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Mystery in Space 75
"The Planet that Came to a Standstill!"

(reprinted in Strange Adventures #235, Mar-Apr 1972 )
Story: Gardner Fox
Art: Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

In his recent encounter with the Justice League, Kanjar Ro nearly defeated them...and now he's devised a way of making himself more powerful than all of them combined! Can the added presence of Adam Strange be enough to tip the scale back in the Justice League's favor?

High-school student and JLA sidekick Snapper Carr brings himself (and us) up to date via Green Lantern's recorded recount of JLA #3 (Feb-Mar 1961). At its finale, Kanjar Ro and his peers, three competing planetary system dictators, are imprisoned on a miserable planetoid. Superman built it by throwing meteors together; GL willed it an atmosphere and plant life, plus a force field to thwart their escape. At the conclusion of the narrative, Snapper comments, "Man, that was OUTSVILLE! I wonder what that gruesome foursome is doing now?"

Why, they're plotting their escape! Ro is urging his peers, saying that their combined will should be enough to override GL's force field! His companions grumble: they've been trying for a year with no success, but keep at it as there's nothing else to do. Suddenly, Ro points jubilantly overhead, to a crack in the force field! He then pulls an Energi-Wand out of his tunic and, activating its anti-grav utility, flies upward! His stranded companions are shocked, as they'd sworn friendship and cooperation. Besides which, without him they lack sufficient will to cause another crack in the field. Meanwhile, Ro flies out the rift to freedom, rationalizing that while he'd sworn friendship while imprisoned with them, now that he's free he's their enemy again!

From elsewhere in the tunic he produces that tiny slave galley, and his Energi-Wand grows it to full size. As he rows the currents of cosmic energy toward Earth, he muses that the surest way to beat the JLA is to make himself more powerful than all of them combined. Having learned that Superman draws his might from Earth's lesser gravity and yellow sun, Ro's plan is to find a planet similar to Earth that's bathed by a TRIPLE sun! He'll find such a place as close to Earth as possible, where the local gravity field--less than on his home world--will combine with all that sun radiation to make him three times as strong as Superman and three times faster than the Flash. Of course, he'll need folks to build a laboratory there for him, but he figures his "great scientific powers" will bend them to his will.

Here's where it gets good. Some weeks later, on the planet Rann of the triple star-sun system of Alpha Centauri, Adam Strange and his interplanetary sweetheart Alanna are investigating the local Aurora Borealis. Since this takes them to Rann's north polar region, they wear helmets. Recent events allow Adam to stay on Rann indefinitely, so they can now choose their research goals with no time limits in mind. Adam explains that, on Earth, the Aurora Borealis takes the shape of curtains, while on Rann they appear as cylinders. In either case, the charged particles can exert a severe shock. Days later, their data assembled, the pair jet toward Ranagar, and are surprised to see giant birds being ridden by men! The riders are Zooran barbarians; more surprising is that they've tamed the big Taral birds. Even less likely is the flock of urban people walking on ahead, all of them in a trance! Adam suggests they set their ray-guns to stun and give the urbanites a hand, and Alanna agrees, as they'll want to question the Zoorans and get their story. Just then, the nearest bird-rider pulls a small bell and mallet from his belt! Adam guesses that these items are behind the situation.

As mallet strikes bell, Adam's suspicions are proven as he and Alanna are immediately paralyzed! Since they had adjusted their jets for an upward trajectory the instant before the bell was struck, they can't change course! Soon they'll be beyond the atmosphere and into space, even as their uniforms a utomatically adjust to keep them warm in the colder temperatures. At least they can still communicate through their radio links. The speed of their ascent is soon counterbalanced by Rann's gravity, placing them in orbit. Adam comments, though, that even if an observatory spots them, help could not arrive before their jets run out of fuel. "And then =sob= we'll hurtle downward to crash and die," Alanna concludes.

Interlude: a third of a page announcing Kirby's Fourth World BLOCKBUSTERS (Forever People, New Gods, the New Jimmy Olsen and Mister Miracle): 52 BIG pages - don't take less! - only 25 cents.

CHAPTER 2! Adam and Alanna are tossed by the fringe of Rann's easterly jet stream! Adam's got an idea, though: they'd been jetting in a westerly direction, against the flow. In moments, they'll hit the full, 130 mph force of the jet stream. But! If luck is with them, the wind will move their fingers onto the jet controls, where they were poised when the paralysis hit! AND LUCK HAPPENS! Adam now urges Alanna to flip over in order to move in the same direction as the winds. Soon, they're hurtling eastward at incredible speed...right into the cylinders of the Aurora Borealis! On contact, it shocks their bodies out of the paralysis. Unfortunately, it also shorts out their jetpacks! Adam had anticipated all this, of course, down to the fact they'd fall less than a quarter mile...and land on a snow-covered mountain. Soon he's repaired their jets and they're on the way back to Ranagar to assemble a rescue party.

On their arrival, they are met by Alanna's father Sardath, who gushes the very news they've come to tell him. Soon, the couple stand before the Great Council and compare notes. Every expedition sent to Zoora has failed to return, the Council reports. Adam tells them about the bell which paralyzes the human nervous system. He speculates that the bell's effect enters the ears and thus the bodies, and that by plugging their ears as Ulysses did against the sirens' song, they'll be safe. Alanna volunteers herself and Adam for the mission.

