Is it true that when Jack went to work for DC in 1970, he asked
them to assign him their worst-selling book and that's how he got Jimmy Olsen?
And while you're at it, how come he didn't just go back to Challengers of the
When Jack went to work for DC then, he didn't particularly want to
do any existing comic. He actually didn't want to do conventional format
comics at all. He wanted to experiment with new sizes, such as what we
would now call graphic novels but he didn't have much choice. He
also didn't want to do what he called "someone else's characters" but DC
insisted that he take over at least one monthly title that they were already
Jack was told he could take his pick of "any book in the place,"
although I've always assumed that if he'd picked certain titles, like if he had
a sudden urge to take over Batman, they would have quickly
talked him out of them. In any case, he looked over everything DC was
publishing and didn't see anything he especially liked or felt was suited for
him. So he said to Carmine Infantino, who was running the company, "You
pick something for me. Give me whatever you like and I'll do it.
Give me your worst-selling book if you like and I'll make it your best-selling
title." But he also told Infantino not to remove someone else from a job
they already had. Jack, being a Depression-era kid, hated the idea of
anyone being fired. So he asked for a book that was currently without a
regular writer and artist.
At the time, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen more or less fit
that description. Its editor, Mort Weisinger, was leaving the firm and
another editor, Murray Boltinoff, was about to take it over. Boltinoff had
not formally selected his creative team yet. (It would probably have gone
to writer Leo Dorfman and artist George Tuska) Jimmy Olsen was not
DC's worst-selling title by any means, though its sales were then on a steady downward
Also, there had been some talk of Jack doing something with
Superman and coming up with some ideas to reinvigorate that character's comics.
Since Superman appeared in Jimmy Olsen, that seemed like a likely place
for Jack to work out some of his ideas about the Man of Steel. There were
also some folks at the DC office who wanted to see Kirby revive the Newsboy
Legion and since James Olsen was something of a newsboy, that seemed like yet
another reason to assign Kirby to the book. So Jack, mustering as much
enthusiasm as he could for a comic he didn't especially want to do, took over
As for Challengers of the Unknown...at the time of Jack's
return to DC, that book was marked for cancellation. It was, in fact,
featuring reprints of Kirby's original issues from the fifties. As far as
I know, there was no talk of him returning to it. DC had pretty much
written it off — it might actually have been their worst-selling title.
The company had already given up on it and starting Jack off on a book with such
a poor recent sales history would have been a needless handicap.
What happened to Jack's work on Jimmy Olsen? Who redrew his
work and why?
As I explained in this article,
DC executives decided his drawings of Jimmy Olsen and Superman didn't look
Why can't they have better inkers "re-ink" the Kirby comics that
were inked by bad inkers?
There are two aspects of that question...one technical, one
ethical. The technical one is that you can't "re-ink" an inked comic.
That is, if Jack pencilled a story and then Fred Badinker inked it, that's
probably all that exists of that story. If you then give those old pages
to Phil Goodinker and tell him to "re-ink," all he can do is trace what Badinker
inked and smooth things out and kind of guess what Kirby did that was now lost.
That's not inking Kirby. That's creating a new piece of art that
reinterprets how Badinker inked Kirby.
There are a few cases where Xeroxes or stats exist of Jack's
pencil art, and those could theoretically be used to have Goodinker do a tracing
and "reinking." But even tracing good stats that way isn't the same as
actually inking Kirby pencils, and there are also the moral considerations to
Jack hated the idea of someone tampering with his work after the
fact to "improve it." As far as he was concerned, when a story was done —
even if it was inked by Vince Colletta — it was done and should not be touched
again. (Jack was bothered
a lot less by poor inking than some of his fans are.) I didn't like what Colletta did to the early Fourth World comics but even if you could magically
expunge his contribution and make the books look like they would have if Joe
Sinnott or Mike Royer had inked them, Jack would not have wanted that.
As noted in the article linked in the previous answer, before DC reprinted Jack's Jimmy Olsen
issues, there was a brief discussion of having someone — probably Steve Rude —
retouch the work to be more "Kirby." Jack's friends and estate were
willing to entertain the notion because it was not so much a matter of reworking
Kirby as of changing one set of revisions for another, more sympathetic set.
But it was finally decided that it might get even farther from what Jack
intended and that since there was a question, it was better to err on the side
of not fiddling with completed work.