Jimmy Olsen #117

Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #117, January1969

Planet of the Capes!

The tale opens with an alien space craft visiting prehistoric Earth to dump a huge artifact. They helpfully write a warning on it in a “cosmic code”. Hmm. Very considerate of them. They then bid a hasty retreat while a passing caveman scratches his head in wonder. Meanwhile, a dinosaur looks on bemused.

Flash forward millions of years. Jimmy Olsen and Professor Lang find the artifact part buried in the desert. Professor Lang’s keen scientific brain quickly discerns that the thing is alien, and that the writing is a warning “based on mathmatics… a universal language!”

Doorway to parallel worlds

It transpires that the device is a collection of doorways to parallel universes. The aliens who dumped it thought it too dangerous for their world. Jimmy accidentally enters one of the cells while trying to rescue his wind-blown hat — and finds himself trapped in a parallel world!

This world is very similar to the one Jimmy is used to, except that here everyone wears a cape — everyone who matters, that is. As Jimmy doesn’t possess a cape, he is arrested and put up for sale as a slave!!

Parallel Clark

At the slave auction Clark Kent pays 95 for Jimmy. Jimmy, while pleased to see Clark, is a little peeved at being worth just $95. Unfortunately, he soon discovers Kent paid just 95 cents!! Parallel Kent wears a Superman cape but that’s where the similarity to our Clark ends. Here, Clark is a millionaire playboy surrounded by wealth and babes. Jimmy is suspicious of Kent’s wealth and thinks him a crook. After finding a stash of cash, Jimmy calls the cops — only to be informed that Kent is actually a world-renowned undercover detective: he has the cash for safe-keeping. Kent doesn’t like a snoop, so sends Jimmy back to the auction.

Perry's Collection

He is bought by Perry White, whose cape collection is his pride and joy. He has capes that duplicate those of Superman, Star Boy, Duo Damsel, Shadow Lass and others. He’s just missing a blue cape and he wants Jimmy to search for it. Jimmy has little trouble in finding it — it’s a double for Batman’s cape and cowl. Having served his purpose, Jimmy is sold on again.

Batman's cape

Jimmy’s new owner is Jimmy Olsen, or, rather the version of him that lives on this world. Parallel Jimmy is an actor and wants Jimmy to be his stand-in for a dangerous stunt. Having done that easily enough, Jimmy borrows a pair of scissors and cuts up his suit to fashion a cape of his very own. You might wonder why he hadn’t thought of that before…

Jimmy's Cape

He sets off to find the mysterious Doctor X, the man who manufactures all the capes on this world. The quest doesn’t take long, however, and it transpires that “Doctor X” is none other than Jor-El. In this parallel universe Jor-El brought his whole family to Earth, rather than just sending his son, but they gained no powers. Jor-El’s scientific genius was ignored, and he grew angry. When some dimension-hopping super-heroes briefly appeared one day, Jor-El accidentally duplicated their capes. Finding these garments to be made of cloth — something previously unknown on this Earth — he started a get rich quick cape manufacturing business. Within a short space of time the two-tier society of haves and have-nots was created.

It's Jor-El

Jor-El is now incredibly wealthy, and he is scared that Jimmy will reveal his secrets to the world. He fires a device at Jimmy that will banish him to the “Dimension Zone”. Jimmy fades out.

The Dimension Zone

Luckily for Jimmy, Jor-El’s “Dimension Zone” is actually our Earth. Jimmy finds himself back home, where he relates his amazing story to a bemused Clark Kent.

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The big film of 1968 was Planet of the Apes. Naturally Mort Weisinger wanted to cash in on that well-known brand. How would be do that? Feature a few gorillas perhaps? Nah, that would’ve been business as usual for Uncle Mort. Nope — instead he gave the world one of Jimmy Olsen’s silliest adventures…

You have to wonder how no one had ever discovered that alien doorway before: it’s vast. And, after this tale was done, it was never referred to again. Perhaps Superman, agreeing with the alien warning, destroyed it. The portal is, however, a marvelous science fiction idea, reminding us that Weisinger was once a pioneer in the SF field, as editor and agent, alongside his old pal Julie Schwartz.

Overall though, Jimmy’s adventure as a slave in a cape-wearing culture is pretty wretched stuff. A far cry from the classic stories of years past. Weisinger was just months away from retirement — and it couldn’t come too soon. Otto Binder scripted, Pete Costanza drew.

The cover is by far the best thing about this comic: Curt Swan inked by Neal Adams.

Images ©2011 DC Comics