The Greatest Comic Ever

Bloggified by Jake on Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #116 reprints a story from issue #24, "The Gorilla Reporter." To some that may seem lazy, taking a story that was written and illustrated seven years earlier and just republishing it with a new cover, but look within the pages and you'll see why DC editor Mort Weisinger churned out an unaltered version of "The Gorilla Reporter."

The real question is why hasn't it been republished every seven years since?!?! Simply put, this is the greatest comic ever committed to paper. The trees that were pulped to make this comic are in tree heaven hanging out with the trees that were used to make the Magna Carta and the Constitution and the envelope on which Lincoln jotted down the Gettysburg address and the November 1989 Pia Reyes Playboy. They are rockstars of the tree universe.

As I mentioned, the interior of this issue is the same as it was in 1957, but Curt Swan drew a new cover. When I have the money to blow, I fully plan to commission a series of artists to draw new covers for this (though a Chris Giarrusso cover re-creation of this would be pretty sweet). I want to see today's top talent portray Jimmy and a gorilla switching brains.

The hardest part of reviewing this story had to be not scanning every single panel. The story is ten pages long and I probably could have taken at eight days to review this.

The story begins, as so many great Jimmy Olsen tales do, with a completely insane and irresponsible inventor who's created a pointless machine and who has latched on to Jimmy with the promise of an exclusive story should said invention work. Jimmy, never having figured out that a story about a machine that makes your bed for you or sorts your socks isn't exactly front page news, is there as always and eager to help, volunteering himself as the guinea pig. In this case, the machine is supposed to help humans read the minds of animals.I'm not sure what kind of big scoop Jimmy expected from reading the thoughts of animals. "Give me a banner headline, Perry! 'Gorilla want eat bananas! Giraffes hope no lions are around!' What do you think?"

In his pursuit of such a dynamic story, Jimmy leans on Superman, but before the Man of Steel can arrive, the invention starts "working," which I've chosen to put in quotes since it does something not at all similar to what it's supposed to do, poses a threat to everyone involved, and only does what it does because a random circumstance of a gorilla mashing the buttons on the control panel. Any of these could be considered a red flag that your invention doesn't "work."The machine somehow swaps the brains of Jimmy Olsen and the gorilla, putting Jimmy's brain inside a 500 pound ape and sending Jimmy's body swinging through the trees. Jimmy's getting away, but Jimmy realizes he can't let Jimmy escape, so Jimmy chases after Jimmy, tackling Jimmy just as Superman arrives. Unfortunately, Superman doesn't realize Jimmy isn't Jimmy, and thinks Jimmy is being attacked by a gorilla, so he punches Jimmy, who nearly loses he grip on Jimmy.Crap, from now on, I will be referring to the ape with Jimmy's brain as "gorilla Jimmy" and Jimmy's body with the ape brain as "the Jimmy gorilla" or this is going to get really ugly.Hang on a second, Superman. The last time someone randomly started pushing buttons, your friend's brain was transplanted into a gorilla, much to the shock of the inventor who had no idea the machine was capable of such a feat. Now you plan to hit every possible random combination of buttons, figuring one of them will switch things back?

The man who built it doesn't know what it will do! He let a gorilla play with it! Hitting random buttons is just as likely to launch the Soviets' nuclear arsenal or scramble the brains of some Marine radar operator and convince him that he should kill the president.*

None of the every possible combinations switch the two back to their rightful bodies and since no one else has any ideas, the decision is made to let life go on as usual. Superman takes the Jimmy gorilla to a large, fenced-in animal refuge--which later is referred to as part of "Perry White's private estate," which raises just... so... many questions, I can't even begin to list them--and provides some coconut trees he'd uprooted in the tropics for the Jimmy gorilla to climb.

