeper, darker, and more complex tale…

Day 74: Scrapper-Troopers!

WOW, indeed! The not-so Jolly Green Jimmy is engaged in a ferocious fight against the new Golden Guardian, with Superman out cold on the sidelines, as the real Jimmy and his newsboy friends voice their astonishment at the titanic battle being waged before their eyes. The cloned Jim Harper holds his own against the behemoth, who is engulfed with primal rage, fists and exposition flying. “Kill! Destroy!” the monster screams, “I have been programmed by the forces who created me, to eliminate whatever lies before me! You must die!

Within moments, the Guardian is knocked off his feet and Jimmy runs to revive Superman only to be approached by his enormous emerald-skinned doppelganger, who tells him, “I come for… you!” But before the Man of Steel can protect his pal, the creature yanks the cub reporter off his feet and: “As the giant pulls Jimmy to him in his fierce grip, he suddenly comes face to face with his own image!” The beast hesitates, telling his lookalike, “You — you are exactly like myself!” and, confused, turns to face Superman and the revived Guardian, who work together: Superman “Slowly begins to exert pressure on the cement floor,” as the Protector of Suicide Slum dives at the Goliath. Suddenly the pavement beneath the giant collapses and Superman grabs Jimmy. The Guardian rushes to engage “The Incredible Jimmy” when a sudden flash envelopes the creature’s head and plumes of vapors rise from him. The Giant collapses and passes out…

Strange!” says the Guardian as he examines the giant’s head, “The vapor literally exploded from his hair — without cause! It is puzzling!” After Jimmy and Superman trade thanks and compliments, the Last Son of Krypton takes a close look: “Now, as for our fallen Goliath, it would seem the best course to take would be — to look for a — David! Ah! Here he is!” Jimmy quips, “Don’t tell me he’s got armed fleas!” Superman replies, “It’s a rather humorous label to apply to our little friend here, but I would say you’re close!” Superman holds out his upturned palm and we see an individual example of yet another amazing product of The Project!

Standing on the Man of Steel’s hand is a tiny solider — “A miniature paratrooper!” says Jimmy, “And he’s waving a grenade!” For he is only one of a platoon of Micro-Paratroopers, all cloned from the same D.N.A., that of Newsboy Legionnaire, Scrapper! Suddenly toy-size jets fly over Jimmy’s head and drop dozens of Scrapper-Troopers floating down with chutes towards the green giant, and one says, “The objective is tranquilized, men! Now to complete the operation!” The troopers land and, each hoisting a canister, scurry past Jimmy’s feet and set up a cannon-like device. “Cryonic equipment!” says Superman, “They’re going to put our giant on ice, Jimmy!” The small cryonic canon shoots liquid nitrogen onto the giant and quickly covers him head to foot, to be sealed in Cryonic Capsule #31570.

Hey!” delights Scrapper (the original), “Here comes dat little gimmicky plane again!” It lands and the green-bereted newsboy lies on the floor and rests his cherubic face in his hands as he marvels at his itsy-bitsy lookalikes and coins a nickname. “It’s pickin’ up da little ‘Scrapper-Troopers!‘ Ain’t dey cute? So dey used me cell tissues to make dese spunky fightin’ men! Well, it’s only a natural cherce!”

Later on in this issue, we see The Project has used another member of the Newsboy Legion to harvest D.N.A. — Gabby, whose clones are used as telephone operators. “It’s never-ending surprises!” says Jimmy during his tour of The Project with Superman. “These technicians look like Gabb!” The Man of Steel replies, “Could you think of more perfect candidates for the communications division?

Back to the our subject: Scrapper-Troopers, a cunning Kirby creation, almost certainly had an impact with readers (or at least Jack’s assistants, Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman, who I believe were involved in plotting the next sequence discussed) as a representative returned upon the conclusion of this “Big Boom” epic. After Gabby develops a cold, the super-cautious medical staff at The Project puts the entire gang under quarantine and, bored beyond measure as well as wanting to get back into the fight alongside the Guardian, the Newsboy Legion devise an escape. Suddenly there’s movement in Scrapper ample head of hair.

“Dere must be somethin’ movin‘ t’rough me hair! — and it’s scarin‘ da daylights out of me!” says Scrapper and, yep, you guessed it, a Scrapper Trooper crawls out of the brown locks, takes a seat on the bulbous nose of the kid and snaps a salute to his genetic “father”! “Wow! It’s a — Scrapper-Trooper! He’s our way out of here!” They instruct the little guy to crawl into and open an electronic lock, and they exit into… “An abandoned tunnel!” says Tommy. “The ‘Project’ builders must’ve stopped digging here when they struck an underground river!’ Fortuitously there’s a small motorboat and the boys take leave of The Project… (The kids do get involved in a tragic episode that minimally includes the little fellow, but we’ll discuss the details of that down the river, so to speak.)

Scrapper’s little buddy joins the crew on the visit to Scotland, where he plays his biggest role in the entire series. First, he thwarts Inter-Gang agent Felix MacFinney attempt to throw Jimmy and the boys overboard, and a little later living in his own mini-portable home. The team splits up with Jimmy and Scrapper on foot, the pair searching for the origin of the strange mythical creatures now scampering the braes of Scotland. After struggling through the thicket, they come to open country and take a breather. Scrapper, resting his back on a boulder, holds a box with shoulder strap and and a wire-meshed window, and he says, “I hope the little Scrapper Trooper’s okay!! I brought him along — in dis special box I made!!” Jimmy replies, “I knew you would! That’s why I chose you to come with me, Scrapper!” Superman’s Pal explains his reason and the pair start an afternoon siesta as Scrapper-Trooper stands guard.

“But nothing can guard against the Compressor Wave! It comes out of nowhere — and does its strange work!!”

Then Scrapper is nudged awake by a hand with a khaki-colored sleeve. “‘Scrapper One! Scrapper One! Wake up!!” The Newsboy Legionnaire rises from his slumber and sees a “full-size” Scrapper-Trooper. Still foggy, he says, “Oh! Hi, little Scrapper Trooper!!” Then it hits him — they are all the same size! “I told you that I saw something weird happen to you!!” Scrapper-Trooper says, “In short — you’ve been shortened!!” Yep, the guys have been miniaturized and, with a “Sixth Sense” that clones of The Project seem to possess, Scrapper-Trooper leads them to… Brigadoom! The trio has uncovered the location of Darkseid’s Evil Factory!

That’s enough of this adventure for now, as I’d like to detail it at the appropriate time, but suffice to say Scrapper-Trooper is an able and courageous asset to the adventurers as they do battle with Mokkari and Simyan, a menagerie full of prehistoric monsters — and even Jimmy himself, in the guise of Homo-Disastrous!!!

The last we see of Scrapper-Trooper is when he is hauled onto the Whiz Wagon at the climax of the “Brigadoom” trilogy and, ya gotta admit, he and his fellow clones were a great addition to the title. A fine example of Jack’s occasionally impish sense of humor, they also hinted at a dramatic aspect of The Project that was never fully developed in Jimmy Olsen — that they all shared strange, mysterious brain activity, maybe even E.S.P., common to artificially grown “test-tube” humans. While his clones didn’t share in their “original’s” Brooklyn accent or his pugnacious sense of humor, it is their stoic and reserved nature that juxtapose nicely with Scrapper.