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I know. Last week I said we were going to discuss Doctor Light more, but I think it is clear that the comics version of Doctor Light, Kimiyo Hoshi, will not really be represented on the show (though I do hope we see more of Linda as Doctor Light!). Whatever the case, I’ve decided to instead focus on the place that is really important to The Flash this season: Earth-2.
When superheroes first started showing up in comics, it was pretty much accepted that they all existed in separate universes. Superman and Batman would not meet, because Superman did not exist in the same reality as Batman. That all started to change when Timely Comics, now known as Marvel Comics, had the Sub-Mariner meet up with the original Human Torch in the summer of 1940 in Marvel Mystery Comics #8.
This battle of the comic century took Timely’s two biggest stars and had them go mano-a-mano, creating what would become a staple in comics: superheroes fighting each other the first time they meet. Whether or not the guys at National Comics knew of this Sub-Mariner/Human Torch fight before they came up with the concept of All-Star Comics #3, I don’t know. Either way, it was with that comic, the third issue of an anthology series that published stories featuring the most popular characters from All-American Publications and National Comics (two companies that had recently merged and would later become DC Comics) that comic book history would be made.
Gardner Fox, who wrote most of the stories that would appear in All-Star Comics #3. He came up with a framing device for the series - each story would be told in a flashback format, with the heroes all sitting together, telling the stories. For their first meeting, each hero would recount their most exciting adventure. The heroes that Gardner Fox used were, from left to right:
Atom, Sandman, The Spectre, Flash, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Green Lantern and Hourman. Also at the meeting were Johnny Thunder and his genie, Thunderbolt, who crashed the meeting, and Ma Hunkle, aka The Red Tornado, who didn’t get a flashback story. The next issue would be the first time we see the Justice Society called into action.
An in-house rule demanded that any hero who had their own book could not be a full-time member of the Justice Society, which led to Flash leaving the team with issue six, having been given his own title, All-Flash Comics. This also made it impossible for Superman and Batman to be members of the JSA. All three heroes, along with Green Lantern not long after, were made honorary members.
Along with Wonder Woman making her debut, All-Star Comics #8 had Doctor Mid-Nite and Starman join the Justice Society. Wonder Woman would join the team with issue 11, as their secretary. Wonder Woman would get the last laugh, though, as she has become an icon the world over and most people couldn’t tell you who the hell Doctor Mid-Nite is.
Not long after World War II, America’s interest in superheroes waned. In 1951, All-Star Comics became All-Star Western. The Justice Society made their last appearance in issue #57.
Five years later, in 1956, DC would see if the world was ready for superheroes again by introducing Barry Allen, the second Flash, in the pages of Showcase #4 (more on that here). In the story, Barry Allen gains superspeed and decides to become a superhero called Flash, named after his favorite comic book character.
This firmly set a new precedent for DC Comics. The stories of the past were just that, stories. In this new universe with a new Green Lantern and a new Flash, there never was an Alan Scott or Jay Garrick. Five years later, that would all change.
In 1961, DC decided to re-introduce Jay Garrick, the original Flash, in a story called Flash of Two Worlds. In it, Barry Allen vibrated to a frequency that allowed him to travel to a different Earth, where he met his comic book idol.
Both men agreed that their pants were equally tight, but that Barry’s head was much larger, so Barry’s Earth would be called Earth-1.
This story was a huge success for DC, and it became common for the heroes of the Golden Age of comics, living on Earth-2, to show up in the current comics. Once a year, the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America would team up, starting with Crisis on Earth-1 in issue #21 of Justice League of America. Once again, these stories were very popular with readers.
In time, DC started to introduce other Earths. Lots of Earths. An infinite amount of Earths. Maybe one day we’ll dig into each of them a little more, but today we’re focused on Earth-2.
Earth-2 was very similar to Earth-1, though there were some differences that DC wanted to showcase. To do that, DC started a series of books that took place on Earth-2, including a revived All-Star Comicsas well as a five-part story that appeared in Adventure Comics. The Adventure Comics story really grabbed the attention of readers.
