THE JSA FACT FILE
John L. Thunder
Residence: New York City
Occupation: Various, non-professional
First Appearance (Golden
Age): Flash Comics #1 (January 1940)
First Appearance (Silver Age):The Flash #137 (July 1963)
Johnny Thunder was born at 7 AM
on July 7th, 1917 to Simon B. Thunder, a bank clerk, and his wife Mildred. When
Johnny was one year old, he was kidnapped by a group of men from the small
island nation of Badhnesia. They dyed his hair and covered a strawberry
birthmark on his arm to disguise his identity, and spirited him away to their
island. Once there, Johnny was adorned in emeralds and holy garments. Treated
like a messiah, he was chanted over and prayed to by the priests of Badhnesia. He
was educated in Badhnesian mysticism, the crux of which was that he would grow
into a child possessed of astonishing powers. The priests of Badhnesia planned
to use the young Thunder's predestined powers to rule the world when he reached
the age of seven. (Badhnesian mythology claimed that power peaked in seven-year
increments.) Before that age, however, Badhnesia was defeated by the
neighboring of Agolea. The priests sent Johnny into seclusion to hide him until
he reached seven years of age, at which point they planned revenge on their
conquerors. Unfortunately, the accident-prone Johnny stumbled into a boat and
was whisked away into the shipping lanes of major boat trade of Indonesia.
There he was picked up by an American freighter and returned to the United
States for a reunion with his family.
Johnny lived an ordinary life
until 1940, the year of his 23rd birthday. Not possessed of wealth or
education, Johnny had obtained a job as a window washer for a local business.
When Johnny found himself short a sponge, he called out to a fellow washer with
the phrase "Say, you!" Unbeknownst to the hapless Thunder, "Say,
you!" was phonetically identical to the mystic Badhnesian phrase
"Cei-U," and an invisible servant appeared to obey Thunder's every
command. When his coworker lost his balance and fell, Johnny wished he could
catch him, and in an instant, he had done just that. Johnny had the power to
command his servant for one hour before the Thunderbolt vanished (Flash
Comics #1, Secret Origins vol. 2 #13).
The origin of the Thunderbolts
is shrouded in Badhnesian mysticism. It has been shown to have relatives
of similar configuration (Flash Comics #42, 69, 75), including a
"son" named Shocko. What this means in terms of human familial
relation is unclear. At some point, Badhnesian priests managed to control a
denizen of the Thunderbolt realm with a spell that attached to a human being.
Whether Johnny Thunder is the first to be bonded to a Thunderbolt or not is
Eventually, Johnny realized
that he was controlling the odd occurrences in his life (Flash Comics
#11) and that the phrase "Say You" was the factor determining the
Thunderbolt's appearance (Flash Comics #20). Johnny's career was
somewhat hapless, but the ability to manipulate such powerful forces earned him
a fair measure of attention. Johnny tagged along to the first meeting of the
Justice Society of America in 1940 (All-Star Comics vol. 1 #3), and
became a member when the Flash took a leave
of absence in 1941 (All-Star Comics #6). He was also a member of the
All-Star Squadron during World War II. As he became a helpful ally to the JSA,
Johnny rarely utilized the full potential of his powers. He solved cases as
much by accident as by design. He remained steadfast, however, participating in
most JSA cases throughout his wartime career.
In his private life, Johnny
lacked consistent employment. Most of his jobs were menial, ranging from window
washer (Flash Comics #1) to firefighter's assistant (Flash Comics
#15) to paper-hanger (Flash Comics #31). Johnny had a long-time
dalliance with girlfriend Daisy Darling, daughter of trucking magnate Herman
Darling. Not a genius either, Daisy was an occasional source of casework for
Johnny. Eventually, Johnny's bond with Daisy waned and she became a less
significant factor in his life. By the end of the war, she had disappeared
entirely. In 1941, Johnny adopted a young girl whom he named Peachy Pet (Flash
Comics #21). Peachy Pet was a hyperactive child, rambunctious and
troublesome. Constantly chasing her was another source of adventure for the
hapless would-be super-hero.