As they jet northward to the land of the Zoorans, Adam offers to go test his theory first. If his earplugs work, he will signal her to follow and pretend to be under the bell's spell as well. He swoops down on the bird caravan as soon as his ears are plugged, and indeed finds himself immune to the bell sounded by a birdrider. Alanna follows on cue, and Adam discretely removes his earplugs so they can talk.

The shuffling two...eventually reach the ancient ruins of Vardana, to be greeted by Kanjar Ro! He hurries "this batch" to the lab, as there's still much to do before he can give himself super-powers. In the underground lab, Ro announces to no on in particular that tomorrow, he shall bathe the "Generato-Screens" with radiation, then bask in their glow. "After that--I shall be more super than Superman himself!" "Greater than SUPERMAN? Good gosh," thinks Adam.

The next day, Ro stands amid table-sized panels which bathe him in the radiation of the triple-sun system, and announces, "Five minutes of such intensity will be enough for now!" He then snaps four inch-thick steel bars in half and proclaims his theory to be correct! After a few more days of the treatments, he challenges JLA robots he's constructed...up to and including their powers! battle. In short order he reduces them all to crumbs, both with fists and disintegrator vision. (This action supplies the cover for the reprint.)

That night, while the other prisoners sleep, Adam sneaks away, but Alanna is wakened by his departure. She assumes he's heading to Ro's lab in order to overcome him, and follows to lend a hand. What she doesn't know is that Adam had been ordered to report for special late-night work! As Adam approaches, his ray-gun drawn to stun the unsuspecting Ro, Alanna sets off the intruder alarm! The villain immediately turns to face his surprise opponent, and strikes the Gamma Gong, which paralyzes Adam where he stands! (This was the cover for the first printing.) A couple of Zooran guards pull the struggling Alanna into the lab, and Ro wonders why this one was also unenslaved, a point he'll have to ponder later. For how, he blows a whistle to free Adam from the Gong's effects, then has the two placed in chairs which, under the influence of the Gravity-Prison he activates with a switch, will hold them securely. "Except when it comes time to eat--you won't be able to move a finger!" The Editor's Note explains that the Gravity-Prison held the couple down by an effective 5 Gs, which would make Adam weigh approximately half a ton!

Later, at mealtime, they are freed sufficiently to move their lips and one arm. Adam suggests that Alanna throw her plate at the gravity control lever, to push it upward. She objects that this would make them even heavier, but gives it a shot...and misses. Adam assures her that he learned the necessary angle and force in the process, and then executes the maneuver successfully. The lever goes up, and the couple find themselves crushed down by about 30 Gs!...which the Editor's Note tells us is theoretically survivable, based on Navy research. Suddenly, the wooden beams and crumbly stonework of this ancient floor give way! The couple fall out of range of the gravity unit! Adam now tells Alanna that he has a plan to defeat Ro, but that he'll have to go to Earth to make it work, and that she should jet to Ranagar and wait for him. Then, he races to the Cosmic Galley and rows to Earth, where the Zeta-Beam is due to strike in mere minutes!

Interlude: Statement of Ownership! Average number of copies printed per issue the previous year: 276,666. Total paid circulation: 135,265. Unsold copies: 140,735. Acceptable numbers, in light of the fact that the material had already been paid for.

CHAPTER 3! "Close to the ruins of the ancient and mysterious city of ZAMBEBWE in the heart of Africa, Adam Strange abandons the Cosmic Ship and jets at full power toward where the Zeta Beam is about to strike." Adam has no time to hide the ship, as the Beam is due to strike any second about a hundred yards away: it does, taking him back to Rann. Shortly, the Flash, who had been visiting Gorilla City, happens upon the Cosmic Galley and recognizes it at once. Fearing that Kanjar Ro has escaped, he sends the rest of the JLA an emergency signal to gather there. Soon, all arrive except Superman, who could fix the situation all by, who was on an important case in Kandor. Rather than wait for him, GL rings himself, J'Onzz and Bats out to check on the meteor planet. The others (Flash, WW, Aquaman, Carr) wait by the ship to grab Ro when he returns.

Meanwhile, Adam is met by Alanna at the Zeta landing point. As they jet to Vardana, he explains that they'll defeat Ro with his own Gamma Gong: while she creates a distraction, he'll grab the mallet and hit the Gong. She warns that earplugs are useless against it.

Meanwhile, the JLA trio interrogate the stranded royals on the planetoid. They tell of the plan involving a nearby triple star system, and wish them good hunting. While zipping he and his pals to Rann at "multi-light speed," GL signals WW and the others of the destination, where J'Onzz has spotted Kanjar Ro.

Meanwhile, Adam and Alanna approach Vardana from the direction opposite to the JLA. She sees Ro running from his lab, and they rush in. Adam has no time to learn how to control the range of the Gong's vibrations, or how Ro made himself invulnerable to it: he swings and connects with all his strength. The point is to bring ALL life on Rann to a standstill! Adam knows that in time, the Zeta Beam will wear off and he'll be pulled back to Earth, out of range of the Gong and back to normal mobility! And, indeed, days later, Adam fades away, planning to snap everyone but Ro out of the spell when he returns to Rann, via the Cosmic Galley.

