In “When We First Met”, we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.
Reader Dennis W. wrote in to ask (by the way, Dennis messaged me this question on Facebook. I’d prefer e-mail, if only because that way I can sort the e-mails into folders. I could easily lose track of a Facebook message, ya know? As it would be knocked down the list as soon as other people message me, which I have folders to put my e-mails into), ” When did Johnny Thunder first know his magic word (Cei-U) instead of just accidentally saying it?”
Great question, Dennis, although I’m afraid the answer is a BIT disappointing. Just a bit.
Okay, first off, let’s establish who Johnny Thunder is and what the heck Dennis is even talking about. It’s not like Johnny Thunder is the most popular character in the world, ya know? Back in the early days of DC Comics (then National Comics and soon All-American Comics, a different comic book company that worked under the umbrella of National Comics but was technically its own comic book company owned by Max Gaines that he eventually sold to National Comics when he started EC Comics), even though superheroes were all the rage, comic book creators still tried to do different spins on these things, including a number of humorous takes on the superhero concept. One of these humorous takes was John Wentworth and Stan Aschmeier (known as Stan Asch)’s creation, Johnny Thunder, which debuted in Flash Comics #1 (the same comic book that introduced the world to Hawkman and, well, you know, the Flash).
Young Johnny Thunder was kidnapped when he was a child and a ceremony was performed that connected him with a powerful magical entity known as the Thunderbolt (later named Yz)….
He escaped and was found and brought back to his parents…
Years later, the power of the Thunderbolt officially kicked in. Any time Johnny would say the magic words, “Cei-U,” he could invoke the Thunderbolt, which would do whatever he wants. However, Johnny didn’t KNOW the magic words, so just one day (after the magic had kicked in) he just accidentally said the words and helped save a guy’s life…
He fought off some bad guys but generally just was oblivious to what was going on…
That was the whole shtick. A normal guy who seemingly can’t catch a break but who has a magical thunderbolt that can do whatever he wants whenever he says something (“Say You”) that he regular peppers into his conversations.
However, this was the Golden Age. As I just demonstrated the other day with the evolution of Batman’s gloves in the Batman feature in Detective Comics, people were not really worried about consistency in those early comic books.
Initially, the Thunderbolt was just a bolt of lightning and not an anthropomorphic figure. In Flash Comics #2, Johnny becomes a boxer (with his Thunderbolt inadvertently making Johnny seem like a good boxer). Then his girlfriend goes tired of his boxing ways and suggests that she’ll only date him if he becomes a G-Men.
So he gets a job at the FBI, but then loses it in Flash Comics #7 due to his own incompetence. He then decides to become a superhero, with his mother making him a costume (just like how Bob Kane’s mom came up with Batman’s costume, I assume) and that’s when he realizes that he really does have some sort of power…
The next issue had the Thunderbolt be anthropomorphized for the first time…”
But wait until you see how Johnny REALLY starts to figure things out…
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