Jimmy Olsen


Jimmy Olsen

Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen is Superman's best pal, and his courage and bravery in the face of danger makes him a hero in his own right.


Aliases: James Bartholomew Olsen, Elastic Lad, Flamebird, Turtle Boy
First Appearance: ACTION COMICS #6, 1938 (unnamed), SUPERMAN #13, 1941 (named)




Everyone needs a best friend, even a Superman. Perhaps the greatest bromance in the DC universe is the one between photographer and former cub reporter Jimmy Olsen and the Man of Steel, and it goes way back to the earliest days of the Golden Age of comics. As much as Lois Lane is the love of Clark Kent’s life, and Daily Planet editor Perry White is a surrogate father figure, Jimmy Olsen is the kid brother Superman never had.


Despite his outwardly youthful appearance, often shown wearing a bow tie and sporting freckles, James Olsen is a career journalist and photographer at the Daily Planet, and his been since his late teens, when he was an intern for Perry White. In most versions of his history, Olsen was present when Superman made his public debut, and has been friends with both the Man of Steel and his alter ego Clark Kent ever since.


Despite just being an ordinary guy, Jimmy Olsen is braver than most, and if always willing to put himself in real danger in order to get that elusive photo, or get the scoop that’ll land him the story of the century. Almost always forthright and true, James Olsen always has his BFF Superman’s back, even if it’s Superman who winds up needing to watch Jimmy’s back most of the time.



Golden Age

_jimmyolsen-origin-AC_6_03-v1.jpg 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.



Silver Age

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.



Bronze Age

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.”



Modern Age

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.



Post-Infinite Crisis

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.



New 52

_jimmyolsen-essential3-new52-SM_Cv39_ds-1-v1.jpg 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







Powers and Abilities

_jimmyolsen-powers-AC_958_P1-v1.jpg James Olsen was born a normal human being, and for the most part, has normal human abilities. The closest thing that Jimmy has to any kind of super ability is his signal watch, which allows for him to call Superman whenever in any kind of danger. That, and being a darn good photographer.


During the Silver Age, however, Jimmy was granted a variety of super powers, all very different from one another, and all on a short term basis. Among these various powers were the ability to become a werewolf, telepathy, super-speed, radioactivity, water breathing, fire breathing, the magical powers of a genie, multiple instances of becoming a gorilla, and even a human porcupine. 


Most famously, Jimmy had the power to become a giant “Turtle-Boy,” and elastic powers similar to the Elongated Man, by which he went by the name Elastic Lad. With the exception of his Elastic Lad powers, which lasted a little longer than most of his other abilities, the rest of these abilities were temporary. 









Essential Storylines and History

The Fourth World Rises (SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #133-148, 1970-1972)

_jimmyolsen-essential1-thefourthworldrises-JO-133-cvr-v1.jpg After making just a handful of comic book appearances during the Golden Age, Jimmy Olsen rocketed to fame as Superman’s best buddy on the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television series. Because of this new high profile, Jimmy got a comic book series of his own, when SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #1 debuted in 1954. This series ran for nearly twenty years and over 160 issues. 


Although most of the stories for the series’ first decade and half were one-off wacky adventures, usually involving Jimmy temporarily gaining super powers, towards the end of its run, Jimmy’s adventures were used to introduce the world of Darkseid and the New Gods to the DC Universe. Also during this time, the mysterious Project Cadmus was introduced, as was the clone hero known as the Guardian. 



Post Crisis 1986 – 2010 

Getting A Modern Update (Man of Steel # 2, 1986)

In the wake of 1984-1985's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, many heroes and villains of the DC Universe were significantly changed, but Jimmy stayed more or less the same. He started wearing something other than his traditional bow ties and sweater vests, and after 1986's MAN OF STEEL limited series revamped the Superman mythos, he started to wear more contemporary clothing. Nevertheless, he was still the ginger haired, eager cub reporter and photographer, one that irritated his boss Perry White by insisting on calling him “Chief.” 


His most significant storyline during the post-CRISIS era occurred when he quit the Daily Planet, feeling underappreciated by Perry White, and being treated like a kid by the rest of the staff. He soon got a job at Metropolis television broadcaster Galaxy broadcasting, where he started to become very arrogant and more than a little full of himself. 


It was during this time that Jimmy thought he had figured out Superman’s secret identity, although he had guessed wrongly. He planned to announce this secret live and on the air, but when he got cold feet, he was fired. Humbled by the experience, Jimmy got his old job back at the Daily Planet. 


Not long after his return, when Superman died fighting Doomsday, Jimmy’s photo of Superman’s torn cape in the battle’s aftermath was on the cover of Newstime Magazine, and made the name James Olsen a household word.




Exploring A Changed Hometown (SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS #1-12, 2003-2004)

In the wake of the transformation of Metropolis in a futuristic, high tech city by the time travelling despot Brainiac 13, Jimmy Olsen becomes the star reporter for the Daily Planet, having taken the place of a recently demoted Clark Kent. This switch in the fortunes of the two reporters causes a strain on their friendship for a brief time, but the two eventually work things out. Jimmy explored the various ways that the so-called B-13 technology had changed his hometown, both for better and for worse, and his standing as one of the city’s premiere journalists grew.



"The Men of Tomorrow” (Superman #38, 2015)

In the post-FLASHPOINT DC Universe, Jimmy Olsen was the first person to photograph Superman when he first appeared on the scene. He quickly became close friends with both Superman and his secret identity of Clark Kent. This version of Jimmy was a true pop culture nerd, and he and Clark bonded over their mutual love of sci-fi movies. Jimmy and Clark were even roommates for a time, and eventually, Clark even revealed his true identity of Superman to Jimmy. Although Superman had revealed his identity to Lois Lane in previous continuities, this was the first time that Jimmy was ever let in on the secret. 





_jimmyolsen-essential4-rebirth-AC_Cv965_ds-1-v1.jpg Following the events of 2016's DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1, it seems Jimmy once again no longer knows Superman’s secret identity, and his history seems to reflect that of his pre-FLASHPOINT self. 


Team Affiliations

  • • Daily Planet Staff
  • • The Legion of Super-Heroes
  • • Project Cadmus

Appearances in Other Media


Main Character Appearances


Live Action:

  • • Adventures of Superman
  • • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
  • • Smallville
  • • Supergirl



  • • The New Adventures of Superman
  • • Superman (1988)
  • • Superman: The Animated Series


Guest Appearances/Cameos


  • • "Showdown" (animated short)
  • • Super Friends
  • • The Batman
  • • Batman: The Brave and the Bold
  • • Tales of Metropolis
  • • Justice League 
  • • Justice League Action




Main Character Appearances


Live Action:

  • • Superman (serial)
  • • Atom Man Vs. Superman (serial)
  • • Superman: The Movie
  • • Superman II
  • • Superman III
  • • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
  • • Supergirl
  • • Superman Returns
  • • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice



  • • Superman: Brainiac Attacks
  • • Superman: Doomsday
  • • Justice League: The New Frontier
  • • All-Star Superman
  • • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
  • • Justice League: Doom
  • • Superman Vs. The Elite
  • • Superman Unbound
  • • Justice League: War
  • • Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
  • • Justice League: Gods and Monsters
  • • LEGO: Dimensions



Video Games

  • • Superman
  • • Superman 64
  • • Superman: Shadow of Apokolips
  • • DC Universe Online