In 1942, Johnny joined the US Navy based after seeing a Navy recruiting poster on which Uncle Sam declared, "We Want You, Johnny!" Not realizing that "Johnny" was a generic reference, Thunder ended up serving aboard a Navy submarine chaser and good-will vessel, the USS Bewilderment, under Captain J. G. Shelly. Not to be left out, Peachy Pet stowed away about the vessel, much to the ire of the crew. Peachy Pet earned her keep, however, when she spotted a submarine bearing down on the vessel and saved the ship. She was allowed to remain with Johnny as ship's mascot (Flash Comics #32). When the ship once again docked in a US port, Johnny was granted an extended leave to keep him from causing trouble, though he returned to the ship from time to time. While most of Johnny's adventures with the Navy were the result of his own ineptitude and a lot of tolerance for the JSA member, he did manage to free Badhnesia from Japanese control in 1943 (Flash Comics #42). Johnny was finally discharged from the Navy in 1944 (Flash Comics #53).
With the war nearing an end, Peachy Pet seized on the idea that she and Johnny should exploit there fame and abilities by taking their team to Hollywood (Flash Comics #55). Once there, they found Hollywood to be a den of thieves and swindlers and despite several efforts to get themselves recognized (Flash Comics #59, 63), the pair ended up returning home to Johnny's parent
In 1945, Johnny turned 28 years
old, an age divisible by 7. The Badhnesian priests waited until 1946 (a weaker
year) and used spells and enchantments to weaken Johnny's control of the
Thunderbolt. With his powers waning, Johnny resigned from the the JSA before
its dissolution. Johnny was replaced by a new heroine with whom he had recently
teamed up: Black
Canary (Flash Comics #86, All-Star Comics vol. 1 #38). In the
early 1950s, Johnny's power over the Thunderbolt had vanished completely, and
he was kidnapped by agents of Badhnesia. When he arrived on the island nation,
he learned the King of Badhnesia was dying. The High Priest of Badhnesia cast a
spell over Johnny, binding him to his will, and then restored Johnny's control
of the Thunderbolt. With the death of the King, Johnny was placed on the throne
and the High Priest announced plans for world conquest with the power of the
Thunderbolt as assistance. Once he became aware of the High Priest's plans, he
order the Thunderbolt to fetch Superman,
who broke the spell and defeated the High Priest. Johnny remained in Badhnesia
for some time afterward, teaching the native population about democracy (Superman
Family #204). When the first President of Badhnesia was democratically
elected, Johnny returned to the United States.
When Vandal Savage kidnapped several of his old enemies from the Justice Society, Johnny was among them (The Flash vol. 2 #137). When the JSA resumed its activities after Savage's defeat, Johnny returned to active membership. He participated in several cases during team-ups between the Justice League and the Society, most notably one in which he attempted to contact his Earth-One counterpart, only to find him to be a criminal who twice attempted to hijack control of the Thunderbolt (Justice League of America #37-38 and #219-220). Nothing his known of his activities outside of reported casework with the JSA and while active in the 60's and 70's, his activity waned during the 1980s. He was active during the final battles of Crisis on Infinite Earths (Crisis on Infinite Earth #12) and was seen during the briefly cross-over between Prior Earth-0 and Earth-Two recently (Justice Society of America Annual #1). His current activities are unknown.
Power and Abilities
Johnny Thunder's abilities stem from his ability to summon a Badhnesian Thunderbolt, making potentially one of the JSA's most powerful members. The Thunderbolt is a genie-like being that can do a great variety of magical feats, though probably not as broad a variety as Doctor Fate, and certainly not as powerful as the Spectre.
Weakness and Limitations
Johnny Thunder is completely dependent on the Thunderbolt to effect any sort of super-powered feat. Without its assistance, Thunder is a mortal man capable of being injured as one. Perhaps somewhat by design, the power of the Thunderbolt is constrained to the intelligence of it's master, which is Johnny's case, can be considerably limiting.