Before the Justice League of America (JLA) debuted in 1960, DC’s Justice Society of America (JSA) was its flagship superhero team.
The Justice Society of America first appeared in the 1940s All Star Comics #3 and was the first comic to ever feature a team of multiple superheroes. Created by writer Gardner Fox, the original team consisted of Jay Garrick’s The Flash, Alan Scott’s Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, Hour-Man, Al Pratt’s the Atom, Sandman, the Spectre, and Hawkman. Wonder Woman would occasionally appear on the team starting with All Star Comics #11.
The JSA would lose members as the characters gained their own titles, including Garrick who was soon replaced by Johnny Thunder. This rule is the reason why Batman or Superman never joined the team. Dinah Drake’s Black Canary would be the last new member to join the team before the Justice Society’s adventures were discontinued in 1951 in issue #57.
Most members remained absent from DC’s comics until Jay Garrick returned in 1961’s The Flash #123 “The Flash of Two Worlds” where he teamed up with the current Flash, Barry Allen. Fan reception to Garrick’s return led him to appear in multiple issues after that, with him even referencing his adventures from All Star Comics. This eventually led to the JSA/JLA crossovers “Crisis on Earth-One” and “Crisis on Earth-Two.” Every year afterwards would then feature a similar crossover. Other JSA members would go on to guest star in more comics, such as Al Pratt in The Atom and Alan Scott in Green Lantern. The Spectre was even featured in Showcase where he eventually gained his own solo series in 1967 written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Neal Adams.
The JSA finally returned with their own title in 1976 with All Star Comics #58 written by Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz with art by Ric Estrada, Wally Wood, Keith Giffen, Joe Staton and Bob Layton. The comic ran for 17 issues with the visibly older Justice Society members mentoring a younger set of heroes, including Power Girl. The comic also finally presented an origin for the JSA’s formation. The origin tells that the JSA were recruited by FDR to stop the Nazis after Hitler uncovered the Spear of Longinus.
The JSA were revived a third time with an eight-issue limited series Justice Society of America which paved the way for a monthly series written by Len Strazewski with art by Mike Parobeck. The comic lasted 10 issues before its cancellation with portions of what would have been issues 11 and 12 being published within Justice League Europe #49 and #50. The comic featured the first appearance of Jesse Quick.
Most of the team’s members were wither incapacitated or killed during the events of Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. During the battle between the Justice Society and the villain Extant, the villain removes the energy that is keeping the members young. The Atom, Doctor Mid-Nite and Hour-Man all die immediately, with Doctor Fate dying shortly after the battle ends. Green Lantern loses his ring and becomes Sentinel. Most of the remaining team retires due to the rapid aging. Jay Garrick, Wild Cat and Sentinel began operating as reserve members of Justice League International.
Justice Society was revived as a monthly comic written by David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns titled JSA that ran from 1999 to 2006. The comic mixed the original members with new younger heroes including Dinah Lance’s Black Canary, Jack Knight’s Starman, Atom Smasher, Courtney Whitmore’s Star-Spangled Kid, Mister Terrific and Shazam. Various artists worked on the series, including Stephen Sadowski, Leonard Kirk and Don Kramer. The comic saw Starman pass his mantle onto Whitmore who would rebrand herself as Stargirl.
JSA was followed up by the continuation of Justice Society of America from 2006 to 2011. The comic was written by Geoff Johns (#1-26), Jerry Ordway (#27-28), Bill Willingham and Lilah Sturges (#29-54) with interior art by Dale Eaglesham and cover art by Alex Ross. The new volume of Justice Society of America added Obsidian, Alan Scott’s son, to the team and heavily dealt with their father-son dynamic.
Due to the continuity reboot of the New 52, the JSA changed greatly, with Alan Scott being gay, a new African-American version of Hawkgirl, and a new version of Atom with powers similar to Atom Smasher. The new comic, titled Earth 2 written by James Robinson, followed the JSA protecting Earth 2, which had been invaded by Steppenwolf and the forces of Apokolips. The invasion led to the deaths of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Mister Miracle would later join the team after escaping from Apokolips.
As of DC Rebirth, the classic JSA have returned to main continuity in Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Jorge Jiminenz and Francis Manapul’s Justice League. In the comic, Barry Allen and John Stewart are sent to 1941 where they meet Jay Garrick and Alan Scott and feel that the four of them have a shared history, even though they have no memories of it.
The Justice Society of America have made two live-action appearances. They first appeared in the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow where the team consisted of Hour-Man, Commander Steel, Obsidian, Stargirl, Vixen and Doctor Mid-Nite. A more recent and comic-accurate team appeared in the Stargirl series on DC Universe that consisted of Starman, Doctor Fate, Doctor Mid-Nite, Jay Garrick’s Flash, Alan Scott’s Green Lantern, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Hour-Man, Johnny Thunder, Thunderbolt, Sandman and Wildcat. Many of the JSA’s members have appeared in various animated series, such as Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
If you are interested in reading more about the Justice Society of America, I highly recommend Goyer and Johns’s JSA run. You can buy the first book here.