Johnny Thunder

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Johnny Thunder
AllAmericanComics 1.jpg
Johnny Thunder (middle, lower half) and Thunderbolt (left, lower half) on the cover of All-American Comics #1 (May 1999)
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceFlash Comics #1 (January 1940)
Created byJohn Wentworth
Stan Aschmeier
In-story information
Alter egoJohn "Johnny" L. Thunder
Team affiliationsJustice Society of America
All-Star Squadron
United States Navy
Justice League
Notable aliasesJohnny Thunderbolt
AbilitiesCan summon and command powerful genie-like Thunderbolt

Johnny Thunder is the name of three fictional characters in comics published by DC Comics. A fourth character has the variant name Jonni Thunder. The first, second, third and fourth characters are superheroes.

Publication history[edit]

Johnny Thunder first appeared in Flash Comics #1 and was created by John Wentworth and Stan Aschmeier. In the first few issues the title of the feature was Johnny Thunderbolt.

Fictional character biography[edit]

John L. Thunder is the seventh son of a seventh son, born at 7 a.m. on Saturday, July 7, the seventh day of the week, the seventh day of the seventh month in 1917. This causes him to be kidnapped and sold to a group of men from the fictional country of Badhnesia who had been looking for someone born at this time on this day. As an infant, the blond-haired Johnny is given possession of the pink, lightning-haired genie-like "Thunderbolt"[1] named Yz during a mystic ritual on his seventh birthday, which was intended to allow the Badhnesians to use Johnny to rule the world. However, the plan is soon aborted after an attack from a neighboring country.[2]

Johnny eventually returns to the United States and lives an ordinary life until one day, while washing windows, he inadvertently summons the Thunderbolt with the magic words "Cei-U" (pronounced "say you") when he calls for someone to throw him a sponge, which he accidentally uses to become a successful boxer. Johnny underwent several adventures (each time inadvertently summoning the Thunderbolt via the use of "say, you" in his day-to-day conversation, never realizing the Thunderbolt, who moved so fast he was virtually invisible, was responsible for the extraordinary events that befell him) before finally learning of the Thunderbolt's existence.[3]

Johnny lived with his parents and dated on-again, off-again girlfriend Daisy Darling who had a somewhat less than scrupulous businessman father, and later he adopted a little freckle-faced blond orphan girl named Peachy Pet who, despite her cutesy name and clothing, was a tough little brat who was way smarter than her new father.[4] Many times during his adventures, which included a stint with the United States Navy, Peachy would instruct her befuddled but beloved "Papa John" on how and when to use the Thunderbolt's magic powers.

The green-suit-and-red-bow tie-clad Johnny's appearances with the Justice Society of America and in his own solo adventures tended to be quite comedic, as Johnny's main personality trait was being fairly dim-witted, which prompts his much-smarter Thunderbolt to possess a sarcastic (if patient) attitude toward his "boss" while knowing full well he could not actually do anything until his master told him to.

Johnny accidentally joined the Justice Society when wishing out loud that he could be a member and was immediately taken to their meeting by the Thunderbolt. Despite recurring impatience with his stupidity, his fellow JSAers genuinely valued Johnny's good-heartedness and dedication and considered him a friend. Furthermore, the Thunderbolt's vast power may have contributed to Johnny's continued JSA membership, his frequent blunders notwithstanding, since the more competent heroes doubtlessly thought it wise to keep an eye on the pair whenever possible. He finally became a member after the Flash left and the group told him to capture Mister X, which he succeeded in accidentally doing. Like most of the JSA members, he had his aging factor greatly slowed during an encounter with the villain Ian Karkull.

Johnny's adventures ceased in the late 1940s when he was replaced in the Justice Society stories by a heroine he had begun teaming up with, the Black Canary.[5] The reason for his leaving the Justice Society is eventually explained to be that his control over his Thunderbolt is weakening, thanks to a spell cast by renegade Badhnesian priests.[6] In the early 1950s, Johnny is kidnapped again by agents from Badhnesia, with the intention of executing their original world conquest plan. Johnny manages to summon Superman, and the would-be conquerors' plans are defeated. Johnny spent some time in Badhnesia afterwards, teaching the native citizens about democracy. He returns home after the country elects its first President. Johnny joins the Justice Society on various adventures.

