By Bob Reyer
In the nature of full disclosure, I need to tell you that I grew up on Earth-2. No, I’m not insane, but I was, and still am, crazy about the exploits of DC’s Golden Age heroes, the Justice Society of America. It was their appearances in the annual JLA/JSA team-ups that honed my appreciation for, and drove my quest for knowledge about, the history of comics from before my birth.
As I recall, it was right around my 7th birthday (1963!), and I was home sick from school, and my father brought me a stack of comics, one of which was The Flash #137, featuring two Flashes fighting on the cover! “Who’s this guy, Dad?” I asked–his reply “Read it and find out”. It didn’t take long, two pages to be exact, for writer Gardner Fox (who wrote the JSA in the 1940’s) and artist Carmine Infantino to give you all the back-story regarding twin Earths and vibratory rates you would need to enjoy this tale of Vandal Savage imprisoning the Justice Society. What a surprise for a reader unaware of this other team of super-heroes, with apparently years of adventures—and on the last page, when Wonder Woman proposes that the group reconvene—well, it couldn’t happen quickly enough for me.
Two months later, Justice League #21,“Crisis on Earth-1”, hit the stands, behind a gorgeous Mike Sekowsky/Murphy Anderson cover of the JSA appearing in a wisp of smoke as genies from a lamp, and the story—super-villain teams from each world meet and decide to switch foes and Earths, to finally achieve victory, which begins with the capture of both Flashes, Barry Allen & Jay Garrick—even better! A magically imprisoned JLA, using Merlin’s crystal ball, contacts Barry who tells them to summon the JSA; the half-page panel of that first meeting still thrills me after nearly a half-century…and there was still another issue to go to finish the story! I probably re-read that issue ten times waiting for next month’s installment.
Each summer after, for more than 20 years, the JSA and JLA would get together, often encountering other older heroes such as The Seven Soldiers of Victory (JLA #100-102), the Quality Comics line (Doll Man, Phantom Lady) (JLA #107-108) and even Fawcett’s Captain Marvel in JLA #135-137. More self-contained stories would feature the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 (JLA #29-30), the introduction of the adult Robin (JLA #55-56) and the Black Canary moving to Earth-1 in JLA # 73-74.
These cross-overs would eventually lead to a revival of All-Star Comics, the Justice Society’s original home, in 1976. With stories by Gerry Conway (and later Paul Levitz), and art by Wally Wood and Ric Estrada, followed by Keith Giffen and Joe Staton, they would introduce Power Girl in #58 and the Huntress in #69, all while telling entertaining stories of the “elder statesmen” of the DC Universe.
After the “DC Implosion”, All-Star was cancelled, with the already-planned stories going into Adventure Comics #461-466, leading off with a three-parter telling of the death of Batman, and concluding with #466’s “Defeat of the JSA” at the hands of a “Red Scare” witch-hunt demanding their secret identities, which drove them into retirement.
Ultimately, DC would come to feel that all this glorious continuity was too much for readers, particularly new ones, to absorb, leading to “Crisis on Infinite Earths” in 1985, which would destroy the multi-verse concept, hoping for a restart. It seemed rather unnecessary for those of us who had been following right along, and DC’s insistence on continuity restoration and destruction every few years was like salt in a wound.
This Spring, two new books, Earth-Two & World’s Finest (co-starring Huntress and Power Girl, and teased in Huntress #6), will re-start the arguments. It’s not your father’s Earth-2 (or mine), but another re-imagining. Early concept art for the two books is both interesting and distressing, as the pre-requisite modern “darkness” is much in evidence, but I’ll withhold judgment until the books come out.
Thankfully, due to DC’s voluminous reprint program, the “real” Earth-2 will always exist for us to revisit whenever we feel the need to experience the adventures of comic’s first super-team.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
For further info, check out Roy Thomas’ 4-volume “All-Star Companion”, but for the sheer joy of reading:
“All-Star Archives” vol. 1-11 (1940’s JSA)
“Justice Society” vol. 1-2 (TPB’s of 1970’s All-star revival)
“Crisis on Multiple Earths” vol. 1-4 (JLA-JSA team-ups)
“Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-ups” (features the original “Flash of Two Worlds’’ from #123 that starts the whole ball rolling!)
If you’re at all a fan of comics, you owe it to yourself to visit the pleasures of the purer heroics of the Golden and Silver Ages.