Meanwhile, Gorilla Jimmy goes home, puts on his clothes and goes to work, where he is greeted in a manner that--in all honesty--probably isn't that different from what he usually gets.
Yes. Without that sign, people might find the sight of a talking gorilla in an ugly suit sitting in a restaurant a bit surprising, even frightening. The sign will stake the edge right off though. Kudos, Perry White, editor-in-chief of one of the nation's most respected newspapers who can't think of a better way to clearly express that this gorilla is safe than "Bonzo Intelligent Gorilla."

In journalism terms, you've buried your lead, Perry, as I think "Tame" and "No Danger" are the more salient facts than the animal's name. I spent a good minute or two wondering if Bonzo was some late-50's slang term for "Caution" or "Attention."

Gorilla Jimmy goes about his day, deciding to report on a wrestling match between "The Gorilla" and "Golden George." It may not be much, but I find it hilarious that Jimmy thinks professional wrestling is newsworthy. The Gorilla turns out to be a heel (or bad guy) and the crowd backs Golden George. Jimmy, however, can't help but root for the Gorilla. At one point, Gorilla gets thrown from the ring and Jimmy catches him and tosses him back. He then explains that he intentionally got involved in the match for his article. Considering professional wrestling seemed to have an aura of legitimacy two frames earlier, this seems roughly equivalent to a baseball writer leaning over the outfield fence to nab a ball Jeffrey Maier-style because a home run would make for a better story than warning track flyout.

Later, Jimmy attends the premiere of a Hollywood blockbuster than just happens to star a gorilla.I love this frame. One might be mistaken that the shocked people in the crowd have the looks on their faces because there is a 500-pound, talking gorilla wearing a suit and hat, shouting, and swinging his fists about without much regard to where they swing.

I suggest the gorilla aspect is completely superfluous.

To prove my point, imagine Richard Roeper at the premiere of Little Man jumping up and down in his seat, flailing his arms, and screaming loud enough to be heard throughout the theater, "Oh, boy! I'm going to give this picture a thumbs up! It's about a midget jewel thief who escapes police by posing as a baby and gets adopted by a childless couple! He has to keep up the ruse! Whoo-hoo, Little Man! Make another diaper changing joke! Yee-ha!!!" What faces would the people in the crowd make? They'd have the exact same looks! If anything, they might be more shocked by a person acting this way.

Life goes on this way while it becomes apparent no one is doing anything to try to switch Jimmy gorilla and Gorilla Jimmy back to their original states. Gorilla Jimmy makes the most of his new strength and agility, joining Superman on patrol... and on his other Superman-ly duties.You know, Superman may be a very talented acrobat, who has studied and honed his skill for years. But when you can fly, swinging and leaping through the air is much less impressive.

Later, Clark Kent has to go to the bank to pick up some money for Perry White and loses track of time.Fortunately, gorilla Jimmy just happened to be walking by and came in to try to rip the vault's door off its hinges. He succeeds thanks to a superpush from the inside.

At this same moment, the Jimmy gorilla escapes Perry's private animal commune and comes bounding down the street. This suddenly makes Superman figure out how to switch the two brains back. He sweeps up the Jimmy gorilla and goes to the professor's laboratory, where the ape-minded reporter randomly punches at the buttons once again.What Superman didn't think of was that maybe he should have brought both subjects to the brain-returning ceremony. Instead, Gorilla Jimmy had returned to the office to write up a front page story headlined "Gorilla Jimmy Olsen Saves Clark Kent from Cliched Sitcom Plot Device." With his own mind restored, the gorilla is now loose in the Daily Planet, sadly, wearing a now-misleading sign that clearly says "Bonzo Intelligent Gorilla Tame No Danger."

Perry White chooses this moment to walk up and slap the gorilla, which again probably is no big event since I'm sure he smacks around Jimmy Olsen a couple dozen times a day.The gorilla gets returned to his cage, which really kind of sucks for him considering he'd just spent the last week or two free to roam about a few acres of lush, natural habitat.

*Even though this issue was published in 1964, after Kennedy and Oswald's deaths, #24 was published in 1957, meaning this story took place while Oswald was stationed in an air station in California and therefore that reference works.

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