Justice Society of America

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The Justice Society of America, or JSA, is a DC Comics superhero group, the first team of superheroes in comic book history. Conceived by editor Sheldon Mayer and writer Gardner Fox, the JSA first appeared in All Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940).

Unlike subsequent "all-star" teams, the JSA was limited to heroes not already featured in their own titles because the publisher wanted to expose their lesser known characters. Hence, Superman and Batman were only honorary members and Flash and Green Lantern's early tenures were brief, ending when each character was awarded his own book. However, a 1944 change in policy allowed them back into the group. Other popular members were Hawkman, the Spectre, Hourman, Doctor Fate and the Atom.

The team was popular throughout the 1940s, but after superheroes fell out of favor, its series All Star Comics became All-Star Western in 1951, ceasing the team’s adventures. During the Silver Age, DC reinvented several popular Justice Society members and banded many of them together in the Justice League of America. However, instead of considering the JSA replaced, DC revealed that the team existed on "Earth-Two" and the Justice League on "Earth-One". This allowed for annual, cross-dimensional team-ups of the teams, lasting from 1963 until 1985. It also allowed for new series, such as All-Star Squadron, Infinity, Inc and a new All-Star Comics, which featured the JSA, their children and their heirs. These series explored the issues of aging, generational differences and contrasts between the Golden Age and subsequent eras.

In 1985, DC rewrote its continuity in the Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series. The series merged all of the company's various realities into one, placing the JSA as World War II-era predecessors to the company's modern characters. A few unsuccessful and often controversial revivals were attempted, until a new series, titled JSA, was launched in 1999, continuing until July 2006. A new Justice Society of America series was launched in December 2006, to coincide with the new Justice League of America series, also launched in 2006.


Contents

All Star Comics (Golden Age)

A classic Justice Society line-upCover to The Justice Society Returns. Art by Dave Johnson.
A classic Justice Society line-up
Cover to The Justice Society Returns. Art by Dave Johnson.

The JSA first appeared in All-American Comics' All Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940), during the Golden age of comic books. The team initially included National Comics' Doctor Fate, Hour-Man (as it was then spelled), the Spectre and the Sandman and All-American's Atom, the Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman. An in-house rule (explicitly laid out on the last page of All Star Comics #5, reprinted on p.206 of All Star Comics Archives - Vol. 1) required that whenever a member received his or her own title, he or she would leave All Star Comics, becoming an "honorary member" of the JSA. Thus, the Flash was replaced by Johnny Thunder after #6; Green Lantern left shortly thereafter for the same reason. This also explains why Superman and Batman were established as already being "honorary" members prior to All Star Comics #3; how these two heroes helped found the JSA before becoming honorary members was not explained until DC Special #29 in 1977. Hawkman is the only member to appear in every JSA adventure in the original run of All Star Comics, a fact invoked sixty years later in the then-current JSA series when Hawkman temporarily takes command of the team. The Atom missed two issues.

All Star Comics is also notable for featuring the first appearance of Wonder Woman, in #8 (Dec. 1941). Unlike the other characters who had their own titles, she was allowed to appear in the book, but only as the JSA's secretary and did not actively take part in most adventures until much later in the series (a fact sometimes seen as chauvinistic today), although she was excluded from the title due to the rules that had excluded Flash, Green Lantern, Superman and Batman from the title.

The early JSA adventures were written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by a legion of artists including E. E. Hibbard, Jack Burnley, Jack Kirby and Joe Kubert. The first JSA story featured the team's first meeting, a framing sequence for each member telling a story of an individual exploit. In the next issue, the team worked together on a common case, but each story from there on still featured the members individually on a mission involving part of the case, and then banding together in the end to wrap things up.

By All Star Comics #24, a real-world schism between Detective Comics, Inc. and All-American Publications — a nominally independent company run by Charlie Gaines and Jack Liebowitz — had occurred, which resulted in the Detective Comics, Inc heroes being removed from the title. As a result, Flash and Green Lantern returned to the book. Eight months later, Detective Comics bought out Charlie Gaines' share of All-American and the two companies merged to form National Comics. However, the JSA roster remained mostly the same for the rest of the series.

All Star Comics and the Golden Age adventures of the JSA ended with #57, the title becoming All-Star Western, with no superheroes. While Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman continued to have their own adventures, most of the characters lay dormant for several years during the slump in superhero comic books in the early to mid-1950s.

