Real Name: Jack Jaxon
Identity/Class: Human transformed by magic.
Occupation: School boy
Known Relatives: Unidentified parents (deceased), Jasper (uncle)
Base of Operations: Unknown.
First Appearance: Australia Thunderbolt Jaxon Comics (Amalgamated Press, 1949); U.K. Comet #76 (J.B.Allen, 13 August 1949)
Powers/Abilities: Magical belt granted him superhuman strength and endurance plus the power of flight, but only when it was used in the service of justice.
History: Wrongly convicted for a crime he didn't commit, young orphan Jack Jaxon was sent to reform school, where he found an ancient belt, the magic belt of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. Donning it, Jack was transformed in a flash of lightning into a giant endowed with the might and power of the god. Using his new abilities, Jack cleared his name and brought his evil uncle Jasper to justice, then set out to right further wrongs.
Comments: Prior to 1940, Australia was a major export market for British comics, but British sales were hurt when America began dumping remainder comics on to both the British and Australian markets. Things didn't improve after the war, as Australian publisher Kenneth G. Murray began reprinting U.S. titles. To fight back, British company Amalgamated Press assigned editor Edward Holmes of Knockout comic to create new comics directly for the Australian market. Intending to tap into the audience now attuned to American superhero titles, one of the first characters Holmes commissioned was Thunderbolt Jaxon. Jaxon's Australian title ran for 6 issues, each featuring three Jaxon strips. Holmes also began printing apparently new Jaxon stories in one of the British titles he was editing, Comet, but it only lasted for a few weeks. In 1958 Jaxon was revived for Knockout, lasting 18 months; I'm unclear if the early stories were reprints of the earlier tales, but it was certainly new material later in the run. Some of the Australian strips were reprinted in Britain in Knockout Annual.
Thunderbolt's first scripter was T. C. H. Pendower, while his first artist in Comet was Hugh McNeill; Holmes wrote several of his later stories in Comet. During his Knockout incarnation, the great Ian Kennedy (famous for his contribution to Air Ace Picture Library) handled art chores.
Jaxon would be redrawn and republished as Johnny Samson in Buster in 1964. Swiftly running out of reprint material, new Johnny Samson adventures were produced, before the strip ended in 1965.
During his time in print ownership of Jaxon had changed hands a few times; towards the end of Comet's run J.B.Allen was bought out by Amalgamated Press, who later produced Knockout. By the end of Knockout's run, when it was absorbed into Valiant in 1963, Amalgamated Press had in turn been bought out by I.P.C., who now owned Jaxon.
IPC sold the rights to many of their characters to Egmont, which led to Thunderbolt Jaxon turning up in Zenith Phase Three, where he was killed when his belt failed to activate, an early indication that the heroes fighting the Lliogor were being duped and were not fighting for justice. However, Egmont had been mistaken as to exactly which characters they had purchased, and Jaxon was one of many they had used without actually owning the rights, which in turn has hindered the Zenith tales being reprinted.
IPC was bought out by US giant Time Warner, who also owned DC Comics. In 2006 a new five issue mini-series was released from D.C.'s Wildstorm's imprint, following on from Albion, written by Dave Gibbons and drawn by John Higgins. Thanks to Andrew Sumner both for this information. More details here.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
Thunderbolt, Golden Age hero
Thunderbolt, Charlton hero
Thunderbolt the Avenger, another British hero
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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