The Justice Society of America: Who is the Original Superteam?

The Golden Oldies

Green Lantern:That’s why the Justice Society is so important to me. To Jay and Ted and Carter. Jay and his wife couldn’t have children of their own. Ted lost his son. Carter neglected his. And I… I was never even there for mine. We failed our children. But we won’t fail again. I won’t fail you again. You or any of the children of the Justice Society. That is my oath.

JSA: The Princes of Darkness

Once upon a time, there were no superhero teams. No Avengers, no Justice League, no X-Men, zip, nada, bupkis. Superheroes had their magazines and stayed in them. Then the Justice Society appeared, leading to crossovers and the continuity that keeps fans interested. So who are they? How did the Justice Society form? How are they still fighting crime nearly a century after their debut? Let’s find out.

Thrilling Adventures of Yesteryear: The Justice Society’s Backstory

Johnny Thunder:I’ll contribute an idea. Suppose you each tell the most exciting experience you’ve ever had? That’ll entertain everybody!
The Flash:Not a bad idea at that!

All-Star Comics #3

The Justice Society of America debuted in “All-Star Comics #3” in 1940. The team was created by Gardner Fox and Sheldon Mayer, who saw that the characters were already in the same anthology book and decided to have them cross over with each other.

The Justice Society began as a club for Golden Age superheroes, who would swap stories about their adventures. They were soon drafted to fight in World War II, thwarting Nazi schemes throughout the world. Unfortunately, they couldn’t just nab Hitler because the Fuehrer had a superweapon called the Spear of Destiny that could control superhumans. Other Nazis were fair game.

When the Silver Age dawned, readers learned that the Justice Society existed on Earth-2, a counterpart to the main DC universe. They crossed over with the Justice League annually, working together to face threats that were too tough for a single superhero team.

The original Justice Society ended shortly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. A time-traveling Hitler used the Spear of Destiny to start Ragnarok. The Justice Society was forced to merge with the Norse gods and eternally fight the Fire Giant Surter to stop the end of the world. And you thought Marvel’s Thor was wild.

Old School: The Justice Society’s History

Hawkman: “I can’t help wondering if this world still has a place for heroes like us.”
The Flash:More than ever, I’d say. The way I see it, we have a responsibility to the heroes who came after us. The people out there on the streets, the people who really matter, they look up to teams like the Titans and the League. But the Titans and the League look up to us.

JSA Vol. 1 #25

The Ragnarok story was eventually retconned away, so writers needed a new reason for the Justice Society to have been out of the public eye. Readers learned that the JSA had been accused of treason by Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Commission. The team refused to give up their secret identities and disbanded.

The Justice Society reunited decades later to mentor the next generation of heroes. The old guard began fighting crime alongside newer talent like Stargirl, Shazam, and Cyclone. They also participated in several event comics, usually serving as reinforcements for other teams.

Meet the Justice Society

The Flash (Jay Garrick)

Barry:What are you doing? You’re retired. You could have died.
Jay: [doffs his helmet] “Eh, Joan’s gonna kill me just for putting on the tin hat.

Young Justice “Bloodlines (Season 2, Episode 6)

Long before Barry Allen or Wally West learned to walk, Jay Garrick was the Fastest Man Alive.

Garrick was a scientist performing experiments with heavy water. Constant exposure to the vapors activated his metagene, giving Jay super speed. He became The Flash, hiding his identity with his trademark WWI-era helmet. 

The Flash was the first member of the JSA to learn about the multiverse. He was sought out by Barry Allen, who knew about Jay’s heroics because they were published as comics on Earth-1. Following the universal merger, Jay became a mentor to the Flash family, despite being the slowest of the group.

Green Lantern (Alan Scott)

Alan: [charging his ring] “And I shall shed my light over dark evil,
for the dark things cannot stand the light…
The light of the Green Lantern!

All-American Comics #16

The Flash isn’t the team’s only legacy hero. Throw out all you know about the Corps and the Emotional Spectrum, they don’t apply to the original Green Lantern.

Alan Scott was an engineer who nearly died on a sabotaged train. He survived and discovered a green lantern that compelled him to forge a ring from it. The ring gave Alan the ability to create solid constructs out of willpower. He became the Green Lantern and brought the saboteurs to justice.

Green Lantern serves as the face of the Justice Society, often pulling double duty as its leader. He had two children, Jade and Obsidian, with a former villainess. Both children joined the JSA to learn from their dad, but Alan struggled to bond with Obsidian due to disapproval of his homosexuality. Ironically, Alan realized he was also gay in 2020 and repaired their relationship.

Hourman

Hourman:It really galls me to see technology used so thoughtlessly. Wait, no it doesn’t. I do it all the time!

Hourman #5

Every member of the JSA is tough, but few want to challenge the Man of the Hour.

Scientist Rex Tyler created a super steroid called “Miraclo” that gave people super strength and durability for exactly sixty minutes. Rex feared his invention might fall into the wrong hands and began using it to fight crime as Hourman. Not content to fight alone, he recruited a team of sidekicks called the Minute Men. Stop groaning.

Rex retired after learning that Miraclo is addictive and toxic. His successor created a homeopathic version of Miraclo, allowing Hourman to return to heroics. The Miraclo formula was also retconned into being the basis for Bane’s Venom drug. Arrowverse fans may know it as the Mirakuru Serum.

Doctor Mid-Nite

Doctor Mid-Nite:Ah, I diagnosed this crime as a robbery. Now I’m here to operate!

Justice League of America #46

Hope you don’t mind staying up late because you won’t find the first disabled superhero fighting during the day.

