Jimmy Olsen

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Jimmy Olsen 101, Jimmy Olsen on Krypton
Jimmy Olsen 101, Jimmy Olsen on Krypton
Jimmy Olsen. Art by Phil Noto, from 9-11: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember.
Jimmy Olsen. Art by Phil Noto, from 9-11: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember.

James Bartholomew "Jimmy" Olsen is a photojournalist that appears in DC ComicsSuperman stories. An anonymous "copy boy" who resembles Olsen makes a brief appearance in Action Comics #6, but the character called Jimmy Olsen first appeared in the radio show, The Adventures of Superman, on April 15, 1940. The character moved from the radio show into the comics in 1941, first appearing in Superman v1 #13 (1941). Along with his appearances in current Superman titles (Superman and Action Comics), he is one of the main protagonists in DC Comics' weekly series Countdown.


character profile

Jimmy is traditionally depicted as a bow tie-wearing, red-haired young man who works as a cub reporter and photographer for The Daily Planet, alongside Lois Lane and Clark Kent, whom he idolizes as career role models. In most depictions of the character, he also has a strong friendship with Superman. As Superman's friend, Jimmy has special access to the Man of Steel, thanks to Superman's gift to Jimmy of a "signal watch," a wristwatch which, with the press of a button, emits a special ultrasonic frequency signal that Superman can hear anywhere on Earth. (In Post-Crisis continuity Jimmy invented the watch himself, and Superman briefly considered confiscating it. In New Earth continuity, the watch was designed by Superman based on a larger signalling device Jimmy created.)

In many Silver Age comic books, Jimmy was often seen sharing adventures with Superman, who saved him from various predicaments ranging from dangerous to merely embarrassing. This was particularly pronounced in the series Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (published from 1954 to 1974), which saw Olsen in a variety of slapstick adventures and strange transformations. Like most DC characters, modern portrayals of Olsen have been more serious in tone.

An important part of the Superman mythos, Jimmy Olsen has appeared in most other media adaptations of the character.

character biography

Golden and Silver Age

see also History of Superman

Jimmy Olsen, from Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #36 (1959). Art by Curt Swan.
Jimmy Olsen, from Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #36 (1959). Art by Curt Swan.

During the Silver Age, Jimmy starred in his own comic book, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, which featured his various adventures with and without Superman; it debuted in 1954. The stories in the title would often feature particularly outlandish situations, ranging from Jimmy being hurled back in time to Krypton before its destruction in issue #36 to dealing frequently with gorillas of all sorts. Because of these factors, the comic was regarded by some as a poorly written subsidiary title, although some readers still enjoy it for its camp value.

This version of Jimmy Olsen even had his own fan club. [1]. In one adventure published in the 1960s, he implied that there were branches of it around the United States and that he intended to lecture them about anti-crime techniques he had learned from Superman and Batman. illustration included in the Penguin Book of Comics by George Perry and Alan Aldridge, published in 1967.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World

Kirby began by introducing a secret "D.N.A. Project" to create Mutated Humans for Good, also adding "The Hairies" (a group of technology-equipped hippies) and superbeings from other planets (proto-New Gods) and Intergang and Morgan Edge... and reintroduced his 1940s Newsboy Legion characters.

About halfway through his run, Kirby also added vampires, the Loch Ness monster, and Victor Volcanum, the fire-eating archcriminal. Readership quickly dropped back to its pre-Jack-Kirby levels.

Jack's tenure on the series ended in 1974 with issue #163, when Jimmy's book was folded into the anthology title Superman Family. In that book, Olsen became a more serious character who battled criminals as an investigative reporter known as "Mr. Action" in urban crime stories that rarely involved Superman.

Modern adventures

The Man of Steel

Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, the entire Superman mythos was rebooted from scratch in the limited series The Man of Steel. Despite recent modernization efforts on Superman and his supporting characters, Jimmy Olsen has not been significantly changed in the Modern Age. He is still a cub reporter working for The Daily Planet, and is still friends with Superman. His look was made over as he stopped wearing bowties, and started wearing casual clothing (though this trend started in 1970s comics). An interesting alteration to the relationship was that Jimmy designed the signal watch himself, leading to his first meeting with Superman.World of Metropolis #4 (1987) Superman briefly considered confiscating the watch, but decided he trusted Jimmy to use it responsibly.

