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Comic Book / The Golden Age

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A particularly memorable Elseworlds Mini Series by James Robinson (of Starman fame), published by DC Comics in 1993.

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.

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, Batman, and Wonder Woman, despite all three originating in The Golden Age of Comic Books.

The Golden Age is nominally a What If? story, but elements of the series have snuck into Canon anyway, most notably Ted "Starman" Knight's nervous breakdown, a major part of Starman's backstory. 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:

  • Adaptational Wimp: Most of the heroes seem far less powerful than they did in the main timeline comics (Johnny Quick is never showing flying or vibrating through solid matter, Captain Comet never uses telekinesis, clairvoyance, psionic energy blasts, or an energy shield, Miss America seems incapable of teleportation or the ability to alter or animate objects, Tex Thompson never uses a magic carpet, etc.). However, since this series was originally meant to be canon, whether they still have those abilities may fall under Schrödinger's Canon.
  • The Alcoholic: Jonathan Law, who struggles with both this and Writer's Block.
  • Alliterative Name: Daniel Dunbar, a.k.a. Dan the Dyna-Mite. Also Tex Thompson, the Americommando, and Libby Lawrence, the Liberty Belle.
  • Always Someone Better: Jay Garrick, the original Flash, is implicitly this to his fellow JSA speedster Johnny Quick, who tacitly admits that Jay was faster. Johnny also notes that Jay is Happily Married (Johnny is recently divorced) and owns a successful company (Johnny works late and lonely hours as a reporter who stays out of the limelight). However, Johnny has a reputation as The Reliable One in the superhero community and does a lot of planning and legwork for the final battle, while Jay only contributes briefly before being Punched Across the Room.
  • 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.
  • Anyone Can Die: Pretty much the case of this series, as a good deal of the Golden Age heroes are killed off by Dynaman with the mind of Adolf Hitler and his partners.
  • An Arm and a Leg: When Robotman kills Miss America, Hourman rips one of his arms off. Unfortunately, it doesn't slow him down.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Ted Knight thinks his early experiments which led to him becoming Starman bathed America in an unknown radiation which helped all those superheroes get their powers. Jonathan Law dismisses this as nonsense.
  • The Atoner: Starman, who has been in an asylum as a result of the guilt he feels about the creation of the atomic bomb and the possibility that he may also be responsible for the creation of superhumans.
  • Attention Whore: In this universe, Johnny Thunder joins Thompson's initiative in the hopes of getting another shot at the limelight.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Atom, for the Justice Society, which is part of the reason he signs up with Dunbar, and why he doesn't know most of the Society's identities.
  • Bed Trick: Miss America has a sexual relationship with Tex Thompson, only to discover later on the real Tex is dead and his body's being used by the Ultra-Humanite. She reacts with horror at the realization she slept with the Ultra-Humanite, most definitely a mix both of the fact he's a monstrous villain and that she thought she was sleeping with a completely different person.
  • Beware the Superman: Dynaman, when he is publicly revealed to be Adolf Hitler in Daniel Dunbar's body.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Tex Thompson and Dynaman who are secretly the Ultra-Humanite and Adolf Hitler.
  • 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.
  • Big Fun: Bob Daley used to call himself Fatman during his days as a crime-fighting sidekick and is a friendly man who is quick to try and help his friends. His joviality only vanishes when he is feeling mistreated by Thompson.
  • Big "NEVER!": Captain Comet when he engages with Dynaman for the last time.
  • Big "NO!": Thunderbolt, when his master Johnny Thunder gives him the command to kill Hourman during the Dynaman revelation incident, becomes so conflicted with that and the mystical rules that prevent him from killing that he just departs from the scene entirely, screaming this.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Dynaman when his true identity is revealed: "ENOUGH!"
  • 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.)
  • Buried in a Pile of Corpses: Hawkman fights his way out from under one in the final battle.
  • 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.
  • Cassandra Truth: Carter Hall's obsession with his past life makes him come across as crazy, but it's true.
  • Cat Girl: The Tigress is a costumed version of one.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Paul Kirk after one of his nightmares.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: The Tigress. She's left it behind, but falls back into it after Lance Gallant's death.
  • C-List Fodder: Some of the victims of Dynaman's rampage, such as Red Bee.
  • Compressed Vice: Jonathan Law's alcoholism. He gives it up before he dies at the hands of Dynaman near the end.
  • Creepy Gas-Station Attendant: The amnesiac superhero Manhunter spends some time pumping gas at an isolated gas station in the middle of the woods during his Fugitive Arc. He sports a constant brooding look and a mild Perma-Stubble and moves to attack anyone who seems to recognize him. He improves considerably after his former comrade Fatman encounters him at the gas station and helps him remember how to use his powers and learn to trust people again.
  • Curse Cut Short: Lance Gallant to the spirit of his brother Michael when he's making a phone call.
    "It's my time and my life, so why don't you fu—... h-hello, Paula, it's Lance... Lance Gallant..."
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Robotman lost his humanity after the war ended. Notably, he was the only person Tex recruited that knew Dynaman's secret and didn't have to be misled into allying with their faction in some way.
  • Dark Secret: Long before Dynaman's identity revelation, it is shown that he has a cocaine addiction and engages in satanic prayers.
