A Tribute to the of

Greetings, those who love the Silver Age of DC comics! It’s time for another review and this time around, it’s a bit self-serving and also heading back further into the Golden Age for a tale of a character we’ve never covered here. I’ve selected a short 6-pager from Adventure Comics #188 with a May 1953 publication date and an on-sale date of March 23, 1953. Within this anthology book, you’ll find a headliner tale of Superboy, an Aquaman story rendered by the wonderful Ramona Fradon, a Green Arrow story and a tale about one of the original speedsters, the one and only Johnny Quick in a story with an unknown writer, but with art by Ralph Mayo on pencils and Sy Barry on inks.

That leads to the self-serving part I’d referred to earlier. As long-time readers know, I had the privilege of interviewing Sy right here at the Silver Lantern a few years back [Sage #274] and I finally got around to commissioning him and recently received my very own original Phantom by Sy. Check it out.

Pretty cool, eh? Impressive for a man in his early 90s, too, I dare say. Now, onto the story, titled, “The Man Who Outsped Johnny Quick!

The story opens with Johnny Chambers, aka Johnny Quick and his sidekick, Tubby Watts on location for their day jobs as “ace newsreelman” and assistant, respectively. They’ve taken a chartered plane to get photos of an erupting volcano for their boss and it seems a daunting task, but not when you have Johnny Quick’s secret formula, that, when uttered, allows Johnny Chambers to transform into the world’s fastest human. Much like Johnny Thunder and his “Cei U” phrase, Johnny simply utters “3X2 (9Y2) 4A,” and it’s off to the races to get the footage with the help of his terrific speed. Johnny is a blur as the King of Speed takes the motion picture camera directly into the volcano for optimal footage.

Back at the See’s-All-Tells-All Newsreel company, the boss rebuffs Johnny’s request for a raise, stating that he cannot even use the film as their new cameraman has already scooped him. Astonished, Johnny Chambers asks how that could be and he learns it was…Johnny Quick! Chambers is then told his services are no longer required with Johnny Quick under contract.

Chambers tells Tubby what has happened and is determined to unmask this imposter. His plan is to get some truly spectacular pictures that only the genuine Johnny Quick could muster and then tell the boss that the real Johnny Quick helped Chambers get them. Time for the formula and another change to the familiar red and yellow togs of Johnny Quick.

Soon, the Master of Motion is hard at work, starting with a response to an S.O.S. from a freighter caught on a reef. Using his amazing speed, Johnny stirs up nearby sand from a sandbar to wear away the rock holding the ship. He then boards the freed vessel and scoops out the water as fast as it rushes into the hole in the bow until it can get to safe harbor. All the while, his automatic camera is documenting Quick’s exploits.

Next up, a run down south to save some citrus groves from a sudden killer frost. He becomes a human windmill with wooden blades to save the crop while the reel rolls. Then, off to Asia to save a coastal town from a tidal wave. He digs a moat with his fantastic abilities and again gets it all on film.

Triumphant, Chambers meets again with the unnamed boss, but finds he’s been scooped yet again by “Johnny Quick,” and the boss has the footage to prove it. Chambers then asks the head honcho to arrange a meeting between Chambers and Quick. The reply is that perhaps he can catch him that night at the Armory where he’s scheduled to take shots of a jeweler’s convention. He again tells Chambers that business is business and to the swiftest go the spoils.

Later Chambers and Watts are discussing matters. Tubby thinks that perhaps someone else has cracked the code on Johnny’s secret formula, but Chambers is convinced the shots were taken from above in each instance, perhaps by a plane, but it still doesn’t explain how it could have gone to each location in time, matching Johnny’s vaunted speed. Chambers then glances at the newspaper that announces that due to security reasons, Johnny Quick is being given preference over other photographers at the jeweler’s convention. Chambers feels that this is the ultimate goal of the imposter; to have access to the jewels and to pull a heist. Plans are then laid to show up as the genuine Johnny Quick and to stop a crime.

As the genuine Johnny Quick enters the armory through a window, he’s poleaxed by a booby trap. The phony Quick had rigged an electrical charge and it leaves our hero helpless on the floor. He begins to mumble “3X2 (94) 4AZ.” When the bogus Quick hears it, he realizes it must be Johnny’s secret formula, which would be far more valuable than jewels. Invoking it, he soon spins out of control and crashes into a wall. Johnny Quick had, of course, offered a false formula that simply sent the imposter spinning helplessly out of control.

When unmasked, it is revealed that the duplicate Quick was actually Ed Moley, the owner of United Television Network. The entire scheme soon is laid bare, that due to Moley’s worldwide organization, his airplanes were in place at each trouble spot and were able to take the photos of Johnny’s exploits via telephoto lenses. The reason for the scam? The network was bankrupt and so he posed as Johnny Quick to allow him access to the gem show where he would substitute paste copies of the jewels and smuggle the real articles out in his camera, affording him the opportunity to skip the country.

The wrap-up panel fills in the final gaps as Johnny Chambers explains to Tubby Watts: “I purposely mixed the formula up, knowing from past experience that strange things happen if it’s not spoken completely right! And it worked…Moley was filled with such explosive speed, he couldn’t control it.” Tubby suggests a celebration over a hamburger that J. Wellington Wimpy would doubtless approve.

Johnny Quick was one of the original speedsters, though not the first. The Jay Garrick Flash, co-created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert debuted in Flash Comics #1 [Sage #128] with a publication date of January 1940 while Johnny, the creation of Mort Weisinger, showed up for the first time in More Fun Comics #71 (September 1941) and had a regular gig in that title until issue #107 when he moved to Adventure Comics with issue #103 through #207. Never quite popular enough to garner his own title, he seemed to be destined to live in the shadow of the Flash, be he Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, or any of the others who have been known as the Scarlet Speedster. Still and all, Johnny was in the thick of things for many years and it’s a pleasure to finally give him a little of his due here at The Silver Lantern.

Here's to a better year, dear readers and you can help us here by sending in your suggestions for future reviews or comments or questions. Just write me at my e-mail address and we’ll do the rest: professor_the@hotmail.com.

February 1st will bring the latest review and until then…

Long live the Silver (& Golden) Age!

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