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Jimmy Olsen was born and raised in the East Coast city known as Metropolis. Olsen believed that his parents had died in a train wreck when he was a boy, and he practically raised himself. He was later reunited with his still-living father, archaeologist Mark Olsen. As a teenager, he began working as a stock boy at Metropolis' most prestigious media center, the Daily Planet. Early in his tenure, he met the Planet's star reporters, Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Within a short time, Jimmy's eagerness and likeable nature earned him a position as the newspaper's ace photographer. Although Jimmy was a talented photographer, his lifelong dream was to become an investigative reporter like Clark and Lois. He was known to storm the offices of the Daily Planet's managing editor, Perry White, begging for field work, but Perry was often reluctant to send the youth on assignments he felt were outside of Jimmy's capabilities. Jimmy's penchant for referring to Perry by the nickname "Chief" did little to endear the older man to his cause.
Jimmy's life changed forever however the day he met Metropolis' chosen hero, Superman. What Jimmy never realized, was that Superman was also his mild-mannered co-worker, Clark Kent. As Superman, Clark recognized the boy's dedication to his dream and kept a close eye over him. Superman became Jimmy Olsen's idol and he proudly referred to himself as "Superman’s Pal".
As Jimmy began volunteering for more and more dangerous assignments, Superman came to realize that Jimmy's life would always be in a state of great peril. In order to keep a closer eye on him, Superman provided Jimmy with a special signal watch capable of broadcasting a high-pitched S.O.S. signal – a signal that operated on a frequency that only Superman's ultra-acute hearing could perceive. Whenever Jimmy found himself in over his head (which was often), he merely pressed a switch on his wristwatch and Superman could hear the signal from anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, Jimmy would often abuse this wondrous piece of technology, and was known to summon Superman for extremely frivolous matters.
As the years passed, Jimmy made a notable career for himself as a cub reporter. He developed his own investigative crime kit, complete with costumes, props, wigs, and an array of useful if albeit strange devices such as his fountain pen air-gun. He maintained a private disguise kit on board the Daily Planet's "Flying Newsroom" helicopter. Whenever Jimmy needed to get somewhere in a hurry, he would merely call upon the Newsroom’s resident pilot, Jumbo Jones, and have him fly off on another mysterious adventure.
The many lives of Jimmy Olsen
Jimmy Olsen is also no stranger to the life of a super-powered human being. Throughout the span of his career, Jimmy has been exposed to many situations wherein he developed super-powers or other bizarre abnormalities. Typically these traits endured for very brief periods of time, and ultimately Jimmy would find himself returning to normal.
One day, Jimmy discovered a bottle of green, phosphorescent liquid which was contained inside of a large chest that Superman had brought back with him from outer space. Fearing that the contents may be composed of Green Kryptonite, Jimmy opened the bottle outside of Superman's immediate presence. While attempting to dispose of the fluid, Jimmy tripped and accidentally spilled it all over himself. The strange liquid altered the boy's body chemistry granting him amazing powers of elasticity. He immediately set upon finding a cure, and joined a carnival side-show in the hopes of that he might one day return to normal. After several misadventures, Jimmy discovered that exposure to Kryptonite could permanently cure him of his stretching abilities. However, this would not be the only time that Jimmy would find himself using the name, Elastic Lad. Lana Lang's uncle, Professor Phineas Potter created a special stretching serum, which when imbibed, would grant the consumer fantastic stretching abilities. Jimmy and Clark Kent both accidentally drank the formula, and Jimmy became Elastic Lad once again. The effects of Potter’s formula were only temporary however, and before long, Jimmy resumed his normal physical shape. On one occasion, Jimmy traveled to the 30th century where he used Professor Potter's formula to become Elastic Lad once again. As Elastic Lad, Jimmy applied for membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Although he never became an active member of the team, the Legion considered him an honorary Legionnaire.
Lois Lane briefly named herself Elastic Lass after this.
Jimmy Olsen once drank a mysterious potion that Superman had acquired during one of his many missions. The potion transformed Jimmy into a werewolf, similar to the creature once portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr. in the 1941 Universal Pictures film, The Wolf Man. On the three nights of the full moon, Jimmy transformed into a canine brute, and only the kiss of a beautiful woman could restore him back to normal. He tried desperately to find someone who could aid him, but all of the local girls were too shocked by Jimmy's gruesome appearance to come near him. Finally, Superman enlisted the aid of his cousin, Supergirl. Supergirl gave Jimmy a kiss, which successfully cured him of his lycanthropy.
