- "You do not get to decide who is a hero, and who are you to tell me how to be or who to be. I am meant for this."
- —James Olsen to Kara Danvers[src]
James "Jimmy" Olsen is the best friend of Clark Kent and the former art director and former acting CEO of CatCo Worldwide Media, who was promoted by Cat Grant to be a stand-in for her while she is on her leave of absence from the company. Always longing for his own brand of justice, James asks his friend Winn Schott to help him in his quest and adopts the guise of Guardian, a vigilante operating in National City.
Jimmy is the only son of a soldier who died during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and, before he was deployed to the Middle East, he gave him his first camera. Since the death of his father Jimmy keeps the camera with him at all times and decide to become a photojournalist; a nervous kid starting out, he find employ at the Daily Planet, where he befriended Clark Kent, who eventually entrusted him with his super-heroic secret allowing him to take the 1st photo of Superman, from which he won a Pulitzer and soon gained public recognition for being friends with him.
Growing up, he began to find the nickname "Jimmy" annoying preferring to be called "James"; also he start a relationship with Lucy Lane, which nevertheless ends because she constantly feels sidelined by him in favor of Superman.
Moving to National City
Seeking to broaden his own horizons, James was asked by Superman to move to National City to keep an eye on his cousin, Kara, also accepting a job as CatCo Worldwide Media's art director. First meeting Kara when she came to get some layouts on request from Cat Grant, he told her that Grant could wait, as it'd be her loss if she fired him right after hiring him. Introducing himself as the new guy, James was recognized by Kara after she saw a framed print of the first photo ever taken of Superman. James offered the copy to her, on the condition that she first tell him what her name was. After introducing herself and attempting to leave, he reminded her of the layouts she had originally come to get.
He was later asked to lunch by Kara, though he told her to meet him on the roof instead as he entered the elevator. On the roof, he presented her with the blanket Kal-El had been wrapped in as a baby when he arrived to Earth, revealing to her that he came to National City as a personal favor to her cousin.
A week later, James went to the content meeting called by Cat, who firstly made sure everyone knew about Supergirl's recent heroic failure. James pointed out that even Superman had made mistakes starting out. He was then asked by Cat whether he could get her an interview with Supergirl by approaching the subject to Superman the next time they met, though James was reluctant to do so. After the meeting, James later tried to convince Kara that Cat wouldn't recognize her if she did the interview, giving her a pep-talk when she contemplated whether she had become a hero too soon, telling her that if anyone could fill Superman's boots, it was her.The next day, James encountered Winn Schott in the alleyway outside of CatCo. After the two made several attempts to get each other to leave, they were soon surprised to learned that one another were both confidants of Kara, after she landed in front of them. She then told both James and Winn that needed to practice if she was going to be a hero, and that she needed their help, with James agreeing to do so. Using Kara's apartment as a base of operations, James and Winn alerted her to several emergencies occurring in National City, also simultaneously advising her how to handle the situations as well. Later at Kara's apartment, James and Winn were both thanked by Kara for their assistance as people were finally starting to believe in Supergirl. The following day at CatCo, James was given the dilemma of getting Cat an interview with Supergirl within 24 hours, or being fired. Outside of CatCo, Kara offered to do the interview so James wouldn't be fired, with James telling her that he thought moving to National City he could be his own man, and escape the fame of being friends with Superman. James was then told by Kara that on Krypton no one was their own man, and that apart of being his own man meant knowing when to accept help from others. James was later called by Cat about the interview with Supergirl, with him telling her to look out of her car window as the interview had already started, with Supergirl carrying her car into the air.
Rekindling with Lucy
James and Winn helped Kara to track down Reactron and rescue Maxwell Lord, however James calls Superman to help her because he fear for the girl's life, which enrages Kara since she want to be defined not as Superman's cousin, but by her victories and losses. The pair patch things up shortly after and Kara decides to asks him out, but before she can do it Lucy Lane, James' ex-girlfriend, arrived in his office with the intention to get back with him. Despite at first James treated her coldly since she was the one who break-up their relationship, after Lucy explained her reasons the two rekindle their relationship and even spent Thanksgiving's week together in Ojai.
