"During the days of World War II, a group of costumed mystery men gathered together to form the first and greatest super-team of all time."
Once upon a time, comics had no such thing as continuity. Yes, read that sentence again. All those comics on the stands? They didn't intersect with one another. They were being read by Depression-era
kids, who weren't going to write to the editor and complain about how the current issue of The Flash
was at odds with a story written three years before. There were no message boards.
And then something wonderful happened.
The comic book All-Star Comics
, in 1940, was introduced as a standard anthology title featuring characters from other anthologies. However in the third issue (Winter, 1940), writer Gardner Fox introduced the Justice Society of America, teaming up the characters. Because it was mostly for less-used characters, any character who got his own series would have minimal appearances, so Flash
and Green Lantern
left when they got solo comics, Superman
rarely appeared, and Wonder Woman
was the JSA's secretary
and didn't go on missions until late in the Golden Age All-Star
run. The team had a roster that changed from time to time, with character leaving the team and others replacing them, until finally the lineup stabilized for the last two years of the book's run. The comic was canceled with issue #57 (February-March, 1951) at the end of The Golden Age of Comic Books
, with All-Star Western
continuing the numbering.
Over a decade later, superheroes were on the rise again and The Flash
(the Silver Age
Flash, a totally different guy than the one in World War II
) discovered another world inhabited by the older Golden Age
characters. Continuity had been invented by this point, so the explanation was, "All those JSA stories took place on Earth-2
, which has its own version of Superman, and everything from, uh, circa-1955
on is from Earth-1, which has the Justice League of America
. Superman versus aliens? That was Earth-1. Superman versus Nazis
? Earth-2." Thus, every summer, the JLA and the JSA would team up
, in some of the few multi-part storylines of The Silver Age of Comic Books
. These were often titled "Crisis on Earth-Something", and involved the two teams responding to multidimensional disasters.
The JSA's own series was briefly revived in the 1970s
, with All-Star Comics
returning with issue #58 (February 1976). Earth-2 was treated as having existed in real time, and all the characters had aged. New characters Huntress
and Power Girl
were introduced as younger superheroes, related to the early group. The series lasted to #74, and included the origin of the Justice Society (told in a special, not in the series itself). The comic was then canceled in the "DC Implosion"
of 1978, and its six remaining stories were published in Adventure Comics
; the last issue was #466 (December 1979).
The next JSA-associated series was All-Star Squadron
, which started in 1981 and took place during the 1940s
in the JSA's prime. It included all of DC's characters from that time period, focusing less on the Justice Society proper, and was followed by the post-Crisis Young All-Stars
. Meanwhile, "modern" Earth-Two stories featuring the children and friends of the JSA, called Infinity, Inc.
, came into being, and lasted till the early 1990s
The Crisis on Infinite Earths
left the JSA relatively untouched, but DC Editorial wanted
to get rid of the JSA. So, in the best tradition of the Ass Pull
: "Suddenly, the JSA were attacked by a spell cast by Hitler
in the last days of World War II
, which summoned the demons of Ragnarok
to destroy the world
. The JSA had no choice but to create a hole in time and space
, and all go through the hole
to fight demons." The JSA were caught up in a time loop fighting demons from 1986 to 1992, when they were released during the Armageddon:Inferno
crossover. They had a flashback miniseries in 1991 and a short series in 1992 that was cancelled even before its first issue by more Executive Meddling
The Crisis Crossover Zero Hour brutally killed off
members Doctor Fate, Doctor Mid-Nite, Hourman, and the Atom (an act meant to both get rid of "embarrassing" older heroes and create some epic deaths for the big story
), and wrote out Carter and Shiera Hall, the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl by merging them with the Silver Age Hawkman, Katar Hol. The second revival, simply entitled "JSA", brought the team back together with numerous new members, resurrected
Hourman (who retired and entrusted the mantle to his son) and the Carter Hall version of Hawkman, and eventually fizzled after 87 issues and yet another Crisis Crossover
. It was initially written by James Robinson (and included his Starman
in the lineup) and David Goyer. Robinson was later replaced by Geoff Johns
, whose run on the book is generally considered the team's peak and is regarded as one of his best works to this day.
The last series before the 2011 reboot, once again titled "Justice Society of America", attempted to take the best of all previous incarnations
with the young-meets-old theme, Nazi supervillans
, and a return to universe-hopping adventure
. There was even a second ongoing, JSA Classified
, which turns the Character Focus
to individual members on their team.
The JSA, therefore, has basically become a team of veterans and mentors for other heroes, as well as the starting point for many heroes in training. This gives the team excellent dynamics: young vs. old, cynical vs. idealist, etc. While its heroes are not as popular as those who form the Justice League, they are respected and admired by all proper heroes in The DCU
as pioneers of the principles they stand for
. After adding Loads and Loads of Characters
in the form of other Legacy Heroes
, Johns finalized his decade-long run on the book.
