JOHNNY QUICKMedium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
Creators: Mort Weisinger (writer) and Chad Grothkopf (artist)
First Appeared: 1941
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Writer/editor Mort Weisinger (whose greatest fame is from his 1950s-60s work on Superman) was a busy man when he first went to work for
DC Comics in 1941. He immediately created, if that's the correct word, a knock-off of Marvel's Sub-Mariner, a knock-off of Fawcett's Golden Arrow and Centaur's The Arrow by way of Batman, a knock-off of DC's own Justice Society of America and a knock-off of The Flash, all of which hit the stands during the span of just a couple of months toward the end of that year.
The Flash imitator was Johnny Quick, who debuted in the 71st issue (September, 1941) of More Fun Comics, where Doctor Fate was the regular cover feature. (In fact, Johnny made the More Fun cover only three times in his entire career.) On Johnny, Weisinger's artistic collaborator was Chad Grothkopf, whose varied credits run from the re-design of The Sandman's costume into that of a standard superhero, to the creation of Marvel Bunny.
Johnny's real name was Johnny Chambers. An orphan, he'd been raised by a family friend, Professor Ezra Gill, a scientist who dabbled in Egyptology in his old age. In translating an ancient scrap of papyrus, Gill discovered a "speed formula", capable of bestowing blinding speed on its user. He considered himself past the stage of life where such a thing would be useful to him, and so passed it on to Johnny, to be used in the cause of justice.
It wasn't a "formula" in the usual sense, but worked more like a magic word. By saying "3X2(9YZ)4A", Johnny gained the power of super speed — to the point where he could even fly short distances, which may not have made sense aerodynamically but didn't seem to bother comic book readers of the time. Saying "Z25Y(2AB)6" would return him to normal. Following the custom of 1940s comic book characters, he made himself a colorful costume, adopted a snappy name, and went into the superhero business. As a photographer for an outfit called Sees All/Tells All News, he had plenty of opportunities to use his "Johnny Quick" abilities. His assistant, Tubby Watts, who was there mostly for comedy but was nonetheless privy to Johnny's secret identity, completed the scenario.
The Weisinger/Grothkopf team didn't stick with Johnny, but Johnny hung on quite well being written and drawn by others. In fact, he hung on longer than any other early '40s DC superhero, with the exception of the very few that survived long enough to become early members of The Justice League of America. In 1946, he and the other denizens of More Fun Comics moved en masse to Adventure Comics, displacing Starman, Manhunter and others. With Superboy on every cover to sell the book, Adventure continued for years, with its back pages features intact. Johnny didn't give up the ghost until #207 (December, 1954), when he succumbed to shrinking pagecounts.
Of course, he was eventually brought back. In Johnny's case, it took longer than usual, possibly because a new Flash was occupying the speed demon niche of DC's superhero ecosystem (which was smaller then, with less room for redundancy). A few scattered reprints in the 1970s introduced readers to Johnny, who was finally seen in new stories (albeit set back in the '40s) in All-Star Squadron, the team comic that included practically all of DC's old-time heroes. Starting in the first issue (September, 1981), Johnny, tho a minor character during his first incarnation, was prominently featured. Squadron creator Roy Thomas (The Invaders, Infinity Inc.) even gave him a romance with Liberty Belle, an even more minor '40s character, who had appeared in the back pages of Star Spangled Comics. Eventually, Johnny and Belle were married — and since this took place in the past, could plausibly have grown children in present-day continuity.
And they did. Their daughter Jesse, who goes by the superhero name "Jesse Quick", inherited her super strength and his ability to use the speed formula. Johnny disappeared into the Speed Force (currently cited as the source of power for a growing community of DC super-speedsters, which now includes a third Flash) several years ago, but Jesse looks like a permanent participant in the DC Universe.