After the holidays, Lucy told James that her father, General Sam Lane, was coming to town and wanted to have dinner with them. After he agreed, Lucy left, passing by Kara on her way out and thanking her for the "invite". Kara then went over to James, making sure everything was okay. James explained that he and Lucy's father didn't get along because he "consorted with aliens" and the general was against them. During their conversation, James explained that he invited Lucy to their regular game night, with Kara reassuring James before leaving that she was fine with it, despite actually she feels demoralized to see their chemistry as a couple. At dinner with General Lane, things got tense between James and the general who finally told him that he wasn't good enough for Lucy—that he surrounds himself with special people because he's not good enough himself. Later, when they're attacked by Red Tornado, James managed to call Supergirl thanks to his signal watch.
The following day, though General Lane disapproved, Lucy decides to resigning from the military and staying in National City with James.
His feelings for Kara
When Kara is reduced to a normal humans since her powers has been drained after her battle with Red Tornado, James reassure her that her abilities should return in a few days. He helps her to realize she could be an hero even without her powers while dealing with the consequences of an earthquake in National City. To encourage her, James tells Kara the story of his father's camera, realizing for the first time he has feelings for her. However James tried to keep those feelings for himself due to his relationship with Lucy.
When Dirk Armstrong tried to use Cat's hacked emails to force her to leave her position as CEO of CatCo, James, Winn and Kara work together with Lucy to expose him and get him arrested. After spending time together with both of them, James recognizes Winn's feelings for Kara and tells him to take a risk and tell her how he feels.
Later James tried to investigate Lord Technologies suspecting of Maxwell Lord's activities. Winn agrees to help James bypass the security system in the Lord Technologies, James enters the building, but he is stops at Room 52's biometric lock, then Maxwell Lord knocks him and beat him up, telling him to no longer meddle in it, then he lets him go. Few days later, as his feelings for Kara continues to grow and slowly begins to deteriorate his relationship with Lucy, James share a drink with Winn over their romantic troubles. Winn told James that he would always have a chance with Kara, but James reminds him of Lucy, prompting Winn to replying that nobody wants a relationship with someone who wants to be with someone else.
James, along with Winn and Alex discovered Kara on the floor of her apartment with an creature attached to her. James and Winn were later ordered out of the D.E.O. by Hank Henshaw. After being informed of Kara's situation due to the creature, they were both concerned of what would happen to Kara after they pulled her out of her perfect fantasy. They were then taken back to the D.E.O. by Alex, and later calmed Alex down when she thought she had been pulled out when she went into the hallucination to save Kara.
When the city was attacked by Indigo, James offered Kara to search for information about her in the Fortress of Solitude, due to this trip however James completely forget about a date he had with Lucy and when he tells her that he had to help Supergirl against the evil alien supercomputer, Lucy takes offense as she felt James is sidelining her in favor of Supergirl as he did before with Superman.
To prove her wrong, James asks Kara's permission to tell Lucy the truth about her identity. Kara gives him her blessing but, as James comes to Lucy she broke-up with him before he can say anything because she found out he had talked about his father with Kara, something that he never did with her, and that means he is in love with Kara, not her.
When the Flash appeared in National City, Kara spent much time with him and, seeing this, James becomes visibly jealous, to the point that even Winn and Lucy noticed it, and the latter told him that he was looking at Kara and Barry with the same eyes she looked at him and Kara. Later that night Kara invited James to her home, where they confessed their feelings and share a kiss after whom James left in a blank stare, because, along with the rest of National City, he was put under the control of Myriad. Under the orders of Non, he, Winn and Kelly jump all from CatCo, with Supergirl rescuing him and Winn though failing to save Kelly. The two then tell Kara to accept defeat or die.
James is later snapped out of the mind control by Supergirl's speech to National City, with several flashbacks of Supergirl coming back to him. The next day, both him and Winn apologized for their actions, then James and Kara tried to discuss their kiss, but they are interrupted by Cat. Before the final battle with Non, Kara says goodbye to her friends and commented with James how they are "eternal interrupted", and perhaps simply not destined to be together. James was later present at Kara's apartment during the celebratory dinner they were having, he and Kara kiss just before being once again interrupted by a pod falling from the sky, causing Kara and J'onn to leave to check it out.
Acting CEO of CatCo
James and Kara's first date as a couple is interrupted almost immediately since Supergirl went to save the suborbital spacecraft Venture alongside Superman, who later visits National City, after such a long time James could then see Clark again, which makes both of them very happy. Later he and Kara tried to appoint a new date but, after even this one did not happen because Kara was busy saving Lena Luthor, they decide it is better to be friends.
