Johnny Wade’s grandfather and namesake was the original Johnny Rocket, a member of the Liberty League in the 1940s and 50s. He was the youngest member of the team, and continued his crime-fighting career even after the League disbanded. John eventually settled down, married, and raised his children; his heroic identity faded into obscurity along with much of his powers, and Johnny Rocket’s last adventure was sometime in 1955. He never revealed his true identity or “officially” retired, but happily gave up superheroics for a well-deserved normal life. His son Jacob apparently didn’t inherit his father’s powers, which suited John just fine.
Jake Wade also married and his son was born and raised in Freedom City and named after his grandfather. Johnny had a fairly normal childhood, unaware of his grandfather’s heroic exploits until recently. Just a few years ago, Sonny Farris, the last surviving member of the TNTrio, tracked Johnny Rocket down and blasted him and his 17-year-old grandson with a shotgun. John Wade had enough super-speed left to protect his grandson but not himself as well. The brutal attack and the need to rush his grandfather to the hospital sent a surge of adrenaline through Johnny Wade, and suddenly he was racing through the streets of Freedom City at super-speed! He brought his grandfather to the emergency room and immediately used his newfound powers to capture Sonny Farris.
It wasn’t long before the new Johnny Rocket came to the attention of the Freedom League and they asked him to join up. Johnny accepted immediately, which is pretty much the way he did everything. He didn’t bother with a secret identity, since his real face was already splashed on TV screens and newspapers across the country from his capture of Sonny Farris. Unfortunately, that led to problems when Johnny’s other secret came out. The media cut loose when an ex-boyfriend of the Freedom Leaguer claimed that Johnny Wade was gay, and provided photographs that
were plastered across tabloids worldwide. Rather than deny it, Johnny came out publicly in various interviews. While that derailed much of the public relations disaster, there are still conservative voices calling for Johnny Rocket’s removal from the Freedom League and citing him as a “bad influence.”
The unconditional support of Johnny’s grandfather and his teammates—including the usually conservative—has been a big help to the young hero, both personally and publicly. John Wade makes it clear to all who will listen that he’s tremendously proud of his grandson and considers him a worthy successor. The other Leaguers similarly express respect for their teammate and condemn any prejudice against him. In a rare show of fore-thought, Johnny doesn’t take the bait of any controversial questions, saying only, “I’m just doing what I can to help people.”