The Murder of Clark Kent!

Everyone's favorite cub reporter becomes a cold-blooded killer in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #103 (July 1967) as writer Leo Dorfman and artist Pete Costanza relate "The Murder of Clark Kent!"

Things begin innocently enough as Jimmy leaves his apartment for another day at the office, only to be accosted by a swarm of paparazzi asking "how does it feel to win the big prize?"

As the startled Jimmy is escorted to a waiting limousine, he runs through the possibilities with his usual humility. "They're probably giving me the Pulitzer for my story exposing that gang of jewel thieves," he thinks, "or maybe I've won the Nobel Peace Prize for using a barrier Superman built to stop a missile war between two rival planets...on the other hand, I might be getting an "Oscar" for the role I played in that Superman movie..." After a few minutes, it's getting harder to decide what award he won't be given.

Before he can decide whether he's earned the presidency or the Papacy, Jimmy's reverie is broken as the limousine pulls to the curb to take on another passenger...

Jimmy's fellow honoree is French scientist Dr Denise Dunois. She left her lab coat at home, so there's little indication she's a brilliant scientist, but you can tell she's a hot French babe because Costanza draws "motion lines" that have her scooting along the sidewalk with her ankles together as her derriere wiggles.

Anyway, we at least know Jimmy's prize won't be coming from any feminist groups when he blurts out, "What kind of award did you win, doll? Miss Universe of 1967?" Brilliant scientist or no, Dr Dunois is still a woman, so of course her response is a blushing "You flatter me, Jimmee!"

Jimmy and Dr Dunois are driven to a heavily-guarded mansion, where they're appalled to find a row of statues honoring the world's worst villains; John Dillinger, Lucretia Borgia, Mata Hari, Adolph Hitler, Emperor Nero and Genghis Khan among them. A mustachioed dandy named Maximo takes them to a theater, places golden laurels on their heads and seats them in "thrones of honor," explaining that they will be treated to live re-enactments of "some noble past deeds of the past which helped inspire today's awards." However, the acts depicted are among the most heinous of history; the stabbing of Julius Caesar, John Wilkes Booth's assasination of President Abraham Lincoln, the murder of Mahatma Ghandi (who because Costanza is drawing him looks an awful lot like Dr Thaddeus Boddog Sivana) and, incredibly, the killing of JFK.

Jimmy angrily confronts Maximo, who explains, "Brutus, Booth and the others are an inspiration! But you'll top them all, Olsen!"

First of all, it's quite a production that includes an actual working automobile on stage, but the really disturbing thing here is the tackiness of this reference to Kennedy's death a mere four years after it happened, and while having Lee Harvey Oswald -- even if he's not named directly -- referred to as "an inspiration" may establish Maximo's bonafides as a prize rat, it also leaves a bad taste in the mouth even 40 years on. During his three years in office, JFK became almost an unofficial supporting player in the Superman titles, showing up more than any other sitting president before or after, and even subbing for Clark Kent once to protect Superman's identity. The way his death is trotted out here veers the tale from merely stupid to just plain unseemly, and it never really recovers.

Jimmy demands to know why Maximo would compare him to the worst killers of all time, and is pointed to yet another scene on stage, a dramatization showing Jimmy killing Superman with a kryptonite ray gun. Jimmy angrily responds that he would never do such a thing, but then a strange mist enters the room, and when Superman unexpectedly appears, Jimmy grabs the ray gun and shoots him with it, then beats him up before coming to his senses. Of course "Superman" is revealed as a crook in disguise.

Maximo explains that breathing in the mist caused Jimmy's attack on "Superman", but says he'll kill the genuine article of his own volition, without mind control. He then shows Jimmy films illustrating how Superman has been "double-crossing you for years" by giving all the best "scoops" to Lois Lane. "Did your super-chum ever tell you the location of his fortress?" presses Maximo. "Did he ever reveal his other identity to you?" When Jimmy protests that Superman can't share these, his biggest secrets, Maximo answers, "Batman knows them...and Robin...and Supergirl!"

To "prove" Jimmy secretly hates Superman, Maximo has him grab the handles of an "Emotion Analyzer," which he explains, "works like a lie detector". The "Emotion Analyzer" is essentially a trumped-up version of the old coin-operated "Love Detector" machines found at fairs and in front of K-Marts, with a needle that points to readings from "Love" to "Hate" with a few stops in between. When Jimmy holds the handles and thinks of Superman, the needle jumps to "Hate" and Maximo crows, "The Analyzer never lies." Well, there you are, then.

For whatever reason, Jimmy decides to play along. "Okay I admit it, I'd give plenty kill Superman!" Just as he utters this (faked) sentiment, Maximo uses a remote control to send a signal to the golden laurel on his head (if you forgot Jimmy's wearing the laurel, that's okay, since Costanza does too about half the time). An electronic impulse causes Jimmy to repeat his words over and over..."kill Superman...kill Superman..." and thus brainwash himself. Maximo commands Jimmy to go the Daily Planet and retrieve a "secret list of kryptonite caches" from the desk of Clark Kent.

