Justice Society is the original super hero team in the DC Universe from the Golden Age of Comics and Earth-2.
All Star Comics
The Justice Society of America first appeared in All Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940–1941) written by Gardner Fox and edited by Sheldon Mayer during the Golden Age of Comic Books. The team initially included: Doctor Fate, Hourman, The Spectre, the Sandman, the Atom, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman. Because some of these characters (the Atom, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman) were published by All-American Publications rather than DC Comics, All-Star Comics #3 is the first inter-company superhero title, as well as the first team-up title. Comics' historian Les Daniels noted that: "This was obviously a great notion, since it offered readers a lot of headliners for a dime, and also the fun of watching fan favorites interact."
The JSA's adventures were written by Gardner Fox as well as by John Broome and Robert Kanigher. The series was illustrated by a legion of artists including: Martin Nodell, Joe Kubert, Jack Kirby, Harry Lampert, Joe Simon, Alex Toth, Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, Win Mortimer, Bernard Baily, Frank Giacoia, H. G. Peter, Jack Burnley, Lee Elias, Irwin Hasen, Bob Oksner, Paul Reinman, Everett E. Hibbard, and Bernard Sachs.
The first JSA story featured the team's first meeting, with 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. An in-house rule explicitly laid out on the last page of All Star Comics #5, reprinted on page 206 of All Star Comics Archives Vol. 1, required that whenever a member received his or her own title, that character would leave All Star Comics, becoming an "honorary member" of the JSA. Thus, the Flash was replaced by Johnny Thunder after #6, and Green Lantern left shortly thereafter for the same reason. For this reason, 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 and the Atom missed two issues.
All Star Comics #8 (Dec. 1941-Jan. 1942) featured the first appearance of Wonder Woman. Unlike the other characters who had their own titles, she was allowed to appear in the series, but only as the JSA's secretary from #11 onward, and did not actively take part in most adventures until much later in the series. She was excluded from the title because of the same rules that had excluded the Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, and Batman from the title, though in #13 it was claimed she had become an active member.
A fan club for the team called the "Junior Justice Society of America" was introduced in All Star Comics #14 (Dec. 1942-Jan. 1943). The membership kit included a welcome letter, a badge, a decoder, a four-page comic book, and a membership certificate.
By All Star Comics #24 (Spring 1945), a real-world schism between National Comics and All-American Publications — a nominally independent company run by Max Gaines and Jack Liebowitz — had occurred, which resulted in the Detective Comics, Inc.,(National Comics) heroes being removed from the title. As a result, the Flash and Green Lantern returned to the team. With issue #27 (Winter 1945), National Comics bought out Max Gaines' share of All-American and the two companies merged to form Detective Comics, Inc. The JSA roster remained mostly the same for the rest of the series. Gardner Fox left the series with issue #34 (April–May 1947) with a story that introduced a new super-villain, the Wizard. The Injustice Society first battled the JSA in issue #37 in a tale written by Robert Kanigher. The team's second female member, Black Canary, first helped the group in All Star Comics #38 and became a full member in #41.
All Star Comics and the JSA's Golden Age adventures ended with issue #57, the title becoming All-Star Western, with no superheroes. A good amount of artwork has survived from an unpublished All Star Comics story titled "The Will of William Wilson" and has been reprinted in various publications from TwoMorrows Publishing.
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 Joint Un-American Activities Committee, which demanded that they unmask themselves.
The chairmanship of the Justice Society mostly resided with Hawkman, although initially the Flash, and later Green Lantern, took turns 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 explained that the reason the JSA did not invade Europe and end the war was because of 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. In the 1980s, it was established that the JSA had a loose affiliation with the All-Star Squadron. The All-Star Squadron's adventures were set in the 1940s, and were considered to have happened concurrently with the Justice Society's in an example of "retconning", or retroactive continuity, where new material is inserted into already existent continuity.
The headquarters for the JSA was a hotel suite in New York City initially and, after the war, the team settled on a brownstone building in Gotham City, and later in Civic City. For a very brief period, the JSA was provided a satellite headquarters, much like their later counterparts, the JLA. 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 headquarters used in the 2000s was a brownstone in the neighborhood of Morningside Heights, Manhattan, north of Central Park.
The Silver Age
Having successfully introduced new versions of several characters (the Flash, Green Lantern, etc.) during the late 1950s, DC tapped industry veteran, and former Justice Society writer, Gardner Fox to create a new version of the Justice Society. Editor Julius Schwartz, influenced by the popularity of Major League Baseball's National League and American League, decided to change the name of the team from Justice Society to Justice League.
