The Justice Society Of America debuted in All-Star Comics #3 (1940) they were a team of several popular characters that rotated in the roster [The only one to appear in every issue was Hawkman]. A typical adventure would have them meeting, then splitting into teams and then regrouping for the climax. These characters were turned into Earth-2 denizens when the Silver Age started crossing over with the Golden Age characters beginning in Flash #123 (1962). It became an annual occurance to have a crossover in Justice League of America (from #21 (1963) till the cancellation of that series with # 244(1985) being the last).
The mid/late seventies they got a revival for a few years as they resumed All-Star Comics for a few issues then moved them into Adventure Comics. These were modern day adventures of the team and featured younger members Robin, Huntress (Helena Wayne), Power Girl and Star Spangled Kid. Paul Levitz and Gerry Conway wrote these and they are collected in two volumes. Included in the first volume is the origin story of the JSA from DC Special #29 (1977). This the first time an actual origin story was given and it also explained why WWII wasn't won singlehandedly by Superman or any of the other powerful heroes (Hitler used the Spear Of Destiny to make them switch sides when they enter any territory held by the Reich or it's allies).
Then they took a rest for a few years, until Golden Age fan Roy Thomas pitched two series with ties to the JSA. They were ushered in by America Vs The Justice Society, a mini series, which not only told why the heroes retired for a while, but also gave an account of the whole Golden Age All-Star Comics run. It dealt with themes that continue to be revisited in superhero comics movies and TV shows (Watchmen, Incredibles, Heroes all owe a bit to it). The first series was All-Star Squadron [#1-67, Annual #1-3] in which FDR enlists every hero into an organized homeland defense/strike group. The group included all the JSA members, but focused on the lesser known heroes (Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, Firebrand, and the Tarantella for a few). The second series, Infinity Inc.[#1-], focused on the sons and daughters of the JSA making a name for themselves as heroes in modern times. It featured many of the charcters that would play big roles in the recent series (Nuklon/Atom Smasher, Jade, Obsidian, Hourman/Rick Tyler, Hector Hall/Dr Fate) as well as early Todd MacFarlane art.
The Crisis On Infinite Earths altered a lot in both titles. There was no longer any Golden Age Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman which affected some characters in Infinity Inc. Roy Thomas wanted an explaination, so the cancelled All-Star Squadron was replaced by Young All-Stars which came up with "replacements" for lost GA heroes and tied into the changed histories of Infinity Inc. characters. This was a prestige direct market book (comic stores only). Eventually both series were canceled, as Editorial wanted to forget these characters. They were given a send off in The Last Days of The Justice Society (1985) in which the team was trapped in another demension eternally fighting the battle of Ragnarok so that it would not spread to Earth.
A few years later, they tried out the characters in a eight issue mini series (1991) that took place after the war, but before they retired in the 50's. The JSA was restored to modern day in the last issue of the Armageddon mini series with some members having their youth restored and some retaining their age. A second series followed up on the teams reemergance, but was quickly canceled by Mike Carlin who objected to "senior citizen heroes". Lasting only ten issues it was written by Len Strazewski with art by Mike Parobeck and introduced Jesse Quick .Which leads us to Zero Hour (1994) where most of the JSA are killed or have their youth sucked out of them so as to be closer to their "true" ages. Only Jay Garrick(Flash) and Alan Scott(Green Lantern) retained their youth. Alan lost his ring, absorbed his lantern (the Starheart) and renamed himself Sentinel.
The JSA characters made few appearances, mainly in supporting roles, guest stars, cameos or flashbacks for the next few years. Then James Robinson wrote an Elseworlds story featuring them. The Golden Age was a hit and stirred intrest in the JSA again. Robinson began his Starman series [that's the next rundown] which fueled the fire even more. DC then commited a fifth week event (a bunch of one shots with a bookend series) to The Justice Society Returns (1999). It takes place in the final days of WWII, in homage to clasic stories the JSA meet, confront the villain, then split up. Their separate adventures bring them into contact with other heroes of the time who aid them when they reassemble for the showdown. All this paved the way for the series.
The JSA (1999-2007 in TPBs)
Justice Be Done- (JSA Secret Files #1, JSA #1-5) The death of an original JSA member heralds the coming of a new Dr. Fate. A new team must track down the baby who will be the host of the new Fate before the powerful Dark Lord who is killing off agents of Order and Chaos finds it and adds the power of Fate to his own. Written by James Robinson and David Goyer, art by Scott Benefiel, Steve Sedowski and Derec Aucoin.
Darkness Falls- (JSA #6-15) Obsidian is used by an old JSA foe against his father (Alan Scott/GL) and the new team. A new Injustice Society attacks the HQ when only Wildcat is there. The team then faces the terrorist Kobra and insane time altering Extant (formerly Hawk of Hawk & Dove) Written by David Goyer and Johns, art by Steve Sedowski, Marcos Martin and Buzz.