This was, as the kids say, cray.
On Earth-2, Bruce Wayne had long since retired as Batman. He had married Selina Kyle, Catwoman, and together they had a daughter who would become the hero Huntress. Bruce, dying from cancer he got from years of pipe smoking (don’t smoke, kids) came out of retirement to help battle a common thief who was given powers by a magician. Bruce, seeing no other way to defeat the superpowered thief, fights until he dies. In the aftermath of the fight, Batman’s true identity was revealed to the world.
Starting with issue 195, The Superman Family gave us a look at the life of Earth-2 Superman in a recurring backup series called Mr. and Mrs. Superman.
I’ve never read the Mr. and Mrs. Superman stories, and as far as I can tell, they’ve never been collected but, man, I want to read them now! The stories focused on the early years of the marriage of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Lois had become Clark’s closest confidant and on more than one occasion (from what I’ve read online) she helped Earth-2 Superman solve mysteries and fight enemies. There’s a new DC series, Lois and Clark, that I think owes some debt to Mr. and Mrs. Superman. In Lois and Clark the story follows the versions of the characters that existed before DC did the whole New 52 thing, now living on the new Earth. I hear it is pretty good, but haven’t checked it out myself.
Anywho… DC continued to build on Earth-2 with more books centered in that reality. There was All-Star Squadron which focused on the heroes of Earth-2 during World War II, and Infinity Inc., which we discussed previously.
It was during this time that DC decided to explain why they fought through World War II, but not directly in World War II - originally throughout the war, DC comics felt it would be in poor taste to have Superman or any of their heroes pop up in Germany and beat the crap out of Hitler. They were concerned that it would in some way take away from the real heroism of the soldiers fighting the war, though this didn’t stop them from using Superman and company to help the war effort from home.
In later years, writers would go back to add reasons why the heroes didn’t fight in the war. In the miniseries America vs. the Justice Society, the JSA was put on trial after Batman’s diary was discovered and published (a post-death publishing). In Batman’s diary, he claims that the JSA are guilty of treason, and with the information he gave, the US Government decided to see about putting the JSA in prison. This series, along with other Earth-2-focused comics, would recreate the history of the Golden Age heroes in order to better fit it into actual history through three major moments.
The first moment was that instead of the heroes randomly deciding to get together, it would be explained that FDR created the Justice Society after Batman, Flash and Green Lantern were captured by Nazis while the three men were on a mission to find Nazi plans to invade Britain. At a rally in Germany, Hitler was going to unmask the three heroes, but was stopped by Doctor Fate and Hourman. It was during the ensuing battle that Hitler revealed he had the mythical Spear of Destiny, and with the power from it was able to basically mind control any superpowered being that came within its sphere of influence. That sphere of influence covered all of Europe. FDR decided on two things: one was that the heroes of the United States should work together as a team, which Superman named the Justice Society of America. The other decision FDR came to was that the heroes should stay the hell away from the war overseas. The idea of any of these heroes coming under the control of Hitler was terrifying to the president, and he would not allow it to happen.
The second moment was when Roosevelt decided to create a second team, the All-Star Squadron, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This team would be a supergroup not just in being made of superheroes, but because it consisted of multiple teams coming together to form one giant team. The superhero teams involved included the JSA, the Freedom Fighters and the Seven Soldiers of Victory.
The third moment, and the darkest, was when writers Roy and Dann Thomas explained why the Justice Society retired. The JSA was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee where US senators demanded that they reveal their identities to the world, or go to jail. The JSA walked away from HUAC and were never seen again (until they came out of retirement a decade later).
I should also mention that at the end of America vs. the Justice Society it was revealed that while Batman had actually written the diary, he filled it with lies so that the JSA could use it to lure an old enemy, Per Degaton, out of hiding. It worked, and the JSA was able to capture Per Degaton, who then committed suicide.
The continuing world of Earth-2 would be followed through the 1970s up until the middle of the 1980s when DC Comics decided that there were just too many damn Earths and decided to wipe them all out, starting everything over. The series for this took its name from the classic JSA/JLA team-ups of the past. It was called Crisis on Infinite Earths.