In The Flash #123 (September 1961) "The Flash of Two Worlds", the Silver Age Flash meets his Golden Age counterpart, Jay Garrick who, along with the rest of the original Justice Society, is said to inhabit an alternative universe. This historic meeting thus became one of the classic DC comics of the Silver Age. Fan letters on the pages of following issues were wildly enthusiastic about the revival of the original Flash, both from older fans who remembered the old JSA tales, and younger fans eager to learn more about these new heroes. Further meetings occurred in The Flash #129 "Double Danger on Earth" (June 1962), and The Flash #137 "Vengeance of the Immortal Villain" (June 1963). The Flash #129 contains the first mention of the JSA in the Silver Age, and refers directly to their last adventure in All-Star Comics #57, while in The Flash #137 the JSA reform.
These stories set the stage for "Crisis on Earth-One" (Justice League of America #21, August 1963) and "Crisis on Earth-Two" (Justice League of America #22, September 1963), a two-part tale where the Golden Age Justice Society teams up with the Silver Age Justice League to combat a team of villains from both worlds. The following year, Earth-Three was introduced, its existence was guessed at in the previous year's tale, with Justice League of America #29, "Crisis on Earth-Three", (August 1964).
This Earth features an evil version of the Justice League known as the Crime Syndicate of America, whose line-up consists of Superwoman (an evil version of Wonder Woman), Owlman (an evil version of Batman), Ultraman (an evil version of Superman), Johnny Quick (an evil version of the Flash), and Power Ring (an evil version of Green Lantern). These stories became the first in a long series of team-ups of the two supergroups, an annual summer tradition which continued until 1985. These meetings produced a considerable number of notable events and characters in JSA history, including Black Canary leaving to join the Justice League, the return of the Golden Age team the Seven Soldiers of Victory, the creation of the Freedom Fighters, which incorporated several Quality Comics characters into DC continuity after the characters were purchased by DC Comics, and the introduction of a number of other alternative Earths to house these other teams.
As well as the annual Justice League of America appearances, members of the JSA guest-starred in other titles over the next several years: the Golden Age Atom in The Atom #29 and #36, and the Golden Age Green Lantern in several issues of Green Lantern. In addition, a number of the characters appeared in team-up stories in issues of the DC titles The Brave and the Bold and Showcase, while the Spectre was given a solo run in the latter which led to his own series.
Almost uniquely in superhero comics at the time, the JSA members during this period were portrayed as middle-aged — and often wiser — versions of their younger, contemporary counterparts. Originally this theme appears to have been introduced simply to acknowledge the back-history of the JSA in DC continuity (another fairly new development for comics), later it was to become a major theme for character development.
The Bronze Age
The JSA's popularity 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 lasted until #74, with a brief run thereafter in Adventure Comics #461-466, but it had three significant developments: it introduced Power Girl in All Star Comics #58, chronicled the death of the Golden Age Batman in Adventure Comics #461-462, and, after nearly 40 years, it finally provided the JSA with an origin story in DC Special #29. The Huntress was introduced in DC Super Stars #17 (Nov.-Dec. 1977) which told her origin, and All Star Comics #69 (Nov.-Dec. 1977), which was published the same day. The 1970s run of All Star Comics was written by Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz, and artists included Ric Estrada, Wally Wood, Keith Giffen, Joe Staton, 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 comic books 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, have absorbed energy from the magical villain Ian Karkull during an adventure in the 1940s that stunts their aging process.
Meanwhile, the JSA continued their annual team-ups with the Justice League. Notable events include meeting the Fawcett Comics heroes, including Captain Marvel, the death of Mr. Terrific, and the origin of the Black Canary.
The JLA/JSA crossovers often involved a third team as well such as the Legion of Super-Heroes, the New Gods, the Secret Society of Super Villains, and the All-Star Squadron.
All-Star Squadron was a series taking place in the JSA's original setting of the wartime 1940s. This led to a spinoff, 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 with the last pre-Crisis teamup occurring in Justice League of America #244 and Infinity Inc. #19 during the Crisis.
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 titled Young All-Stars.
In 1986, DC decided to write off the JSA from active continuity. The Last Days of the Justice Society one-shot involved most of the team battling the forces of evil while merged with the Norse gods in an ever-repeating Ragnarök-like Limbo, written by Thomas, with art by David Ross and Mike Gustovich. Only Power Girl, the Star-Spangled Kid, the Spectre, and Doctor Fate escaped the cataclysm. This is later revealed to be a simulation created by Odin searching for a way to thwart the real Ragnarök. Roy Thomas revised the JSA's origin for post-Crisis continuity in Secret Origins vol. 2 #31.
