Monday, July 13, 2009

Andy Bentley on the New Gods : Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #142

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. I make a comment about genre mixing below.]

“The Man From Transilvane!”

All traces of the New Gods saga have been exiled from this issue of Jimmy Olsen which offers little that Superman readers haven’t seen before. With a uninspired plot and redrawn Superman faces, this issue could have been handled by just about anyone at DC Comics at the time.

Jimmy and Clark are still trying to get into Morgan Edge’s office to expose his connection to Intergang and by proxy, Darkseid. However their mission is derailed when they realize Morgan’s assistant, Laura Conway is exhibiting vampire-like symptoms. I’ve come across some pale and unpleasant secretaries in the past, but never considered vampirism as the cause. The being responsible for her condition, Count Dragorin, suddenly appears in the office (The Count is much more Sesame Street count than Twilight vampire). He sweeps Conrad into his arms and seduces from her the whereabouts of Dabney Donovan, her previous employer. Clark and Jimmy are helpless after a yellow power stare from the Count’s eyes (Clark’s playing possum). The count ‘pof’s out of the room and Jimmy and Clark follow him to Donovan’s last known whereabouts, The Science Research Center. Through dialog between Clark and Jimmy, we learn this center was a public precursor to the underground D.N.A. Project. They arrive at the abandoned facility and are greeted by a very angry werewolf. Yep, it’s one of THOSE nights. Clark is attacked, Jimmy diverts the werewolf towards him, Clark switches to Superman and takes care of the furry fiend. Supes add insult to injury by twirling the werewolf over his head until the Count appears and creates a light show to allow his werewolf buddy to escape. The duo enter the lab and Superman explains Donovan was a mad scientist researching the conditions on other planets. Jimmy comes across a picture of a green globe with what appear to be devil horns. Superman uses his ex ray vision to discover the name of a local cemetery written in teeny letters. Superman flies Jimmy to the graveyard, they open a mausoleum and descend to find the green object they saw in the poster. It is a relatively tiny planet called Transilvane. The Narrator ends by asking “WOW!! Isn’t this the GREATEST??”
No.... no it’s far from it.

I’ve been watching old Simpsons episodes over the summer and discovered a moment that sums up my feelings about the Jimmy Olsen title. Springfield has gathered to watch the first Itchy, Scratchy and Poochie cartoon show. It begins by Itchy and Scratchy driving to visit a fireworks factory which should be full of fun and excitement. However they encounter Poochie, a shoehorned in character who’s obnoxious and unfunny. The crowd begins to turn when Bart’s friend Millhouse says:
“When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?” [Milhouse starts whimpering]

Well I’m Milhouse and Morgan Edge’s office is the fireworks factory. and the DNAliens, the two Don Rickles and the faux vampire and werewolves are all Poochies. Milhouses line is funny because he foolishly expected Itchy and Scratchy to make it to that factory. The argument can be made that I am just as foolish. The Jimmy Olsen issues are included in this Fourth World Omnibus, but maybe thats just so everyone can have the complete span of Kirby’s DC efforts at this time. Kirby apparently just wanted to do weird Sci-fi 1950’s Superman adventures on this title. But Kirby has shown continuity and cohesiveness in the other titles which makes me yearn for Superman to get involved in the invasion from Apokolips.

There’s a small b-plot I should mention involving the Newsboy Legion’s escape from the project. They pop up in gangland and overhear a man on the phone claiming he killed Jim Harper, the Guardian. Logic would predict he murdered the original Guardian off panel between Kirby’s work for DC. There’s also a 2 page backup chronicling the secrets of the Haries which I think very few readers were clamoring for. There are for more things I need explained in this saga before the scale of The Mountain of Judgement compared to a car.

Well Jimmy’s out of the way so next time we’ll be covering.... oh fudge it’s another Jimmy issue.

*deep breath*

Final Musings

- I always welcome the Superman full of Hubris: [twirling a werewolf over his head] Superman: “Many of my innovations are rather spectacular!”

Jimmy exclamations of note: “suffering catfish!” “Stay back, you matted masterwork of murderous malignancy!” Stan can’t be blamed for ALL that alliteration at Marvel.

One page of art that did catch my eye was the seduction of Laura Conway colored in shades of black, purple and green. Moody.

[I have to disagree with you on this one -- I think, not unlike LOST, you have to enjoy the rambling quality of the stories here, the ability to combine fun stuff that is not that closely related to the main narrative because it would just be fun. That said one of my other favorite things, also big on LOST, is the combination of genres, so I really like the way vampires, superman and space opera can exist in the same book. There are problems with it, but I think I prefer the "anything goes" dynamic. You never know what a Kirby comic is going to be, just like you don't know if LOST will be about catching boar, or time travel, or ghosts, or Alfred Hitchcock presents, or fixing a bus in the jungle. The alternative is Law and Order, ER, CSI and every spin-off and rip-off: you always know what you are going to get, which is comforting and depressing at the same time.]


Matthew J. Brady said...

Yeah, this might be my least favorite of the stories in the first two volumes, but it has its moments. The next issue is better, if that's any consolation. And I like Geoff's point; he makes a good argument for enjoying Kirby's rambling storytelling, which is definitely something I dig.

Kahanek! said...

Another thing that I feel might be lost in all this is Kirby's relationship with the Jimmy Olsen title. I don't know if you're reading Evanier's afterword in the omnibus', but he makes it very clear that Kirby's heart wasn't in the title. He took it because DC insisted he take over an existing title, so he worked on it for a while. He didn't want to integrate it too much into the other Fourth World titles because of this ambivalence. Also everything he did on Jimmy Olsen had to be vetted by the editors of the other Superman titles, while he had a free hand with the proper Fourth World titles.

Joe Gualtieri said...

Man, part two is going to, well, I look forward to reading your review of it.