Following his departure, the writing chores were taken over by Fables
scribes Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges, who split the massive roster in two. JSA All-Stars
featured Sturges' team, led by Power Girl and Magog
, while the original title held all of the important Golden Age characters. Sales suffered an expected drop-off with Johns leaving, but the book remained a major part of the DC Universe.
James Robinson wrote several issues during a crossover with the Justice League, and then Mark Guggenheim became the regular writer. Fan reaction to his take on the characters was mixed, to say the least. His run ended when the New 52
relaunch took place and the title was cancelled.
In the New 52
, There is no Justice Society, technically. Many of the major Golden Age characters have been rebooted and re-imagined, and they once again operate on Earth-2, as they did pre-Crisis. However, there is no official team operating under the JSA title or anything else at this point. Time will tell whether a new version of the Justice Society is formed, or whether we've seen the last of that particular team in favor of some modern equivalent.
See Justice Society of America
Tropes used by the Golden Age JSA include:
- Action Girl: Wonder Woman, when she was allowed to go on missions. Black Canary was always an Action Girl. Red Tornado... not so much.
- Advanced Ancient Humans: In All-Star Comics #52, the JSA encounter four kings who are the last of a race of Advanced Ancient Humans that ruled the Earth 100,000 years ago. The kings are Sealed Evil in a Can, but naturally escape their prison and incapacitate the team before heading out to take over the world. In the end, they kill themselves when they're caught in a nuclear explosion of their own making.
- Animal-Themed Superbeing: Hawkman mainly, though Wildcat was briefly a member of the team. As an honorary member who participated in a single adventure, Batman also counts.
- Anthology Comic: All-Star Comics began as an anthology book. Even when the JSA was introduced with issue 3, the book remained essentially an anthology consisting of the framing story in the opening and closing chapters, with the middle chapters linked to that story but drawn by different artists and featuring different characters. Later on the series would move to some longer stories that broke from the anthology format.
- Badass In Charge: Hawkman, once he became the chairman of the JSA in All-Star #8.
- Badass Normal: Since they started out when LEGO Genetics was in the future, and even comic-book science was still in the Lightning Can Do Anything stages, most of the members had some variant of a Charles Atlas Superpower. The Atom, Wildcat, Sandman, Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite all had no superpowers, despite Dr. Mid-Nite's Disability Superpower of being able to see in the dark. All of these characters got by on wits, determination, and a good solid punch to the jaw rather than superpowers. Even Black Canary lacked her sonic scream in the Golden Age and got by on fighting prowess and wits. There are a lot of street level heroes on this team.
- The original roster was The Flash, Green Lantern, Hourman (I'm Batman on drugs!), Sandman, Hawkman (I'm Batman with wings!), Atom (I'm Midget Batman!), the Spectre (I'm Dead Reality Warper Batman!) and Doctor Fate (I'm a Wizard,
- Beneath the Earth: the realm of the Diamond Men, who break out and invade Civic City.
- Blind Justice: Dr. Mid-Nite, whose Disability Superpower is that he is blind, but can still see in total darkness. Hence his "blackout bombs" that blind the bad guys, but allow him to function normally.
- The Bus Came Back: After being gone for several years, both the Flash and the Green Lantern return for a visit in issue 24, and become full time members again in issue 25.
- Butter Face: Way back in the early days of the JSA, Johnny Thunder was thrown back in time and was betrothed to a princess who always wore a veil...
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: What happened to Hourman? Why did he disappear between issues? What about Doctor Fate, the Spectre or Starman? The kids in the 1940s who wondered this were out of luck, because no explanation was offered. It took a retcon applied decades later to explain where these characters went.
- Comedic Hero: Johnny Thunder and the Red Tornado.
- Comic Books Are Real: Possibly. Johnny Thunder is seen in All-Star #3 looking at racks filled with Flash Comics, Adventure Comics, etc., which were the actual comics in which the individual JSA members appeared. It could be that fictionalized versions of the characters' exploits were published in their world, which would make sense given everyone's attempt to maintain a secret identity. Otherwise villains would just pick up the latest issue of All-American and learn all about how Alan Scott was Green Lantern. Both the Red Tornado and Wildcat were inspired by Green Lantern, and both learned about GL through kids who read about him in comics.
