James Bartholomew "Jimmy" Olsen is a fictional character, a photojournalist who appears mainly in DC Comics’ Superman stories. An unnamed "office boy" with a bow tie makes a brief appearance in Action Comics #6, which is claimed to be Jimmy Olsen's first appearance in Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel. The character was first introduced as Jimmy Olsen in the radio show The Adventures of Superman (on April 15, 1940). Jimmy's name was used in the comic for the first time in Superman v1 #13 (1941). Along with his appearances in current Superman titles (Superman and Action Comics), he was one of the main protagonists in DC Comics' weekly series Countdown.
Jimmy is traditionally depicted as a bow tie-wearing, red-haired young man who works as a cub reporter and photographer for The Daily Planet, alongside Lois Lane and Clark Kent, whom he idolizes as career role models. In most depictions of the character, he also has a strong friendship with Superman. As Superman's friend, Jimmy has special access to the Man of Steel, thanks to Superman's gift to Jimmy of a "signal watch," a wristwatch which, with the press of a button, emits a special ultrasonic frequency signal that Superman can hear anywhere on Earth. (In Post-Crisis continuity Jimmy invented the watch himself, and Superman briefly considered confiscating it. In Multiverse (DC Comics)|New Earth continuity, the watch was designed by Superman based on a larger signalling device Jimmy created.)
In many Silver Age comic books, Jimmy was often seen sharing adventures with Superman, who saved him from various predicaments ranging from dangerous to merely embarrassing. This was particularly pronounced in the series Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (published from 1954 to 1974), which saw Olsen in a variety of slapstick adventures and strange transformations. Like most DC characters, modern portrayals of Olsen have been more serious in tone.
An important part of the Superman mythos, Jimmy Olsen has appeared in most other media adaptations of the character.
Golden and Silver Age
During the Silver Age, Jimmy starred in his own comic book, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, which featured his various adventures with and without Superman; it debuted in 1954. The stories in the title would often feature particularly outlandish situations, ranging from Jimmy being hurled back in time to Krypton before its destruction in issue #36 to dealing frequently with gorillas of all sorts. Because of these factors, the comic was regarded by some as a poorly written subsidiary title, although some readers still enjoy it for its camp value.
This version of Jimmy Olsen even had his own fan club. . In one adventure published in the 1960s, he implied that there were branches of it around the country and that he intended to lecture them about anti-crime techniques he had learned from Superman and Batman.
Jack Kirby's Fourth World
Kirby began by introducing a secret "D.N.A. Project" to create Mutated Humans for Good, also adding "The Hairies" (a group of technology-equipped hippies) and superbeings from other planets (proto-New Gods) and Intergang and Morgan Edge... and reintroduced his 1940s Newsboy Legion characters.
About halfway through his run, Kirby also added vampires, the Loch Ness monster, and Victor Volcanum, the fire-eating archcriminal. Readership quickly dropped back to its pre-Jack-Kirby levels.
Jack's tenure on the series ended in 1974 with issue #163, when Jimmy's book was folded into the anthology title Superman Family. In that book, Olsen became a more serious character who battled criminals as an investigative reporter known as "Mr. Action" in urban crime stories that rarely involved Superman.
The Man of Steel
Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, the entire Superman mythos was rebooted from scratch in the limited series The Man of Steel. Despite recent modernization efforts on Superman and his supporting characters, Jimmy Olsen has not been significantly changed in the Modern Age. He is still a cub reporter working for The Daily Planet, and is still friends with Superman. His look was made over as he stopped wearing bowties, and started wearing casual clothing (though this trend started in 1970s comics). An interesting alteration to the relationship was that Jimmy designed the signal watch himself, leading to his first meeting with Superman. Superman briefly considered confiscating the watch, but decided he trusted Jimmy to use it responsibly.
While weird transformations no longer occur as regularly as they did in the Silver Age, Jimmy did become Elastic Lad on contact with the Eradicator. He has also taken the identity of "Turtle Boy" in a series of pizza commercials, made when he was temporarily laid off from the Planet.
In the 1990s, Jimmy moved to Metropolis broadcaster Galaxy Broadcasting, where he became more brash and arrogant. This came to an end when he thought (wrongly) he had discovered Superman's secret identity and said he would announce it live on air. He reconsidered his actions, but lost his job for wasting the timeslot. He was again rehired by the Planet.
