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Justice League of America 3
"The Slave Ship of Space!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND March 1961
Script: Gardner Fox
Art: Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs

Inside cover house ad: Showcase #30: Aquaman and Aqualad, featuring Aquaman's Silver Age origin! Art by Ramona Fradon.

"In the dim shadows of a darkened room a golden mallet is poised to strike an oddly shaped bell..." whose vibratory waves spread in all directions. Meanwhile, the League members...first Flash, then GL, J'Onzz, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Snapper Carr...notice that their JLA signaling devices have abruptly burned out. They finish their various tasks, then head to their mountain cavern sanctuary for replacements, and are surprised to find they're all there and have had the same problem at the same time. GL calls it more than a coincidence. At that moment, a different hammer strikes a different bell, and the heroes are immediately immobilized. The bell-ringer, a sharp-featured gent with compound eyes, steps from the shadows to speak. He is Kanjar Ro, self-declared dictator of a planet circling Antares, hundreds of light years from Earth. It was he who interfered with their signal devices, to lure them to the sanctuary so that he can employ their talents.

He speaks of his rivals within his planetary system: Hyathis, the leaf-haired queen of planet Alstair; Kromm, a metal being who's king of planet Mosteel; and the reptilian Sayyar, emperor of planet Llarr. For years, their space armadas have fought for control of the system, but their similar technologies cancel each other. Kanjar Ro's hyperspacial telescope has shown him the JLA's adventures, though, and he feels they can win the day for him. Wonder Woman's thoughts show amazement that Ro thinks they'd further his aggressions, with Lantern thinking as well that if the JLA went to Antares it would be to bring peace to those worlds. Kanjar Ro, though, tells them he can hear their thoughts, and figured they'd resist. Striking a convenient Gamma Metal Gong, he tells them that everyone on Earth is now frozen motionless as well. Only the combined voices of Hyathis, Kromm and Sayyer, speaking his name, can release them now! The League are duty-bound to capture the three competing rulers! From somewhere in his form-fitting garment he produces a wand topped by a small orb, as well a small boat, about a foot long, with a carved winged dragon at the prow and a rudder aft. "We shall travel through dimensional space in this cosmic vessel! As I hold this rod on it, it will grow large enough for you to enter it...as my SLAVES!" The boat grows to full size as Batman wishes that Superman would return from his space mission, but Kanjar Ro hears the thought and replies that by the time Supes returns, the group will have departed...all except Batman and Snapper, who will remain behind as bait. When Supes enters the sanctum, Ro continues, he will see the pair immobilized and, as he approaches to investigate, will trip an electric eye, releasing a flow of Kryptonite gas, effectively immobilizing him as well!

Kanjar Ro releases the five heroes from their trance and they obediently seat themselves behind the boat's oars. To J'Onzz' query, Kanjar Ro explains that, while he couldn't subjugate his rivals, he succeeded against the League 'cause he caught them by surprise. Then, riding the currents of cosmic energy that flow through the universe, the JLA rows the galley skyward! Kanjar Ro exclaims that the JLA are better than any mechanical weapon because, in an emergency, they can improvise! As the vessel glides quickly spaceward, J'Onzz declares that they can't breathe in space, to which Kanjar Ro replies that his wand will take care of oxygen and constant temperature control...and for Aquaman, an hourly dousing with water. While Ro had taken many days to row to Earth, these five will get the ship to Antares in only a few hours. Off they go!

CHAPTER TWO! As the space galley nears its first planetary destination, Kanjar Ro aims a bolt of radiation at J'Onzz' forehead. This teaches him the language of the Metalmen to aid him in his capture of Kromm, their king. As J'Onzz dives out of the galley toward the surface, Kanjar Ro warns him to be on guard every moment! Soon, J'Onzz' path is crossed by an airship's smokey trail. He wonders to himself if it's intended as a path marker, and an amplified voice replies that he's right! It's Kromm, who says that he, too, has a hyperspacial telescope and saw Kanjar Ro fetch the League. He's leaving the smoke trail to make it easier for J'Onzz to find him, "For the sooner we meet, the sooner I'll defeat you!" Kromm blathers on as J'Onzz sees that the smoke was hiding some interceptor missiles! In attempts to shake them, the Manhunter tries an underwater route, then bores through a mountain, but to no avail: they alter their course to match his hairpin turns. As he races through the sky, missiles matching his pace, he wonders if even his super-body can withstand the terrible friction. Soon he's near the speed of light! After circling the planet thousands of times he's relieved to see the missiles burst into flames, giving way to the friction before he did. It takes him another spin around the planet before he can brake his own forward progress and arc away from the flaming menace! Now to pay Kromm a visit!