While weird transformations no longer occur as regularly as they did in the Silver Age, Jimmy did become Elastic Lad on contact with the Eradicator. He has also taken the identity of "Giant Turtle Boy" in a series of pizza commercials, made when he was temporarily laid off from the Planet.

In the late 1990s, Jimmy moved to Metropolis broadcaster Galaxy Broadcasting, where he became more brash and arrogant. This came to an end when he thought (wrongly) he had discovered Superman's secret identity and said he would announce it live on air. He reconsidered his actions, but lost his job for wasting the timeslot. He was again rehired by the Planet.

Superman: Metropolis

June 2003 saw Jimmy Olsen as the focus of a twelve-part miniseries entitled Superman: Metropolis. Written by Chuck Austen and illustrated by Danijel Zezelj, the series focused on the futuristic technology unleashed in Metropolis by Brainiac in a previous storyline, and how it affected the everyday lives of Metropolis citizens.

Recently, Jimmy had taken a position as a regular star reporter for The Daily Planet, replacing the recently demoted Clark Kent. This caused a strain in the relationship between Clark and Jimmy. It appears, however, that following the One Year Later storyline jump, Clark has regained his original role as The Daily Planet's star reporter,52: Week Eight (2006) Superman #650 (2006) and Jimmy has returned to being a photographer, winning the [Pulitzer Prize for his photographic efforts.


Jimmy Olsen as Mr. Action. Cover art for Countdown #38, by Shane Davis.
Jimmy Olsen as Mr. Action. Cover art for Countdown #38, by Shane Davis.

See Countdown (comic book)

Jimmy's story in Countdown begins with an investigation into the death of Duela Dent. Superman leads Jimmy to meet with Red Hood, and then the Joker at Arkham Asylum. After a seemingly fruitless interview with the Joker, Jimmy is attacked by Killer Croc. Countdown #50 (2007) Instead of shredding him, Jimmy shows his first signs of being a metahuman with super-stretch abilities (i.e. Plastic Man or Elongated Man) which saves his life. After Killer Croc is knocked out, Jimmy claims he had no idea that Killer Croc wouldn't be able to kill him.Countdown #49 (2007) Upon returning to Metropolis, he witnesses what appears to be an attack on the city and displays super-speed to rescue a couple from falling debris, again shocked at his new-found ability.Countdown #48 (2007) Jimmy's elastic and speed abilities are nods to his brief time as Elastic Lad and Speed-Demon during the Silver Age. Upon noting that he only received powers when he was in danger, Jimmy tested himself by picking a fight with a gang in Suicide Slum, only to be punched in the face. When a member of the gang attempted to grab him, Jimmy grew porcupine-like quills that shot at the attacker.Countdown #44 (2007) In issue #41, Jimmy, after deciding to become a superhero, creates a costume and dubs himself "Mr. Action." In Action Comics #852-854, he later displays super strength, solar powers, giant size, lycanthropy, a protective turtle shell, and fire breathing. Jimmy later discovers he starts to know information such as the secret identities of Wonder Woman and three Robins, Action Comics #853 and later Superman himself.Countdown #37Action Comics #854 He and Superman share their double identities, and Superman asks Jimmy to adopt Krypto for him. Jimmy's powers continue to develop and perplex as he is tested by the Justice League, John Henry Irons and the Cadmus Project. He is then recruited by Forager to help solve the mystery of the Death of the New Gods. They journey to Apokolips, but are swiftly defeated and captured. Jimmy's new powers allow him to create a Boom Tube, and the two escape. Upon landing on Earth, Jimmy is kissed by Forager. Forager reveals that Jimmy is a soul-catcher, and that it is the energy of the fallen New Gods that has given him his powers.

Powers, abilities, and equipment

Cover art for The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen, by Brian Bolland.
Cover art for The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen, by Brian Bolland.

Jimmy possesses a watch which emits a high pitched signal only Superman can hear.

