Daisy Darling was an heiress. She was wealthy, lovely, popular, and so much of a flirt that she drove poor Johnny Thunder to distraction — a short trip, to be sure. He felt his heart skip a beat whenever she was near. He made sure that she was near, because he currently worked in the same office building as her father, Mr. Herman Darling, a wealthy landowner and realtor. Johnny never called Mr. Darling any first name other than Mister, so he was startled on this December day in 1941 to hear an accented female voice coo, “Now, Herman, that dinner reservation will give us time to go to the theater, won’t it?”
Johnny, an elevator man, watched as the rich bald man himself exited his luxurious office with a tall, beautiful woman who draped herself over his ample arm. “Don’t worry, Amelia my sweet, just leave all to your Herman!” said Mr. Darling in a silly, baby-talk manner.
Watching them as he operated the elevator, they seemed to Johnny to be a real romantic couple. Daisy must be getting a new stepmother, he thought; he knew that Mr. and Mrs. Darling had divorced years ago, and that Mrs. Darling had in particular never approved of him. It was Daisy’s mother who was largely to blame for her desire to have Johnny hold down a job without using his magical Thunderbolt before she would marry him, but Mr. Darling had shown less approval of him lately as well. As they made their departure, the remarkable Mr. Thunder pondered the implications. Maybe this new mom-to-be for Daisy will soften Mr. Darling up so he’ll let me marry Daisy!
Johnny Thunder worked the rest of that day, hearing the usual tired jokes about ups and downs without letting his irritation show to his elevator’s passengers. He was an average young man with a bold heart and a strong desire to do the right thing, particularly in light of the outbreak of war after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Johnny would need these traits, as well as one uniquely his own, in the hours to come.
The next day, Johnny walked his young ward Peachy Pet Thunder to school, then went to the office building where he still worked, at least for the moment. He had decided to join the Navy and had just announced that decision at the latest meeting of the Justice Society of America the previous day. (*) But he knew it would be hard to be away from Daisy.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Justice Society Joins the War on Japan,” All-Star Comics #11 (June-July, 1942).]
Just as he reached Mr. Darling’s office building, he saw Daisy, her father, and the fancy lady called Amelia enter the front doors.
“Hi, Daisy! How are you?” asked Johnny, running in after them. He nodded at the others and acknowledged, “Mr. Darling, Miss.”
“Wonderful, Johnny! Daddy is engaged!” squealed the bleached-blonde heiress. “He and Lady Amelia are getting married. We’re having a dance to celebrate; it’s at the Riverdale Country Club, and Daddy hired a real professional big band that does swing music and everything!”
“Come along, Daisy. Let Mr. Thunder do his job,” grumbled Herman Darling as Johnny hurried back to his usual post.
Later, Johnny approached Daisy and nervously asked the big question that had occupied his mind all morning. “Daisy, would you… could we… go to the dance together?” Johnny would rather have fought the Lightning Master, Luthor, and the entire Japanese Fleet on his own than popped this all-important question.
“Sorry, John. I already have an escort. You may have heard of him — Reginald Weatherton, the society playboy? He’s divine! Ta-ta!” Off went Daisy, and down went Johnny’s spirits.
Johnny waited idly until a girl passed by. “Going up?” he asked. She stared at him with a glassy look in her dazed eyes and passed onward without any sign that she was aware that he had spoken. “She was in a trance or somethin’,” he said to himself. I’ve seen that kind of stupor before with folks that have been drugged or hynotized. She’s going to Mr. Darling’s office. I’m gonna follow her.
He walked swiftly to the door where the girl paused to whisper hurriedly with Lady Amelia. Mr. Darling had stepped out to yell at some poor secretary while Daisy went out shopping. “Say, you know, I need to hear what’s going on.”
Johnny said his magic words say you, which was the English version of Cei-u. These Badhnisian words of power allow him to summon and control a powerful magical being called the Thunderbolt. Instantly, the pinkish-hued T-bolt appeared and gestured at the door. A large listening cone popped up on the wall and broadcast their hushed words to the hiding Johnny.
“The baroness wishes a meeting at the usual place to arrange all details. Heil Hitler!” said the drugged girl.
Lady Amelia Vandenberg answered, “All shall be as the baroness demands. Now go.”
