Fat Boy of Metropolis
Jimmy Olsen always dreamed of being a
big man in Metropolis and in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen
#49 (Dec. 1960) , he gets his wish, ballooning overnight
to a weight of 300 lbs and landing in a mess as outsized
as his waistband.
Nobody seems to know who wrote this story, but the art
is provided by Curt
Swan and John Forte, who actually
mesh together rather well here to draw some convincing fat
folks, a task any artist can tell you is not as easy as
We begin on a hot summer day as Jimmy visits Professor
Potter's lab "to get a story on his latest
invention." Considering how often this scenario ends
disastrously for Jimmy, you'd think he'd be on his toes,
Professor Potter is out, but his assistant, Dr
Rance, is happy to show Jimmy the latest discovery;
a revolutionary new vitamin formula.
Wow, that was subtle. "Yes, Detective, the poison
is probably still here at the crime scene. Here, have a
cup of tea while you look for it."
Predictably, Dr Rance soon discovers he's accidentally
given Jimmy a bottle of the weight-increaser, mistaking
it for soda pop. Of course the real question is what kind
of lousy soda pop did they have in 1960 that Jimmy couldn't
tell the difference in taste? Anyway, the surprise twist
here is that it was no accident: Rance deliberately slipped
Jimmy the elixir to make him "as fat as a hippo!",
though we won't learn why until later.
That evening, Jimmy shows up at Perry White's
house to collaborate on an article about Superman's trophies,
bringing a few along in his briefcase. The work lasts well
into the night, so Jimmy is invited to sleep on Perry's
porch. He's rudely awaked the next morning when his now-gigantic
frame breaks the cot.
Too big for his pajamas, Jimmy resorts to the old trick
of wearing a rain barrel until Perry can dig up "some
extra big clothes" from the attic. Unfortunately what
he comes up with isn't all that helpful.
Fat guy. Santa suit. Get it? Honestly the weight jokes
practically write themselves. Comedy gold.
Perry offers to give Jimmy the week off until Professor
Potter returns with an antidote, but Jimmy insists he can
still do his job. To prove there are uses for extra weight,
he sits on his briefcase to close it, but instead smashes
it. Thus, he's forced to carry his trophies home in an improvised
sack, so he looks even more like You-Know-Who.
Of course why he needs the stocking cap is anyone's guess,
especially since it's already been established Metropolis
is suffering a heat wave. But whatever.
Walking down the streets of Metropolis (and getting plenty
of stares), Jimmy spots an object falling from a skyscraper
construction site onto the roof of an apartment building,
and goes to investigate. By an amazing coincidence, his
girlfriend happens to live in the same building.
Fat guy in a Santa suit...with a sack...by a chimney. In
the summer! Wow, this just keeps getting funnier!
But then it's off to a men's store to be fitted for a king-size
suit. Fortunately there's a few extra yards of "Dork
Green" fabric lying around. It's all worth it for this
side-splitter, which probably boasts a pedigree stretching
back to the glory days of Vaudeville:
Either a slip of the brush or a printing error has given
Jimmy a missing tooth to go with his new belly, but it works
Back on the job, Jimmy boards an Army cargo plane with
Clark Kent for a Daily Planet article.
When the plane has engine trouble and heads for a crash,
everyone bails out, but Jimmy's parachute can't support
his tremendous weight, so Clark secretly lends a puff of
super-breath to slow his fall and aim him at a nearby swimming
As Jimmy hits the pool, horrified onlookers gasp, "He
must weigh a ton! He's displacing a hundred gallons of water!"
Undaunted, Fat Jimmy proceeds to his next assignment; for
an upcoming article called "Fireman For A Day,"
he's to do everything a real firefighter would do, which
gets him into more trouble as he climbs a ladder to save
a cat that's got itself stuck atop a flagpole (don't ask).
No one is overly surprised at what happens next.
Jimmy's so fat he breaks the firemen's net, but Superman
has been watching and pulls a last-second rescue.
