Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Batman-Superman of Earth-X! (Jimmy Olsen #93)


In the June, 1966 issue of "Jimmy Olsen," our hero dons his most stylish outfit -- brown suit, green bowtie with black polka dots, and a vest that seems to have been made from the hirsute, jaundiced back of a circus strongman -- to visit his friend, Professor Potter. Potter shows off his "dimension-travel machine," which resembles a bathysphere with piano legs. Potter then exits, telling Jimmy to "wait here -- but don't touch anything!" That's panel two. In panel three, Jimmy has already climbed inside the thing and "accidentally" pushed a button. Panel four depicts a mammoth explosion. THE END.

Naw, I'm just foolin.' The only effect of the explosion on Jimmy's person is to muss his hair and knock his ugly green tie slightly askew. The machine, meanwhile, is a wreck. But it worked! Jimmy is now on "another Earth" and immediately encounters a double of his boss, Perry White. But this Perry White is a matador! With a blue cape! Because this is another earth, where the seamstresses are all colorblind, I guess. Jimmy saves Perry from a charging bull and makes an astounding discovery: "Maybe it was the explosion's radiation reacting with this Earth's sun... but here I have superpowers! YAHOO!" Giddy with power, Jimmy uses his remarkable abilities to... redecorate. "I'll surprise Perry by focusing my heat vision to burn his ranch brand right on his front door!" And if he complains, you can just stare at him real hard and blast his head off! Jimmy also does some chores, shoeing a bull with his bare hands, while in the background, what appears to be a giant metronome smokes ominously. In no time, Perry dies, but not before giving Jimmy a letter of introduction to his nephew, Metropolis World's Fair employee... Clark Kent.

The letter somehow entitles Jimmy to traipse about the fairgrounds after hours and by himself. He can eat all the saltwater taffy he wants! While fondling a statue of Earth-X American president Benedict Arnold, the super-strong Jimmy knocks it over, into another statue, which falls into another, and so forth. He uses his superpowers to put the statues back in place, but is spied by Clark Kent. "You can fly!" Clark observes. "You have super-strength! You're Steel-Man!" Clark reveals that he is a science-fiction writer, specializing in lame, unattractively costumed superheroes. A poster in his apartment depicts "Solarman," who wears black trunks, a red "muscle shirt" with flared shoulders, and a pointy purple stocking cap that some bully jammed down over his eyes. Also, he's barefoot. Fashion-conscious Clark sees that Jimmy's stylish suit was unharmed by the explosion and must therefore be indestructible. As Clark watches, Jimmy unravels his clothing reweaves it into a replica of the outfit that Clark Kent creation "Steel-Man" wears. He adds a cowl to protect his identity, and the cowl looks exactly like Batman's (with the ears!) for no goddamn reason at all.

Soon, Jimmy tangles with the LUTHAR League. LUTHAR stands for "League Using Terror, Havoc And Robbery. So, the full name is "League Using Terror, Havoc And Robbery League." Jimmy becomes the toast of Metropolis after foiling one of their dastardly capers. The city honors Jimmy with a ticker-tape parade, depicted with some very dubious perspective. Observe the policeman who isn't much larger than the child he's standing next to! Gape at the convertible that seems to be about seven feet wide and twenty-five feet long! Marvel at how Jimmy is about twice as tall as the people who are sitting in front of him! Later, the LUTHAR League has an emergency meeting! (And I'm sorry, but as organizational names go, "LUTHAR League" sound about as menacing as "The Daughters of the American Revolution" or "The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals.") The head of LUTHAR may possibly be the Joker! Or perhaps not. The narration is quite coy about this.

The LUTHAR League (of Women Voters) raids the World's Fair "Art Pavilion," nabbing "a genuine Rembrandt portrait of that great actor, Mickey Mantle." Ha ha ha! Shut up. Jimmy fights valiantly, but is felled by radioactive rocks. Professor Potter shows up to bring Jimmy home, but Jimmy doesn't really feel like going just yet. Since there's apparently nothing at all going on in the Professor's life right now, he agrees to just hang around on Earth-X until Jimmy changes his mind. Jimmy is lured into a trap by the Joker -- er, make that Clark Kent! He was wearing a suit that looked just like the Joker's outfit and a clown mask that just happened to look exactly like the Joker's head, for no goddamn reason at all! (And yes, it was ostensibly to protect his identity, but nobody else in LUTHAR wore masks during their meetings and they all dressed in coveralls, not purple tuxedos.) Clark uses a machine to transfer Jimmy's superpowers into himself. He embarks on a reign of terror that lasts for exactly one panel before powerless, unmasked ("So that's what he looks like!") Jimmy confronts him. Jimmy tricks Clark into exposing himself to a mysterious gas that destroys his powers. Jimmy nails Clark with an uppercut to the jaw! Clark rots in jail. "Bah!" says Clark. (I couldn't agree more.) Jimmy finally returns home, leaving behind a promising romance with the Earth-X version of his girlfriend, Lucy Lane, who unlike the more familiar version, is not an emasculating harpy.

In the second story in this issue, Jimmy goes undercover as a drill sergeant. Except that doesn't do anything to disguise himself, and he uses his real name. Still, Jimmy is 'a trained secret agent" who was given this important assignment by "the Pentagon." God help us all.


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