One day in February, 1951, Edmund Blake ran to the mailbox and let out a whoop of pure, fifteen-year-old glee. “It came! It came!” he said happily. Carefully hanging up his blue jacket with the lettering Junior Justice Society written on it, he ripped open the envelope with the Gateway City postmark.
“Look, Helen — I got a membership certificate in Gateway City’s Fair Play Club!” he said proudly to his big sister, who had cared for him since the death of their parents years ago. “It’s signed by Mister Terrific himself! Boy, won’t the guys be jealous!”
Helen Blake was delighted to see how active her once seriously ill younger brother now was, although he did go on so about those heroes of his. “That’s nice, Edmund! Did you meet Captain Terrific?”
“It’s Mister Terrific, Helen,” said Edmund. “He wasn’t there when they visited me in the hospital, but he’s swell! He can fight, and draw, and build things. I bet he’s even a real expert on nature, like a Boy Scout leader!”
“It was Black Canary, Wonder Woman, the Atom, Green Lantern, and the Flash, and Hawkman, right?” said Dr. Jarman as he walked into the house. As a friend of the family, he still checked in on Helen and Edmund on a daily basis. “Now, that Canary — I remember her!” he joked.
Edmund ran upstairs to a room full of JSA posters, clippings, and his prized photo of the team around his bedside back in 1949, during his stay in Midcity Hospital in Civic City when he had been twelve years old.
“They are heroes,” said Helen Blake. “They gave him the will to live when the doctors doubted he’d make it. (*) I’ll never forget what they did, even if I do mix up their names.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Strange Lives of Edmund Blake,” All-Star Comics #48 (August-September, 1949).]
Edmund turned on the radio and soon gasped as he heard the news.
“And today, the Justice Society of America, led by their chairman the Hawkman, declared their unwillingness to unmask for the House Committee,” said the announcer. “They vanished in a flash of green fire, and it’s anyone’s guess if these legends will ever be seen again!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Defeat of the Justice Society,” Adventure Comics #466 (November-December, 1979).]
Edmund teared up as he cried, “No! I owe my life to the JSA! They can’t quit — I won’t let their legacy die! It’s not fair!”
Three years passed. Then in 1954, the eighteen-year-old Edmund Blake became a page boy in Television Town, where he helped a couple of former JSAers save a man’s life from criminals. Wonder Woman had never retired when the JSA disbanded, but Black Canary’s appearance in costume had been a surprise, since she was among those JSAers who had retired.
That summer, before he was to begin his studies at Harmouth College, Edmund visited Calvin City, smiling as he flipped back between the clippings in his worn-but-prized scrapbook and the library of Calvin College’s alumni directory.
“I’ve got it,” said the young man. “The Atom is associated with the school and has been for years. I assumed he was a student here and went on to grad work. The only student here all those matching years who is his size is Albert Pratt — the basketball player from the 1940s! He… wow! He teaches here now, too! He married Mary James, and she turns up in my Atom clippings a lot! Boy, oh, boy! I just figured out the Atom’s I.D.!”
He soon found the professor of physics and smiled to himself as he saw Al Pratt, for his size and body type sure looked right for the mighty mite. He waited until everyone else had left the lecture hall before asking, “Professor Pratt?”
“Yes,” said the red-headed teacher, looking at the boy and pretending not to recognize him. “Kind of young for a college student, aren’t you?”
“I’m not a student of yours… well, not a physics student. But I have studied your other work, though. You met me at the hospital five years ago — Atom!” he whispered.
Al Pratt closed the door, his boyish face looking worried. “We need to talk, son. You’ve made a mistake.”
But Edmund Blake was determined and so admiring that Al Pratt eventually took him home to dinner with Mary. After determining that Edmund could be trusted with his secret identity, he even agreed to train the eager boy over the summer, with Helen Blake’s permission. Al knew what a difference Joe Morgan’s training had made in his own life, and he enjoyed being busy, since he seldom became the Atom in these days of retirement. Edmund worked hard, and by the end of the summer, he was an able boxer and fighter like the Atom.
“Why do this?” said Al one afternoon as he and Edmund talked about the boy’s dream of becoming a hero someday. “Is it the thrill? I never lost that, either.”
