A particularly memorable Elseworlds Mini Series
by James Robinson
, published by DC Comics
It tells the story of The DCU
's Golden Age
heroes immediately after World War II
, their problems with the rising tide of McCarthyism and government corruption, and a super-powered take-over of the US Government.
The series is told primarily from the viewpoints of Liberty Belle, Manhunter, the original Green Lantern
, and Johnny Quick. The story plays out in a "realistic" fashion, similar to Watchmen
, but not quite as dark.
Most of the Golden Age
heroes have retired for various reasons, and are making new careers for themselves, when an amnesiac Manhunter makes his way back to America from parts unknown. As events unwind, the heroes have to deal with conspiracy, government corruption, and horrific discoveries about the war. In the end, there is a final showdown between pretty much every hero around and Hitler's Brain in a super-powered body.
The series touches on most of the major Golden Age
heroes, and many of the minor ones. Notable absences from the line-up are Superman
, despite both originating in The Golden Age of Comic Books
.The Golden Age
is a What If?
story, but elements of the series have snuck into Canon
anyway, most notably Ted "Starman" Knight's nervous breakdown. It was eventually retitled JSA: The Golden Age
to connect the series to the Justice Society of America
ongoing series of the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s.
Not to be confused with the prose trilogy
by John C. Wright
This work provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name - Daniel Dunbar, aka Dan the Dyna-Mite. Also Tex Thompson, the Americommando.
- Anachronism Stew: Roger Hayden's version of the Psycho-Pirate appears in the story instead of the original Golden Age version, Charley Halstead.
- The Golden Age Black Canary becomes a World War II hero, whereas in the mainstream DC continuity her superhero career didn't start until 1947.
- Big Damn Heroes: Both Green Lantern and Starman attempt this, but both are defeated (Starman in particularly undignified fashion).
- The Big Guy: Green Lantern is explicitly referred to as this by Johnny Quick.
- Broad Strokes: Some Post-Crisis Golden Age history elements became part of some of the character's backstories. Daniel Dunbar's former mentor Thomas N. Thomas (T.N.T) was killed in World War II without any explanation in the story. Also Paula Brooks became the criminal Tigress without any of her prior history established in The Young All-Stars ever mentioned. (In mainstream DC continuity, Paula Brooks' Tigress identity was originally heroic, but a Damaged Soul resurrection caused her to become the criminal Huntress.)
- The Cameo: Loads of familiar and even obscure Golden Age heroes poke their heads in both the splash page beginning and near the end of the story, as the heroes gather in Washington, D.C. for what would become the final showdown.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: The Tigress.
- Compressed Vice: Jonathan Law's alcoholism. He gives it up before he dies at the hands of Dynaman near the end.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Robotman notably loses his humanity in this series after the war ended.
- Defiant to the End: The young man who would become Captain Comet.
- Domestic Abuse: Attempted by Jonathan Law on Libby Lawrence, but Libby puts Jonathan down rather easily.
- Joan Dale shows signs of this after she discovers that Tex Thompson is really the Ultra-Humanite.
- Easy Amnesia - The Manhunter spends much of the series without his memory.
- End of an Age: The ending of The Golden Age.
- Expy: The Tigress costume-wise is an expy for the Golden Age version of Catwoman...although the costume itself is patterned after the modern versions of Catwoman.
- Fastball Special: Hourman and The Atom are looking up at Dynaman, who has been revealed as Hitler. Neither of them can fly, but both are super-strong, so Hourman picks up The Atom and throws him.
- Grand Theft Me - Besides the Ultra-Humanite's brain taking over the Americommando's body, there's also Adolf Hitler's brain taking over Daniel Dunbar's (Dynaman) body.
- Green Lantern Ring - the original Green Lantern, of course.
- Groin Attack: Dynaman gives the future Captain Comet one during the final fight near the end.
- Heel-Face Turn - the villainess Tigress becomes a hero, at least until her lover Lance Gallant (Captain Triumph) is killed fighting Robotman.
- Heroes Unlimited: Given its current title, the All-Star Squadron is again portrayed as Justice Society Unlimited.