Crisis on Infinite Earths and Ragnarök[edit]

Following the maxiseries Crisis on Infinite Earths was the one-shot Last Days of the Justice Society of America Special (1986). This book depicted the sacrifice of Johnny and his JSA teammates as they left the 'new' Post-Crisis world and entered into a limbo dimension. Caused by the actions of Adolf Hitler in April 1945, a wave of destruction appears over Earth even as it is settling down from the Crisis. In order to stop a literal Ragnarök, the heroes enter into an eternal battle and so leave the world.

Johnny's return[edit]

The absence of the JSA and of Johnny Thunder did not last long. In 1992 DC published Armageddon: Inferno, the mini-series which brought the JSA out of limbo and into the Post-Crisis world. This was followed by Justice Society of America (1992–1993). This series showed how the heroes were adjusting to a 'normal' life. Johnny is depicted as an overweight man, not as old as his friends, but nostalgic for the past. It is explained that before he had entered into limbo he had lent his foster daughter a few thousand dollars and during his time fighting for the universe, she had created Peachy's Frozen Yogurt, a very successful chain of which Johnny is half owner and now very wealthy. Of greater import to Johnny is his discovery that the Bahdnesians have all but disappeared. A visit to the island of Bahdnesia (now under the ownership of Pol St. Germain) proves that no Bahdnesians are left there. In issue #7 Johnny states: "There were never very many of them...and the island magic had worn out. T-Bolt was all that was left, and he was with me in limbo. They had to leave or starve to death." This series also introduced the young Kiku, according to the Thunderbolt, the last remaining Bahdnesian.

After this Johnny is depicted as suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. At one point he loses track of a pen in which the Thunderbolt is being stored. The pen eventually ends up in the ownership of a young African American boy named Jakeem Williams, who takes up the name Johnny Jakeem Thunder or Jakeem Thunder.[7]

Johnny Thunderbolt[edit]

In a later battle with Solomon Grundy, Jakeem unwittingly cures Johnny Thunder of Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, Johnny immediately falls prey to the Ultra-Humanite, who takes over Johnny's body in order to command the Thunderbolt's powers. In the "Stealing Thunder" storyline, Jakeem is one of several heroes left free from Ultra-Humanite's control. Eventually Jakeem wrests control of the Thunderbolt back from Ultra-Humanite, but Johnny Thunder loses his life. Jakeem then wishes that the Thunderbolt could save Johnny somehow, so the genie chooses to merge with Johnny, creating a new being with the memories of both. He later assumes the name Johnny Thunderbolt.[8]

Johnny Thunderbolt bears Johnny's likeness, though it is not clear how the personalities of Johnny and the two genies interact, and whether any one personality is dominant. Johnny's family is informed of his death and a funeral is held at Valhalla, a cemetery for superheroes. The family does not know that he lives on as the Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt eventually stops displaying Johnny's likeness while still speaking as him.

During the Blackest Night crossover, Johnny Thunder's body is reanimated as part of the Black Lantern Corps.[9]

DC Rebirth[edit]

When Wally West was looking for someone to tether him to the universe again as seen in the DC Rebirth reboot, he comes to a retirement home called the Good Life Rest Home where a now-elderly Johnny Thunder tries to reconnect to the Justice Society, who have been lost since Joseph McCarthy had him reveal his secret and lost Thunderbolt in the periods since. He tried to tell others who he was, but many think he is crazy. When Wally comes to him to find the Justice Society, he disappears asking him to find the Justice Society. Believing he was his old ally, Johnny tearfully calls out to him, apologizing for "throwing (him) away" in the past.[10] Johnny Thunder is seen climbing on a rooftop of a home for the elderly shouting "Where are you Thunderbolt?" and calls him (the Thunderbolt) to come back to him. He is later found by two men: presumably workers at the house. They ask him how did he get there and forcefully pull him from the edge of the roof, saving him from lightning that struck the place he stood on. He shouts at them that they "can't keep me locked up" and struggles to get free of them. they say he "has got a lot of a fight for a ninety-year-old" and drag him into the building. On the way into the building, he says that "The lightning says we need to find my friends" and "We lost the Justice Society" and "It's all my fault", to which they reply with disbelief, saying "Sure it did" and "Tell the nurse to up his meds."[11]