“Yes, but more than anything I just want the JSA to live on — to form again!” said Ed with an almost singleminded devotion.
“So I’ve been training Edmund for a while now,” said the Atom one day in 1955. “He’s a student over at Harmouth College in Civic City, so I don’t see him very often during exams, but the kid is really bent on getting the JSA legacy back out there. Unlike some congressmen I could name, the kid reveres us!”
Wildcat grinned and said, “The kid’s got good taste. I’m not so worried about the younger generation. My old pal Stretch Skinner is the source of my headaches these days!”
“These days?” asked Al Pratt. “The poor guy made Doiby Dickles look like a mental giant! What’s the great detective up to?”
“It’s not him so much,” explained Ted Grant. “His son Sammy wants to follow in my footsteps, and he is good, but he’s no pro. The boxing world is beyond him, and I can’t get proud papa Stretch to see that.”
Samuel Skinner had been born when Stretch was still in high school in the late 1930s, but his dad had been unaware of his existence until 1949, when Stretch was finally reunited with his high school sweetheart, and they were married.
“Sammy is fast, agile, and has heart,” continued Ted. “He’d be great in my other line of work. He could be a great mystery-man, just not a by-the-book fighter.”
“So maybe Edmund and Sammy could benefit from some mutual training,” said Al.
“Yeah!” said Ted. “In fact, I could modify Stretch’s old Tomcat costume by dyeing it black, and make Sammy look the part for sure! (*) He could be Bobcat, or maybe Bearcat.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Tale of a Tomcat,” Sensation Comics #49 (January, 1946).]
“You know, I think old Joe would be proud of us,” added Al. “We’re making a difference in these kid’s lives. He did it for us, and we’re passing it on.”
“Has Edmund picked out a name for this new identity?” asked Ted.
“He sure has,” said Al. “I think he might know JSA history even better than I do! He copied the costume and name of Jay Garrick’s old pal, the notorious Mister Alpha.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Prophecy of Peril,” All-Star Comics #50 (December, 1949-January, 1950).]
“The villain? What became of him?” asked Wildcat, having only heard of the Mister Alpha case secondhand.
“After he was sent to jail for his crimes, Fred Kincaid had a change of heart and reformed, then packed up that suit and gave it to Jay,” said Al. “He wanted to have a new life without a criminal’s mask. Smart guy!”
“I wish all our old enemies could follow his example,” said Wildcat.
“Agreed,” continued Al. “Anyway, Edmund always thought the Mister Alpha identity and costume was better suited for a hero than a villain, and I happen to agree with him.”
“What about us?” said Wildcat. “Should we get the JSA back together? Some of the heat is off, now that time has passed since the Congressional witch hunt in ’51.”
“I don’t know,” said Al. “I would in a heartbeat, almost, but Mary likes my mentor role better, and times have changed. Korea, rock and roll, and all that.”
“OK, then we’ll just teach the boys to be the second generation of mystery-men!” declared Wildcat. “And we’ll only step in if they need us!”
In the depths of the ocean there was an amazing city. Poseidonis was its name, taken after the ruins of the capital city of the old continent of Atlantis, and it figured in many a legend. One legend that seldom saw the light of day these days was Aquaman. He ruled the newly rebuilt city beneath the sea and rarely ventured above the waves any longer. Born to a famous underwater explorer from the surface world and transformed into a water-breather through science, he had been a mystery-man during the war years, but unlike his more colorful peers, he’d made little effort to achieve fame and had mostly been a lone adventurer.
This man now enjoyed being king, and he seldom thought of himself as a mystery-man these days. But others were not as quick to disassociate the man from his old heroic name.
A pretty strawberry blonde girl entered his throne room. “Majesty, I wish to leave Atlantis to do good on the surface world, where I would carry on the work you once did,” she said, almost reproachfully.
“Selena, I have denied you the right to the name Aqua-Girl,” he said with a frown. “Must I also forbid you to venture out from the realm?”
“Venture? Realm? You’re a surface man named Curry!” she said. “Your dad was a scientist who invented a procedure that allowed you to live beneath the sea and survive its rigors. (*) But you talk as though you are the latest in a long line of Atlantean nobility!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Aquaman, More Fun Comics #73 (November, 1941).]