The explanation for the team's disappearance and the inactivity of most of its roster after the early 1950s was first given in Adventure Comics #466 ("The Defeat of the Justice Society!"; December, 1979) by writer Paul Levitz, which explained that most of the Society chose to disband and retire rather than appear in front of the fictional Joint Un-American Activities Committee, which demanded that they unmask themselves; this was later retconned into the real House Un-American Activities Committee.

The chairmanship of the Justice Society mostly resided with Hawkman, although initially the Flash and later Green Lantern took their turns at leading the team. For a brief period in 1942 they were known as the Justice Battalion, as they became an extension of the armed forces of the United States of America during World War II. It was later revealed that the reason the JSA didn't invade Europe and end the war was due to the influence of the Spear of Destiny which caused the JSA's most powerful members to fall under the control of its wielder, Adolf Hitler. It was also revealed in the 1980s that the JSA had a loose affiliation with the All-Star Squadron; the All-Star Squadron's adventures were set in the 1940s, and considered to have happened concurrently with the Justice Society's, an example of "retconning", or retroactive continuity, where new material is inserted into already existent continuity. Both teams were the brainchild of American president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The headquarters for the JSA was initially a hotel suite in New York City, and after the war, the team settled on a brownstone building in Civic City and later in Gotham City. For a very brief period, the JSA was provided a satellite headquarters, much like their later day counterparts, the JLA; however, this turned out to be a deathtrap orchestrated by a crooked senator's henchman from Eliminations, Inc. The Gotham City brownstone remained unoccupied until years later, when the team was active again.

The entire original run of All Star Comics has been collected in hardcover volumes in DC's series of Archive Editions.

Guests in Justice League of America (Silver Age)

Having successfully re-introduced several of their Golden Age characters (Flash, Green Lantern, etc.) during the late 1950s, DC tapped industry veteran (and former Justice Society writer) Gardner Fox to pen a new version of the Justice Society, which Fox re-named the Justice League. As Barry Allen (the Silver Age Flash) was to Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash), so the Justice League was to the Justice Society: the same team, but with an updated roster and a fresh start.

In Flash #123 (September 1961), the Silver Age Flash met his Golden Age counterpart, Jay Garrick, who (along with the rest of the original Justice Society) was said to inhabit an alternate universe. This meeting set the stage for Justice League of America #21 (August 1963), wherein the Golden Age Justice Society teamed up with the Silver Age Justice League to combat a team of villains from both worlds. This was the first of a series of annual summer team-ups of the two supergroups, which tradition was carried on until 1985. These summer meetings produced a number of notable events in JSA history, including Black Canary leaving to join the Justice League, the return of a Golden Age team called the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and the creation of a team called the Freedom Fighters composed of several one-time Quality Comics heroes.

Unlike most superhero characters, the JSA members were portrayed as middle-aged — and often wiser — versions of their younger, contemporary counterparts.

Other appearances

Return to All-Star Comics (Modern Age)

The JSA's popularity gradually grew until they regained their own title. All-Star Comics #58 (January–February 1976) saw the group return as mentors to a younger set of heroes (briefly called the "Super Squad", until they were integrated into the JSA proper). This run only lasted until #74, with a brief run thereafter in Adventure Comics #461–466, but it had three significant developments: It introduced the popular character Power Girl (All-Star Comics #58); it chronicled the death of the Golden Age Batman (Adventure Comics #461–462); and, after nearly 40 years, it finally provided the JSA with an origin story in DC Special #29. This run was mainly written by Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz, and artists included Wally Wood, Joe Staton, Keith Giffen and Bob Layton.

The series was noteworthy for depicting the heroes as having aged into their 50s; the artwork gave them graying hair and lined faces. It was highly unusual, then or now, for a comic book to have heroes this old. Most obscure the timelines or periodically relaunch the series to keep the characters youthful. This depiction was a consequence of the fact that the heroes were closely linked to World War II era. This became problematic in the 1980s when the heroes would logically be well into their 60s. The explanation given for this by writer Roy Thomas in All-Star Squadron Annual #3 was that the team (and several friends) had absorbed energy from the magical villain Ian Karkul during an adventure in the 1940s that retarded the aging process.

Meanwhile, the JSA continued their annual team-ups with the Justice League. Notable events included meeting the Fawcett Comics heroes, including Captain Marvel, the death of Mr. Terrific and an explanation for why Black Canary hadn't aged much despite debuting in the 1940s. A particularly popular JLA/JSA team-up came in #195–197, in which the two teams had to contend with a reformed Secret Society of Super-Villains, lavishly drawn by George Pérez.

