Johnny Thunder

Johnny Thunder created by John B. Wentworth and Stanley Aschmeier

Written with Aaron Severson

NAME + ALIASES:
John L. "Johnny" Thunder, aka Johnny Thunderbolt

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Simon B. Thunder (father, deceased), Mildred (mother, deceased), Joseph, Jordan, Jason, James, Jefferson and Jacob (brothers), William Twotrees (Willpower, son), Kiku (adoptive daughter), Peachy Pet (adoptive daughter)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice Society of America

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Flash Comics #1 (Jan. 1940)
"Peachy Pet" Thunder: Flash Comics #21 (Sept. 1941)

Thunderbolt

NAME + ALIASES:
Yz, Lkz

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Unnamed parents; "Mildred" (wife), Shocko (son), Peachy Pet (daughter-in-law)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice Society of America

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Implied: Flash Comics #1 (Jan. 1940)
Personified: Flash Comics #8 (Aug. 1940)
Fully realized: Flash Comics #9 (Sept. 1940)

Jakeem Thunder

NAME + ALIASES:
Jakeem John Williams

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Unnamed mother (deceased), Phil (father), Jennifer (stepmother), unnamed half-brother, Jimmy (older brother, deceased), unnamed grandmother (deceased), Jenny (aunt), Lashawn (aunt) see note*

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice Society of America

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Cameo: Flash v.2 #134 (Feb. 1998)
Full: JLA #26 (Jan. 1999)

Johnny Thunder was introduced in Flash Comics #1 (Sept. 1941), at the same time as the Flash and Hawkman, as much a comic figure as a super-hero. Johnny was a well-meaning but dunderheaded young man who could command an awesomely powerful djinn-like being called the Thunderbolt, by saying a magic word.

He became a longtime member of the Justice Society of America, but when old age took his mental clarity, command of the Thunderbolt passed to a young man named Jakeem (J.J.) Thunder.

At DC, another hero called Johnny Thunder was introduced in 19??, after the original's feature had ended, and when the company was shifting its content toward Westerns. And in 198?, Roy Thomas introduced Jonni Thunder, a female private eye who could transform herself into a lightning-being.

Seventh Son

Infant Johnny Thunder is kidnapped and subjected to a magic ritual in South Pacific. From Secret Origins v.2 #13 (1987); art by Mike Clark and Dave Hunt.
After uttering "say you," Johnny Thunder unknowingly summons the magic to save his coworker from a fall.. From Flash Comics #1 (1940); art by Stan Aschmeier.
Fired from his government job, Johnny decides to fight crime like a comic book hero instead. From Flash Comics #7 (1940); art by Stan Aschmeier.
The first appearance of the Thunderbolt 'genie' itself, who acts in stealth. From Flash Comics #8 (1940); art by Stan Aschmeier.

Johnny Thunder was born to Simon B. Thunder and his wife Mildred, an ordinary couple in Bronx, New York, at 7 a.m. on July 7, 1917. (Flash Comics #1) He was also the seventh son of a seventh son. (JSA #37) Note: In Flash Comics #1, Johnny was said to be the firstborn, and had at least several siblings born after him.

Because of his numerologically significant birth date, the high priest of Aissor in the distant Asian kingdom of Badhnisia (sometimes spelled "Bahdnesia") arranged to kidnap Johnny in August 1918. Disguising him as a Badhnisian, the priest and his acolytes performed magical rituals on the boy that would give Johnny vast power when he reached his seventh birthday. Note: The spelling change to "Bahdnesia" appeared in Justice Society of America v.2 #4 (Nov. 1992). It was probably an editorial error but regardless, most later stories adopted it.

