James Bartholomew "Jimmy" OIsen was born and raised in Metropolis. He was mostly raised by his mother after his father, a military man who was later revealed to be working for Cadmus, disappeared during a mission. Jimmy eventually obtained employment at the Daily Planet, where he worked as a photographer and reporter. He soon established a close relationship with his coworkers Perry White, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, as well as developing a friendship with Superman.
Jimmy Olsen was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Jimmy Olsen is said to be the unnamed office boy in November 1938's Action Comics issue, Action Comics #6. Jimmy Olsen didn't truly appear until "The Adventures of Superman" radio show on April 15, 1940 in which he was given the name, Jimmy Olsen. With this the Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gave the character more personality and physical appearance. Jimmy Olsen debuted officially in the comics with Superman #13 (November-December 1941) along with Superman's first costumed villain the Archer. After making a few more appearances, Jimmy disappeared in the comics until 1953 when actor Jack Larson played the character in the television show "Adventures of Superman". With this Jimmy Olsen was introduced back into the comics and later got his own solo title in September 1954. Since then the character has been a staple to the Superman mythos and has appeared in countless of different forms of media.
In his first appearance, Jimmy was a nameless member of the Daily Planet press corps. He made his first named appearance in The Adventures of Superman, a radio show. He soon returned to regular comics, where his personality was expanded and developed upon. His first named appearance was in Superman #13, with his full name being revealed in Superman #15. He vanished from comics for about ten years before being revived in the early 1950s as part of a tie-in to the new Adventures of Superman television show.
Following from his 1953 revival, Jimmy was given his own title, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. As was common in the Silver Age, the character's adventures during this time were in general eccentric and surreal, and tended towards the gorilla-related. During this era he had a fan club that implicitly had branches around the whole of the United States. During this era, Olsen is best remembered for his continual transformations into a variety of odd, variably powerful creatures for a variety of reasons. He has been transformed into Giant Turtle Boy, a giant turtle; Elastic Lad, whereby his elasticity was noticeably increased; and a gorilla, among a large number of other transformations.
Jack Kirby took over the title and began introducing elements from his Fourth World, such as Darkseid and early versions of the New Gods, and the DNA Project into Superman's Pal. Readership began to drop as he introduced elements such as the Loch Ness Monster and vampires into the canon, and he left the title as of issue #148. Shortly afterwards, with issue #163, Jimmy was absorbed into the Superman Family anthology label. At this point the character and his adventures took on a more serious bent, adopting the identity of "Mr Action" and working as an investigative reporter who dealt with crime and criminals in the city. It was revealed in Superman #352 that Jimmy had a cousin named Mike Olsen.
Jimmy has seen little modernization despite the total reboot of the DC Universe that took place following the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Major elements of his character remained the same, including his profession and friendship with Superman. Minor elements, such as his manner of dress, were different from earlier incarnations, but the impetus for these changes is rooted in the early Bronze Age. One significant change was the provenance of his signal watch, originally a gift from Superman, but in the Modern Age a creation of Jimmy himself. He briefly left his job at the Planet during the 1990s, and simultaneously underwent a personality change, becoming more arrogant and pushy. During this period he gained a job with Galaxy Broadcasters, which he soon lost after believing (falsely) that he had uncovered Superman's secret identity. After this brief absence, he regained his job with the Planet. Otherwise the character has remained largely stable.
Post-Flashpoint/ New 52
Following the 2011 relaunch of the DC Universe, Jimmy Olsen remains a photographer for the Daily Planet. Clark Kent is his best friend, although Clark was working for another newspaper. Jimmy instead works together with Lois Lane and Miko on a majority of stories. Jimmy was also present at the demolition of the old Daily Planet building, over which he has expressed disappointment.
Jimmy Olsen is also now a character in Earth 2 where he was imprisoned inside Arkham Asylum until he was released by The Batman, Aquawoman, and other members of the resistance. He is a technopath with a photographic memory. He goes by the Super Name of Accountable, which was his web name prior to the events of this series.
Major Story Arcs
During this story arc, Jimmy is briefly promoted to the Planet's star reporter. He assumes the job in place of Clark Kent, who had been demoted. Their relationship suffers because of the strain put on it by their changed relationship dynamic. After the One Year Later, however, Kent returns to his position as star reporter and Jimmy reverts to photography, at one point gaining a Pulitzer Prize for his work.