Justice Society of America (vols. 1 and 2) (1991–1993)
Fan interest resulted in the revival of the JSA in 1991. An eight-issue Justice Society of America limited series featuring a previously untold story set in the 1950s was published in 1991. In the final issues of the four-issue Armageddon: Inferno limited series, the JSA returns 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 Ragnarök 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 Ragnarök. Though Justice Society of America was intended as an ongoing series, and was popular with readers, the decision was made to cancel the book after the third issue's release. Twelve issues of the new series were ultimately commissioned, though publication itself ended with issue #10. Portions of the remaining two issues originally intended for #11-12, which were part of a planned crossover with Justice League Europe, were published in Justice League Europe #49-50.
Strazewski, in an interview explaining the cancellation of this 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."
Justice Society of America included the first appearance of Jesse Quick, the daughter of All-Star Squadron members Liberty Belle and Johnny Quick, who would go on to be a major figure in Flash, Teen Titans, and later Justice Society comics.
Not long after, most of the team was incapacitated or killed in the 1994 crossover series Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. During the battle between the Justice Society and the villain Extant, the latter removes the chronal energies keeping the Justice Society young. The Atom, Doctor Mid-Nite, and Hourman die immediately. Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who were separated from the rest of the Justice Society after 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 becaue of 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 the creation of one of the new series following Zero Hour, James Robinson's Starman.
The JSA remained inactive for some time after the events of "Zero Hour", but the surviving members (the Flash, Wildcat, and Alan Scott, (now going by the name Sentinel) have remained active throughout the DC Universe, having been placed as reserve JLI members, as evidenced in Justice League Europe #50.
The Justice Society was revived as a monthly series called JSA in 1999 which mixed the few remaining original members with younger counterparts. This incarnation of the team focused on the theme of generational legacy and of carrying on the heroic example established by their predecessors. The series was launched by James Robinson and David S. Goyer. Goyer later co-wrote the series with Geoff Johns, who continued to write the series solo after Goyer's departure. The series featured the art of Stephen Sadowski, Leonard Kirk and Don Kramer, among others. It featured a story by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon.
During the events of Infinite Crisis, some of the surviving Golden Age characters, such as Wildcat and the Flash, are transported to the new "Earth-Two", as created by Alexander Luthor, and seem to recall the existence of the original one, albeit vaguely.
JSA: Classified (2005–2008)
In September 2005, JSA's popularity led to a spinoff 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, written by Geoff Johns with art by Amanda Conner, featured Power Girl's origin. The series was cancelled with issue #39 (August 2008).
One Year Later
After the events of DC's Infinite Crisis crossover and the World War III event chronicled in 52, JSA members Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and Ted Grant decide to revive the Justice Society.
Justice Society of America vol. 3 (2006–2011)
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). The beginning of the new series showed JSA veterans the 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 focused on the team being the caretakers of the superhero legacy from one generation to the next.
The crossovers between the JLA and JSA began again with "The Lightning Saga" (see below) in JLA vol. 4 #8-10 and JSA #5-6 and an epilogue in issue #7.
Justice Society of America Annual #1 (September 2008) featured the Justice Society Infinity, a team continuing from an analogous post-Crisis Earth-Two. Most of the members of the Justice Society Infinity are either original members of Earth-Two's Justice Society, such as the Atom and Robin (Dick Grayson), but the Society includes characters that are normally associated with Infinity, Inc., such as Jade and Nuklon (Albert Rothstein).
Johns' run as writer of Justice Society of America ended with issue #26. Following a two-issue story by Jerry Ordway, Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges took over as writers with issue #29 in July 2009.
Another JLA/JSA crossover was chronicled in Justice League of America #44-48 and Justice Society of America #41-42 under the Brightest Day banner. James Robinson, the writer who co-wrote the 1999 JSA relaunch, took over as the book's writer for the crossover while Mark Bagley illustrated the entire event. After the crossover, Robinson wrote one final issue with artist Jesus Merino, which dealt with the relationship between Green Lantern and his son Obsidian.
Following the Brightest Day story arc, Marc Guggenheim became the new writer with issue #44, and Scott Kolins took over art duties from Merino. During his first several issues, Guggenheim introduced a number of new characters to the team, such as Blue Devil and Manhunter. In issue #49, he expanded the JSA's roster by bringing back all of the JSA All-Stars except for Magog, who had been killed in Justice League: Generation Lost, and Power Girl, who had unofficially departed from the JSA during the same maxi-series, as well as the original Liberty Belle. In addition, Guggenheim introduced a new character named Red Beetle (a gadget-wielding heroine clad in a red variation of the Silver Age Blue Beetle's costume), and brought in Ri and Darknight, two Chinese superheroes that he had created for his Batman Confidential run.