  • Dawn of an Era: The end of the series marks the transition into the Silver Age of Comics, with most of the big names of that era starting to show up.
  • Dead All Along: Tex Thompson and Daniel Dunbar. The former since before the story's begun, and the later shortly before the experiment that turns him into Dynaman.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Tarantula is killed by Dynaman/Hitler, allowing Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle to get back together.
  • Defiant to the End: The young man who would become Captain Comet.
  • Destination Defenestration: Manhunter dives out of a window, taking the Ultra-Humanite as Tex Thompson with him.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The opening of Tex Thompson's secret diary takes place around Christmas.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Johnny Chambers considers retying the knot with his ex-wife Libby Lawrence near the end of the story.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • Attempted by Jonathan Law on Libby Lawrence, but given that he's drunk and she's hardly helpless, Libby puts him down rather easily.
    • Joan Dale shows signs of this after she discovers that Tex Thompson is really the Ultra-Humanite.
  • The Dreaded: Parsifal, a power-canceling Nazi super-agent. He was the reason that the government refused to send any mystery men into Axis-controlled territory and made up the story that Hitler had the Ancient Spear of Destiny at his disposal.
  • Driven to Suicide: One of the staff writers at Gotham Broadcasting Company (Alan Scott's company) during the Red Scare.
  • Easy Amnesia: The Manhunter spends much of the series without his memory.
  • Elseworld: While elements of this were incorporated into canon, the story itself is not.
  • End of an Age: The ending of The Golden Age.
  • Explosive Punch: Dynaman and the Human Bomb can both do this.
  • 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.
  • Fan Disservice: Dynaman's bare butt is shown in one panel. However, he's babbling occult nonsense and staring blankly at a creepy shrine, so the scene isn't very sexy.
  • 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.
  • Flying Brick: Dynaman. His powers include invulnerability, flight, superhuman strength, and concussive power blasts from his fists — the last of which was Dyna-Mite's original single ability, but now can be harnessed without the use of the dyna-rings. However, his invulnerability is limited only by his stamina, which is worn down pretty quickly when he gets in a fight with Alan Scott (Green Lantern), whose ring-powered punches made Dynaman lose a few teeth, and sets up his eventual defeat by Liberty Belle impaling him with Starman's broken cosmic rod.
  • Foreshadowing: Paul Kirk's disappearance in the jungle near the end, foreshadowing his later resurrection as the Manhunter in the Bronze Age.
    • Tex Thompson turns away Bob Daley, who served with Tex as his sidekick "Fatman," despite their long history and admonishing to Bob that he regards their time together as an embarrassment. However, Bob is quickly shown to be a dependable and reliable ally. Meanwhile, Tex is happy to let in Johnny Thunder into his operation despite the fact that Johnny was only tolerated due to his mystical guardian. This foreshadows the fact that Tex is not who he claims to be. Why would he want someone around him that knew him intimately and would be able to spot an imposter?
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Pretty much everybody regards Johnny Thunder as a moron and a weirdo whose only claim to fame is his Thunderbolt. Naturally, he ends up on Tex Thompson's team, the only faction desperate enough to take 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.
  • Groin Attack: Dynaman gives the future Captain Comet one during the final fight near the end.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Paula Brooks uses a hairpin from Joan Dale as a lockpick to open Tex Thompson's Secret Diary.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: 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 Don't Pay You to Think: Dynaman to Robotman.
    Robotman: The powder. Lay off. A while.
    Dynaman: Are you telling me what to do?
    Robotman: No. I—
    Dynaman: Well, don't even think about starting.
  • 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 Just Want to Be Special:
    • Daniel Dunbar, in the wake of his partner TNT's death, starts falling behind in life, which is why he falls for Tex Thompson's offer. And gets his brains scooped out.
    • Both Al Pratt and Johnny Thunder are desperate for another shot at fame, which drives them to join Tex Thompson.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Johnny Thunder has a My God, What Have I Done? moment after his refusal to accept the truth about Thompson drives away his genie companion (who Johnny tries to order to kill Hourman). However, in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, after Johnny Quick notes that Atom "learned something from his mistake", the scene cuts to Johnny behaving obnoxiously at a Christmas party, having apparently not learned the same lessons Atom did.
  • Imagination-Based Superpower: The original Green Lantern, of course.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice/In the Back/Shock and Awe: After Green Lantern softens him up, Liberty Belle rams Starman's broken cosmic rod through Dynaman's body, electrocuting him to death.
    • The Shock and Awe is also how Robotman and Lance Gallant meet their fate together.
  • In Spite of a Nail: The fact that Tex Thompson and Dyna-Man are both exposed as Nazis has no real effect on the HUAC, despite their close ties to it, and Senator Joseph McCarthy ends up taking over, as he did in real life.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Lance Gallant and Paula Brooks, when Joan Dale pays them a visit with Tex Thompson's Secret Diary.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Tarantula's last thought before he is 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.
  • Jerkass:
    • Neither Gallant brother is exactly what might be called nice. Lance is short-tempered, while Michael spends his time pestering him and criticising his choice of girlfriend, while at the same time demanding he become Captain Triumph simply so Michael can have sex with hookers.