Back on Earth, Adam jets to where he left the Galley. There, he encounters WW, Flash, Aquaman and Carr, who have apparently been standing around waiting for the past few days. (The Editor's Note points out that this story happened between JLA #3, with Kanjar Ro, and #4, where Flash proposed Adam for membership. Continuity is now safe again.) The gang compare notes, and Adam realizes that GL, Bats and J'Onzz are paralyzed back on Rann along with everyone else. Carr snaps his fingers and comments insightfully, "Man, this is DISASTERVILLE!" The gang rush to the Galley and get it back to Rann even faster than the "mere minutes" it took Adam to make the journey all by his lonesome. Wow! 25 trillion miles in less than mere minutes!

The moment they make their pinpoint landing on Rann, Adam rushes past Ro, who stands in mid-stride, and retrieves the supersonic whistle from the lab. Standing next to Alanna, he blows it very softly and frees only her. Minutes later, he performs the same surgical whistling and frees only GL, Bats and J'Onzz. But...where's Ro?! He then calls to them from the other direction, proclaiming his moment of victory is at hand. Instantly, Adam fires his ray-gun, but Ro is unaffected, claiming his powers are so great that he didn't need the help of the whistle to break the Gong's spell. (So why was he standing in place for those days?!) The Flash approaches at top speed, but Ro scoffs and proceeds to run rings around the Speedster. GL attempts to ring him down, but Ro laughs that his will power is three times as strong and prevents the attack, while noticing that Adam isn't even bothering to try. Ro's heat vision then starts a fire to thwart J'Onzz. WW also notices Adam's passive stance, and figures he'll cheer up when she ropes Ro. But, his triple super-breath causes the Magic Lasso to coil around her! Then, he pulls a trick that even Superman can't do: he glares Bats, Aquaman and Carr down with an Anti-Evolutionary beam, devolving them into short, hairy guys! Ro then turns to Adam, raising his hands to blast him! Even as the first blast hits, though, Adam throws Ro's Energi-Wand straight back at him! Ro thinks this is pretty funny until the Rod strikes him, causing him to stumble forward and fall to the ground, unconscious! Lantern regains his will power at once, and undoes the damage done to his crew.

WW is the first to ask: Adam, what on Rann did you do to overcome Kanjar Ro? He replies that he wasn't just standing there, he was THINKING! Since he has no powers, he took the time to ponder what was in front of him. Ro's mention of Superman provided the clue. Since Superman is weakened by Kryptonite metal, Adam explains, he figured that Ro would be weakened by metal from his own home world...such as the Energi-Wand! (Help! Didn't Kryptonite acquire its specific properties due to the radioactive nature of the explosion of Krypton? Something like that?) However, Adam took a full body blast of Ro's yellow energy at the same time, so Alanna talks him into a medical check-up, which is witnessed by the League.

The upshot of the med exam is that Adam can stay on Rann, with its triple suns, for no more than a year at a time, though shorter stays will be just fine. Since Ro's energy was yellow, GL says there's nothing he can do to help the situation. Alanna sobs that they're back to the old Zeta Beam system again, and Adam offers that he may instead bring her to Earth someday. For the time being, to save Adam's life, GL rings him back to Earth along with the team and all of Ro's goodies. Ro, meanwhile, will stay on Rann in a jail cell with bars of metal from his home planet.

That night, Alanna cries herself to sleep. The end.

Infantino and Anderson turned in a beautiful job here. I've always found Anderson's illustrative finishes more appropriate on Adam Strange than on the Flash, where I preferred Giella's cooler approach. Flash himself appears only sparingly, and is oddly less visually interesting than everything else in the story. The rest of the League have only minor roles themselves, but novelty of their springy Infantino postures dominates their scenes. Batman appears, doing essentially nothing, in half a dozen nonsequential panels and is drawn in the Bob Kane manner. No indication of his "new look" jaw and body language. GL's hair is rendered much as when drawn by Gil Kane in his own book. D'you suppose he used emerald energy to keep it from thinning as he got older? If so, he was sharper than Alan Scott!

Kanjar Ro constructed the world's greatest action figures, and the dang fool not only took 'em out of their blister packs, he destroyed 'em! No wonder his plan failed!

The outskirts of Zambabwe are depicted as thick jungle. Writer Fox always set the Zeta Beam rendezvous points in exotic locales, but I have no way of knowing if this setting is anything but fanciful. I understand that the North American continent has more forested land than Africa.

INKER OBSESSION ALERT: Aquaman was inked by someone other than Anderson on pages 20 and 24. He appears on page 18 in story context, clearly by Infantino and Anderson, and in one panel on page 23. Otherwise, he's absent in all group action. I suspect that editorial noticed this problem rather late in the day and had a few heads added at the last minute in order to blunt the oversight. Not that Aquaman could have been any help in this fight.

Tom Orzechowski
San Francisco CA