The nearby nation of Agolea learned that Badhnisia planned to use the boy's power to take over the world and tried to preempt that scheme by invading Badhnisia. Before the boy could be captured, the high priest managed to send him into hiding with a Badhnisian nurse. Johnny and the nurse remained in an isolated fishing village near Brunei, Borneo, until Johnny was five, when he escaped in a small sailboat. He was picked up by an American freighter, whose crew realized that his skin and hair had been dyed and eventually returned him to his family in the U.S. (Flash Comics #1)

When he turned seven, Johnny's magical power began to manifest, although neither he nor his parents were aware of this, or knew the meaning of the odd golden zodiac belt that Johnny wore. As he grew older, strange, improbable things would happen around him, sometimes accompanied by glimpses of a curious pink Thunderbolt. Johnny had not yet realized that he was calling magic energy by speaking the words "say you" — a homophone for "Cei-U" — the magic word the high priest had chosen to activate Johnny's powers.

Shortly after Johnny's 23rd birthday, the high priest again sent agents to kidnap Johnny and return him to Badhnisia. Johnny's mysterious power quickly overwhelmed and banished the agents. He was still not sure if or how he had been responsible for the weird events, but the mess cost him his job (an ongoing problem for Johnny). (Flash Comics #1, Secret Origins v.2 #13)

Johnny soon used the strange power again to rescue a young woman named Daisy Darling from mashers. (Flash Comics #2) Johnny and Daisy began dating, but her family discouraged Daisy from marrying Johnny, convinced he was a shiftless imbecile. Note: Daisy was unnamed in her first appearance. Her full name was given in Flash Comics #4 (Apr. 1940) when her father, Herman Darling, appeared.

Unlikely Hero

Johnny didn't truly discover his magical powers until after he crashed the first meeting of the Justice Society of America in the fall of 1940. (All-Star Comics #3) By this time, the pink thunderbolt was occasionally showing a human-like face. (Flash Comics #10–11) Over the next few months, this lighting bolt began to talk back, (#15) and appear in a more humanoid shape with whom Johnny could interact. (#17–18) At last Johnny realized he could summon Thunderbolt for an hour at a time by saying "Say You," although he could easily forget, especially when flustered.

Despite Johnny's ineptitude, the JSA initiated him as a full member in 1941, temporarily replacing the Flash. (All-Star #6) He was also a founding member of the All-Star Squadron. (All-Star Squadron #3) Johnny was always enthusiastic about his teammates and their adventures, although he always secretly feared that they saw him more as a buffoon than a comrade. For a time shortly after the U.S. entered World War II, Johnny attempted to become a pulp magazine writer, submitting fictional JSA adventures to Amazing Stories magazine. Editor Jack Williamson finally convinced him that he wasn't cut out to be a writer. (JSA: Strange Adventures #1–6)

Johnny adopted a little orphan girl nicknamed Peachy Pet. (Flash Comics #21) When he joined the Navy in 1942, she snuck aboard his ship and became its "mascot." (#32) Johnny's naval career was checkered at best; after he confounded four different commanding officers, the Navy gave him an honorable discharge just to get him out of their hair. (#53) After the service, he and Peachy Pet lived with Johnny's aged parents in the Bronx, since Johnny remained unable to hold down a job.

Daisy and Johnny broke up sometime after the war, probably because of Johnny's poor career prospects and perhaps because of the bratty Peachy Pet, who antagonized Daisy's young niece. (#65)

The Thunderbolt

Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt seeks Superman's help. From Flash Comics #69 (1946); art by Stan Aschmeier.
Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt seeks Superman's help. From Superman Family #204 (1981); art by Kurt Schaffenberger and Frank Chiaramonte.

The Thunderbolt was known to have proper parents (Flash Comics #42), and in his native dimension, he married and bore a son, Shocko. Shocko later met and befriended Peachy Pet. (#69) Peachy Pet learned that she could summon Shocko by saying her own magic words, "sez me." (#71) The children later had several adventures together. (#73, 75, 80) Note: Thunderbolt and his wife called each other by names like "Mildred," "Archibald" and "Oswald," which were probably nicknames, inspired by American culture.

