Category Archives: Jimmy Olsen #137

Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #137

Cooke Look: “The Four-Armed Terror”

This issue, and the conclusion that follows, are two of my favorite issues in the Jimmy Olsen run, probably because the menacing monster, the Four-Armed Terror, still gives me a fright, especially when we turn to the last page in #137 to see dozens, maybe hundreds of Homo Usurpians bursting out of their egg-sacs! Their mindless “AARUKs” and seriously bad skin condition remain effectively chilling and, yeah, I’ll admit it: scary! And, natch, it’s all leading to a tremendously impressive climax — the “Big Boom!” — the highpoint of the entire run! Boy, oh boy, don’t I just love this stuff!

I also dig the Solar-Phone “dance party” sequence, a psychedelic moment that fits with the Hairies’ hippyesque scene, man! Like I said in the previous entry: Sheer wonder.

The boys are trapped in the Four-Armed Terror’s woven egg sac and said monster is about to provoke an atomic reactor chain reaction that just might destroy the city of Metropolis as well as the Wild Area, plus an entire army of yellow beasties are bursting through their shells ready to join their brethren… Jack’s closing caption: “The final countdown is on! It isn’t waiting for Jimmy Olsen, his pal Superman, or for any of us! So stay where you are — on Ground Zero — so you won’t miss the following issue — and the Big Boom!

The cover blurb ain’t lying (too much) as it screams: “KIRBY brings them all together!! — On the last day of the world!!”

Day 89: Solar-Phone!

Ahhh, everything starts out nice and trippy for the gang — Jimmy O., Superman and “that resurrected rat-pack of rollicking rowdies,” the Newsboy Legion — when they attend the Hairies’ Friday night “sing in” at The Project! Unbeknownst to our heroes, Homo Usurpus, the Four-Armed Terror, is about to make a rampaging entry into the vast underground government complex! But, let’s enjoy the Solar-Phone party while things are temporarily nice ’n’ friendly!

The mind-bending episode begins with typical Kirby hyperbole, with the caption reading: “Wild Area! Zoomway! Habitat! Outsiders! Strange names in a strange world which has evolved in a great natural cavern beneath modern America! This is the world of The ‘Project’ — where the secret of the century has been kept! The harnessing of the DNA molecule!!!! The breaking of the genetic code!! Man experimenting with life!! Jimmy Olsen is there! And so is his pal Superman. They’re alive and well among the wondrous DNA denizens! But who can say for how long? — For a mighty, living juggernaut is fast approaching!”

Jimmy is seated and at the controls of a strange device, part keyboard, part image transmitter — and all-Kirby in design! — and he’s sporting a wide grin. “Wow! When the Hairies invited us to their dance, I never imagined they’d let me officiate like this, Superman!” The Man of Steel, standing behind the young reporter, is wearing what appears to be oversize earphones with a type of visual attachment. “The Solar-Phone is their latest invention, Jimmy!”

The there’s this caption: “Among the variety of living species produced in The ‘Project,’ the ‘Hairies’ are amazingly productive! They are mechanical geniuses! — And the Solar-Phone is new evidence of their strange life-style! It gathers the radio-signals from the stars and converts them into mental musical images!” Sitting on the floor before Jimmy and Superman is a horde of hippy-like Hairies, the Newsboy Legion among them, each wearing the same head device as the Last Son of Krypton, most holding hands and eyes closed, ready to embark on a journey into the mindscape! One girl says, “Our minds receive! The ‘dance‘ begins!” A hirsute fellow adds, “We are all together — we hear as one! We see as one! We soar as one!” Then the scuba-crazed Legionnaire chimes in: “Man! This is cool! It’s like a movie musical — and everybody’s in it! Includin’ me, Flippa-Dippa!” Superman tells his friend, “Keep playing, Jimmy!” You can’t do anything wrong! The Solar-Phone arranges all incoming signals into patterns of harmony!”

And then, in three full pages of krazy Kirby kollages, we understand what all the excitement is about! “What the dancers see is a new and wondrous universe of shifting, kaleidoscopic geometric forms!” The group seem to be experiencing what most of us would call a mass hallucinogenic acid trip, perceiving themselves as floating past fantastic images. Gabby is ecstatic, sharing with his fellow travelers, “Wow! This is great! It’s like we’re floatin’ free in Wonderland!” Scrapper is similarly delighted: “It’s a nutty Hollywood set wit’ symphony music all around us!” But Big Words hears something different, telling his pals, “That’s not the music I hear!” Explains an opulently tressed young lady, “Each of us hears the music in the way it pleases him most!” Jimmy puts it best, gushing, “Groovy! This is a real gas!” The Superman looks ahead and observes, “The scene is changing! What lies ahead?”

The panorama switches to an even more fantastical sight — “Soon, the dancers are whirling and soaring past strangely bizarre and beautiful worlds…” Giant flowers, massive planets, Buddhaheads, stone carvings abound. Notes Scrapper, “Dese flowers smell for real — like dey wuz from Kelly’s Funeral Parlor!” Even Superman is impressed, exclaiming, “Fantastic! The Solar-Phone communicates all this!

Then — BWOM! POW! — “Suddenly, the enchanting dance is brought to a jarring halt!” The walls are quaking. “The shocks that bring the dancers back to harsh reality continue with fearful intensity!” Yup, the Four-Armed Terror is knockin’ on the front door! But that’s another episode…

No doubt about it, the always prescient Jack Kirby envisions virtual reality here, right down to the headphones and goggles, mixed with the Merry Pranksters’ Kool-Aid Acid Test to keep it contemporary. Sure, it’s a diversionary moment, maybe even throw-away, but wondrous awe works superbly well with the pacing and the caption stating the Solar-Phone “gathers in the radio-signals from the stars” certainly opens the doors for some story possibilities down the road.

