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by Christopher Stansfield

Part I:
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?
The answer is not as simple as it may seem. In their initial appearance, the team was an all -male group, composed of the original Flash, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, The Spectre, Hourman, Green Lantern, Sandman, Atom, and Johnny Thunder, with Superman, Batman, and Robin counted as "honorary members." But, before the series ended (in 1950), the original Wonder Woman and Black Canary had both joined, and Hawkman's partner Hawkgirl had appeared in her husband's solo segments a couple of times. Unfortunately for the Justice Society's sense of identity, however, the Crisis in 1985 changed things.
Without going into unnecessary detail about the Crisis and its effects on DC continuity, it does seem necessary to emphasize that it left the Justice Society minus six of its members, one of whom, Wonder Woman, had played a major role in the team's adventures. Of even more consequence to the Justice Society is what effect the Crisis had on a non -member, Infinity Inc.'s member, Fury, the superhero formerly known as "Wonder Woman's daughter."
Without a Wonder Woman, who had been the JSA's devoted secretary (yes, that enlightened team had employed the Amazon Princess as their secretary)? And without Wonder Woman, where did Fury come from? To fulfill Diana's two roles, an ingenious solution had to be devised.

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…but, for 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 leggy brunettes.
If the editors at DC had thought a little harder, though, they may have noticed the disadvantages associated with Miss America. Namely, her powers and situation bore absolutely no resemblance to Wonder Woman's. Compare the two: Wonder Woman was an Amazon princess with super strength and speed; a magical, truth -detecting lasso; an invisible plane; and tons of pseudo -magical Amazon devices, including telepathic radios and a sphere that recorded all of history. Miss America was a reporter who could "alter the very essence of things, by transmuting one substance into another." Not a lot to go on. And, while it was explained that Joan Dale Trevor had raised Lyta Trevor with her husband (not on Paradise Island, but on Trevor Island), the editors at DC were smart enough to realize that no one would buy Miss America as the Greek -mythology inspired Fury's birth -mother. So, another replacement was called in. That replacement was none other than an all -new "first" Fury, who had been a member of the All -Star Squadron and had eventually given birth to (and given up) Lyta.
A unique factor of these many changes to Justice Society and Golden Age continuity was the fact that none of these "substitutions" were ever acknowledged in comic book form. Though Lyta learned who her mother was in 1988, there has never been any story depicting Miss America alongside the Justice Society. Instead, Miss America was "substituted" in various letter -columns and Who's Who Updates, without ever having the chance to "impose herself" on readers' memories as some other retcons had. Furthermore, the return of the JSA to 90's comic books has also never acknowledged Miss America as a member - even in the JSA's own short lived series in 1992. This has led to confusion to this day, and has led to another, far more devastating retcon.

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?"
But for now, consider asking John Byrne and DC Comics this crucial question: Who were the women of the Justice Society?


Part II:
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.
There doesn't seem to be a lot of confusion regarding Sandy's status in the Justice Society. Even though he occasionally appeared with his partner in All -Star Comics during the Sandman's solo portions of the JSA's adventures (most notably in All -Star #14's "Food For Starving Patriots"), he never fought alongside the team (presumably he had to do homework or perhaps sew new costumes.) However, the post -silicoid Sandy did join the JSA during their exile. Sandy was rescued from Limbo a few years later with the rest of the JSA in Armageddon:Inferno #4, but he hasn't been seen since.
No, the true mystery is not whether Sandy was ever a JSA'er - it whether he ever was, period. According to Sandman Mystery Theater #50, Sandy's first (if not only) appearance was in DD Comics' "Thrill Comics" series, where he was teamed with a tights -wearing Sandman. In fact, commenting on that comic book, Wes actually says, "Can you believe that? Who would actually put a child's life in danger?" This is hardly the sort of statement one would expect from someone who would, indeed put a child's life in danger just a few short years later. Meanwhile, recent issues of Starman have revealed that Dian Belmont never died, so why would Wes have taken in Sandy? Without Sandy, numerous stories of the Golden Age are invalidated, not to mention much of the Post -Kirby Sandman JSA stories.

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!
In All -Star Squadron #1, it was established that the All -Star Squadron came together when F.B.I. agent Plastic Man was sent to find the missing JSA. Years later, in the first official "Post -Crisis" All -Star Squadron, #60, Plastic Man was still counted among the members of the group, even though Superman and his friends had been written out. He was even included in the Post -Crisis Who's Who entry of the group. Could the Plastic Man appearing in JLA every month really be that old? If not, how did FDR ever find the All -Stars?

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.

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