SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Justice League #1 by Scott Snyder, Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, Tomeu Morey and Tom Napolitano, on sale now.
The Justice League of America represents the very best of the best in the DC Universe, but they weren’t there first. The heroes of the Justice Society of America predate the Justice League by nearly twenty years and have been enduring icons for nearly eighty.
They’ve been missing from the DCU for quite some time now, but all signs indicate that they're coming back in the very near future. Hints in titles such as The Flash and Doomsday Clock point to a larger mystery surrounding the Justice Society of America, but a small tease in this week’s Justice League #1 may have given us a hint as to what happened to them.
It seems the Justice Society gets taken off the board every few decades when the powers that be decide that people don’t want to read about older superheroes. The team first vanished during the lull in superhero popularity following World War II, but the Golden Age Flash’s appearance in the iconic “Flash of Two Worlds” story kickstarted the return of the entire Justice Society of America. Perhaps more importantly, it established the DC Multiverse, with the JLA existing on Earth 1 while the JSA lived on Earth 2.
For a time, the Earth 2 heroes were popular enough to have their own line of comics, including All-Star Squadron which followed the World War II adventures of the Golden Age heroes and Infinity Inc, which starred the next generation of heroes such as Jade, Fury and Silver Scarab. Crisis on Infinite Earths did away with the multiverse as a concept, and the history of Earth 2 was merged with four other Earths. It wasn’t long until the Justice Society was shuffled off away again, sacrificing themselves by entering a limbo dimension to fight a never-ending battle.
The Justice Society were rescued from that limbo by the time-traveling Waverider, but the events of DC's Zero Hour event saw many of the original members die and the rest retired to let the younger generation lead the way. A revival of the JSA followed years later as the elder-statesemen oversaw the development of legacy heroes such as Mr. Terrific, Doctor Mid-Nite and Sand. The new JSA combined the original Infinity Inc idea with fan-favorite characters like Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Ted Grant and was incredibly popular, running for over a decade across numerous volumes and titles.
Then Flashpoint happened, rewriting DC's continuity, and the Justice Society of America was once again erased from the history of the DC Universe.
The New 52 launched with the idea that superheroes have only existed for five years, with Action Comics and the core Justice League title showing those early days of the DCU. Once again, the characters of the Justice Society lived on Earth-2, but it was a different Earth-2, where the JSA heroes were re-imagined as younger characters with different origins and backgrounds. Jay Garrick was granted his speed by the dying Greek god Mercury, while Alan Scott was an out gay man whose powers were linked to spirit of the Earth itself.
Eventually, the Earth-2 characters were phased into the background, as DC's publishing line focused more on a new Superman and Batman, and started to show signs that the history of the DC Universe was a lot grander than we were led to believe by The New 52.