By Jack Sharpe — The Justice Society of America (JSA) is the first family of DC Comics. They were the first major team set up in the DC Universe, and their influence is felt even today through characters like the Flash and Green Lantern. Ever since Flashpoint (a 2011 event that seemed to reboot DC continuity), this team has been missing from the main DC Universe. Incarnations of the team appeared in the Earth 2 comics – but the legendary team from the WWII era was no more in the main DCU.
At least, that was until DC Rebirth #1, a course correction story that set up many events through the DC Universe.
DC Rebirth, Doomsday Clock, and the Return of the Justice Society
One of the threads in that over-sized book was a tease for the return of the JSA, one that was doled out with Johnny Thunder. This thread was expanded upon in crossover the following year in the pages of the new Batman and The Flash series. Dubbed The Button, it teased the return of the first Flash, Jay Garrick, and that tease has been further followed up in Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s much-delayed maxi-series, Doomsday Clock.
Many fans expected the return of the JSA and other long-missing heroes to come about with the end of Doomsday Clock. It seemed like that is where all avenues went. But then something happened. Doomsday Clock experienced massive delays (note – this is not a look at this matter...delays happen in comics all the time). Still, the return of the JSA kept slipping away.
As is the case with the deadline-driven business of monthly comic book storytelling – plans change. Doomsday Clock grew later and later, so plans changed. Instead of waiting for Doomsday Clock to finish, DC has now pivoted, allowing another superstar creative team – the Justice League team of Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez and Howard Porter – to plot the return of the publisher’s first team.
There’s a debate to be had about the impact this has on Doomsday Clock. Does it undermine the importance of that book? That, however, is a separate article. This article is a look at the Justice Society of America – their importance to DC and why they’re return matters so much. From a personal standpoint – I am thrilled at the JSA’s return. The JSA represent so much more than a team of superheroes. Those heroes and that team make the DC Universe feel so much bigger, adding a whole new dynamic to the universe and a whole new wide array of story-telling opportunities.
As a history buff, they are one of my favorite teams in all of comics, and I’m very excited to have them back in new monthly stories.
The (Brief) History of the Justice Society
The Justice Society of America (JSA) first appeared in All Star Comics #3 in December 1940, under the pen of Gardner Fox with art from Everett E. Hibbard. The team consisted of:
Jay Garrick (The Flash)
Alan Scott (Green Lantern)
Carter Hall (Hawkman)
Kent Nelson (Dr Fate)
Wesley Dodds (The Sandman)
Al Pratt (The Atom)
Jim Corrigan (The Spectre)
Rex Tyler (Hour-Man)
Noticeably absent from this list are Batman and Superman – who were referred to as honorary members. Wonder Woman and other heroes would join over the years and members would also leave.
The Justice Society were one of the first team up books for superheroes in all of comics. Their series also represented something else. It was the first time two comics companies crossed over and produced a title with characters from both companies.
In brief: DC Comics as a company was formed from the merger of two other companies in 1946: All American Publications and National Comics Publications. These companies had worked together before the merger. Of note, however, is that both companies allowed their characters to form the Justice Society of America. So in historical terms – the JSA was the first official comics crossover.
What Makes the JSA so Important?
In all of this, we come back to one question. Why are the Justice Society so important to the DC Universe?
The answer to me anyway is this – legacy.
One of the best things about comics is that you can see characters develop and grow over the course of many adventures and many, many years. You follow a young sidekick who wants out of the shadow of his mentor and sets out on his own path. Or the current version of a hero retires or dies (only to return in five years, as death in comics mean nothing) so the ward takes over the mantle, honoring the bygone character’s legacy.
The DCU has always been full of legacy-defining characters. From Wally West to Dick Grayson – sidekicks taking over the mantle from lost mentors, honoring their achievements while putting their own spin on what that character means.
With the Justice Society – that idea of legacy extends even further. You can have a character who starts off in the war years and lives, through different versions of the character, into the 21st century and beyond. Comics need to move with the times – and legacy allows them to do just that.
You also open-up whole new avenues of storytelling opportunities for the characters. You can set stories in WWII (or before), telling the adventures of these characters in that period. You can put them into the modern day and have them travel with the current heroes. The opportunities for stories are wide, and writers can have a field day with them.
Even though I’m a newer fan of comics I love the JSA and the history it adds to the DC Universe. Ever since 2016 I have eagerly awaited their return to the main DCU line. I am thrilled that they are finally coming back. They bring so much to the DC Universe, and their return is long overdue.
There’s a discussion (and likely an argument) to be had about the delays to Doomsday Clock. But that’s a debate for another time. Here and now – we can celebrate the return of the oldest team in all of superhero comics, and we can celebrate these characters who have been loved since the 1940s, as well as a return to legacy in the DCU.
Now give me my Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West and Bart Allen reunion pose. Drawn by Howard Porter.
Check out more great writing about comics!
Jack Sharpe is a huge fan of history and comics. When he's not in the trenches surrounded by history, he's reading and studying comic books. You can follow him on Twitter at @JackJacksharpe5