- Deadpan Snarker: Johnny Thunder's genie, the Thunderbolt, who never hesitates to gripe about how dumb Johnny is and how he has to do all the work himself.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Wizard's first appearance. He'd been out of touch for years learning his magical powers. When he returned to civilization, he learned of the JSA. He could not conceive of intelligent super-powered people using their powers for good for altruistic reasons, and assumed the heroes were actually running an enormous scam, and he demanded to be cut in.
- Evil Sorcerer: The Wizard (one of the JSA's longest-running villains), and others.
- The Fool: Johnny Thunder.
- Forgot About His Powers: More than once in All-Star Comics, chapters featuring Dr. Fate or Starman or Dr. Mid-Nite show those characters using nothing more than their fists to take on the villain, as opposed to the super-powers which should make such conflicts easy to win.
- History's Crime Wave: The Trope Namer is in All-Star Comics #38 where the Justice Society of America investigate Gotham City murders claimed to be performed by historical villains. Though they turn out to be the disguises of an insane wax museum guard, he succeeds in killing every member in the issue except Wonder Woman, who has to use the purple ray to bring them back to life. The villains are Nero, Goliath, Captain Kidd, Caesare Borgia, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.
- Idiot Hero: Johnny Thunder, a Golden Age doofus who had a genie that had to make his statements come true after he said "cei-u"—and he often prefaced his suggestions to others with "say, you...!" Hilarity Ensues.
- Jekyll & Hyde: In All-Star #20, the JSA are helping industrialist Jason L. Rogers track down a criminal known as "The Monster", a hideous-looking man who follows Rogers around and has cost him his family and his business. It turns out that the Rogers himself turns into "The Monster" and never knew it.
- Joker Jury: All Star Comics #37.
- Jumped at the Call: Every single one of the heroes. There are no reluctant warriors here.
- Land of Faerie: Exists in another dimension apparently, and intersects with Earth every thousand years. Yep, the JSA really have been everywhere.
- Long Runners: With the exception of DC's big three (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman), All-Star was the longest lasting superhero comic of the 1940s. It ran from the first issue in summer 1940 until February 1951. The title became a western after that.
- Knock Out Gas: Wesley Dodds, the Sandman, has no superpowers but uses Knock Out Gas to render his opponents unconcious. Hence the gas mask that he wears to protect himself from the effects.
- Legion of Doom: The Injustice Society of the World was the very second example in comics, consisting of many of the JSA's greatest enemies, including the Wizard, Vandal Savage, Solomon Grundy, and Per Degaton.
- Magical Seventh Son:Johnny Thunder got his powers from being the seventh son of a seventh son, born on the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh month of 1917.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: "Vampires of the Void" features the inhabitants of Jupiter, metallic life forms who come to Earth and actually consume metal as food. They end up taking on the characteristics of the metal they eat, which is how the various JSA members are able to defeat them.
- No Communities Were Harmed: The JSA operate out of Gotham City for a long time, and then in the late 1940s move to "Civic City", which at first appears to be a stand in for Washington DC, given the Atom's comments about it. But then All-Star #54 mentions that all police have an Empire State license plate on their cars, so Civic City must be in New York State. Oddly enough, it has a bottomless lake and a geyser similar to Old Faithful nearby.
- Not That Kind of Doctor: Averted by both Doctor Mid-Nite, and late Doctor Fate as well once Kent Nelson decided to go to medical school and become an actual doctor in his own series, much to the approval of his fiance Inza. He became an intern in a clinic once he graduated, and many of his stories involved mysteries requiring the use of his medical knowledge to solve.
- Omnibus: The entire original All-Star run has been collected in the DC Archives series. It's about the only affordable way to read these stories today, 60-70 years after they were published.
- One-Shot Character: Mr. Terrific, Terry Sloane, only appeared in one All-Star issue (#24) despite often being associated with the JSA in modern retrospectives. Wildcat only appeared in two issues (#24 and #27).
- Superman and Batman are honorary members, but aside from a one-panel cameo early on (and a few mugshots on the roll-call page), they only participate in one full adventure with the team.
- Put on a Bus: During the Golden Age, members were routinely Put on a Bus when their solo series ended, or in the case of the Flash or Green Lantern, Put on a Bus because they got a solo series of their own. Characters would often disappear with no farewell scene. Hourman, Starman, and Doctor Fate are all examples of this.
- The entire team when All-Star comics became a western in 1951.
- Science Is Bad: When Mr. Alpha uses it to commit crimes, it's bad. The guy apparently got his multi-disciplinary degree with the sole goal of becoming a master criminal.
- Sdrawkcab Alias: It once took the JSA an entire issue of All-Star Comics to realise that evil Professor Elba and kindly Professor Able were one and the same. Not exactly their finest moment.
- Sexy Secretary: Well, the team's secretary IS Wonder Woman...
