Good news for fans of criminally under-appreciated Superman supporting character Jimmy Olsen. Here’s your first look at James Olsen – his the CW’s Supergirl incarnation played by Mehcad Brooks – as he takes on the mantle of the classic DC Comics hero, Guardian. In this role, James will fight to protect National City alongside Supergirl.
One of the many classic comic characters spawned by the legendary partnership between Jack Kirby and frequent collaborator Joe Simon, Guardian was in essence a DC Comics analogue to Marvel’s Captain America, created by Kirby and Simon for Marvel comics (then known as Timely). Debuting on the pages of DC’s Star-Spangled Comics in 1942, Guardian, the alter-ego of Jim Harper, was a Metropolis-based hero aided by his sidekicks, the Newsboys Legion (yes, exactly what it sounds like), who trained himself to peak physical condition while employing a variety of advanced tech to help him fight crime.
The character has long been tied to some of the bigger aspects of DC’s complex mythology, with Jim Harper later revealed as the great uncle of Green Arrow sidekick Roy Harper (Speedy, better known as Arsenal on the CW’s Arrow), and was eventually given ties to both Superman and Batman.
In the comics, Jimmy Olsen never donned the mantle of Guardian, though having him become the Supergirl version of the character is firmly in keeping with Olsen’s own weird (and frankly, awesome) mythology. An older version of The Newsboys Legion were brought back into DC continuity in 1970, in the long-running Superman spinoff comic Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, which saw a new version of Guardian called Golden Guardian. But more importantly, one of the long-running gags in Superman’s Pal saw Olsen granted temporary superpowers with which he’d fight crime alongside Superman before, naturally, losing his powers and being brought back down to normal. Which is to say, we’ll see just how long Olsen keeps his powers.
I love Brooks’ version of Olsen by the way. For one thing, it’s great casting and for another, Supergirl‘s Olsen has been a great use of the long-neglected and frequently-mocked character. It’s a strong contrast to the current DC Extended Universe of Warner Bros super hero films, in which Olsen was introduced as a CIA stooge and then killed off minutes later at the beginning of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. That was because, according to director Zack Snyder, they couldn’t find a good use for the character given the tone of the ongoing movie series. This despite the fact that Olsen is Superman/Clark Kent’s best friend who, it should be noted, served as best man when the man of steel finally married Lois.