Especially in the days of the Silver Age, Jimmy would often find himself temporarily transformed, for better or worse, or undergo a disguise for various purposes. The transformation tradition is still sometimes referenced in current day comics, usually through homage or parody. The variety of transformations Jimmy received during the Silver Age is often homaged or parodied in later comics and adaptations featuring the character — for instance, in JLA: The Nail, Jimmy cites three of these transformations as his motivations behind backing Luthor's bill to outlaw metahumans and in Countdown, Jimmy appears to sporadically assume these transformations for an unknown reason, with other stories simply make passing references.

  • Giant Turtle Boy: One of Jimmy's most frequently cited transformations was that of his turning into a giant turtle boy. Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #53 (1961)
  • Elastic Lad - As Elastic Lad, Jimmy (by serum or by alien virus) could sometimes stretch himself, akin to Elongated Man or Plastic Man.Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #37 (1959)
  • Flamebird- name he took as a costumed superhero, with Superman disguised as Nightwing, in the shrunken Kryptonian city of Kandor. These names were inspired by two native Kryptonian birds, the nightwing and the flamebird, but the relationship between Nightwing and Flamebird intentionally paralleled the crime-fighting team Batman (a night-winged creature) and Robin (a flame-colored bird).
  • Speed Demon - In 1956, a month before the debut of Barry Allen as the new Flash, Jimmy drank a potion produced by a Professor Claude and briefly gained super-speed.
  • Radioactive - After being exposed himself, Jimmy began to irradiate everything in his presence.
  • Gorilla - When Jimmy switched minds with a gorilla in, he went about his reporting duties as a gorilla in Jimmy's clothes. Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #24
  • Monstrous beard growth - The machinations of the sinister Beard Band cause Jimmy to grow an immense beard.
  • Alien-form - Aliens transformed Jimmy into a telepathic Jovian for a week. Fortunately, this turned out to be a Jovian week ... which is much shorter than an Earth week (about 70 hours = slightly less than three days.)
  • Wolf-Man - In the vein of the popular Michael Landon 1950s film I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Jimmy found himself transformed into a werewolf.Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #44 (1960)
  • Hippie - Jimmy grew a beard and joined a Superman-hating band of hippies. Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #118 (1969) On the cover of this story's issue, Jimmy's seen wielding a sign that says "Superman is a freak-out!"
  • Viking - Jimmy put on Viking armor and mistakenly thought he'd been transported 1000 years backward in time.
  • Woman - Jimmy would occasionally go undercover dressed as a woman.Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #44 (1960) Grant Morrison paid a brief homage to this in All Star Superman.All Star Superman #4 (2006)
  • Doomsday - Also in All Star Superman, Jimmy takes a serum and becomes a version of Superman's foe Doomsday.All Star Superman #4 (2006)
  • Jimmy gets whacked over the head by Bizarro and when he wakes up, he believes he's Perry White; he fires Clark Kent and hires Peter Parker to take his place.
  • A six-armed man
  • A fire-breather
  • A water-breather
  • A human porcupineSuperman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #65 (1962)
  • Superman on another planet, but he got upset because the civilians knew who he was.

Publication awards

Jack Kirby received a Shazam Award (for "Special Achievement By an Individual") for his work on Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