June 2003 saw Jimmy Olsen as the focus of a twelve-part miniseries entitled Superman: Metropolis. Written by Chuck Austen and illustrated by Danijel Zezelj, the series focused on the futuristic technology unleashed in Metropolis by Brainiac in a previous storyline, and how it affected the everyday lives of Metropolis citizens.
Recently, Jimmy had taken a position as a regular star reporter for The Daily Planet, replacing the recently demoted Clark Kent. This caused a strain in the relationship between Clark and Jimmy. It appears, however, that following the One Year Later storyline jump, Clark has regained his original role as The Daily Planet's star reporter, and Jimmy has returned to being a photographer, winning the Pulitzer Prize for his photographic efforts.
Jimmy's story in the 2007-08 weekly series Countdown to Final Crisis begins with an investigation into the death of Duela Dent. Tying into the Death of the New Gods storyline, Jimmy starts to develop a plethora of new superpowers, which he first discovers when he is attacked by Killer Croc while gathering information on Duela's death. As the story progresses he tries to uncover the origin of these powers and starts to discover their potential limitlessness in stories which mimic the Silver Age Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen adventures. Briefly operating as the superhero "Mr. Action", Jimmy is unable to command the respect of established superheroes in the JLA and Teen Titans, and gives up on this particular avenue. One of these powers means Jimmy has a sudden realisation as to the identity of the worlds' superheroes, such as the Robins and Superman, who closening his relationship to Jimmy gives him Krypto to take care of. Jimmy is eventually tracked down by the New God Forager, with whom he begins a romantic relationship. Forager informs him that he has become a soulcatcher for the spirits of dying New Gods. The Monitor known as Solomon later tells him that his new powers are the consequence of Darkseid using Jimmy as a host for powers he wishes to use to recreate the universe in his image, knowing that "Superman's pal" is one of the world's most well-protected citizens. Later, as the events of Countdown begin to come to their close, Jimmy becomes a more confidently powerful character and is reunited with the series' other cast members on a mission to stop Karate Kid's disease from becoming a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions. Unfortunately, they fail, and the Morticoccus virus devastates an alternate earth. Upon return to their earth, Jimmy is captured by Mary Marvel, who had been manipulated towards evil by Darkseid. When Superman comes to save Jimmy, Darkseid takes control of the powers within him, causing Jimmy to radiate Kryptonite radiation, until Ray Palmer manages to rewire Darkseid's control from inside of Jimmy. Jimmy then transforms into a giant turtlelike creature, and prepares to take on Darkseid himself. Darkseid overcomes Jimmy, and prepares to kill him. Ray Palmer then comes out of Jimmy with the New God soul battery, and destroys it, returning Jimmy to normal.
Powers, abilities, and equipment
Jimmy possesses a watch which emits a high-pitched signal only Superman can hear.
Especially in the days of the Silver Age, Jimmy would often find himself temporarily transformed, for better or worse, or undergo a disguise for various purposes. The transformation tradition is still sometimes referenced in present-day comics, usually through homage or parody. The variety of transformations Jimmy received during the Silver Age is often homaged or parodied in later comics and adaptations featuring the character — for instance, in JLA: The Nail, Jimmy cites three of these transformations as his motivations behind backing Luthor's bill to outlaw metahumans and in Countdown, Jimmy is used as a spirit container for the deceased New Gods, causing him to exhibit strange powers, albeit uncrontrollably, with other stories simply make passing references.
- Giant Turtle Boy: One of Jimmy's most frequently cited transformations was that of his turning into a giant turtle boy.
- Elastic Lad - As Elastic Lad, Jimmy (by serum or by alien virus) could sometimes stretch himself, akin to Elongated Man or Plastic Man.
- Flamebird- This is the name he took as a costumed superhero, with Superman disguised as Nightwing, in the shrunken Kryptonian city of Kandor. These names were inspired by two native Kryptonian birds, the nightwing and the flamebird, but the relationship between Nightwing and Flamebird intentionally paralleled the crime-fighting team Batman (a night-winged creature) and Robin (a flame-colored bird).
- Speed Demon - In 1956, a month before the debut of Barry Allen as the new Flash, Jimmy drank a potion produced by a Professor Claude and briefly gained super-speed.
- Radioactive - After being exposed to a radioactive substance, Jimmy began to irradiate everything in his presence.
