Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Justice Society of America Charter Members Part 2

Back to history, and more on the original Justice Society of America.  "the first conglomerate super-hero team in comics" (as stated in the sadly one and only issue of The All-Star Index from February, 1987 written by Lou Mougin and edited by Murray R. Ward, whose indexing work is the basis for all of fandom to help track these characters). 

The beginnings of the JSA were already discussed before, so let's jump right in to the other charter members of the team!

Winged Wonder

Hawkman is probably the best place to start...after all, he had perfect attendance with All-Star Comics, appearing in all 57 Golden Age issues (even the two before the Justice Society was invented!).  Hawkman got his start in Flash Comics #1 (January, 1940, by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville), and even alternated with the Flash as cover feature for the 104 issues of that series (but, other than the Big All-American Comic Book) never got out All-Star Comics or Flash Comics in the Golden Age. 

Hawkman the hero had been around for a long time...ancient Egypt, no less, as Prince Khufu (beloved of Shiera, and enemy of Hath-Set).  Khufu and Shiera were stabbed to death by Hath-Set, but Khufu promised to return...and did, as archeologist Carter Hall touched Hath-Set's dagger and became aware of his past life, and meets Shiera Sanders (the reincarnated love of his life), saving her from Anton Hastor (the reincarnated Hath-Set).  Carter made wings and a belt of "Nth" metal (which was an anti-gravity material allowing him to fly), and a hawk mask, and took off after Hastor, stopping him.  Carter continued as Hawkman, using ancient weapons to stop modern crime, and Shiera even joined him in adventures (first donning an extra set of wings in All-Star Comics #5, and becoming Hawkgirl officially in Flash Comics #24, though in that issue only, she referred to herself as Hawkwoman!).  Over the years the Hawks faced many menaces, like the Thought Terror, Trygg, Nyola, Satana, the Monocle and the Gentleman Ghost, as well as traveling to many lands (and having a variety of cowls as well!).  But, the one thing that kept them going was their love for each other...a love for the ages that even went beyond (and survived the end of the Golden Age as well, being in all 104 issues of Flash Comics, and all 57 of All-Star Comics!). 

Hawkman was part of the team that Vandal Savage kidnapped when the JSA was revived in the 1960s in Flash #137, but he was the only one to not have a team-up with his more scientific Silver Age counterpart during the Silver Age!  Still, you can read more of an overview Hawkman's career in the Hawkman Companion by Doug Zawisa (under an incredible cover by Cliff Chiang).

Mighty Mite

Atom was just a little guy, college student Al Pratt, who got tired of being picked on, and trained with fighter Joe Morgan to beat the bullies (and impress his friend, Mary).  This all happened in All-American Comics #19 (October, 1940, by Bill O'Connor and Ben Flinton), and it wasn't until his second appearance that the Atom even got a costume!  Sadly, other than All-Star Comics and that one and only Big All-American Comic Book, Atom just didn't make many covers in the Golden Age!  Guess Green Lantern didn't want to share.  No respect for the little guy....

...and he couldn't even keep a home!  Atom ran from All-American Comics #19 to All-American Comics #72, and then most of Flash Comics from #80 to #104, a few of Comics Cavalcade (#22, #23 and #28) and even an issue of Wonder Woman's Sensation Comics (#86), while being a JSAer for most issues of All-Star Comics.  Along the way, Atom gained new "atomic" strength and a new costume in 1948 with Flash Comics #98 (partially explained in All-Star Squadron #21-25 with Roy Thomas' "retroactive continuity), but even that wasn't enough to save the little least until the JSA returned with Flash #137!  The Golden Age Atom even had two separate team-ups with the Silver Age Atom in his title...though it was odd since, in the Silver Age, the Atom had shrinking powers (and that had Bob Rozakis and Alex Saviuk pull a switcheroo for those two in Action Comics #515 and DC Comics Presents #30).

