Jack-in-the-Box (Zachary Johnson)

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Jack-in-the-Box (Zachary Johnson)
© Juke Box Productions


Status: Retired - Fall 1997

currently in mentorship mode

Base of Operations: Astro City
Range of Operations: Astro City
Debut: Reappeared December 28, 1989

Personal Data

Date of Birth: Uncertain, but in the range of October 14, 1970 - October 13, 1971
Civil Status: married


Appearances (in Publication Order): Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol.1 #3, 5

Wizard Presents: Kurt Busiek's Astro City #1/2
Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol.2 #1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12
Astro City #12, 35

Event Timeline

1989/05/04     Headline

1995/12/12     Current

1997/11/20     Headline


Famously described on his debut as a "goofy clown," and the Harlequin of Justice, Jack-in-the-Box has become one of the most easily identifiable and popular heroes of Astro City. Almost as famous for his love of wordplay during a battle as for the battles themselves, Jack has attracted considerable attention from the media and the public, not all of it positive. Since the start of his career in 1964, he has been the subject of debates about his background, motivations and alliances.


In 1989, while settling his parent's meager estate, Zachary discovered his father's special crime-fighting equipment and secret journals, and thus learned of his secret alter ego as Jack-in-the-Box. He was torn by the revelation, unable to help feeling that his father, by risking his life as a superhero, had chosen helping strangers over being there for his family. Despite this ambivalence, Zach adopted the Jack-in-the-Box identity, and used it as a revenge tactic to bring down the Underlord, the Weirdies' employer.

By 1995, Zach was the owner and CEO of his own toy company, the small-but-growing Z.J. Toys, and married to Tamra Dixon, a news anchor. He was a successful superhero in his own right. He had befriended the Trouble Boys, who would sometimes help him in his adventures.

One night, unbeknownst to Zach, a small-time criminal, "Eyes" Eisenstein; secretly witnessed him changing into his civilian clothing, thus reveling his secret identity. Eyes considered profiting from this knowledge but over time became too paranoid to tell anyone. ("A Little Knowledge")

In 1997, Zach encountered three time travelers from the future, each a possible future version of his own son, as yet unborn in the present. They revealed that his death was in the near future. Two versions,(Box and The Jackson, were twisted, monstrous mirror images of Jack-in-the-Box. The third was a sane and seemingly normal individual. All three were young men who had been deeply scarred and haunted by the absence of their father throughout their childhood. Not wanting to leave his future child fatherless, as his own father inadvertently did to him, Zach passed on the Jack-in-the-Box identity to Roscoe James.



Spring-like mechanisms in his boots. Used to make amazing leaps, and the apparent source of some of his amazing athletic feats.


Similar to Footapults in design, but mainly used for physical combat. Effectively increases the range of both fist and grasp severalfold.

Rubber Noses

Deliver an electric shock comparable to a police taser.


A multi-chain thermoplastic resin that hardens on contact - usually used to restrain criminals that Jack has caught or disabled. Fired from his gloves.


One of the many inventions at Jack's disposal includes this all purpose mobile monitor. Handy for spying, surveillance and remote visual feedback in dangerous environments. In conjunction with a handy microphone, Zachary Johnson used this devise to monitor and advise his successor, Roscoe James during his early sabbatical missions.

He has also been known to carry other gadgets in his satchel, and even devise impromptu devices at the scene of a conflict or emergency.


Footapault-height estimates range from 120 to 200 feet. Fully extended, they could be much greater.

Jack-in-the-Box's Rogues Gallery

Brass Monkey
The Deacon
The Human Weasel
Smoke & Mirrors

Other Timelines

Jack-in-the-Box Cases and Adventures