Other versions

Jimmy Olsen in The Nail. Art by Alan Davis.
Jimmy Olsen in The Nail. Art by Alan Davis.
  • In JLA: The Nail, an alternate reality in which a nail punctured a tire on the Kents' car, preventing them from finding the spaceship containing a baby Superman, Jimmy Olsen is revealed as the one behind all the other superheroes' troubles. Jimmy had served as an aide to Lex Luthor following various short-lived attempts at heroism caused by temporary alteration of his DNA. Having discovered Superman's spaceship and using DNA samples to create numerous Bizarro clones, Luthor grafted Kryptonian DNA onto Jimmy—the only such 'graft' that appeared successful, as other subjects either died instantly or mutated before death. This caused Jimmy to go insane and possess superpowers similar to Superman's, as well as mentally transforming him into a Kryptonian, determined to replace human life with Kryptonian life. Jimmy played up the public's fear of superheroes via propaganda, hoping to have them imprisoned so he could use their DNA as well in an attempt to create a stable template. When Jimmy attacked an Amish couple and their son during a battle with the Justice League, culminating in a desperate attempt by Batman and Green Lantern to stop him by supercharging Batman with his ring, the couple was killed, but the son was revealed to be Superman. In this alternate reality, the Amish couple had raised Superman, and brought him up as a pacifist, so he had never used his powers in conflict. Jimmy asked Superman to join him, claiming that they were virtually brothers as they shared the same DNA, but when Superman refused, the two battled. During the battle, Jimmy's body started to reject the Kryptonian DNA, causing him to disintegrate. His last, almost prophetic words were directed at Superman, "We should have been friends".The Justice League then asked Superman to join them.
  • In Frank Miller's 2001 graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Jimmy Olsen is featured as the writer of a Daily Planet article titled "Truth to Power", where he attempts to reveal that the current President is a holographic projection. However, his attempts to publicize the truth are halted by Lex Luthor.
  • In Superman: Red Son, Jimmy is depicted as an agent of the CIA, eventually becoming the director, and soon joins Luthor in his Presidential bid and becomes Vice-President.
  • In Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman series, Jimmy shows up briefly in the Daily Planet offices in argyle socks; this Jimmy seems to be a refined version of the Silver Age vintage, with a signal watch halfway between a McDonald's happy meal toy and haute couture. He's also shown with something that may be a jetpack. Issue #4 of the series focuses on Jimmy and his adventures as the one-day director of the DNA P.R.O.J.E.C.T., a leftover from the Kirby-era Jimmy Olsen series. This is apparently the latest in a series of highly successful articles by Jimmy, in which he spends a day in various roles.
  • In Alan Moore and Gene Ha's Top 10, a photograph of a version of two of Jimmy's superpowered selves, merged, is shown to Andy Soames; having contracted a disease which warps powers, this version appears to be Turtle Boy, driven insane by the acquisition of Elastic Lad's powers.
  • Jimmy Olsen makes an appearance in All Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder #6, helping Vicki Vale, who he appears to be attracted to, escape from hospital and giving her files on Batman and the Flying Graysons. This incarnation is described as a cub reporter for the Gotham Gazette as opposed to his regular position at the Daily Planet and as 'Superman's Pal'.
  • In Lord Havok and the Extremists #3, a version of Jimmy called Robin Olsen, is shown as a member of Monarch's army.

In other media


  • On the Superman radio series, Jack Grimes provides the voice of Jimmy Olsen.


  • Jimmy Olsen has appeared in every major filmed adaptation of Superman. The first actor to portray Jimmy Olsen in live-action was Tommy Bond in the serials starring Kirk Alyn.
  • In the four motion pictures starring Christopher Reeve beginning with Superman, Jimmy Olsen was portrayed by Marc McClure. McClure also played Jimmy Olsen in the 1984 spin-off movie Supergirl, making McClure the only actor and Olsen the only character to appear in all five Superman films of the 1978-87 era.
  • In Bryan Singer's 2006 movie Superman Returns, Jimmy Olsen is portrayed by Sam Huntington, an older and more confident, yet goofier portrayal of the character who finds it difficult to get a good shot or get any photos published. In a deleted scene (included in the DVD release) a slightly inebriated Olsen is seen to complain to Clark about the fact he hasn't had a photo printed in several months.
  • Jimmy appeared in Superman: Doomsday, voiced by Adam Wylie.
  • Jimmy appeared in Justice League: The New Frontier. He has no dialogue, therefore no voice actor.

Video games

Jimmy Olsen also appeared in several Superman games.

  • Superman [NES, 2600, C64]: Jimmy appears in the daily building room and enjoys taking pictures of Clark Kent. Also, in that game, Jimmy's appearance is similar to his pre-crisis comic appearance.
  • Superman 64 [N64]: He is trapped, along with Lois Lane and Professor Emil Hamilton, by Lex Luthor. Superman has to save him and his friends in this game.
  • Superman: Shadow of Apokolips [Gamecube, PS2]: Jimmy makes some minor appearances and only seen in the story between game-play. He is also seen in the bibliography section of the game.