Original Johnny Thunder stories indicated that the Thunderbolt and other beings like him lived in a dimension associated with the clouds above Badhnisia, and that the Thunderbolt had family. During World War II, Badhnisia was occupied by Japanese forces, who found a way to imprison these supernatural people in "concentration cages" that prevented them from using their powers. The Thunderbolt was captured when he returned home to visit his parents, but was able to escape the next time Johnny summoned him, and later drove the Japanese occupation force from Badhnisia. (Flash Comics #42)

Post-Crisis accounts identified the Thunderbolt's home as the Fifth Dimension. (JLA #28) This was also done with similar other-dimensional characters or "imps" (Bat-Mite and Aquaman's pal Quisp aka Qwsp), to bring them all together with Superman's famous 5th Dimensional foe, Mister Mxyzptlk. The Thunderbolt's personal life wasn't explored again until JSA #78–80 (Dec. 2005–Feb. 2006).

Call of the Canary

Johnny Thunder portrait from Who's Who #11 (1986); art by Steve Leialoha.

In 1947, Johnny met Dinah Drake aka the Black Canary I, with whom he shared a number of adventures. Although Johnny had a crush on her, it was not requited, and Dinah eventually married her longtime boyfriend Larry Lance.

On Badhnisia, the high priest of Aissor (now described as a shaman) had not given up on claiming Johnny's powers to let Badhnisia conquer the world. The shaman cast a spell that would prevent Johnny's magic word from working unless he was wearing the zodiac belt. Since Johnny was unaware of this new stipulation, his control over the Thunderbolt seemed to wane. Eventually, the Thunderbolt stopped appearing at all when Johnny called for him. (Superman Family #204) Johnny remained with the JSA for a while longer, but after their adventure in Fairyland (All-Star #39), he decided to hang up his spurs in the spring of 1948.

He ultimately had a falling out with Dinah, resenting that she only saw him as a brother, and he refused to attend her wedding to Larry Lance. (Justice League of America #220)

In the early '50s, sometime after the death of Simon Thunder, the shaman's agents kidnapped Johnny and took him to Badhnisia, where he was crowned king. The shaman returned Johnny's zodiac belt, giving him back his power over the Thunderbolt, but cast a hex to prevent Johnny from using the Thunderbolt's power against the shaman. The old priest intended to use Johnny as a cat's paw in the conquest of Badhnisia's neighbors, but, in a moment of clarity, Johnny sent the Thunderbolt to America to find a hero who could help him defeat the shaman. The Thunderbolt approached Superman, but, since Superman was vulnerable to magic, he and his wife, Lois Lane Kent, arranged a ruse to trick the shaman into giving up his power. Although Johnny was now free, he decided to remain in Badhnisia to teach the natives about democracy. (Superman Family #204)

Silver Age Career

Johnny had returned to the U.S. by the time the JSA came out of retirement (The Flash #137), still carrying a torch for Dinah Drake Lance. When her and Larry's daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance, was cursed by the Wizard, the girl manifested a destructive "canary cry." Dinah reached out to Johnny for help, but the Thunderbolt was unable to reverse the Wizard's spell. He offered to take the child into his home dimension, where the magic would not affect her. To spare Dinah and Larry Lance from grief, the Thunderbolt removed everyone's memory that the baby girl had ever existed. (Justice League of America #220) When Dinah came out of retirement as Black Canary a few years later, she had no idea that she'd had a daughter. (Brave and the Bold #61–62)

Johnny then rejoined the Justice Society, though it almost ended in disaster. He discovered the hard way that his evil counterpart, the Johnny Thunder of Earth-One, could command the same Thunderbolt. This Johnny created an alternate timeline where the Justice League never existed, then replaced them with his own "Lawless League," whose members were all evil. (Justice League of America #37) The JSA was able to undo this evil but everyone forgot the entire affair. (#38) Johnny was waylaid again by his counterpart years later. (#219–220)