“My father’s operation may not have been the true source of my powers as much as simple maturation or puberty,” explained the king. “My mother’s true identity is still a controversial subject, but Alanna was an Atlantean noblewoman before the great calamity.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See All-Star: Times Past, 1950: War of the Water Worlds.]
“So, you may be the king of the sea by blood and by deed,” said Selena. “Still, I ask to do what you did above the waves. Aqua-Girl was briefly my name.”
“Very briefly and without my leave,” said the smiling Aquaman, “and only to impress a young man!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: The Earth-One version of this tale, which has an untold Earth-Two equivalent, is “Aquaman’s New Partner, Aqua-Girl,” World’s Finest Comics #133 (May, 1963).]
“Please,” she pleaded. “I have studied and know the lore of the world above. I can fight and lead and think quickly!”
“Fine. Do as you will and let no blame fall on me if things go badly,” he said. “Your late parents would never forgive me if I let your passions lead you to harm.”
“I shall make you proud, and them, too!” said Selena.
“Good luck, Aqua-Girl! Oh, and seek out a worthy comrade of mine from my time as a mystery-man. His name is Johnny Quick. He lives, or lived, rather, at this address,” he said, giving her a waterproof notebook.
Selena swam off eagerly, and Arthur Curry watched her departure fondly.
“Ah, the eagerness of the young,” he said.
In an alleyway in Salem, Massachusetts, a young man named Rick Nelson took his time, breathing deeply. “This is it, Rick! Do or die — hero or loser!” he said.
He saw a biker gang that frequented the area and watched them go into their shabby headquarters. The Dead Fates are at it again. I saw drugs or guns in that punk’s hand, he mused.
Charging the door, he felt only a gentle thud as bullets bounced off his skin. Oh, no! Starting to sting — better get big! he decided.
Concentrating, he shot up to the size of a giant. At this height, Rick could now look in the windows of the tenement from the top down. The gang screamed and ran for the back door.
Rick grabbed the roof’s edge and willed himself back down to his normal six feet. Finding himself on the roof, he agilely raced across it to see the gang jump in an old van.
Guess I’ll just head them off! he thought. As he jumped off the roof, he briefly regretted the act, but immediately grew to large size and landed safely.
Stretching out a huge arm, he scooped up the van with ease. “Crime doesn’t pay! Heed the warning of Z-Man!” he said, trying to sound tough.
The thugs surrendered, and he turned them in to the cops, who gazed at the now-normal-sized youth in awe.
“You caught the whole Dead Fate Gang by yourself?” muttered one.
“Yeah, I’m kind of big for my age,” said Rick Nelson happily.
He smoothed his white shirt and blue jeans and walked home, pleased with his first heroic action. “Dad, I may just make up for your criminal career yet,” he said to no one in particular. He was referring to the criminal scientist known as Mister Who, the inventor of the Z Solution and an old enemy of Doctor Fate. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Doctor Fate, More Fun Comics #73 (November, 1941).]
Libby Lawrence Chambers was miffed — no, make that angry, mad as a shapely blonde, wet hen.
“Johnny, when are you going to hang up that suit for good?” said the ambitious blonde journalist. “It’s no longer cute. I think you need to be Johnny Chambers, newsman, instead of Johnny Quick, perpetual adolescent!” She was wearing a pink teddy and slippers, and she fumed in the empty house as she rehearsed the speech she would give her errant husband when he finally returned home.
She had largely retired from heroic life and being Liberty Belle right after the war ended. While she had kept her All-Star Squadron files and still had a crusader’s zeal for reform, she used it as America’s most famous newswoman in the relatively new industry of television.
At least, she used it when she wasn’t on maternity leave from the station, as she was now. “Maybe you’ll tame your fleet-footed father better than I ever could,” she cooed to the baby within her.
Libby knew Johnny had a love for adventure, and she certainly shared it to a point, but she had realized that the old values she had grown up with and even championed as Liberty Belle, the all-American girl, were changing and possibly dying. The war, the atomic blasts, and the dull dead end of lives in a nine-to-five mode following wartime had been responsible for that.
She had seen much and lost much, starting with her father years before, yet she retained within her a secret love of her old adventuring life. But it also pained her to see how it hadn’t seemed to have done any good over all. Now she hoped motherhood and a quiet suburban life with Johnny would satisfy her questing spirit. She had even considered retiring from her career in the news if things got better at home.