Luckily for Maximo, there's a butterfly handy to demonstrate the power of his shock-gun. Not so lucky for the butterfly, but considering it flies about as awkwardly as Dr Dunois walks, we'll look on it as a mercy killing.

At the office, Jimmy pries open Clark's desk and finds the list of kryptonite caches, only to be discovered when Clark walks in the room demanding, "Jimmy what's the idea? That list could mean disaster if Superman's enemies got hold of it!" (Exactly. So it's a good thing you keep it in a desk and let the world know it's there instead of, oh I don't know, maybe stashing it in a vault in the Fortress of Solitude and not telling anyone. Or better yet, using that super-memory instead of writing the blamed list in the first place)

Jimmy turns the anti-butterfly gun on Clark, apparently killing him.

Of course we know Clark's not really dead, just playing possum. Besides, what real killer would say "Holy Cats"?

Maximo and his men pack Clark into a crate and throw it off a cliff into the sea. Once underwater, Clark breaks out of the crate and changes to Superman but instead of pursuing Jimmy and the crooks he flies off into space on "a far more vital mission" he just remembered. Uh-huh.

Maximo's flunkies are sent off to retrieve the kryptonite from the locations on Clark's list, while back at the gang's headquarters, Dr Dunois's involvement is finally explained. It seems she's invented a "time-coil" that allows "any non-living matter" to be sent through the time barrier to the date of one's choice. Demonstrating the device, she projects on the wall an image of Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride through Boston on the night of April 18,1775. When Revere's horse suddenly loses a shoe, Jimmy sees a chance to test the claim that objects can be sent through time.

Of course, the "horse-shoe" magnet Jimmy finds just happens to fit Revere's steed perfectly, and why wouldn't it? Revere continues on with his ride and America is saved, earning Jimmy a big kiss from Dr Dunois.

Maximo offers to clear Jimmy of Clark's murder if he'll persuade Superman to travel back in time to 2pm, Dec 22, 1439. "And don't worry," he says, "you know nothing in the past can harm him!" Jimmy agrees, but on his way out to his meeting with Superman he stops at the gang's "Anti-Superman Arsenal" and grabs a mysterious "Gamma Weapon," which based on comments he's overheard "could probably wipe out Superman! I must keep it out of their murdering hands."

At the Daily Planet, Jimmy is confronted by Superman, who tells him Clark hasn't been seen in two days and produces Clark's clothes and glasses, which he says he found floating in the sea. He asks Jimmy what he knows about it as he is "believed to be the last person to see him alive!" For a moment, Jimmy panics and reaches into his briefcase for the Gamma Weapon to kill Superman, but then thinks better of it. Instead he produces a faked documented created by Maximo and tells Superman it bears the account of an explorer who claimed to have seen the Abominable Snowman on Mount Everest in 1439.

Clark, he says, was trying to verify the authenticity of the document to save the reputation of a historian who's presented it as genuine. Superman agrees to check it out and flies off to the past.

Using Dr Dunois' device, the gang peers into 1439 to see Superman heading for a trap on Mt Everest. It is revealed that Dr Dunois was forced to send the stockpile of retrieved kryptonite to that exact time and place, where it lies hidden beneath the snow, waiting to kill Superman while he's trapped centuries away from anyone who could possibly rescue him. Just as he lands, the image from the Time Coil is lost, but the villains still rejoice, certain he's dead.

Jimmy snaps and tears into the villains with fists flailing. Overwhelmed by his berserker rage, they retreat to the Anti-Superman Arsenal and begin using their weapons against Jimmy and Dr Dunois. Jimmy remembers he still has the Gamma Weapon and throws it at them, but to his disappointment it only seems to stun them (remember, though, that he thought it would destroy Superman, so we can assume he was willing to kill these guys). Then Superman shows up, to the great surprise of Maximo, and does his customary mopping up.

Jimmy reveals that he re-wrote the document used to lure Superman into the past. Superman caught on immediately when he saw that the scroll, supposedly written in 1439, called the peak "Mt Everest," a name it wouldn't get until 1844. A line that read "Beware! Evil eyes are watching" tipped him off that he was being monitored," while the line, "Doom awaits you at ye top of ye mighty mountain" warned him there would be a trap. Meanwhile, as the scene unfolded on the Time Coil, Jimmy had sent a secret signal to Dr Dunois...

Acting quickly, she had used the device to move the kryptonite one day forward in time, making Everest safe for Superman to land on.

Superman congratulates Jimmy for getting out of his pickle, but confesses he was worried when his x-ray vision spotted the Gamma Weapon in Jimmy's briefcase earlier in the story, knowing (somehow) that it would have turned him into "a prehistoric Kryptonian caveman." Racing to the next room, they get a surprise...

Jimmy confesses to the murder of Clark Kent, but Superman assures him Clark is not dead. Sure enough, Clark meets Jimmy later at the Planet offices and explains that he was only stunned. I confess I half-expected him to say the ray was deflected by a butterfly he kept in his shirt pocket.

And thus ends the story. I think it's safe to say that, like the devolved Maximo and his cronies, we are all a tad mentally diminished for having experienced it. At this point, we are at least 3 years away from the arrival of Jack Kirby on the Jimmy Olsen title. It must have seemed like an eternity for anyone around at the time.