A few years later, Dinah and Larry Lance were mortally wounded during the JSA and JLA's battle with Aquarius. (#74) At Dinah's dying request, the Thunderbolt took her to his own dimension and arranged for her daughter, now grown to adulthood, to take her place. The Thunderbolt complied, altering the younger Dinah's memories so she would believe she was her own mother, and allowing her to move to Earth-One to escape any grief for the death of Larry. Only the JSA and Earth-One's Superman knew the truth, which they kept from Dinah and the others for some years. (Justice League of America #220)

Note: In post-Crisis continuity there was only one Earth, so the younger Dinah was never banished to another dimension and eventually became a founding member of the JLA, event working alongside her mother. Larry Lance still died at the hands of Aquarius, but the elder Dinah survived that battle, retired, and later died of cancer. (Secret Origins v.2 #50)

During this period, Johnny apparently had a relationship with an unnamed Jicarilla Apache woman in New Mexico. He left her after she became pregnant, leaving her heartbroken. William Twotrees (aka Willpower, a member of the group Primal Force), later suspected that he was their son. (Primal Force #12)

Johnni Thunder portrait from Who's Who #11 (1986); art by Dick Giordano.
Johnny and Kiku, the last Bahdnesian. From Justice Society of America v.2 #7 (1993); art by Mike Parobek and Mike Machlan.

Limbo and Back Again

Johnny remained semi-active with the JSA through the great "Crisis." Soon afterward, he and the Thunderbolt were among those members trapped in another dimension, endlessly replaying the cycle of Ragnarok to prevent the destruction of the universe. (Last Days of the JSA) After they returned to Earth a few years later (Armageddon: Inferno #4), Johnny was pleased to find that Peachy Pet had launched a successful frozen yogurt chain, Peachy's. Since Johnny had loaned her the money to start the business, he had a half interest and was now rich. However, he found himself deeply depressed, especially after finding that his old neighborhood had been turned into upscale condominiums. (Justice Society of America v.2 #5)

After visiting Dinah Lance's grave, Johnny asked the Thunderbolt to take him to Badhnisia, only to find that almost no one there was a native Badhnisian and that the island kingdom had been purchased by someone named Pol St. Germain. The Thunderbolt identified a young woman named Kiku (first seen in #3) as the last true Badhnisian. (#5–6) The JSA eventually discovered that the remaining Badhisnians had long since left before St. Germain arrived and that their culture was virtually extinct except for Kiku, the Thunderbolt, and a handful of books and artifacts. (#7)

Johnny Thunder survived the JSA's battle with Extant during Zero Hour, but the team disbanded again. (Zero Hour #3–1) Shortly afterward, William Twotrees had a vision of Johnny clashing with Kiku over control of the Thunderbolt before admitting that he was William's father. However, since that vision was part of a warped alternate reality created by the villain Modrus, the veracity of that account is not entirely certain. (Primal Force #12) When Primal Force disbanded soon afterward, William again set out in search of his father, suggesting that he was not convinced it was Johnny. (#14) Notes: The reasons for Johnny's conflict with Kiku and its outcome (if it happened at all) are unclear, as the next whereabouts of Kiku and William Twotrees. If William had wanted to find Johnny, it shouldn't have been difficult, given his lack of secret identity, Will's connection to the JLA's Red Tornado, and the fact that Peachy Pet ran a popular yogurt chain.

