Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac!
Superman #173 (November 1964) gives us another
example of tough love for Jimmy Olsen in
"The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac."
As the story begins, a spaceship lands on the Daily Planet
roof, broadcasting a message to Superman for help. With
Superman away on a mission, Jimmy decides to climb aboard
the spaceship in his place. As he does so, he recalls that
Superman recently reprimanded him for acting impulsively
and recklessly, but he's sure that a solo space mission
will convince Superman Jimmy can take care of himself. "My
signal watch is being repaired," he muses, "but
I'm sure I won't need it."
Speeding off to a remote planet, Jimmy's ship is met by
Luthor and Brainiac, who were hoping to trap Superman but
instead have snared his peril-prone pal. Before rubbing
him out, the villains decide to show Jimmy around the alien
world, where he's shocked to learn the locals have erected
a "Luthor-Brainiac Hall of Fame" (perhaps more
surprising is the fact that Brainiac has agreed to second
billing). Within the Hall are statues honoring not only
these two villains, but also The Joker, Mxyzptlk
and...Clayface? Then there is the "Rogue's
Gallery" with images of "the vile brats of the
Legion of Super-Heroes" and "the
rascally members of the Justice League of America."
Rounding out this wall of infamy are pictures of the two
most reviled personages of all, the World's Finest team
Holy Dementia, what is up with those creepy eyes!?! Okay,
so maybe they've got their heroes and villains reversed,
but you can hardly blame the aliens for fearing a mug like
that. With all due respect to Berni Wrightson, Neal
Adams, Kelly Jones, Frank Miller and all others
who've labored to make Batman a "dread
figure of the night," nothing beats wild-eyed Bat-Manson
here for sheer nightmare potential. But stay tuned, there's
a reason for this break in the "no eyes showing"
tradition of Batman art.
Okay, so moving along on our bizarre tour we find these
mannequins which "accurately" predict the effects
of aging on the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes...
Of course the years catch up with all of us sooner or later,
but it's a little disconcerting to learn the Legion members
will apparently insist on wearing spandex well into their
dotage, and go by "boy" and "girl" even
in the nursing home. And while I''ll admit Wilford Brimley
is an inspired choice to play the AARP-eligible Bouncing
Boy, it's nonetheless disappointing to learn that
even in the 30th Century, we won't have anything better
to fight hearing loss with than a tin ear trumpet.
Moving right along then, Luthor and Brainiac use an "Earth
monitor" to make sure Superman hasn't yet noticed Jimmy's
absence, and in the process they just happen to witness
Superman donning his Clark Kent disguise (hence this month's
cover). Then in celebration, they place Jimmy in a cell
and subject him to a perverse "entertainment"
on a viewscreen. With a crowd cheering them on, they use
Brainiac's shrinking ray to reduce neighboring planets to
the size of basketballs and then blast them to pieces with
heat-ray howitzers. Jimmy's robot guard explains, "The
contestant who destroys the most worlds in five minutes...wins!"
Next match: Dan Didio versus Joe Quesada for the title.
Left a plate of food and drink, Jimmy short-circuits his
robot guard by tossing a glass of water into its open control
panel. Escaping from his cell, he's ready when Luthor and
Brainiac return. Using an alien device to change gold into
Kryptonite, Jimmy causes Luthor to back away in pain. He
has correctly guessed that "Luthor" is actually
Superman (he was the only one not sweating in the presence
of the murderous heat-rays, so he must have been wearing
a mask...right?) and "Brainiac" is Batman. Superman
confesses that yes, he has been trying to teach Jimmy a
lesson for "risking his life unnecessarily" by
coming to this world alone.
Now that the joke's over, Superman assures Jimmy that "those
phoney 'shrunken world' targets weren't really inhabited."
Reassuring to know he didn't actually kill billions to prove
a point. Meanwhile, Batman is curious to know how Jimmy
guessed he was "Brainiac." Jimmy explains, "I
realized the eyes of the fake 'Brainiac' were blue, instead
of green like the eyes of the genuine Brainiac! Thinking
back to the picture of Batman I saw in the 'Rogue's Gallery'
I recalled Batman had blue eyes! And so I knew the
fake blue-eyed 'Brainiac' was probably you, Batman!"
Impressed, the World's Greatest Detective chortles, "HaHa!
Clever deducing, lad!" Right, because how
many blue eyed people could there be in the world, anyway?
So now we know why Batman was drawn with eyeballs. Whoever
wrote the story obviously didn't realize they aren't usually
Cleaning up loose ends, Superman says, "That space
monitor picture of me switching to my 'secret identity of
Clark Kent' was a faked tape, of course!" Naturally.
How could Clark Kent be Superman? Hahahahaha.
A pretty mean trick all around, and an elaborate waste
of time for two founding Justice League members you'd think
might have better things to do. But then again, it's par
for the course in the Silver Age, where Superman and his
friends lived by the motto "it's kind to be cruel."
I can just imagine Superman and Jimmy reminiscing about
this adventure over a beer in their old age:
SUPERMAN: "Hey, remember that time
you went off to an alien planet with no idea where you were
going and no signal watch to call for help? Haha! You were
such a schmuck back then!"
JIMMY: "Ha ha, yeah, that was a bone-headed move,
wasn't it? But I should be mad at you for giving me a
scare with that Luthor impersonation!"
SUPERMAN: "Ho ho! I'd almost forgotten
that part! Remember when Batman and I pretended to destroy
billions of lives on those fake planets?"
JIMMY: "Ha, yeah, good times. And you sure made
fools out of your pals in the Legion with those statues!
Saturn Girl looked like the 'lunch lady' back in my school
SUPERMAN: "Ha ha, yeah, it was pretty hilarious,
til you exposed me to deadly kryptonite, you pooser! "
JIMMY: "You know, I always wondered, though. How
did you talk Batman into helping you on that prank?"
SUPERMAN: "Huh? Oh, I just grabbed
him and took him with me. He was just sneaking around after
Killer Moth or something anyway, I'm sure he didn't mind.
He was always good for a prank on you or Lois, or a trip
to some kooky new dimension."
JIMMY: "Yeah, I guess. Hey, whatever happened to
that guy, anyway?"
SUPERMAN: "Huh? Oh, Batman? Yeahhh...well...he,
uh...he went crazy.