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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #102

STATUS: True

Most folks realize that the Justice Guild, from the two-part episode "Legends" from the end of Season 1 of the Justice League, were based upon the Justice Society of America.

The story details (five year old spoilers here!) the Justice League being accidentally transported to a parallel world and discover the Justice Guild of America, comic book characters in the Justice League's world. While battling super villains in this other dimension, they discover that the world is just an elaborate illusion.

However, more interesting is the fact that rather than being analogues to the Justice Society (in the same way that Squadron Supreme are analogues of the Justice League of America), the Justice Guild was originally meant to just plain ol' BE the Justice Society of America (in fact, in the original commercials for the episode, they WERE the Justice Society!!)

Bruce Timm explains all in an interview courtesy of ToonZone:

What happened was this: from the very beginning, we intended our 'JSA crossover' to be a modern-day spin on those old Gardner Fox 'Earth II' stories. We wanted to use the Golden Age JSA, rather than the more recent incarnation, to contrast the 'old school' superheroes with a more contemporary take on the characters. Teaming up our guys with the current JSA just didn't seem to make much sense, somehow-what we'd end up with would be just a mega-sized Justice League, with twice as many heroes to deal with. Now, taking this course with the story meant that we ended up gently (but affectionately!) spoofing the Golden Age guys with their old-fashioned primary-colored costumes, their roll call, their teen mascot, their too-good-to-be-true personalities, etc. The fun in the story comes from seeing how the Justice League react not only to the Golden Age heroes, but also to the wild Golden Age villains and the whole Golden Age-styled world they live in, like an incredibly romanticized version of the late 1940s...all well and good, we thought we were on to something. The script turned out well, exciting, funny, charming, and oddly moving in its own way.

However, DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz had some concerns with the story. He felt the story as written disrespected the JSA and was overall an inappropriate use of the characters. We pleaded our case, but we could clearly see his point, too: the DC guys have spent a lot of time and effort in revitalizing the JSA recently (to the point here it's now one of their most popular titles) we certainly didn't want it to seem as if we were saying the JSA was a joke. No disrespect was intended on our end-quite the opposite! We wanted the story to be a love letter to the original JSA and a bittersweet nod to simpler times. [However], Paul saw our point and quickly agreed to a compromise: we'd change the names and designs just enough to make them not quite the JSA, but still get the point across. They're now the superheroes of 'Earth Two-and-a-half', if you will...kinda similar to what Alan Moore was doing in his Supreme run.

It did give us a few hairy moments, as all this stuff was happening at literally the eleventh hour. [We] were actually on the phone with the legal department, awaiting clearances on our new JGA characters' names, at the voice-recording session. We started recording not knowing what some of the character's names were going to be!

It's funny how things work out: at first, we were still kinda disappointed that we couldn't use the 'real' JSA, but we've come to realize that the story actually works better this way. The 'Green Lantern,' 'Flash,' and 'Black Canary' doppelgangers are fairly close to the originals, but the 'Wildcat' clone is almost a Batman / Wildcat hybrid and the 'Atom' character has quite a bit of classic 'Superman' in him as well. So, in effect, we're not just spoofing / paying homage to the JSA, but also to the Fox-era Silver Age JLA, too...sweet!

So, I know there's been a bit of grumbling about DC Comics not letting us 'do' the JSA, but you won't hear any complaints from us-the folks at DC have been an absolute joy to work with. They've given us an enormous amount of leeway while letting us play with their toys, stepping in only when it looks like we're gonna break 'em.

Nice little bit of information, eh?

By the way, to be fair to Levitz, the JSA-analogues DO come off pretty bad in the episode. The Flash substitute, for one, makes a pretty racist comment towards John Stewart ("You're a credit to your race!"), so I personally think it is pretty reasonable of Levitz to object to the JSA being shown this way.

Thanks to Robin MacNeil, who wanted to know what was the deal with the change. And Robin, your OTHER suggestion will likely be showing up next week or the week after!

Okay, that's it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you'd like to see featured!

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