Jimmy Olsen is now a vigilante on Supergirl season 2. More importantly, he’s going to be using a superhero codename (and look) that will be familiar to DC Comics fans. James has taken up the helmet and shield of The Guardian, who was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (you know, the guys who first brought you Captain America) in 1942.
So, while this is very much a different Guardian than any of the versions who have actually appeared in the comics, the character’s connections to Superman lore in general, and Jimmy Olsen in particular are surprisingly strong. So here’s a really quick guide to what we’re getting into (although not really) with Guardian on Supergirl Season 2!
The Guardian first appeared in Star Spangled Comics #7 in 1942, and while he was the lead story, he wasn’t really the star of that particular show. Instead, he was kind of the adult sidekick of The Newsboy Legion, who were a case of the future DC Comics ripping themselves off with another Simon and Kirby feature, The Boy Commandos, who were wildly successful at the time. Kid gangs were where it was at back then, and the Newsboy Legion were like the homefront version of the Boy Commandos.
Guardian’s superhero origin story took all of two pages to tell. Jim Harper was a rookie cop tired of getting his ass kicked on the job. One night, he decides enough is enough after some goons jump him, and that very night goes to a costume store, designs his suit, and goes back out to kick the crap out of the guys who wronged him before. That’s really all it took to be a superhero back then. Guardian’s co-creator Joe Simon claims that he modeled Harper loosely after a young, handsome cop who helped his family out after somebody ripped off his father’s store.
Two fun connections to the show here: you can spot a Star Spangled Comics logo on Winn’s van that he uses to assist the Guardian. And in the latest episode, Guardian stops a robbery at a convenience store called “Newsboy!”
The Guardian and the Newsboy Legion were quite a success, and it’s tough to imagine a more impactful creative team in the golden age of comics than Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. If you’re a fan of older, simpler comics, their work on The Newsboy Legion and the 10 issues of Captain America Comics they did together are a cut above the kind of stuff you were seeing in bigger titles like Superman or Batman, for example.
Now, we already met the comic book Guardian’s alter ego, Jim Harper, on the first season of Supergirl, and he was a raging dick. I was hoping they would lead to some kind of redemption for the character, as I’m not sure what the point of including him was in the first place. But Supergirl Season 2’s heavy ties to Cadmus and even the fact that it’s Jimmy taking up the name of The Guardian both play nicely with the next part of the character’s history.
Jack Kirby resurrected Harper (well, his clone) in the early ’70s when he introduced Project Cadmus in the pages of (wait for it) Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. That’s right, when DC lured the architect of the Marvel Universe away from their competition, the book Jack decided to take control of was Jimmy Olsen, which allowed him to introduce all manner of wild concepts into what had previously just been a half-assed Superman title. Seriously, without this book, no Darkseid, no New Gods, and thus, no villain for the upcoming Justice League movie.
Guardian and Project Cadmus became a regular feature of the Superman comics of the ’90s, too, and were featured nearly as regularly as more traditional pieces of Superman supporting mythology for awhile. There’s even a Guardian and Mon-El connection for you Supergirl fans. There was a brief period a few years back where Mon-El took over for Superman in Metropolis, and his day job was as a member of the Science Police, and his commanding officer? That would be Jim Harper, the Guardian.
So, we have the first of the comic book Jimmy Olsen/Guardian connections right there. But remember what I said about Guardian’s origin story being as simple as “good dude decides he’s had enough of getting his ass kicked and puts on a costume?” Does that not sound a little bit like what we’ve seen unfolding with Jimmy over the last couple of weeks? Hey, it worked in 1942, and it works here.
But Jimmy isn’t the first black man to wear the armor and shield, either. After Jim Harper version of Guardian, there were two others, and both were black characters: Teen Titans member Mal Duncan was the second Guardian, and then there was Jake Jordan, who fought in the pages of Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s absolutely brilliant The Manhattan Guardian comic, which was part of Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory line.
What’s more, there’s plenty of precedent for Jimmy as a superhero, too. Jimmy has taken up superheroics in the comics several times, albeit in the semi-humorous role of Elastic Lad during comics’ Silver Age. We…ummmm…will probably never see that happen here. Unless, of course, they decide to tell us that James does have a past in Metropolis where that happened, in which case, I will follow this show to the ends of the Earth. And seriously, you can’t have a guy with as athletic a build as Mechad Brooks on a superhero show and not have him kick a little ass every now and then.
But to bring this back to Jack Kirby’s work with the Guardian and Jimmy Olsen for a moment (because seriously, you need to read that stuff, it’s amazing), Jimmy never needed a costume to get into the action in those days. The Jack Kirby written and drawn issues of Jimmy Olsen that introduced the Guardian featured the most proactive, two-fisted, and downright badass Jimmy that had ever been seen in comics before (or even since!). The seeds of heroism were pretty much always there with Jimmy, it just really took Guardian’s co-creator to bring it out of him in a meaningful way. In that respect, it’s kind of fitting that James is carrying on the Guardian legacy on TV.