Johnny began suffering the effects of Alzheimer's disease and somehow trapped the Thunderbolt within a fountain pen, which he then unwittingly gave to Jay Garrick. Jay then accidentally lost the pen while signing autographs. (Flash v.2 #134) The recipient was a boy named Jakeem Johnny (J.J.) Thunder. (JLA #26)

Without his Thunderbolt, Johnny's dementia worsened. He briefly appeared to have been cured and even rejuvenated, but he was actually under the mental control of the Ultra-Humanite. When they were separated, Johnny passed away. Despite J.J.'s pleas, the Thunderbolt was unable to resurrect Johnny, but he was able to merge Johnny's soul with his own essence so they could continue to aid and advise J.J. In the Fifth Dimension, however, Johnny and the Thunderbolt existed as separate entities; they merged again each time they returned to Earth. (JSA #80, 83–84)

At some point, Peachy Pet apparently also merged with or somehow came to reside in the Fifth Dimension and married Shocko, her childhood friend. (#78–80)

Earth-2, Post Infinite-Crisis

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the original Earth Two was merged into all other surviving Earths. After the Infinite Crisis, the multiverse of the DC Universe was restored, there was again an Earth-2. Their history seemed to have unfolded as if the first Crisis had never happened (picking up approximately after Infinity, Inc. #24). On it, Infinity Inc. and the Justice Society merged to form Justice Society Infinity, and Johnny was a member. (JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom #1)

The New 52

Johnny was seemingly wiped from history by the DC Universe event called Flashpoint. After this, there was no JSA on Earth-0 (the mainstream Earth) nor any Golden Agers on the new Earth-2. The removal of the JSA from the post-Flashpoint continuity was caused by the quantum tampering of Dr. Manhattan, who sabotaged each of the members before they became heroes. The frail, elderly Johnny Thunder still exists on the current version of Earth-0, without his Thunderbolt, but he still remembers, at least in flashes, his previous history. (Doomsday Clock #7)

Rolling Thunders

From All-American Comics #100 (1948); art by Alex Toth.
Johnny Thunder portrait from Who's Who #11 (1986); art by Gil Kane.

Johnny Thunder II

Johnny Thunder's feature ended in Flash Comics #91 (Jan. 1948). His last appearance with the JSA was about the same time, in All-Star Comics #39 (Feb./Mar. 1948). At this time, DC Comics was beginning to convert some of its superhero titles to Westerns. Later that year, a new hero called Johnny Thunder debuted in All-American Comics #100 (Aug. 1948), which was renamed All-American Western with #103. This Johnny Thunder was secretly John Tane, a schoolteacher in the Old West town of Mesa City who adopted a secret identity to fight outlaws without technically breaking his promise to his dying mother that he would not take up the gun like his sheriff father. Like the earlier Johnny Thunder, Tane had blonde hair and wore a green suit, but he dyed his hair black when he went into action. Tane had no powers other than his amazing skill with the six-gun, but his horse, Black Lightning, had a distinctive lightning bolt mark on his forehead!

Johnny Thunder II was one of DC's most popular Western heroes, appearing in All-American Western and later All-Star Western until 1961. As revealed in DC Comics Presents #28 (Dec. 1980), he eventually married Madame .44, a Robin Hood-like bandit whom he eventually learned was secretly local photographer Jeanne Walker. They had no relationship to the JSA's Johnny Thunder (who in pre-Crisis history lived on a different Earth), but they were apparently the ancestors of Chuck Taine, a.k.a. Bouncing Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes!

Jonni Thunder

In 1985, DC introduced a female character called Jonni Thunder, a hardboiled L.A. private eye. She was transformed into a living lightning bolt by a mysterious statuette while investigating the murder of her father, LAPD detective Jim Thunder. She was created by Roy & Dann Thomas, Gerry Conway, Ernie Colón and Dick Giordano and first appeared in Jonni Thunder a.k.a. Thunderbolt #1 (Feb. 1985).

After her four-issue miniseries, she popped up briefly in Crisis on Infinite Earths and made a number of guest appearances in Infinity, Inc. This places her pre-Crisis home on Earth-Two. If Jonni had any connection to Johnny Thunder or his Thunderbolt, it was never revealed. (Although JSA #37 revealed that Johnny had a brother named James, he was still alive well after Jonni's father was murdered.)

