Justice Society Presents – The Golden Age


In this episode of JUSTICE SOCIETY PRESENTS, Shag, Rob, and Chris are joined by special guest Noah Tarnow to praise the 1993 Elseworlds mini-series THE GOLDEN AGE by James Robinson, Paul Smith, and Richard Ory! It's the Justice Society, All-Star Squadron, and many other golden age heroes in their postwar adventures as they battle evil in a world they fear may no longer need them.

Have a question or comment? Looking for more great content?


This episode brought to you by InStockTrades. This week’s selections:

This podcast is a proud member of the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST NETWORK:

Thanks for listening! Join the fight for Justice!

19 responses to “Justice Society Presents – The Golden Age

  1. Great show, guys!

    I loved The Golden Age from jump. I was a fan of JSA from the old JLA team-ups and of the other Golden Ager heroes from All-Star Squadron. (And yes, I remember TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite from Super Friends too.) And yes, I loved Paul Smith’s X-Men. Of course, I also became a fan of James Robinson’s Starman.

    Among my favourite things are the interaction with genuine history: Alan Scott’s dealing with the blacklist and Ted Knight’s guilt over the atomic bomb.

    I remember hearing about the Silver Age. If it was to deal with corruption in politics, I have to wonder if it was going to be a comment on Richard Nixon. Nixon’s death in 1994 might have put the breaks on it. Remember, Nixon was the vice-president at the start of the Silver Age, and was president as the Silver Age turned into the Bronze Age. As the Golden Age dealt with more or less the end of the period (the early 1950s is kind of a grey area when it comes to comic book ages), I have to wonder if the sequel would have dealt with the end of the Silver Age.


  2. A most excellent conversation, gentlemen, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    And man, you’ve reminded me that it’s been quite a while since I last read Golden Age – I really need to do that some time soon (…he says as he contemplates the literal stacks of never-read books on his shelves…). It’s definitely one of my favorite Elseworlds, to the extent that it is actually an Elseworlds title, and one of my very favorite stories featuring DC’s golden age characters.
    Otherwise – and I’m glad you guys emphasized this in the show – I’ve also always considered New Frontier the sort of ‘successor’ or ‘sequel’ to Golden Age, even though it (probably) doesn’t take place in the same world/universe.
    As for the possibility of an actual sequel set in the Silver Age and also scripted by Robinson: as much as I love Chaykin’s art (and work in general), I keep thinking that a story like that would probably be better served with art by someone like, say, Ron Frenz, preferably working with Sal Buscema – or heck, just Sal all on his own…

  3. First of all, great discussion, makes one feel as if we are all in a room together.
    I bought this as a trade several years ago, and one of the first things I noticed, oddly enough, was the scent of the pages…like an old comic book! The writing and art draw you in, and you almost feel like you are watching a movie. I am a huge fan of All-Star Squadron, and I believe that, although it’s not explicitly connected to that series, this story is a perfect bookend to Squadron, showing a darker tone to the lives of the participants.
    I re-read this story about once a year, I enjoy it that much. Nice to know that I’m not alone!
    I hope more episodes are forthcoming, discussing story arcs from Roy Thomas that tie in to original GA comics.
    Thanks again for the podcast!
    Bryan Grantham

  4. I bought “The Golden Age” when it came out and loved it from the start. I wasn’t Richie Rich, but even back then I didn’t consider it prohibitively expensive. It was a treat to be exposed to these “older” and somewhat forgotten characters in such a compelling story. I only wish DC would publish something like this more often. Yes, there are dark elements in the miniseries but it is nowhere as bleak as too many of today’s comics.

    I am not sure if F&W has ever covered it, but I’d really love to hear your thoughts on Twilight (1990) by Howard Chaykin and José Luis García-López, Nobody ever seems to mention it when discussing comics of the era. Like Golden Age, it puts the focus on the more obscure heroes of the DCU.

  5. Issues 3 and 4 were VERY late, not making it out until January and March 94. Worth the wait.

    Captain Comet’s first appearance was less than 6 months after the last JSA adventure in All-Star 57, so that gap really wasn’t that long.

    Robotman is either Paul Dennis or Robert Crane, but you all knew that.

    Excellent catch on the ring. I’ve got half a dozen sketches of Alan, and everyone drew the ring on the wrong hand.

    Black Canary showed up in that group shot too, well before her actual debut.

  6. I wasn’t really into supers back when this first came out, and wouldn’t at the time even know who the JSA even were (my how that has changed! 😀 ), so I was more or less fresh to this comic. Though I think I’d hear about it from others, or terribly genre-savvy, as I pegged (one of) the main bad guy straight away. I only knew who they were just ahead of the characters, and only because I recognized Delores name, a fact I’m not sure how I feel about!