    • Johnny Thunder becomes this in his "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Miss America is about to reveal who Dynaman really is when Robotman kills her.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Joan Dale (Miss America) and Paula Brooks (Tigress) respectively. Despite being complete opposites; one being a "goody two-shoes" former Captain Patriotic super-heroine and the other being a Femme Fatale ex-super-villain they form a firm friendship and Joan's death at the hands of Robotman drives Paula into a fit of rage that nearly costs her her life.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Sort of. Most of the narrative follows the lesser stars of the Golden Age, such as Johnny Quick, or Tarantula, rather than most of the bigger names, though Alan Scott is a main character throughout.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: James Forrestal's death in the hospital at the hands of Robotman is made to look like a suicide.
  • Meta Origin: Ted Knight believes that he caused this, that his experiments into energy are to blame for the creation of superhumans.
  • Maybe Ever After: Johnny Chambers and Libby Lawrence settle down together again after the Dynaman revelation incident, with Johnny considering re-tying the knot with Libby.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Paula Brooks wears one while Lance Gallant wears a bathrobe when Joan Dale interrupts their moment of intimacy to share with them Tex Thompson's Secret Diary.
  • More Expendable Than You: The heroes plan to expose Tex Thompson in public, knowing that if they do either he, Dynaman or Robotman will try to silence them. Hourman volunteers to be the one who does it, but Miss America beats him to the punch.
  • Mushroom Samba: Hourman has one during a test run of an "improved" Miraclo pill formula. He flatly denies it in his monologues.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Lance Gallant's reaction to his brother Michael's insinuations about Paula Brooks.
  • 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.
    • Johnny Thunder when his Thunderbolt ends up flying away after giving him a command that his ethics wouldn't allow him to obey.
  • 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.
    • Captain Comet joins in the final battle... but has no more luck fighting Dynaman than anyone else.
    • Starman's moment of taking down Dynaman with his cosmic rod is instantly negated by Dynaman snapping the thing in two.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: One of Dynaman's abilities, as one of his creators says that it would take an infinite number of punches to wear him down. During the final fight between Dynaman and the Golden Age heroes, though, it took the ring-powered punches of Alan Scott as Green Lantern to wear him down to the point where he could be impaled with the broken part of Starman's cosmic rod when Liberty Belle stabbed Dynaman In the Back with it.
  • 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 - in fact, the reason he doesn't want Bob around is that Bob knew the real Tex well enough to spot the imposter).
  • Power Nullifier: The Nazi super-agent Parsifal, who could cancel out a superhero's abilities, which was the reason that America became reluctant to send its "mystery men" overseas to deal with the Nazi threat after a few altercations with the super-agent.
  • Radiation-Induced Superpowers:
    • 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.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The first sight of Robotman is his glowing red eyes as he brutalizes some criminals.
  • 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 being 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.
  • Sanity Slippage: Miss America's psyche is clearly broken by the knowledge that she's been sleeping with the Ultra-Humanite.
  • Secret Diary: Tex Thompson has one, which reveals the truth behind himself and Dynaman, which Joan Dale takes to her friends Lance Gallant and Paula Brooks to open up and discover.
  • See You in Hell: Lance Gallant to Michael: "Go to hell and take this big metal bastard with you!"
  • 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.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Super-powered Nazi Parsifal only appears briefly in the opening montage and in a flashback when Manhunter gets his memories back. However, his ability to neutralize superpowers kept the Allied meta-humans out of World War II, shaping a lot of the postwar story. Thompson being credited with killing Parsifal helps kickstart his political career and Manhunter (the real killer of Parsifal) got a case of plot relevant amnesia during his mission to kill Parsifal and other Nazi leaders.
  • Superman Substitute: Dynaman was created as that for the series, given the overall absence of Superman in the story itself. Captain Comet, meanwhile, seems to be filling Superman's place in the Silver Age.
  • Super-Toughness: When the heroes are discussing exposing Dynaman as Hitler, they aren't sure how to go about it because the first person to say it publicly will be killed. They decide to ask Hourman to do it, since he's tough enough to actually take a super-strong punch.
  • Taking You with Me: Lance Gallant does this with Robotman in his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Teeth Flying: Dynaman, when Green Lantern starts laying down the punches.
  • 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.
  • Uncertain Doom: It is hard to tell whether Human Bomb and Doll Man survive the final battle, as they are listed in a montage where Johnny Quick repeatedly laments "many fallen heroes", but Dr. Mid-nite is also shown in that montage and survives. Also, the blows that take them out of the aren't shown.
  • Villain Ball: Tex Thompson/Ultra-Humanite makes the classic villain mistake of writing down everything about himself and his plot in his diary.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Alan Scott as Green Lantern gets felled by a tree that Dynaman hits him with, since his ring's weakness is wood.
  • Wham Line:
    • The revelation that Tex Thompson is really the Ultra-Humanite.
    • Hourman revealing that the Ultra-Humanite took another brain to put into Dynaman's body..."the brain of Adolf Hitler!
  • "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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): JSA The Golden Age