In 1952, The Adventures of Superman television series debuted and was a big hit. Due to the limited special effects budget that the series had (given that it was, you know, the 1950s), the show had to expand the human element of Superman’s adventures, and as a result, cub reporter Jimmy Olsen became a much bigger presence in the television show than he ever was in the Superman comic books (he had made less than 10 appearances combined in the previous decade in the comics). The popularity of the show quickly led to new ongoing series for both Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen (Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen).
RELATED: Superman’s Weirdest Transformations
When you’re tasked with coming up with three to four Jimmy Olsen adventures every issue, you’re naturally going to have to come up with some odd ideas in order to keep the title interesting. One of the most common ideas used in Jimmy’s series was for him to undergo bizarre transformations. Here, we will count down the most bizarre transformations that Jimmy ever went through (not counting times he switched bodies with other people — there’s a surprising amount of those stories and they’re not really “transformations”)!
15. HUMAN SKYSCRAPER
One of the most interesting conventions in comic books of the 1950s was that if you became a giant, you would also become an imbecile, presumably because the effect of increasing your size would make your brain… not work as well? We have no idea, but whatever the reason, that trope was at play in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #28’s “The Human Skyscraper” (by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Ray Burnley).
Jimmy went to a dentist for a toothache and somehow accidentally took an experimental pill that turned him into a giant. However, he also had a giant toothache! So Superman had to not only prevent giant Jimmy from causing problems, he also had to do some impromptu dental surgery on his young friend!
14. HUMAN PORCUPINE
In Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #65 (by Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan and George Klein), Jimmy runs afoul of Miss Gzptlsnz, the female version of Mister Mxyzptlk. She was in love with Jimmy, and he wasn’t such a moron that he let her know to her face that he was not into her (it’s a variation on the Ghostbusters’ “If someone asks you if you’re a god, say yes.” If an other-dimensional being asks if you think she’s pretty, say yes!”). However, she overheard Jimmy tell Superman that he would sooner marry an animal than marry her.
So, she then turns Jimmy into a human version of the first animal that he came across, which happened to be a porcupine. Eventually, he got her to say her name backwards and he went back to his normal self.
13. HUMAN OCTOPUS
It’s interesting to see how different Jimmy’s moods can often be. One day, a transformation makes him despondent, while other days he’s thrilled about whatever transformation he has that given day. You would think that being transformed into a human octopus would have been one of the ones that he was less happy about, but in actuality, when eating some space fruit gives him a bunch of extra arms in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #41 (by Robert Bernstein, Curt Swan and John Forte), he’s thrilled at first!
However, his good mood sours when he realizes that his girlfriend, Lucy Lane, is displeased about his new appearance. Things get even worse when he’s forced to work as the world’s most awesome pickpocket by a criminal gang! By the way, the ending of the story tries to claim that the arms were hallucinations the whole time, but that makes no sense.
12. HUMAN FLAMETHROWER
You often have to wonder what it is that they taught scientists in the DC Universe, as they all seem to work on some crazy, crazy experiments. In Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #33 (by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Ray Burnley), a scientist is trying to harness the “fire” from fireflies. That’s clearly insane… and yet he somehow manages to give Jimmy Olsen the ability to shoot flames from his mouth!
After Jimmy accidentally burns up some money that was meant for charity, he decides to use his new powers to replace the money by selling his services as a sort of freak show. Some crooks, though, force him to work for them. Jimmy uses his flames to signal for help from Superman and Superman saves the day thereafter curing Jimmy by… giving him water. Yes, that was all it took.
In Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #42 (by Robert Bernstein, Curt Swan and possibly John Giunta on inks), Jimmy Olsen is again besieged by a toothache. It hurts so badly that when he sees a magic lamp tell him it can cure it for him, he agrees to let the genie out of the lamp to cure the toothache. However, after a couple of wishes were made, Jimmy mentions that Perry White would “kill” to be at a certain place. As it turns out, the genie rules make it so that if you say the word “kill” around a genie, you become the genie and must then serve the person who was formerly the genie!
Something that you have to understand about Jimmy Olsen is that if there is a liquid around him, he will drink it. This was made clear in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #44 (by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Stan Kaye), as Jimmy ended up drinking a potion that turned him into a wolfman.
The potion had a notable “out,” which was that if Jimmy was willingly kissed by a woman, he could stop being a wolfman. Of course, the issue was that it was difficult to get anyone to kiss a wolfman. After some hilarious hijinx, Superman saved the day through the use of Supergirl. At the time, Supergirl was still hidden from the world by Superman for some weird reason, so he had her call herself Miss X and hide in the dark when she kissed Jimmy and lifted the curse.
9. OLD MAN
In Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #66’s “The Cabinet from Krypton” (by Leo Dorfman and Kurt Schaffenberger), Jimmy runs afoul of a mysterious cabinet discovered at the bottom of the ocean. He entered the cabinet and found himself transformed into an old man! Being his typical self, Jimmy decided to try to hide the fact that he was now an old man by dressing up as Santa Claus (luckily, it was around Christmas time). However, he couldn’t keep Perry White from entering the cabinet and becoming an infant.
The cabinet turned out to be a Kryptonian evolution chamber. Superman cleverly tricked Mister Mxyzptlk into fixing Jimmy, Perry and Lois (who later ended up changed into a cat-woman) by bragging that Kryptonian technology was much more powerful than his magic.