Johnny faded around a corner and waited as they passed his place of concealment. He knew something was seriously wrong. He had assumed correctly that Amelia’s accent was Austrian, as was her title. A quick check in Burke’s European Peerage in a bookstore during his lunch hour confirmed that hunch; however, from what he had heard, it sounded as if Lady Amelia was loyal only to Hitler.
“If that baroness is the one I’ve heard Wonder Woman once captured, then that explains the drugged slave girl who delivered the message. Baroness Patty, or Paula Von what’s-her-name uses mentally enslaved women as her gang!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Baroness Paula von Gunther first appeared in Wonder Woman, Sensation Comics #4 (April, 1942).]
Johnny raced outside the office building, abandoning his post as elevator man, and searched for the two women. They split up and went in opposite directions.
“How can I track them both? I guess Amelia’s the one to watch. Wish there were two of me.” Since Johnny’s hour of influence was still good, there suddenly were two Johnnys. The T-bolt magic had replicated his master.
“Johnny-Two, follow the slave girl. Johnny-One — er, I mean me — will track Amelia,” said a slightly and justifiably confused Mr. Thunder. They did what they said.
He saw Amelia disappear into a crowd, and as he passed men using luminous paint on a sign, an idea came to him. “Say, you know, if she’d glow so only I could see it, I could keep up!” he said. Instantly, Amelia glowed brightly to Johnny’s eyes only.
Meanwhile, Johnny-Two easily tracked the girl to a luxurious mansion where girls swarmed around the grounds, all with similarly glazed expressions. No sign of any real mistress was around. Johnny decided to check out the place. “T-bolt, get me inside.”
“As good as done, O carbon-copied captain!” said the T-bolt.
He found himself in the middle of the manor, where a beautiful woman lounged seductively on a sofa. Her blonde hair was swept up, and she had a seductive Bette Davis look about her regal features. “Baroness Paula von Gunther!” yelled an excited Johnny.
The lady in question kept her cool as she eyed the young JSAer coldly and did not stir. “To what do I owe this dubious pleasure?” she asked.
“I know all about you! You are a Nazi, and you’re after wealth to finance Hitler!” yelled John.
“And you propose to stop me… how?” Paula said as she reclined with even more of an air of seduction.
“I’ll just arrest you. You’ve got a record so long the Feds shall greet you with leg chains.”
The baroness waited until he stepped closer, then pulled a bell cord. The floor opened up beneath Johnny, who plunged downward as it slid closed above him once more. “I need–” he started to say when the impact knocked him cold.
Meanwhile, the first Johnny followed Amelia, who never shone so brightly, although the Nazi agent did not know it. He saw her enter a seedy warehouse. A babe like that can only be in this part of town for something decidedly secret and most likely treasonous, thought Johnny.
“You follow at your own risk!” said a costumed figure who leaped out to block his path. Johnny saw a red, green, and yellow-caped thug in his path.
“They call me the Signal-Man, and I’m a sure sign of trouble for you, punk!” growled the criminal, whose name was Phil Cobbs. He was a small-time crook who had recently decided on a gimmick to make it big. And while he would never be a headliner, he would manage to very briefly menace the Batman in years to come. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: The Signal-Man is the Earth-Two version of an Earth-One character called the Signalman, who first appeared in “The Signalman of Crime,” Batman #112 (December, 1957).]
“What are you going to do? Shoot me with your deadly stop-light ray, or yield me to death?” joked Johnny, who had already faced far worse in his time, especially during cases with the Justice Society.
The Signal-Man scowled and aimed a prism at Johnny. A ray of intense heat shot out and melted a parked car nearby.
“You broke it, you bought it!” quipped Johnny as he dodged desperately.
“You punk! This ray will atomize you, or better yet, this one will make you my puppet!” said Cobbs as he grabbed another device from his bulky belt.
“Say you, T-bolt! Make the air around this jerk a big old mirror!” said Johnny.
Instantly, the Signal-Man found himself struck from all sides by his own rapidly fired rays, since his every side was now blocked by highly reflective mirrors. He collapsed in a daze, and Johnny walked on.
He headed into the warehouse, but it was now empty, as Amelia had left during the fight. Suddenly, with a shudder, Johnny merged together once more in front of the warehouse. “Gosh, T-bolt, you freed me from that pit, and I didn’t say the order! I didn’t even know what my second self did ’til just now. That was close!”
“Your initial hour ended, Master J, so I had to merge you. I just used my discretion about whether to put you together in the pit or here.”
“Good work!” Johnny said, smiling.