“Stargirl” has arrived on DC Universe and The CW, bringing with it the return of the justly legendary Justice Society of America.
The Justice Society is the oldest superhero team in comics, arriving in “All-Star Comics” #3 in 1940. Another milestone: The team combined characters from two different publishers, “sister” companies Detective Comics Inc. and All-American Comics Inc. (Eventually these companies would merge into today’s DC Comics.)
In the opening scenes of “Stargirl,” we see the Justice Society in mostly comics-accurate outfits battling the Injustice Society, a supervillain team straight out of “All-Star Comics.”
There are a lot of characters whizzing by, so let me break them down for you:
THE GOOD GUYS
Dr. Mid-Nite (1941): Charles McNider, blind doctor. Can see in the dark. Has an owl named Hooty.
The Flash (1940): Jay Garrick, nice guy. The first Scarlet Speedster. Only his ice-punctured helmet is seen on “Stargirl.” Too bad John Wesley Shipp, who played a version of Jay Garrick on The CW’s “The Flash,” didn’t cameo.
Green Lantern (1940): Alan Scott, railroad engineer. The first Emerald Gladiator. Uses a ring made from a magic meteor to fly, melt metals, walk through walls. We didn’t see him on “Stargirl” either, but we did see the green flame and light associated with the character.
Hourman (1940): Rex Tyler, chemist. Invents “Miraclo,” which gives him super-strength for one hour. Promptly advertises this to the underworld with his name. I’d bet a dollar that the Mirakuro on “Arrow,” which made people super-strong but also drove them mad, was inspired by Miraclo.
Sandman (1939): Wesley Dodds, wealthy playboy. Inspired by dreams to fight crime with a gas gun and World War I gas mask.
Starman (1941): Ted Knight, wealthy playboy and amateur astronomer. Invents the stellar-powered “Gravity Rod,” which allows him to fly, control gravity and shoot force blasts and blinding light. The Rod evolves into the Cosmic Staff, as seen on “Stargirl.” However, Knight doesn’t appear as Starman in the “Stargirl” pilot. Instead it’s:
Star-Spangled Kid (1941): Sylvester Pemberton, wealthy teenager too young to be a playboy. Fights crime in patriotic leotards in “Star-Spangled Comics.” He was accompanied by his mechanic and chauffeur Pat “Stripesy” Dugan, thereby inverting the usual ages of the superhero/sidekick duo, which was their particular gimmick. But Pemberton joined the JSA in the 1970s as one of their second-generation heroes, eventually adapting Knight’s technology to fly and calling himself Skyman. It looks like “Stargirl” is going to conflate the Star-Spangled Kid/Starman legacies into one.
Stripesy (1941): Pat Dugan, mechanic. As noted, Star-Spangled Kid’s partner in the comics, Starman’s sidekick on TV. Invents robot armor S.T.R.I.P.E. in 1999 to protect step-daughter Courtney Whitmore, who is determined to be a superhero, first as the new Star-Spangled Kid and later Stargirl. S.T.R.I.P.E. is an acronym, standing for Special Tactics Robotic Integrated Power Enhancer in comics, Subatomic Tactical Robot Internet Pat Enhancer on TV. Drove a flying car in the 1940s called the Star-Rocket Racer, as seen on “Stargirl.” Lives in Blue Valley, Nebraska, which was introduced in 1959 as the pk彩票 of Wally “Kid Flash” West.
Wildcat (1942): Ted Grant, professional boxer. Inspired by Wonder Woman to fight crime, adopts a cat-like costume and motif.
THE BAD GUYS
Brainwave (1943): Henry King. Psychic powers, including telekinesis and telepathy.
Dragon King (1981): Real name unknown. Mixes science and magic.
Icicle (1947): Joar Mahkent. Uses a “cold gun” to freeze air and objects. His son was able to generate cold organically (like Marvel’s Iceman). TV’s Icicle seems able to do the same. His first name has been changed to Jordan.
Solomon Grundy (1944): Reanimated corpse. Super-strong but nearly mindless.
Sportsmaster (1947): Lawrence “Crusher” Crock. Uses sports-themed gadgets.
Tigress (1947): Paula Brooks. Tiger-themed. Vicious. Often depicted as married to Sportsmaster.
The Wizard (1947): William Zard. Mystical powers, primarily illusions. Surname is Zarick on TV.
The Justice Society lasted until 1951, when “All-Star Comics” changed its named and format to “All-Star Western,” signaling the end of the First Heroic Age in Comics. Unfortunately, by not moving into the ‘50s, the JSA became inextricably linked to World War II. Over the years since, DC Comics has contrived ways to use characters who are tethered to the middle of the last century.
First, they were established as existing on a parallel world (1961). Then this: Shunted to limbo (1986). Mostly killed (1994). Replaced by younger versions (2011). Wiped from history (2016). Gah!
The answer “Stargirl” has found is to refer to the JSA’s heyday as “10 years ago,” but in a world of uncertain vintage — old cars, social norms and technology, existing side by side with modern fashion and architecture. I doubt you will ever hear a year mentioned on “Stargirl.”
In seasons 9 and 10 of “Smallville,” Stargirl (Britt Irvin) was portrayed as a protégé of Sylvester “Star-Spangled Kid” Pemberton and survived. But Pemberton, Dr. Fate, Hawkgirl, Hawkman and Sandman did not.
In the second season of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” JSA members included Commander Steel, Dr. Mid-Nite, Hourman, Obsidian, Stargirl and Vixen. Once again Courtney (Sarah Grey) survived, along with Vixen and Obsidian. The rest didn’t make it.
Meanwhile, “Stargirl” promises to re-create its version of the Justice Society with a new generation, something the comics also did, briefly, before killing them all off. This second wave will be comics accurate, with Yolanda Montez (Yvette Monreal) becoming Wildcat II, Beth Chapel (Anjelika Washington) becoming the second Dr. Mid-Nite and Rick Tyler (Cameron Gellman) fulfilling his father’s legacy as the new Hourman.