During the Countdown to Infinite Crisis, Jimmy Olsen becomes involved in the investigation into the murder of Duela Dent. He soon becomes inextricably tied with the Death of the New Gods when he starts inexplicably gaining a series of uncontrollable superpowers. He briefly takes up the mantle of Mr. Action, and attempts to assimilate himself into established superhero communities. However, they reject him and he soon abandons this pursuit. Instead he devotes himself again to an investigation into his powers, which is aided by Forager, who reveals that Jimmy has become the host for the souls of the New Gods. It is eventually revealed that this is because Darkseid is using Jimmy as a way station for powers he intends to use in his universe-conquering quest. When Jimmy returns to Earth following the failed attempt to eliminate the Morticoccus virus he is kidnapped by Mary Marvel, and his powers are taken control of by Darkseid, who causes him to emit Kryptonite radiation until his powers are rewired by Ray Palmer. Jimmy briefly battles Darkseid in a form reminiscent of his Giant Turtle Boy persona but is swiftly defeated. On the verge of being killed, Jimmy is saved when Ray Palmer intervenes again, destroying the New God power battery and returning Jimmy to his regular, unpowered state.
Superman: New Krypton
Jimmy becomes involved in the investigation into a mysterious figure that he witnessed at a fight between Superman and Atlas. Taking two weeks off to investigate, he discovers the history of Codename: Assassin, and narrowly avoids being killed by Codename: Assassin. He also discovers an apparent immunity to the assassin's telepathy. Traveling to the headquarters of Project Cadmus, he learns about the cloning that the Project has been carrying out for several years from Dubbilex, who dies after imparting this information. Jimmy next travels to the small town of Warpath in Arizona and interviews the sheriff, Greg Saunders. Soon Jimmy discovers that Saunders has been working with the only viable clone of the Guardian, and talks to the man. He returns to Metropolis soon after with the knowledge that a part of the US Military, going by the name " Project 7734," is plotting to destroy Superman. He contacts Erik Storn in the hope of gathering more information about this plot. However, he arrives too late, and finds a dying Erik in the wreckage of his burnt-out home. Erik dies in Jimmy's arms after telling him how to contact Natasha Irons. Irons explains the involvement of General Sam Lane in the plot and the existence of a planet killer. After gaining this information, Jimmy is confronted by Codename: Assassin, who has been following Jimmy throughout his investigation. He shoots Jimmy twice in the chest, and leaves him to drown in the ocean. However, Jimmy survives the attempt and uses the opportunity to fake his own death allowing him to carry out his investigation in secrecy.
Justice League Beyond
In the future, Jimmy Olsen is still a resident in Metropolis and an insider for the Justice League. When Kobra made another desperate attempt to plunge the world into chaos, Jimmy was put in charge of guarding Amanda Waller and the Justice League headquarters in Metropolis. Unfortunately, Jimmy died while saving Waller's life from falling debris when Kobra's giant supernatural snake was tearing down the Justice League Tower.
Powers and Abilities
New Earth / Prime-Earth (New 52)
Jimmy has no exceptional personal powers or abilities when he has not been transformed by various circumstances into a superpowered being. When he has been transformed, he gains powers appropriate to this new form, however these are always temporary and cease to work when he has been transformed back to his normal human self.
He carries a signal watch which he can use to alert Superman to his need for assistance. Recently it has been suggested that the watch no longer functions for this purpose, but he continues to wear the watch for appearance's sake.
Earth 2 (New 52)
In the alternate world of Earth 2 Jimmy Olsen is a technopath and has a photographic memory.
Real Name: James Bartholomew Olsen
Occupation: Journalist, Photographer, Superman's Pal
Height: 6ft. 2in.
Weight: 210 lbs.
Partnerships: Lois Lane, Clark Kent, Perry White, Supergirl, Professor Potter and Robin.
Teams: Daily Planet.
First Appearance: (unnamed) Action Comics #6 (November 1938); (named) Superman #13 (November/December 1941).
Created by: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Alternate Versions of Jimmy Olsen
All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder
Jimmy makes a brief appearance as a reporter with the Gotham Gazette who helps Vicki Vale escape from hospital, and gives her several files on the Grayson family and on Batman.
Jimmy appears as a member of the Daily Planet's writing staff who frequently goes on assignments where he assumes various jobs and then writes about it. He takes a position as the director of the DNA P.R.O.J.E.C.T. as his latest assignment. He eventually becomes the All-Star universe's Doomsday.
The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again
James Olsen is a writer for the Daily Planet. He later makes appearances on a number of television shows, where he attempts to inform the public of the fact that the President is a hologram. He is prevented from doing so by the destruction of Metropolis, which kills him as well as Lois Lane and Perry White.
Jimmy works for Cyborg as a spy, his target being the Amazons. He is in Paris on assignment when Europe is flooded by the Atlanteans. He dies in the ensuing flood, while attempting to save an old man.
JLA: The Nail
Jimmy Olsen makes several attempts at becoming a hero through temporary genetic enhancements before becoming disillusioned and turning to villainy, and taking a job as an aide to Mayor Lex Luthor. Luthor grafts Kryptonian DNA onto Jimmy, giving him amazing powers while simultaneously driving him mad. Jimmy masterminds a plan to place all metahumans in prison, with the intention of extracting their powers and augmenting himself further. His ultimate goal is to transform Earth into a Kryptonian society which he intends to rule. During a battle with members of the Justice League, he encounters an Amish couple and their son. The son is revealed to be Superman, who Jimmy battles after failing to sway the man to his side. At this point Jimmy's body rejects the Kryptonian graft, and he disintegrates.
