Murder of Clark Kent!
Everyone's favorite cub reporter becomes a cold-blooded
killer in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #103 (July
1967) as writer Leo Dorfman and artist
Pete Costanza relate "The Murder of
Things begin innocently enough as Jimmy leaves his apartment
for another day at the office, only to be accosted by a
swarm of paparazzi asking "how does it feel to win
the big prize?"
As the startled Jimmy is escorted to a waiting limousine,
he runs through the possibilities with his usual humility.
"They're probably giving me the Pulitzer for my story
exposing that gang of jewel thieves," he thinks, "or
maybe I've won the Nobel Peace Prize for using a barrier
Superman built to stop a missile war between two rival planets...on
the other hand, I might be getting an "Oscar"
for the role I played in that Superman movie..." After
a few minutes, it's getting harder to decide what award
he won't be given.
Before he can decide whether he's earned the presidency
or the Papacy, Jimmy's reverie is broken as the limousine
pulls to the curb to take on another passenger...
Jimmy's fellow honoree is French scientist Dr Denise
Dunois. She left her lab coat at home, so there's
little indication she's a brilliant scientist, but you can
tell she's a hot French babe because Costanza draws "motion
lines" that have her scooting along the sidewalk with
her ankles together as her derriere wiggles.
Anyway, we at least know Jimmy's prize won't be coming
from any feminist groups when he blurts out, "What
kind of award did you win, doll? Miss Universe of 1967?"
Brilliant scientist or no, Dr Dunois is still a woman, so
of course her response is a blushing "You flatter me,
Jimmy and Dr Dunois are driven to a heavily-guarded mansion,
where they're appalled to find a row of statues honoring
the world's worst villains; John Dillinger, Lucretia Borgia,
Mata Hari, Adolph Hitler, Emperor Nero and Genghis Khan
among them. A mustachioed dandy named Maximo
takes them to a theater, places golden laurels on their
heads and seats them in "thrones of honor," explaining
that they will be treated to live re-enactments of "some
noble past deeds of the past which helped inspire today's
awards." However, the acts depicted are among the most
heinous of history; the stabbing of Julius Caesar, John
Wilkes Booth's assasination of President Abraham Lincoln,
the murder of Mahatma Ghandi (who because Costanza is drawing
him looks an awful lot like Dr Thaddeus Boddog Sivana) and,
incredibly, the killing of JFK.
Jimmy angrily confronts Maximo, who explains, "Brutus,
Booth and the others are an inspiration! But you'll top
them all, Olsen!"
First of all, it's quite a production that includes an
actual working automobile on stage, but the really disturbing
thing here is the tackiness of this reference to Kennedy's
death a mere four years after it happened, and while having
Lee Harvey Oswald -- even if he's not named directly --
referred to as "an inspiration" may establish
Maximo's bonafides as a prize rat, it also leaves a bad
taste in the mouth even 40 years on. During his three years
in office, JFK became almost an unofficial supporting player
in the Superman titles, showing up more than any other sitting
president before or after, and even subbing for Clark Kent
once to protect Superman's identity. The way his death is
trotted out here veers the tale from merely stupid to just
plain unseemly, and it never really recovers.
Jimmy demands to know why Maximo would compare him to the
worst killers of all time, and is pointed to yet another
scene on stage, a dramatization showing Jimmy killing Superman
with a kryptonite ray gun. Jimmy angrily responds that he
would never do such a thing, but then a strange mist enters
the room, and when Superman unexpectedly appears, Jimmy
grabs the ray gun and shoots him with it, then beats him
up before coming to his senses. Of course "Superman"
is revealed as a crook in disguise.
Maximo explains that breathing in the mist caused Jimmy's
attack on "Superman", but says he'll kill the
genuine article of his own volition, without mind control.
He then shows Jimmy films illustrating how Superman has
been "double-crossing you for years" by giving
all the best "scoops" to Lois Lane. "Did
your super-chum ever tell you the location of his fortress?"
presses Maximo. "Did he ever reveal his other identity
to you?" When Jimmy protests that Superman can't share
these, his biggest secrets, Maximo answers, "Batman
knows them...and Robin...and Supergirl!"
To "prove" Jimmy secretly hates Superman, Maximo
has him grab the handles of an "Emotion Analyzer,"
which he explains, "works like a lie detector".
The "Emotion Analyzer" is essentially a trumped-up
version of the old coin-operated "Love Detector"
machines found at fairs and in front of K-Marts, with a
needle that points to readings from "Love" to
"Hate" with a few stops in between. When Jimmy
holds the handles and thinks of Superman, the needle jumps
to "Hate" and Maximo crows, "The Analyzer
never lies." Well, there you are, then.
For whatever reason, Jimmy decides to play along. "Okay
I admit it, I'd give plenty kill Superman!" Just as
he utters this (faked) sentiment, Maximo uses a remote control
to send a signal to the golden laurel on his head (if you
forgot Jimmy's wearing the laurel, that's okay, since Costanza
does too about half the time). An electronic impulse causes
Jimmy to repeat his words over and over..."kill Superman...kill
Superman..." and thus brainwash himself. Maximo commands
Jimmy to go the Daily Planet and retrieve a "secret
list of kryptonite caches" from the desk of Clark Kent.
Luckily for Maximo, there's a butterfly handy to demonstrate
the power of his shock-gun. Not so lucky for the butterfly,
but considering it flies about as awkwardly as Dr Dunois
walks, we'll look on it as a mercy killing.
