Comics 101 In Focus: The Old Bait and Switch

You don’t see it as much these days as you used to, the maneuver in comics of having a big sensationalistic cover that had almost nothing to do with the story inside, but back when it was a fairly common practice, no one did it more often and more shamelessly than DC Comics, particularly late ’60s/early ’70s DC Comics. And for an absolutely perfect example, let’s take a look at issue #108 of SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN from March 1968.


That’s a pretty sweet cover, right? Unsigned, but it sure looks like Neal Adams to me. Superman tortured? By Jimmy Olsen? And working with Lex Luthor? Makes you want to turn the page, doesn’t it?

So in the story itself, “Luthor’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen,” (written by Cary Bates and drawn by Pete Costanza), a Lex Luthor of years gone by uses his new “future timescope” for a glimpse into the future hoping to find a way to kill Superman.


Luthor learns that someday Superman will have a teenage friend at the Daily Planet, whom he seems to spend a lot of time saving, and resolves to use that kid as his pawn, before he and Superman ever meet. Accordingly, he travels forward in time in his admittedly slick-looking timeplane to intercept him:


A sidenote: Luthor always has amazing resources for a guy who doesn’t even bother to pick up a change of clothes. I mean, look at the size of that timeplane!

After faking an attempt on young Jimmy’s life and “saving” him from it, Luthor spins a tale of deceit for the naïve Mr. Olsen, blaming all of Luthor’s infamous crimes on his nonexistent twin brother, “Lester Luthor.”

Feeling he owes Luthor a debt, Jimmy agrees to help him clear his name, even securing a job at the Daily Planet at Luthor’s request:


And it seems as though Jimmy has completely fallen for it, even jumping into quicksand to prevent Superman from capturing Luthor:


In an even weirder left turn, Jimmy and Luthor are discovered by Luthor’s sister Lena Thurol, who’s not only a police officer, but also has telepathic powers, a fact that’s delivered as matter-of-factly as if he’d said she was left-handed. It’s kind of hilarious.


Soon enough, Luthor’s plan has come to fruition, as Jimmy is used to deliver deadly Kryptonite gas to Superman.


Of course, it’s all a ruse, and soon Superman and Jimmy are tricking Luthor into confessing:


So how did Jimmy know that he was being used as a patsy to kill Superman? A psychic message from Luthor’s sister. Seriously.


“But wait,” I hear you asking, “what about that cool cover with Jimmy killing Superman himself?”

Oh, that. That was all just a dream.


Man. Shameless.

And the best thing is, that isn’t even the weirdest thing in this issue:


But that may be a story for another time…

Scott Tipton wants to take a test-drive in Luthor’s sweet timeship.


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Welcoming the Future, Treasuring the Past.