Posts tagged ‘Johnny Chambers’

More Fun 89 – the origins of Green Arrow and Speedy, and the returns of Black Jack and Dr. Clever

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Green Arrow and Speedy have their origins told for the first time, in More Fun 89 (March 1943).  Oliver Queen’s story is very, very different from the later tale, but there are notable points of similarity in Roy Harper’s.

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Lost Mesa is the location that eventually brings the two heroes together.  Roy arrives first, as his father dies in a plane crash, and he is trapped there, along with an old native guide Quoag.  The notion that Roy was orphaned during a fatal accident, and then raised by natives, would remain in every variation of his origin story.

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Oliver Queen is introduced as a wealthy collector of weapons.  Criminals attempt to rob him, but instead succeed only is destroying his collection.  Oliver has heard of Lost Mesa, and intends to re-stock his collection with weapons from there, which he terms “a gold mine.”  The bad guys overhear this, take it literally, and head there themselves.  Lost Mesa is apparently not that lost.

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Entertainingly, the two men do not hit it off at all when they meet, Roy mistaking Oliver for one of the gang.  They both get captured, but free themselves.  In plotting their revenge against the hoods, they adopt the basic guises and nicknames that would define them as heroes.

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As a plus, they discover that there really is a treasure horde of gold in Lost Mesa.  As a minus, Quoag dies trying to help them.

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And though a rope attached to an arrow is not at all beyond the normal scope of archery, the fact that he brands it an “Arrow-line” makes this an early trick arrow as well.

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Black Jack returns again in this story.  He has a modern, oil-burning watercraft as his pirate ship, and that seems enough to warrant a story.  It’s a pretty run-of-the-mill affair for the most part, except when it gets down to the fight.

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Black Jack captures Aquaman at one point, and intends to suffocate him by withdrawing the oxygen from water.  The “scientific” discussion between the men is so awful even I can tell it’s complete nonsense.

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Aquaman uses whales to create a distracting rainfall, as well as to propel him and some eels up to the villain’s lair.

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The eels in turn function as ropes.  From simple commands, Aquaman’s power to control and manipulate sea creatures has jumped to the staggering level it would remain at.

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Mort Meskin brings back Dr. Clever in this Johnny Quick story, but the character really doesn’t have that much to do with the story, and appears only in a few panels.

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Tubby Watts gets a larger than usual role, as he and Johnny Chambers spend some time as guests at a training camp.  It’s really not clear in the story if they are they just in order to make a newsreel, or if visiting the camps was a normal activity at the time, part of the recruitment process?  Certainly Tubby is not treated as a man doing a job by the military at the camp, but more like a potential soldier.

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While Dr. Clever schemes sabotage off to the side, Johnny races around doing all manner of tasks that soldiers in training do.

 

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More Fun 87 – Green Arrow fires a rocket-arrow, Dr. Fate – doctor, Aquaman meets Atlanteans and Tubby Watts gets paid to do nothing

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Johnny Quick gets his second cover appearance on More Fun 87 (Jan 43).  He still doesn’t get the lead spot, and Green Arrow resumes his cover features with the next issue.  This is also the final issue with a Radio Squad story, the one early series that stuck around.

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Green Arrow and Speedy wind up in a complex case, which builds to a big prison breakout attempt.  But the plot is not the important thing here, it’s the arrows.

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Up until now the arrows have always been used in the acceptable variety of ways arrows are used – like setting them on fire, or shooting them up as signals.  But in this story, it stretches a little further.  In order to sneak into the prison to get information on the villain’s plans, Green Arrow and Speedy shooted hooked arrows at convicts, reeling them in almost like fish.

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Towards the end of the story, the duo fire off rockets, but Green Arrow specifically calls them Arrow-Rockets, name branding them a la Batman.  But also making this the first trick arrow.

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Some really nice art by Howard Sherman on Gardner Fox’s latest Dr. Fate story.

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Dr. Fate is pitted against a rival, but the doctor is a phony, as Kent susses out in his medical day job.  This issue shows him as a doctor, while most of the issues simply refer to his occupation in passing.

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Some of his powers seem to be back, as he is immune to bullets, and he’s pulled his crystal ball out of storage!

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There are even a couple panels of Dr. Fate underwater, drawn in Sherman’s unique way of expressing that.   A better story than most of the late Dr. Fate tales.

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Atlanteans get introduced in the Aquaman story in this issue.  The ark-type ship shown in the splash page is run by thugs in biker jackets, gathering rare creatures from around the world.  They find an Atleantean man, beat the crap out of him, and throw him in a  cage.

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The reader is treated to a fairly standard telling of the destruction and sinking of Atlantis.  The art makes ancient Atlantis look pretty urban and bland.