1950's TV Jimmy Olsen, Jack Larson photo colorized by Ben Burgraff
1950's TV Jimmy Olsen, Jack Larson photo colorized by Ben Burgraff
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Jimmy was voiced by David Kaufman. One episode was called "Superman's Pal" as an homage to the old comic series, and Superman gave Jimmy the signal watch by the end of the episode. Jimmy had several cameo appearances in Justice League Unlimited, including one episode where Huntress tied him up, taped his mouth shut, and used the signal watch to attract Superman. Jimmy again was voiced in the television movie Superman: Brainiac Attacks.
    • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Chaos at the Earth's Core", several heroes battle a giant turtle that has a thatch of red hair. Bruce Timm has confirmed this is a reference to Jimmy's Giant Turtle Boy persona, "but it was more economical time-wise to have him revert to cute little turtle than naked, confused photographer."


Aaron Ashmore as Jimmy Olsen in "Smallville".
Aaron Ashmore as Jimmy Olsen in "Smallville".

In Smallville Jimmy Olsen is first referenced, by first name only (as Chloe Sullivan's "first time"), in Season 4. He appears in person, played by Aaron Ashmore, in the season premiere of Season 6, now on staff at the Planet. Jimmy and Chloe became a couple again after their reunion in Season 6 premiere "Zod". At first Jimmy is jealous of Clark but their relationship becomes friendly after Clark reunites him with Chloe in Season 6 episode "Trespass".

In season 7, Jimmy is still at Daily Planet working as a budding photographer, his relationship with Chloe is going through a rough phase due to Chloe's newfound abilities caused by an amount of kryptonite meteor in her blood stream. They broke up in a very emotional scene in the episode "Cure" since Chloe was unable to share her secret with him. Meanwhile Clark's newly arrived Kryptonian cousin Kara Zor-El (Laura Vandervoort) has developed a crush on Jimmy and they become friends. Jimmy is also smitten by her and teams up with her in episodes like "Cure" and "Lara".

Cultural references

  • The Spin Doctors had a minor hit with their song "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" on their album Pocket Full of Kryptonite, in which they portrayed Jimmy Olsen as infatuated with Lois Lane and jealous of Superman. In the period after the song became popular, artist Jon Bogdanove, who at the time was the regular penciler on the Superman: The Man of Steel comic, would occasionally depict Jimmy wearing a Spin Doctors T-shirt.
  • Often, Superman pastiches have featured notable Jimmy analogues. For example, in Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, Mighty Mouse's greatest fan was a young mouse named Scrappy with a shock of red hair.
  • Alan Moore's comic series Supreme featured Billy Friday, a cynical British comic book writer, very unlike Jimmy in personality, but who underwent weird transformations similar to those of the Silver Age Jimmy.
  • On the show Boy Meets World, Topanga refers to a photographer as a "Jimmy Olsen freak."
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Zeppo", characters twice refer to non-superpowered sidekick Xander Harris as Jimmy Olsen.
  • Professional wrestler Corey Branson took the moniker Jimmy Olsen in a few New York promotions such as NWA Upstate.
  • The Teamo Supremo episode "You'd Better Start Calling Me Chief!" revolved around an accident-prone newspaper reporter and photographer named Ollie Jimson who followed the titular trio around, screwing up their attempts to catch the bad guys.
  • In The Sopranos episode "Cold Stones", Silvio Dante reacts to a piece of already heard news by responding that Carlo Gervasi is a "regular Jimmy Olsen."
  • In the horror film House of 1000 Corpses, Grandpa Hugo asks one of the main characters if he is "Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter for 'The Daily Arsehole'"
  • In the drug comedy film Tyrone, the character Tyrone played by Coolio calls one of the main characters a "Jimmy Olsen lookin' mother f'er".
  • In "The Boyfriend, Part 1" episode of Seinfeld, Keith Hernandez tells Jerry that he loved his Jimmy Olsen bit.
  • Comic Book Guy mentioned Jimmy Olsen in the Simpsons episode "Husbands and Knives".

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