    If I was being critical I think whilst the female heroes are critical to the plot they’re rather unused in the story itself, and some like Dinah just get an extended cameo just it seems to say they’re in the series. I guess they didn’t have space in a four-issue comic, it’s incredible tightly written as is, but some PoC heroes would have been nice as well.

    Generally, though it’s a solid little comic, and I’m glad it brings so many people joy.

  7. I was really thrilled to see you do an episode on this mini-series. Great idea Noah!

    You may think of me as the Doom Patrol guy but for longer and more passionately I’ve been the James Robinson guy. My handle on the DC message boards was Parsifal, not because I dig the Nazi runt, but merely because I was grasping for some connection to this awesome comic.

    It’s common to hear dismissal of Robinson’s post-Starman writing, but you can clearly see a change in James’ writing which seems linked with the death of his editor and friend Archie Goodwin. Robinson’s work before this point was so assured and well crafted: London’s Dark (the book that got him Golden Age & Starman), 67 Seconds, Bluebeard, Illegal Alien, Grendel Tales, Cable (yes that Cable) and especially Firearm. All of this is believably the work of the guy who wrote Golden Age.

    For quite some time James talked in interviews about the sequel ‘The Silver Age’, but there was a second related work which was a collaboration between Robinson and Matt Wagner. This series would show the gradual formation of the Justice Society with dates inspired by the debut of the various characters in the roster. I’m not sure what happened to this but I did know the book that emerged in the New 52 called Earth 2 started life as a period JSA piece when Robinson and Nicola Scott were first assigned to it.

    1. I’m glad to see someone else remembers Robinson’s “Illegal Alien”. I picked that up after reading his Firearm stories, which were a delight. I also loved Robinson’s other collaboration with Paul Smith: “Leave It To Chance”. Unfortunately, that series is long out of print otherwise I’d offer it as an In-Stock Trades recommendation.

  8. Thanks for an enjoyable discussion of a series that was truly an amazing experience, gentlemen. Random comments:
    – Noah, I’m a guy who frequently does see a plot twist coming, at least often enough that my wife reminds me to keep my spoiler-y theories to myself when we watch thrilling stories on screen. That said, I didn’t see the Golden Age plot twists coming, I think because the creators made the characters and the story seem so real, and that made the truth too horrifying to consider. I remembered being stunned and chilled by the Hitler reveal.
    – I’ve read this story many times, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I somehow missed a key character until you four (especially Rob) brought him up in your discussion. When I read it again, I’ll keep a keen eye for that surprise heel-turner with the oddest of code names, Rowboatman! (I’m sure he derives his powers from a rowboat carved from a mystic meteorite.)
    – Like Chris and others, I consider New Frontier a spiritual successor to Golden Age, and I hereby volunteer to participate in any discussion of the same, although it wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for this podcast (too Earth-1). I’m sure I can do more than just gush about the story and Darwin Cooke’s art for an hour. On second thought, no promises.
    – Just as fish don’t often consider the water they swim in, it can be difficult for people to notice their cultural context and distinguish it from the more general human experience. So, since de Tacqueville’s Democracy in America in 1830, it has often been outsiders who gave Americans the best picture of our own national character and culture. Robinson and the other Brit comic writers are in good company.

  9. Impressive podcast most impressive. I read this book years ago it was pretty good. Admittedly dynamites costume is kind of bad. I too thought the helmet was ridiculous. I’m glad you pointed that out. Smith’s artwork is great. I think why his X-Men or wasn’t as good as it was. Is because he was trying to change his style at that time. There was afraid his artwork looked too much like Byrne. I remember reading this an article of wizard when leave it to chance first came out. But independent comic he was making at the time. This story is pretty fun. Hitler’s brain and an athlete’s body. So Joe Rogan basically? I kid. Robinson has kind of been hit or miss on a few things. Though I am glad he had this star man. His Scarlet witch issues were bad. But this is pretty good. The team up worked well. I’m not really sure why it’s in elsewhere old story or what needed to be one.

    I guessed preserve robot man. A character alike in this was not a comic that did him to many favors. Though I’m not getting why when he loses its humanity becomes a Nazi. Anyway the reason why everyone remembers Capt. Comet as being the first superhero this time. Is because Roy Thomas was pushing that. He had started writing a few issues with Capt. Comet at that time. And was pushing this forward. It was probably true after all Roy Thomas is a great comic book historian. Though this story didn’t really help Capt. Comet much. He shows nothing gets kicked in the male parts and is out of the fight. Until Liberty Bell defeats dynamite. So I didn’t really get too many favors in this. And I don’t know what happened backstage. But, I do know Capt. Comet didn’t really become the breakout hit character in the 80s. Which is too bad. The story deftly did not help him much.

