The Justice Society in Comics

  
 

The Original Justice Society of Earth-2

      The Justice Society was originally the idea of Gardener Fox and Sheldon Mayer at National/DC Comics. The JSA was a breakthrough concept in comics since it was the first time that heroes had formed an organization designed to face adversaries greater than any individual member. The Justice Society first met in All-Star Comics #3, a comic designed to showcase some of the lesser known heroes of the DC's titles. Originally, the JSA was to be comprised of two characters from each of the minor titles : Sandman and Hourman (Adventure), Flash and Hawkman (Flash Comics), Green Lantern and the Atom (All-American) and Spectre and Dr. Fate (More Fun). Flagship characters Superman and Batman were given honorary member status.   

When Flash became popular enough to merit an independent title (All-Flash Comics), he was removed and replaced with Johnny Thunder. Characters with solo titles were barred from JSA membership lest they overshadow the other heroes. When Starman became popular, Hourman was dropped and Starman joined the JSA. When Green Lantern earned a solo title, he was replaced with Dr. Mid-Nite. In 1942, Wonder Woman became a honorary member but, to maintain the paradigm, did not participate in adventures. Eventually, Superman and Batman made appearances as honorary members (All-Star Comics #7, All-Star Comics #36) and Sensation back-ups Wildcat (All-Star Comics #24 and #27) and Mr. Terrific (All-Star Comics #24) also made guest shots that ultimately translated into JSA membership. When the popularity of Wonder Woman inspired the creation of more heroines and Black Canary replaced Johnny Thunder in All-Star Comics #38.

  

      All-Star Comics was one of bastion titles of National Comics throughout the war years and lasted until 1951. By this point, most of the other super-hero comics had been cancelled or changed over to non-JSA member titles More Fun Comics, for.instance, ended Dr. Fate and the Spectre, replacing them with Johnny Quick, Aquaman and Green Arrow. Thus, Flash, Green Lantern , Black Canary, the Atom, Hawkman and Dr. Mid-Nite had their last Golden Age appearances in All-Star Comics #57. At this point National/DC comics continued with a broader variety of material including Western and Romance comics in addition to the mainstream Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman related titles.

During the intervening years between the Gold and Silver Ages, perhaps the biggest Justice Society fan in history began to work feverishly for the return of his heroes. Jerry Bails sent a steady stream of letters to DC reminding them of the past glories of the Justice Society in All-Star Comics. In 1956, the revival of the Flash heralded the Silver Age of DC Comics. Bails and an another diehard JSA fan Roy Thomas unknowingly simultaneously bombarded Julie Schwartz with letters begging the return of the JSA. Bails went so far as to write a barrage of letters under a variety of names and addresses, all to the same point. In 1963, he got his wish when the first of them was re-introduced in Flash #123 with the revival of Jay Garrick, the original Flash.

With the resurgent popularity of super-heroes, the Justice Society was revived in The Flash #137 in 1965 (an event foreshadowed in Flash #129). Throughout the Silver Age, the Justice Society made scattered guest appearances primarily as part of the annual Justice League-Justice Society team-ups. In 1976, the Justice Society again got it's own title with the revival of All-Star Comics. The title ran for just two years, ending with issue #74 in 1978. In 1979, Adventure Comics expanded to dollar-priced giant sized books and the the JSA received a regular feature beginning with #461. This run ended early in 1980 with #466 and the reduction of Adventure comics back to regular format. The Justice Society remained in Limbo for the next several years, appearing only as wartime characters of the All-Star Squadron, a book primarily devoted to the lesser lights of the wartime years, as supporting characters in Infinity Inc. , a novel super-team founded by one-time JSAer Star-Spangled Kid, and of course, the annual Justice League/Justice Society team-up. In 1985, DC Comics decided that their long history was finally more of a burden than a boon. They created a mini-series called Crisis on Infinite Earths, the ultimate act of which was to compress the myriad Earths in DC Continuity into one. Earth-2, it's history and all of it's redundant characters were lost in the compression. Furthermore, they decided that the Justice Society was simply too old and out of sync with modern comics to be a viable concept. Roy Thomas then wrote what was supposed to be the final Justice Society story, "The Last Days of the Justice Society". Rather than kill off his beloved characters, Thomas penned a story in which the JSAers replaced the Gods of Norse myth, staving off Ragnarok by repeating the battle throughout eternity. This placed the JSA in a comic book limbo where they would in theory remain forever.

