Legends of Tomorrow season 2 will feature a full roster of Justice Society of America members. Get excited. We already met Hourman (Patrick J. Adams) in the season finale. But we’re also getting Nate “Steel” Heywood (Nick Zano), Obsidian (son of original Green Lantern Alan Scott), Stargirl, and Doctor Mid-Nite. They’ll be joined by a new Vixen, who’s actually more like the old Vixen, simply a version of the character who was a JSA member in the 1940s.
If all this sounds a little ambitious, well, it is. Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. I’m just really excited. I’ll try and keep this brief.
The Justice Society is one of the most crucial pieces of the DC Universe, and their inclusion on Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 is going to give the CW superhero world an infusion of deeper history that we never thought possible. In short, the JSA is the first true superhero team. They first appeared in All-Star Comics #3 in 1940, and their adventures stretched on for a decade before superhero comics fell out of favor for a brief, dark period in the 1950s. When DC decided to revive the concept, they became the Justice League (ever heard of them?), which featured mostly very different versions of the characters who made up the JSA’s roster.
It was later revealed that the JSA’s adventures took place on Earth-2, similar to the parallel universe we saw on The Flash Season 2, but one where the gimmick isn’t that everyone is basically a dick. In the ’80s, after Crisis on Infinite Earths merged/eliminated most of the DC Multiverse, the JSA were established as a key piece of DCU history, operating during the 1940s and then vanishing right around the time their comic was canceled. Comic book shenanigans allowed them to re-emerge in the modern day (Captain America style!), where these older, wiser heroes could serve as mentors and examples to a younger generation of heroes.
It’s a wonderful concept, full of even more wonderful characters. You may have heard me shouting with glee when the words “Justice Society of America” were spoken on that Legends of Tomorrow season finale back in May. The JSA made an appearance on a rather good two-part episode of Smallville several years back, but from what we were told by some folks involved in the show while at SDCC, it sounds like they’re going to be one of, if not the, most crucial piece of Legends of Tomorrow Season 2.
But even before Patrick Adams’ Hourman made his dramatic appearance in the season finale, there were JSA seeds already sown. The origin of Hawman and Hawkgirl as it was portrayed during season one owes a tremendous debt to a story that was told in the pages of a late ’90s JSA comic, written by current DC Entertainment President Geoff Johns. The story of the Hawks on Legends of Tomorrow borrowed heavily from that tale, so it’s a safe bet that when the JSA appears this year, we’ll be looking at some familiar elements from Mr. Johns’ tenure as a JSA comic writer.
So, why bring in one of the most revered superhero teams of all time, one with a 75 year history, on a show that deals with also-rans and screw-ups? “I guess it’s considered like the antithesis to the Legends,” Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Phil Klemmer said. “We always said that Legends is the story of a dysfunctional family, and the way to highlight their dysfunction is to have them meet a version of themselves but the idealized version of themselves.”
“It’s like, if I had to go back and join the greatest generation and fight at Normandy,” Mr. Klemmer continued. “I was complaining about my sandwich because it had mayonnaise on it and I didn’t want mayonnaise. The guys at Normandy are like, ‘I’m getting off a vehicle and getting shot at.’ Our Legends are like me, they’re millennial babies with baggage and dysfunction, and now they’re standing next to the prototypical superheroes and it sort of reminds them of their own deficiencies for some of our characters, and for others it’s like “fuck you guys, you’re no fun, what’s the purpose of having powers if you don’t get to indulge them and use them selfishly.'”
There’s something to be said for this. The JSA come very much out of a period where heroes were expected to behave a certain way. Virtually the entire superhero archetype springs from that era, and it’s something that has evolved considerably since then to include the deeply flawed heroes and anti-heroes that make up the Legends of Tomorrow cast. “It’s a generational culture clash that we thought would be funny,” Mr. Klemmer said. “If you’re doing time travel put them in face to face with an earlier era’s version of themselves.”
So far, we know of the six JSA members mentioned at the top of the article. No word yet on whether there might be more, but honestly, six is probably enough. “It’s big,” Phil Klemmer told us of the size of the team, but he did caution that they won’t all be around all the time. “Not all of them in every episode,” he said. “Vixen will be a permanent member of our team.”
As far as Vixen goes, she’ll be the permanent member offering a lot of contrast to how the rest of the team is used to doing business. “Captain Cold is a criminal who is out for himself, he’s replaced by Vixen who is the definition of a superhero,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim said. “She’s a member of the JSA, she’s from the 1940s, everything is prim and proper, not stuck up, but she does thing right. And we have this team who doesn’t do things right, they’re a bunch of fuckups.”
Since Jay Garrick, the original Flash (who was an original member of the JSA) was introduced (for real) in The Flash season 2 finale, where it was revealed that he was from a parallel Earth, I did have to wonder whether or not this JSA is part of the main CW superhero universe, or part of their multiverse. They are indeed part of the main timeline (“You don’t want it all to just be a wank,” Klemmer joked), which means that there’s an entire history of costumed vigilantes in this world from long before Oliver Queen picked up his bow. Sadly, that likely means that John Wesley Shipp’s Jay Garrick was never a member.
Perhaps best of all, this isn’t a gimmick or a walk-on. The JSA’s presence will be felt even when they aren’t around. “Season two is about solving mysteries,” Phil Klemmer said, “and the fate of the JSA is intrinsic to that season two mystery.”
We’ll start investigating the fate of the JSA when Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 premieres on Thursday, October 13 at 8 pm on the CW.