A Tribute to the of

They say that a job well done is it's own reward.  I would like to add a corollary that occasionally a job well done messes up future work.  Here's what I mean.  When I selected the comic to highlight for this edition of the Silver Age Sage, I went back to the archives to refresh my memory as to what I'd written about the character before so that I didn't repeat myself too much.  It turns out I'd done a pretty exhaustive job of delving into the history of the character, leaving me very little to editorialize about this time.  I guess I'll just chalk it up to an occupational hazard and plow right into issue #99 of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen from January of 1967 when we watch the perennially bow-tied reporter become "The One-Man Legion!" Story by Jim Shooter, art: Pete Costanza, edited by Mort Weisinger

As you can see on the cover, Jimmy is depicted in some familiar uniforms worn by members of the 30th Century Legion of Super-Heroes to include Lightning Lad, Sun Boy and Element Lad.  The splash page offers an explanation as Olsen is shown surrounded by the uniforms and thinking to himself that these outfits, a birthday present, will give him the powers associated with them and allow him to "whip an army…without Superman's help!"

It all begins in Jimmy's apartment, where he's preparing to meet his girlfriend, Lucy Lane, who has arranged through her airline to give him a birthday ride in a brand new supersonic airliner.  Suddenly a large box pops into existence on the table, wrapped with ribbon.  The card says it's from the Legion.  Jimmy eagerly tears into it and discovers the three uniforms along with an explanatory note:  "Dear Jimmy – the enclosed costumes were created by Brainiac 5!  By putting them on, you will gain the powers of the heroes whose outfits they're copied from!  Happy Birthday!"  Olsen is overjoyed, but also running late, so he begins to hang the uniforms up in his trophy room, but then decides to take them along with him to show to Lucy.  Unfortunately he soon discovers he's missed his bus to the airport.  Luckily for the reporter, there was one more item in the box that will save the day.  A Legion flight ring.  Within minutes he's made his own landing at the airport and boards the Skystreak X-93, which looks a little bit like the Concord.  One of the crew explains after they're aloft that they're traveling at 2,000 miles per hour and will arrive in Hawaii in less than 3-1/2 hours.  Well, the y would have, except for the fact that a few hours later over the Pacific the instruments begin to malfunction.  On an uncharted island below, we see the problem.  A classic hood in a fedora and pinstriped suit, Mr. W, is ordering a barrage of magno-gas blasts at the aircraft and then calls for deployment of a parasite rocket, which firmly clamps itself to the fuselage of the X-93 and promptly begins to sap power from the atomic engines.  The crew fear a crash landing, but the parasite rocket is also equipped with it's own parachutes and the Skystreak wafts downward where the Weapons Master introduces himself.  He swiftly orders his armed guards to seize Lucy.  Jimmy attempts to mix it up with the thugs, but is dropped with a tranquilizer gun.  When he regains consciousness a few minutes later, he sees his ladylove strapped into a chair with three ray guns aimed at her.  The Weapons Master tells Olsen that in one hour, the rays will annihilate Lucy unless he reveals the secret identity of Superman.  The underworld is offering a cool billion for the information.  Jimmy refuses, breaks free of the guards with the help of his flight ring and flees the enclosure.  Pausing at a nearby cliff, the young reporter plans to contact Superman with his signal watch, but the watch is missing.  Fretting that the criminals could use his watch as bait for a trap, he decides to take matters into his own hands with the help of the uniforms in the travel case that has not left his side sin ce disembarking from the X-93.  Soon, wearing the garb of Lightning Lad, Olsen descends the cliff face to do battle.

He's soon hurling bolts at the henchmen of the Weapons Master and the tanks they're using, but the criminals are putting up a terrific fight of their own while still being careful to merely stun Jimmy rather than do enough damage to kill him.  Their sophisticated weaponry includes airborne laser saucers that look almost like a detached tail gunner enclosure.  The lightning-like blasts begin to tear up the costume, weakening Jimmy in the process, since the powers are a direct result of the uniform.  He lands to try and take out the Weapons Master himself, when a woman jumps between them, trying to protect Mr. W.  The guards strike from behind, while the Weapons Master slaps Rhona for interfering.  He angrily tells her that he was waiting for Olsen to step on the grate in front of him, which would have grounded him, leaving Jimmy vulnerable to capture.  Olsen continues to engage the henchmen with his waning bolts when two other crooks douse him from above with liquid rubber, insulating him.  Our stand-in hero breaks free with his flight ring again and makes a break for another uniform when a burst from the stun-flak gun blasts his airborne form.  Close Part I.

Part II, "The Other Element Lad!" opens quite literally as a cliffhanger.  Yes, Jimmy was shielded from the blast because of that same vexing liquid rubber, but his flight ring was damaged, so he was barely able to get a grip on a nearby cliff ledge, but it was enough to get him to the case and another quick change, this time into the costume of Element Lad. 