- Shown Their Work: Many, many times. In a story where the JSA members go to different countries in Central and South America to root out Nazis, the chapters will open with facts about each country as part of the opening narration. When the JSA fight metal invaders from Jupiter (go with it), each chapter opens with some facts about a different metal. When the various team members visit different years in a man's life, there's a list of facts about that particular year that open each chapter. There's a very clear attempt by Gardner Fox to add some educational value to these stories.
- The Smurfette Principle: In the original All-Star Comics (predating the Justice League by decades), Wonder Woman was originally the only female character. She didn't go out on missions, but was in fact the team's secretary until around 1948, so JLA Wonder Woman actually came out ahead. That was in the 1940s however, and the reason she didn't take part in storylines was because she had her own book. As a rule the JSA active members were limited to popular characters who didn't support their own title, and even Superman and Batman were limited by it. The JSA did, eventually, get a second female character: Black Canary.
- Step into the Blinding Fight: Dr. Mid-Nite used blackout bombs to get a drop on fighting his foes.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: A Nazi scientist once came up with a plan to capture the JSA and shoot them off into space in rockets so they'd be no further problem to Hitler. Keep in mind this is the early 1940s. And yet, Germany had fully functional rockets that got the various JSA members to different planets in the solar system (and back) within what appears to be only days at most.
- Super Team: The very first one in comics.
- Time Master: JSA enemy Per Degaton, who can manipulate time to the point where he still has access to high tech weapons, even though he's altered history so that those things never developed, leaving the rest of the world in a much less advanced state.
- To Know Him, I Must Become Him: In order to help a friend of Carter Hall understand why the US is fighting the Germans, the team take him on a guided tour of German history, with Carter's friend taking the role of various Germans in each time period. This story is probably one of the most blatant examples of anti-German propoganda in All-Star's original run, depicting the Germans as a continually warlike group of people who fight for any or no reason at all.
- Two Girls to a Team: For the longest time, the only woman on the JSA was Wonder Woman, and she wasn't allowed (by her creator) to participate in any major way. In the later years of the 1940s, both Wonder Woman and Black Canary were active members of the JSA, making the ratio 5 men and 2 women.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Hawkman, every issue, since his design incorporates straps to hold his wings rather than a shirt.
- War In Asia And The Pacific: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, every active member (except the Spectre) join the military to go fight the Japanese. They all end up fighting in the Pacific, or off the west coast, repelling (fictional) Japanese incursions. Even Wonder Woman gets a full adventure, even though she's not an official member at this point.
Tropes used by the Silver and Bronze Age JSA include:
- The Bus Came Back: All-Star comics and the JSA made their last appearance in issue 57, 1951. The team returned as guest stars in the JLA book, and then finally All-Star itself was revived with issue 58 in 1976. That bus was gone for 25 years!
- Comic-Book Time: Doesn't exist for the Earth 2 characters. Just to pick a few examples, Dick Grayson is in his 40s and is the US ambassador to South Africa. Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman and is Gotham police commissioner. Most of the superheroes are in their 50s, at least during the revived All-Star series. Earth 1 may be in the eternal present, but time marches on for pre-Crisis Earth 2.
- Heroes Unlimited: All-Star Squadron was basically this for the team, set in the 1940s.
- Lethally Expensive: In DC Special #29, the origin of the Justice Society of America, a British agent tells the President: "We have received information—very reliable information, obtained at the cost of many lives—and it is now clear that Hitler plans to invade England—within weeks!"
- The Load: Johnny Thunder in the silver age, modern comics have managed to avert this by making him a hero in his own right.
- Put on a Bus: The team was Put on a Bus following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, when they decided to disband after the merging of the Earths but were called to alter the outcome of the Norse gods' Ragnarok in order to prevent Adolf Hitler from retroactively destroying the universe in 1945, which caused the team to remain trapped in a never-ending fight cycle until several years later in Armageddon: Inferno.
- Straw Feminist: Power Girl in the 70s All-Star revival series.
Tropes used by the Modern Age JSA include:
- Aborted Arc: This is a bit subjective, but Johns and Goyer were clearly planning a major dust-up between the Department of Extranormal Affairs and the JSA. The Black Reign arc probably overtook it. Also, there's the business with the Council, which again was overtaken by Black Reign when Black Adam slaughtered them off-panel to court the support of Nemesis.
- All Love Is Unrequited: An interesting case. Hawkgirl kissed Sand, but mainly to go against the ide that she has to end up with Hawkman, who came back to lfie and jsut assumes that he'll have Kendra. Sand later pulls a Heroic Sacrifice, and when he's found, he says he wanted Kendra to be more than a friend.
- Animal-Themed Superbeing: Both Wildcats , Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
- Apron Matron: Red Tornado.