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Aquaman discovers Atlantis and meets its inhabitants for the first time – the previous notion of him living in a temple in the abandoned ruins can easily be blended with this.  He mistook an abandoned out-lying settlement for Atlantis proper.

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He frees the captured Atlantean, and throws the men in cages to be displayed to the Atlanteans.  Just temporarily.  So he says.

 

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Tubby Watts gets a more important role than usual, in a convoluted story that sees him paid by criminals to do nothing, part of a scheme to steal a farmer’s land that has oil on it.

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Tubby gets the plot-line, but after a page of being Johnny Chambers, Quick gets into action.

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Meskin is now making the most of the multiple images visual, which also appears on the cover.

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Drawn this way, Johnny has finally become a visually distinct character from the Flash.

 

 

More Fun 79 – Green Arrow vs the Boomerang, Mr. Who’s last battle with Dr. Fate, Aquaman fights Nazis, Johnny Quick vs Mr. Meek, and Percival Popp takes the lead

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Green Arrow gets a new villain with a lot of potential in More Fun 79 (May 1942), but it seems they didn’t see it.  He doesn’t make it onto the cover, nor did he appear again.

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The Boomerang is pretty much what Captain Boomerang would become, although much lower tech, appropriate to the era.

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He uses boomerangs as, essentially, a hit man, giving people revenge killings.  Oliver Queen gets alerted to this through his friends, and Green Arrow and Speedy hunt him down.

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No trick arrows, but a giant boomerang!

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Mr. Who escapes from prison thanks to his “Z” formula, but overall it doesn’t help him much in this Gardner Fox/Howard Sherman story.

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Mr. Who breaks into a millionaire’s home, and the formula allows him to take on the man’s identity, as it did with the mayor many issues ago.  Kent and Inza are friends with the impersonated man, of course.

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Mr. Who’s own formula gives him away, making him grow large when Dr. Fate approaches him while he is in disguise.  The last we see of Mr. Who, he is in prison.  One would have thought he’d stay there, as he did not appear again in this series, but he did make a return, in a story set very shortly after this one, in All-Star Squadron in the 80s.

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The only thing particularly noteworthy about the Aquaman story in this issue is that he is fighting Nazis.  I think this story is still too early to have been written and drawn before the attack on Pearl Harbour, so it’s a bit surprising to see Aquaman being so aggressive with them.

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The story has him helping survivors of a Nazi U-boat bombing of their ship, while it was in protected US waters.

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Aquaman identifies first and foremost as an American.  Which, of course, he is at this time.  Odd to see a pre-Atlantean Aquaman though.

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Mort Meskin’s art does a lot to make this story, which pits Johnny Quick against Mr. Meek, work as well as it does.

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Mr. Meek has the clever plan to film Johnny reciting his speed formula, so he can learn it and use it himself.  Nicely ironic, as Meek is unaware that Johnny Chambers works making newsreels.

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The ending challenges Johnny’s wits, as he has to figure out how to use speed to escape a locked vault in a burning building.

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After a couple of issues that made it seem like the Spectre was taking his series back, Percival Popp moves solidly into the lead in this tale, by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey.  The Spectre isn’t even clearly seen on the splash page!

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Percival takes a job spending money – the unwitting dupe of counterfeiters.  Jim Corrigan acts as his sidekick in this tale, until the Spectre is needed.  Then Jim changes form and devotes the rest of the tale to getting Percival out of trouble.

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Percival even gets to take credit for busting the ring!  I feel sick.

 

More Fun 75 – Dr. Fate gets physical, Green Arrow vs Merlin, Black Jack returns, Johnny Quick vs Mr. Zero, and Percival shoves his way in

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The Dr. Fate story in More Fun 75 (Jan 42) is by the original team, Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, but little of the original feel of the series remains.

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It does open as a typical story.  Inza needs Dr. Fate’s help with a friend imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.  Dr. Fate uses his crystal ball to learn of Inza’s need, but from there on this is pure down to earth stuff.

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Fate tracks the gang, beating up all the members along the way. The story is nothing but a loose frame work on which to hang scenes of Dr. Fate hitting people.

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Nor does the mastermind require anything magical to take him down.  Dr. Fate flies, but shows off no other degree of special powers.

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Green Arrow gets his first recurring villain in this issue, who goes  by the name of Professor Merlin, but also calls himself simply Merlin.

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He runs a crime college, sending his “students” out to steal cars.

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His men capture Green Arrow and Speedy, but Professor Merlin is impressed by the archer, and asks if they can join forces.  Pretty foolish, really.  Of course Green Arrow agrees, but simply sets him up and takes him down.