- Gorilla - When Jimmy switched minds with a gorilla in, he went about his reporting duties as a gorilla in Jimmy's clothes.
- Monstrous beard growth - The machinations of the sinister Beard Band cause Jimmy to grow an immense beard.
- Alien-form - Aliens transformed Jimmy into a telepathic Jovian for a week. Fortunately, this turned out to be a Jovian week ... which is much shorter than an Earth week (about 70 hours = slightly less than three days.)
- Wolf-Man - In the vein of the popular Michael Landon 1950s film I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Jimmy found himself transformed into a werewolf.
- Hippie - Jimmy grew a beard and joined a Superman-hating band of hippies. On the cover of this story's issue, Jimmy's seen wielding a sign that says "Superman is a freak-out!"
- Viking - Jimmy put on Viking armor and mistakenly thought he'd been transported 1000 years backward in time.
- Woman - Jimmy would occasionally go undercover dressed as a woman. Grant Morrison paid a brief homage to this in All Star Superman.
- Doomsday - Also in All Star Superman, Jimmy takes a serum and becomes a version of Superman's foe Doomsday.
- A genie
- A six-armed man
- A fire-breather
- A water-breather
- A human porcupine
- A gorilla's husband
- In JLA: The Nail, an alternate reality in which a nail punctured a tire on the Kent's car, preventing them from finding the spaceship containing a baby Superman, Jimmy Olsen is revealed as the one behind all the other superheroes' troubles. Jimmy had served as an aide to Lex Luthor following various short-lived attempts at heroism caused by temporary alteration of his DNA.
Having discovered Superman's spaceship and using DNA samples to create numerous Bizarro clones, Luthor grafted Kryptonian DNA onto Jimmy—the only such 'graft' that appeared successful, as other subjects either died instantly or mutated before death. This caused Jimmy to go insane, and possess superpowers similar to Superman's, as well as mentally transforming him into a Kryptonian determined to replace human life with Kryptonian life. Jimmy played up the public's fear of superheroes via propaganda, hoping to have them imprisoned so he could use their DNA as well in an attempt to create a stable template. When Jimmy attacked an Amish couple and their son during a battle with the Justice League, culminating in a desperate attempt by Batman and Green Lantern to stop him by supercharging Batman with his ring, the couple was killed, but the son was revealed to be Superman. In this alternate reality, the Amish couple had raised Superman, and brought him up as a pacifist, so he had never used his powers in conflict. Jimmy asked Superman to join him, claiming that they were virtually brothers as they shared the same DNA, but when Superman refused, the two battled. During the battle, Jimmy's body started to reject the Kryptonian DNA, causing him to disintegrate. His last, almost prophetic words were directed at Superman, "We should have been friends".The Justice League then asked Superman to join them.
- In Frank Miller's 2001 graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Jimmy Olsen is featured as the writer of a Daily Planet article titled "Truth to Power", where he attempts to reveal that the current President is a holographic projection. However, his attempts to publicize the truth are halted by Lex Luthor.
- In Superman: Red Son, written by Mark Millar, Jimmy is depicted as an agent of the CIA, eventually becoming the director, and soon joins Dr. Lex Luthor in his Presidential bid and becomes Vice-President. His look and model in the series is based off James Jesus Angleton, who served in the CIA and Edward Wilson.
- In Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman series, Jimmy shows up briefly in the Daily Planet offices in argyle socks; this Jimmy seems to be a refined version of the Silver Age vintage, with a signal watch halfway between a McDonald's happy meal toy and haute couture. He's also shown with something that may be a jetpack. Issue #4 of the series focuses on Jimmy and his adventures as the one-day director of the DNA P.R.O.J.E.C.T., a leftover from the Kirby-era Jimmy Olsen series. This is apparently the latest in a series of highly successful articles by Jimmy, in which he spends a day in various roles.
- In Alan Moore and Gene Ha's Top 10, a photograph of a version of two of Jimmy's superpowered selves, merged, is shown to Andy Soames; having contracted a disease which warps powers, this version appears to be Turtle Boy, driven insane by the acquisition of Elastic Lad's powers.
- Jimmy Olsen makes an appearance in Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder #6, helping Vicki Vale, who he appears to be attracted to, escape from hospital and giving her files on Batman and the Flying Graysons. This incarnation is described as a cub reporter for the Gotham Gazette as opposed to his regular position at the Daily Planet and as 'Superman's Pal'. However he is still young, so he may work for the Planet.