The Return Of Hawkman- (JSA #16-25, JSA Secret Files #1)- The JSA must prevent Johnny Sorrow and his Injustice Society from bringing the Lovecraftian King Of Tears to Earth. Then drawn to Thanagar Hawkgirl and the JSA aid in the resurrection of Carter Hall the Golden Age Hawkman and battle Onimar Syn to free Thanagar. Written by David Goyer and Johns, art by Steve Sedowski, Rags Morales and Buzz
Fair Play- (JSA #26-31, JSA Secret Files #2) Black Adam joins, Mr Terrific is named Chairman. The JSA must escape an underground club where heroes are pitted against one another in contests so people can bet on the outcome. Then they solve a kidnappping with Batman. Art by Rags Morales and Steve Sedowski.
Stealing Thunder- (JSA #32-38) Sand leads a team to free the world from a reality in which the Ultra-Humanite has gained control of the world through the Thunderbolt's magic and enforces his will through mind controlled super beings. Then Rick Tyler and Jakeem Thunder spend time with their fathers. Art by Peter Snejbjerg, Leonard Kirk and Steve Sedowski.
Savage Times- (JSA #39-45) A Jokerized Solomon Grundy fights Stars and Jakeem. Dr. Fate searches for Lyta Hall/Fury while a few members find themselves in a time travel adventure, first to the early 40's then to ancient Eygpt where they find a JSA of sorts (Nabu/Dr. Fate, Khufu/Hawkman, Black Adam) engaged in a war with Vandal Savage. Apon their return they attend the trial of Kobra, who promptly escapes. Art by Leonard Kirk.
Princes Of Darkness- (JSA #46-55) The JSA faces the return of Mordru who allies himself with Obsidian and Eclipso. Then the Crimson Avenger targets Wildcat. And the JSA celebrate thanksgiving and Christmas. Art by Sal Velluto, Don Kramer and Leonard Kirk.
Black Reign- (JSA #56-58, Hawkman #23-25) Hawkman leads the JSA against Black Adam who has assembled a team of former JSAers and JSA allies and taken over his former country, Kandaq. Art by Don Kramer and Rags Morales
Lost- (JSA #59-67) Per Degaton watches bad days for JSAers. The Spirit King strikes at the Spectre, Hal Jordan has tried to make him the Spirit of Redemption allowing those that the Spectre has damned escape Hell seeking revenge. Sand must be saved from a dreamworld. The two Hourmans(men?) face Rex Tyler's death at the hands of Extant. And Dr. Mid-Nite preforms the autopsy of Sue Dibny [Identity Crisis]. Art by Sean Phillips, Tom Mandrake, Jerry Ordway, Don Kramer and Dave Gibbons.
Black Vengeance- (JSA #68-75) Per Degaton attacks the modern JSA and their families and tries to prevent the JSA from coming out of retirement in the 50's. A group of JSAers go back in time (Rick Hunter helps them) and have to convince their counterparts to reform the JSA. Then the JSA return to Kandaq as the Spectre is attacking all the forms of magic in the world goaded by Eclipso.[Day Of Vengeance] Art by Don Kramer, Leonard Kirk and Steve Sedowski.
Mixed Signals- (JSA #76-81) The OMACs attack as Power Girl learns Blue Beetle died and Atom Smasher goes on trial for aiding Black Adam. Then Airwave and Alan Scott join Donna Troy for a mission in space. Mordru escapes the Rock of Eternity and battles Nabu while others look for Jakeem Thunder in the Fifth Dimension. Hector and Lyta Hall are "saved" by their son (Sandman of Vertigo) and enter the Dreaming. [OMAC Project, Infinite Crisis] Art by David Lopez, Don Kramer and Dale Eaglesham
Ghost Stories- (JSA #82-87) Power Girl finds the diary of Earth-2 Lois Lane as objects and knowledge of the Multiverse return. The Gentleman Ghost will return to life if he can murder the JSA on a certain day. He uses the ghosts of loved ones of JSA members to lure them into a trap and mess with them.[One Year Later] Written by Paul Levitz art by George Perez, Rags Morales and Jerry Ordway.
Watch for a Rundown of the next series The Justice Society Of America soon.
Also check out:
The Justice Society Returns- collects the fifth week event issues, lots of good artists and writers, many who would work on JSA later
JLA Justice For All- which includes JLA #28-31 an old time JSA/JLA crossover by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter, it introduces Jakeem Thunder
Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. Vol1 & 2 - Introduces Geoff Johns and Stargirl and teases a Johns Seven Soldiers of Victory team/book.
Starman Vol 1-8 - Look for an upcoming Rundown to feature this title.