Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Justice Society of America Charter Members Part 1

It all started in November 22nd, 1940, when the heroes first gathered for a meeting in All-Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940-1941)...and the Justice Society was born!  Long before the Suicide Squad, Teen Titans or Justice League of America!

True, that first gathering was just the heroes recounting individual took until their next issue for them to start working as a team.  With a story by Gardner Fox and art by Everett Hibbard, Sheldon Moldoff, Bernard Baily, Chad GrothkopfHoward Sherman, Ben Flinton, and Martin Nodell, the first super-team was gathered.

But who were the members of the team?

Darknight Detective

Batman...Bruce Wayne, the criminal crimefighter of Gotham City, putting all his mental resources to stop the villain who killed his parents.  Starting with Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger), Batman began his unrelenting war against crime...and, hey, haven't we heard this before?  Well, this was the original, coming out of the earliest part of the Golden Age (also called the "Earth-2" Batman, more on him here!).

True, this Batman didn't have much to do with the JSA in the Golden Age (appearing only in All-Star Comics #7 and #36, as back then, being in three magazines a month (Detective Comics, Batman and World's Finest Comics), too many appearances for Batman to be in the group), but in the 1970s, this older Batman was a major focus of All-Star Comics (though more as the Gotham Police Commissioner...), and both Robin and a new character, the Huntress, were active in the Justice Society, and in the 1980s, "retroactive continuity" from the All-Star Squadron and Secret Origins gave the 1940s Batman a few more new tales.

Scarlet Speedster

Flash had a few more appearances with the JSA, and had a much more well defined Golden Age.  Jay Garrick was a university student who was exposed to chemical fumes which gave him super speed in Flash Comics #1 (January, 1940) in a story by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert.  Flash was also the first of the JSAers to move up to his own title (All-Flash Comics), and because he appeared in two books, Flash was moved to honorary status in the JSA (like Superman and Batman, starting in All-Star Comics #6), until he came back as a regular member in All-Star Comics #24, and resumed full membership in All-Star Comics #25 (both in 1945).

Flash stuck around with the Justice Society until their Golden Age end with All-Star Comics #57 (February-March, 1951), which was past the end of All-Flash (with #32 in 1948, and this title introduced many of Flash's main villains, like the Thinker, the Shade and the Fiddler), appearances in Comic Cavalcade (ending in 1948 with issue #29) and the end of his own title of Flash Comics (with #104, in February, 1949).  Still, Flash had a legacy, and when the next Flash came back, so did Jay, and Jay then brought the whole Justice Society with him!

Emerald Gladiator

Flash's friend (and a co-star in Comic Cavalcade), Green Lantern, was also a pretty successful hero on his own.  Engineer Alan Scott survived a train wreck he was in by holding onto a mystical green lantern he had, and fashioned a ring from the lamp, and took on his super-hero identity as Green Lantern starting with All-American Comics #16 (July, 1940) in a story by Bill Finger and Martin Nodell.  This ring gave Alan the power to make anything out of green energy using his will, and was only stopped by wood.  Many of Alan's villains, like Solomon Grundy, the Icicle, the Sportsmaster, the Harlequinn, the Gambler and the Vandal Savage also went on to menace the JSA as well!

Alan was also a victim of success, getting his own Green Lantern title in the Fall of 1941 (which lasted for 38 issues, ending in May-June, 1949), appeared with Flash (and Wonder Woman), in separate stories in Comic Cavalcade until issue #29, and in All-American Comics until #102 (October, 1948).  Green Lantern became an honorary JSA with All-Star Comics #7, appears in a few issues here and there as an honorary member, then returns in All-Star Comics #24, becoming a regular member again in All-Star Comics #25, and stays until the end with All-Star Comics #57, and returns with the team in Flash #137 (June, 1963).  Alan even finds out of a tie to the more modern Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and the Guardians of the Universe as well!

Man of the Hour

Time is ticking down, and Rex Tyler would be the man to call.  A research chemist who came up with a chemical called Miraclo, when taken, would give Rex super-strength, speed and stamina, and allow him to become Hourman (starting in Adventure Comics #48, March, 1940 by Ken Finch and Bernard Bailey).  He also gathered a team of kids to help him (the Minute Men of America, including Thorndyke and Jimmy Martin), and was featured on a few of the covers of Adventure Comics.

Sadly, Miraclo wasn't all that good for Rex, and he gave up being a JSAer for a time after All-Star Comics #7 (to be replaced by the original Starman, who also took his place as a JSAer), and Rex didn't even get his own title or be featured much outside of All-Star Comics, the second New York World's Fair comic and ended his Golden Age run in Adventure Comics with #83 (February, 1943).  Rex was part of the JSA revival starting in the 1960s with Justice League of America #21 (August, 1963), getting close teaming up with fellow charter member Dr. Fate for two issues of Showcase (#55 and #56) and like most of the JSA, part of a Crisis ever since (even working with Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters for a time in the "retroactive continuity" of All-Star Squadron)...even messing around with time (as a android "descendant" of his proved, as did his son and successor, Rick Tyler!).

Master of the Mystic Arts

Kent Nelson was the son of an archeologist and watched his father die as he opened up the tomb of Nabu (an ancient Lord of Order).  Nabu took the boy under his wing, and trained him as his replacement, Dr. Fate, starting with More Fun Comics #55 (May, 1940, by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, though fellow charger JSAer, the Spectre, ended up with that cover).  For a time, Dr. Fate fought very powerful mystic menaces like Negal, Wotan and Ian Karkull, but as later revealed, it was found that Nabu rested in the helmet of Fate, and took over Kent Nelson's body, so Kent dumped the helmet for a time (wanting to spend more time with his girl, Inza), and was only a strong, invincible and flying hero with a half helmet (starting in More Fun Comics #72 in October, 1941) facing villains like Mr. Who! 

Dr. Fate's Golden Age adventures ran from More Fun Comics #55 to More Fun Comics #98 of July/August 1944 (all of which are reprinted in the Golden Age Dr. Fate Archives #1), and as a JSAer until All-Star Comics #21 (and then getting revived with Justice League of America #21 in August, 1963, along with the rest of the Justice Society).  Dr. Fate also proved pretty popular, sharing two Showcase issues with Hourman, getting his own First Issue Special, crossing from Earth-2 to Earth-1 to team with Batman, Superman and the Flash, as well as being a major player in the Crisis on Infinite Earths...and well beyond (with at least the identity of Dr. Fate, though not quite Kent Nelson all the time) getting a few series of his own!

These are all of the original JSAers we have time for now, but check back as we cover the rest of the charter members (like Hawkman, Atom, Sandman, the Spectre and Superman, and beyond!)...

...and you can see how the past helped to shape the future!

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