At the office, Jimmy pries open Clark's desk and finds
the list of kryptonite caches, only to be discovered when
Clark walks in the room demanding, "Jimmy what's the
idea? That list could mean disaster if Superman's enemies
got hold of it!" (Exactly. So it's a good thing you
keep it in a desk and let the world know it's there instead
of, oh I don't know, maybe stashing it in a vault in the
Fortress of Solitude and not telling anyone. Or better yet,
using that super-memory instead of writing the blamed list
in the first place)
Jimmy turns the anti-butterfly gun on Clark, apparently
Of course we know Clark's not really dead, just playing
possum. Besides, what real killer would say "Holy Cats"?
Maximo and his men pack Clark into a crate and throw it
off a cliff into the sea. Once underwater, Clark breaks
out of the crate and changes to Superman but instead of
pursuing Jimmy and the crooks he flies off into space on
"a far more vital mission" he just remembered.
Maximo's flunkies are sent off to retrieve the kryptonite
from the locations on Clark's list, while back at the gang's
headquarters, Dr Dunois's involvement is finally explained.
It seems she's invented a "time-coil" that allows
"any non-living matter" to be sent through the
time barrier to the date of one's choice. Demonstrating
the device, she projects on the wall an image of Paul Revere
on his famous midnight ride through Boston on the night
of April 18,1775. When Revere's horse suddenly loses a shoe,
Jimmy sees a chance to test the claim that objects can be
sent through time.
Of course, the "horse-shoe" magnet Jimmy finds
just happens to fit Revere's steed perfectly, and why wouldn't
it? Revere continues on with his ride and America is saved,
earning Jimmy a big kiss from Dr Dunois.
Maximo offers to clear Jimmy of Clark's murder if he'll
persuade Superman to travel back in time to 2pm, Dec 22,
1439. "And don't worry," he says, "you know
nothing in the past can harm him!" Jimmy agrees, but
on his way out to his meeting with Superman he stops at
the gang's "Anti-Superman Arsenal" and grabs a
mysterious "Gamma Weapon," which based on comments
he's overheard "could probably wipe out Superman! I
must keep it out of their murdering hands."
At the Daily Planet, Jimmy is confronted by Superman, who
tells him Clark hasn't been seen in two days and produces
Clark's clothes and glasses, which he says he found floating
in the sea. He asks Jimmy what he knows about it as he is
"believed to be the last person to see him alive!"
For a moment, Jimmy panics and reaches into his briefcase
for the Gamma Weapon to kill Superman, but then thinks better
of it. Instead he produces a faked documented created by
Maximo and tells Superman it bears the account of an explorer
who claimed to have seen the Abominable Snowman on Mount
Everest in 1439.
Clark, he says, was trying to verify the authenticity of
the document to save the reputation of a historian who's
presented it as genuine. Superman agrees to check it out
and flies off to the past.
Using Dr Dunois' device, the gang peers into 1439 to see
Superman heading for a trap on Mt Everest. It is revealed
that Dr Dunois was forced to send the stockpile of retrieved
kryptonite to that exact time and place, where it lies hidden
beneath the snow, waiting to kill Superman while he's trapped
centuries away from anyone who could possibly rescue him.
Just as he lands, the image from the Time Coil is lost,
but the villains still rejoice, certain he's dead.
Jimmy snaps and tears into the villains with fists flailing.
Overwhelmed by his berserker rage, they retreat to the Anti-Superman
Arsenal and begin using their weapons against Jimmy and
Dr Dunois. Jimmy remembers he still has the Gamma Weapon
and throws it at them, but to his disappointment it only
seems to stun them (remember, though, that he thought it
would destroy Superman, so we can assume he was willing
to kill these guys). Then Superman shows up, to the great
surprise of Maximo, and does his customary mopping up.
Jimmy reveals that he re-wrote the document used to lure
Superman into the past. Superman caught on immediately when
he saw that the scroll, supposedly written in 1439, called
the peak "Mt Everest," a name it wouldn't get
until 1844. A line that read "Beware! Evil eyes are
watching" tipped him off that he was being monitored,"
while the line, "Doom awaits you at ye top of ye mighty
mountain" warned him there would be a trap. Meanwhile,
as the scene unfolded on the Time Coil, Jimmy had sent a
secret signal to Dr Dunois...
Acting quickly, she had used the device to move the kryptonite
one day forward in time, making Everest safe for Superman
to land on.
Superman congratulates Jimmy for getting out of his pickle,
but confesses he was worried when his x-ray vision spotted
the Gamma Weapon in Jimmy's briefcase earlier in the story,
knowing (somehow) that it would have turned him into "a
prehistoric Kryptonian caveman." Racing to the next
room, they get a surprise...
Jimmy confesses to the murder of Clark Kent, but Superman
assures him Clark is not dead. Sure enough, Clark meets
Jimmy later at the Planet offices and explains that he was
only stunned. I confess I half-expected him to say the ray
was deflected by a butterfly he kept in his shirt pocket.
And thus ends the story. I think it's safe to say that,
like the devolved Maximo and his cronies, we are all a tad
mentally diminished for having experienced it. At this point,
we are at least 3 years away from the arrival of Jack Kirby
on the Jimmy Olsen title. It must have seemed like an eternity
for anyone around at the time.