by Christopher Stansfield
The Women of the Justice Society
In the nearly sixty years since the Justice Society of America first formed
in the pages of All -Star Comics #3, the JSA has dealt with mysteries that
would baffle even today's scientists. However, there is perhaps no mystery
connected with the JSA's history that is more mysterious than this: Just who
were the members of the Justice Society, anyway?
How Do You Replace an Amazon?
The major problem facing the replacement of Wonder Woman in the JSA was
that, aside from Diana, there really weren't many Golden Age heroines (Black
Canary became a member in 1947, so she obviously was out of the running.)
According to Roy Thomas, "we were tempted to go with Liberty Belle
various reasons, we decided against that approach." Instead, it was
explained that the Justice Society's secretary was none other than Joan Dale,
Quality Comics' Miss America. In some ways, this seemed like an inspired
choice. First of all, Miss America actually first appeared in comics several
months before Wonder Woman did, establishing a historical right to her
position if not one justified by merit. Secondly, the two characters shared
patriotic backgrounds and star -spangled costumes, and finally, both were
Slashing and Byrning
Proving once again that he's never met a continuity he couldn't destroy, author John Byrne has spent the last six issues (#130 -136) of Wonder Woman establishing a second Wonder Woman, or, more accurately, a first. Princess Diana's mother, Hippolyta (who, according to Byrne, prefers the name "Polly"), has assumed her daughter's role. This is hardly ground -breaking - after all, Diana has been replaced before in recent history, and it seems likely that she'll return as Wonder Woman this month. However, the "new" Wonder Woman brought with her dramatic changes to Justice Society continuity. You see, according to Byrne, Themyscira (a.k.a. Paradise Island) exists in all times at once - enabling "Polly" to travel into the 1940's and join the Justice Society! Conveniently, modern -day memories have already been "re -programmed" to remember this paradox, but Byrne's "clever" (or perhaps ego -driven) continuity change leaves more questions than it does answers. After all, Hippolyta is really no more similar to the Golden Age Wonder Woman than Diana was - she still does not, for example, use the Amazon Super -Science that was crucial to numerous JSA stories. And, in the meantime, her presence severely undermines both JSA continuity and the carefully -established origin of Wonder Woman created ten years ago. Basically, things are even more messed up -then they were before!
That's Not All, Folks
As you can see, the publication of Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 caused
its share of continuity holes. But, 13 years later, the creators of the DC
Universe really have no one but themselves to blame. After all, labored or
not, most of the changes wrought by the Crisis have had explanations worked
out. Unfortunately, DC writers seem more interested in causing more problems
than in solving the few that remained. Wonder Woman is only one victim of
this rampant retconning. In a future Retconvention, I'll reveal some more of
the mysteries behind JSA membership and the Golden Age in general. For
example, what was Hawkgirl's role in the Post -Crisis JSA? Who really made up
the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and who founded the All -Star Squadron? And
finally, "whatever happened to Sandy?"
Who Got to Experience the Golden Age?
In "The Women of the Justice Society", I examined an effect of the Crisis and certain DC writers on Golden Age continuity - namely, the numerous patches and "solutions" used to fill the role of the Golden Age Wonder Woman. However, over the years Wonder Woman's membership (or lack thereof) in the world's first super -team has not been the only aspect of Golden Age retroactive continuity that might leave some readers puzzled. Quite a few heroes have hung out with the JSA and its sister teams - the All -Star Squadron, the Freedom Fighters, and the Seven Soldiers of Victory - over the years, and figuring out just who belongs with whom is getting tougher and tougher as writers wedge new stories into old continuity.
Take, for instance, Hawkgirl. During her heyday in the 1940's, Carter Hall's fiancée Shiera Sanders was hardly more than an occasional sidekick. She was by no means a featured character, and she never had an opportunity to hang out with any other heroes, let alone the JSA. In the 80's that all changed, though. First she was added as a prominent member of Roy Thomas' All -Star Squadron book, where she interacted with just about every Golden Age character DC owned, and then, after the Crisis, it was explained that the Hawkwoman of the obviously more-enlightened Justice League of America was none other than the older and wiser Hawkgirl. It seems clear that she was admitted into the reactivated Justice Society at that time, too, because she wound up entering Limbo with the rest of the older mystery men when they were forced to battle until the ostensible "end of time," and then rejoined them during their brief series in `93. What isn't clear, though, is whether she was retroactively added to the Justice Society continuity of the forties. In many, ways, she would probably have been a more logical replacement for Wonder Woman than either Miss America or Fury, but she was never acknowledged as such. Hawkgirl is hardly a mystery of membership, though, when you consider Sandy Belmont.
Where Have You Gone, Golden Boy?
In the late 1940's, in an attempt to "spruce Sandman up", Jack Kirby was
brought in as artist on that strip. Almost immediately Sandman's pulpier
aspects were thrown out, and Kirby turned the gas -masked mystery man into a
purple -and -yellow, less patriotic version of Captain America - complete with
skin -tight costume and kid sidekick. Sandman's own "Bucky," Sandy, the
Golden Boy, was the blond -haired, blue -eyed orphan nephew of Wes Dodds'
long -time girlfriend Dian Belmont. When Dian was
killed, Wes took in Sandy and made him his crime -fighting partner, until the
fatal day when Sandy was accidentally turned into a "silicoid monster" (I'm
not making this up) during an experiment gone wrong. Wes imprisoned the
monster for years before learning that Sandy was completely sane in that
form, and fully aware of everything happening around him. Thankfully, Sandy
was finally transformed back - and had miraculously stayed the same age as he
was when he was first transformed. Even more miraculously, he forgave Wes.
Stretching the Truth
Meanwhile, a team that was retroactive continuity to begin with - the
All -Star Squadron - has also suffered from the foibles of post - post -Crisis
continuity. After losing Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman,
and others to the Crisis, Roy Thomas replaced most of them with brand -new
heroes created to mimic them in powers and attitude. When Fury replaced
Wonder Woman she brought along with her "Iron" Munro (who was faster than a
speeding bullet and could leap tall buildings in a single bound), Neptune
Perkins (a good swimmer, if not King of the Seven Seas), and Flying Fox
(pointy ears and a cape were about the only thing he had in common with his
predecessor, Batman). However, one character who was not replaced was the
one who founded the All -Stars in the first place - Plastic Man!
Scratching the Surface
There are numerous examples of badly damaged continuity other than those mentioned above, of course, and new glitches are added every day. Just figuring out Hawkman would take up two or three Retconventions! For example, the new U.L.T.R.A. Humanite who appeared recently in Legends of the DC Universe seems to invalidate a good chunk of the JSA's recent and ancient history. Unfortunately, the people at DC Comics seem more interested in creating new flaws than they are in "going back". Perhaps they should take a cue from Marvel Comics, which is in the process of releasing a number of titles that fill in gaps of their "ancient history." Either way, its clear that people still have questions about the long gone Golden Age. Why not demand answers? The Golden Age still has plenty of stories left in it.