Thursday, March 31, 2011

Signal Watch Reads: Jimmy Olsen One-Shot #1

A long while back, DC announced that Action Comics would go to $3.99 per issue, adding 8 pages to the page count which would be a Jimmy Olsen backup. Your humble blogger was, of course, thrilled.

You may have noticed from the image above up there in the banner, we're Olsen fans at this site from way back. And if you know the slightest bit of Super-trivia, the name of this site should alert you to our commitment to Olsen-Mania.

I theorize that one cannot achieve Olsen fandom until one has passed through a few phases of comic fandom, including "comics are not as dumb as I thought", "superheroes are tortured souls and the only good ones are grim'n'gritty", "comics are literature", "hey, this old school superhero stuff is really pretty neat" and then one winds up at "oh, my God. You have to read this story where Jimmy Olsen is woo'd by a vindictive alien princess. These guys were geniuses or crazy.  Ha ha ha.  Sweetie?  Where did you go?"

Now, I came to appreciate Olsen a while back, and I confess that I have spent some time and money building a collection of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen comics that will make sense to few mortals. I have asked Jamie to include them in the Viking Funeral Pyre that I intend to have on the banks of Lady Bird Lake here in Austin when the pirates finally get me.

However, late last year, DC called an audible and reduced the price of all their mainline comics to $2.99 and reduced page counts.  Action Comics was as mainline as one was likely to find at DC, and suddenly, mid-story, the Jimmy Olsen story got shelved.  Briefly.

Writer Nick Spencer already had his script done, and while I'm not clear why it took this long to collect the existing chapters and add the complete rest of the story, this week the comic turned up at my local comic shop.  And its really good stuff.

Jimmy Olsen One Shot, 2011
Semi-harmless alien invasions, 5th-Dimensional Pixies, diabolical plots, Jimmy getting promoted from Pal to a loftier role, the return of the Daily Planet Flying Newsroom...  In just a few pages, the thing covers a lot of new territory while making call-backs to the sort of bizarre adventures Jimmy had in his own title from the 1950's to the early 70's.  In short, we here at The Signal Watch recommend this comic, and give it our official stamp of approval.

The comic hits at a curious time.  I'd not say that the "grim'n'gritty" era of comics is over.  That sort of thing sells well, and I enjoy it in a good number of titles I read.  But it does seem like superhero comic fans are beginning to make room for the weird/ zany side of comics which was considered verboten during the post DKR years and, frankly, right up until the past three years or so.  I can understand that comic fans wishing to identify their reading material as "for adults" could see anything whimsical or silly as "for kids" and therefore suspect.  Superman having a dog, for instance, still gets a good number of comic fans fairly roiled (fans who would never pick up a Superman comic because of all the ideas they have about Superman as "bad for comics").

But with the victory securely had, and the ability to put as much violence, crime and werewolves or whatever else used to upset the Comics Code Authority into the most mainstream of comics, its okay to also look at what made comics fun before the audience self-selected itself down to 15-30 year old males in search of power fantasies (something I didn't used to subscribe to, but these days...).  Certainly an aging readership that has seen the limits of grim'n'gritty is going to welcome both faux-nostalgia for comics they couldn't have been there to read the first time (that's me) and for modern interpretations of what made the old stuff work, rather than writers deciding to "update" or "get X character retro-fitted for Insert Current Year Here".  Ie - go back to the well on some of that old stuff that sold like gangbusters once upon a time.

Its been interesting to see online reaction to the comic as generally very good.  And the 20-something female clerk at Austin Books was more excited to see I was buying Jimmy Olsen than that I was also buying Godzilla comics on Godzilla Day.  It didn't seem like she'd read any old-school Olsen, so here's to hoping we get another Olsen-Acolyte.

1 comment:

Simon MacDonald said...

Hey, I just read Nick Spencer's Morning Glories last night and it was pretty great. It's got a bit of a Locke and Key vibe and I'm going to have to start looking into more of his books.

Sad that the Jimmy Olsen thing got handled badly. I read the free preview they had on the Comixology app and it seemed pretty good. He's another one of those creators who seems to have genuine affection for the character. You should listen to him on War Rocket Ajax.

I hear he is taking over from Brubaker on Secret Avengers too.