Man of Dreams

Ever have bad dreams?  Wesley Dodds did, but this wealthy man did something about it, becoming the Sandman...who gave criminals nightmares, leaving behind a message: "There is no land beyond the law, where tyrants rule with unshakable power! It’s but a dream from which the evil wake to face their fate … their terrifying hour!"  Premiering in New York World's Fair Comics #1 (1939), though his first adventure was in Adventure Comics #40 (July, 1939, both stories by Gardner Fox and Bert Christman), Sandman used his gas gun and a sharp mind to put criminals to sleep, with solo adventures in both New York World's Fair Comics, All-Star Comics #1 and #2, World's Finest Comics #3 through #7, Boy Commandos #1, Detective Comics #76 (meeting the Boy Commandos and the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion in an early meeting of kid heroes) and Adventure Comics #40-102.

Sandman even had major changes during his Adventure Comics run, ditching the gas mask and suit for a purple and yellow outfit in Adventure Comics #69 (where he gained a sidekick, young Sandy the Golden Boy), and they both also lost capes with Adventure Comics #72 (when Jack Kirby and Joe Simon took over their series...where they stayed until that last Golden Age story in Adventure Comics #102 in February/March 1946). 

Sandman had left the JSA earlier, with All-Star Comics #21 (the same issue Dr. Fate did), but, like the Doctor, he came back...though it took him a little longer, not popping up in a JLA/JSA team up until August 1966's Justice League of America #46 (and then, in his original costume and without Sandy).  All that was explained in Justice League of America #113 (September/October 1974 by Len Wein and Dick Dillin), with the problem there being resolved in DC Comics Presents #42 and #47 by Mike W. Barr and Jose Delbo.  The Sandman title even moved on to a few others, scientists, lords of the endless and former sidekicks, and the 1940s noir version even had a seventy issue run in the 1990s at Vertigo (an offshoot of DC Comics) in Sandman Mystery Theatre...but all that seems like a dream article in itself!

Ghostly Guardian

Spectre's tale started where most end, with the death of his other identity, Jim Corrigan in More Fun Comics #52 (February, 1940, by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily).  Detective Corrigan was tracking down mobster Gat Benson...but was killed by the mobster instead.  Corrigan's battle wasn't over, as a voice came to him, turning him into the wrath of God, the Spectre. allowing him to stop Gat from killing Jim's fianc√©, Clarice Winston.  Jim Corrigan enjoyed quite a life after death, running in issues of More Fun Comics from #52 to #101, as well as All-Star Comics from #1 to #23.  Along the way, he battled mystical menaces like Zor and Kulak, and even gaining a comical partner in Percival Popp ("the Super-Cop"), who was with him in his last published Golden Age case in More Fun Comics #101 (January/February 1945).

But, how do you stop a man already dead?  Spectre returned on his own in Showcase #60 (January/February 1966, by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson), joined up with the Justice Society again starting with Justice League of America #46 (August, 1966), and, after two more Showcase issues, ended up with his own 10 issue series in the 1960s lasting from November/December 1967 to May/June 1969, with stories by Gardner Fox, Mike Friedrich, Neal AdamsSteve Skeates, Denny O'Neil, Mark Hanerfield and Jack Miller,  and art by Murphy Anderson, Neal Adams, Jerry Grandenetti, Bernie WrightsonJose Delbo and Jack Sparling

These were more of a super-hero type story, with the Spectre dealing with a villain one-on-one, as well as being a separate but dependent entity from Jim Corrigan, then changed towards the end where the Spectre became more of a host of horror stories in his own book, not unlike House of Mystery.

Spectre returned again for a run in the 1970s in Adventure Comics from #431 (January/February 1974) to #440 (July, 1975) with stories by Michael Fleisher and art by Jim Aparo (assisted by Frank Thorne and Ernie Chan for a few issues).  This had the Spectre as a true spirit of vengeance, wreaking havoc on criminals with ironic supernatural punishments.  The story was not quite finished at the time...but in 1988, Jim Aparo was able to draw the last of Michael Fleisher's scripts and it was published in the 4th issue of the Wrath of the Spectre (the first three containing reprints of the earlier parts of this saga).