http://www.funnybookbabylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/the-kingdom-02-large-40.jpgWhile ostensibly the end of Earth-2, DC has teased at several junctures that Earth-2 still exists.  The first occurred in DC's 1999 The Kingdom series, a follow-up to the intensely popular Kingdom Come.  Kingdom Come's storyline inspired such intense interest that the desire to revisit it was great and a concept called "Hypertime" was floated as a way to say "all stories exist".  While criticized as being to self-referential and "fourth wall", The Kingdom planted the idea that the Multiverse was slated to return at some point, even though the concept of Hypertime was largely discarded.

Earth-2 was re-united with the core DC universe in the Infinite Crisis in 2005.  In these issues, the Golden Superman, Lois Lane and Wonder Woman made appearances, revealed that the original multiverse still existed in DC continuity in some form, even if just a resonance.  The original Superman and Lois Lane each die by the end of Infinite Crisis and Wonder Woman fades into Olympian mythology.  At the end of Infinite Crisis, a weekly series, The 52 unveiled a year-long story which culminated in a monstrous plot by the Fawcett villain, Mr. Mind, to eat time itself.  The result of his efforts spawned 52 new universes and a restored multiverse, including a new Earth-2.  In the JSA series by Geoff Johns, it was revealed that this multiverse had largely unfolded as though Crisis had occurred but Earth-2 had continued as it was, largely cut off from other dimensions.  Wonder Woman still existed in this world and Superman was "lost", though it is not clear whether that Kal-L and the Kal-L who died in Infinite Crisis were the same.  At the end of the JSA series, the original JSA - now called Justice Society Infinity after fusing with Infinity Inc  - returned to Earth-2 to assess their affairs and look for "their" Superman. 

In the later 2000's, JSA again hit the re-set button with events like Flashpoint, Final Crisis and in 2012, a new 52 emerge with a different multiverse.  In Convergence and Multiversity it was suggest that the classic Earth-2 had been supplanted by this new 52 but the most recent event, Rebirth, featured an centenarian Johnny Thunder and alluded to the exist if the original JSA.  Whether this is the original Earth-2 storyline or something entirely different (again) remains to be seen.

Other versions of the Justice Society in Comics

Crisis was supposed to be the end of the multiverse and the history of DC character as historically portrayed.  The JSA, however, has become a comic book institution and demand for their return was high. In 1991, a post-Crisis 8 issue limited series was offered featuring several JSA members in a post-war struggle with Vandal Savage. In 1992, the mini-series Armageddon Inferno returned the JSA to the mainstream DC Universe and they were almost immediately given their own series, the first with the actual name of the group in the title. After 10 issues however, the title was cancelled. Within a year, DC began it's Zero Hour cross-overs, a "clean-up" operation designed to correct the dangling continuity threads from "Crisis". The first thread to be tied off was the Justice Society, who engaged the series antagonist in issue #3. Each of them were aged into advanced senescence, and several were slain out right. At the end of the series, the JSA was pronounced permanently disbanded.

As has gone before, DC Fandom was not content to let the legendary heroes disappear into history. In 1999, a new efforts were made to revive the characters and a new series, starring the heirs of the JSA was created. After 60 years of dedicated effort, the Justice Society still has a role in the comics of today.

    Comics which have featured the Justice Society

  1. All -Star Comics #3-57 - Golden Age appearances (1940 - 1951)
  2. Flash #137 - First Full Silver Age appearance
  3. Justice League of America (see list)
  4. All-Star Comics #58-74 (1976-1978)
  5. DC Special #29 - Origin of the JSA (1978)
  6. Adventure Comics #461-466 (1979-1980)
  7. America vs. The JSA (1983)
  8. Last Days of the Justice Society Special (1985)
  9. Justice Society Limited Series #1-8 (set in 1950's, published in 1990's)
  10. Justice Society of America #1-10 (1992-1993)
  11. All-Star Comics Vol. 2 #1-2 (Set in 1945, 1999)
  12. JSA Secret Files and Origins #1- (1999-)
  13. JSA vol. 1 #1- (1999- )

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