Jamie Olsen is a medieval alchemist who works alongside Kal, a blacksmith's apprentice, to create a suit of armour for Baron Luthor. One of his apprentices is Merlin.
Superman: Red Son
Jimmy Olsen is a CIA agent, eventually promoted to Director of the CIA. He joins Lex Luthor's presidential ticket, and is elected Vice-President alongside President Luthor.
Jimmy Olsen in Other Media
The New Adventures of Superman
Jimmy appears as a supporting character in this early animated series. He is portrayed by Jack Grimes, who first played the character in the Adventures of Superman radio show.
A character claiming to be Jimmy appeared in the episode "Lex Luthor Strikes Back," though he was revealed to be Luthor's henchman, Orville Gump.
Jimmy appears as the classic supporting character in this series. He is played by Mark L Taylor.
Superman: the Animated Series
Jimmy appeared as a friend and colleague of Clark Kent's. He was featured prominently in the episode "Superman's Pal," at the end of which he received the signal watch from Superman. He is played by David Kaufman.
Justice League and Justice League Unlimited
Jimmy appears in Superman's nightmare sequence in the episode "Only a Dream." In the nightmare, he is crushed to death by Superman, who has lost control of his powers. He makes cameo appearances in the funeral scene in "Hereafter," and standing next to Kent in the episode "Starcrossed Part 1." He makes an appearance in the Unlimited episode "Question Authority," where he is tied up and gagged by Huntress in order to attract Superman's attention. An allusion to his past transformation into Giant Turtle Boy appears in the episode "Chaos at the Earth's Core." In his voiced appearance he is played by David Kaufman.
Jimmy Olsen appears alongside Lois Lane in the episode "The Batman/Superman Story, Part One." During this episode he briefly argues with Dick Grayson over the respective merits of their cities' heroes. He is voiced by Jack DeSena.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Jimmy made an appearance in the episode "Battle of the Super Heroes," which made several references to his past transformations. He is played by Alexander Polinsky.
Superman and Atom Man vs Superman
Jimmy made his first live-action appearance in these Superman serials. He is played by Tommy Bond (better known as Butch, Alfalfa's foil in the Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts).
Jimmy Olsen appeared in all five Superman movies during this period, making him the only character to appear in all of the era's Superman films. He is played by Marc McClure.
Jimmy appears as a slightly older version of the character, who has not had his pictures published in some time because he has had trouble getting the right shots. He is played by Sam Huntington.
Jimmy appeared in Superman: Doomsday, where he is played by Adam Wylie; Justice League: The New Frontier, in a silent role; Superman: Brainiac Attacks played by David Kaufman; Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, played by Richard Green; and All-Star Superman, played by Matthew Gray Gubler.
Adventures of Superman
Jimmy appeared in this series as a supporting character, the popularity of whom lead to the resurgence of his appearances in comics. He is played by Jack Larson.
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Jimmy appeared as a major supporting character in the series. Originally played as a more arrogant character, in later seasons he reverted to the naive yet loveable newcomer role that was more similar to his comic portrayal. He was also notably skilled with computers. He is played by Michael Landes in the first series, and Justin Whalin in subsequent seasons. When a preternaturally aged Olsen appeared in one episode, he was played by Jack Larson, reprising his role from the Adventures of Superman.
Jimmy was first mentioned in the fourth season of this show, and made his first physical appearance in the sixth season episode "Zod." Here, he is a member of the Daily Planet's staff, and goes by the name James rather than the diminutive. The character is romantically involved with the character of Chloe Sullivan, eventually proposing to her at the end of the seventh season. She accepts at the beginning of the eighth season, and the pair soon get married, but are interrupted at their wedding by Doomsday, who critically wounds James and kidnaps Chloe. Their marriage eventually falls apart, but they reconcile shortly before James kills Doomsday and is himself killed. It is revealed that his full name is actually Henry James Olsen, and he has a younger brother who is eventually revealed to be the classic Jimmy Olsen from the comics. James is played by Aaron Ashmore, Jimmy is played by Ryan Harder, and by Aaron Ashmore when the character appears in the future.
The Adventures of Superman
Jimmy made his first named appearance in this radio series, where he was introduced as a character for Superman to talk to. He is played by Jack Kelk and Jack Grimes.
Jimmy is kidnapped by Lex Luthor along with several other Superman supporting characters. The game's object is to rescue them.
Superman: Shadow of Apokolips
Jimmy is a minor character who appears in the story scenes and not in the actual game. He is voiced by David Kaufman.
DC Universe Online
Jimmy appears as a supporting character. He is played by Brandon Young.