Powers

Neither Johnny nor Jakeem had any powers of their own except the ability to command the Thunderbolt, a djinn (or genie) from the Fifth Dimension (also home to Superman's nemesis, Mr. Mxyzptlk). Speaking the appropriate magic word — originally "Cei-U" ("say you"), later "so cool" — summons the Thunderbolt, who will do their bidding for one hour before returning to his home dimension.

The Thunderbolt is extremely powerful, able to alter third-dimensional space/time in ways that appear magical to humans. He can fly, project energy, reshape reality in large or small ways, and even change history. Yz could not break certain powerful magic spells, refused to kill, and could not resurrect the dead (although in some cases, he could undo the circumstances that led to someone's death).

The Thunderbolt's biggest weakness is that he can only do what he's told and must obey even if the command is obviously foolish or shortsighted (a common problem with Johnny Thunder!). He can resist commands that he thinks are evil (such as when he was controlled by the evil Earth-One Johnny Thunder), but because it's very difficult, his usual solution is to bend the rules, following a foolish or malicious command either more or less literally than his master intended. Although he's only supposed to offer advice if asked, the Thunderbolt would give Johnny the occasional hint and is much more forthcoming with Jakeem, especially after merging with Johnny.

The conditions under which someone can command the Thunderbolt have never been consistently established. The Badhnisians believed that someone needed to be born with certain numerological traits and then receive ritual preparation to summon the Thunderbolt, but that was not true of either Kiku or Jakeem. Johnny was also able to command the Thunderbolt to follow someone else's orders at least temporarily, and it appears he could permanently transfer control if he so chose.

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

Johnny:

  • Adventure Comics 80-Page Giant #1
  • All-American Comics v.2 #1 
  • All-Star Comics v.1 #74
  • All-Star Squadron #1, 3-5, 20-21, 25, 27-28, 30-32, 50, 58, 60, 67, Annual #3
  • America vs. the Justice Society #1-4
  • Armageddon: Inferno #3-4
  • Big All-American Comic Book #1
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths #9, 10, 12
  • The Flash v.1 #137
  • The Flash v.2 #134
  • Golden Age Secret Files #1
  • Impulse: Bart Saves the Universe
  • Infinity, Inc. #1, 2, 21, 22, 25, Annual #1
  • JLA #28–31
  • JLA: Incarnations #1
  • JSA #1, 29, 32-37, 69-72
  • Justice League of America #37-38, 55-56, 82-83, 100, 102, 123, 124, 135, 135-137, 193, 195-197, 219, 220, 232
  • Justice Society of America v.2 1, 3, 5–10
  • Last Days of the Justice Society Special #1
  • New York World's Fair Comics #2
  • Primal Force #12
  • Secret Origins v.2 #13
  • The Spectre v.3 #20
  • Starman v.2 #62, 69
  • Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #9
  • War of the Gods #2
  • Wonder Woman v.1 #131-133, 231, 232, 243
  • World's Finest Comics #1-3
  • Young All-Stars #3, 9, 27, Annual #1
  • Zero Hour #3, 2

Jakeem:

  • 52 #1, 50, 51
  • Action Comics #873
  • Blackest Night #1
  • Countdown #20
  • Infinite Crisis #6
  • JLA #26, 28-31
  • JSA #19-21, 29, 32-38, 45-47, 49-52, 54, 66, 68-74, 78-81
  • JSA All-Stars #7
  • JSA Secret Files #2
  • JSA vs. Kobra #3-6
  • JSA: Classified #28
  • JSA: Our Worlds at War #1
  • Justice Society of America v.3 #12, 14-16
  • Superman v.1 #683
  • Titans Secret Files #2
  • World War III #3-4
  • Young Justice #49-51

» SERIES:

Johnny:

  • Flash Comics #1–91 (Jan. 1940–Jan. 1948)
  • All-Star Comics #2–39 (1940–48)
  • JSA: Strange Adventures, 6-issue limited series (2004)