Saying that an issue of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen is crazy is like saying that the Pacific Ocean is wet, or that Rad, the Hal Needham bike racing picture from 1986 where young Cru Jones faces the Helltrack and goes on a prom date entirely on his BMX, is rad. It’s sort of a foregone conclusion.
Jimmy’s craziness, after all, is one of the things that makes him the iconic character Silver Age. But every once in a while, an issue comes by that involves a viking robot girlfriend or a trip through time to meet Hitler that’s so completely bat-shit insane that it transcends even the normal Olsen standards.
Leo Dorfman and Kurt Schaffenberger’s Jimmy Olsen #117 is one of those.
The fact that this cover has Jimmy being literally sold into slavery and yet the caption box is fixated on his potential owners’ fashion choices might just be the least crazy thing about this issue, and that’s saying something.
The whole thing gets kicked off with Jimmy tooling across the desert with Professor Lewis Lang (the archaeologist father of Superman’s ex-girlfriend who occasionally went to the future and turned into a horrible insect creature, because, you know, the Silver Age) when they stumble across a monolith left by an alien civilization. A giant pink monolith.
As it turns out, the giant pink monolith is in reality–no joke–the Dimension Penetrator, a strange device with the potential power to destroy the universe. As you might expect, the aliens are junking it on Earth so that they don’t have to deal with it anymore, and I’ve gotta say, that’s a dick move aliens. The crazy honeycomb tunnels that run through it are actually dimensional portals, and while they’ve written a warning in a complex mathematical code that I’m sure was a big tip-off to Mr. Brontosaurus up there, they didn’t actually bother to put any doors on it, apparently forgetting that a handle you have to turn will generally keep out most people who can’t figure out a puzzle that combines sudoku and cryptograms. One can only imagine that in the millennia that this thing sat around, all kinds of dinosaurs were wandering through to parallel dimensions and causing trouble, which….
Huh. Now that I’ve actually written that down, it seems like a pretty good plan to make other dimensions more awesome. Carry on, aliens.
Back in the present, Professor Lang translates the math into a warning, and despite the fact that they remembered to put the word “Dangerous” at the beginning of the warning, Jimmy is Jimmy, and this happens:
Once he’s through the dimensional honeycomb (which of course vanishes behind him), things seem more or less normal, until he and Professor Lang get to customs, and the TSA agent notices something awry:
Yes, Jimmy has entered a parallel universe whose main feature is a law that anyone not wearing a cape can be immediately taken into custody and sold as a slave. Now, I don’t make laws, but that seems to go beyond draconian and into the realm of the psychotic, which is pretty much the defining feature of this universe. Well, that and the fact that everyone’s an asshole, as we see when Parallel-Professor Lang totally pulls a St. Peter on him:
With no way to prove his identity–the Daily Planet building of this reality is the Daily Palate, a rooftop restaurant shaped like a globe–Jimmy is sold on the auction block for less than a dollar, and this is about where the story starts to get really weird:
For one thing, he’s sold to Clark Kent, who in this reality is a wealthy playboy who needs an extra hand to throw a pool party, which is strange for two reasons: One, it’s a pool party for people who wear capes, and two, as Jimmy finds out, all of the clothes in this dimension are made of metal threads, thus begging the question as to who the hell thought it would be a good idea to put on a cape and metal pants and then go swimming.
Thanks to the Comics Code, Clark’s drown party goes off without a hitch, and with no need for an extra hand, he bounces Jimmy off to a few more owners before he’s finally bought by…
Yes, the stage is now set for a good old-fashioned doppelbang–the term coined by Kevin and Dr. K to describe just such an occasion–but it turns out that Cape-Jimmy (or as I’ve taken to calling him, The Deuce) just needs a stunt double. Also, the Deuce turns out to be the only non-douchebag on the entire planet, even going so far as to help Jimmy gain the attention of the mysterious Dr. X, who designs all the capes.
That’s right, folks: This story just became about Jimmy trying to entrap a mysterious fashion designer. Deal with it.
At long last, the mystery is revealed, as it turns out that Dr. X is none other than…
Jor-El of Krypton!
At this point, any shred of internal logic this story might’ve had is out the window. See if you can follow along: On Earth-Cape, Jor-El’s entire family came to Earth but didn’t gain super-powers (except that Clark, who is actually Kal-El and is living under an assumed name for reasons that are never explained despite the fact that he was never raised by the Kents, actually does have super-powers, except they’re not Superman’s, he has shape-shifting face-changey powers like Zartan), and while he came from an advanced culture with science far beyond Earth’s, Jor-El’s inventions are roundly rejected and he’s forced to live in a shack out in the desert, possibly because he wears the same green pantsuit every day.
Still with me? Okay, because this is when the Justice League shows up:
Except that it’s not really the Justice League. It’s Superman–the real Superman, or at least the Earth-1 version that Jimmy’s friends with–and a bunch of other super-heroes (all of whom wear capes), accidentally straying into a parallel dimension during a tour of the universe, mistakenly identified as an invading alien army by Jor-El, who tries to shoot them and instead uses a duplicator ray (did we mention he invented a duplicator ray? Because he did) at the exact moment they turn around, duplicating their capes as they leave. And since cloth is so rare on Earth-Cape, it is immediately ratified that all citizens will wear capes or be forced into slavery.
Then, in a move that’s perfectly logical when you consider the sequence of events that led up to it, Jor-El shoots Jimmy with the Dimenson Zone ray (did we mention he invented a Dimension Zone ray?) but instead of sending Jimmy to the Phantom Zone, it just blasts him back to the more-or-less normal universe of Silver Age Earth.
And all of this happens in three pages.
Take a bow, Jimmy Olsen #117: You’re the craziest Goddamn thing I’ve ever seen.*
*: This week.