Justice Society of America

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The Justice Society of America, or JSA, is a team of fictional superheroes whose adventures have been published by DC Comics. They are the first such superhero team in comic book history and were created by editor Sheldon Mayer, writer Gardner Fox and artist Sheldon Moldoff.

The Golden Age

File:JSAgoldenage pre-Crisis.jpg
The Golden Age roster of the Justice Society of America. Art by Alex Ross.

The JSA first appeared in All-Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940), during what is now called the Golden Age, and was essentially a sales gimmick, featuring several characters from various DC Comics publications in order to increase their exposure. There was a rule for the first few years of the group's history that whenever a member received his own title, he would leave the book. Thus, The Flash left after #6 (August-September 1941), Green Lantern after #7 (October-November 1941), and so forth. Superman and Batman were never full members, but were "honorary" members and appeared in a handful of issues.

All-Star Comics is also notable for featuring the first appearance of Wonder Woman, in #8 (December 1941-January 1942). 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).

The early JSA adventures were written by Gardner F. Fox and illustrated by a legion of artists including Sheldon Moldoff, 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 (Spring 1945), a real-world schism between DC Comics and its affiliate, All-American Comics, occurred so that no DC heroes would appear for a time. As a result, Flash and Green Lantern rejoined, and other heroes departed. The two companies would eventually merge, but the JSA roster would remain mostly the same for the rest of the series.

All-Star Comics and the Golden Age adventures of the JSA ended with #57 (February-March 1951), the title becoming All-Star Western and not featuring any 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 comic book popularity in the 1950s.

Golden Age Members

In order of appearance, and including issues of All-Star Comics in which each member appeared.

The Red Tornado (#3) - although sometimes depicted as a member, was never granted official membership.

The Silver Age

Many of the characters were revived in different forms during the 1950s and early 1960s. Then, in Flash #123 (September 1961), the Silver Age Flash met his Golden Age counterpart. The rationale for this was that the two existed on parallel worlds in what came to be known as the Multiverse. The Silver Age Flash and his team, the Justice League of America (JLA) lived on "Earth One", while the JSA lived on "Earth Two" (this despite the fact that superheroes arose on Earth Two twenty years before they did on Earth One).

Finally, in Justice League of America #21 (August 1963), the Justice Society emerged fully to team up with the JLA to combat a team of villains from both worlds. This marked the beginning of annual summer team-ups by the two supergroups, which endured until 1985, and which included a number of notable events in JSA history, such as Black Canary leaving to join the Justice League (#74), the return of a Golden Age group of heroes dubbed the Seven Soldiers of Victory (#100-102), and the creation of a team called the Freedom Fighters composed of several one-time Quality Comics heroes (#107-108).

The JSA also occupied a unique (at the time) position in comics in that they had aged since their early appearances, now being middle-aged, and often wiser, versions of their younger, contemporary counterparts.

Notable Silver Age Appearances

New Silver Age Members

The 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 (September-October 1978), 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 (August-September 1977). This run was mainly written by Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz, and artists included Wally Wood, Joe Staton and Bob Layton.

A series taking place in the team's original setting of the wartime 1940s called All-Star Squadron (1981-1987) featured the JSA frequently along with several other Golden Age superheroes. This led to a spin-off, contemporary series entitled Infinity Inc. (1983-1988) 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.

Meanwhile, the JSA continued their annual team-ups with the Justice League. Notable events included meeting the Fawcett Comics heroes, including Shazam (JLA #135-137), the death of Mr. Terrific (#171-172), and an explanation for why Black Canary hadn't aged much despite debuting in the 1940s (#219-220). Arguably the best-ever 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.

File:JSAgoldenage post-Crisis.gif
The post-Crisis version of the JSA's Golden Age roster.

In 1985, DC retconned many details of the DC Universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Among the changes, the Golden Age Superman, Batman and 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 resulting confusion led to seemingly more time spent trying to resolve the problems than tell good stories, and soon both All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. were cancelled.

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

Notable Modern Age, Pre-Crisis Appearances

New Modern Age Members

Post-Crisis

File:JSAnewseries.jpg
Various modern-day (post-Crisis) members of the Justice Society of America.

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 (1987 to 1989). The series was dogged by rotating artists and didn't last long.

Meanwhile, DC apparently 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 survived the cataclysm.

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

Fan interest, however, resulted in DC bringing back the JSA in the early 1990s, though an 8-issue limited series (1991) followed by a 10-issue ongoing series (1992) could not revive enough interest in the team to keep sales up, and sometime after the latter series was cancelled most of the team was killed off in a controversial 1994 crossover series called Zero Hour. James Robinson's series Starman, however, brought new attention to the JSA legacy. The JSA was once again revived in 1999 in a critically and popularly acclaimed series which mixed the few remaining original members with younger counterparts, and which is still being published as of 2005.

Notable Post-Crisis Appearances

New Post-Crisis Members

File:JSA Pacheco.jpg
The current JSA roster. Art by Carlos Pacheco.

Most of these members are from the current JSA series. A few heroes have been retconned after the Crisis as having been members (e.g., Miss America as a replacement for Wonder Woman--though it is not clear if this particular retcon is still valid--see below). Others were honorary members at some point but it is not clear whether they became full members (e.g., Johnny Quick or Hawkgirl Shiera Sanders), and they haven't been listed as members in this article.

Trivia

  • The first two issues of All-Star Comics were anthology issues featuring separate stories of mostly the same heroes.
  • Hawkman is the only member to appear in every JSA adventure in the original run of All-Star Comics. The Atom missed two issues.
  • The entire original run of All-Star Comics has been collected in hardcover volumes in DC's series of Archive Editions. Although the volumes run $49.95 each, this is considerably less than the original issues now cost.

References

External links