San Diego Comic-Con 2019: Jimmy Olsen, Jack Kirby and more

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Tom Spurgeon, Kurt Busiek, Paul Levitz, Seth
(L-R) Tom Spurgeon, Kurt Busiek, Paul Levitz, Seth

There was a time when young boys everywhere dreamed of being a cub reporter like Jimmy Olsen and becoming Superman’s Pal. Then one day one of those kids grew up to report on the San Diego Comic-Con panel celebrating Jimmy Olsen and his most famous comic book story-teller, Jack Kirby.

No, I wasn’t that kid, but he might have been in that room with me, this crazy Friday morning at the 50th anniversary of the Con. If he was there he would have learned lots of interesting facts about the accident prone sidekick to the Man of Steel.

For instance, Jimmy was originally created for the old Superman radio show, so that the hero would have a kid-friendly entity to talk to. He was so popular that DC Comics decided to try him out as a character in the comics.

After being given his own comic book title, if often became a conundrum as to what to do with the danged kid, which sparked the creativity of the writers and artists who ended up with stories that were weird mash-ups of science-fiction, humor, superheros and adventures — where logic was never even an afterthought.

Jimmy’s tales were typically good and goofy fun, until Jack Kirby took over the title and changed the book into epic-sized canvas for his Fourth World stories, where he was given the freedom to unleash his creativity.

The DC editors at the time didn’t know quite what to make of the expansive universe Kirby was introducing, and sometimes even had other artists “fix” the face of Superman to fit the more common iteration.

Kirby proved that Jimmy Olsen not only attracts and inspires trouble, but was also capable of giving the comic book people something to talk about forever.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.