Nov 26, 2023

A World of Jimmy Olsens

In an April 1940 episode of the radio Adventures of Superman, the Man of Steel helped a young boy named Jimmy Olsen protect his mother's shop from racketeers.  Sensing audience identification, the producers soon gave Jimmy a part-time job at the Daily Planet so he could follow leads on his own, snoop around abandoned warehouses, get into trouble, and require lots of nick-of-time rescues.

Jimmy arrived in Superman comics in November 1941, somewhat older, perhaps seventeen.  He was a redhead, like the cliche sidekick in boys' adventure novels of the period, and his v-shaped torso suggested muscleman potential.  But he was never a sidekick, like Robin to Batman  or Bucky to Captain America.  Jimmy never lived with Superman, he never learned Superman's secret identity, he only participated in the adventures by accident.  Was he homoromantic partner, or merely a coworker and pal?  

On the TV Adventures of Superman (1952-58), Jimmy Olsen (ack Larson, top photo and left ) seems mostly a coworker to Superman (George Reeves). We rarely see the two together, except on the job, and even then, Lois (Noel Neill) usually forms the third.  Jack Larson, who died in 2015, was gay, and stated in interviews that he was out on the set during the period; maybe that explains why he kept Jimmy carefully free of any romantic feelings for Superman.

When Jimmy Olsen got his own comic book title in 1954, the gay subtexts began to proliferate.  Jimmy was Superman's "pal," a euphemism like "special friend."  The two went out to dinner and on vacations together; they broke up, realized how much they cared for each other, and reconciled.  Jimmy had a special signal watch that allowed him to summon Supe whenever he wanted to; but it also worked as an emblem of their love, like a wedding ring.  

Since the pal comic folded in 1974, several comics have hinted that Jimmy is gay, most recently in 2016. But what about the tv and movie Jimmya?

1. In the Superman movie series starring Christopher Reeve(1978-87), Jimmy was played by Marc McClure.  Supe was infatuated with Lois Lane, so they didn't develop any gay subtext.

2. Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-97) starred Dean Cain  and Terri Hatcher as the famous couple (yes, now a couple), with the standard antipathy turning into romance ("He's so...arrogant!").   Jimmy was played by Justin Whalin, a former child star (the child of lesbian parents in a 1993 School Break special). Given the hetero-romantic story arc, it would seem that Jimmy would be a third wheel, but he actually has an unrequited crush on the hunky Clark. And there are a few Jimmy-rescues.

3.  Smallville was about Superboy, the teenage Clark Kent (Tom Welling). Jimmy (Aaron Ashmore, left) was not introduced until Season Six, when college graduate Clark arrived in Metropolis.  Jimmy had at least two girlfriends during his three years on the program, and expressed no romantic interest in Clark or Superman.

4. Superman Returns (2006) cast Sam Huntington as a Jimmy Olsen who is little more than a work colleague to the Man of Steel (Brandon Routh.

5. In Supergirl (2015-2021).  Mehcad Brooks plays a grown-up James Olson, with no Superman around and an on-off romance with Lois Lane's sister, Lucy.

6. In Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Jimmy (Michael Cassidy) is a CIA agent who is killed without ever meting Superman (Henry Cavill)

7. Not a very good record.  Where there is a gay subtext at all, it is between Clark Kent and someone else. But maybe the upcoming Superman: Legacy (2025) will give us some gay-subtext interaction between Supe (David Corenswet) and the cub reporter (Skyler Gisondo).


  1. What about the Jimmy Olsens in the movies?

  2. It's funny you should mention Robin. The first Nightwing was Superman, with his partner Flamebird, a.k.a. Jimmy Olsen. It was a Barman parody in Superman's little Krypton in a bottle. So even canon has parallels to Barman and Robin.

    I was surprised to learn Jimmy was introduced in the radio show. I know characters like that in the Bat books. (Batgirl, Harley Quinn) Now I'm wondering if that robot batarang, stereo, actual robin, Silkie, the demon, the wolf, and Pain Bot will be canon.

  3. Oh, fun fact: DC wanted to cash in on AIDS. Oh, sorry, "educate kids about AIDS". Jimmy Olsen was to contract HIV, but it turned out Jack Larsen was gay, so, yeah, we're not doing that. Then it was to be Robin (Jason Todd), but they found all the votes for Jason Todd were in Jim Starlin's handwriting. (Starlin notoriously regarded the very concept of Robin as child abuse. He seems to have not been the only one; anyone writing Dick Grayson in the Bronze Age made him a hot mess.)