- The Atoner: Black Adam, a former super-villain. Later reverted to form. Currently Atom-Smasher, who followed Adam in his descent back into villainy, is filling this role.
- Author Filibuster: In issue 50, Jay Garrick is being interviewed prior to being sworn in as mayor. One of the questions involves the way in which the JSA has abandoned the whole "legacy" concept, where the younger generation is trained by the older generation, despite the fact that this is not something that's really happened yet in the actual storylines. Jay's response of "I see no reason that JSA membership should be restricted to a certain pedigree" could easily be read as author Marc Guggenheim responding to reader complaints. It certainly breaks the fourth wall.
- Badass Normal: Currently, this role is filled by Mister Terrific, the third-smartest man in the world (and therefore smart enough to know that "Working Out = Good"), Hawkman (who graduated to Conan the Barbarian with wings), and Wildcat, advertised as the man who taught self-defense classes to the JLA.
- Bad Future: Involving Those Wacky Nazis of course.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The Thy Kingdom Come storyline had Doctor Mid-Nite regain his eyesight at the cost of being able to diagnosis medical conditions at a glance, Starman regained his sanity when he needed to be crazy, Power Girl learned the hard way that the Infinite Crisis had caused her to be replaced with a double on Earth 2, and Damage's face was fixed and he became increasingly vain. Luckily because Status Quo Is God most of those issues were resolved.
- Big Bad: Mordru in the first half of the JSA series, and Black Adam in the second.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Most of the inner turmoil in the JSA was caused by the original Atom, Al Pratt's kids. Atom-Smasher was Pratt's godchild, and more recently, Pratt's son Damage (it's a complicated story) betrayed the team by siding with Gog.
- Clothing Damage: Power Girl frequently suffers this, being Ms. Fanservice. Atom Smasher's mask is also unusually fragile, often tearing from a flung bottle or somesuch object.
- Comic-Book Time: The JSA characters have an odd relationship with this trope. The surviving Golden Age characters generally avert it, having aged in real time despite being well-preserved for their age. The younger members of the modern day team firmly adhere to Comic-Book Time, meaning aging characters exist right alongside unaging characters. The book avoided the problems this caused by generally ignoring it.
- Cool Big Sis: Kendra to Courtney.
- Cool Old Guy: What, you can't see it? The original members pantsed Hitler, for crying out loud. The whole flying, bend-steel-with-their-bare-hands thing is a bonus.
- Cool Ship: Following the return of their ace pilot Atom Smasher, the All-Stars gained one in the form of the appropriately named Star Eagle.
- The android Hourman's time-ship
- Darker and Edgier: Mark Guggenheim's run had all the hallmarks of this, with plenty of violence, destruction, and the normally polite and in-control Jay Garrick (who used to tell Jakeem Thunder to “watch his language”) referring to the villain as a "bastard".
- Demoted to Extra: Reading this series can be a bit jarring if you're a fan of Sandman Mystery Theatre. After the Golden Age Sandman spent years as the hero of his own cult classic series, he dies in the first issue of JSA.
- Deadpan Snarker: Power Girl on occasion.
- Depending on the Artist: Cyclone's costume is pretty hard to draw, so various artists raise or lower the slit on the side (or remove it entirely), alter the amount of strips on the leggings, change the size or colour of her emblem, and change how baggy or large the overhanging pouch is. Even her hair is subject to this, either having long bangs, or none at all.
- Quite common for some other members of the team. Power Girl's costume is explained in-universe as having multiple variations after years of varying Boob-Window-sizes, and Stargirl is often shown looking more or less young and busty.
- Divergent Character Evolution: Even though the Justice Society came first and the Justice League of America was just a Silver Age update of the Justice Society, because the Justice League was more popular, it was decided that the Justice Society needed to find a new core concept to differentiate it from the Justice League. Several different ideas were tried such as being an Alternate Universe equivalent to the Justice League, being a group of middle-aged superheroes, being a group of senior citizen superheroes, until finally, they found a concept that worked sales-wise: a multigenerational family of superheroes training the next generation.
- This concept behind the team was explicitly abandoned by Marc Guggenheim.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me! Damage is quite belligerent about his scarred face.
- Elseworld: There have been two notable JSA stories published under the Elseworlds imprint...
- In The Golden Age, America's mystery men, including the JSA, return home after World War II and find themselves obsolete, unable to go back to catching bank robbers after spending years fighting Those Wacky Nazis. Unfortunately for everyone, though, the Nazi menace isn't quite finished...
- In The Liberty Files, the Golden Age superheroes are reinvented as super-spies who fight arms dealers, Nazis, and aliens in the '30s through the '50s.
