Johnny Sorrow from the 2002 graphic novel JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice.
Art by Carlos Pacheco.
|First appearance||Secret Origins of Super-Villains 80-Page Giant #1 (Dec. 1999)|
|Created by||James Robinson
David S. Goyer
|Alter ego||Jonathan "Johnny" Sorrow|
|Team affiliations||Injustice Society
Johnny Sorrow is a fictional character that appears in publications published by DC Comics. The character first appeared in Secret Origins of Super-Villains 80-Page Giant #1 (Dec. 1999) and was created by writers Geoff Johns and David Goyer and artist Phil Winslade, though he was first mentioned in passing in Starman #8 (June 1995) in a story written by James Robinson.
First mentioned in the storyline "A Knight in the Circus" in Starman #8 (June 1995), Johnny Sorrow debuted in Secret Origins of Super-Villains 80-Page Giant #1 (Dec. 1999), and was, according to writer Mike Conroy, "...a continuity implant. While purportedly a Golden Age villain...around since the 1940's, Sorrow didn't make his first appearance until more than 50 years later."
After an initial defeat, a greatly changed Sorrow reappeared with a new version of the Injustice Society in JSA #9 - 10 (April - May 2000), and makes a brief appearance in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E #13 (Aug. 2000). The character returned in a storyline that detailed the origin of his new powers in JSA #16 - 20 (Nov. 2000 - March 2001), and then the graphic novel Virtue and Vice (Jan. 2002), battling both the Justice Society and the JLA with ally Despero. Johnny Sorrow and another version of the Injustice Society appeared in JSA All-Stars #1 (Feb. 2010).
Fictional character biography
First mentioned by a demonic opponent of the maverick Starman, Sorrow appears as an unnamed intruder in the prison facility the "Slab", killing two prison guards simply by taking a mask off that reveals his true face. Sorrow then frees the supervillain the Icicle, telling the criminal that he once saved his father—the first Icicle—when he was forced to flee from the original Green Lantern.
Sorrow reappears as the leader of the new Injustice Society (consisting of the Icicle, Blackbriar Thorn, Count Vertigo, Geomancer, Killer Wasp, and the Tigress). Together they storm the headquarters of superhero team Justice Society of America, although JSA member Wildcat defeats them all (destroying Blackbriar Thorn) despite still recovering from a broken arm and the attack initially being launched while he was in the bath, with the exception of Sorrow, who uses the diversion to steal an unknown artifact.
Formerly a silent film actor, Sorrow was forced into retirement by the new "talkies," and turned to a life of crime. Sorrow stole a "Subspace Prototype" that enabled him to become intangible by warping through another dimension. During an encounter with the Justice Society of America, Sandy the Golden Boy destroyed the Subspace Prototype, which unexpectedly tore Sorrow apart and hurled his remains into what Sorrow described as another "fractional dimension" and one of the "Subtle Realms". Sorrow's remains were found by a huge Lovecraftian entity called the "King of Tears", who revived him and bestowed on the villain a golden mask to contain his new form and allow him to manifest in the material world. Sorrow's face, warped beyond description, was now instantly fatal to all who see it.
Sorrow was returned to Earth on the condition he find a way to allow the King of Tears to manifest. On his return to Earth, Sorrow killed his wife by accident in his haste to remove his mask so she could see that it was him, and kidnaps Sandy, blaming him for his disfigurement and taking him to a theatre. Newly formed superhero team the "Seven Shadows"—consisting of Dr. Nowhere, Jake Justice, the Shard, Man-At-Arms, Lodestar, the Scarab, and the Veil—attempted to stop Sorrow but with the exception of the Scarab they were all killed by Sorrow's gaze. The Scarab requested the aid of the Justice Society, who arrived as the King of Tears was materializing. The entity the Spectre reduced the monster to actual tears, which were contained and stored by the Green Lantern. Defeated, Sorrow fled. Later he helped remove a tumour from Black Adam's brain, causing him to join Sorrow to repay the debt. Sorrow somehow gained access to the Rock of Eternity and turns the wizard Shazam to stone with his gaze.