The doorbell rang, and Libby answered it, only to be greeted by a young woman with brown hair and a lovely smile, who was wearing a shiny green dress that shimmered like pearls or sea shells in moonlight.
“I am Aqua-Girl! You may call me Selena,” the girl said in an odd accent. “Is Johnny Quick, super-hero, at home?”
Libby brushed back her blonde hair and said, “Great! What is it now, Johnny?” And she led the girl inside.
“So there I was alone in the heart of Philadelphia’s crime district, and all I had was a cream pie and a gutsy heart!” said Chuck Lane.
His adopted son Charles nodded automatically as he listened.
“I knew my only advantage was that the Purple Flower Gang had never fought a guy like me!” continued his balding father, who looked older than his years. “I gave a maniacally high-pitched laugh and literally leaped into those crooks! I spun, kicked, joked, and used everything around me to take them down! I tell you, it’s all image! The look of the Jester takes mugs off-guard. It did here, and it worked for me over on Earth-X, too. After spending several years there, I got back home in 1943 after only a year’s absence thanks to time travel, and I’ve never looked back. (*) That grim world at war had no place for the Jester!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Times Past, 1943: The Space-Time Gambit, Book 1, Chapter 5: Three Artifacts.]
“I’ve heard that story before, Dad,” said Charles. “And I understand what the Jester legacy means to you. I won’t let you down! I don’t need the pies, though. My gimmicked weapons will do the job.”
Chuck Lane, a police officer and former All-Star Squadron member known as the Jester, still longed for the glory that had eluded him. He knew that Plastic Man, the Red Tornado, and even Madam Fatal on Earth-X had earned greater fame than his own odd heroic identity, and he wanted his boy to redeem the name and make Jester a hero for the new Cold War era.
Charles nodded again. “I will be the hero you want, Dad. I’ve trained and studied, and I know every trick in the book. You don’t need to worry about me. I’ll make the Jester famous, and there are no JSAers to overshadow us this time!”
The elder Chuck Lane smiled and said, “That’s my boy!”
“Wait a minute!” interrupted Power Girl. “I know you got this information from Batman, the JSAers, and even Wonder Woman’s Magic Sphere, but why did any heroes get to work in the McCarthy era of suspicion and fear?”
“Batman and I had a real official status with the Gotham Police,” explained Red Robin. “Commissioner Gordon thought of us as his best men, and that counted for a lot in Gotham. Your cousin was simply too famous, too awesome for any smear to stick to him. Plus, his deeds got more press coverage than anyone else’s due to the Daily Star connection. Wonder Woman had strong ties to the military, and she just radiated American spirit in that costume! Nobody could see her as a Communist or a spy.
“I guess Johnny Quick just loved the life too much to let any accusations stop him, since he never took a lot of things seriously,” continued Red Robin. “He was a hero, but he didn’t let public opinion influence him. I guess as a shaper of public opinion of sorts as Johnny Chambers with Sees All Tells All News, he was rather above it. But early in 1955, Libby convinced Johnny to cut back on his heroics, and he retired for good a few months later after a family tragedy.
“Robotman continued until 1953, when an accident left him trapped in a cave for a few decades. (*) Some heroes left Earth-Two, like Sargon the Sorcerer in 1951. (*) Others disappeared in time like the Seven Soldiers of Victory in 1948. (*) And that left the JSA, who took the Congressional witch hunt to heart and disbanded, though I can assure you that, although the Justice Society was officially disbanded, its members did secretly work as individuals or in odd pairings once in a while throughout the 1950s.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Whatever Happened to Robotman?” DC Comics Presents #31 (March, 1981), Showcase: TNT and Dynamite: Explosive Personality, and “The Unknown Soldier of Victory,” Justice League of America #100 (August, 1972).]
“What about this super-girl before me?” asked Power Girl. “Kal never mentioned her!”
“I guess he suspected it might… upset you!” said Red Robin, smiling.
Power Girl pounded a table and said, “Upset me?! Upset me?! That’s male chauvinist bull!”
“Uh, so how did Aqua-Girl and Z-Man and the others team up?” the Huntress asked diplomatically.
Red Robin continued, “Well, that all started when an old JSA foe resurfaced…”