It seems like Jimmy Olsen has been around as long as Superman, and it’s nearly true, though he didn’t get his own comic until 1954, first issue above. Jimmy was first introduced in the Adventures of Superman radio show in 1940, moving into ACTION COMICS in issue #13 in 1941, but he only appeared in a few issues before disappearing again. In 1953 actor Jack Larson was playing “Jim Olsen” on the Adventures of Superman TV show, and his popularity there warranted giving Olsen his own comic. It was edited by Mort Weisinger, like all the Superman-related titles, and was published eight times a year through most of the period we’ll discuss here.
The logo is by Ira Schnapp, who first extended his SUPERMAN logo redesign to include the apostrophe S and PAL in the same style, then rendered JIMMY OLSEN in appealing, bouncy block letters with a very large J and large O. The logo left some blank spaces between the words, but it worked fine in general. Ira also did the cover balloon and caption, and he lettered most of the covers until issue #108 in 1968. Ira lettered only a few stories inside the book.
While many DC Comics began their runs with somewhat serious storylines, JIMMY OLSEN was wacky from start to finish, as Jimmy found countless ways to get into trouble, become transformed, take on unlikely jobs, and generally cause havoc, only to have things set right by his pal, Superman. The cover of issue #4 gave Ira Schnapp a chance to use his Old English style in the story title.
Issue #10 from 1956 is an example of DC’s love for apes, which were thought to sell comics . I like Jimmy’s jungle call, and also the paper-clipped caption box by Ira at bottom right.
Issue #24 from 1957 is another gorilla cover, and has an unusual color treatment of the logo with all the black lines removed. It still reads fine.
One of Jimmy’s more memorable repeated roles was as Elastic Lad, as in issue #37 from 1959, following the model of Plastic Man, but predating Marvel’s Mr. Fantastic and DC’s Elongated Man.
Another memorably odd role was the Giant Turtle Man in issue #53 from 1961. Editor Weisinger recycled this idea from a Thrilling Wonder Tales pulp magazine he edited before he came to DC.
Jimmy’s roles got particularly silly when they were meant to be satirizing current fads, like this one on issue #79 in 1964, as The Beatles were taking America by storm. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
By issue #92 in 1966, DC was in their worst period for cover design with usually too much cover lettering, but Ira made this one work pretty well anyway.
Ira’s final cover lettering for the title was this fine work on issue #108 dated January 1968, but done in 1967. Ira would soon leave the company.
Here are the covers lettered by Ira Schnapp: 1-25, 27-32, 34-65, 67-68, 71-73, 75-77, 79-85, 87-93, 96-98, 100-102, 104-108. That’s 96 in all.
Ira lettered only a few stories in this series. It seems that Mort Weisinger had his own regulars who handled most of the lettering on his books, and Schnapp probably just filled in occasionally. Above is a page from a story he lettered in issue #9 showing a different electric balloon than he usually used.
On this page from issue #36 in 1959, Ira’s story title is very familiar, but the wavy caption border is unusual. Perhaps he was just following what the artist pencilled.
Ira’s last story was in issue #47 from 1960. Perhaps it was an editorial choice to have the lettering in thought balloons all italic.
Here are the stories lettered by Ira Schnapp:
#9 Dec 1955: The Million Dollar Question 8pp
#36 April 1959: Lois Lane’s Sister 9pp, How Jimmy Olsen First Met Superman 8pp
#40 Oct 1959: The Invisible Life of Jimmy Olsen 9pp
#41 Dec 1959: Jimmy Olsen, The Boy Swordsman 9pp
#44 April 1960: The Wolf-Man of Metropolis 9pp
#46 July 1960: Irresistible Jimmy Olsen 9pp, Jimmy Olsen, Orphan 9pp
#47 Sept 1960: The King of Crime 9pp
That’s a total of 70 pages. Other articles in this series are on the Comics Creation page of my blog.
Jimmy Olsen on Wikipedia.