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Talkin? ?bout My Generation

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August’s Justice Society of America Annual #1 brought the denizens of Earth 2, in particular Infinity Inc, back to prominence. But just who are they? Retroflect unwinds their knotted history…

Earth 2, being the world on which DC’s Golden Age heroes resided, always had a certain something that made it unique. Unlike their ageless counterparts on Earth 1, the Earth 2 heroes’ origins were firmly tied to a specific point in time-World War II. This meant that they, alone of all the characters DC published, actually aged in something approaching real time. By the mid 60s, we’d already seen a grown-up Robin replace Batman in the Justice Society, and by the early 70s Superman was shown to be married and semi-retired.

But it was not until December 1977 that we met the first of the real second generation of Earth 2’s superheroes, when the Huntress (AKA Helena Wayne, daughter of Bruce ‘Batman’ Wayne and the Catwoman) debuted more or less simultaneously in the pages of DC Super Stars #17 (where her origin was told) and the JSA strip in All-Star Comics #69. Helena joined the JSA in All-Star Comics #72, quickly forming a friendship with the similarly youthful Power Girl (the Supergirl of Earth 2, who had spent decades in suspended animation). Later, she received her own solo series as a backup strip in the Wonder Woman book.

It would be more than five years before another of the children of the Justice Society appeared, and when it happened all but the most dedicated readers would have overlooked it. February 1983’s Wonder Woman #300 saw the amazing Amazon briefly visit her Golden Age counterpart on Earth 2, and introduced the older Wonder Woman’s daughter, Hippolyta Trevor. Towards the end of that same year though, Lyta (as she was known) reappeared in the pages of writer Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron #24-26 and All-Star Squadron Annual #2, as part of a new team-Infinity Inc.

The All-Star Squadron storyline told us very little about these seven new characters-Silver Scarab, Fury, Northwind, Nuklon, Jade, Obsidian and Brainwave Junior-aside from that they were evidently superheroes from the present day who had traveled back to 1942 (when All-Star was set) to aid their predecessors against the villainous Ultra Humanite and his Secret Society of Super Villains.

The only real clue we had to any of their identities, in fact, was when Jade slipped up and called the original Green Lantern ‘dad’. But if their debut was uninformative, it was nonetheless intriguing and March 1984 gave us some of the answers when Infinity Inc #1 hit the newsstands. It would not be until the first Infinity Inc Annual (1985) that we’d learn that Jade and her brother Obsidian were indeed Green Lantern’s children, but Fury was definitely Lyta Trevor. What’s more, the Silver Scarab was actually Hector Hall, previously unsuspected son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, the bird like Northwind was actually Hawkman’s godson (and a member of a hidden race of bird people last seen in the 1940s) and Nuklon was Albert Rothstein, atomic powered grandson of the deceased villain Cyclotron and godson of Al Pratt, the Justice Society’s own Atom.

These kids were, as the house ads loudly shouted, “The sons and daughters of the Justice Society of America”! (In fact, one of those house ads also showed another “Infinitor”, a mysterious woman dressed as a cat in an orange colored costume, riding a customized motorcycle. This character-‘La Garro’(the Claw)-did not eventually appear in that initial storyline, but may well have been a prototype of a later recruit to the team, the second Wildcat).

Roy Thomas, the creator of Infinity Inc, has always been known for his fondness for the Golden Age heroes, and he and co-writer (and wife) Dann seem to have really had fun expanding their world with Infinity Inc. That first issue begins with the kids crashing a meeting of the JSA to demand membership, only to be dismissed out of hand by their seniors. The Society’s more junior members, though-Power Girl, Huntress and the time-warped  and so still youthful Star Spangled Kid-see their potential and, with assistance from Brainwave Junior (son of an old JSA villain) form them into a new team.

The first ten issues are essentially one long story, ‘the Generations Saga’, which sees Infinity Inc forced to battle the JSA, brainwashed by the Ultra Humanite using another Golden Age plot device, the mystic ‘Stream of Ruthlessness’. Later, after Power Girl and Huntress dropped out of the lineup and the Star Spangled Kid relocated the team to Los Angeles, the JSA would appear less frequently. Still, it’s pretty clear that the whole reason the book existed in the first place was so that the often overlooked Earth 2 characters had a place to appear regularly in new contemporary adventures (received wisdom being that kids didn’t want to buy books about heroes past their prime).

As time went on, new characters appeared. The Golden Age villains, such as the Harlequin (who eventually married her old nemesis Green Lantern in Infinity Inc Annual #1) still had their place, but Infinity’s real arch foes were Helix, a band of teenagers genetically mutated while still in the womb by the sinister Dr Love, and led by the perpetually rhyming lunatic named Mr. Bones-a walking skeleton with transparent flesh and a lethal ‘cyanide touch’.

Later, Bones (always more misunderstood than evil) would join Infinity Inc, as would Rick Tyler (the son of Hourman), Dr Beth Chapel (a blind surgeon who succeeded Charles McNider as the new Dr Midnight) and Yolanda Montez, the aforementioned second Wildcat (and, incidentally, another victim of Dr Love’s prenatal experiments). This was all just as well, as by the end of 1985 Infinity Inc’s supporting cast was thinned out considerably by the events of DC’s apocalyptic 50th anniversary limited series ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’.

The Crisis simplified and streamlined DC continuity, but it did Infinity Inc few favors. In the aftermath, the JSA were gone, removed from the then current DC universe, and at least one of the kids-Lyta Trevor-had had her whole established history wiped out by the removal of the original Wonder Woman from continuity; instead, Lyta was now retconned as the biological daughter of a continuity implanted new character, Helena Kosmatos, the ‘original’ Fury, and as the adopted daughter of Miss America. It was all rather convoluted and a little confusing.

Still, Infinity Inc continued under the Thomas’s guiding hand for 53 issues, in the process giving a young artist named Todd McFarlane one of his first big breaks and reintroducing a host of otherwise long forgotten characters to a new audience. Jonni Thunder, anyone? Sadly, almost as soon as it ended (in August 1988), a new generation of writers effectively (though doubtless unintentionally) began to pick apart Roy’s carefully crafted continuity. Hector Hall had been killed off in Infinity Inc # 44 but later resurrected as the new Sandman; Neil Gaiman’s 1989 Sandman series killed him off again, and while he was later resurrected for a second time as the new Dr Fate, it’s hardly surprising that DC’s high-ups eventually decreed that he and Lyta should both die for good just to spare the readership any more confusion.

Nuklon and Obsidian reappeared in the early 90s in Justice League of America, but the writers clearly had no idea who they were and at one point showed Power Girl not recognizing Nuklon, implying that she had never been in Infinity Inc. Only in more recent years have the former ‘Infinitors’ been fully integrated back into the DCU, mostly as members of the new JSA (though Mr. Bones is now a regular supporting character in Manhunter). Sadly, a few more have died along the way: Wildcat II and Dr Midnight both perished in Eclipso #13 (1993) and Jade in the ‘Infinite Crisis’ in 2005. The Star Spangled Kid (later ‘Skyman’) didn’t even survive the passing of the Infinity Inc series: he was murdered in #51.

In 2008, we learned the original, pre-Crisis Infinity Inc were all still alive after all, on a restored Earth 2. Or were they? It seems nothing is ever that simple with Infinity Inc...

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