- Energy Being: Although he was unaware of this at first, Alan Scott's body is now composed entirely of the green energy he's channeled through his ring for 70 years.
- Expy: When the teen supervillain Kid Karnevil attempted to infiltrate the Justice Society Of America, he did so by posing as a patriotic superhero named the All-American Kid. All-American Kid's costume and backstory were extremely similar to those of Bucky, the sidekick of Captain America.
- Face-Heel Turn and Heel-Face Turn: Atom Smasher does both over the course of the series, quitting the team for glad-handling super-villains and going easy on them (he'd murdered a villain to save his mother's life), then asking to rejoin them after realizing the life of a killer wasn't for him.
- Fanservice: Power Girl's huge bustline makes her a recurring subject of "focus on bustline while she's flying towards us" angled shots, and she often suffers Clothing Damage. Unusually, however, the entire rest of the female cast tends to be either modestly-endowed (the three teenage characters) and/or full-clothed without even the form-fitting wardrobe normal for comics (Cyclone and Liberty Belle).
- Flanderization: Hourman was initially an action-loving hero with many aspects, who took major issue with Atom Smasher's betrayal, and had feelings for Jesse Chambers. Fast-forward one year, and now his entire personality seems based around fawning over his wife Jesse, or screaming at Atom Smasher for betraying the team. Thanks to Loads and Loads of Characters, his few appearances in the book can only consist of just that.
- Forced Prize Fight: Roulette's arena.
- Genki Girl: Cyclone, possibly the only example in DC comics. Generally just a hyperactive, over-talkative motor-mouth who ends up with her mouth finally covered by another character at least twice.
- Girls' Night Out Episode
- The Gambler: Roulette
- Handwraps of Awesome: Hawkgirl, except in her case they go halfway up her arms to hide the cuts on her wrists.
- Heroes Unlimited: The final pre-New 52 JSA run went this route, adding in a ton of new heroes in addition to bringing back all of the teen JSA members who had left to join the ill-fated All-Stars title.
- Heroic Sacrifice: This one doesn't get used as often, but we've seen a few. Wesley Dodds committed suicide because his long-time girlfriend Dianne had died the year before, and because he knew that with the knowledge he had obtained, he was as good as dead anyway. Worse than dead, if Mordru's threats to him carried any weight. Before the end, he sent a warning to his old teammates about Mordru.
- And Mister America, after his entire family was murdered. He beats up the killer, stakes out the mastermind, loses (hard), and then runs from the Boston dockyards to Battery Park with an arrow in his lungs, jumps through a skylight and lands back first on the JSA's round table. His final words? "I can't let justice die."
- Holier Than Thou and Hollywood Atheist: Both averted with Doctor Mid-Nite, a devout Catholic, and Mister Terrific, a staunch atheist, who are both heroically upstanding and BFFs. Score one for tolerance!
- Humanoid Abomination: Johnny Sorrow and the King of Tears (which would make a great name for a rock duo, but I digress).
- I Will Wait for You: Stargirl promises this to Atom Smasher during an interview with a reporter, as he goes away to prison for his war crimes. "No matter how long it takes".
- Jerk Ass: Hawkman turned to this after a while, being grouchy and yelling at the younger members, then demanding leadership of the team during "Black Reign". Magog completely took this role later, suddenly developing an asshole streak a mile wide. He's an order-barking, gruff, grim, "killing the bad guys is OK" type who disrespects the entire team in his own inner monologues.
- Legacy Character: The raison d'etre for the modern team.
- Let's Get Dangerous: When your team is composed of 90-year-old superheroes, backed up by the teen heroes too lippy for the Teen Titans, you're going to use this trope a lot.
- An example: In the first issue of the current series, we are introduced to Mister America, a legacy hero whose gear consists of nothing but a Domino Mask, a cape, and a silly little whip (and clothing!). A Golden Age villain tries to destroy his legacy by killing his family. When he finds out, he strangles the assassin with the silly little whip... which suddenly no longer looks silly.
- An even better example: The JSA got side-swiped by an evil wizard, who stole two characters' superpowers, brainwashed a third guy, and put two superheroes in the hospital. Thus, the team that eventually took him down consisted of an octogenarian super-speedster, three people with the power of flight (not fast or high, either—just flight), a gang of college students taking orders from a recruitment poster, a guy whose powers were related to drug abuse, two superpowered teenage girls, a boy recovering from major surgery, a boxer in a catsuit, a mechanic in homemade Powered Armor, and a cowboy on a motorcycle.
- OK, and Captain Marvel helped some too.
- And don't forget that two of the team's strongest members (Black Adam and Atom Smasher) had just undergone Face Heel Turns and left the moment before the wizard arrived.