As he nears Kromm's citadel, which resembles a three-tiered wedding cake circled with tall columns and topped by a dome, J'Onzz recoils, as it's circled by a gigantic barrier of flame! He tries to approach from deep underground but finds his path similarly blocked, though the art doesn't make clear how this is achieved. J'Onzz figures that the answer may be to bring Kromm to him, so he calls on his Martian Super-Vision to scan the subsurface of the entire planet in search of Lodestone. When none is found, he acquires some of the abundant Hematite... Fe2O3...and, with his Martian knowledge of transmutation, adds one atom of Iron and one of Oxygen, thus obtaining Lodestone! (This ability and application may be of interest to Jack Selgue.)

He creates enough Lodestone to fashion a robust 40' harpoon with an attached vine of astonishing length. But wait! There's something else he'd better do first!

Having finished the other, a mighty fling of maybe half a mile puts the harpoon through the citadel's walls, directly to the throne room! Kromm is unable to escape its magnetism, and J'Onzz gives the vine a tremendous tug that brings in the prize catch. "Kanjar Ro has outsmarted me," Kromm capitulates, and they sit to wait for Kanjar Ro to pick them up.

CHAPTER THREE! High above the planet Alstair, Kanjar Ro dispatches Aquaman and Wonder Woman to find his enemy, the flower-woman Queen Hyathis, after telepathically teaching them her language! WW tells Aquaman that she'll build a glider and search the planet from above; he replies that he'll question the undersea creatures, who as it happens look a lot like Earthly water animals. Before they can enter into a meaningful dialogue, though, Aquaman gets an amplified voice call from Hyathis, who tells him his task is hopeless. Catching sight of her, he approaches her through a bed of sea anemone, and unexpectedly finds himself snared! While earthly sea anemone are actually animal life, those on Alstair are true plants, and, as with his influence over the fishes, she has control over all plant life on her planet!

Struggling to keep the deadly petals from absorbing him, Aquaman calls in some help from a nearby manta. He grabs its tail and is pulled free, only to find himself grabbed by a huge tendril of an undersea rubber plant! He's then suspended ten feet in the air, where Hyathis taunts him further.

Meanwhile, WW finds herself in trouble as a forest of fan-shaped trees begins waving hurricane-force winds in her direction, forcing the glider to crash at the bottom of a deep valley! There, "the earth girl" is greeted by Hyathis' voice-projected gloating, which Echo-Flowers repeat at deafening levels off the rocky walls. WW tosses her lasso at a tree atop the rise and clambers upward. But, the tree bends under her weight, then snaps in the other direction, tossing the Amazon straight to Hyathis and the suspended Aquaman!

The triumphant flower woman, recognizing that WW needs air as Aquaman needs water, directs a rubbery tendril to hold the struggling Amazon underwater! As Hyathis gloats, Aquaman calls a local swordfish with one of those serrated upper jaws to cut him free, but Hyathis chastises him while demonstrating her ability to direct the plant away from the fish. However, his plan worked...Hyathis was distracted for the few seconds it took for WW to swim hard, away from the plant stem, stretching the tendril ever thinner behind her...until it snapped! A moment later, WW bursts out of the water right next to Hyathis, binding her with the Golden Lasso. "Kanjar Ro made a good choice picking you two to fight me," Hyathis admits. She releases Aquaman, and the three begin their wait.

INTERLUDE: The JLA Mail Room, including a note from Jerry Bails, "Your fan for the 20th year." The editorial reply credits him as an "avid fan of the old Justice Society of America," the first time modern readers would have heard of this team, last seen a decade earlier...to the month! Flash #123, with more specific references, is still half a year away. Then, House Ad: Brave and Bold #34, introducing Silver Age Hawkman!