During the sequel to Watchmen called Doomsday Clock, Johnny Thunder is seen at his retirement home staring out the window while waiting for his family to take him out to dinner. They do not show up.[12] Later that night, Thunder escapes from the retirement home as one of the orderlies claims that he will not get far. He heads to an old steel mill, where he is assaulted by a group of thieving junkies. However, he is saved by Saturn Girl and Rorschach II. Johnny Thunder finds Alan Scott's Green Lantern power battery. Rorschach II asks Johnny Thunder what that Lantern is.[13] Rorschach, Saturn Girl and Johnny Thunder meet up with Ozymandias at the Owlship. Using Ozymandias' pet lynx Bubastis II (revealed to have been cloned from the original Bubastis that Doctor Manhattan disintegrated and containing a sliver of his power) and the Lantern Battery, Ozymandias transports everytone to Doctor Manhattan's location at the Joker's “funhouse” where Comedian is. After the confrontation with Doctor Manhattan, the injured Ozymandias makes it back to the Owlship, attacking Johnny and Saturn Girl, declaring he can save everything and everyone.[14]

Other versions and connected characters[edit]

Johnny Thunder of Earth-One[edit]

Prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths retcons, an alternate version of Johnny Thunder existed on Earth-One. This version was a simple petty criminal with no Thunderbolt. Upon meeting the Earth-Two Thunder (who had traveled to Earth-One out of curiosity), the criminal Johnny Thunder knocked his counterpart out and seized control of the Thunderbolt. He uses it to temporarily reshape Earth-One such that several heroes, such as Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern, retroactively cease to exist. The criminal exploits the fact that Thunderbolt is 'keyed' to simply obey Johnny Thunder, without any distinction made between alternate versions, leaving Thunderbolt obligated to obey whichever Johnny is conscious despite his own morality; however, Thunderbolt often tries to work in loopholes to give the heroes an advantage, such as informing the criminal that the Justice Society - who had come to Earth-1 to find out what had happened to their friends in the Justice League - had disappeared when they had in fact disguised themselves as the Justice League to try and provoke Johnny into revealing what had happened to their version, or making a barrier which keeps cops out, but not superheroes. The Earth-2 Johnny is apparently placed in a coma by the Thunderbolt's magic, though this is not actually shown.

The alternate version of Earth-One that Johnny creates is sometimes referred to as Earth-A (Earth Alternate), which Johnny thinks up himself. Thunder's 'Lawless League' of evil people with powers like the Justice League heroes, which are made up of Johnny's fellow criminals who were given powers of Justice League members, are defeated by the visiting Justice Society of Earth-Two, who had originally disguised themselves as the JLA, after learning of Johnny's disappearance, the Society's greater experience allowing them to easily defeat their criminal counterparts. They subsequently face off against Johnny Thunder on the moon, and the three creatures the Thunderbolt creates, Medusa-Man (who turns people into wood), Absorbo-Man (who can absorb the powers of others), and Repello-Man (who throws attacks back at their origins). All the members are defeated except for Doctor Fate. He creates a golden mask over Medusa-Man's face, and sends the wooden Mr. Terrific and Atom at Absorbo-Man, who had absorbed Green Lantern's power, meaning he is vulnerable to wood and is destroyed. He uses repello-magic on Repello-Man, which is repelled and destroys him. When the fight comes down to a struggle between Doctor Fate and the Thunderbolt, Johnny Thunder is so battered about by the combatting magic wielders - whose powers fail to do any actual damage to each other - that he finally gives up his attempts to use the Thunderbolt and wishes that none of these events had taken place.[15] The two Earths and their respective heroes are restored, with the Justice League mentioning their world's Johnny Thunder as a small-time criminal at their meeting. The Johnny Thunder of Earth-One would return as a threat in Justice League of America #219-220.

