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Comic Book / All-Star Comics

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The first Super Team meeting
All-Star Comics is a DC Comics book famous for hosting the first ever Super Team, the Justice Society of America. The series ran for 57 issues from 1940-1951, and was then revived in 1976 for another 17 issues.

For the first two issues All-Star Comics functioned as a traditional Anthology Comic with each story unconnected and featuring a specific character, in this case Hawkman, Sandman, the Flash, the Spectre, Hourman, Red, White and Blue, Ultra-Man and Green Lantern. This all changed with the introduction of the Justice Society of America in issue three, following which most of the stories are tied together by the framework of a JSA meeting, even though individual members each get their own tale in which the others rarely feature. These JSA storties are often the only tales in the book with one written two page Hop Harrigan story breaking up some of the individual tales. In issue eight, a story titled Introducing Wonder Woman was the first ever published appearance of the character who would go on to become comics' most iconic superheroine.


  • Advanced Ancient Humans: In #52, the JSA encounter four kings who are the last of a race of advanced 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.
  • Amoral Attorney: Hartford Dormley helps run a couple of rackets, and uses Professor Elba's Insanity Serum to keep them from being uncovered by using it on his associates and clients alike preventing them from giving confessions or talking with authorities.
  • Anthology Comic: Began as a straight anthology comic with a number of unconnected features and their stories, and eventually became a Justice Society comic in issue 3. Even when the JSA was introduced, the book remained an anthology with a framing story about a JSA meeting in the opening and closing chapters, and 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 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, Mister Terrific, Black Canary and Doctor Mid-Nite all had no superpowers, despite Doctor 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. There are a lot of street level heroes on this team, and during this period even Wonder Woman's abilities were meant to be something any human in the 'verse could achieve with training, outside of her immortality while on Paradise Island.
  • Battle Couple: Hawkgirl and Hawkman fight crime together as a couple in the Hawkman stories even though she never joins the society. Their side by side fighting days are brought to a close in issue 11 when they both enlist in the military in their civilian identities.
  • Beneath the Earth: The realm of the Diamond Men, who break out and invade Civic City.
  • Birdcaged: When the JSA travels to the year 2442 the Atom is captured and put in a bird cage as an odd pet due to his small size. He then escapes on the back of an actual bird kept as a pet by the same woman in a cage next to the one he'd been put in.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: While the women of Venus have butterfly-like wings the men look like petite humans.
  • Blow Gun: Hartford Dormley uses a blow gun to inflict his captured partner Sam Brent with Professor Elba's "tonic" in order to prevent him from confessing anything about their racket to the Atom or the Police. The use of a blow gun means there's no noise to give away the cause of Sam's sudden lack of lucidity.
  • 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.
  • Child Eater: Gallifron is a giant ogre who hunts and eats children. The JSA fight him to free an entire sack full of children he's just collected as snacks.
  • 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.
  • Cop Killer: Boss Williams has ordered hits on multiple cops, and is willing to kill them himself if the opportunity arises. He likes to collect their badges and other paraphernalia which he keeps framed in his "personal museum". Unfortunately for him he runs afoul of Detective Corrigan, who is not only already dead but also the incredibly powerful and sadistic Anti-Hero The Spectre.
  • Deadly Dodging: In "Two New Members Win Their Spurs" Doctor Mid-Nite ducks out of the way of Professor Elba's two associates while tossing one of his black-out bombs and they knock themselves out by running head first into each other.
  • Death by Pragmatism: Even though Watkins isn't foolish enough to actually think the hawk Hawkman threatens him with should he try to leave is a match for him his escape attempt still ends up killing him, as a rock slide occurs and buries him alive.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Mister X, the unseen master of the underworld from All-Star #5. He's tired of the JSA putting his gangs out of action, so he puts plans into motion to destroy them once and for all. And despite the fact that the traps all fail, and despite the fact that he's fairly harmless in appearance, the man seems to have known all about the JSA, their identities and their weaknesses. He shows up in Jay Garrick's apartment, has secretly given an underling a ring that cancels out the Spectre's powers, knows who the Sandman's girlfriend is, etc. The JSA never catch him, but he turns himself in since they've shut down all his rackets, declaring that he will go to jail and "live off the state!"
  • Domed Hometown: The city of the year 2442 that Sandman goes to is under a large dome.
  • Double Knockout: Two of Professor Elba's associates knock each other out when Doctor Mid-Nite uses one of his black-out bombs while they're trying to attack him.
  • Driven to Suicide: Some racketeers try to blackmail Preston Nevel into paying them $50,000.00 by threatening to publicize an old conviction and prison sentence he'd long since moved past and which his family and bosses didn't know about. As he couldn't afford the charge and was too ashamed to face the public humiliation or his wife and children being disappointed in him he chose to drive his car off a cliff instead.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference: Queen Desira has blonde hair and very butterfly like wings in her very first appearance, which occurs in issue 13, while in her later appearances in Wonder Woman and Sensation Comics her wings will be depicted as mostly transparent and of a much more fantastical design and her hair pink. She and her people are all also noticeably smaller than Diana, while they're about the same height as her in later appearances.