CHAPTER 4! Flash and GL are dropped from the galley high over planet Llarr to capture Sayyer. Flash begins a ground-based search while GL rides the air currents. Suddenly, the ground below GL erupts in a shower of rocks and searing flames! The concussive shock stuns him before he can summon any ring-based defenses! Fortunately, Flash observes the disaster and runs to his friend, moving so quickly that the rocks appear motionless and he's able to use them as stepping stones! Flash carries his pal back to ground similarly, and GL recovers quickly, in time to hear the now-familiar voice-projected boasting. As they continue the search, a gigantic crevasse suddenly opens beneath Flash's feet, and an amplified gravity effect pulls him irresistibly downward into the seemingly bottomless chasm! Suddenly, happily, pincers of emerald energy snag Flash to pull him upward! As Flash's thoughts reflect this development though, the projected voice rebuts his thoughts with another razz. Still, Flash is pulled above ground a fraction of a second before the ground slams shut behind him, which, since he's facing down, must have been terrifying. Now we see Sayyer in front of a bank of controls as he throws a lever. His voice carries to them, boasting of the next violent planetary upheaval he's throwing their way. And, at that moment, a chunk the size of Texas flies off the planet, carrying Flash and GL with it! Winds of yellow sulfur dust howl across the surface of the far-flung land mass, coating everything with dust whose color thwarts GL's power ring. If that wasn't bad enough, the guys know that the atmosphere will soon blow away! They're done for! But no! Flash, choking from lack of breathable air, races around the area, isolating the fine dust into a towering plume that rises spaceward! GL is now free to jet the chunk back to the planet as they ride behind it in an emerald force-bubble. The chunk itself rams the planet with "a force a thousand times greater than an atom bomb," knocking Sayyer unconscious in the process. The boys subdue him as he opens his eyes and groans, "Kanjar Ro--has won!" They await the return of Kanjar Ro's galley.

CHAPTER 5! The galley soon appears, with Kromm and Hyathis at the oars. As soon as Sayyer is on board, Kanjar Ro hits them all with a "stupor beam," leaving them speechless. Aquaman angrily reminds him that the trio must speak his name simultaneously in order to release the people of earth from their paralysis, but Kanjar Ro only smirks. "I did it for my own protection...to guarantee you don't turn on me once the Earthmen are free!" Further, "I'll make a deal with you! In exchange for your promise not to fight me, I'll restore the power of speech to my rival rulers!" GL comments that his ring has lost its 24-hour charge, so he can't free them and force them to say Kanjar Ro's name. Flash counters that he expected Kanjar Ro to pull a fast one, so when Sayyer was captured and said the name, he caught it on his wrist-radio watch, which was introduced in Showcase #13! J'Onzz grins, as the same thought had occurred to him, so just before he threw the magnetic harpoon at Kromm's citadel, he made a wire recorder about the size of a Palm Pilot, should Kromm happen to say the name! Wonder Woman is likewise pleased with her foresight, as she had hidden an Echo Flower "in her costume," available when Hyathis capitulated to her betters. (No mention of where J'Onzz hid the recorder!) Aquaman takes the opportunity to lunge at Kanjar Ro and seize his stupor-beam projecting wand.

As the galley enters Earth's atmosphere, Kanjar Ro is, er, rowing along with his rivals. Aquaman (of course) is at the till and Wonder Woman, cozying up to the alpha male of the moment, is at his side. J'Onzz leaps overboard, as his Martian Vision has spotted Superman, trapped by Kryptonite gas at their HQ. In no time he clears the deadly vapor, and the gang reassembles. As their respective recorders issue the name "Kanjar Ro," Batman and Snapper express gratitude and puzzlement. Before they can explain, though, Flash says they have to imprison the "four super-villains." Following a ring-charge, Superman finds a meteor shower and slams a group of them into each other, forming a planet-sized mass which he flings "in such a manner" that it will assume an orbit around Antares. GL takes the four foes there in an emerald spaceship, "where to survive they'll have to live in peace." Once there, he creates an atmosphere, land, water and plant life...plus a force field around the planet so they won't escape! "Learn to help one another! If you do that--and change your natures--someday we shall return and free you!" What a great guy!

Back at HQ, there's general levity as Snapper the archivist unveils a tape recorder: "Man, I've been carving out your words on a chunk of talk-tape!" The end!

...and the bottom third of the page shows the covers for Flash #119: "The Doomed Scarecrow!"; and Green Lantern #4: "The Diabolical Missile from Qward!"

Writer Fox's pulp magazine roots are very much in evidence, as the opening line reads like something out of Weird Tales. The name of rival ruler Kromm would have been an obscure reference in '61, several years before the REH stories were back in print. Dorothy Sayer, who I believe is a mystery writer, may have been the basis for the name "Sayyer." As for any hidden reference in the name "Hyathis," I open the floor.

The notion that sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic serves as the basis for this story, and the need for the "science" to make sense is conveniently blunted. I like it! However, all this intriguing setup is wasted. The need to put all those characters to work left no room for nuance and mood, and that's a shame.

So, at story's end it's stranded castaways, three males and one female, all of different species and, perhaps particularly in the case of the lizardly Sayyer, varying reproductive capabilities. Will they be as chaste as the gang on Gilligan's Island?

Next: the JLA cross over with Adam Strange against Kanjar Ro, from Mystery in Space #75!

Tom Orzechowski
San Francisco CA