- The Load: The Golden Age Red Tornado was part this, with a heaping dollop of comic relief. She was tough enough to at least hold her own in a fight against non-super-powered thugs, though.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Membership includes all the Golden Age heroes, and all their descendants, and all their Sidekicks, and all their sidekicks' descendants... and that's not even getting into all the reserve members.
- This got more and more derided by fans, who were practically begging the new writing team to drop the roster by several characters by the time Johns left the book. Of course, the new writers promised to not only keep most of the team around, but add one new character each.
- The team split with JSA All-Stars sought to avert this, but each team still had one new character on it, with a standard plus-size team roster still fighting for space. Once All-Stars was cancelled, the cast of that series (minus Damage, who was killed during Blackest Night, and Power Girl, who left to join the new JLI) rejoined the JSA proper.
- Locking Mordru in the Rock of Eternity
- Mama Bear: Power Girl starts to become this to Stargirl sometimes, once absolutely snapping at Captain Marvel for butting-in on their conversation about Atom Smasher's potential defection, coldly telling him "Whatever it is, Big Red. I think you better save it."
- Married In The Future: In the final issue of the Extant saga, the narration is provided by a future Stargirl who implies she is married to Atom Smasher.
- More Hero Than Thou: The Hourmen fought over who got to die to produce a Stable Time Loop.
- Never Found the Body: Alan Scott in the final issue of Guggenheim's run. A funeral was held and Jay seemed to think he was dead, but since the issue even states outright that no body was found, is anyone buying it? Thanks to the new 52 rebooting everything, that story effectively served as the final one for the original Justice Society of America.
- The Night That Never Ends: Obsidian and Ian Karkull attempted to do this to the Earth in one arc.
- Not That Kind of Doctor: Hector Hall, the modern day Doctor Fate for most of the JSA series. Averted by the third Doctor Mid-Nite, who actually is a medical doctor, to the surprise of other heroes.
- Outdated Outfit: An accusation sometimes leveled at the Golden Age heroes who still wear costumes designed in the 1940s, particularly Alan Scott. A lot of fans consider the dated outfits part of the charm of these characters.
- Out of Focus: Happens a lot considering there's so many members of the team. Dr. Fate and Jakeem Thunder would be gone for arcs at a time in the previous run, and the current one features about 20-odd characters, about 10 of whom get to say something once an issue, and even fewer who get major parts. This led to some bizarre situations where characters were introduced and then put Out of Focus, not saying or doing anything for another few issues!
- With the team split, Atom Smasher disappeared for over six months real-time, and Jakeem has been mentioned as not being on either team.
- Overprotective Dad: Jay Garrick tends to be this around Stargirl—he confronts the "is sixteen, but in an adult's body" Captain Marvel about his relationship with her, and suggests that a firefighter talking her up in another issue consider the age difference. The whole elder trio later forces Atom Smasher to let Stargirl down once and for all. Courtney does not appreciate any of these moments.
- Justified in-story: Jay's only (adopted) child died very young, and so he sees all of the young heroes on the team as his children, with Courtney as the youngest.
- Passing the Torch: Hourman
- The Power of Love: What Johnny Sorrow was using Stargirl and Atom Smasher's love for- a magic spell to free him from the King of Tears.
- Power Trio
- Put on a Bus: Doctor Fate in the previous run would vanish constantly searching for his wife, both to reduce the ponderous roster and to bring a major powerhouse out of the fight. Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Amazing Man, Magog and others have all done the same over time. Amazing Man has now finally been fully put there to clear out the roster a bit.
- The team was Put on a Bus again when the DC universe rebooted in August 2011, before reappearing in Earth-2 as part of the second wave of new titles. Of course the new JSA seen in that title starts from the beginning and portrays the founders as young men and women, meaning most of the younger legacy heroes (especially those who joined recently) are likely out of luck. Want to see Cyclone, Jade, Obsidian, Atom-Smasher, Damage, Liberty Belle or Hourman III? Too bad, none of them exist any more in the New 52. Stargirl is still around, but has been reinvented entirely since she's no longer tied to any legacies.
- Redemption Equals Death: Atom Smasher, to make good for all the people he'd killed and the dark path his life had taken, offers his own life to the Spectre so that he'll leave a city full of people alone. He dies of a heart attack, but is brought back thanks to magic lightning by his older-brother-figure, Black Adam.
- Retired Badass: All of them.
- Special honors must go to retired non-powered superheroine Abigail "Ma" "The Red Tornado" Hunkel, who despite being in her '80s and considerably overweight, ably fights off supervillains with a frying pan.
- Retcon: the team's various changes inflicted on it after Crisis on Infinite Earths forced the removal of the Earth-2 Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman from the roster retroactively, among other changes.
