As the DCU gets closer to the expected revelations of Doomsday Clock, the 12-issue maxi-series that caps off DC's two-year "Rebirth' story, one of the more anticipated changes to DC continuity is the return of the Justice Society of America.
The JSA is a superhero team that populated DC during the Golden Age of comic books and were later the residents of Earth-2. But in more recent DC continuity, the Justice Society was part of the main DC Earth, becoming a beloved team of seasoned heroes who mentored younger legacy characters.
The New 52 reboot in 2011 caused the JSA characters to completely disappear from the DCU, despite having populated some of DC's more popular and best-selling titles in the years prior.
But May 2016's universe-changing one-shot DC Universe: Rebirth brought them back with one scene. As The Flash Wally West talked to an aging version of Johnny Thunder who remembered the Justice Society, he said:
"Their history may have been stolen, but your friends weren't completely lost."
So what do we know about the return of the Justice Society? Will they really return or is this all rumor? And where might we see their return, if it does happen?
As the mysteries of the "Rebirth" universe begin wrapping up, Newsarama looks at what we know about the Justice Society of America so far in "Rebirth":
1) They're definitely coming back
At this point, there's really no question that the team is returning. Not only has Jay Garrick been shown in-story trying to come into the DCU — while Johnny Thunder is constantly trying to bring back the Justice Society — but creators have been dropping hints about the JSA's return for a long time now.
First was a promise by "Rebirth" architect Geoff Johns all the way back in March 2016 that the JSA would return, but that it — and other concepts, like the Legion and Shazam — warranted a major story to herald their return. He said the return of the JSA needed "room to breathe" so it would not get lost among immediate announcements.
The team was also featured in promo art for "Rebirth" in a retailer catalog before the event. Included in the image were several JSA characters who haven't shown up in the DCU yet, like Dr. Mid-Nite, Alan Scott Green Lantern and Hourman.
There have been a few hints since then. Most notably, Bryan Hitch said something on Twitter a few months ago regarding the JSA. When asked about him maybe doing a Justice League/Justice Society crossover, he replied, "funny you should say that…."
Although Hitch might have been hinting about his role in the upcoming Hawkman Lost issue (since Hawkman was part of the JSA), he followed up that Tweet with a promise of "Big JSA plans, but we can't share her. Not yet."
Plus, Wally West's scene with Johnny Thunder opened the door for them to return without actually changing DC's continuity much. Wally called the JSA a "covert team" of "Mystery Men" that helped end World War II. So in the new "Rebirth" version of events, the Justice Society are part of history (or at least the history that Wally and Johnny remember) — but they were undercover and unknown to the public.
2) They're not the only ones
As noted above, Johns already promised that concepts like the Legion of Super-Heroes and Shazam would be returning. Readers have already seen hints of the Legion when Saturn Girl appeared in various DC stories, and the Shazam mythos is part of the current mini-series Dark Nights: Metal.
More recently, in an interview with Newsarama earlier this year, Metal scribe Scott Snyder said there were "big plans" for both JSA character Hawkman and the missing Captain Marvel/Shazam.
But beyond those confirmed plans, when Jay Garrick showed up in "The Button" crossover, readers were shown that old timelines are being kept around by someone. The Batman from the Flashpoint universe still existed, and so did other histories of the DCU, like Identity Crisis and the original story of how the Justice League formed.
Within that realm, apparently, was Jay Garrick, and there were other voices there with him. With DC fans hoping for the return of the post-Crisis version of characters like Bart Allen, Conner Kent and Martian Manhunter, the scenes of past continuities and the sound other other voices opens the door for more returns.
3) They seem to need a tether
Jay Garrick's brief appearance in "The Button" crossover showed that the JSA hero is trapped, similar to what happened to Wally West – unable to return to existence unless someone remembers his name and serves as a tether. In fact, he specifically referenced Wally West's return, obviously aware of the event, and how Barry remembering Wally's name was the catalyst for the character's return.
And the issue implied, through the use of other off-screen voices, that there were other characters trapped, presumably also in limbo like Wally was before Barry pulled him into the present-day DCU.
But in "The Button," Barry couldn't remember Jay, so the original Flash's attempts to come back to the DCU were thwarted. As Barry was reflecting on what just happened, he theorized that Jay needs a different "lightning rod."
As readers have already seen, in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Barry Allen was Wally West's lightning rod. But this issue showed that Barry is not a similar tether for Jay Garrick.
So who is?
If the entire Justice Society needs a tether to the present universe, the identity of that "lightning rod" could be several people. But we'd bet on it having something to do with Johnny Thunder, who's been trying to conjure up the JSA's return for months.
After all, where there's thunder, there's lightning.
Then again, there are plenty of other candidates who could have a "tether" to the JSA. And one of the JSA members is coming back to the DCU in full force next month as Hawkman Found depicts that hero's return after a recent death, connecting him to Dark Nights: Metal.
But whoever serves as the Justice Society's tether, it's sure to be an emotional and, hopefully, satisfying moment for long-time JSA fans when that lightning rod presumedly pulls them back into the present DCU.
4) They've been equated with hope
On the final page of Flash #9, Jay Garrick's helmet first showed up in the "Rebirth" universe. Barry said that he saw the helmet when he was in the Speed Force, and it immediately represented hope.
"I had one last vision… and I saw something in the Speed Force I don't think I was supposed to see," Barry said. "I don't know what it was but… it filled me with hope."
The idea of "hope" is important to the DCU right now, as Johns has linked the entire theme of "Rebirth" to the idea of hope. In fact, his Doomsday Clock mini-series has been billed as a battle between the optimism of Superman and the cynicism of Dr. Manhattan.
That battle was teased all the way back in DC Universe: Rebirth #1m as Wally West said there's a war coming between "hope and despair."
Within the same issue, Wally told a character to "find the Justice Society," as if he knew their importance to the upcoming battle.
That means the return of the JSA might happen within the pages of Doomsday Clock under the pen of Johns. After all, Johns is practically equated with the team, having written them for more than 100 issues and popularizing the more modern version of the team.
But it could also happen in a different story, because "hope versus despair" is playing out elsewhere in the DCU. For example, in Detective Comics, present-day, hopeful Tim Drake is fighting his cynical future self. In Action Comics, Superman is facing a character named Mr. Oz who claims to be Jor-El and says he's given up hope in humanity. And he wants Superman to share in his cynicism.
Plus, there have been hints that Johnny Thunder somehow caused the Justice Society to disappear, so there's a chance that this mystery might not be connected to Dr. Manhattan at all.
Yet with all this talk about "hope" and the JSA, wherever Jay and friends show up, there's a very good chance that they'll not only return a sense of legacy to the DCU (that had been missing for awhile now), but the team will also be a representative of hope.