After Crisis, the JSA, and the other Earth-2 heroes, would basically go away for a fair amount of time, making random appearances from time to time, as well as having a miniseries or two set in the past to keep the characters in the minds of readers as well as to explain how they fit into the post Crisis continuity. They would come back during the miniseries Armageddon: Inferno, and given a new series that I loved. Sadly, it would not last long.
Taking the ideas set up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, writer James Robinson would create an out-of-continuity miniseries that would later become part of the continuity, detailing the last days of the Golden Age heroes. The miniseries, titled The Golden Age, pushed the better-known characters to the side and showed readers the story from the point of view of B-level characters like Johnny Quick (a Flash knockoff) and Manhunter.
The story centered around the life of the heroes post-WWII. Hourman, a hero who could gain super strength for one hour by taking a pill he had created, found himself addicted to the pill and now hallucinating from it. Johnny Quick was in a bad marriage with his war love Libby Lawrence, also known as Liberty Belle. Alan Scott, the Green Lantern, was slowly going bankrupt trying to keep his television network running while being blacklisted by HUAC. Starman suffered a nervous breakdown after realizing his own research was used to create the A-Bomb.
As told in America vs the Justice Society, the JSA and other heroes are called in front of HUAC. All the heroes are brought to Capitol Hill on the same day, and sure enough one of them is… I kinda don’t want to spoil it. The Golden Age is one of my favorite comics, and I really think you should all read it.
The Golden Age was a big hit for DC, and so the JSA was given a new series titled JSA. This new series was very popular and continued, over multiple volumes, for over a decade, right up to Flashpoint.
After the event series Flashpoint, where Flash destroyed, then recreated, all of existence, a new Multiverse came into being, including a new Earth-2. This Earth-2 saw its greatest heroes - Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman - killed in a battle against Darkseid and his army from Apokolips. From the ashes of that battle came new heroes.
Those heroes, I guess, kind of suck, since Darkseid attacked the Earth again and this time he destroyed it, killing billions. Now, in the series Earth 2: Society, the survivors of the destruction of Earth have begun to colonize a new planet.
On The Flash we haven’t seen too much of Earth-2. We know that it appears to be slightly more advanced in tech, but has a definite “golden age of America” feel to it, what with all the sepia tones and ‘50s-style dress. It seems like there are more metahumans in the open on Earth-2; between the ones that Zoom keeps sending after Barry, and the scene where Earth-2 Wells is shown introducing the metahuman warning watch, I’m guessing people are living in a world of heroes. I really hope Barry travels to Earth-2 so we can get a better look at it soon.
As in the comics, the TV version of Earth-2 has an Atlantis that never sank. It also looks like it may have a Superman!
I’m not a fan of Earth-2 Wells having a daughter that is apparently Jesse Quick. Jesse is a great character in the comics, and a big part of what makes her so interesting is who her parents are, and how she connects to them emotionally. If Jesse ends up being more important in the future, I’ll do a piece on her.
I’m also not big on the Earth-2 Green Arrow being Ollie’s dad. This is taken from Flashpoint where the Batman of the new reality Flash creates when he saves his mom’s life is Thomas Wayne, the father of Bruce Wayne. Thomas becomes Batman after a mugger killed his wife and child.
What I’m excited about is what the idea of using the Multiverse on The Flash could lead to. Could we see Earth-3 with the evil Justice League? Earth-X where World War II went on for three decades? Earth-C where Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew hang out? Earth-Prime, where we are? Surely, if The Flash lasts long enough, the writers will take a cue from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Supernatural and have Barry show up on the set of the show! Or maybe get real crazy and have Barry start showing up on other shows! Imagine if Barry travels to Earth-S where Sam and Dean Winchester need his help to stop a ghost! Then he pops in over at Earth-V where he hangs out with the Vampire Diaries cast! A whole week where Flash shows up on other CW shows! I see some big ratings boosts for sweeps week.
Everett E. Hibbard
Arthur F. Peddy