Jimmy Olsen was walking down the beach when he discovered a strange Atlantean sea chest that had washed up on the sand. Inspecting its contents, he found an elaborate device capable of enlarging other objects. While inspecting the enlarging ray, the device activates generating a beam of energy that strikes a nearby turtle. The ray ricocheted off of the turtle's back, striking Jimmy. Strangely enough, the turtle's body acted as a filter, and when the beam struck Jimmy, it transformed him into a giant Turtle Man. With the mental acuity of a turtle, Jimmy went on a rampage throughout Metropolis, destroying a massive suspension bridge in the process. Superman attempted to subdue him, and used the same shrinking ray that Brainiac once used to shrink the bottle city of Kandor, to return Jimmy to normal size.
Several years later, the Kandorian criminal known as Than Ol developed a way to enlarge himself and escape from the bottle city. Accompanied by a squad of henchmen, he succeeded in turning public opinion against Superman, and the citizens of Kandor believed that their trusted friend was in fact, a criminal. In order to quash Than Ol's insurrection, Superman and Jimmy Olsen had to go under cover as the vigilantes known as Nightwing and Flamebird. While Superman's identity was an obvious homage to his friend, Batman, Jimmy patterned himself after Batman's teen partner, Robin. The two crime-fighters succeeded in stopping the threat of Than Ol and preserving Superman’s sterling reputation amongst the citizens of Kandor.
On the average, Jimmy does not possess any superhuman capabilities. However, his many misadventures have frequently found him in circumstances where he would spontaneously develop super-abilities. These powers have always been temporary, and usually disappeared within a twenty-four hour period. Some of these powers include:
- X-Ray Vision
- Superhuman Speed
- Cosmic Brain
- Kryptonian Physiology
- Prehensile Hair
- Size Alteration
- Energy Projection
- Alien Physiology
Although Jimmy often appears as incompetent of aloof, he is actually quite skilled in a wide range of fields. These include:
- Athletics: In high school, he was an expert pole vaulter. In later years, he was a skilled bowler.
- Driving: This includes being an experienced race car driver.
- Multilingualism: He is also fluent in Kryptonese, a language he learned during his visit to the bottle city of Kandor.
- Jimmy Olsen's Signal Watch: A wristwatch equipped with an electronic device that would emit a high-pitch whine that only someone with enhanced hearing could perceive. Whenever Superman heard the distinctive pitch of Jimmy's watch, he knew that his pal was in trouble. Jimmy became overly dependent on the watch, and began to abuse it, calling for Superman's aid for mundane manners. Superman admonished Jimmy for this practice, and as such, Jimmy has since restricted the amount of times that he uses to watch to call for help.
- Jimmy Olsen's Camera: Over the years, Jimmy has used a wide variety of cameras for his work as a photographer. He has a great eye for almost impossible shots at even more impossible angles, and is usually Lois and Perry's first choice to get the job done.
Jimmy is also a very adept disguise artist and has used various disguises over the years, utilizing various outfits, and fake facial applications such as wigs and facial hair.
In addition, Jimmy has utilized various high tech gadgets over the years, some of these include:
- Wild Dream Potion: A potion Superman brought back for Jimmy from an alien world. Drinking it he was subject to deep sleep and wild dreams in which he thought the potion granted him with the gift of flight.
- Compressed Air Pen: Jimmy occasionally used a specially made pen that could fire a jet of compressed air with sufficient force of a punch being thrown by a prize fighter.
- Superman Armor: Jimmy once wore a suit of armor resembling the Man of Steel, however when he ended up getting trapped inside it, he decided not to use it again.
- Invisibility Belt: Invented by Lex Luthor, it rendered the wearer invisible, however it would eventually rob them of their vision as well. When Superman defeated Luthor, he gave the belt to Jimmy who used it to trip up a crook who was trying to escape a police dragnet.
- The Missile of Steel: When Superman was busy in a mission in outer space, he gave Jimmy a radio controlled robot of himself that could mimic all his super-powers. Jimmy used the robot to defend Metropolis so criminals wouldn't get away with crimes in Superman's absence.
- Liar Pills: Pills given to him by Superman for his souvenir collection, these pills would make someone compulsively lie for three hours straight. Jimmy once took these pills so that he would not accidentally reveal Superman's secret identity. Ironically, since he didn't believe that Clark Kent was Superman, he inadvertently revealed Superman's secret identity when he thought he was lying.