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Merlin does manage to escape, vowing revenge.  And he returns, the following month, in Leading Comics 1, the first story of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, to fight Green Arrow.

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Aquaman’s story has him aiding some south seas islanders whose home has been conquered by Black Jack.

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The area is rich in pearls, but Black Jack also has designs on Loana, the girl friend of Keiko.  Keiko is the guy Aquaman rescued from the giant clam, and learns all the backstory from.

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Interestingly, to get to Black Jack, Aquaman has to fight and kill a shark.  He does not even attempt to mentally control the creature.  Of course he succeeds, and frees the island from Black Jack’s control, although the villain returns a couple months down the road.

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Johnny Quick faces a mass murderer in this story, with great art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin.  Mr. Zero has a skeletal face and head, and a tendency to kill of even his own henchmen.

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Johnny Chambers and Tubby Watts are filming at a baseball game when one of Mr. Zero’s men kills a guy, getting Johnny onto the track of these guys.  This brief scene pretty much establishes the way they will often be introduced into the story, the matching green suits.  Tubby’s hair has changed colour from dark brown to red, and his face altered slightly as well, into what would become his standard appearance.

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Lots of speed action, but still a costume that lacks a defining symbol.

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Some more big changes occur in this story by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey.  Percival Popp is still trying to worm his way into Jim Corrigan’s life.

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The Spectre finally gets fed up with it, and takes Percival off to a different planet to threaten him, but that does no good.  Percival decides to hone in on Clarice Winston in an attempt to get closer to Jim.

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Clarice winds up in a coma, Percival thinks it has to do with a statue, but the Spectre realizes Percival is going to be diving near his corpse, still sitting on the bottom of the harbour.

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The Spectre goes to the Voice, who returns Jim’s body to life, with the Spectre now residing inside it.  He saves the day, and Percival’s life, and ends cuddling with Clarice.

It’s questionable whether Jim Corrigan really returned to life, or the body was simply freed from cement, and the Spectre force allowed to possess it, and have it act independently.  This story was completely ignored in the Ostrander/Mandrake series, in which the body is still encased in cement in the harbour.

More Fun 73 – Dr. Fate vs Mr Who, Green Arrow debuts, Johnny Quick vs the Black Knight, the Spectre vs the volcano, and Aquaman debuts

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With issue 73 (Nov 41), More Fun Comics became almost entirely super-heroes.  The Spectre, Dr. Fate and Johnny Quick were joined by Green Arrow and Aquaman, and the only other series still going were the long-running Radio Squad, and another Clip Carson adventure, this one in Hunduras.  After his debut, Clip had beaten up Seminoles in the Everglades, and actually helped an Inuit man in Alaska.  In the previous issue, he solved a murder while on vacation at a Dude Ranch in Arizona.  From this story till the end of his run, Clip’s adventures would be scattered around the globe.

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Mr. Who debuts in this Gardner Fox/Howard Sherman tale, another mad scientist, but with enough character to be fun.  And a “Z” solution that allows him to grow to giant size.

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I enjoy the page of Fate fighting with the giant spider, Mr. Who heading out to commit a crime, and leave the hero to die.  Dr. Fate is able to emit energy to free himself, but fights the spider bare-handed.

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Dr. Fate hurls him into the water at the end, but the story leaves open the possibility that he survived – and he most certainly did, appearing in the following issue.

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Green Arrow and Speedy debut, created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp.  Oliver Queen and Roy Harper both have brown hair in this story.  The colours of the two heroes hair, as well as their hats, gloves and boots would alter almost regularly all the way into the 1960s.

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Green Arrow and Speedy are already operating as a team, and mention is made of a previous case.  They already have what would later be called the Arrowcar, but here is termed the Arrowplane.  There would later be an Arrowplane that was an airplane, not a car.

While the obvious inspiration for the character is Robin Hood, in reality more stories and elements would be drawn from the Batman series.  Already there is a boy sidekick, and a vehicle named for the hero.

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The story is a standard mystery.  Murders among a group of historians, who share names with historical figures.  The archery is all straight forward as well, no trick arrows.

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I really like Ed Moore’s art on this Johnny Quick story that pits him against the Black Knight, who mysteriously goes around destroying statues.

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Johnny and Tubby Watts are filming when the Knight goes on a rampage, and Johnny trails him, but gets captured.

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The glass room makes a great trap, and foreshadows the distinctive way speed would come to be shown in this strip – multiple images of Johnny in the same panel.  He escapes and exposes the Knight as a robot, in the control of an unscrupulous art dealer.

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This is the final Spectre story by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey before the series changes irrevocably.  And it has some weird moments, but is about par for the course.  The Spectre series had been inventive, as it was, but rarely lived up to the promise of its premise, at least partly because that was so grim and disturbing.