JSA All-Stars vol. 2 (2009–2011)
An ongoing series titled JSA All-Stars debuted with a February 2010 cover date and should not be confused with the JSA: All Stars, a limited series published from July 2003 to February 2004. The series focused on a second team that formed after the JSA split. Calling themselves the "All-Stars", the group included more of the newer, younger members of the JSA. The roster consisted of: Magog, Damage, Power Girl, Hourman, Atom Smasher, Sand, Stargirl, Cyclone, Wildcat (Ton Bronson), Citizen Steel, Judomaster, King Chimera, Anna Fortune, and the A.I. Roxy, with Damage and Magog later being killed.
DC cancelled JSA All-Stars with issue #18 (July 2011) because of the events of Flashpoint, the DC 2011 summer event. As a result of the title's cancellation, writer Marc Guggenheim had all of the All-Stars except Power Girl and Magog rejoin the JSA in Justice Society of America #49.
The New 52
Earth 2 and Worlds' Finest (2012-)
With "The New 52", the JSA was relaunched by writer James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott in the Earth-2 series. Additionally, the Worlds' Finest title featured the Huntress and Power Girl, from the new Earth 2, stranded on the main DC Earth. Worlds' Finest was written by Paul Levitz, and was drawn initially by George Pérez and Kevin Maguire on a rotating basis.
Under James Robinson, Earth 2 featured new versions of the classic Justice Society members, including a young, unmarried Jay Garrick, a gay version of Alan Scott, an African-American version of Hawkgirl, and a version of the Atom who was a soldier and possessed powers similar to his protege Atom Smasher. The series revolved around an Earth 2 that had been devastated by an invasion from Apokolips, led by Steppenwolf that ended with Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman dead, and Power Girl and Robin (aka Helena Wayne aka the Huntress) exiled on Earth-0. Worlds' Finest, meanwhile, dealt with Power Girl and Huntress' quest to return home, and the rescue of Michael Holt (Mr. Terrific) who had been exiled to Earth 2 by Desaad, who was now impersonating him on Earth-0. Mr. Miracle and Big Barda later joined the cast, with Mr. Miracle having just escaped from the villainous Darkseid. His relationship with Barda was strained because of a mutual mistrust the as a result of Barda being a former member of the Female Furies.
Robinson quit Earth-2 with issue #16. DC wished to launch a second weekly Earth 2 book to tie into Future's End, which told of a future where Earth 2 is destroyed by Darkseid, and the surviving residents flee to Earth-0 for sanctuary. The tie-in series World's End saw Darkseid terraform Earth 2 into a new Apokolips as the heroes are barely able to get several ships full of survivors off-world.
Robinson's replacement on Earth 2, Tom Taylor, would promptly phase out the Justice Society characters, replacing them with Batman, Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Lois Lane (who was dead under Robinson but resurrected by Taylor as the new Red Tornado), and a new Superman named Val-Zod (a black man). Power Girl and Huntress would join the cast as well once Worlds' Finest was cancelled.
Convergence and Earth 2: Society
Several characters from Earth 2 were the main characters of Convergence, which saw them trapped in the war between the imprisoned cities of previous incarnations of the DC Universe. One of the cities was the Pre-Crisis Earth 2 New York City, where the original JSA and Infinity Inc. participated in the war against their fellow heroes and later Tellos and Deimos. When the war ended, a repentant Telos sacrificed the last of his energies to stabilize the planet so that the heroes could lead those who escaped Apokolips to it, to start again. The new series Earth 2: Society chronicles the heroes' attempt to recreate Earth on this new world.
- Green Lantern (Alan Scott)
- The Flash (Jay Garrick)
- Sandman (Wesley Dodds)
- The Spectre (Jim Corrigan)
- Doctor Fate (Kent Welson)
- Atom (Al Pratt)
- Hourman (Rex Tyler)
- Wonder Woman
- Doctor Fate (Hector Hall)
- Hourman (Richard Tyler)
- Red Tornado (Abigail Hunkel)
- Blue Beetle (Dan Garrett)
- Atom Smasher
- Wonder Woman (Hippolyta)
- Power Girl
- Black Adam
- Air Wave
- Mr. America
- Star-Spangled Kid
- Red Beetle
- Huntress (Helena Wayne)
- Blue Devil
- Batman (Thomas Wayne)
- Miss America
- Crimson Avenger (Jill Carlyle)
- Iron Munro
- Steel (Hank Heywood)
- Doctor Fate (Kent V. Nelson)
- Lois Lane
- Wildcat (Alex Montey)
- Black Canary
- Amaya Jiwe/Vixen