Over the last several weeks, I have been reading the comic Crisis on Infinite Earths, with my son. Through friends at nursery, cartoons and well me, he’s is very much a fan of super heroes and when he saw me reading it one day, he wanted in. He was enjoying it, but had a big question about the cover. “Why is there two Supermans?” I had to explain that the older one was a stand-in for Superman from his earliest stories and the younger one was for more current stories. Once I explained that, we got on to the other subject of parallel earths, Earth 1, Earth 2, Earth 3, Earth 4, Earth S, Earth X and that and it made me realise a little something. I miss Earth 2.
Now I don’t mean the recent James Robinson started series from the New 52, or the frankly excellent Grant Morrison HC Earth 2 https://munkycomics90s.wordpress.com/2015/09/10/december-1999-jla-earth-2/
I mean the original Earth 2. Now here comes the history lesson and we’re going back a bit on this for all the non-comics readers or the more Marvel affiliated. We start with the Golden Age, which ran from 1938 till after the Second World War. During that time, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and several other heroes made their debut.
The Justice Society was a popular, but not in the league of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, so when the War was over, the interest in these heroes died out and all the non big three characters faded into a degree of obscurity and we consider the Golden Age to be over. The next big thing was the Silver Age, this was when DC editors and writers, mostly led by Julius Schwartz, brought these heroes back with a more sci-fi feel to them. With enough years having passed, a new generation of readers where going to get their own Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom and a new version of the Justice Society known as the Justice League. The first of these was the Flash of the 1950’s/1960’s Barry Allen, who within the story of the comic was inspired by the 1940’s Flash, Jay Garrick. With one being fictional and one being real (you know what I mean) a line of demarcation was made between the Golden and Silver Ages and never the twain shall meet.
But then the writer of the Flash, Gardner Fox who also penned many a Golden Age tale himself, wrote the story Flash of Two Worlds and reintroduced the Jay Garrick Flash and thus was born the concept of Earth 2. Now once this was done, we could look in on this parallel Earth and it’s variations on characters more familiar to recent readers, from time to time and thus began the JLA/JSA annual team ups. Around this sort of era we also got something of a Justice Society revival, and through this we started to see the Earth 2 concept expanded upon. Not only did we have alternate versions of characters we knew, but now there were older versions of these characters. We had a middle aged Robin, a senior citizen Superman and a retired Batman, now commissioner in his beloved Gotham City. Then we also had new characters, the cousin of Superman called Power Girl and the daughter of Batman and a reformed Catwoman, the Huntress.
This proved that the alternate Earths idea had legs and we still got the JLA/JSA team ups and then we got a wonderful bit of Roy Thomas goodness, the All Star Squadron.
All Star Squadron started in 1981 and was a period peace, set in the 1940s of Earth 2. This was a the world of the Golden Age heroes, during the Golden Age and we saw Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, WildCat, Green Lantern, Flash, Dr Fate and a lot of the well known Justice Society as well as lesser known Golden Age characters like Johnny Quick, Liberty Bell, Shining Knight and the Tarantula.
This series had real world events mixed in with super heroics and was a lot of fun. There were also spin off titles, one of which is of particular interest is Infinity Inc, which was a modern day set (well sort of modern, it was the 1980s) series that starred the sons, god children and successors of the Justice Society. After failing to join the JSA, they left with the time lost Star Spangled Kid and started their own team. This group included the Atom’s grandson Nuklon, Hawkman’s son Silver Scarab and his god son Northwind, daughter of Wonder Woman, Fury and Obsidian and Jade, son and daughter of Green Lantern and this expanded the Earth 2 idea even further. I miss these characters and this idea, the older heroes, the successors and the feeling of real history that went with it.
Then came Crisis. Crisis on Infinite Earths gutted the Earth 2 concept and several of the Characters, there couldn’t be two Supermans because they were both Clark Kent. There couldn’t be two Dick Graysons, or two Oliver Queens, or two Wonder Womans, so the older characters simply went away and their children’s history was ret-conned away, there was no Earth 2, no Superman in WW2 and so on. Infinity Inc, All Star Squadron continued after Crisis, but this era came to an end.
But this wasn’t the end of the story, Len Strazewski wrote two great Justice Society series which were great and it showed that even folded into the history of the Post Crisis world, there was a lot of fun.
Year later the came a JSA comic, which proved that you can still do the legacy of these heroes, their sons daughters and successors, could still exist within this new universe and it was lots of fun in places with strong characterisation and several attempts to fix the history so mixed up by Crisis.
After the next crisis, the book was relaunched as Justice Society of America and we got Earth 2 back, it was a pale shadow of what it was and it was such a brief look, that it barely counts, but it put just a little bit of hope back into my heart.
Then came the New 52 and it all went away again. Now no older heroes, even the new Earth 2 is more contemporary and that sense of legacy and history is lost. Gone were the older heroes, gone was the history and legacy characters and gone was the what if-ness and happy endings and I for one miss that. I miss the older barrel chested Superman and the more seasoned Bruce Wayne, who gave up his war on crime to champion justice. I liked that idea and even with Convergence re-opening the door for a restored Earth 2 as it was, we all know that if it happens, it won’t be the same.
Look this stuff up, raid the back issue bins because a lot of great stories are often lost in the continuity shuffle. Stories don’t have to ‘matter’, they just have to be good stories.
If my incoherent ramblings aren’t enough to convince you, then check out Two True Freaks and their podcast Tales of the Justice Society of America for a true love letter to Earth 2 by Michael Bailey and Scott H Gardner. It’s here
While there, check out some of their other shows, there’s a lotta great podcasts out there too.
Anyway, got this out of my head. Ta Ta For Now.