SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Doomsday Clock #5 by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Brad Anderson and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
The mystery of the missing Justice Society of America has been playing out throughout the DC Universe for nearly two years, but it seems like we may be closer than ever to locating the lost heroes of the Golden Age. In this week’s fifth instalment of Doomsday Clock, Johnny Thunder goes on a cross-country trip to track down one of the Justice Society’s most powerful artifacts. Along the way, he comes across the unlikely team of Saturn Girl and Rorschach who enlist him in their quest to find Doctor Manhattan.
Johnny Thunder has been at the heart of the missing JLA mystery since his appearance in DC Universe Rebirth #1, where we saw him as an elderly man living in a nursing home, distraught over the loss of his fellow teammates. Johnny Thunder first made his debut in Flash Comics #1, the same issue which gave us both Jay Garrick as The Flash and Carter Hall as Hawkman, and while he’s never been anywhere near as big of a name as either of those, he’s been a consistent presence through the DC Universe for nearly eighty years. Though he had no powers of his own, he was able to summon his magical Thunderbolt with the words “Cei-U” (pronounced “Say You”) who could grant Johnny’s wishes.
Johnny Thunder joined the Justice Society of America and gained a crime fighting partner in Dinah Drake, the original Black Canary, who replaced him as the backup feature in Flash Comics not long after her debut. Decades later, Johnny’s Thunderbolt was passed down to a young teenager from Keystone City named Jakeem “JJ” Williams and it was revealed that the Thunderbolt — named Yz — was actually a 5th dimensional being similar to Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite. JJ later joined a new incarnation of the JSA under the name Jakeem Thunder and changed the magic words from “Cei-U” to “So Cool.”
Johnny now seems to be the only surviving member of the Justice Society of America. What's more, he blames himself for their loss, so when he reads a newspaper article about Philadelphia’s All-American Steel factor consumed by a strange green flame, he escapes from his retirement facility and buys a one way ticket to investigate himself. There, he’s confronted by a local gang, but is saved by the arrival of Saturn Girl and Rorschach who discover the mystical Green Lantern that once belonged to Alan Scott, which Saturn Girl says is their exactly what they need to locate the missing Doctor Manhattan.
Alan Scott — the Golden Age incarnation of Green Lantern — debuted in All-American Comics #16 as a young railroad worked who finds a mysterious and magical Lantern which instructs him to create a ring with which he can wield its power. Over the years, the Lantern which Scott wields and which is now in the possession of Rorschach has had many different backstories. Originally, a mystical green flame fell to Earth thousands of years ago and was fashioned into the Lantern, fulfilling a prophecy. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Justice Society of America characters were folded into the history of the prime DC Universe and it was established that the mystical green flame was actually the spirit of a rogue member of the Green Lantern Corps, tying Alan Scott into the larger mythos of his namesake.
The most recent history of the Lantern’s mystical green flame states that an off-shoot of Maltusians — the same race which fractured to become the Guardians of the Universe, the Zamarons and the Controllers — sought to remove all magic from the universe and bound stray magical energy into what they called the Starheart, which produced the Green Flame of Life. The Starheart bonded with the rogue Green Lantern and later crash landed in China, where it was forged into a lantern. For a time, Alan Scott possessed the Starheart within his body and took up the name Sentinel, but returned to being Green Lantern a few years afterwards.