    It did pave the way for the Joker killing Robin, though. And Green Arrow adopting a child prostitute with HIV and making her the new Speedy, with Roy Harper, a former heroin addict, realizing that could be him. The recently resurrected Jason Todd draws comparisons between Mia and himself as well.

  4. Jimmy Olsen was kidnapped by a transvestite in "The Adventures of Superman" ?! I really did not like what they did to Jimmy in "Supergirl"tv show. The Jimmy Olsen comic books are really outrageous. I'm surprise the WB has not given a Riverdale like twist on Jimmy- yeah lets make his gay- or is DC to protective of one of it's most iconic characters

    1. DC's not as protective as you'd think.

      Wonder Woman: Bisexual.

      Superman: Funny story, he and Lex Luthor have a son together. (Okay, Lex stole his DNA, combined their DNA, and Superboy was born. Only with the Young Justice cartoon did DC address the implications.)

      Batman: The Joker's in love with him, but it's one-sided. Catwoman, Talia al-Ghul, Harley Quinn, and Pouson Ivy are all bi. Three of them aren't even villains anymore.

      Robin I: So, Nightwing led the way. But not with Bats. See, in the 80s, Teen Titans was DC's best-selling title, so in 1984, concluding the "Terra joins the Titans and then betrays them to her sugar daddy Deathstroke" arc, we're introduced to Deathstroke's wife and their other son, Joseph Wilson, or Jericho. The whole thing is resolved peacefully, and Slade agrees his son should join the Titans. Dick and Joey have a LOT of subtext. My favorite? Dick reflecting that if he were a girl, he couldn't resist Joey's charms l, and wasn't sure he'd want to. Another one is, he goes to Joey's window, and Joey strips to his briefs. "No words are spoken, for they have their own language." (Oh, just kiss already! Your girlfriend's married to another guy on her home planet, hand-picked by her Neville Chamberlain of a father.) There's even a period, just like Gar and Terra, where everyone thinks Joey's a traitor, but Dick, against all reason, refuses to believe so because feelings? (He isn't, but this says a lot.)

      Robin II: Heavily implied he was a child prostitute before Batman picked him up. In the New 52, he snatches up Dick's social circle, including said alien girlfriend and the other "subtext-heavy friendship" (albeit with less subtext now, Dick/Roy relief heavily on Loan moments) Roy Harper. They have a threesome. Can't say I approve: Starfire wasn't exactly in control of her mental faculties at the time; her memory had been erased.

      Robin III: Leaving aside that Tim Drake stalked his predecessors before becoming Robin, or that his earliest memory is the Grayson family on the trapeze just before the trapeze snapped, just him and Superboy. Judd Winick (I hate him for other reasons, but this is cute.) even drew them in a cramped room full of clothing just for lulz. (Yes, they're in the closet.)

      Robin IV/Batgirl III: Ah yes, Stephanie Brown. The main thing I remember is during War Games, when Steph dies (and is retconned twice, back to the living), Cassandra Cain almost dies at the same time, and she dreams of Steph.

      Batgirl II/Black Canary: Okay, moving back a bit. These two, Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance, have a lot of subtext. But it's Gail Simone, so that's expected. (Note: No threesomes. Nightwing has...issues with many of the Silver Age Justice League. Green Arrow, Flash Barry Allen, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Atom Ray Palmer, Hawk Man, Elongated Man, and Zatanna. Basically Doctor Light raped the Elongated Man's wife, these guys lynched Doctor Light and erased his memory and made him harmless, and when Batman caught them, Zatanna erased the last ten minutes of his memory.)

      Green Lantern Alan Scott: The OG Lantern is now gay. I wish he were bi. This erased Jade and Obsidian from existence.

      Aqualad II: Bisexual.

      The only case to the contrary I can think of is Devin Grayson being fired because she wrote about how Green Arrow thinks Nightwing's attractive, had a long uncomfortable conversation with Aquaman about how "no wonder" everyone thought they were doing naughty things with their boys.

      Dick Grayson was eight when he became Robin. Roy Harper was thirteen when he became Speedy. Yeah, that was kinda gross.

    2. Ack! Lian! Dumb autocorrect always changes her name to loan.

  5. Probably should update this to note that Jack Larson passed away on 20 September 2015. He had more than one Jimmy-only story in The Adventures of Superman; I can think of two, at least: the second-aired episode, 'The Haunted Lighthouse', and 'The Lady in Black' (written by my favorite television writer of the era, Jackson Gillis, who would later be the story editor for Perry Mason).
    You should also check out the way that Justin Whalin filled out his trousers in 'Dungeons and Dragons'


No offensive, insulting, racist, or homophobic comments are permitted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...