So let's talk about the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club for a minute.
I love Jimmy Olsen, and I will go to bat for him as being one of the single greatest comic book characters of all time, but even I am occasionally mystified by the fact that in the canon of the Silver Age, he had a worldwide fan club whose members thrilled to his every adventure, purely by virtue of just being Some Guy Who Knew Superman. I mean, Lois had a fan club, too, but that makes sense. She's an ace reporter and a go-getter. But I've read a lot of Jimmy Olsen comics in my day, and I don't know that I've ever seen any indication that he's actually any good at his job.
Perhaps the weirdest thing about the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club isn't that it exists, but that it once inadvertently caused Jimmy, Superman, and Supergirl to screw up so bad that it took a dozen tiny Supermen to fix it.
Getting super-powers can be a tricky bit of business. Sure, you could always wait for a magic space ring to just literally fall out of the sky, and if you're confident in your ability to be a protagonist and not just a background character, I suppose you could always try to fall into a nuclear reactor and hope you get a new costume out of the deal, or train yourself to be a world-class karate detective, but if you can't afford a rocket car to go with it, you might just end up wasting your time.
Or you could just wait for "Wizard" Holton, Criminal Scientist, to show up and offer you a big Box of Super-Powers that you can wear on your back. All things considered, that's probably the best way to go.
Q: I need a Comet the Super-Horse primer. What's his deal, Chris? -- @MagiknKitty5evr
A: All right, you might want to buckle up for this one, because Comet the Super-Horse is way more complicated than you might expect, even by the standards of the Silver Age. He has a history that literally covers thousands of years in both directions, and provided what are unquestionably some of the most inexplicable and occasionally uncomfortable moments in the 78-year history of DC Comics.
So here's where we start: His name's not actually Comet, he's not actually a horse, and if we're being honest with each other, he's only some definitions of "super."
It might be easier to visualize those stiff poses and flat coloring that make up the art, but it's that sweet, sweet dialogue that really serves as the hallmark of the Silver Age. It's all bold proclamations about whatever's happening right this very second --- often with sentences that would take way longer to say out loud than the event they're meant to be describing --- capped off by as many exclamation points as you can get away with in a single word balloon. But for all of its memorable quirks the dialogue of the era makes for some pretty fun reading.
Like, for instance, in 1959's "The Colossal Super-Dog," in which every single line in the story is the best line in the story.
The importance of a comic book cover can never really be overstated. It's the first thing a potential reader sees, and especially back before we had solicitations and previews, in the days of newsstands --- and sour-lookin' newsstand owners who were quick to remind you that this ain't a library --- it was often a creator's only chance to convince them to pick it up and at least check out what was inside. Because of that, there are decades of comics out there that are either so bizarre that they pretty much demand to be read, like just about every Silver Age DC book, or books plastered with over-the-top dramatic titles like "And There Must Come... A Destiny!"
In 1945, however, things were a little different. So different, in fact, that the fine people at Fawcett Magazines once decided that it would be a good idea to use that precious bit of real estate on the cover of Captain Marvel Adventures to let you know that you were about to get a story where Captain Marvel went to Columbus, Ohio. Although to be fair, they also determined that this was less important than the story about an old man who found a piece of string on the ground.
On March 31 1959, Supergirl made her debut in the pages of Action Comics #252. There were precursors to the character – the most famous was Super-Girl, created by occasional audience proxy Jimmy Olsen in 1958 thanks to a wish and a magic totem --- but it was the strong response to that story that persuaded series writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino to create Supergirl for real, as a permanent addition to Superman’s supporting cast.
There have been nearly a dozen characters named Captain Marvel in the last seventy-five years of comics, but only one of them has headlined the best-selling comics franchises of a decade, and, indeed, one of the best-selling series of all time. And guess what? It wasn't the one who could make his arms and legs fall off.
The very first of these Captains Marvel debuted on this day in 1939, in Fawcett Comics' Whiz Comics #2, which was, somewhat counter-intuitively, actually the first issue of that series. The character was originally named Captain Thunder, but someone else already held that trademark. And so, in a story by Bill Parker with art by CC Beck — who would go on to become the defining artistic voice for the character — and with some hastily re-lettered word balloons reflecting the last minute name change, Captain Marvel zoomed toward his destiny in the last days of 1939 (issue cover dated Feb. 1940).
First things first: Bizarro is terrifying. Yes, with the exception of maybe two stories, he's been played for laughs for around 57 years, but if you stop to think about it for a minute, the very idea is one of the most sinister things superhero comics have ever come up with; someone who has all of Superman's powers, all of his unstoppable indestructibility, but a concept of morality that exists in complete opposition to Superman's, and that will not, that can not ever change? It's harrowing.
But as scary as he might be, I don't really consider Bizarro to be a Halloween monster. "Supervillain" isn't quite right either, but there's nothing about Bizarro that I'd think would put him in competition with, say, Dracula or the Wolfman. But then again, I'm not Otto Binder, who apparently thought that Superman's imperfect duplicate battling it out with Frankenstein for the title of the greatest of all monsters was something that should definitely happen. You know, except for the part where it's not actually Frankenstein.
Zee zee zee zee! This day marks the first appearance in 1938's Action Comics #6 of an unnamed office boy who would before long go on to great heights as Superman's pal, Jimmy Olsen. While this office boy would make a handful of appearances in the Golden Age, the name Jimmy Olsen wouldn't be uttered until the advent of the Adventures of Superman radio show in 1940, in which the cub reporter was introduced largely so Superman would have someone to talk to. This version would be integrated into the comics in 1941's Superman #13, but would disappear after a few more appearances.
The names of many of comics' greatest creators of the Golden and Silver Ages of comics — Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Jerry Siegel, and, increasingly in recent years, Bill Finger — are deservedly well known by the average comic fan. However, the name of the writer of some of the best-selling comics of all time, and the creator of some of comics' most enduring characters, Otto Binder, is utterly unknown to many comics readers, making him perhaps the medium's most underrated writer.
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