The Justice Society of America is just one of many superhero teams in the DC Universe, but more than any other DC Comics team or concept, it represents the Golden Age. It was the original period of American comic books, with the era that gave birth to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and, of course, the JSA. Given that they are synonymous with the period, it is no surprise that they are the stars of a story of the same name.
James Robinson and Paul Smith Golden age is a classic Elseworlds tale of deconstructive proportions. Looking at a seemingly innocent era from a new perspective helped pave the way for DC’s focus on the Justice Society in the years that followed. As the Golden Age came to the big screen a bit with the Justice Society via film black adamhere’s a look at how one of the team’s biggest stories is still worth watching.
The Golden Age remains one of DC’s best Elseworlds stories
The golden age of comics began in 1938 with the publication of action comics #1. It introduced the world to an invulnerable alien in a bright blue and red strongman suit, and the comics industry has been trying to keep chasing after that initial Superman success ever since. Not only would the company that became DC Comics see several heroes go through this era, but Atlas Comics (which would later become rival company Marvel Comics) had its own stable of smashing superheroes, including star-studded Captain America. This period would be dominated not only by superhero comics, but also by horror, romance, and funny animal books. In 1956, however, the era came to an end, as comics fell out of fashion.
Golden age as a book came out in 1994 and was written and drawn by James Robinson and Paul Smith. This book told the story of the now disbanded Justice Society of America; many of whom had retired due to various problems in their own lives. A new group of superheroes is slowly formed by Mr. America, a supposed person who stayed local during World War II. As the older heroes plan to step out of the shadows, a dark conspiracy unfolds within the ranks of America’s superhumans.
Despite the treatment of more classic JSA characters, Golden age is truly a book from the dark ages of comics. Both cynical and taking a more human look at divine characters, comparisons to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon watchmen are easy to do. At the same time, it’s never too dark or gratuitous, but rather succeeds as a more grounded and modern yet still very respectful story about icons from the past.
The Golden Age continues to influence DC Comics
Although billed as an Elseworlds book outside of regular DC continuity, Golden age would reflect equally dark tales kingdom come and Return of the Dark Knight in slowly creeping elements in the mainstream DC Comics canon. James Robinson will write both the current diary star man comic and the risen JSA series a few years later, both of which had strong ties to continuity and the Golden Age as an era. Robinson would introduce elements of his Golden age book in these series, and it continued when writer Geoff Johns took over the JSA Title. A notable element brought was Jack Knight, the original Starman, who participated in the creation of the atomic bomb.
Johns would actually praise the book as the reason he fell in love with Golden Age DC’s forgotten characters. The main heroes pushed into the JSA were the Golden Age equivalents of The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and to some extent Black Canary and the original version of The Atom. Beyond that, other heroes such as Mr. America, Dan the Dyna-Mite, and Johnny Quick have been kept mostly in obscurity, with Robinson’s book helping to cement their importance and legacy.
These classic characters are finally getting a big break thanks to the events of Flash point beyond, which was written by none other than Geoff Johns. Given that DC is heading towards a new reboot, which Johns is likely helping to shape, the overall legacy and presence of Golden Age heroes may be emphasized more than it has been in years. It would certainly follow Johns’ ideas for DC Rebirth, and reverse one of the biggest mistakes of the New 52 era. Of course, this admiration for classic heroes would never have happened without James Robinson and Paul Smith’ Golden age. Always a landmark series, this underrated take on WWII heroes showed that even old characters can shine with new stories.