I love this kind of stuff from Jack because it represents the joyful side of imagination when contemplating future technology. Sheer wonder!

Day 88: The Four-Armed Terror!

Mokkari and Simyan, the odd couple of Apokolips, have been sent to Earth to replicate the success of The Project (by rifling DNA samples from the government facility) and, as the yellow-faced taller one relates, “It is what we came here to do! To replace the Earthmen’s Project with ours!” And, apparently, the best way to accomplish that Darkseid directive is to destroy the “vast American underground preserve!” But the “Giant Green Jimmy” failed to muss The Project’s hair and, after facing a dressing down by the Master of the Holocaust himself, the duo muse over what to do.

“The Earthmen experiment for progress,” Mokkari says. “But we work for Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips!” Simyan adds, “Our offspring 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!” Okay, well put, shorter hairier one, but what’s the plan?

Hand holding jaw in contemplation, Mokkari determines, “We shall do it with the proper creations of life we have bred here!” Simyan is puzzled, “But what have we produced that could do so thorough a job?” Looking over their human slaves carrying gargantuan machinery, Mokkari says, “True! Except for the giant Jimmy Olsen, we have grown nothing but mere beasts of burden!” Simyan has a flash: “Wait! You forget!” Entering an enclosure titled “Lower Level Control Bubble,” Simyan tells his partner, “There are cell tissues which we developed in an atmosphere of Beta Gas!” Mokkari retorts, “But they are ‘unknowns!’ Even as they grew — they hid from us! Human cells — which have grown their own Impenetrable cover!” Simyan says, as he takes charge of a control panel, “And beneath their cover — could be our answer!” The Control Bubble has windows looking over a field of what appear to be a chamber filled with super-sized eggs, a noxious mist wafting above them. “What kind of humans will emerge from these egg-sacs, Mokkari,” asks Simyan. His partner replies, “We must be prepared for any contingency, Simyan! Keep vlose watch!”

Later, the vapor stimulation “doing its work,” one of the egg-sacs hatch, with four-arms thrusting out! In the beginning of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #137, we see The Four-Armed Terror is in full, pale-yellow, red-eyed glory, and man! What a horrifying sight we see rampaging through the Wild Area! “This is a being with no name! It is in the shape of a man — but it is not man! Yet, it lives and breathes and hungers! It wants food! — The kind of food the forest doesn’t grow! But the food is there! It’s there!” Poor Yango and Gandy, motorcyclist Outsiders, see their hogs smashed by the monsters and barely escape with their skins. The creature makes it to The Project and shocks reverberate about the complex. “He has found the buried steel cables that are the stalks which lead to his food! Nuclear radiation! He doesn’t know it by word, but he feels it as an emptiness inside himself — that must be filled!”

(Here, the Four-Armed Terror makes his trademark sound — “ARRUK-ARRUK-AAAK!” — kinda cute, innit it?)

“Then he finds it! — In a booster unit, which carries power to The ‘Project’ from a central atomic pile!” Suddenly shock waves are sent out and blasts occur throughout the region — collapsing Habitat, cracking the Zoomway, and threatening the entire Project. Superman flies into action and, getting a good look at the yellow monster, the Man of Steel ponders, “Our rivals at the Evil Factory have produced another ‘first!’ That thing is absorbing and feeding on radioactive energy!” And that thing proceeds to pound the Krypton out of our hero! “And above Superman is a face produced by the most extreme experimentation with the human cell! At The ‘Project,’ its counterpart would be known as a D.N.Alien!” (ARRUK!)

(Am I wrong to understand that distinctions of what is and what isn’t a D.N.Alien of those produced by either The Project or the Evil Factory got a little fuzzy and more generalized as the saga continued?)

Finally able to throw off the beastie, Superman gives us a bit more information. “The Evil Factory has bred a terrifying product!! Among the living human cells they 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!” Jimmy and the Legionnaires try to help but suddenly all of ’em, Supes included, are encased in a “crackling web of energy” emanating from the freak’s four hands which create an impenetrable shell encasing our comrades! The creature moves on, “Hunger has replaced fury! There is abundant food nearby!” Then, courtesy of Mokkari and Simyan’s delightful exposition, we learn the threat is not only confined to The Project and environs, but to the home city of Superman himself!

“Yes,” says one of the two, “directly in his path is the giant atomic pile that supplies power to the entire underground world of The ‘Project!'” The other adding, “He must feed on radiation! He’ll rip that pile apart and trigger a chain reaction!” Mokkari glories in the holocaust to come. “Then a great white flash! A fire storm of indescribable heat! Shock upon shock as a mushroom cloud rises where once The Project stood! A job well done, eh, Simyan?” Answers his longtime companion, “It will be beautiful, Mokkari! And with it will go all the rest! Yea — and even the city of Metropolis — which lies above, within range!”

Our story here comes full circle. Simyan boasts, as they return to the Control Bubble, “We’ll have carried out, to the letter, the order of our great leader, Darkseid! Surely this is a triumph for the forces of our world — Apokolips! The pattern is set! We have bred the perfect instrument to challenge humanity!” Again looking out at the multitude of egg-sacs, Mokkari gloats, “Sprung from their own seed — and nurtured by radioactive vapors!” Simyan notices movement. “The others are stirring! They’re breaking free of their protective shells, Mokkari!”

And, indeed, it appears dozens and dozens of Four-Armed Terrors are coming new into our world. “It is their time, Simyan!” rants Mokkari. “Their birth heralds the age of holocaust! Hail, Homo Usurpus! Earth lies before you for the taking!”

To which I can only heartily add, “AARUK!