A series taking place in the team's original setting of the wartime 1940s called All-Star Squadron featured the JSA frequently along with several other Golden Age superheroes. This led to a spin-off, modern day series entitled Infinity, Inc. which starred the children and heirs of the JSA members. Both series were written by noted JSA fan Roy Thomas and featured art by Rich Buckler, Jerry Ordway, Todd McFarlane and others.

In 1985, DC retconned many details of the DC Universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Among the changes, the Golden Age Superman, Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman ceased to exist, and the Earth-One/Earth-Two dichotomy was resolved by merging the Multiverse into a single universe. This posed a variety of problems for the JSA, whose history—especially in the 1980s comics — was strongly tied up in these four characters.

The JLA/JSA team-ups ended during the Crisis with Justice League of America #244.

Other appearances

After Crisis on Infinite Earths

One of Roy Thomas' efforts to resolve the Crisis-created inconsistencies was to introduce some analogues to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, in a sequel to All-Star Squadron entitled The Young All-Stars.

Meanwhile, DC editoral decided that the time had come to write off the JSA from active continuity. A 1986 one-shot issue called The Last Days of the Justice Society involved the JSA battling the forces of evil while merged with the Norse gods in an ever-repeating Ragnarok (written by Thomas, with art by David Ross and Mike Gustovich). Only Power Girl, the Star-Spangled Kid, the Spectre and Dr. Fate escaped the cataclysm.

Thomas also revised the JSA's origin for post-Crisis continuity in Secret Origins #31.

Justice Society of America (volumes 1 & 2)

Justice Society of America vol. 2, #1.
Justice Society of America vol. 2, #1.

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Fan interest, however, resulted in DC bringing back the JSA in the early 1990s. An eight-issue Justice Society of America limited series telling an untold JSA story set in the 1950s was published in 1991. In the final issues of the four-issue Armageddon: Inferno limited series, the JSA returned to the modern-day DC Universe when Waverider transported the "daemen" of the interdimensional Abraxis to Asgard as a substitute for the JSA in the Ragnarok cycle, allowing the team to return to Earth.

In 1992, the JSA was given an ongoing monthly series titled Justice Society of America, written by Len Strazewski with art by Mike Parobeck, featuring the original team adjusting to life after returning from Ragnarok. Though Justice Socity of America was intended as an ongoing series, and was popular with readers, it was cancelled after only ten issues. Writer Len Strazewski, in an interview explaining the cancellation of this surprise hit series, said, "It was a capricious decision made personally by Mike Carlin because he didn't like Mike's artwork or my writing and believed that senior citizen super-heroes was not what DC should be publishing. He made his opinion clear to me several times after the cancellation." Much more "cartoony" than the more realistic artwork favored at the time, Parobeck's art was a pioneering example of the "animation" style that would become quite popular with Batman: The Animated Series. Justice Society of America included the first appearance of Jesse Quick, the daughter of All-Star Squadron members Liberty Belle and Johnny Quick.

Not long after, most of the team was incapacitated or killed off in the controversial 1994 crossover series Zero Hour. During the battle between the Justice Society and the villain Extant, the latter removes the chronal energies keeping the Justice Society young. The Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite and Hourman die immediately. Hawkman and Hawkgirl (who were separated from the rest of the Justice Society by being pulled into the timestream) merge into a new Hawkgod being, resulting in their deaths. Dr. Fate dies of the resulting aging shortly after Zero Hour. Green Lantern is kept young due to the mystical effects of the Starheart but loses his ring and subsequently changes his name to Sentinel. The rest of the team is now too physically old to continue fighting crime and retires. Starman retires and passes on the Starman legacies to his sons resulting in one of the new series created following Zero Hour, James Robinson's Starman. The new Starman series brought new attention to the JSA legacy.

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JSA

The Justice Society was again revived in 1999 in a popular and critically acclaimed series (called simply JSA) which mixed the few remaining original members with younger counterparts. This incarnation of the team was focused on the theme of generational legacy and of carrying on the heroic example established by their predecessors. The modern JSA was unique among superhero teams in that its membership contained three different generations of characters. The series was launched by James Robinson and David S. Goyer. Goyer later co-wrote the series with Geoff Johns, who went on write the series solo after Goyer's departure. The series featured the art of Stephen Sadowski, Leonard Kirk and Don Kramer, among others.

As a result of the events of Infinite Crisis, some of the surviving Golden Age characters, such as Wildcat and the Gentleman Ghost, are aware of the existence of Earth-Two.