Doctor Charles McNider made a lot of enemies when he saved a criminal’s life. Gangsters bombed his home, blinding the good doctor. McNider’s metagene activated, giving him perfect sight, but only in the dark. Huh, first him, then Daredevil. What’s with all the blind superheroes whose power boils down to “I’m only somewhat blind?”

He became Doctor Mid-Nite, blinding foes with Black Out Bombs before punching their lights out. Despite being a skilled fighter, Doctor Mid-Nite is most useful when he’s acting as a superhero surgeon. He was killed during the event Zero Hour, but several successors have followed in his footsteps.

Johnny Thunder

Johnny:I’ll bet that’s the secret of my Thunderbolt! Those words “say you!” Whenever I say ‘em, the Bolt comes around!

Flash Comics #20

Say, you think we would have written about Johnny Thunder before. Oh well, no time like the present!

Johnny Thunder was the seventh son of a seventh son born in July of 1917. This convergence of sevens attracted a genie called Yz the Thunderbolt, who resided in the 5th dimension. The genie would be compelled to do what Johnny said if he uttered the incantation “cei-u”, the Thunderbolt’s name pronounced backwards. Now if only someone told Johnny that.

As a teenager, Johnny usually started sentences with the phrase “say, you” which was a homophone of cei-u. The Thunderbolt used his magic to do whatever Johnny said that sounded like a wish. The dope didn’t realize it and thought he was the cause of all the weird events. Johnny eventually found out about the Thunderbolt and became a superhero with its help.

Doctor Fate

Red Tornado: Kent was a charter member of the Justice Society, the precursor to your mentors’ Justice League.”
Aqualad: “Of course. Nelson was Earth’s sorcerer supreme! He was Doctor Fate!

Young Justice, “Denial” (Season 1, Episode 7)

The prophecy has been realized. A magical hero has joined the Justice Society. Such is the will of fate.

Kent Nelson was an archeologist who discovered the tomb of Nabu the Wise. While exploring, he found a golden helmet and was compelled to put it on. Nabu appeared to Kent, revealing himself to be a Lord of Order. Nabu chose Kent to be his champion and gave him magic, transforming the archaeologist into Doctor Fate.

Doctor Fate is arguably the most powerful sorcerer in the DC Universe. He even made our list of the top 5 magic-using superheroes. The only downside is that Doctor Fate cares more about Order than doing good. He’s even attacked allies to stop them from disrupting the natural order.

Wildcat

Wildcat: [saving Batman] “I turn my back on you for two seconds and suddenly you’re eighty years old and covered in robots!

Batman: the Brave and the Bold, “The Golden Age of Justice” (Season 2, episode 5)

Who needs superpowers when you have fists and stubbornness? Certainly not Wildcat.

Ted Grant was a champion boxer who was framed for murder. Hearing stories about Green Lantern inspired him to become a superhero and clear his name, leading to the birth of Wildcat. He continued his heroics after clearing his name, even joining the Justice Society and fighting alongside his inspiration.

Wildcat is often considered the toughest fighter in the Justice Society. Other heroes may be stronger or faster, but he just won’t stay down. It was later revealed that an ally called Zatara cast a spell on Wildcat to give him nine lives. So not only is Wildcat a tough piece of work, but you’ve to kill him nine times before he’ll stay dead.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman:The Justice Society can afford to put everything aside ‘til it sees what it can do to save a boy’s life.

All-Star Comics #48

Wonder Woman has an interesting history with the Justice Society, which is fitting for their first female member.

Wonder Woman fought alongside the JSA on a mission and was offered the position of secretary as a reward. She accepted the role, often staying behind on missions because her creator wouldn’t let anyone else write her story.

After his death, Wonder Woman became a more active member of the JSA. Writers later claimed that the Wonder Woman who joined the JSA was Queen Hippolyta, Diana’s mother. This lets both the JLA and the JSA have their own concurrent Wonder Woman. If you want more details, check out our Wonder Woman Backstory.

Black Canary

Black Canary:I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not a kid anymore.
Wildcat:I can see that. Your mom would’a been proud to see the woman you’ve become.

Batman: the Brave and the Bold, “The Golden Age of Justice” (Season 2, episode 5)

The second female JSA member didn’t start out as a secretary, that’s for dang sure.

Dinah Drake was an aspiring police officer who wasn’t allowed to join the force because of rampant sexism. She became a florist and used her training to fight crime as Black Canary.

Johnny Thunder met Black Canary while dealing with a gang and was impressed. He and Wonder Woman sponsored Canary’s admission to the JSA. Dinah’s daughter, Dinah Lance, took up the mantle in the modern day. Our Black Canary Backstory has the details.

The Spectre

The Spectre: “We are not part of an army. We fight only in the cause of justice… and that will give us our name… Justice Society of America! –

Secret Origins Vol. 2 #31

Sooner or later, the JSA will be pushed to break out the big gun. That’s when The Spectre steps up to bat.

Police officer Jim Corrigan was murdered by gangsters, but was offered a chance to avenge his death. He was bonded to The Spectre, God’s angel of vengeance, and tasked to end crime. He dealt with the gangsters and began seeking vengeance across the world.

The Spectre is this side of omnipotent, able to defeat nearly any villain. Unfortunately, he also enjoys torturing and killing sinners, only held back by Corrigan’s sense of right and wrong. The JSA is wary of The Spectre, and would rather have him where they can keep an eye on him.

Didya get all that?

The original superhero team. Accept no substitutes.

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