Jimmy's next assignment seems safe enough; he's to interview
the owner of a visiting carnival. As fate would have it,
however, the carnival's resident "Fat Man" has
just been fired for losing too much weight, and when Jimmy
shows up he and his "Fat Lady" wife assume Jimmy's
a new performer, come to take the "Fat Man" job
and break up their act as "Mr. and Mrs. Fontaine,
Fattest Couple in the World".
To prevent him from seeing the carnival manager, Mrs. Fontaine
drags Jimmy to an ice cream shop, pretending she believes
he's an old boyfriend. As soon as she sees the manager driving
away, she brings the "date" to an end, dumping
the ice cream on Jimmy's head just in time for Lucy
Lane to walk by in another of those remarkable
Say what you will about Lucy, she does do one thing no
one else can do; she makes her sister Lois look like a prize.
At last Jimmy thinks he's found an upside to his situation:
a Hindu Maharajah whose life he once saved is coming to
Metropolis to show his gratitude by giving Jimmy his weight
in jewels. As he's now 300 lbs, that means Jimmy will get
enough jewels to donate to charity and still end up wealthy.
Superman agrees to fly Jimmy to the Maharajah's yacht, partly
out of curiosity about the Hindu religion, as the Maharajah
is known to be a devout practitioner.
Later, Superman and Jimmy fly off and the "Maharajah"
is revealed as an American crook, in league with the crafty
Dr Rance. "Superman never suspected I was impersonating
the real Maharajah," he gloats, "so that we could
dupe him into smuggling our stolen jewels into America!"
Rance notes that "by anchoring off the 3-mile limit,
Superman couldn't arrest us even if he did catch wise!"
Now that the jewels are safely in America, all that's left
is to break into Jimmy's apartment and steal them, but when
the crooks get there they find Superman waiting. Turns out
the phony Maharajah gave himself away by serving up champagne
and meat, as "it's against a devout Hindu's religion
to drink liquor or eat beef!" And now that the bad
guys are on American soil, they can be thrown in the clink.
Then in a Scooby-Doo-worthy summation, Superman unspools
a true masterpiece of strained logic:
All's well that ends well as Jimmy gets back his trim figure,
even if it does mean earning a lot fewer jewels once he's
weighed in by the real Maharajah.
Of course that begs the question, why did the Maharajah
even have meat and champagne on his boat for the crooks
to offer? Or did they sneak onto his boat dragging along
a case of their own champagne and a cooler full of steaks?
The whole thing would have made a lot more sense if the
Maharajah was never really coming to Metropolis at all,
and the crooks faked the whole thing.
Obviously in the Silver Age, obesity was as mortifying
a social stigma as...gasp!...baldness. Fatness equates to
foolishness here, but it's interesting that the meanest
lines are directed from one fat person to another. At the
ice cream shop with Mrs Fontaine, Jimmy thinks, "I
suppose the only way to get rid of this female elephant
is to feed her!" Mrs. Fontaine ends the "date"
by saying, "Get lost, Fat Stuff! Who needs you now!"
and then calls Jimmy a "blubber-belly." So even
though being fat is her livelihood -- and not being fat
enough may cost her husband his career -- she obviously
has some negative feelings about obesity.
When in another Silver Age tale Lois Lane grows temporarily
fat, it's treated as a mix of comedy and tragedy (what man
will want her now?), but with Jimmy it's played strictly
for laughs, such as they are. Of course you could never
use those gags today, partly because we're much more sensitive
and mature as a culture (yeah, right) but also because "Fat
Jimmy" looks uncomfortably close to the modern stereotype
of a comic book fan, which wouldn't sit well. Also, we know
a lot more about rapid weight gain and loss today, so it's
hard to relax and enjoy this one without troubling thoughts
about stuff like stretch marks, surgical removal of excess
skin after extreme weight loss, damage to the cardiovascular
and skeletal systems, and so on.
My final verdict? Worth it if only for the art. And minus
the too-expensive-to-film parachute scene, I could see it
working as an episode of the Adventures of Superman on TV.
It's a bit of a downer that Lucy proves to be as fickle
and superficial as her sister, but at least Superman sticks
by Jimmy, adopting the attitude, "He ain't heavy, he's
Okay, so maybe the fat jokes don't write themselves after