    I wonder if Americommando Mr. America or whatever is called. From Earth one universe ever saw this alternate timeline and thought what am I doing wrong? Somehow the ultra-human night is able to seduce Miss America in his body. And all the other things that make him look great in the American public. I would if he thinks he must be doing something really wrong. Since an evil idiot was able to take over his body and somehow ended up with a much better life he actually got. Not the biggest fan of the structure but he has potential. Maybe a decent costume redesign and using the American commando name instead of Mr. America.

    I kind of wanted Liberty Bell to end up with tarantula in the story. The costume in this does fit better.kind of looks like a Lone Ranger pastiche. And Rob’s right Johnny quick is a dipstick. The only good thing for him is Jesse quick. The woman who become the second Liberty Bell. The star man builds up was done well here. Though I’m not sure why this needs to be an alternate storyline. I.e. one that didn’t happen on this earth. The Green Lantern buildup was kind of cool. Our men actually being addicted to being a hero is interesting. And I’m glad he’s used in the final thing. Also glad that Miss America is one that uncovers the plot. Though she tells everyone what happened. As a requirement fan I’m kind of disappointed in where he went. Not sure why him being a void of motion would make him into a Nazi. As the first ever seen becoming completely unhuman made one evil fiction. Well it away where logic was in some way used to justify it.

    I don’t really remember the man Hunter arts of the story. Though I’m kind of glad I didn’t. This is the costume I remember him using. But, I guess it works well enough. When I see dispersion of manager I think of the robots from that 80s crossover. I’m glad that tryouts saved his girlfriend. Though to be honest I mostly remember him from that one animal man story. And he’s only briefly mentioned that. Since it’s about a validity used to fight who had the power to kill people by touch. Who only wanted to fly. I think it was a animal man it may of been star man. Too many years into many beers ago to remember. I liked Huntress well tigress in the story. Though it is weird that she goes back to the sports and after this. Our at least a version of her ends up with him. Though have much to say about the Adam. But, at least they realized it was going on and returned to the sides of the good guys. I didn’t read this story two years later. But I had read the wizard article on it and thought it was kind of cool. I am glad that I read it years later when I found the trade paperback in a Barnes & Noble. It was a pretty good read. Can’t wait till the next podcast.

  10. Great episode y’all, I have a request for the next episode JSA The Liberty File . It was a great story.

  11. Great episode. At the time, I had such love for Golden Age characters that I was glad it was classified an Elseworld, because it meant some of the darker fates weren’t canon.

  12. Great show guys. Robinson’s stories here and in Starman have made Hourman one of my favorite golden age characters. In Starman Ted Knight tells the story of when he, Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Dr Midnight, and Hourman fought Ragman. He describes Hourman single-handedly taking on a mob of henchmen on a bridge in language that coveys the awe at what Hourman does. Here the other heroes trust Hourman to be the one to unveil Thompson and make the sacrifice. I think Robinson has a respect for the character that has made me appreciate him too.
    Great job reviewing a great story.

  13. Fantastic episode, everyone. Posting a bit late — because there’s just so much I wanted to say and add into the discussion. That’s what a great comics series awakens in you.

    However, as this may not be the venue for a multi-page treatise, here are some key points:

    Like many others, the big twists really hit home for me. The Ultra-Humanite reveal for me was doubly delicious because, as someone who was brought in bigtime into the DC multiverse by the original Who’s Who series, the mention of Dolores Winters (now known as Delores, apparently) sent chills up my spine. That split-second of cold recognition before faded memory snaps into sharp focus and brings with it all the story implications made me feel that I was right in the room with the heroes, piecing the mystery together. Panel-to-panel pacing was fantastic for this.

    The reveal of Adolf Hitler’s brain was less of a surprise, and more of a “please let me be wrong” experience for me. Worthy of those great movies and novels where you don’t want what you suspect to be true, but you cannot conceive of any other answer that could be as satisfying for the story.

    Great insights from everyone, and the format really made me feel as though I were in the room with you all, speculating and analyzing the crap out of this “modern” classic.

  14. Great episode! I did want to mention that the Golden Age references continue to this day as Flash 770 showed Wally West quantum leaping into Jay Garrick’s body during the Parsifal mission with Jay and the Ray that was a one-panel reference in Golden Age.