Launching himself from the cliff, Jimmy realizes he's forgotten something.  Namely, the damaged status of his flight ring, as he wobbles around like a ruptured duck.  The barrage from below begins anew and Olsen brings his new powers into play, converting the shells into nitrogen gas when they get close enough for him to use the localized power in his hands.  Unfortunately they also begin to use energy rays, which thwart his element changing powers.  Jimmy limps away and out of range to plot a hit and run attack, but a sub emerges from the seas and begins to fire sleep foam at him.   The Weapons Master has quite the interesting arsenal, eh?  Jimmy turns the tables, though, by turning the foam into sodium chloride, or salt.  The enlarged crystal blocks then rain down on the thugs.  Another attack commences, though as the seemingly inexhaustible supply of men and weapons show up on some self-powered skis.  This bunch is armed with freeze rays and soon Jimmy finds his legs locked in a freshly created iceberg.  To thwart these new attackers, Jimmy causes some of the water to transform into potassium, which reacts violently with water, sending the water-skiers into a low orbit.  He no sooner frees himself from the ice than a grappling claw from the submarine grasps and places him underw ater.  Soon yet another team shows up as frogmen with sonic poles that cause Olsen to black out.

Mr. W arrives at that moment in a small boat with Rhona in tow and decides to dispense with further interrogation and just blast Jimmy with a ray pistol.  Rhona interferes again, though and gives Olsen a chance to regain his wits and free himself from the claw.  The sonic poles have destroyed the suit's abilities, but he can still feebly fly back to the cliff and travel case with the aid of the ring.  Yet again he barely makes it.  The ruined ring is now powerless, too.  As he pulls the final uniform from the case, he spies something else that he muses must have fallen in while he was packing and it may prove useful. 

Part III is called "Fire at Will!" and now the reporter is decked out as Sun Boy.  He leaps again from the cliff.  Has he forgotten about his lost flight power?  Apparently not.  Using the power of Sun Boy to heat the air below him, he creates warm updrafts that allow for a soft landing.  Seizing upon the element of surprise, Jimmy immediately begins blasting the multitude of weapons around him, melting them into so much slag.  The onslaught succeeds in the destruction of all major weapons systems, so the army of the Weapons Wizard regroups and attacks with small arms.  Utilizing another solar strategy, Olsen creates a blinding sunburst, finally setting everyone but the big boss on the run.  Now it's a duel between Jimmy and Mr. W.  The criminal reveals a disintegrator ray in his ring and starts blasting away.  Through some artful dodging, Jimmy avoids the deadly beams until the Weapons Wizard uses the last bit of power to dislodge a ledge to drop on Olsen.  He desperately tries to react, but the huge rock falls solidly to the ground.  Within moments, however, Mr. W's triumph is short circuited as Jimmy bursts through.  He'd had just enough time to hollow out a niche and has now burned the rest of the way through.  The battle continues as the Weapons Wizard pulls a pocket watch out that fires a paralyzing gas pellet.  Jimmy melts it in flight and then follows up by melting the ground beneath Mr. W's feet.  Wouldn't you know, though, that the criminal has air-jets in his shoes, allowing him to fly out of the trap.  Q from the James Bond films would be proud of this guy.  Jimmy races to a nearby laser saucer to try and get the drop on the Weapons Wizard, but meanwhile he's set up his cane into a mobile missile launcher and blasts the saucer to pieces.  Olsen lands heavily and now the cane is rapidly converted into a machine-gun pistol that fires exploding shells.  The reporter dodges the first burst and while Mr. W reloads (with a hat band cartridge belt) he creates a wall of flame for protection.  Just as he's about to put the Weapons Wizard down for the count, the goon squad is back, this time with hydro guns and our hero is down again.

Later, at the arsenal, Jimmy finds himself tied up and against a wall, along with Lucy and the flight crew.  His Sun Boy costume is now rendered useless by a chemical spray applied by Mr. W.  A firing squad is being assembled and Rhona again shows up to protest.  When no one listens, she attempts to free Jimmy, but is caught by one of the thugs.  She is then trussed up and added to the lineup.  Olsen notes that she did manage to loosen his bonds a bit and he struggles to get to his belt.  Successful, he's soon downing the contents of a vial.  It's the serum he uses to become Elastic Lad.  Quickly stretching his form to intercept the bullets, he uses his elasticity to fling them right back toward the gunmen.  He rapidly follows up with an enlarged fist and then unrolls his flattened body like a giant carpet, sending the henchmen sprawling.  Finally he trusses the gang up with an elongated leg and captures the Weapons Wizard himself by propelling his other leg like a slingshot.  Conventional ropes are soon brought into play and with his signal watch retrieved, the Man of Steel is at last summoned to help take out the trash.  As a final gesture and with Rhona's consent, Superman uses super-hypnotism to help her forget about Mr. W and start a new life.  He then deposits Lucy and Jimmy back to Metropolis and the story closes.          

This story was some more classic clean fun in the typical style of Jimmy Olsen stories.  Granted, he got into quite a fix and battled his little redheaded heart out as the One-Man Legion.  Actually, having just three uniforms to choose from one at a time doesn't quite qualify for that moniker, although of course his tried and true Elastic Lad persona was brought into play at the end, tacking on one more set of powers and talents.  Maybe I'm just spoiled by the concept of the Composite Superman.  Now that was a one-man Legion.  Anyway, the story was pretty good and I enjoyed the twists with adding in Legion power and the many imaginative weapons used by the bad guys.  I'll rate this one a 7. 

Tap your way back in about two weeks for the next installment of this feature and remember to drop me a line any time whether to comment, ask a question or even make a request.  I'm always available at silveragesage@thesilverlantern.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2004 by B.D.S.

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