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Here wer get a story about giant volcanoes popping up in downtown Cliffland, caused by a mad scientist with a teleporter.

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There is a strange page, in which Clarice Winston tries to get Jim to propose, just a few issues after saying they should not be married.  I think we can add this together, as well as her pursuit of Jim so long after he broke it off years ago, can add to show her unstable mental state.

Being attacked by lions likely doesn’t help her in the long run either.

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In the end, the Spectre doesn’t even save the day.  It’s the bad guy’s assistant who sacrifices himself to destroy the villain and the machine.

And the final panel sees a dark foreshadowing.  Percival Popp – the Super-Cop.

What person, who enjoyed the dark, grisly elements of this series about a vengeful ghost looked at that picture and thought, yes, that is exactly what the series needs.

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Aquaman also debuts in this issue.  He’s just sort of swimming around the Atlantic in the middle of a world war, and is on hand when a ship gets sunk by a Nazi U-boat.

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Aquaman plunges into action, whups them Nazis, and they flee.  Then he gets the lifeboat to safety.

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He briefly relates his origin, which is far different from the one we know.  Here is a human, raised by his scientist father in an underwater city that may have been Atlantis.  The father used the science of that kingdom to alter his son, to make his able to live in the sea.

It’s a really cruel story of child abuse and isolation, so it’s no surprise when Aquaman immediately runs away after revealing it.

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As he defeats the nearby Nazis, we also see him use his ability to communicate with fish.

A barely defined character, but a series with a lot of visual potential, and a good name.

 

 

More Fun 71- The Spectre helps out a wedding, Johnny Quick debuts, and Dr. Fate helps the Earth rotate

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Dr. Fate is the cover feature of More Fun 71 (Sept 41), but moves back to the final slot in the book.  The character clearly had not proved as popular as expected, as this is the final issue where he wears the full helmet.  His series becomes far less mystical for the duration of its run.

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Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey’s Spectre moves back to the lead spot, although the story is nowhere on par with earlier adventures.  This story all deals with confusion and chaos at a wedding.  The groom is late, and a “rare cosmic event” decreases the Spectre’s powers, so he cannot use them to find him.  He still can change his shape and take the groom’s place at the wedding though.

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But the story almost descends into farce as Jim (as the groom) gets kidnapped, and the bride calls the wedding off, and the Spectre has to play matchmaker.  The other really curious thing in the story is a scene with Clarice Winston, when she tells Jim not to let the ceremony “give him ideas.”  Clearly she is no longer mooning over him.  It’s surprising they are at the wedding together, if her feelings have cooled towards him so much.  She hasn’t been seen in the series for a while now.

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Johnny Quick debuts in this issue.  A newsreel reporter named Johnny Chambers, he and his cameraman, Tubby Watts, head to the circus to film, when a lion breaks free of its cage.

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Johnny already has his powers when the story begins, and the flashback to his origin ascribes him some previous adventures as well.  We see Johnny as a college student, and the professor who teaches him the “speed formula” he recites to gain his powers.  In this issue, the speed is shown the same way it is in the Flash series, and there is not that much to distinguish the two characters at this point, except that Johnny’s costume looks kind of crappy.

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Johnny disguises himself as a strong man, infiltrating the circus and discovers that it is the front for a crime ring.  So many circuses are fronts for crime rings in 1940s comics.  Makes one wonder just how often that really occurred.

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The last “full helmet” Dr. Fate story sees the Earth stop rotating, leaving half in baking sunlight and half in darkness.  Inza is travelling in New Mexico at the time, and begs Fate to help out the people there.  He uses his magic to create globes that will induce rain, which also has the effect of making the Earth rotate again.  Because.  It just does.

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There is a mad scientist behind it all, Adam Igorovich, who tries to blackmail the various countries.  When that fails, he uses his machine to move the Earth closer to the sun, threatening to destroy it.

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Dr. Fate resorts to his fists again, beating the guy up rather that using magic on him.  The scientist tries to kill Fate by blowing up his lab, but Fate zips away and the madman kills only himself.

Adventure 207 – Johnny Quick ends

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Tubby Watts falls in love in the final Johnny Quick story, from Adventure 207 (Dec 54).  Though never as popular or well-known as the The Flash, Johnny’s series did outlast Jay Garrick’s by 6 years!

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The path of true love never runs smooth, and to Tubby’s dismay the woman he loves prefers thin men, like Johnny Quick.

There really isn’t much more to the story.  Tubby gets pissed off at Johnny, but he has no interest in the woman.  The two men resume their friendship at the end of the tale.

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And that’s it for Johnny Quick.  He and Tubby would not return until the late 70s, in the Flash Super Spectacular.

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