Other appearances

One Year Later

After the events of Infinite Crisis, JSA members Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and Ted Grant decided to revive the Justice Society after the World War III event that was chronicled in 52.

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Justice Society of America vol. 3 (2006 - current)

Template:Comics-in-universe On December 6, 2006 a new series was launched with the creative team of Geoff Johns (writer), Dale Eaglesham (pencils), and Alex Ross (cover art). According to a pre-release interview in Newsarama, Alex Ross also has the "honorary" title of "creative advisor".Template:Fact

The beginning of the new series shows JSA veterans Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat choosing members of the new generation of superheroes to train. Continuing a major theme from the previous JSA title, this new series focuses on the team being the caretakers of the superhero legacy from one generation to the next.

Initially, they invite somewhat experienced heroes such as Mister Terrific, Power Girl, the new Liberty Belle, Hourman, Stargirl and Doctor Mid-Nite, many of whom had worked with previous incarnations of the JSA. They also seek out new young individuals with little or no experience as heroes, such as Maxine Hunkel, Damage and a new Starman, all of whom have connections to heroes from the Golden Age.

Wildcat finds out he has a grown son—Tom Bronson who can change into a "were-panther" creature—and inducts him into the JSA. At the same time, the JSA uncovers Vandal Savage's plans to assassinate the original members of the Society and their descendants. Nathan Heywood, Commander Steel's grandson, is introduced and becomes Citizen Steel.

Power Girl is elected chairwoman of the Justice Society. The JSA teams up with the JLA in "The Lightning Saga" crossover soon afterwards.

Some time later, the Justice Society helps to stop a fire started at a paint factory. Starman opens a black hole inside the factory in an attempt to suck all the flames into it and put out the fire, but instead opens a dimensional rift which accidentally pulls the Superman from Earth-22 into their world. After Starman reveals the existence of the Multiverse, the alternate Superman escapes from the Justice Society's headquarters and stops a girl from committing suicide.

Several days later, Jakeem Thunder returns to the team along with new versions of Mr America, Judomaster, and Amazing Man, along with new characters Lightning (Jennifer Pierce, daughter of Black Lightning and sister to Outsiders member Thunder) and Lance Corporal David Reid, the great-grandson of Franklin Roosevelt.

Related series

JSA: Classified

In Sept. 2005, JSA's popularity led to a spin-off series, JSA: Classified, which tells stories of the team at various points in its existence, as well as spotlighting specific members in solo stories.

The first arc featured Power Girl's origin. It was written by Geoff Johns with art by Amanda Conner. As of issue 39, the title will be cancelled.

Collected editions

The Golden Age issues of All Star Comics have been collected in the following hardcover DC Archive Editions:

# Title Issues Collected Writers/Pencillers Pages ISBN
0 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 0 All Star Comics #1-2 Gardner Fox, et al. 144
1 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 1 All Star Comics #3-6 Gardner Fox, et al. 272
2 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 2 All Star Comics #7-10 Gardner Fox, et al. 256
3 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 3 All Star Comics #11-14 Gardner Fox, et al. 240
4 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 4 All Star Comics #15-18 Gardner Fox, et al. 224
5 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 5 All Star Comics #19-23 Gardner Fox, et al. 224
6 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 6 All Star Comics #24-28 Gardner Fox, et al. 240
7 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 7 All Star Comics #29-33 Gardner Fox, et al. 216
8 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 8 All Star Comics #34-38 Gardner Fox, et al. 208
9 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 9 All Star Comics #39-43 Gardner Fox, et al. 192
10 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 10 All Star Comics #44-49 Gardner Fox, et al. 216
11 All Star Comics Archives, Vol. 11 All Star Comics #50-57 Gardner Fox, et al. 276

(Note: Volume 0 was published after Volume 11)

The Bronze Age continuation of All-Star Comics (1976 - 1978) along with the subsequent JSA series in Adventure Comics and a related special has been collected in the following trade paperbacks:

# Title Issues Collected Writers/Pencillers Pages ISBN
1 Justice Society: Volume 1 All-Star Comics #58 - 67, DC Special #29 Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz 224 ISBN 1-4012-0970-X
2 Justice Society: Volume 2 All-Star Comics #68 - 74, Adventure Comics #461 - 466 Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, Bob Layton 224 ISBN 1-4012-1194-1

The JSA (1999 - 2006) series has been collected in the following trade paperbacks:

