Sunday, March 13, 2016

Silver Age JLA - Kanjar Ro!

The third issue of The Justice League of America is a famous one, mostly because of the amazing Murphy Anderson cover showing the Leaguers in the memorabel "Slave Ship of Space". The issue is written by Gardner Fox with art by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs and features one of the Leagues peskiest foes - the bug-eyed Kanjar Ro.

 "The Slave Ship of Space" begins with the striking of a bell which emits a tone that reaches out and deactivates the signaling devices of the entire Justice League. Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter. Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Snapper Carr all head to the Secret Sanctuary to get their device repaired and they find themselves hypnotized by Kanjar Ro a vile dictator from the planet Delon in the solar system of Antares.

Kanjar Ro wants to use the League in his war against his opponents in the Antares system - a flower woman named Hyathis, a metal man named Kromm, and a lizard-being named Sayyar. The threat is that the three enemies all can defeat Kanjar Ro by all of them saying his name together. Leaving Batman and Snapper behind to bait a trap for Superman, Kanjar Ro takes his captives aboard his weird space galley and they head off to the worlds of his enemies. First he dispatches Manhunter to battle Kromm and after defeating fiery missiles the Martian is successful. Next Aquaman and Wonder Woman go to battle Hyathis who commands all plant life, but eventually the two Leaguers work together to subdue her. Finally Flash and Green Lantern travel to confront Sayyar who explodes part of his planet to destroy them, but thanks to their watching one another's backs the duo defeat him too. But the League has been too clever for Kanjar Ro and they have gathered recordings of their enemies speaking and playing those back defeats the dictator at the moment of his seeming totally victory. The League races to Earth to save Superman from Kanjar Ro's Kryptonite gas trap and Superman then concocts a makeshift planetoid for the four dictators to live out their days under the watchful eye of the Justice League of America.

The aspect of his story which struck me most was the way in which all of what Kanjar Ro does feels more like magic than science. Despite the clear sci-fi setting of the story, all of it really feels like magic. The hypnotic bell, the whimsical slave ship, and the manner in which Kanjar Ro can be defeated all look like fairy tale elements. Arthur C. Clark famously said that science sufficiently advanced would be indistinguishable from magic and that seems to be the case with the machinations of Kanjar Ro and his fellow dictators. For the most part they seem more like wizards than anything else.

Also noteworthy are the diminished roles of Batman and Superman who are being squeezed out of the series bit by bit despite their names appearing prominently in the ads. Snapper rarely seems to have much to do save show and say something clever in the last few panels.

More Kanjar Ro to come later today, in a most mysterious place indeed.

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