- 50th Century technology: When Jimmy was accidentally transported to the 50th Century, the people there believed that Jimmy was Superman. In order to combat John Smyth's book proclaiming that Superman was a hoax, Jimmy was endowed with devices to mimic Superman's powers including strength pills, invisible shield, picket x-ray, a telescopic manacle, and atomic pellets. These items were left in the future.
- Riddle Reporter: A robot that Superman brought back from another planet, this robot secretly followed Jimmy's orders to get super scoops in the guise of the Riddle Reporter. The robot eventually deactivated when it's power source malfunctioned.
- Mechanical Double: Invented by Dr. Saxon, this robot duplicate of Jimmy Olsen was given to Jimmy to test out the technology. When a crooks bullets caused the robots sense of right and wrong to malfunction the robot caused trouble in Jimmy's life before it was ultimately stopped by Superman and destroyed by Jimmy.
- Wonder Lad Costume: When Superman was on his monthly patrol of the Earth, Jimmy decided to deal with the growing crime element in Metropolis. He went into action as "Wonder Lad" using a specially made indestructible suit of armor that Superman brought from another planet and a jet pack to give him flight. The indestructible suddenly crumbled one day, ending his career abruptly.
- Space Jewel: A jewel that would boost one's mental facilities 1,000 fold. Jimmy unknowingly put this on a turban that Jimmy was convinced would cause good luck. The jewel being the true source of his good fortune. Superman would secretly confiscate this jewel in order to maintain his secret identity.
- Thunderbird Wings: Were ancient Egyptian wings that supposedly made it able for someone to fly. Jimmy would attempt to use them, forcing Superman to secretly help them operate so Jimmy won't hurt himself. Eventually Superman would blow the wings away so Jimmy would stop using them.
- The Amazing Spectacles of Dr. X: A pair of goggles that would show it's wearer visions of the future. Jimmy wore them for a time when viewing a partial image of the future shows that he would drown. After he learned it was an act for a safety film, he abandoned the goggles.
- The Amazing Camera: When Jimmy's camera was accidentally exposed to energies from one of Professor Potter's failed experiments, it gained the ability to pull in small objects into it that could be taken out of the camera later (such as Perry White's dentures, Clark Kent's glasses and a diamond) This camera was eventually smashed during a scuffle with a criminal that sought to exploit it's abilities.
- Robot Suit: A suit of armor that could imitate Superman's various super-powers that he built for Jimmy's 21st birthday. Jimmy used the suit briefly to test out it's powers, Superman had since taken it back until Jimmy turns 21.
- Robot Duplicate: When laid up with a foot injury, Jimmy be given a robot modeled after him that was built by Superman. The robot could be controlled remotely by Jimmy via a control device. It was invulnerable to harm from fire,and being struck by lightning, it was also water proof. The robot was eventually returned to Superman after Jimmy's foot healed up.
- Flying Newsroom: Jimmy Olsen made use of any means of transportation available to him. These vehicle ranged from racing cars, to helicopters, to bicycles. He also made use of the Daily Planet's Flying Newsroom, piloted by his good friend Jumbo Jones.
- This version of James Olsen (Earth-One), including all history and corresponding appearances, was initially erased from existence following the collapse of the original Multiverse in the 1985-86 Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series. However the ending of Convergence retroactively prevented that collapse, saving all the alternate realities, though in an "evolved" form. Even though versions of the character may have since appeared, this information does not apply to those versions.
- Although Jimmy Olsen was a life-long bachelor, he was at one-point married to an ape in an ceremony officiated by Superman. However, the marriage was not legally recognized in the United States and is considered annulled.
- Jimmy has a scar on the inner side of his right leg where he cut himself as a child.
- 622 Appearances of James Olsen (Earth-One)
- 36 Images featuring James Olsen (Earth-One)
- 30 Quotations by or about James Olsen (Earth-One)
- Character Gallery: James Olsen (Earth-One)
- Jimmy Olsen at dccomics.com
- Jimmy Olsen at Wikipedia.org
- Jimmy Olsen article at Supermanica
- Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen series index at the Grand Comics Database
- Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe VII (Elastic Lad biography entry)
- Hero History: The Honorary Legionnaires, or "What A Difference A Few Decades Make...", by Matthew Peterson, at Major Spoilers.com
Daily Planet Staff member
Superman Family member
Legion of Super-Heroes member