The Adventures of Chameleon-Head
"Is it a fat-head? Is it a bubble head? Is it a double-header?
No, dear reader...the hilarious, yet exciting tale you are
about to read concerns reporter Jimmy Olsen..."
So begin "The Adventures of Chameleon-Head Olsen,"
and for anyone who's been following the Silver Age adventures
of Superman and friends, it will come as no surprise to
find the author of this "laugh fest" is none other
than Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel,
the Ralph Malph of comics, the Fozzie Bear of the four-color
world, a comedy legend in his own mind whose prior work
on "Funnyman" made that character the biggest
thing in comics since...oh, lets say Marvex
"You'll laugh...you'll howl..." is the promise
of this classic tale from Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen
#85 (June 1965). At least we know it will look funny,
since it's penciled by John Forte (with
inks by George Klein).
We open in the 30th Century, where Jimmy Olsen has been
invited to stand with the Legion of Super-Heroes
as they are applauded and cheered by an assemblage of heroes
from around the cosmos. Apparently this is what they do
with their afternoons. Although he's only an Honorary Legionnaire,
Jimmy takes the acclaim as his due, and wastes no time mooching
yet another favor off his "teammates."
Wow, you can almost HEAR the "dot-dot-dot" at
the end of Jimmy's sentence as awkward silence fills the
room. Don't look now, guys, but Jimmy's hitting us up for
another freebie. Luckily, Chameleon Lad
keeps serum-filled test tubes in his pocket all the time.
Hitching a ride back to the 20th Century in Cham's time
bubble, Jimmy turns on his radio to hear a vital news flash:
"Astronomers sighted Superman flying away from Earth,
early this morning...probably on a mission!" (And in
other news, Batmobile spotted heading in direction of Burger
Chef. Experts agree: Batman probably hungry)
Superman's absence is good news for a thug who suddenly
appears in Jimmy's apartment and holds the cub reporter
at gunpoint. We learn the Anti-Superman Gang
has offered a bounty for Jimmy as a way of hurting Superman:
he's worth $20,000 alive, $10,000 dead.
Thinking fast, Jimmy decides he'll use the serum to turn
into a kangaroo and leap to a nearby building (because a
bird or other winged creature would be too obvious, right?).
"I th-think I'm going to faint!" he says, Chameleon
Boy's test tube shaking his quivering hand. "May I
drink this nerve tonic?" Amused, the gunman answers,
With only his head transformed, Jimmy has to abandon his
otherwise flawless plan of hopping across the tops of tall
buildings. Spotting a nearby statuette of Aquaman,
he gets a new idea. He wishes for his nose to become "long
and sharp like that of a swordfish."
Get it, "something fishy"? Stick with us, kids,
Uncle Jerry's got a million of 'em!
Jimmy uses his sword-nose to knock away the thug's pistol,
then dashes outside to seek the aid of a passing patrolman.
Unfortunately the cop turns out to be a disguised crook
-- also after the bounty on Jimmy's head -- and charges
at him with a billy club. Jimmy turns his head to stone,
breaking the club, then knocks out the fake cop with a vicious
"Rock" you to sleep! I get it! Stop it, Jerry,
you're killing me. No, seriously.
Jimmy escapes to a taxi, only to find the cabbie is yet
another crook, and the cab itself a death trap. Black widow
spiders crawl up his suit, but he deals with them quickly
by adopting anteater powers.
Okay, I'm no expert on the animal kingdom, and especially
not anteater/cub reporter hybrids, but even if you could
catch a bunch of black widow spiders on your tongue, wouldn't
you still be killed when you swallowed them down your human
throat to your human stomach?
At any rate, the cab driver flees, and Jimmy spots a man
with a walkie-talkie on a nearby rooftop. Eager to know
what's going on, he grows a "radar ear" to listen
Remember today's science lesson, kids: bigger ear = better
hearing. Taking advantage of a sudden, thick fog (what,
NOW you're going to expect logic?), Jimmy ducks into nearby
museum. Spotting him, two thugs give chase, being sure to
stop first to put on suits of armor from a medieval history
exhibit (your guess is as good as mine). They corner him
at the dinosaur exhibit, but he takes inspiration from a
skeleton on display and grows mastodon tusks to flip the
"knights" away. ("Get the point?" he
quips. Is this the part where we laugh or howl?)
Running outside, Jimmy is relieved to spot a youth dressed
just like him and riding a motorcycle. Because of his garb,
Jimmy assumes the rider is a member of the Jimmy
Olsen Fan Club:
As has been remarked elsewhere, the only thing dorkier
than being Jimmy Olsen is being a Jimmy Olsen Fan Club member.
Here's our proof that even Jimmy knows the only people on
Earth who would dress the way he does are himself and a
bunch of losers trying to look like him (okay, and maybe
Pee-Wee Herman...but then he may be a member...?).
Oh yeah, so Jimmy turns his head into a fleshless skull
and the malevolent motorcycle midget speeds off in a panic.
Finally Jimmy makes his way to the front gate of Metropolis
Airport, from which he presumably plans to escape the city,
but at the last moment he's slugged from behind and taken
to the headquarters of the Anti-Superman Gang, where the
big boss prepares to shoot him. As he rubs his hands over
his face, Jimmy's features disappear, replaced by those
of Superman. Thinking they've accidentally brought the Man
of Steel into their midst, the panicked thugs make a run
Swooping down from the sky comes the real Superman, returning
from his space mission and eager to figure out what's been
going on (someday he'll learn not to ask). Proud of his
latest adventure, Jimmy thinks to himself, "Superman
and I will laugh over the way I outwitted those mobsters
for a long, long time!"
Yep, you could swap funny stories all afternoon, Jimmy.
Or here's an idea; maybe you could point Superman in the
direction of those fleeing mobsters while there's still
time to catch them. After all, they still have a contract
out on you, dead or alive. Hello? If it helps,
you could make a crack about how a turn in Sing-Sing will
change their tune. Get it? Sing-Sing...tune? Or something
about how you have a "head for crimefighting",
or managed to "save face "in the end. The comedy
potential is endless.
But seriously, catch those guys or they'll eventually kill
you. And trust me, you do not want to be caught dead in