World War II saw the comic book industry soar to new heights. As soldiers fought against Nazis overseas, Captain America and Superman inspired readers by fighting against Hitler in the comics. The comic book industry was hitting a boom. No one thought the formation of a team like the Justice League of America was even necessary to save DC Comics.
Yet the end of the war saw the fade of superhero popularity. The 1954 release of Dr. Frederick Wertham’s Seduction Of The Innocent didn’t help the situation. The book demonized comics as the cause of juvenile delinquency, only sunk DC’s heroes further down the drain.
Dr. Wertham’s book led to the creation of the Comic Codes Authority. The code was meant to regulate violence in comics, as well as ban controversial topics like sex and drugs from comics. The code’s impact left comic publishers with few options in publishing content. The CCA would ban horror monsters and themes in this period, for example.
The superhero genre’s fall following World War II left comics overtaken by romance comics. This, along with campy content.
DC only had three heroes in publication to regulate at the time: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Characters like Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Speedy still appeared in Adventure Comics, but this was due to their creators’ fondness for the characters over their popularity.
A turnaround was on the horizon, though, thanks to the efforts of DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz. He oversaw the revitalization of DC’s Golden Age heroes.
The Silver Age Of Comic BooksWhen the 1960s hit, heroes like The Flash and Green Lantern saw revised looks, origins, and powers that revamped the Golden Age icons thanks to Schwartz and his team. These changes based the heroes more in science fiction over their mystical origins. This truly reflected the post-atomic bomb world comics now resided in.
First appearing in Showcase #4, the new Flash proved successful enough to warrant further reimaginings of old heroes, including DC’s own superhero team.
Flash and Green Lantern appeared alongside Aquaman, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman as the Justice League of America in The Brave and the Bold #28. This reimagining of the Justice Society of America proved popular enough to earn the team its own series.
Running for over 200 issues, the JLA’s debut served as a much-needed revitalization for DC’s comic book heroes. It can easily be said that the Justice League of America saved DC Comics from its post-World War II downfall.
JLA: Here To Save the DayThe Justice League of America managed to act as the ultimate advertisement for the revised heroes. Although still ahead of other DC heroes in sales, Batman’s comics suffered during the postwar era. The creation of the JLA, along with the 1966 release of the famous Batman TV show starring Adam West, served to shoot Batman back up in sales.
The comic series Justice League of America came just behind the Dark Knight’s comics, typically selling over 300,000 copies a year.
DC Comics’ other heroes also benefited from the new hero team. The reimagining of the Golden Age heroes started the Silver Age of Comics. This new age ushered in a fresh wave of comic book fans. Initially outsold by comics like Uncle Scrooge, the solo Superman comics managed to find their way back to the top spot of comic sales.
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Characters like Flash, who hadn’t been published for years, found new life in the comic book world. Even under the tight grip of the Comics Code, DC regained footing in the ’60s and launched some of their most popular characters to date.
DC Comics In The 1990sThe Justice League of America was so nice it saved DC Comics twice. The 1996 comic industry crash meant it was time for a change. Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, and John Dell decided to take the Justice League back to basics. Titled JLA, the new series saw the same lineup as the original Justice League comic.
The new version of the team helped build the DC heroes’ reputation as “gods among men.” The comic showcased the Justice League as capable defenders able to stop anything and everything that came their way.
This series also introduced the Justice League’s famous space-based headquarters known as the Watchtower. Introduced in JLA #4, the Watchtower solidified the Justice League’s position as godlike beings guarding over Earth from the stars. These weren’t the only changes introduced in this modern-day version of DC’s heroes, however.
New legacy heroes like Kyle Rayner and Steel joined the fray against alien invaders and Earth-shattering catastrophes. The JLA’s adventures typically had little impact on the heroes’ individual story arcs. The team only focused on world-threatening problems. Typically referring to them as “crisis events.”
The JLA comic reflected and integrated the ongoing stories of its characters, however. One example is Superman, who gained electric-based powers during the 1990s (though only for a short period).
New Justice League Of America: Back to BasicsJust as the first Justice League of America comic did before, JLA served as a successful advertisement for its featured heroes while also jumping to the top of DC Comics’ sales. Also, like its predecessor, JLA brought in old and new heroes alongside the legacies it introduced, such as Plastic Man and Green Arrow.
By the time of the Infinite Crisis story-arc, this version of the Justice League had one of the group’s largest rosters to date due to the impending cosmic threat DC’s heroes faced.
Morrison’s efforts resulted in JLA being DC’s best-selling title at the time. Its success led to the launch of the critically successful JSA comic book, which was later retitled Justice Society of America to go alongside the then-new Justice League of America run.
This essentially brought DC’s heroes full circle. The Justice League succeeded as both a superhero team and a marketing strategy. In doing so, it managed to bring the Justice Society itself back into the mainstream. This introduced a whole new generation to the classic Golden Age heroes.
The Justice League’s success brought DC Comics back into the mainstream during tumultuous times. The introduction of the Comics Code Authority and the 1990s are infamous times for the comic book industry. Yet the rebirth of their Golden Age heroes allowed DC Comics to survive and thrive in the modern-day.