Saturday, June 17, 2017

Superman's Newsboy Pals!

When Jack "King" Kirby developed his Fourth World concepts, the odd book out was the delightful Jimmy Olsen. The book began under Kirby with an epic journey to the underground Project which was a sprawling landscape hidden in the caves beneath Metropolis. With the second generation Newsboy Legion and Superman, Jimmy encountered the cloned products of the Project as well as the dangerous offspring from the counterpart Evil Factory. That Evil Factory is key to some of the stories in this collection.

But first Superman and Jimmy must solve the mystery of the enigmatic scientist Dabney Donovan who created a complete other world hidden in the basement of a local cemetery. The creatures of this world dubbed "Transilvane" were conditioned by their creator in the image of vintage monsters characters from the heyday of film.

So it's the weird and dangerous Count Dragorin and his wolfman companion Lupek who first battle Superman and Jimmy. Later there are other monsters, but the solution to this problem is a change of program.

And then it's off to Scotland at the behest of the dangerous Morgan Edge, who tries once again to kill off Jimmy and his companions.

The gang run across all manner of seemingly imaginary beasts and find much to their surprise the Evil Factory itself which is hidden weirdly in plain sight so to speak. They encounter one DNAlien in particular, the strangely but appropriately named "Angry Charlie".

Despite being changed into a ferocious caveman Jimmy and the Newsboys are able to win the day and defeat Simyan and Mokkari the masters of the Factory. Superman and the Guardian meanwhile find a threat from Apocalips hidden beneath the streets of Suicide Slum itself.

After that fracas the Newsboys and Jimmy take time to recover before they head back home to Metropolis. But along the way the find a mysterious volcano in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and find themselves embroiled in the weird schemes of the seemingly immortal Victor Volcanum, an explorer straight out of a Jules Verne novel who has built a world inside the volcano occupied by his mechanical creations. Meanwhile Superman goes through a Boom Tube and ends up in New Genesis ("Supertown") where he discovers, somewhat to his dismay, that he's not all at special.

Victor Volcanum imprisons Jimmy and the Newsboy Legion, but they escape the volcano just before it is destroyed with Superman's help. Superman after an encounter with Highfather of New Genesis is transported to where he's needed and that's to help the Newsboys and Jimmy. Reunited they chase down Vocanum's deadly flying machine before he can unleash his weapons on Meteropolis and as they do so often save the day. And that my friends wraps up Kirby's tenure on the first of the Fourth World books.

The collection though gives us a non-Kirby story about the Newsboy Legion and follows up a bit on the mutant "Angry Charlie", a DNAlien who gets loose in Metropolis for a bit before the Newsboys can round him up.

It's a neat vignette but doesn't really add to the mythos.

Looking back on Kirby's Olsen stories, I am struck by the avalanche of creation in the issues as Jimmy and the Newsboys get deeper and deeper into the Project and beyond. Each page in those early issues in particular are brimming with new concepts and spins on old ones. The complaint for Olsen fans would be a proper lack of Jimmy in those stories. They feel like surrogate Superman stories while Jimmy and his new pals the Newsboys amble about getting into trouble. But for some perhaps the lack of focus on Jimmy Olsen is a plus. Whatever it's the invention which rules the day in these memorable classics of a day gone by.

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  1. In my view, the best series that Jack did at DC. I've got the original issues, plus the two reprint books. Excellent stuff. I've even got the Fourth World Omnibus volumes which reprint them yet again. The Jimmy Olsen mag was at its best with JK on it, no doubt about it.

    1. I won't say it was the best of the batch, but I like more each time I read it. Maybe eventually it'll get there.

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