Behind the Scenes with The Justice Society of America – Part 7: The Tranquil Years


And then it all went very quiet.
Black Canary’s elevation into membership was the JSA’s final line-up change in the Forties. True, Wonder Woman ceased to be described as Secretary, but at the same time Hawkman stopped being described as Chairman, though he clearly continued his duties so we mustn’t read too much into Wonder Woman’s status, though she pitched in with everyone through to the end.
Whitney Ellsworth now took over as Editor, on Sheldon Mayer’s resignation, but in practice Julius Schwarz edited, and his best friend and former SF client John Broome wrote, and All-Star continued appearing, without any further dramas.
It’s not that the period was without change. There was a new All-Star logo, as of issue 42, and new costumes for Hawkman and The Atom. After a long series of variously designed hawk-beaked helmets, the Feathered Fury changed to a plain yellow cloth hood, with a red Hawk sigil on the forehead. The Atom abandoned his Charles Atlas-esque outfit for a snazzier blue and yellow affair, topped off by a red head-fin whose shape and design varied from page to page and often panel to panel.
And after issue 45, the practice of featuring every member of the cover was dropped, in favour of featuring three characters only (none of whom was ever The Flash for some reason).
With writer and editor having their background in the SF field, there was an increasing emphasis on alien invasions of one kind or another, how-do-we-top-ourselves? crises. On the other hand, there were a couple of complete schtumers, with the JSA coming up against a criminal circus composed entirely of twins, one set to rob, the other to perform and create perfect alibis, not to mention the ‘ghost’ of Billy the Kid, who tried to kill them by strapping them to a stagecoach and sending it over a cliff. Yerrrrssss.
Outside, the comics world was growing smaller. Sales had begun to decline in 1944, and this had been accelerated after the war, and the loss of a GI audience that wanted bright, simple, quick to read entertainment in their precious off-duty hours. Some heroes tried to survive by turning themselves into straight men for comedy sidekicks, such as The Flash and the Three Dimwits (not Stooges, no, not Stooges!). Poor Green Lantern found himself playing second fiddle to Streak, the Wonder Dog.
Then the disappearances began. Green Lantern was cancelled in 1948, and later the same year, All-American became All-American Western, unhousing the Emerald Gladiator and Dr Mid-Nite. All-Flash was cancelled the same year, and Flash Comics followed in 1949, with issue 104, putting The Flash, Hawkman, The Atom and Black Canary out of business. With the exception of Wonder Woman, who lost Sensation but carried on regardless in her own title, none of the JSA could be seen outside All-Star.
Finally, All-Star reached issue 57, the unintentionally ironically titled “Mystery of the Vanishing Detectives”. Oddly enough, after three years of breaking up into little teams to handle menaces, half the JSA suddenly found themselves working solo again. Whether or not this was a change in formula is irrelevant: with issue 58, All-Star changed title and theme to All-Star Western.
Wonder Woman continued, as did Superman and Batman (with Robin), and two C-listers, Aquaman and Green Arrow, who owed their longevity probably to having been created by Mort Weisinger, who alternated them as back-ups to the Man of Steel. But there was no room for the Justice Society of America, for Hawkman, Dr Mid-Nite, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom or Black Canary.
The Golden Age of Comics was over.

Next: Appendix 1 – The Glory Years of Earth-2

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