Vol. # Title Issues Collected Writers/Pencillers Pages ISBN
1 Justice Be Done JSA #1 - 5, JSA Secret Files #1 James Robinson, David S. Goyer, Steve Sadowski 160
2 Darkness Falls JSA #6 - 15 David S. Goyer, Geoff Johns, Steve Sadowski 232
3 Return Of Hawkman JSA #16 - 25, JSA Secret Files #1 David S. Goyer, Geoff Johns, Steve Sadowski 256
4 Fair Play JSA #26 - 31, JSA Secret Files #2 Geoff Johns 176
5 Stealing Thunder JSA #32 - 38 Geoff Johns, David S. Goyer, Leonard Kirk 176
6 Savage Times JSA #39 - 45 Geoff Johns, David S. Goyer 168
7 Princes Of Darkness JSA #46 - 55 Geoff Johns, David S. Goyer 256
8 Black Reign JSA #56 - 58, Hawkman #23 - 25 Geoff Johns, Don Kramer, Rags Morales 144
9 Lost JSA #59 - #67 Geoff Johns 208
10 Black Vengeance JSA #68 - 75 Geoff Johns 208
11 Mixed Signals JSA #76 - 81 Geoff Johns, Keith Champagne 144
12 Ghost Stories JSA #82 - 87 Paul Levitz, Rags Morales, George Pérez, Jerry Ordway 144

Several JSA mini-series, Elseworlds (non-canon) graphic novels, Silver Age collections and one-shots have been collected in the following trade paperbacks:

Title Issues Collected Writers/Pencillers Pages ISBN
JSA: The Liberty Files (Elseworlds) JSA: The Liberty File #1 - 2, JSA: The Unholy Three #1 - 2 Dan Jolley, Tony Harris 264
JSA: The Golden Age (Elseworlds) The Golden Age #1-4 James Robinson 200
JSA: All-Stars JSA: All-Stars #1 - 8 Various Artists 208
Justice Society Returns (1999) All Star Comics 1-2, Adventure Comics 1, All-American Comics 1, National Comics 1, Sensation Comics 1, Smash Comics 1, Star Spangled Comics 1, Thrilling Comics 1, Golden Age Secret Files 1, and JSA Secret Files 1 David S. Goyer, James Robinson, Chuck Dixon, Geoff Johns, Ron Marz 256
Doctor Mid-Nite Doctor Mid-Nite #1 - 3 (limited series) Matt Wagner, John K. Snyder III 147
Power Girl JSA Classified #1 - 4, Showcase #97 - 99 and Secret Origins #11 Geoff Johns, Paul Levitz, Amanda Conner, Joe Staton 176
JSA Classified: Honor Among Thieves JSA Classified #5 - 9 Jen Van Meter, Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Olliffe, Don Kramer 128
The Huntress: Darknight Daughter DC Super Stars #17, Batman Family #18-20 and Wonder Woman #271-287, 289-290, 294-295 Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, Steve Mitchell, Bob Layton, Bruce Patterson, et al. 224

There have also been four volumes of Crisis on Multiple Earths, collecting the annual Justice League/Justice Society team-ups up to 1977.

Awards

The Justice Society received a 1965 Alley Award for Strip or Book Most Desired for Revival.

Appearances in other media

Justice League

See Justice Guild of America A Justice League two-part episode called Legends pays homage to the Justice Society with a team of imaginary comic book superheroes in a perfect world. The team was called the Justice Guild of America.

Justice League Unlimited

Many members of the current incarnation of the JSA have been featured in Justice League Unlimited, including Atom Smasher, Stargirl (with STRIPE), Sand, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Wildcat, Obsidian and the second Hourman. Stargirl and Mr. Terrific were the two with the most exposure; Stargirl had a speaking part in at least two episodes, while Mr. Terrific took over Martian Manhunter's job of manning the Watchtower. Wildcat had one episode, "Cat and the Canary" in which he was prominently featured. A version of Power Girl appeared as Galatea, and Jay Garrick's helmet can be seen in the episode "Flash and Substance". Hawkman appears in the series and believes that he and Hawkgirl are reincarnations of a King and Queen of Egypt.

Power Girl, Atom Smasher, Jay Garrick, and Alan Scott have made appearances in the Justice League Unlimited comic.

Justice League: The New Frontier

The JSA appeared in the opening credits of the animated film Justice League: The New Frontier. In this story, Hourman had been killed and the Justice Society have retired. However, Ted Grant is still a professional boxer.

References

See also

  • Roy Thomas, The All-Star Companion (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2000)
  • Roy Thomas, The All-Star Companion, vol. 2 (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2007)
  • Roy Thomas, The All-Star Companion, vol. 3 (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008)

External links

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