Spectre came back again in the 1980s, with Doug Moench as the writer, exploring a Spectre who had failed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths...and had his powers weakened to deal with it.  Starting in April, 1987 and running for 31 issues and 1 Annual (through November, 1989), this version of the Spectre also had the Spectre and Jim Corrigan at odds, and added a supporting cast to Spectre's arsenal...including Madame Xanadu (who had been the star of 5 issues of Doorway to Nightmare in the later 1970s).  Spectre dealt more with the mystics of the DC Universe like Zatanna, Dr. Fate, Deadman, the Phantom Stranger and the Enchantress (of the Suicide Squad), and even participated in smaller crossovers like Millennium and Invasion!.  Good stories, with art by Gene Colan, Cam Kennedy, Gray Morrow, Chris Wozniak, Mark Badger, Vince Giarrano, Bart Sears, Tom Artis, Fred Butler and Gonzalo Mayo, it wasn't quite the Spectre as we knew him....

...but all these variants of the same character came together in the 1990s series by writer John Ostrander and art mostly by Tom Mandrake.  For 63 issues and one annual, this was the true wrath of God dealing with the weakness that we all have...that of being human.  Jim Corrigan's soul was explored, using issues from his past (and those above), as well as events happening around him (such as Zero Hour, Underworld Unleashed, the Final Night and Genesis) and even other characters like Eclipso, Mr. Terrific, Count Vertigo, Uncle Sam and more.  Never a boring read, a series of stories about what drives a man to do what he does, and where vengeance comes from.  A series well worth reading, and showcasing how the Spectre was one character from More Fun Comics to the end of this series, where Jim Corrigan gives up the ghost. 

Spectre continued on after this (based on ideas introduced in this series), and continued to encounter the Justice Society over the decades during all his runs. 

All these stories were great when they came out, and well worth tracking down (and will likely be explored more in depth as time and space permit...).

Man of Steel

The last of the original JSAers was one of DC's earliest...Superman.  Starting with Action Comics #1 (June, 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) wherein Kal-L was rocketed from his doomed planet to a small Midwestern farm, where he grew up possessing powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, such as being more powerful than a locomotive and being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and, disguised as Clark Kent, worked for a great Metropolitan newspaper...and the attentions of female reporter Lois Lane.  Superman's incredible popularity let him to getting his own title in the Summer of 1939, as well as being a main feature of both issues  New York World's Fair Comics as well as World's Best Comics #2, and World's Finest Comics.

Superman's Golden Age got better defined with Action Comics #484, when he married Lois Lane.  The running adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Superman also had a few visits from members of the Justice Society, like Batman, Green Lantern and Johnny Thunder during their run in Superman Family, as well as helping to define early Superman traits, like Clark working for the Daily Star and facing a Luthor with red hair, which also happened during the 1970s run of All-Star Comics and the 1980s retro comic, All-Star Squadron!  Sadly, during the Golden Age, Superman didn't interact much with his fellow DC stars...only making two appearances in All-Star Comics as an honorary JSA (All-Star Comics #7 and #36), and the Golden Age Superman's adventures until Action Comics #208, Superman #114 and World's Finest Comics #70 (more or less, with some adventures being those of the Earth-1 Superman, such as his first team-up with Batman in Superman #76).

The Golden Age Superman interacted in quite a few JLA/JSA team-ups, and even was a major player in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and its sequel, Infinite Crisis, proving that even DC's original hero still has more to say today! 

There are still more heroes to come, as the Justice Society added to its ranks over the years as well, with heroes like Johnny Thunder, Dr. Mid-Nite, Starman, Wonder Woman, Wildcat, Mr. Terrific and more!

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