  15. Quick nerdity: I managed to find some old TNT and Dan the Dyno-Mite stories and was surprised to read that they operated out of Gotham City! Which set my nerd mind awhirl at the thought of a retro Brave and the Bold-ish story involving Batman and Robin, TNT and Dan the Dyno-Mite and Green Lantern Alan Scott. In a pre-Crisis story, they could have all have had an adventure in the 1940s. In the post-Crisis, it’d probably have to be split up so that GL and TNT and Dan were in an adventure in the 1940s, with GL meeting Batman and Robin in the present day to follow up on the previous adventure. If it was written by Scott Snyder, it could involved the Court of Owls…

  16. I know I’m late to this party but it’s been a weird few…years.


    I love this series. So much. And I chuckled a bit when Chris said that part of him thought he shouldn’t have liked this because it’s a dark deconstruction of the JSA/All-Star Squadron and I said the same thing in the episode of Views where Ryan Daly and I covered this series. I am not a fan of taking old characters and concepts and doing kind of dark and depraved things with them and yet I love this story so much.

    To be fair, I read this during the early, early days of me getting into the All-Star Squadron, but still. The theory holds.

    One of my favorite bits of trivia around this book come from an interview with Paul Smith that Wizard Magazine did in the mid-90s. He talked about this series and apparently (and if I am remembering correctly) he drew the first issue but had some issues with it and it wasn’t until he drew the “Time to work,” page that everything clicked and he re-drew the first issue. I can’t imagine putting that much work into something and then just doing it over.

    And not only does everyone on the show think that that New Frontier was a spiritual successor and I think that it was a spiritual successor but Darwyn Cooke himself considered it one. During the commentary for the New Frontier movie Cooke said as much. So there you go.

    Great episode, fellas.

    Oh…and I’m with Noah in liking the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie, which was written by Robinson and even featured him in a quick cameo as the husband on Mina Harker. I would also recommend Comic Book Villains, which was written and directed by Robinson. It was, as Robinson described, The Treasure of the Sierre Madre with comic books. The cast include DJ Quals, Cary Elwes, Michael Rappaport, Natasha Lyonne, Donal Logue, and Eileen Brennan and it is amazing. An older comic fan in the area dies and two comic shop owners (Logue, who owns the kind of messy store, and Rappaport and Lyonne, who own the nice, clean, store) start to go to war over who will buy this amazing collection. Brennan plays the man’s mother and Elwes is a sketchy guy that Logue hires to steal it. It’s a fun movie. Very dark. Very ahead of its time in looking at comic book culture.

  17. I’m even later to the party. Well, I was following Michael and I got lost…

    Anyway, I never read this at the time but I bought a collected edition many years ago, and never got round to it; I’ve always known it would be a total treat when the time came, given how much folk love this story. Also, I’m a big fan of Robinson and Smith. Well, when this show dropped in July, that was all the impetus I needed, I grabbed that trade paperback from the shelf, quickly put it back on realising it was on the DC app, and dove right in.

    And here I am six months later, having picked up and put down the iPad so many times… I can’t believe I found The Golden Age such a slog. I loved these characters in All-Star Squadron but here they were the biggest bunch of sad sacks, with none of that great US get-up-and-go attitudes they had in the real world Golden Age comics and under Roy Thomas. I get the story had to have darkness, but the gloom was never ending.

    Three issues would have sealed the deal – did anyone really feel all those pages of Paul Kirk’s Manhunter meanderings were necessary? Unlike Shagg I never came round on the Kirk stuff
    I’d look more kindly upon the sequences if they were easier to make out, but Richard Ory’s colour choices were often horrible – murky blues and browns in the main artwork, with brown caption boxes. And the long screeds of text we were asked to read, occasionally in script font, elsewhere – it was often so uninviting.

    I preferred Smith’s X-Men style, but there was lots to like in the artwork – tie vibe of the era, as reflected in the clothing of the ladies and gents was great, Carter Hall’s new look was starkly fascinating, Paula and Joan looked like the people Robinson told us they were, and Dan’s pre-Dynaman characterisation was superb.

    The finale issue was my favourite because it was linear and had action, but even then, it could have been better. The big fight wasn’t the clearest, with the choreography not always obvious… maybe a big old guddle was what the creators were going for, but at this point in the story, having waded through all those issues of murky storytelling, a nice clean fight, with everyone’s roles apparent, would have been a treat.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your discussion, I’m just amazed that no one had any negative criticism at all. I agree with the comments about the weirdness of Dynaman’s outfit, and wondered if it was indeed based on a car, so I looked up ‘Adolf Hitler’s favourite cafe’ and it was apparently a Mercedes-Benz 770 Grosser Offener Tourenwagen. Look it up, squint, and you never know…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *