Why DC Is Leaning So Hard into the Justice Society of America

Justice Society of America 1992

The Justice Society of America is DC Comics’ original superhero team, but since the timeline erasing antics of Flashpoint/The New 52, these legacy heroes have gone into limbo. However, this changed in recent years, with the team making an appearance in the Arrowverse and having been brought back into continuity through the legacy restoring DC Rebirth. 

With the team becoming more prominent, WB has decided to capitalize, setting live-action appearances for the Justice Society in DC Universe's Stargirl and the upcoming Black Adam movie. But one question still comes to mind: Given their years of being more or less unused, why is there a sudden push for the legacy team, and what does this mean for DC Comics and Entertainment going forward?

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The existence of the Justice Society by nature adds another layer of legacy and history to DC’s superhero universe. This can be seen in the Arrowverse, Smallville, and DC’s Post-Crisis continuity. Their past provides an added legacy to certain heroes, such as The Atom, Hawkman, and especially the Flash and Green Lantern. Many of the Flash’s multiversal stories would not be nearly as common if not for his interaction with his Justice Society counterpart, Jay Garrick.

DC has always had a much firmer Golden Age connection through these characters than their biggest rival. While Marvel typically glosses over its WW2 era characters beyond Captain America and Namor, DC embraces them. One of the reasons for this is Marvel’s seeming ambivalence to give the Golden Age Human Torch as much publication existence as Johnny Storm, whereas DC has had Jay Garrick coexist with Barry Allen and Wally West for years.

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Another reason for expanding the JSA brand may be in priming some of its less mainstream characters for stardom. While DC may not allow Jay Garrick or Alan Scott to supersede Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, characters with less competitive history, such as Sandman, Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite would be able to circumvent this issue. There’s also the very Justice Society centric legacy of Starman, whose history remembering series by James Robinson was one of the most acclaimed of the 1990s.

By making the JSA more mainstream within comics, TV, and movies, the way is paved for prominent members to be spun off into their own projects. DC could gauge the appeal of certain IPs by seeing how they are received as part of the Justice Society first, and then pushing forward from there.

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Justice League movie full team header

The Justice League is unquestionably DC’s go-to team, both within the comics and in other media. That aura is damaged, however, by the not so positive reception of the 2017 Justice League movie. A poorly done attempt at a course correct, following the controversial elements of the previous DCEU movies, Justice League was a notorious flop. While the universe is certainly recovering with films such as Aquaman and Shazam!, there’s no one clamoring for a Justice League sequel. In fact, the DCEU will be moving in a more solitary direction for its characters. With their biggest team of heroes damaged as an intellectual property, what better way to recuperate than by using the number two DC team? By hinting at these characters in productions such as Black Adam and Stargirl, DC could again stir up interest in the group as a whole before using the team members in other productions of their own. This would also alleviate the issue that many had with the Justice League film, which was rushed in comparison to Marvel’s Avengers.

Justice League threw several unestablished characters together into one film, whereas the heroes in Avengers had previous appearances, if not their own movies. On the other hand, given that the JSA members have historically been more defined within that team than having books of their own, they wouldn’t need full-blown movies like what was expected for the Justice League members, who have almost always had had their own comics. Ironically, the situation very much resembles Marvel Studios’ necessity for leaning into the Avengers characters due to their then lack of owning the film rights to the more popular X-Men.

It remains to be seen if DC pushing the JSA in all mediums will result in the team getting any mainstream success. Hopefully, the result is more like Marvel’s attempts with the Avengers, and less like theirs with the Inhumans.

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