The Justice Society of America, also known as the JSA, was the first superhero team in comics. The DC Comics team was conceived by writer Gardner Fox and editor Sheldon Mayer, making their first appearance in All Star Comics #3 (December 1940). It was considered a great idea since readers could enjoy a story with multiple headliners for only 10¢.
The JSA initially included the stacked lineup of the Flash/Jay Garrick, Green Lantern/Alan Scott, Hawkman/Carter Hall, Doctor Fate/Kent Nelson, Hourman/Rex Tyler, the Spectre/Jim Corrigan, the Sandman/Wesley Dodds, and the Atom/Al Pratt.
Their team was initiated when Adolf Hitler got his hands on the Spear of Longinus, aka the Spear of Destiny, a powerful item which is said to have been the spear that pierced Jesus’ side when he was on the cross. The dictator planned to use the spear’s power to increase his influence and win World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt found out about Hitler’s plan, but since it was 1940 and the US hadn’t entered the war yet, the president decided to recruit superheroes to thwart Hitler.
As this was happening, Doctor Fate had also learned about Hitler’s acquisition of the spear and that the Nazis planned to invade England. Doctor Fate also started gathering heroes for the cause.
The two groups became one team, stopping the Nazi invasion, but not before Hitler could summon Valkyries to kill Roosevelt. In the ensuing battle, the Atom protected the president with his body and was then revived by the Spectre. After winning the battle, FDR suggested that the superheroes join as a permanent team and they became the Justice Society of America.
The team would see a revolving roster that also included Wonder Woman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Starman, Wildcat, Hawkgirl, and Black Canary. The Flash served as the first chairman of the JSA, then Green Lantern held the position, until Hawkman became chairman. Hawkman held the post until the group disbanded in 1951.
Their earliest gatherings involved the team meeting to swap stories, which gave readers the chance to learn more about heroes they may not have already known. Johnny Thunder joined them for their first gathering and became a kind of mascot, joining them for a few adventures and would eventually become a full member. Ma Hunkel, the first Red Tornado, was also part of that first gathering.
They fought many dangerous foes, like the Injustice Society, which included the Wizard, the Thinker, the telepath Brainwave, the immortal Vandal Savage, the time traveler Per Degaton, and the Gambler.
By 1951, paranoia saturated the country and suspicion was cast on anyone who might not promote American values. Per Degaton used his abilities to manipulate the government and call to question whether or not masked superheroes could be a threat to the country. The JSA was called to a meeting with the House of Un-American Activities Committee who demanded that the heroes reveal their identities to prove their patriotism. Knowing that such an act would put themselves and their families in danger, the JSA refused. Their trust in the government broken, the JSA disbanded.
DC revitalized their superhero lineup in the mid-1950s, kicking off the Silver Age with a new Flash, new Green Lantern, and others. It was determined that the Silver Age heroes and the Justice League existed in a universe separate from that of the Golden Age’s JSA. The two universes met in “Flash of Two Worlds” and a Justice League of America crossover in ’63.
The JSA would return again after Crisis on Infinite Earths, no longer from Earth-2, but rather from an earlier time on Earth-1. More recently, a multigenerational version of the JSA has included originals like Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, but also Star Girl/Courtney Whitmore and the new Doctor Fate/Hector Hall.
Off the page, the JSA has appeared in multiple DC shows and a few movies. Members have appeared in the Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated shows. In live-action, they were featured in episodes of Smallville and Legends of Tomorrow, but most prominently, they appear in Stargirl, which focuses on Courtney Whitmore as she builds a new JSA with her schoolmates.