- In Lord Havok and the Extremists #3, a version of Jimmy called Robin Olsen, is shown as a member of Monarch's army.
In other media
- Live action
- On the Superman radio series, Jackie Kelk provided the voice of Jimmy Olsen, with Jack Grimes taking over for the last seasons.
- Jimmy Olsen appeared in the animated Superman short film called Showdown..
- Jimmy Olsen has appeared in every major filmed adaptation of Superman. The first actor to portray Jimmy Olsen in live-action was Tommy Bond in the serials starring Kirk Alyn.
- In the four motion pictures starring Christopher Reeve beginning with Superman, Jimmy Olsen was portrayed by Marc McClure. McClure also played Jimmy Olsen in the 1984 spin-off movie Supergirl, making McClure the only actor and Olsen the only character to appear in all five Superman films of the 1978-87 era.
- In Superman Returns, Jimmy Olsen is portrayed by Sam Huntington, an older and more confident, yet goofier portrayal of the character who finds it difficult to get a good shot or get any photos published. In a deleted scene (included in the DVD release) a slightly inebriated Olsen is seen to complain to Clark about the fact he hasn't had a photo printed in several months. Jack Larson who played the original Jimmy, plays the bartender who talks to Clark and Jimmy in the film.
- Jimmy appeared in Superman: Doomsday, voiced by Adam Wylie.
- Jimmy appeared in Justice League: The New Frontier. He has no dialogue, therefore no voice actor. He is always shown with Lois, and is almost killed during the final battle. He also tries to take dangerous pictures during the battle.
Jimmy Olsen also appeared in several Superman games.
- Superman [NES, 2600, C64]: Jimmy appears in the daily building room and enjoys taking pictures of Clark Kent. Also, in that game, Jimmy's appearance is similar to his pre-crisis comic appearance.
- Superman 64 [N64]: He is trapped, along with Lois Lane and Professor Emil Hamilton, by Lex Luthor. Superman has to save him and his friends in this game.
- Superman: Shadow of Apokolips [Gamecube, PS2]: Jimmy makes some minor appearances and only seen in the story between game-play. He is also seen in the bibliography section of the game.
- On the Adventures of Superman television series starring George Reeves, Jimmy Olsen was portrayed by Jack Larson. Larson also portrayed an unnaturally aged Jimmy Olsen in an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
- Jack Grimes provided the voice of Jimmy Olsen once again on The New Adventures of Superman, a role that he reprises from the radio series.
- In the Super Friends animated series, he appears in in the second episode of The World's Greatest Super Friends season, 'Lex Luthor Strikes Back', with Lois Lane.
- Mark L. Taylor did the voice of Jimmy Olsen in the 1988 animated adaptation of Superman.
- On the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Jimmy Olsen was portrayed by Michael Landes in the first season and Justin Whalin for the rest of the series' run. The reason cited behind the change is that Landes looked too much like Dean Cain as well as to emphasize Jimmy's youth.
- In Superman: The Animated Series, Jimmy was voiced by David Kaufman. One episode was called "Superman's Pal" as an homage to the classic comic series, and Superman gave Jimmy the signal watch by the end of the episode. Jimmy had several cameo appearances in Justice League Unlimited, including one episode where Huntress used sleeping gas on him, tied him up, taped his mouth shut, and used the signal watch to attract Superman. What Jimmy said was unclear because of his mouth being taped shut.
- In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Chaos at the Earth's Core", several heroes battle a giant turtle that has a thatch of red hair. Bruce Timm has confirmed this is a reference to Jimmy's Giant Turtle Boy persona, "but it was more economical time-wise to have him revert to cute little turtle than naked, confused photographer."
- Jimmy appeared in the Season 5 premiere of The Batman voiced by Jack DeSena.
In season 7, Jimmy is still at the Daily Planet working as a budding photographer, his relationship with Chloe is going through a rough phase due to Chloe's newfound abilities caused by an amount of Kryptonite meteor in her blood stream. They broke up in a very emotional scene in the episode "Cure" since Chloe was unable to share her secret with him. Meanwhile Clark's newly arrived Kryptonian cousin Kara Zor-El (Laura Vandervoort) has developed a crush on Jimmy and they become friends. Jimmy is also smitten by her and teams up with her in episodes like "Cure" and "Lara". They are in a relationship briefly, but they break up and Jimmy is shown to be in a relationship again with Chloe in the episode "Sleeper". In the season finale, he proposed to her but she was arrested before she had the time to answer.