8. ELASTIC LAD
Jimmy’s most famous transformation was also one of his most benign. However, when he first received the ability to stretch in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #31 (by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Ray Burnley) after spilling an alien liquid on himself that he was afraid might be Kryptonite-related, Jimmy was despondent. He even went off to join a traveling carnival. Some crooks, though, tricked him into helping them steal an actual piece of kryptonite by making him think that they were scientists trying to cure him. As a fluke, the kryptonite actually did end up curing him!
A few issues later, Elastic Lad was back through a traditional “stretching serum” and Jimmy had a new official superhero costume. He would use the Elastic Lad identity frequently and even used his powers with the Legion of Super-Heroes a few times!
7. FAT MAN
Even compared to all of the ridiculously complicated supervillain plans that Superman typically came across, the villain plan in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #49 (by a mysterious writer and artists Curt Swan and John Forte) was ridiculously complicated. So, a crook impersonated a scientist and then “accidentally” gave Jimmy Olsen a serum that turned him into a morbidly obese person. Jimmy meets with a Maharajah who promised Jimmy his weight in jewels due to Jimmy saving his life.
Of course, the Maharajah was secretly one of the crooks as well, and they were using this scheme to smuggle stolen jewelry into the United States. Yes, they invented a “fat serum,” gave Jimmy the serum, somehow intercepted the Maharajah and took his place on his trip to the States, gave Jimmy extra jewels and then planned to steal them back from Jimmy… all to smuggle jewels into the country. Yikes.
6. BIZARRO JIMMY
This one might seem a bit odd to be so high, as it is presumed that the Bizarro World would naturally have a Bizarro version of Jimmy Olsen, right? However, this is different than that. You see, in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #80 (by Jerry Siegel, John Forte and George Klein), Professor Potter came up with a ray that could turn Bizarros into normal people. Jimmy, though, was doing a prank where he pretended to be Bizarro-Jimmy and was hit with the ray and, wouldn’t you just know it, the ray turned him into a Bizarro!
He ended up on Bizarro World, where Bizarro Lex Luthor ended up activating Jimmy’s mind within his Bizarro form. He found a way to get a Bizarro Professor Potter and get himself back to his normal, human look.
One of the very first transformations that Jimmy underwent in his series occurred in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #22 (by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Ray Burnley) when Jimmy was exposed to a machine that accelerated human evolution. Jimmy was now what human beings would be like in the year 1,000,000 A.D., when apparently we turn into beings with super-powered brains so big that our craniums will expand! Good to know!
The new super-intelligent Jimmy quickly discovered Superman’s secret identity and blackmailed him into doing something that seemed as though it might be super-dangerous for the Earth. In reality, though, Jimmy had discovered something that could destroy the Earth and only his super-brain (using Superman as a sort of human scalpel on the Earth) could fix everything. His brain returned to normal and he forgot Superman’s secret identity.
It’s always interesting to see what kind of crazy reasoning these stories will use to get Jimmy out of whatever jam he found himself in that particular week. The solution in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #32 (by Alvin Schwartz, Curt Swan and Ray Burnley) was a real doozy. Jimmy found himself transformed by some aliens from Jupiter into a Jovian (i.e., someone from Jupiter) for a full week!
Jovians had telepathic abilities, so Jimmy gained those powers, as well. This being the 1950s, he was quickly forced by some crooks to try to learn Superman’s secret identity. Luckily for Jimmy, the Jovian week was only five Earth days long, so the effects wore out just before he was forced to use his powers to find out who Superman really was!
Jimmy Olsen is such a cool guy that he was made an honorary member of the Legion of Super-Heroes (amusingly enough, they first tormented Jimmy with his various past transformations before revealing that he was an honorary member). In Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #85 (by Jerry Siegel, John Forte and George Klein), Chameleon Boy gave Jimmy a serum that would allow Jimmy to have Chameleon Boy’s powers for a week!
However, before he could take a full dose of the serum, Jimmy was attacked by some bad guys who were responding to a bounty that had been placed on Jimmy’s head! Jimmy did take some of the serum, so he found himself with the ability to transform into any animal… from the neck up! Luckily, Jerry Siegel was one cool writer, so he found many clever ways for Jimmy to use this weird power to stay alive.
2. ALIEN FREAK
Oddly enough, for a guy who’s not particularly bad looking, has a cool job and, of course, is best pals with Superman, Jimmy never did particularly well with the ladies. Part of this was the fact that he was hung up on Lucy Lane, who was annoyingly fickle, but still, you would think that Jimmy would fare better with the fairer sex, especially since we had stories like Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #59 (by Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan and George Klein), where an alien princess comes to Earth to get Jimmy to marry her!
Her other husbands, though, pull a number of pranks on Jimmy, turning him into a hideous freak! Superman helps Jimmy break off the engagement so that he can go back to being normal… whatever that means for Jimmy Olsen.
1. TURTLE MAN
One of the most famous Jimmy Olsen transformation is also his weirdest! In Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #53 (by Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan and John Forte), Jimmy accidentally exposes himself to a giant ray. You might think, “Big deal! We’ve seen Jimmy get turned into a giant before! Boring!” However, the giant ray in question first went through a turtle! Naturally, this turned Jimmy into a Giant Turtle Man!! How could anything but that happen?!
Sadly, since he was now part-turtle, Jimmy fell under the sway of a supervillain who could control aquatic life. Superman manages to save Jimmy by first using a leftover shrink ray from Brainiac (the one that was used to shrink the Bottled City of Kandor) and then, once he was a Regular Sized Turtle Man, he cured that part, as well.
What’s your favorite Jimmy Olsen transformation? Let us know in the comments section!