Jimmy Olsen didn’t make his first debut in comics. He first appeared in the popular ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN radio show in 1940, and proved to be so popular he was folded into comics in 1941's SUPERMAN #13. He made a few more appearances during the 1940s, but then quickly vanished from the comics. Although an anonymous office boy who looked like Jimmy first appeared in an early issue of ACTION COMICS in 1938, he was actually unnamed, and only later retconned to be Jimmy.
After sitting out most of the Golden Age Superman stories, it wasn’t until the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television series in the early ‘50s that Jimmy rose to prominence again, and became a staple of Superman lore. By 1954, he was even starring in his own comic book series, SUPERMAN's PAL, JIMMY OLSEN. It was during these Silver Age adventures that Jimmy was given a special gift from his pal Superman, a signal watch that put out a frequency only the Man of Steel could hear. Whenever Jimmy was in trouble – which was fairly often – he could signal his super best buddy to help him out.
It was also during the Silver Age, Jimmy’s life became strange, as his adventures often found him getting transformed into all manner of strange beings, among them an alien, a werewolf, a gorilla, a giant turtle boy, and whole lot more. And long before Elongated Man joined the Justice League, Olsen gained stretchy powers of his own for a time, and became known as Elastic Lad.
During this era, Jimmy even got to be the “Robin” to Superman’s “Batman,” as the two became powerless costumed vigilantes in the Kryptonian bottled city of Kandor, known as Nightwing and Flamebird, with Jimmy being Flamebird due to his red hair. During his Silver Age adventures, Jimmy dated Lois Lane’s sister Lucy for an extended period of time.
By the early ‘70s, Jimmy Olsen’s title was chosen as the place DC chose to introduce the concepts of the New Gods, Darkseid, and the entire pantheon of the Fourth World. Jimmy also began to get caught up in wild adventures that involved his fighting off supernatural creatures like vampires and the Loch Ness Monster.
Eventually, by the end of the Bronze Age, things got a little bit more serious in Jimmy’s world, and Jimmy became a more seasoned investigative journalist, delving into the criminal underworld of Metropolis, and was even given the nick name “Mr. Action.”
After the universe-altering events of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, Jimmy Olsen was reintroduced much as he was when he first appeared, as a young photographer and eager cub reporter, looked up to older colleagues Lois Lane and Clark Kent, whom he followed around like a puppy dog. Just as before, Jimmy formed a close bond with both Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman, although in this new timeline, Jimmy’s signal watch was of his own invention, and not a gift from Superman.
Jimmy’s backstory was much more elaborated upon in this new reality as well. We learned that Jimmy’s mother, Sarah Olsen, raised Jimmy alone after his father, Jake Olsen, a covert military operative, went missing and was presumed dead. Although a bright student, Jimmy found himself bored by school, and wanted a life of action. By the time he was a junior in high school, Jimmy was an intern at the Daily Planet, and was taking on dangerous assignments, earning the respect of much more seasoned pros.
Never feeling quite as appreciated by Planet editor Perry White as Lane and Kent, Jimmy left for a time and became an investigative reporter at Galaxy Broadcasting. Eventually, he became disillusioned by the corrupt atmosphere at the company, and returned to the Daily Planet. When Superman died at the hands of the monster Doomsday, it was Jimmy’s photo of Superman’s tattered and torn cape flapping in the breeze that became the picture that represented the tragic event in the eyes of the world, and shot Jimmy to international fame.
After 2005-2006's INFINITE CRISIS, Jimmy’s life began to take a weird turn once again. During the events leading up to the FINAL CRISIS, Jimmy begins to develop super powers, much as he had during the Silver Age. He even takes the name “Mr. Action” briefly, an homage to his Bronze Age adventures. The reason for his new powers is that he’d become a “soulcatcher” for many of the fallen New Gods who were dying in the events leading to the final Crisis, and he as they died, he absorbed their abilities. Eventually, he completely returned to normal.
In the post-FLASHPOINT reality, Jimmy Olsen was still a young reporter at the Daily Planet, although his backstory was quite changed. Now, Jimmy was the son of two wealthy jet-setters, who were always travelling the globe and neglecting their son. Due to his rich family, he lived rent free in a swanky high rise apartment in the heart of Metropolis.
Although he could have been another vapid, trust fund brat, he had higher ambitions. Wanting to be a journalist, he was a cub reporter for the Daily Planet as a teenager, and along with Lois Lane, was on the scene when Superman was revealed to the world. As in all previous iterations of the character, Jimmy quickly became close friends with both Superman and Clark Kent.
When his parents vanished and were presumed dead in the invasion from the intergalactic villain Brainiac, Jimmy inherited a great deal of money, but was not still entirely convinced his folks had really passed. He decided not to spend a penny of his newly acquired wealth, believing that his parents might turn up again one day very much alive, and demanding every dime of those millions. He chose to donate those billions to charity instead. In the post Flashpoint reality, it was Jimmy that Clark Kent decided to reveal his secret identity to, bringing the two friends closer