- Heroic Sacrifice: During Dynaman's rampage The Sportsmaster, a reformed criminal, dies saving a little girl his daughter's age.
- Lance Gallant dies fighting Robotman without the assistance of the spirit of his brother Michael.
- Hour of Power / Phlebotinum Pills / Super Serum - Hourman's pills, which in the series turn out to be a) addictive and b) losing their effectiveness as Hourman has built up a tolerance.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Lance Gallant after the war wants to have a normal life, but his brother Michael's spirit continues to haunt him in the desire to become Captain Triumph again.
- Alan Scott goes so far as to attempt taking down Sportsmaster without his Green Lantern ring, only to almost get killed in the process.
- I Love Nuclear Power: Most of Dynaman's powers came from being exposed to a controlled nuclear explosion.
- Ironically, since the Atom was already exposed to nuclear radiation, he was rejected as a test subject, because his body would have poisoned Hitler's brain during the transference.
- I Should Write a Book About This: Tarantula's last thought before he was killed by Dynaman.
- It's for a Book: Why Tarantula was in the superhero business in the first place. After his book became successful, though, he found it very hard to follow it up with something else. He got his next inspiration, though a bit too late to do anything with, when he and the other superheroes were fighting Dynaman.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Miss America is about to reveal who Dynaman really is when Robotman kills her.
- Mushroom Samba: Hourman has one during a test run of an "improved" Miraclo pill formula. He flatly denies it in his monologues.
- My God, What Have I Done? - Ted Knight, when his research was used to make the Fat Man and Little Boy bombs.
- Part of why Alan Scott chose to turn his back on being Green Lantern, to avoid the destructive misuse of his power ring.
- Miss America has an entirely innocent one when she discovers she's been sleeping with the Ultra-Humanite.
- The Atom tries to deny it first during the final showdown, but when Dynaman openly reveals he's really Hitler he quickly realizes his error and changes sides.
- Negated Moment of Awesome: When Alan Scott is called before HUAC, he starts to give a heroic speech to the committee about how he won't give in to fear and will stand up to this "witch hunt." Then Dynaman starts wrecking the building...
- Starman's moment of taking down Dynaman with his cosmic rod is instantly negated by Dynaman snapping the thing in two.
- Old Shame: Tex Thompson doesn't want to see Bob Daley anymore, having come to see their time as Mr. America and Fatman as embarrassing (so he says).
- Red Scare: Par for the course in the era it's set in. Alan Scott's Gotham Broadcasting Company came under fire from the government for supposedly harboring Communist sympathizers within the writing staff, with one of the accused (a staff writer) who ended up taking his own life.
- Also the pretext for the creation of Dynaman.
- And ultimately the reason for the Justice Society's disbandment.
- Shout-Out: The plot twist that The Ultra-Humanite had placed Hitler's brain into Dunbar. Johnny Quick lampshades how it sounds like a bad B-movie plot.
- Tickertape Parade: The Americommando gets a ticker tape parade greeting his welcome home as a war hero
- Two Siblings In One: Lance Gallant is tormented by his brother Michael's spirit to become Captain Triumph again after he retired from the superhero business. Lance ultimately tells Michael to go to hell when he sacrifices himself to stop a rampaging Robotman.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: John Chambers reveals the fates of the main characters who survived the Dynaman revelation incident, while also showing the dawn of The Silver Age.
- World War II: and the post-war trauma that the superheroes go through, showing how the war wasn't as cleanly won as the nation thought.
- Writer's Block: Jonathan Law (Tarantula) struggled with both this and alcoholism after the war and his book got published. Eventually things hit rock bottom for him when his paramour Libby Lawrence gets a job as a TV news commentator, that he attempts to vent all his frustrations out on Libby, only to get thrown down by Libby herself.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Al Pratt, The Atom, is among those stunned to learn that the would-be icon Dyna-Man, the former Dan The Dyna-Mite, is not at all who he seems. Pratt, who has never questioned the ever more sinister tone of the movement he's been in, is complimented by Dyna-Man, saying he would have made a perfect Nazi. Note that Pratt was a member of the Justice Society of America and had been actively fighting the Nazis in World War II.