Friday, August 26, 2011

Jimmy Olsen

It seems fitting to wrap up the Drewniverse's 52 with Jimmy Olsen. Not only has Jimmy been the victim of many, many, MANY self-and-Superman inflicted "reboots" in his career, but the character himself was sort of rebooted in continuity early on in the dawn of Action Comics #6. See, previous to that, Jimmy was an unnamed "office boy" who existed in crowd scenes at The Daily Star. It took his appearance in the Superman radio program to give him a name and a voice. In a way, the current DC reboot is just one of many that have been washing over the setting since its birth, changes to in-comic continuity inspired by out of comics factors. We've seen it again and again over the years from kryptonite to Harley Quinn, the DC universe yawns wide to gobble up new takes, new ideas, and new characters that emerge from popular culture.

Is it any wonder things become so convoluted, so quickly? One practically needs a roadmap or a change log or something to keep track of what is "real" and "imagined" in these fictional stories.

Jimmy Olsen, Reporter (#52/52) will be that log.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of Jimmy, I need to mention another red-haired comicbook character who served, in a way, as the inspiration for Jimmy's role in the Drewniverse: Archie Andrews. Now, all I know of Archie comes from reading the same two Archie Digests that were left at my dentist's office the same summer I got my braces installed some, ungh, twenty years ago. Which is to say, I know Archie has some woman troubles, a friend who may or may not have a horrible eating disorder, and gets up to a whole lot of hijinx. So many, I've always assumed, that they've had to publish them in digest form. I had never seen actual individual Archie comics, but I assumed there were out there, lots of them. So many, in fact, that a reasonable person would be like "Whoa, slow down, just give me the bare bones so I can keep up" and thus the digests. Too busy to keep up with the kids of Riverdale in all (I assume) three hundred and twenty five Archie titles? No problem. We've summed everything you need to know up in this digest for you.

Yes, I know this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what a digest is, but hey, I can be pretty thick sometimes. I only figured out a few years ago that The Gambler from the Kenny Rogers song of the same name actually died in the song. Likewise, I had assumed for years that a digest was just an abbreviated summation of some other body of work - Reader's Digest offered paired down editions of classics and email message groups had a daily or weekly digest feature.

Anyhoo, with the Drewniverse (and DC) featuring some 50+ monthly titles, it would be foolish to expect the average reader to buy them all. Sure, as publishers we'd want them to, but in reality not many people have a $150 monthly comics budget. With that much monthly output, it would be really easy for readers to get lost, to fall behind, and to give up in frustration. We don't want that. We want a way for the hardcore to follow the setting and the casual to be able to pick it up and put it down on a whim. If the story is good, the casual reader will keep buying. If not, we want to make sure they have an easy way to reengage with the setting to get caught up when they want to give it another shot. I'm thinking here of some comments Jason Mantzoukas of the How Did This Get Made? podcast made when discussing the Green Lantern movie - Jason knew who the Green Lantern was, considered himself a fan of the Green Lantern (especially his The New Frontier incarnation), but had no idea what was going on with the character recently beyond some colored rings stuff.

You know, I bet the same sentiment could be true for many, many potential DC comics buyers. We enlightened few on the internets are pretty aware of the current state of our comicbook settings, even if we never buy the books. I never read House of M, but I could summarize it for you (and even do a longer description than "Bendis wanks into a sock for 8 issues" - I KEED I KEED). But the average potential reader who doesn't spend their days surreptitiously sneaking peeks at Comics Alliance or iFanboy will know little about what's going on. Hell, for all they know, Spider-Man is black right now. Jimmy Olsen, Reporter would give the lapsed fan an easy way to pop into the setting to see what's up.

So what do we proud, we few, we forum lurkers get out of Jimmy Olsen? We get our official register of continuity. #52 will be the method of editorial story control over the setting. With the big name characters appearing in multiple books (no matter how much I've tried to limit it), who did what when can get pretty muddled. In steps Jimmy Olsen. If it's mentioned in Jimmy Olsen, it's in continuity. Events that happen outside of it still happen and are still in continuity, but it takes a mention in Jimmy Olsen to get it nailed on, immutable (barring time travel, natch). So Superman could fight an army of levitating Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) in the north in Superman and that's totally real and totally did happen, even thought the same month in Justice League, he's busy pushing a War World out of orbit around our yellow sun. It would be up to Jimmy Olsen to set how that order of events happened, to smooth over any unfortunate story consequences that may have sprung from that. That way if, to take a totally random example, a writer decided that Superman would give up flying in favor of hassling drug dealers, Jimmy Olsen could dial that back with a mention of "the rumors that Superman has given up flying are unsubstantiated. Heck, I saw him fly by just last week!"

Yeah, we're Schrodinger-ing continuity here some, but then again, every comic ever has done that. All things being equal if Batman #5 states that a giant ocean liner sank off the coast of Iceland while Superman #5 says that the same ocean liner was actually stolen by Ocean Master, there needs to be a third party comic, one who speaks with the Voice of Thunder, back by editorial fiat, to bring things into line. This would hopefully prevent these continuity clashes from snowballing, just like they did over the decades that brought us Earths 1 and 2. Hopefully our editorial staff will have enough control over our writers that this continuity correction will be more of a gentle nudge rather that ZOMG WHY DID YOU KILL WONDER WOMAN?

Also, given that this is a reboot where certain things may or may not have happened in the past, we'll need a house organ to state what's what when it comes to backstory.

This is a lot of responsibility to place on one title's weedy, tweedy shoulders, I know, but I think Jimmy can take it. Jimmy Olsen, Reporter will be a book divided into parts. Each issue will feature a stand-alone Jimmy Olsen story, one where he encounters and interviews major players of recent comic events. So he could be kidnapped by thugs and rescued by, say, Huntress which would give us a chance to establish her recent timeline in regards to the rest of the Drewniverse. Or he could have a stunned jailhouse interview with Lex Luthor where the billionaire decries the slanders and lies levied against him ("Uh, Mr. Luthor, to be fair, the weapons used in the lab break-in had the LexCorp logo on them, so a lot of people will think you are responsible-" "Mr. Olsen. My LexCorp logo also appears on a line of hand lotions. Am I therefore responsible for what you do with those late at night in front of your computer?" "Uh, er, I think we're done here." "Quite.").

Jimmy's legacy of transformations would be continued in this part, when needed. Who better to get the scoop on Sam Simeon than Gorilla Jimmy? Bizarro would certainly talk to Bizarro Jimmy ("Me am best enemy!"), just as the Amazons would prefer to speak with Leslie Lowe.

The second part would be for more basic information dumps and would take the form of Jimmy's blog and attached message board. This would allow us to quickly cover some background information without waiting for Jimmy to get around to interacting with the major players in the events. It would also be the haunt of a certain Super-fan, who could use the venue to continue his bellyaching.

The third would be totally out of continuity and would consist of information regarding upcoming issues of other titles, new graphic novel releases, and so on. It'd be ad content, sure, but then again, considering that Jimmy Olsen, Reporter shouldn't cost more than two bucks tops (one is better, free is best, but I know little about publishing costs for comics), it should be okay. A low price point is a must for this comic. We want people to get into the habit of picking it up every month, even if they are not huge DC fans, just so they can be in the loop as to what's going on.

And there we have it. 52 comics in three months. Whew. I'll have more to say on this project next week, including my favorite reboots, things I've rethought, and my general process, but for the time being, please feel free to browse the now complete title list to the right!

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