Jonni Thunder[edit]

Jonni Thunder is a female private detective who first appeared in a four issue miniseries from 1985 named Jonni Thunder AKA Thunderbolt, written by Roy Thomas. A small gold statue gives her the power to turn into a human thunderbolt, while leaving her body behind. In later issues of Infinity, Inc., the thunderbolt is revealed to be a hostile alien energy-being, who is defeated by being re-imprisoned in the statue, leaving Jonni without powers.[16] Since she was created by Golden Age expert Roy Thomas and appeared with the descendants of the original JSA in Infinity Inc., a potential connection to Johnny Thunder seemed likely but was never expounded upon. Jonni existed on Earth-Two before Crisis and is briefly seen on the merged Earth resulting from the Crisis, attending a detectives convention.[17]

In the Kingdom Come continuity, she and Black Lightning have a child who becomes the anti-hero known as "Lightning", possessing the electricity-based powers of both of her parents. However, in the contemporary DC Universe, Black Lightning's daughter Lightning, who recently joined the JSA, is identified as the daughter of Black Lightning and his ex-wife Lynn Stewart.

In The New 52, a 2011 reboot of the DC Universe, the history of characters related to the Golden Age of comics has been drastically altered. A new version of Jonni Thunder is introduced on the parallel world of Earth 2, appearing in the miniseries Earth 2: Worlds End. This Jonni is seemingly possessed by the Thunderbolt, which grants her electrical abilities and a multi-armed appearance similar to a Hindu goddess. She is part of a team of heroes recruited by the mage John Constantine in his attempt to return to his own world.

Son of Johnny Thunder (Will Power of Primal Force)[edit]

William Twotrees is the illegitimate son of 1940s hero Johnny Thunder and a Jicarilla Apache woman. Afraid of prejudices against mixed marriages, Johnny abandoned his son, something he later regretted deeply. However, it seems as if Johnny's partner, the magic Thunderbolt named Yz, left his mark on young William, who developed astonishing thunderbolt powers later in his life. As Will Power, William joined the supernatural/meta-human team of heroes called the Leymen (a.k.a. Primal Force) until it was disbanded. He was last seen searching for his father, touring with a rock band as a "human light show".[18]

Twotrees has neither reappeared since the cancellation of the Primal Force series nor been referenced in any way in the later Justice Society of America titles.

In other media[edit]

Johnny Thunder and Thunderbolt appear in three non-speaking roles in the animated series Justice League Unlimited. Johnny himself only appears in the first episode, "Initiation." Thunderbolt goes on to appear in two more episodes by himself. Thunderbolt appears in "Initiation", "The Greatest Story Never Told", and the series finale "Destroyer." In "Initiation", he is seen with Johnny during Superman's speech. In "The Greatest Story Never Told", he is seen helping the Justice League in the battle against Mordru without Johnny. In the series finale "Destroyer" he is seen at the end as the League walks down the stairs, also without Johnny. It is possible that this incarnation is Johnny Thunderbolt.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Flash Comics 8: 32 (August, 1940), All-American Publications
  2. ^ Flash Comics 1: 34-35 (January 1940), All-American Publications
  3. ^ Flash Comics 2: 35 (February, 1940), All-American Publications
  4. ^ Flash Comics #21
  5. ^ All Star Comics 42 (), All-American Publications
  6. ^ E. Nelson Bridwell (w), Kurt Schaffenberger (p), Frank Chiaramonte (i). "The Rescue of His Majesty, Johnny Thunder" Superman Family 204 (November/December, 1980), DC Comics
  7. ^ JLA #26
  8. ^ JSA #46
  9. ^ Blackest Night #4
  10. ^ DC Universe: Rebirth one-shot (May 2016)
  11. ^ The Flash vol. 5 #21 (April 2017)
  12. ^ Doomsday Clock #3 (January 2018). DC Comics.
  13. ^ Doomsday Clock #5 (May 2018). DC Comics.
  14. ^ Doomsday Clock #7. (September 2018). DC Comics.
  15. ^ Justice League of America #37 (August 1965)
  16. ^ Infinity, Inc. #41
  17. ^ Crisis on Infinite Earths #11
  18. ^ "The Unofficial Will Power Biography". Dcuguide.com. Retrieved 2011-04-02.

External links[edit]

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