In the present, the Justice Society defeat their evil counterparts in another rematch, but Sorrow then reveals that the artifact he stole was in fact the liquid form of the King of Tears, who materializes once freed. Although the Spectre is summoned to deal with the entity, the King of Tears on this occasion disables the Spectre. The Flash solicits the aid of Black Adam (who has had a change of heart) and uses their combined speed—the Flash borrowing Black Adam's speed by tapping into the Speed Force—to punch Sorrow just as Doctor Mid-Nite—his goggles having recorded Sorrow's face when Sorrow tried to attack the blind Mid-Nite earlier but only knocked him out briefly—shows Sorrow his own face, rendering Sorrow solid long enough for Garrick to strike him with such force that it apparently destroys both Sorrow and the King of Tears.
Reforming in an alternate dimension, Sorrow eventually encounters the consciousness of former Justice League of America villain Despero, and together the pair plan to take revenge on both the JLA and the Justice Society. After Sorrow turns the wizard Shazam to stone with his deadly stare, the pair free the Seven Deadly Sins from the Rock of Eternity. Despero takes control of Lex Luthor's form while seven members of the combined super teams are possessed by the Sins. The heroes are freed from the influence of the Sins by their team mates, and battle Sorrow and Despero, defeating them with teamwork. Banished once again, Sorrow is retrieved when a new version of the Injustice Society, led by the Wizard, forms. Sorrow immediately takes control of the group, intent on revenge.
Sorrow debuts in the Rebirth series as a former member of Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad, now in a far more secret cell, who is 'recruited' by Maxwell Lord as part of his plan to destroy Waller. When Lord's team confront Waller, they are confronted by the Squad and the Justice League, but Sorrow helps turn the tables by revealing that he has spent his time in captivity meditating to unleash the monstrous minions of the King of Tears. While Flash and Captain Boomerang face his monsters, Sorrow is defeated by Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn, Harley's insanity rendering her immune to his gaze while Wonder Woman uses her bracelet to hit Sorrow with his own reflection.
Powers and abilities
Johnny Sorrow was a normal human until an accident with a teleportational device shredded his body and transported his remains to another dimension. An entity called the King of Tears restores Sorrow's consciousness, which now inhabits a floating suit and mask. The character can become solid (and vulnerable) by removing the mask, although this also reveals Sorrow's altered face.
Seeing Sorrow's face is instantly fatal to almost all living creatures, in other cases it can cause catastrophic madness; there are only two people depicted who've survived gazing upon him. The first is Dr. Mid-Nite, who does not perceive Sorrow's face the normal way. There also appears to be a psychological element to the effect of his face, as Harley Quinn looked at him directly and simply called him cute. In the aftermath, Quinn claimed that she has already gazed into the abyss once, plus she was already insane.
Sorrow himself is apparently also vulnerable to his own gaze, a recorded image of his face causing temporary paralysis and the reflection of his face in Wonder Woman's bracelets causing him to 'disperse'. The character can also teleport, levitate, and has vast energy manipulation capabilities as he is able to bend both physical and mystical energies of opposing parties at will.[volume & issue needed]
In his most recent appearance Sorrow has shown to be a leader of his benefactor's legions, clashing his fists together over his mask calls forth a horde of eldritch demons through flaming portals which serve at his beck and call. If he's otherwise indisposed, his hordes are banished back to the inbetween dimension they hail from. He's also shown some minor matter altering abilities as he was able to readjust his mask back to its proper shape after Firestorm morphed it into tar.
- Conroy, Mike. 500 Comicbook Villains, Collins & Brown, 2004.
- Starman (comics)|Starman #7-8 (May–June 1995)
- Secret Origins of Super-Villains 80-Page Giant #1 (Dec. 1999)
- JSA #9 - 10 (April - May 2000)
- JSA #16 - 20 (Nov. 2000 - March 2001)
- Virtue and Vice (Jan. 2002)
- JSA All-Stars #1 (Feb. 2010)
- Justice League VS Suicide Squad #1
- Justice League VS Suicide Squad #3
- Justice League VS Suicide Squad #4