Season 8 of Smallville has Chloe accept his offer of marriage.
When Chloe returned from Montana a month later, she accepted Jimmy's proposal. On their wedding day, Jimmy was injured by a mysterious creature and was taken to a hospital in Star City. Upon returning to his hometown, he began to suspect that Davis Bloome was a murderer, but became desperate and upset when no one, not even Chloe, believed him. He separated from his wife and was dealing with the physical and psychological ramifications of his attack. He quit his job at the Daily Planet, and he and Chloe divorced. 
After a short stint as a bartender, Jimmy asked to borrow money from Oliver Queen. Oliver correctly deduced that Jimmy had begun abusing his pain medication. After catching him stealing money from Chloe's apartment, Oliver offered Jimmy a job and a chance to get back on his feet. Jimmy accepted and worked for him at Queen Industries until his death. Clark told Jimmy his secret after he removed a kryptonite arrow from his back, and Jimmy saw a cut on his face heal. He finally understood why Chloe was so secretive and protective of him and as he and Chloe reconciled their relationship. Davis Bloome who was now only human, mortally wounded Jimmy with a pipe out of anger at Chloe for being with him just to protect Clark. With the last of his strength, he saved Chloe by impaling Davis. With his last breath, he told Chloe he loved her and died. At Jimmy's funeral, his parents, younger brother, Oliver, Dinah, Bart, and Chloe were seen there with Clark watching from a distance. Chloe gave Jimmy's trademark camera to his younger brother, saying he would've wanted him to have it.
In the Series finale, Finale, Part 2, James Bartholomew "Jimmy" Olsen appears played by Aaron Ashmore.
James Olsen appears in the series Supergirl portrayed by Mehcad Brooks as a photographer for CatCo and is also a love interest for Kara.
- The Spin Doctors had a minor hit with their song "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" on their album Pocket Full of Kryptonite, in which they portrayed Jimmy Olsen as infatuated with Lois Lane and jealous of Superman, a problem which he hoped to solve with the aforementioned "pocket full of Kryptonite." In the period after the song became popular, artist Jon Bogdanove, who at the time was the regular penciler on the Superman: The Man of Steel comic, would occasionally depict Jimmy wearing a Spin Doctors T-shirt.
- On the show Boy Meets World, Topanga refers to a photographer as a "Jimmy Olsen freak."
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Zeppo", characters twice refer to non-superpowered sidekick Xander Harris as Jimmy Olsen.
- Professional wrestler Corey Branson took the moniker Jimmy Olsen in a few New York promotions such as NWA Upstate.
- In Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, Mighty Mouse's greatest fan was a young mouse named Scrappy with a shock of red hair.
- The Teamo Supremo episode "You'd Better Start Calling Me Chief!" revolved around an accident-prone newspaper reporter and photographer named Ollie Jimson who followed the titular trio around, screwing up their attempts to catch the bad guys.
- In The Sopranos episode "Cold Stones", Silvio Dante reacts to a piece of already heard news by responding that Carlo Gervasi is a "regular Jimmy Olsen."
- In the horror film House of 1,000 Corpses, Grandpa Hugo asks one of the main characters if he is "Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter for 'The Daily Arsehole'".
- In the drug comedy film Tyrone, the character Tyrone played by Coolio calls one of the main characters a "Jimmy Olsen lookin' mother f'er".
- In "The Boyfriend", an episode of Seinfeld, Keith Hernandez tells Jerry that he loved his Jimmy Olsen bit.
- Comic Book Guy mentioned Jimmy Olsen in the Simpsons episode "Husbands and Knives".
- On an appearance on HBO's Costas Now, author and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Buzz Bissinger said to sports blog "Deadspin" founder Will Leitch, "You're like Jimmy Olsen on percocet."
- Counting Down to Countdown - Part II: Eclipso and Jimmy Olsen
- Supermanica: Jimmy Olsen Supermanica entry on the pre-Crisis Jimmy Olsen
- Jimmy Olsen's Signal-Watch
- Comic Book Resources' Oddball Comics column Detailing Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen #80, which references many of Jimmy's different forms
- Wizard Entertainment - Countdown Catch-all