- There was an instance where Jakeem Thunder, trapped in the spirit world, wished for help and his genie summoned the ghosts of dead JSA members. Amongst them was the Earth-Two Batman, who was a member of the original JSA. It has been established that the Golden Age JSA was still formed in the original Earth-Two. Not to mention Golden Age Wonder Woman and Kal-L...
- The JSA has now been completely removed from the history of DC's main Earth, with it being established that Superman was the first superhero to appear.
- Re Tool: The series went from a pretty standard superhero series with a "Golden Age heroes and legacy characters" theme into a massive line-up of dozens of legacy characters, with the entire point now being to teach the new generation, rather than that being a side goal.
- Rogues Gallery: The Injustice Society of the World, as well as a few other recurring foes like Roulette.
- Rule of Funny: Everything that Roxy says or does seems to be based on what would be funniest and/or most socially inappropriate at the time.
- When the JSA All-Stars were looking for a team name, Judomaster suggested Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman, to which one of her teammates even mention G-Force (Americanized version of the anime).
- In the first storyline for JSA, the team goes up against Mordru and begin shifting into different realities. One of them is a anthropomorphic animal world home to the "Justice Critters". Starman in this world is a fox, making him "Star Fox".
- In one issue, a parallel universe Joker was shown as very old and decrepit, sporting a smiley pin with a splatter of blood- just like the one in Watchmen.
- In another issue of the same arc, there is a crowd of heroes in an outpost at the border of the universe which includes Owl Man.
- Ship Sinking: Stargirl & Billy Batson (thanks to different editors) and Stargirl & Atom Smasher (thanks to a plot twist that toyed with Stargirl's emotions, and later a Romantic False Lead in Anna Fortune).
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Hourman and Liberty Belle.
- Stalking Is Love: In the first issue of JSA All-Stars, Johnny Sorrow seemed to have this for Stargirl. Eventually, it turned out to be B.S., and he was using her for a magic spell.
- Stripperific: Played straight with Power Girl, but utterly averted by the rest of the female cast. In fact, the JSA may be the least Stripperific team around (the worst you get is Cyclone's long socks- and possible lack of underwear- and Stargirl's bare midriff).
- Suddenly Sexuality: Mocked like all hell. When writer Bill Willingham took over the JSA title, there was a great amount of concern among fans about how this would affect Todd (as Willingham is a Republican). Some fans even feared that Willingham would "cure" Todd's sexuality. In Justice Society of America (Vol. 3)#40, Willingham attempted to address this concern in a humorous way by having the newly restored Obsidian announce that his homosexuality has been cured, only for him to quickly renounce this claim, telling the readers, while breaking the fourth wall for a brief moment, that he was only joking and that he was still gay.
- Super Family Team: Various with the many founding members' families.
- Super Human Trafficking: By Roulette.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: The original Red Tornado, Abigail "Ma" Hunkel, was a hefty housewife with a mean uppercut who dressed up as a male superhero to clean up her neighborhood and keep her kids safe. She's still around as the JSA's museum curator, though she doesn't do the crossdressing bit any longer (except when she plays Santa).
- Take Up My Sword: Mr. America.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: It sure is a good thing that Dr. Mid-Nite, a licensed physician, is on the team, because they seem to be the only team in comics that regularly has somebody suffer a near-fatal injury in every event. Averted with the Re Tool with Loads and Loads of Characters later.
- True Companions: Due to blood ties, legacies, life-long friendships, and the various generation gaps, the JSA is one big family.
- Will They or Won't They?: Atom Smasher and Stargirl appeared to be Like Brother and Sister at first, with him playing the older hero she looked up to. Other stories have shown them as married in the future, and she showed tremendous amounts of grief towards his betrayal and temporary death. Recent comics flat-out state that they're in love with each other, but the elders forced them to call it off. Then they announced their love, but need time apart after a mess with Johnny Sorrow. Just call them "Colossus and Kitty, Version 2.0".
- The Worf Effect: Green Lantern Alan Scott is becoming a regular victim of this. Happened at least once in JSA's run when Blackbriar Thorn stabbed him through the heart and almost killed him. Happened again in two consecutive storylines when the Nazis killed him (sending Jay Garrick into a rage) and again in Marc Guggenheim's first issue as writer when the unknown super-terrorist broke Alan's neck in five seconds flat (sending Jay Garrick into a rage).
- Younger and Hipper: In the New 52, where they are once again the Earth-2 counterpart of the Justice League and their members are the same age as the League's members.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Cyclone's costume features a Grade A variety (high socks, short skirt), but features a slitted skirt/dress that's actually quite long, instead of a regular short skirt.