It’s news both unexpected and overdue: DC will again publish a Justice Society title.
From what little has been reported of this reboot, part of the upcoming “DC Rebirth,” the team allegedly will still be young, somehow plucked from the timestream from the 1940s – sort of like the original teen X-Men now running around in Marvel’s various X-books. This premise seems like a tactical misfire for the world’s first and greatest super-team, but everything depends on the execution.
Despite being a best-selling and award-winning title during the ’90s and ’00s, from Geoff Johns no less, “Justice Society” once again, fell out of favor with DC management.
But with DC preparing to go all “Justice League” on the big screen and finding great success on TV, somebody somewhere scratched a brain cell and realized the company needs heroes.
Look what Marvel did with an obscure team like “Guardians of the Galaxy.” If I have one complaint about DC’s “New 52” – and I have a notebook full – it’s that the universe seemed so damn small. It didn’t streamline continuity, it dropped it in a mass grave and buried it under two tons of concrete.
From a cold business perspective, the Justice Society are intellectual properties too strong to consign to out-of-print archives. CW’s time-trippy “Legends of Tomorrow,” via DC’s Instagram account, is now teasing appearances from the original Red Tornado, Sandman and Hourman.
There’s no talk of who the writer will be on the relaunch. It’s too much to ask that Johns return to the title that made him a star, and I’m praying we won’t see the likes of Keith Champagne or Bill Willingham again.
So who will the writer be? And knowing DC, will he or she have the grounding to serve the heroes and readers well?
Which got me thinking: If you could give the new writer some research material, what would it be?
Sure, the Golden Age stories are collected in archives. There are all the team-ups in “Justice League of America” that kept the team alive through the ’60s and ’70s. There’s the short-lived ’70s “Super Squad,” and Roy Thomas’ “All-Star Squadron” has to be included in the mix, and I can imagine some calling for “Infinity Inc.” Then there’s the entire epic run of “JSA” and “Justice Society” collected in three outstanding omnibuses in the last year.
Damn, that’s a lot of fine reading.
“Earth 2: Society” isn’t on this list because it isn’t on anyone’s list.
But if I could pick one story – one story that the writer should draw inspiration from – one story that serves as both a mission statement and a launch pad – I know exactly what I would push into that newbie writer’s hands: “The Next Age.”
Appearing originally in “Justice Society of America” Nos. 1-4 in 2007 and written by Johns and illustrated by Dale Eaglesham, the tale finds the Justice Society recruiting a new generation of heroes – and finding one of its oldest, deadliest foes orchestrating the murder of not just heroes but their entire families.
It’s a scary, grisly race as the Fourth Reich – super-powered Neo-Nazis – attack civilians. Women and children first, the sadistic speedster the Baroness gloats.
The mastermind of this scheme: Vandal Savage, who claims the right of obliterating the Justice Society’s bloodlines for himself.
It’s a great story on its own merits, but Johns also uses it to explain why the Justice Society is still needed and still vital, and that message is delivered from the Big Three themselves – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.
The Justice League might be a cosmic strike force, but the Justice Society is a family who help heroes become better heroes.
“The world needs better good guys,” Superman tells them.
Later, Wildcat explains to his son the flaw in Vandal Savage’s murderous rampage. It’s not about blood, it’s about the heroic legacies the Justice Society has enshrined, ones that have been picked up by the likes of Michael Holt, Jakeem Thunder and Courtney Whitmore:
“This team’s an institution that’s never gonna die. ‘Cause no matter how many times someone tries to stamp us out …. someone else will pick up the mask and the name.”
Only the misguided look at the Justice Society and see the past; the Justice Society is the future.
Grab this epic arc on the DC Comics app or in “Justice Society of America: The Next Age.”