Tagged: Justice Society of America

Dennis O’Neil: Return With Us Now To Those Thrilling Days…

Justice Society

The Second World War had not yet started, at least not for the United States, when I drifted through a wall and into office space in one of the Manhattan business buildings. Anyone seeing me would assume that I was a man in his thirties, but actually I was less than a year old. Astral reality, as you might know, proceeds via different reality routes than Other reality, particularly as regards time, which would explain everything, if only you could understand it. I should also mention that I’d done a Chronological Slurp, jumped ahead a half century or so and spent a nanosecond – your time, of course – acquiring knowledge I wouldn’t learn for – your time – decades.

jsaI was in a conference room the likes of which were in dozens of New York offices. Long wooden table, chairs, little else. A meeting was in progress. I recognized none of the men present – they were all men – but the guy over near the door might have been a very young Sheldon Mayer and the man at the far end of the table could have been Vin Sullivan. Sullivan, or whoever he was, glanced at me, paused, and returned his gaze to the yellow legal pad in front of him. My guess is, he saw me, immediately repressed the fact that the back of my chair was plainly visible through my body, and maybe thought I was a newcomer who belonged there. After all, this was a new company plying a new product and there were probably strangers continually wandering in and out.

I listened to the editors (for surely that’s what they were) discussing the success of Superman comics and the forthcoming Superman radio program, and the newer Batman, another winner. Then a bald guy asked about All-Star Comics, just that week making a newsstand debut. I gathered from the ensuing conversation that All-Star was a comic book anthology: short stories, each featuring a different hero. The bald guy seemed to think that All-Star’s multi-heroed format had no staying power and was doomed to early extinction. The rest of the group didn’t seem to know what they thought.

“Why not have the heroes all working on the same problem?” I asked everyone. “Fighting the same villain or group of villains. Make it a team effort. Don’t Americans love teams?”

“If they’re the Brooklyn Dodgers,” somebody muttered.

“It’d be a production nightmare,” the bald guy said.

The guy who may have been Sullivan said, “No, we could make it work. Interesting idea.”

That started a fresh dialogue that may have lasted until Christmas.

A few months later, All-Star Comics #3, featured The Justice Society of America, with a bunch of heroes, some of whom appeared in their own comics, gathered together to battle evil. Wonder Woman didn’t join until issue #8, but she was just a girl.

By then, my astral self was long gone. While the editors were still deep in discussion, I drifted away, into the Clutchesphere, where my astral self morphed into a neutrino and joined the cosmic dance.

My other, one-year-old self, wet his diaper.

Ed Catto: Share and Share Alike


JSA ALL Star OrdwayRecently Paramount and Hasbro announced that they’d be creating a “shared cinematic universe” for several of their toy properties, including G.I. Joe, Micronauts, M.A.S.K., ROM and Visionaries. On one hand this is a reaction to the disappointing G.I. Joe movie franchise, but on the other hand it’s another example of the business world learning lessons from Geek Culture. Call it a shared universe, team-up or a crossover – passionate superfans know and understand the power of this narrative tool.

In the early days of comics, two separate (but related) comic companies, All-American Comics and National Comics joined forces in a sort of Nerd-Glasnost to combine several of their second tier characters into one big adventure. The publication All-Star Comics showcased a club of super-heroes called the Justice Society of America. The concept took hold and captured the imaginations of fans with a tenacity that resonates to this day.

world's_finest_1968_#179_27And a few years later National Comics, when faced with wartime paper allocations, decided that the anthology series World’s Finest Comics would combine the two of the strips in each issue. So for a while Batman and the Superman each had their own individual stories in this comic, but then they were combined into a single team-up story. This way, both heroes could adventure together in fewer pages.

The implication was clear: all these wonderful characters exist together in the same world. At first, they would seldom cross paths with one another. But then the Marvel Universe ushered in a new wave of team-ups and face-offs. In that mythology, heroes like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Thor were practically tripping over one another as they worked (primarily) in New York City to fight the latest threats to civilization as we know it.

Of course, there is historical precedent. The mythology we now routinely consider as the definitive King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table story is actually a patchwork quilt of various stories, legends and heroes. Like the Justice Society of America, they were incorporated into one grand narrative.

FF 73Likewise, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe is notable for co-opting the Robin Hood legends. Robin of Locksley is a supporting character in this medieval “Knights in Shining Armor” saga. But like Fonzie in Happy Days, he would outshine and outlast the primary cast to become one of the most enduring characters of all time.

On the silver screen, Universal understood this concept, and routinely teamed up their big monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, in a series of movies. And they even crossed over with the long running Abbott and Costello series in the classics, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Abbott And Costello Meet the Mummy.

The crossover mania continues. As recently as this fall, Fox crossed over characters from two dramas on the same night – Sleepy Hollow and Bones. The DC Universe is quite facile with their interlocking TV mythology, as the Flash, Green Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and even Constantine seem to be comfortable dropping in for occasional visits.

Knights of the Round TableAnd in February, the Superbowl continues this tradition spotlighting a meeting of what used to be the best teams from the American Football League and the National Football League. Then they essentially merged into their own shared universe.

Finally, Hollywood is getting it. The overwhelming success of the interlocking adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (The Avengers, Iron Man, etc.) led the way. It is augmented by ABC and Netflix TV properties like Agent Carter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil and Jessica Jones. We’ll see a DC (movie) Universe that fits together with Batman V. Superman, a giant monster unified mythology with Godzilla vs. King Kong, all sorts of Star Wars movies telling tales from long long ago and far, far away and even a new Universal monster-verse.

Do viewers find it complicated or burdensome? Maybe some do. But so many hard-core and casual fans seem to prefer thoughtful world building. And when the Hollywood folks driving the narratives can remember two important core mandates – tell good stories and treat the audience with respect – it all works beautifully.