Inside the Return of the Justice Society of America to the DC Universe

Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV told us about bringing the original Justice Society of America to the pages of Justice League...and beyond.

The Justice Society of America in Justice League #31
art by Jorge Jimenez (DC Comics)

It’s hard to believe, but the Justice Society of America hasn’t been a major presence in the DC Universe in nearly a decade. Seemingly wiped from existence by the onset of the DC’s New 52 reboot in 2011, other versions of the JSA did eventually appear, but not in their original incarnations as the elder statesmen of the DCU. But beginning with 2016’s Rebirth special, and continuing with hints in the pages of The Flash and Doomsday Clock, it was clear that DC Comics once again had plans for the original Justice Society, and it was only a matter of time before they returned.

And return they did in the dramatic final page (illustrated by Francis Manapul) of Justice League #30, as Green Lantern (John Stewart) and The Flash (Barry Allen) met their Golden Age counterparts Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, along with Sandman, Wildcat, Starman, Hawkman, Hourman, the Atom, and Doctor Fate. The JSA’s involvement in the “Justice/Doom War” story doesn’t really begin until the following issue of Justice League, though, as Barry and John try and come to terms with the idea that there was once an entire team of superheroes from the 1940s that they’ve never heard of. Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV told us all about the return of DC’s original super team, beginning with how Justice League #31 artist Jorge Jimenez helped illustrate each member’s unique personality, whether it’s Jay Garrick’s casual “hands in pockets” body language or Alan Scott’s action-ready demeanor.

“I think Jorge is just such a natural talent at ‘acting’ and he loves the characters so much as well,” Snyder says. “He’s one of the biggest Justice League and JSA fans. But I just say, to James’ credit, really, in those initial issues, he took the lead on a lot of the dialogue and the back and forth between the JSA and the Justice League. I feel like that really announced the relationships, it did such great characterization with them that it gave them a very clear map. Usually, I’ll do a draft and then he’ll go over it, or he’ll do a draft and then I go over it, depending on who’s writing the issue, who’s doing the heavy lifting. That one I read and I was like, ‘There is nothing for me to change in this damn thing.’ You know what I mean? The dialogue was great. Then I had fun writing them in #32.”

Before their apparent disappearance from DC continuity in 2011, the JSA had often been placed in the current era, older and wiser from their 1940s heyday, offering advice and training younger heroes. Since All-Star Squadron ended its run in the 1980s, only a handful of modern stories have dealt with the Justice Society in their prime during World War II. But thanks to some time travel shenanigans as a result of the “Justice/Doom War” story, Barry and John meet the JSA in 1940, when they are very much at their fighting best. And it sounds like we’re going to see even more of them in this period soon. 

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“I’ve been hinting at it, but I’m looking to write the JSA after this,” Snyder says. “After Justice League, there’ll be a bit of a window, like a break between what we’re doing on Justice League and when they come back for their own series, because of other things we’re introducing. That said, the period in which I’d like to write them is this period. That’s why we chose 1939, 1940. We always see them as representatives of a time that’s passed where they’re viewed with a kind of nostalgia for when things were black and white in terms of morality. What I want to do is really revisit their early years, show the formation of the team.”

Perhaps coincidentally, it was revealed at New York Comic Con that there will finally be a comprehensive timeline of DC Universe continuity coming in the near future. That timeline breaks DC history up into “generations” and the JSA would be near the very start of DC’s first heroic age. Snyder hints that the origin of the JSA will include some new elements that have never before been revealed. “They might have also been gathered together by somebody surprising,” Snyder says. While he didn’t elaborate, one of the key pieces of the new DC Universe timeline is that Wonder Woman’s arrival in the United States is what kicks off the first age of DC superheroes.  

It’s worth noting that there has never been a comprehensive story about the earliest days of the JSA, and the story of their formation hasn’t even been told since Secret Origins #31 by Roy Thomas and Michael Bair in 1988. Snyder hopes to explore the team’s origin in a new way. 

“Show some of the early members’ conflicts, show how, at that moment when they were brought together, things were anything but black and white,” Snyder says. “Of course, evil’s rising overseas and there’s no question about the nature of that darkness, but in terms of the future and how it was written and whether or not good would win or whether or not we would jump into the war as a country, all of that stuff was fraught with conflict and arguments and ambiguity and anxieties. I want to write them raw and brutal and young, when they’re not the elder statesmen, when they don’t know any better than anybody else [and] when they’re actually like young people caught up as the first superhero team in history at a moment of tremendous stakes and confusion. That’s why I think introducing them in this way [in Justice League] is fun, because it’s a teaser of some of this stuff we plan on doing with them later down the line as well.”

When pressed about the specifics of the JSA in the upcoming new DC history, the pair wouldn’t elaborate further, but Tynion was eager to tease what’s coming up in Justice League and across the DC Universe.

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“The biggest thing that we can say is we’re right in the midst of the biggest story that we’ve told, and all of the threads that we’ve been playing with since the start of Dark Nights: Metal are starting to converge and hit in this really big way,” Tynion says. “We have lots more answers to a lot of these questions that we really can’t get into. We want people speculating, we want people wondering what we’re building and all of that, because we’re building something that I think long-term and new fans of the DC Universe are going to be thrilled by. The stories that we’re telling are some of the most exciting work that I’ve done since joining DC Comics eight years ago. It’s freaking amazing working with Scott and bringing it all to life.”

“Justice/Doom War” continues in the pages of Justice League #32, which is on sale now, and we’ll have more from Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV soon. We’ll keep you posted about further updates about the triumphant return of the Justice Society of America as we get ’em.

Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.