A Tribute to the of

Remember wa-a-ay back when we explored World's Finest Comics #142 which contained the debut of the Composite Superman?  Well, I can't be certain, of course, but if I were a betting man I'd be inclined to think the character was sort of an inspiration to what they decided to do with Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen a short two years later in issue #93 of his magazine (from June of 1966; cover art by Curt Swan & George Klein) when the young reporter at that great metropolitan newspaper dons a hybrid costume to become "The Batman-Superman of Earth X!" This Bill Finger penned story is illustrated by Pete Costanza and edited by Mort Weisinger.

The splash page starts things off on a somewhat confusing note.  Mild-mannered reporter, Clark Kent, is seated behind his trusty typewriter and is activating his signal watch as Steel-Man, aka Jimmy, flies through the window in answer to the summons.  In the background we note two framed photos, one of Superman and one of Steel-Man.  Time to flip the page and see what gives.

As the story begins we find Jimmy hanging out with Professor Potter in his new workshop atop Mount Tipton.  The Professor is explaining to Olsen that he has a theory (see if this sounds at all familiar) that Earth exists not only here, but in other dimensions.  He further speculates that these other Earths could have parallel histories mixed with some variations from our own world.  He then shows the youthful reporter his dimension travel machine (which once again follows the standard format and looks like a bubble) which he plans to demonstrate just as soon as he gets back from lecturing at Metropolis University.  He cautions Jimmy in the interim to not touch anything.

Yeah, right.

Once Potter departs, Olsen immediately makes a beeline for the interior of the machine, reasoning that nothing can happen if he just takes a look.  Well, guess again, Red.  The first thing he does is strike a button with his elbow.  Pan outward and we see the entire top of Mount Tipton blown to smithereens.  Soon a rather disheveled Jimmy is emerging from the wreckage of the dimension travel machine to note some strange trees.  He immediately realizes that he's on another Earth.  In the next surreal moment he spots a matador who is a dead ringer for his boss at the Daily Planet, Editor Perry White.  In this world the bullfighters apparently use blue capes instead of red and White, startled at the appearance of Jimmy, trips and falls in the pathway of the charging bull.  Jimmy rushes forward to offer aid and to his surprise finds he's moving at super speed.  The bull manages to hook Olsen, but his horn snaps off, demonstrating that the young reporter is now endowed with invulnerability.  He then bulldogs the creature with his super strength.

Later, at the ranch house of this world's Perry White, Jimmy explains his presence and says that since the machine is ruined he's likely stuck here for good.  White responds that "for good" is a perfect phrase as he can use his newfound powers for the good of mankind.  He offers to allow Olsen to stay with him as he's retired from the bull ring due to heart trouble and was merely trying his hand at his old sport again this day.

Jimmy decides to both test his powers and make himself useful around the ranch and is seen using his heat vision to burn Perry's "brand" into the doors of outbuildings, hammering red hot horseshoes into shape and then shoeing with his bare fists and using his super speed to accomplish tasks.

Idyllic days pass and White and Olsen become close friends.  Perry even says that if he had a son, he'd like him to be like Jimmy.  Olsen marvels that on his Earth Perry does have a son.  (This, by the way, was news to me.)  Unfortunately, things come to a halt when Perry's bad heart fails.  Before he passes away he gives Jimmy an envelope containing a letter of introduction to be presented to his nephew, who will give Jimmy a job.  He admonishes Olsen to use his powers for good and then slips away.  To Jimmy's surprise, the envelope is addressed to none other than Clark Kent, the tours custodian of the World's Fair.

