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Welcome to the four hundred and sixty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and sixty-five. This week, did DC Comics really nearly have Jimmy Olsen die of AIDS? Did Hydra really appear in a Marvel comic years before either SHIELD OR Nick Fury? Finally, did Jim Davis really have a Garfield comic strip that was somehow offensive to veterans?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: At one point, DC Comics planned on having Jimmy Olsen die of AIDS
STATUS: True Enough for a True
After John Byrne re-introduced the character into the Post-Crisis DC Universe after The Man of Steel…
Jerry Ordway definitely put Jimmy Olsen through the ringer in the late 1980s in the Superman titles…
But was it almost much worse for Superman’s pal? Did DC almost decide to have him die of AIDS?
A few years ago, I debunked a similar story that DC was originally going to have Jason Todd, the second Robin, die of AIDS. However, that same legend forms the basis for this story.
In that legend, it was based on Jim Starlin explaining how DC at one point decided to have a major character in their comics contract HIV and AIDS and then die from the disease (note to pedants before you write in to complain, we get it, you don’t actually literally die of AIDS itself – but I think we can all accept the short hand). Starlin, desperate to get rid of Jason Todd, kept pushing for it to be Jason Todd. He lost out on that, but eventually got the seed of the idea of killing of Jason in Denny O’Neil’s head and the rest is comic book history. However, back in 2010, Starlin had not commented on who DC eventually DID decide to kill off. Just that it wasn’t Jason Todd.
Well, last year, at the Nashville Comic & Horror Festival, Starlin discussed the topic further and revealed that the character that DC eventually settled on was Jimmy Olsen. However, according to Starlin, the fact that Marc McClure, the actor who played Jimmy Olsen in the Superman movies, was gay in real life, made DC rethink the topic and decide to drop the idea.
I hesitate to give this a full “true” because so many of these ideas are destined to die on the vine before they ever actually get published or even get fully committed to. In addition, I can’t speak as to whether McClure’s sexual orientation actually played a role in the decision-making (heck, I have no idea what McClure’s sexual orientation is and nor do I think we need to know details about his private life), but I think it is fair enough to say that at one point (however early in the planning process), DC was, indeed, planning on having Jimmy Olsen die of AIDS.
Which would have been quite a sensation at the time. Yikes, I can only imagine the media coverage.
Thanks to reader Pat S. for suggesting this one and thanks to Jim Starlin for the information!
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Are all the clocks in Pulp Fiction really set to 4:20?
On the next page, did Hydra appear in Marvel Comics BEFORE both SHIELD and Nick Fury?
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