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Ghosts, Mythical Beings, and Johnny Thunder: A Biography of Every Golden Age JSA Member (Part 1)

In the winter of 1940, National Allied Publications (and their competitor All-American Comics) came up with an idea: what if they were to join forces in order to create a comic book using their most popular characters in order to drive up sales. With this idea, All-Star Comics was born. When it was initially conceived, it was an anthology comic consisting of separated stories of the two companies’ most popular characters. Writer Gardner Fox, and editor Sheldon Mayer, has a different idea. What if the superheroes being published within All-Star Comics were to team up and go on adventures relating to one specific goal? Thus, in issue three of All-Star Comics, the Justice Society of America was born. This is part one of a series dedicated to giving an easily accessible guide to the original members of this team, in the hope that it will teach you something new about DC Comics. 

More Fun Comics #52. Credit: Bernard Bailey

Spectre

The first of the many characters we will be covering for this series is The Spectre, a being created by Jerry Seigel and Bernard Bailey as a spirit of vengeance. He first appeared in February of 1940 in issue #52 of More Fun Comics. He was Jim Corrigan, a police detective who was murdered by a crime boss. Unfortunately, his spirit refused to pass into the afterlife, and instead was bonded to the spirit of vengeance, and he was sent back to earth as the Spectre. He would spend his days as the Spectre punishing wrongdoing and would remain this way for the remainder of his time in the Justice Society. Due to the decline of superheroes though in the 1940s, he would become a guardian angel character instead of as the spirit of vengeance. He would slowly be phased out of his own feature and his feature would end with More Fun #101. He left the Justice Society in 1944 as well, as disappeared from comics for 20 years.

More Fun Comics #61. Credit: Howard Sherman

Doctor Fate

Next up on our list of Justice Society of America members, we are covering is Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman creation Doctor Fate. He first appeared in More Fun Comics #55 in May of 1940. Doctor Fate’s real name is actually Kent Nelson, who is taught by Nabu the Wise on how to use magic. During this time, he meets his soon to be wife Inza Cramer. He sets up a tower in Salem, Massachusetts and fights crime, as well as supernatural beings, as Doctor Fate. In 1942 he became a physician, enlists in the U.S. Army, and then resigned from the JSA in 1944 (within the pages of All-Star Comics #21.) He lasted until issue #98 of More Fun Comics in August of 1944, just after leaving the Justice Society. 

Who’s Who #11. Credit: Steve Leialoha

Johnny Thunder

Finally, we are looking at the last of the heroes for this part of the guide to the Justice Society. His name is Johnny Thunder, and he was the only non-superhero a part of the Justice Society of America. Johnny Thunder was created by John Wentworth and Stan Aschmeier in January of 1940 for Flash Comics #1. He is the seventh son of a seventh son, born at 7 a.m. on Saturday, July 7 (which is the seventh day of the week, and the seventh day of the seventh month in 1917.) He was kidnapped in order to be used in order to gain access to the “Thunderbolt” who appeared to him after a ritual on Johnny’s 7th birthday. Eventually, Johnny returns to the United States and lives an ordinary life, but he can unintentionally summon the Thunderbolt by saying the magic word of “Cei-U”. This is pronounced “say you”, as pointed out in the first issue to allow readers to understand the joke behind the concept. He does not notice the Thunderbolt until a year later, and finally figures out the magic word a year after that. He accidentally joined the Justice Society after wishing to be so, which the Thunderbolt took as a command. The Justice Society accepted him because of his good-heartedness, and he remained in the team as a comedic feature. He lasted on the team until he was replaced by Black Canary in All-Star Comics #40, and Johnny Thunder’s feature in Flash Comics was replaced by Black Canary with issue #92. 

Written by Donovan Reed