As night falls, Jimmy heads for the Metropolis World's Fair.  The park seems to be closed, but his letter gains him entrance, so he does a little exploring.  At the Avenue of Patriots he is surprised to discover that Benedict Arnold was the second President of the United States on this Earth.  He then unwittingly pats the statue, causing it to tip over into the next one in the row and so on, starting a domino effect.  Olsen quickly flies to the end of the row to catch the last falling statue, righting it and stopping the collisions.  At that moment, Clark Kent happens by and exclaims that Jimmy has the ability to fly and super strength to boot.  "You're Steel-man!"  Jimmy introduces himself and explains that he's not Steel-man, but wonders who Clark is referring to.  Kent invites him to an office where several portraits of heroes are on display.  He states that in his spare time he writes science-fiction about super-heroes and that Jimmy is like one of his characters (Steel-man particularly) come to life.  Interestingly enough he has also dreamt up a Superman, who looks a lot like Jimmy's friend.  Olsen then remembers his letter and presents it to Clark.  After reviewing it, Kent suggests that Jimmy assume a dual identity like his world's Superman to help him combat crime in this world.  Inspired by Clark's depiction of Steel-man, Jimmy swiftly unravels the fibers of his suit and uses them to create a duplicate of the costume with its gray legs and torso, red boots and trunks, modified "S" emblem and blue gauntlets.  He realizes, however, that his red hair is a dead giveaway, so he makes his own modification by crafting a blue cape and cowl similar to Batman's.

Now that he's fully decked out, Jimmy presents Clark with his signal watch.

A little later, resplendent in a new suit, Olsen is introduced to Kent's boss, who is a ringer for Professor Potter, but exhibits the personality traits of Editor Perry White.  He grumpily agrees to allow Clark to hire Jimmy as his assistant and promptly dismisses them.  In another bit of déjà vu, Olsen is introduced to Lucy Lane, who is the operator of the World's Fair computer.

Later still, while touring the facilities, Jimmy and his companions see the Luthar League aboard their anti-gravity discs.  Jimmy thought Lucy called them the Luthor League, but Clark corrects him, elaborating that the gang of hit and run bandits are called Luthar as an acronym for the League Using Terror, Havoc and Robbery.  Jimmy realizes that this is a job for Steel-man and feigns tripping into a trash disposal chute in order to slip away and change into his alter-ego.

Back at the Science Hall, the Luthar League are firing their element guns at the radio-telescope model, transforming it into a massive steel spider-web and successfully ensnaring the guards and allowing them to snag a model of an atom whose "electrons" are priceless gems.  Before they get far, though, Steel-man arrives, bursting through the web.  Before he can clean house, however, one of the gang members uses his element gun to create a hole under Steel-man's feet.  As the hero falls into the trap, the Luthar League boards their discs to escape, ending Part I.

Part II titled "Steel-man's Last Stand!," has Jimmy bursting forth from underground to take the offensive again.  One of the startled members of the gang cries "You!!?" to which the caped crusader replies, "Who were you expecting…Soupy Sales?"  It isn't long before he's turned the League over to the grateful authorities who ask on who and what he is.  Olsen replies that he is Steel-man and he's from another world, but wishes to make this one his home.

Shortly Steel-man is being introduced by the Mayor of Metropolis on a huge screen.  The mayor declares that tomorrow will be Steel-man day to honor their new hero.

As promised, the next day is Steel-man day, complete with a ticker-tape parade.

Elsewhere, we peek in on a clandestine meeting of the Luthar League, headed up by none other than this world's Joker.  Here he appears to be a scientific genius in the mold of Lex Luthor and feverishly works on a device to fight Steel-man.

After awhile, Jimmy is back in his civilian identity when he hears the telltale tone of the signal watch.  Switching to his Steel-man garb he responds to Clark's distress call.  He finds Kent near the base of an active volcano and asks what the emergency is.  Clark responds that there is no emergency, but that he wants to write a sci-fi television play about a new super-hero named Lava-man.  He asks if Jimmy can get him a piece of lava to put on his desk for inspiration.  Steel-man is disgusted, but complies with the request.

