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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

How JSA is Making Retcons Fun Again

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Comic books and retcons go hand in hand. But fans often find retcons divisive, no matter how small or earth-shattering they may be. However, when the Justice Society of America find themselves facing the release of a host of Golden Age heroes, villains, and sidekicks into the time stream, they prove that the canon can undergo revisions while still maintaining a sense of fun.

Marvel has frequently tied many of its most famous characters to historical events. When comic publishers adapt their heroes for new generations, they tend to push their origin stories forward as well. DC's Justice Society of America #6 (by Geoff Johns, Marco Santucci, Ivan Plascencia, Rob Leigh and Mikel Janin) takes a naturalistic approach to retcons, proving that significant changes don’t have to feel forced.

JSA Brings A Golden Age Charm To The Retcon

The events of Justice Society of America #6 remained believable despite significant changes to its continuity. It achieved this by grounding its retcons in more tangible concepts than those previously introduced. It was revealed in Flashpoint Beyond #6 (by Geoff Johns, Tim Sheridan, Jeremy Adams, Xermanico, Mikel Janin, Gary Frank, Romulo Fajardo Jr, Jordie Bellaire, Brad Anderson and Rob Leigh), that Per Degaton’s meddling had caused the Time Master’s “Time Capsules” to fail. It was this failure that resulted in the return of 13 Golden Age characters to the DCU time stream. By keeping these retcons limited to the Golden Age setting, they feel more subtle, and less like violations of the stories that preceded them.

The introduction of the new characters has already yielded a number of intimate moments that have justified the changes. For example, Justice Society of America #6 sees the return of Judy Garrick, also known as The Boom, who is the daughter and former sidekick of the Golden Age Flash. The reintroduction of a character of such significance as a superhero’s daughter would normally come off as egregious. But the heartfelt reunion of father and daughter brings a sense of reality, especially when contrasted against the poignancy of those returnees who no longer have families.

DC's Justice Society Retcons Have Helped the Golden Age Shine

For the world of the JSA to grow, it has to address its history carefully. The Justice Society's strong links to established events makes revisions difficult to pull off. But the JSA are just as susceptible to the need for retcons as others. As such, it takes more work to make them successful. Fortunately the recent changes have built on the world of the Justice Society in a way that works with what was already there. The JSA regularly deals with characters displaced from time. Because Flashpoint Beyond and Justice Society of Americaalso engage with these themes, the retcons they have made fit the stories they are affecting. This would not be the case if the story had been made to fit the retcons.

The Justice Society of America's Golden Age characters have earned the adulation of fans with their ability to capture the magic of early comics. But because they come from a simpler time, there is the risk they will be stuck telling simpler stories. These recent retcons have invested a sense of modernity into the JSA without compromising its Golden Age roots. Characters like Cherry Bomb, former sidekick to the Human Bomb, are a great example of this. Cherry Bomb’s JSA appearance is a fantastic synthesis of past and present. She, like the other returned sidekicks, embodies the charm of the Golden Age. But her struggle to control her powers allows the story to explore her character with a depth more in keeping with modern storytelling.

The JSA Has Charted a Path For Others to Follow

Justice Society of America has proven that it is better to make smaller, more congruent changes rather than enormous ones that affect the entire multiverse. This successful implementation of retcons can now serve as a template for others to follow. Tent pole franchises can follow in the JSA’s footsteps, growing and evolving incrementally. By doing so, these franchises can adapt without risking the ire of long time fans.

Western comics often face the complaint that their dizzying continuities can make them hard to follow. These convoluted storylines make it even harder for newcomers to jump in. When publishers weave in more subtle changes to their continuities, they make them less intimidating to newcomers. If other franchises followed the JSA’s example, it would help keep long time fans engaged. A lower barrier to entry would also help bring in new fans and build interest in the medium. Given the growing competition Western comics are facing from Japanese manga, finding ways to attract new fans is an important consideration.

It’s Time To Let The JSA Run Wild

The presence of the JSA’s new characters has already proven exciting, even if the full implications of this new status quo remain unclear. What is clear, however, is that Justice Society of America has put itself in a strong position. It has adapted to a new era, and in doing so blazed a trail for others.

Moving forward, thousands of new possibilities lie open both now and in the future. As it currently stands, these changes are some of the best handled and most fun retcons in comic book history.

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