After a couple of days Cat Grant decided to take a leave of absence from CatCo to find bigger and better things to do, leaving James as the acting director of the company. and, despite some initial clash with Snapper Carr, he proves immediately to be very suited for the position.
After his father's camera is destroyed during an attempt to stop some criminals armed with alien technology from robbing West National City Bank, James decides to become a vigilante and asks Winn to make him a suit, as Winn had made Kara's Supergirl suit. Although he originally declined, Winn later was forced to agree and help. He then made the suit to specifically protect James. James appeared in the suit, presenting himself as "Guardian", to fight the alien parasite infected Rudy Jones, along with Mon-El. Supergirl would eventually beat Parasite by using plutonium from a nuclear power plant, completely obliterating him. As Guardian left Supergirl tried to use x-ray vision to identify him, but since Guardian's helmet was lined with lead she was unable to, and she allowed him to drive away on his bike. After James' antics as Guardian made the newspapers he and Winn decided to keep going with their new vigilante activities. However to avoid Kara's over protectiveness James and Winn agreed not to share their new activity with her.
In the following days Guardian foiled a bank robbery and made the news again. James and Winn later had drinks with Kara and Alex at the alien bar where the girls voiced their skepticism over Guardian's activities, though James and Winn defended "his" actions. Later Guardian took down another criminal robbing a convenience store then Winn told him of a hostage situation, so he left to foil it. The next day James was horrified to learn from Snapper that the mugger he'd taken down was murdered by another masked man moments after he'd left and Guardian had been blamed for it. Winn then confronted James about the murder but he stressed that he didn't kill the mugger, as Winn started panicking about getting caught and insisted they stop, James refused and promised they'd find the impostor. Guardian then attacked a gang during a drug shipment at the docks and as hoped, the impostor showed up, claiming he was doing what needs to be done and hoped they could be allies. Instead a fight occurred which was interrupted by police unit led by Detective Maggie Sawyer who forced the Guardian to flee.The next day Winn went to Alex to ask her to talk to Maggie about laying off Guardian though she was able to tell that Winn was hiding something. When she started to intimidate him, Winn immediately told her that James was Guardian. James and Winn discovered the impostor was targeting criminals who cheated the system, as both victims had convictions that were passed over because of technicalities. He also told him of another man who'd killed a woman named Julie Karnowsky, only to be let go because of insufficient evidence, whose husband Phillip was a former Navy SEAL who'd gone missing months ago; after deducing Phillip was the impostor Guardian found him as he tried to kill his next target and a fight ensured between them. Guardian tried in vein to reason with Phillip and defeated him just as Maggie and Alex arrived; seeing Guardian and Phillip both finally convinced Maggie Guardian wasn't a threat and let him go. Later James, Winn and Alex celebrated Kara and Mon-El's escape from Cadmus, where Mon-El inquired to them on the specifics of human relationships.
During the Thanksgiving dinner at Kara's apartment, James and Winn planned to tell her about their activities but are stopped first by Alex's vain attempt to come out to her mother and then by the opening of a breach.
When James was out trying to stop some more criminals, he had arrived just in time before one of them could shoot Winn, an accident that leaves the latter so shaken and afraid of dying that, despite James tried to cheer him up, Winn claimed that he is unsure about continuing their vigilante activities. However the next day, after he was on the planet Maaldoria to rescue Kara, Winn told enthusiastically James about his adventure and that he is ready to get back to work as the "Man in the Van".After one of their usual night patrol, Winn noticed that James was hurt as the suit hadn't protected him fully which made Winn a little hysterical as he had to fix it on top of making Mon-El a suit. James was surprised that Mon-El actually wanted to be a superhero but Winn told him that he had enough with the secrets and that they should tell Kara but James was adamantly against it. However, seeing Winn becoming so shaken up after their close calls, he thought that it might be time to tell Kara the truth. He called her to talk but Kara was a little hysterical herself with the apparent jailbreak of Livewire. He tried to calm her by reminding her that she wasn't the only hero in National City anymore, which did calm her, though she said that he was right as she now had Mon-El which made him a little angry. When they saw that Livewire was attacking some officers, they both took off independently to stop her. As Guardian, he arrived when Kara was fighting apparently two Livewire like metahumans and Mon-El was trying to shield the police. However, Mon-El saw Kara was having trouble and abandoned them to try and help Kara leaving James to try and defend them when he and an officer got struck by some of the lightning. When they retreated, Kara and Mon-El went to Guardian and took off his helmet to reveal that it was James.
After this, Kara has a massive fight with him as she disapprove the risk he is taking, however James reminded her she is not the one who decide who can be an hero and angrily leaves. Later, it was revealed that Livewire had been kidnapped by a scientist to make Livewire soldiers and, despite founding where he is hiding, he kept the information for himself later giving it to James (although being overheard by Mon-El). As Guardian and Mon-El showed up to rescue Livewire, they were subdued by Dr. Hampton who had taken some of Livewire's powers for himself. However, Supergirl arrived to help free them and Livewire and together the four stopped the scientist and his soldiers. That evening, Kara told both James and Winn that she had always seen them as heroes even before they became vigilantes and that if they intended to continue she will neither stop nor support them, however they claimed they will not stop.
James is intelligent, kind, caring, selfless, brave and moral, with an urge to help people in any way possible. This was partly inspired by his many years of assisting Superman. He severely dislikes Sam Lane, partly because he has interfered in James' relationship with Lucy Lane, which James and Lucy both correctly felt was not his place, but mainly because of his arrogant, disrespectful, ungrateful and immoral traits.
Despite being surrounded by superheroes James has always felt somewhat helpless as he'd often call Superman for aid when in trouble in the past, further magnified with watching Supergirl repeatedly save people's lives. This combined with his life-long desire to help people eventually inspired him to take up his own vigilante persona as "Guardian", despite having no powers of his own.
Despite his good traits, James is arrogant to the point of being a "know-it-all", he perpetually is beguiled by belief in his own assumptions as evidenced by the fact that when Lena Luthor was framed for supposedly helping her step-mother Lillian escape during the latter's trial for Cadmus related crimes, she (apparently) had managed to smuggle Green Kryptonite to John Corben's prison cell, so the cyborg could help Lillian escape and James believed Lena was guilty simply because she is a "Luthor", not because of any hard evidence. He even tried to prove Lena's (supposed) guilt to Kara, only to find out the hard way that she was innocent the entire time - much to James' shame and embarrassment; despite this, James is not above apologizing or admitting when he is wrong.
- Keen intellect/Skilled detective: James is sharp-witted, intuitive and a very skilled detective, he can effectively search for information and follow clues.
- Expert hand-to-hand combatant/Martial artist: James has a black belt, although what level and in what style of martial arts was not revealed. He has demonstrated remarkable fighting skills, enough to match a former Navy SEAL in close combat and is also a skilled boxer.
- Acrobatics/Free-running: James is an accomplished acrobat, he was able to successfully escape and evade the shots of a number of banks robbers and the attacks of the the significantly larger Parasite, as well as to scale vertical surfaces using a grappling hook.
- Expert driver: James is an extremely skilled driver, especially of motorcycles.
- Signal watch: James wears a special watch which Superman gave to him so that he would be able to contact him in case he ever got in trouble. Occasionally James has also used the watch to communicate with Kara.
- Guardian suit: James wears a mechanized, armored suit as his heroic alter-ego, Guardian, to hide his identity from enemies, when he goes out fighting crime. It was designed by Winn Schott, it is made of lead and other unknown materials. The suit enhances physical strength and resilience to match that of opponents, such as Rudy Jones. The suit has a built-in shield that folds up into and out of the arm and it generates golden shockwaves to deflect and repel beings with super strength who strike it. The wrist also has a grappling line that can lasso enemies and attach itself to a high structure at the same time to dangle people by their foot. The suit is equipped with a lead aerosol spray which can be used to weaken Daxamites.
Adventures of Supergirl
Behind the scenes
- In the DC comics, James "Jimmy" Olsen is the best friend of Superman, and a photographer for the Daily Planet.
- Unlike the show, Jimmy Olsen is Caucasian and has red hair.
- Cat Grant mentions that James is famously known as Superman's "pal". This is a reference to the comic book series, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (1954-1974), starring Olsen.
- James' superhero persona, Guardian, is a legacy superhero mantle that has been used by several characters in the DC canon. Though in the comics, it has never been used by Jimmy Olsen. The original Guardian was Jim Harper, a Golden Age superhero, operating in Metropolis. This mantle has also been notoriously associated with Project Cadmus, regarding cloning experiments.
- Even though this is the first instance that the alias of Guardian is used by Olsen, the character, in his various adaptations, has used several other superhero aliases through the years including: Elastic Lad, Turtle Boy, Mister Action, Flamebird, Accountable, and most recently Doctor Impossible.