  • Forgot About His Powers:
    • More than once in All-Star Comics, chapters featuring Doctor Fate, Starman, or Doctor 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.
    • It also happens to the villains: Brain Wave never uses his image-projecting power after his first appearance and later has to use Super Science to achieve the same things, and the Wizard's magic is nowhere in evidence in his two subsequent appearances leading the Injustice Society.
  • Giant Spider: The denizens of Mercury that find Johnny Thunder in issue 13 look like giant spiders with a pair of their legs switched out for tentacles.
  • Immediate Sequel: #3 ends with the Flash (who left for Washington during the Green Lantern's tale) announcing the FBI chief needs to see the entire Justice Society for something important, and everyone promptly leaves for Washington. #4 opens with the group's arrival at the FBI building, where they're sent on a mission to stop ill-intentioned people plotting to bring down America from within.
  • Historical Domain Crossover: In All-Star Comics #38, the Justice Society of America investigates 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, Cesare Borgia, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Professor Elba runs into a dark corridor in order to ambush the pursuing JLA members with a syringe full of his serum, he's then followed by Doctor Mid-Nite—who can see in the dark—and stabs himself with the syringe when Mid-Nite dodges the attack leading directly to his own death.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: In #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 Rogers himself turns into "The Monster" and never knew it.
  • Joker Jury: The Injustice Society of the World subjects the JSA to one of these in All-Star Comics #37.
  • Kind Restraints: The victims of Professor Elba's Insanity Serum are tied up to prevent them from harming themselves and others until Doctor Mid-Nite synthesizes Solution K to cure them of the effects.
  • Land of Faerie: Exists in another dimension apparently, and intersects with Earth every thousand years. The JSA free the inhabitants from the overbearing rule of the Loreli.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Magic Mirror: Queen Loreli has a hand mirror that turns anyone but she who gazes into it to stone.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: In All-Star Comics #5, the JSA spends the entire story hunting for a mysterious crime lord known as 'Mr. X', whose underlings are terrified of him. At the end of the story, Mr. X shows up and politely turns himself in, as the JSA have now smashed his network. He is a completely innocuous milquetoast.
  • Multiple Head Case: Gallifron is a giant two headed ogre who acts as Loreli's most dangerous individual enforcer.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The JSA operate out of Gotham City at first, and then 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 #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.
  • Omnibus: The entire original All-Star run has been restored and collected in twelve volumes as part of the DC Archives series, making it one of the few Golden Age series to be reprinted in its entirety.
  • One-Shot Character:
    • Mr. Terrific, Terry Sloane, only appeared in one All-Star issue (#24) despite being a member associated with the early 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, not including their appearance as background characters with the rest of the JSA in Hop Harrigan stories.
  • Pinned to the Wall: In #37, the Gambler incapacitates the Atom by nailing his cape to the wall with his throwing knives.
  • Public Domain Character: The fairy or fairy tale lands are populated almost entirely by characters from fairy tales, like Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, Hans and Gretel, and Cinderella.
  • 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.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: It once took the JSA an entire issue to realize that evil Professor Elba and kindly Professor Able were one and the same. Not exactly their finest moment.
  • 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.
  • Sky Heist: In #41, the Icicle uses his Cool Airship to carry away a stadium full of people to act as judges for the Injustice Society of America's crime contest.
  • The Smurfette Principle: While Hawkgirl and Red Tornado are associated with the society and show up in several of their stories, Wonder Woman is the only female hero to actually join. Note that this is only true until the late 1940s when Black Canary also joins the JSA.
  • Solar System Neighbors: In issue 13 each member of The Justice Society Of America is knocked out and sent to a different planet in the solar system. All of them encounter intelligent life on their respective planets, with Doctor Mid-Nite lampshading how improbable it is to find life on even one other planet. This occasion is actually when Wonder Woman first met and befriended Queen Desira of the winged women of Venus.
  • 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 JSA was the first example of multiple heroes under a single publisher joining together to form a team.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: In the issue in which Doctor Mid-Nite joins the Justice Society of America the villain orchestrating everything runs into a pitch dark building and the other JSA members stand back to have Mid-Nite run in and fight him, since he can see in the dark.
  • Time Travel: In issue 10 Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Sandman, Atom, Doctor Mid-Nite, Specter, and Johnny Thunder travel forward in time to the year 2442.
  • Tractor Beam: While in the future the Atom ends up pulled in by a tractor beam while he's using the native flying tech, and the people who pull him in decide to try to make him a pet due to his small size.
  • Two Girls to a Team: While there were a number of female heroes associated with the JLA only Wonder Woman and Black Canary were actual members of the Golden Age team.
  • Works Set in World War II: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, every active member (except the Spectre, but including the legally blind Doctor Mid-Nite) 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.
  • Watch Where You're Going!: Doctor Mid-Nite ducks out of the way of Professor Elba's two associates and they knock themselves out by running head first into each other.