Meanwhile, back at the World's Fair Art Pavilion, the Luthar League is at it again, this time helping themselves to a priceless Rembrandt portrait of that great actor, Mickey Mantle in the role of Hamlet.  Before they can get far, though, Steel-man arrives.  The gang members bring their element guns into play and fire on a nearby metal model of the Earth, magnetizing it to a high degree and causing it to attract all metal in the vicinity.  Responding quickly, Jimmy scoops up a huge model of a tire and hurls it toward the globe, simultaneously melting it with his heat vision.  The liquefied rubber then coats the lodestone, insulating its new properties.

Without skipping a beat, the airborne crooks fire their guns again, this time at a space rocket exhibit.  They manage to launch the rocket right toward a nearby crowd.  Jimmy zooms to intercept the projectile and it disintegrates against his body, but he suddenly feels weakened.  He soon finds himself in a heap atop some glowing rocks.  He then realizes that when Mount Tipton exploded, chunks of it were blown into this dimension and they are having the same effect on him that fragments of the doomed world of Krypton have on Superman.  Here, Steel-man is vulnerable to…Tiptonite.  Fortuitously, Clark Kent arrives and at Olsen's bidding removes the deadly rocks.  Jimmy wonders aloud how the Luthar League knew the effect of the Tiptonite, leading them to conceal it in the rocket.  Kent suggests that they're cleverer than he thought.  Lucy Lane then arrives, filled with concern for Steel-man.  Jimmy things to himself that he'll one day reveal himself and ask for her hand in marriage.

In the next surprise moment, Professor Potter arrives from Jimmy's Earth.  The scientist explains that he keeps his dimension computer in a cavern inside Mount Tipton to secure it against vibrations.  Its calculations told him where Jimmy had gone, so he built a new dimension traveler in order to find him.  Jimmy, however, isn't too keen on the idea of going back to his ordinary life on Earth.  At that moment, his super hearing detects the signal watch, so he transforms to Steel-man and flies off to investigate, leaving the perplexed Potter waiting.  Once Steel-man locates the source of the signal he is shocked to discover the Joker.  The man in purple replies that he's never heard of the Joker, but he does use this clown disguise to keep his identity as leader of the Luthar League a secret.  He removes his mask to reveal he is, in fact, Clark Kent.  Then, seizing upon the element of surprise, Kent activates the machine where he is seated, enveloping Steel-man in a sort of force field.  Clark explains that the piece of lava Olsen provided him with contained a vital element allowing him to operate this machine which drains the super powers from Steel-man and places them into Clark's body.  Once the transfer is complete, Kent destroys the device with his bare hands and flings Jimmy's signal watch toward him as he flies away in triumph.

Some time later, the villain is standing on the steps of City Hall, informing the populace that he is taking over the world with his new super powers.  Then, a familiar figure ascends the steps carrying a large steel shell.  It is the erstwhile Steel-man, sans cowl.  Jimmy suggests that Kent isn't all that he's portraying and challenges him to demonstrate his super strength by crushing the shell he's carrying.  Clark is suspicious, but states that he personally destroyed all the Tiptonite, so he'll call Olsen's bluff.  He promptly crushes the shell, releasing a gas.  Jimmy explains the gas has the ability to destroy all his super powers.  Presumably the gas works precisely as Gold Kryptonite does on Kryptonians.  To illustrate his point, Jimmy decks the now powerless Clark Kent.  Once he's safely behind bars, Jimmy gives credit where credit is due, acknowledging that Lucy used her computer to come up with the power-robbing gas.

Outside the jail, Jimmy bids a fond farewell to Lucy and the townspeople here, boarding the dimension traveler with Professor Potter and heading for home.

There is a second, shorter story in this magazine featuring "Sergeant Olsen…Toughest Man in the Marines!," but I'm going to stop with the cover story.

As per usual, pretty light weight stuff in the covers of Jimmy Olsen.  I'm afraid Steel-man didn't do a lot for me, so it's a pretty average rating of 5 for this effort.

Thanks for your patronage, dear reader and if you've got anything on your mind, don't hesitate to contact me at professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you back here in about two weeks and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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