(A while back, Jeff Of EarthJ started doing retrospectives of various JSA members., and I wanted to continue this with my own musings on a couple of my favorite characters).

Johnny Thunder was born the 7th son of a seventh son at 7am on A Saturday, the seventh day of the week. He was then kidnapped by a group of Bahdnesians, who bestowed upon him a mystical being of tremendous power, Yz the Thunderbolt (I know some of this is from his origin story, but I’m guessing many facts such as Yz’s name were added later), to be activated on his 7th birthday. Eventually Johnny was returned to the Western world and became a normal, if not terribly bright person. However, he still retained access to the thunderbolt, which he could call by using the Bahdnesian phrase “cei-u”, which translated to the English phrase “say you”. Unfortunately for Johnny, he he didn’t realize how t call the thunderbolt for a very long time.

Johnny’s first adventure was in Flash #1, and his solo adventures were continuously published there until Flash #92, where his feature was supplanted by Black Canary. All things being equal, 91 issues for what was essentially a middle of the road gag character isn’t bad. One wonders whether he was that popular or if there was an editor who had a soft spot for him.

Johnny’s feature was very much a gag comic, just with some superhero trappings. As mentioned before, Johnny wasn’t very bright, and he seemed to bumble his way through his adventures. While he had control over the thunderbolt, perhaps his biggest superpower was his absurd luck. He would frequently find himself in some sort of dangerous situation but either through fortunate use of his thunderbolt or the complete ineptitude of his antagonists he would come out on top.

Johnny attempted to join the JSA at it’s inception, but as he hadn’t been invited to the meeting, they made him their mascot initially. Shortly thereafter, as Flash and Green Lantern left the team, he was given an initiation trial and made a full member. He was a part of pretty much every JSA adventure afterwards until he was once again supplanted by Black Canary.

After being removed from Flash Comics and All Star Comics, Johnny pretty much disappeared until the Silver Age and the JLA/JSA team ups. In fact, he was the catalyst to one of their more difficult cases when he traveled to Earth One to find his counterpart, only to discover that he was a small time criminal who took control of the thunderbolt and used it wreak havoc.

I don’t recall him having many more adventures Pre-Crisis, and I don’t have access to many of his appearances since, so I don’t have much to say about them one way or the other.

A few more thoughts about the character and his features:

* Johnny wasn’t very smart, but he was what I would call a cowardly courageous character. He would grumble and moan about being put into precarious situations, but he never really backed down from anything.

* Even after discovering the existence of Yz, he didn’t depend upon the thunderbolt. He would frequently try to resolve his current situation without the thunderbolt’s assistance, and surprisingly enough succeeded sometimes.

* He wasn’t much for fisticuffs, but he would try. He did improve over time, but it was usually his preternatural luck that prevailed. Opponents would knock themselves out attacking him or do other similar things.

* In the JSA stories in which he appeared, his solo adventure was frequently the last, probably because the thunderbolt was a good explanation for how the members came together so quickly afterwards.

* For me, the JSA stories lost something when Johnny left the team. His parts brought just the right touch of levity to stories that could sometimes get too serious for their own good, and the stories were just too serious after he was gone—even when they shouldn’t have been.

* Yz was an important part of Johnny’s popularity, or more specifically the relationship between Johnny and Yz. Yz had a snarky personality and was also a bit of a mischief maker. However, he was also loyal to Johnny.

Yz also couldn’t operate independently of Johnny—except when he could. It was a humor feature, so you could sort of play fast and loose with the rules in some situations.

* The less said about Peachy Pet, the better. Possibly the most odious character in the history of comics.

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I'll be honest, I always hated him as a character, and was glad when he was dropped from the JSA.  

That said, I always felt bad about the way he was dropped from the JSA. One issue he was just gone, with no explanation.  Like him or not (and I obviously didn't), he'd been there from the beginning, and his departure deserved at least some kind of acknowledgement.

For a long time, my question about Johnny Thunder had always been when he came to know that Cei-U was his magic word. I think it was Bob who pointed me to this link, but no discussion of Johnny thunder would be complete without this link.

My favorite JLAs of all time are probably the third JLA/JSA “team up” (team up is in quotes since they really don’t team up) where the Earth One Johnny Thunder, a petty crook, is the bad guy.  The Thunderbolt is very creative in obeying the “evil” Johnny’s orders while simultaneously sabotaging them.  The final battle between Dr. Fate and the Thunderbolt is great.  Dr. Fate was someone you didn’t want to mess with; you knew the Thunderbolt was outmatched—the “inevitableness” of the battle is compelling.  It was also my introduction to Mr. Terrific, sadly, a character who was underserved in the Silver Age.


Johnny Thunder appeared in eight out of the twenty-three Silver/Bronze Age JLA/JSA team-ups, more than the Atom, Sandman and Wildcat! He was used as a "deus ex machina" gimmick in JLA #137 and his past relationship with Black Canary brought up twice. Mostly he was the same befuddled guy that he was in All Star Comics.

Sadly he was ignored in the 70s All Star Comics and Roy Thomas never featured him strongly in either All Star Squadron or Infinity, Inc and the Thunderbolt got less consideration though Roy did create a new version in Jonni Thunder AKA Thunderbolt!

Superman Family #214's "Mr. & Mrs. Superman" story did explain why Johnny left the JSA and what he was doing in the 1950s!

I think I saw that happened in Flash Comics #20. Interestingly enough  I think it happened after he was made a full member of the JSA. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

For a long time, my question about Johnny Thunder had always been when he came to know that Cei-U was his magic word. I think it was Bob who pointed me to this link, but no discussion of Johnny thunder would be complete without this link.

Admittedly he wasn't the most popular member of the JSA, nor has his popularity improved over the years. To my knowledge, most other members of the JSA have at least one DC Archive, but nothing for Johnny. 

The Baron said:

I'll be honest, I always hated him as a character, and was glad when he was dropped from the JSA.  

That said, I always felt bad about the way he was dropped from the JSA. One issue he was just gone, with no explanation.  Like him or not (and I obviously didn't), he'd been there from the beginning, and his departure deserved at least some kind of acknowledgement.

Johnny was featured in 2007's The JSA All Stars Archives, Vol. 1 (and only) which reprinted his first five stories along with Hourman, the Atom, Red Tornado, Doctor Mid-Nite, Wildcat and Mister Terrific.

Amazon now lists it for...$359.89!!!!

Fortunately I already have it!

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