A Brief History of the Justice Society, 1940-1986

Now that we've reviewed the first six issues of DC Comic's new Earth 2 series, we take a quick look back at some historic Justice League milestones.

Now that the first story arc of DC’s new Earth 2 series is out of the way (and you can read my review of those first six issues right here), it’s a great time to revisit some of the milestones in the Justice Society’s history! While this list is by no means comprehensive (it’s pretty tough to just hit the high points of four decades worth of comics),and I’ve had to leave off some personal favorites in favor of the “more important” tales, consider these stories an entry-level take on the world’s first (and greatest!) team of superheroes. 

10. All-Star Comics #3 (1940)

The first appearance of the Justice Society of America. Sure, this was just a bunch of the guys sitting around a table and introducing solo adventures, and we didn’t get the first proper superhero team up until All-Star Comics #4, but why split hairs? History had been made!

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9. All-Star Comics #35 (1947)

The Day That Dropped Out of Time

The X-Men have Magneto, The Fantastic Four have Dr. Doom, but the Justice Society has Per Degaton to contend with. The time-travelling villain made his debut in this issue and has continued to plague the JSA well into the 21st century. Something tells me that it’s only a matter of time before he shows up in the new Earth 2 comic.

8. Flash #123 (1961)

Flash of Two Worlds

The story that launched a thousand crossovers. The Flash (Barry Allen) meets his predecessor… The Flash of the 1940s, Jay Garrick. As if that wasn’t enough, young readers get their minds blown by the concept of parallel Earths separated by vibrational frequencies. This is one of those iconic moments of the Silver Age and a key moment in the evolution of comics. As publishers embraced their increasingly rich publication history, it allowed creators to take more chances and tell stories with even higher stakes. If you take the costumes and super powers out of Flash of Two Worlds you’re still left with concepts that would have fit right in an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.

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7. Justice League of America #21 (1963)

Crisis on Earth-One!

Taking the Flash of Two Worlds concept to its next logical step, Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky reintroduce the rest of the JSA to their loyal readers. This issue marks the very first JLA/JSA team-up, a two-part tale which concludes in Justice League of America #22, in a story entitled (you guessed it) Crisis on Earth-Two! The JLA/JSA team-ups proved popular enough to become a yearly tradition in Justice League of America…until about 1986 or so. 

6. All-Star Comics #58 (1976)

After a twenty-five year hiatus, DC revived All Star Comics. This issue marks the first appearance of Superman’s cousin, Power Girl and a few issues later we meet the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, The Huntress. These two fan favorite characters are currently co-starring in Worlds’ Finest. But these issues of All-Star were a major evolution for the JSA and all of Earth Two, finally introducing us to the next generation of this world’s heroe

5. DC Special #29 (1977)

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The Untold Origin of the Justice Society

Because any comic with a cover where Hitler is about to get his ass handed to him by a bunch of superheroes is a good one. Alright, while that’s true, it’s not the main reason this comic is so important. For a team that had been around since 1940, we never found out how and why they got together in the first place.

4. Adventure Comics #462 (1979)

Only Legends Live Forever!

Long before superhero deaths were a quarterly occurrence, DC killed Batman. Alright, so it was the Batman of Earth Two, but still…they killed Batman!  More importantly, this cleared the way for the Huntress (the daughter of Batman and Catwoman) and the adult Robin to take on greater responsibilities in the JSA.

3. All-Star Squadron #1 (1981)

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Continuing to fill in the blanks of the JSA’s early days and meticulously researched by writer Roy Thomas, All-Star Squadron was almost certainly the most successful incarnation of the JSA since the 1940s. The first 18 issues were recently reprinted as Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Volume 1, but a patient collector can pick up most of the full-color single issues for a buck or two each at conventions and on the web. Who could have guessed that the old geezers would prove popular enough to support a second monthly book? And that brings us to…

2. Infinity, Inc. #1 (1984)

Generations!

If the Justice Society was Earth Two’s Justice League, then the members of Infinity, Inc. were its Teen Titans. A collection of sidekicks, sons and daughters of the JSA, brought to life by some stunning Jerry Ordway art (and later, by a young Todd McFarlane) and Roy Thomas’s famed, loving attention to comic history, Infinity, Inc. was the modern companion to All-Star Squadron’s World War II-era adventures. The first handful of issues were recently reprinted in hardcover as Infinity, Inc.: The Generations Saga Volume 1, but, as with All Star Squadron, if you’re willing to do some digging at a comic con, you can get most of these for a song! Alright, maybe not for a song. In fact, I’m pretty sure that no vendor wants to hear you sing.

1. Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986)

It would take more bandwidth than the Den of Geek servers can handle to try and summarize this, the granddaddy of all crossover epics. But for many comic readers (including this one), this incredible story about the death of the multiverse was their first exposure to the JSA and the very concept of Earth Two. While most of the JSA would live on as the timelines of the alternate earths merged (seriously…don’t ask), it was the last we’d see of the Earth Two counterparts of Superman, Wonder Woman and others who would be deemed redundant by the series’ outcome. I realize that today’s event-fatigued comic readers wince every time somebody mentions the word “crisis,” but trust me; this one is worth every page. Worth it for George Perez’s art, alone!

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Of course, Crisis on Infinite Earths wouldn’t be the last we’d see of the JSA by a long shot. In fact, one could argue that some of the finest stories surrounding these characters were yet to come, with projects like The Golden Age, Sandman Mystery Theatre, Starman and, of course the JSA series written by a young Geoff Johns (perhaps you’ve heard of him). But these, my friends, are stories for a whole ‘nother list…