ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

(Warning - the following may contain incredibly mild SPOILERS for the forthcoming season of Supergirl. Proceed with accordingly mild caution...)

Over the years, Superman has had his fair share of romantic entanglements (using with the initials L.L), and more foes, allies and inter-dimensional wizard beings than pretty much any other superhero going. What he's only ever had one of, though, is a true pal, in the form of James Bartholomew 'Jimmy' Olsen.

With over 70 years of experience of being Superman's sort-of-sidekick, Olsen has traditionally been an eager and misadventure-prone cub reporter/photojournalist at the Daily Planet. In CBS' new superhero show Supergirl, however, it looks as though Olsen could be set to take on a brand new role: that of the worldly-wise mentor of an inexperienced hero.

The big question, though?

Just How Much Has Jimmy Olsen Changed in Supergirl?

Well, as Mehcad Brooks - who's set to play Olsen in the series - revealed at this summer's San Diego Comic-Con, he could be very different indeed...and yet still be very much the Jimmy we know and love.

Y'see, on the one hand, Brooks is clearly very much aware of both the visual changes to Olsen (who's traditionally a freckle-faced Caucasian redhead)...

"As far as changing the iconography, that it might be different? I realized that when they called me back: "Oh, y'all are...oh, for real? I just thought that was affirmative action, but y'all were paying attention when I talked? Cool cool cool."

...and the inevitable alterations that a 21st century adaptation of the character will have to make from the original comic books:

"They gave me a couple to read. I read them, but it doesn't really apply to the James Olsen that we're going to create. We're definitely going to give it its respect, but we're transitioning him into the 21st Century...Our great-grandfathers really had a monochromatic existence, no matter who they were, and they wrote what they knew. And I think we're writing something that is now, so we have a very cool new playground to play with and a canvas to paint, and I hope the fans who were loyal to Jimmy Olsen for the last 75 years can stick with us and enjoy what they see."

Those changes, though - including, as suggested by the pilot, a notable increase in Jimmy's confidence levels - might simply be a reflection of the inevitable changes that years of hanging around with Superman would bring:

"This is what happens when somebody goes to Superman Confidence Boot Camp. You hang around with Superman long enough, it's going to rub off on you. You're going to gain some confidence, lift some weights, dress a little bit different, take the bowtie off, maybe? You go to the bar, girls are going to be like, 'Hey, what do you do?' 'I hang out with Superman'...That works, by the way. [Laughs]"

Perhaps the most intriguing element of Brooks' interview when it comes to his future portrayal of Jimmy Olsen, though? The fact that he seems to not only 'get' Jimmy's integral character, but to exude a whole lot of the straightforward positivity of Superman's pal himself. Asked whether he was looking forward to journalists no longer asking "Why does Jimmy have to be a person of color?", Brooks had a pretty perfectly Jimmy Olsen-style answer:

"I haven't gotten that question that often. I mean, he doesn't have to be; he never has been. This is the first time we're doing it."
"To me, that just means that in this country that we're headed in the right direction. It sounds corny, but I'm a corny guy: it does go to show you, if you're a naysayer and you don't think things are changing, all you have to do is look around and we're becoming more accepting of people, whoever they are. It doesn't matter what they look like. It's like 'judging people by the content of their character,' right? The content of the scene. And I'm just really happy and proud of Warner Bros., of DC Comics, of CBS, to have done this and to be part of a progressive change."
Me, growing up as a kid, I didn't have anybody to look to. One time I dressed up as Superman and one of my friends' parents told me, 'You can't be Superman; you're black.' Ten years old, nine years old, and I'm like, 'Well, he's from Krypton, so he's probably not white either, right? He's an alien.' That was my thought process: he's not from Earth, and so it just goes to show, that mentality I think is leaving us and I'm really happy to be part of the fact that there's going to be little kids that look like me, who can now look at somebody and be like, 'I can be like that.' So I'm not sick of that question, actually. I'd like to answer it more."

Superman'd be proud...

What do you reckon, though?



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