A Tribute to the of

Welcome yet again, faithful readers, to the latest edition of our feature.  I am proud to announce that this effort marks 150 reviews!  I knew I needed a special story for this outing and I perused my collection a bit and pondered and even did a little surfing on eBay for worthy candidates.  I touched base with the webmaster at one point and mentioned in passing an issue of particular interest and he surprised me with, "Oh, you've got that one."  "No, I don't think I do."  "Sure you do."  He then told me where to look.  Now bear in mind that a few hundred miles separate us geographically.  While I've come to respect his formidable memory over the years I confess my first thought was, "Oh, come on, man, don't you think I know what I've got?"  It turns out I didn't.  I can only offer a couple of feeble excuses.  I received it (from him, of course) along with several other goodies a few years back and somehow it got put on the shelf unread, partly because it looked like a story I had in another volume of reprints.  Furthermore the cover is a bit misleading, which will be clearer to you momentarily.  Back in Justice League of America #3 we meet for the first time the alien menace named Kanjar Ro in the Gardner Fox written story "Slave Ship of Space!"  That was in the February/March 1961 issue.  If you need a quick refresher on the story you can find it as Silver Age Sage #54 in our trusty archive section.  So a year and a couple of months later we meet up with Kanjar Ro again, only this time it's in the Mystery in Space title, issue #75 to be specific from May of 1962.  The story is again written by Gardner Fox with pencils by Carmine Infantino and inks by the great Murphy Anderson with editorial efforts by the legendary Julius Schwartz.  It's called "The Planet That Came to a Standstill!"  In addition to having a particularly stunning cover it again pits Kanjar Ro against the JLA, who are the guest stars along with Mystery In Space's resident hero Adam Strange.  Now here is where my other point of confusion came in.  My copy of the story is a reprint (thankfully; copies of MIS #75 are spendy) but it's under the JLA banner, so even though Adam Strange is on the cover of my "lost 1975" (published in 1999) JLA 100-page Super-Spectacular, I only noticed Kanjar Ro taking on the Justice League and thought, "Oh, that's the Slave Ship story," and never gave it another thought.  In fact, when I thumbed through it a couple of times and spotted the same three alien rivals of Kanjar Ro that appeared in JLA #3 it only confirmed what I thought.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it, but I'm very glad I was wrong.  So, with that rather windy preamble it's time to look at this Alley Award winning story.  Let's begin.

The splash page shows a very confident Kanjar Ro looking on as the Justice League along with Adam Strange and his lady love Alanna are charging him.  His thought bubble states that "Not even the Justice League of America—with the help of Adam Strange—can defeat me!  I'm more powerful than all of them put together!"  On the following page we join honorary member Snapper Carr as he listens in his room to a tape-recording of the adventures of the JLA.  The voice of Green Lantern narrates the final fate of Kanjar Ro and Hyathis, Kromm and Sayhar as Superman creates the planet out of meteors where they will maroon the intergalactic tyrants.  The Green Gladiator further elaborates that he used his power ring to create an atmosphere, soil and planets.  (I think that's an error and should read "plants.")  He also places a force field around the prison planet to ensure they'll not be taking any unauthorized trips.  Snapper then clicks the machine off and wonders aloud whatever happened to the "...gruesome foursome."  As it happens, we're about to find out.

We segue back to the artificially created planet and the four prisoners are still stuck where the League left them, but they're making an escape attempt by concentrating their own combined will power on the force field hoping to breach it.  One of the prisoners comments that they've been trying for a year with no success while another retorts that they have little else to occupy themselves so they continue their concentrating.

Abruptly, the former Delon or dictator of the planet Dhor discovers a crack in the force field.  He promptly pulls out a thin energi-rod, activates the anti-gravity section and zips upward.  His astonished companions look on with surprise and mounting disgust as he leaves them behind.  They know that their combined will cannot help their escape and obviously there is no honor among thieves.  Kanjar Ro, emerging from the force field rubs their faces in it:  "Too bad!  I swore friendship while a prisoner with you!  Now that I'm free—I'm your enemy again!  Farewell fools!"  Kanjar Ro has obviously had a plan all along as he wastes no time in producing a tiny and familiar looking ship from his uniform.  It is the cosmic ship he used to transport the JLA back in issue #3.  He enlarges it with his energi-rod and is soon rowing away with the benefit of the ship's ability to ride the currents of cosmic energy flowing throughout the universe.  He muses that he can exact his revenge on the Justice League of America only by becoming more powerful than all of them combined.  His thoughts reveal his unfolding plan to us while his energi-rod supplies the necessary heat and oxygen to sustain his life.  He recalls that Superman's great powers come from the benefit of Earth's lesser gravity and yellow sun.  If he can find a similar situation to aid him, Kanjar Ro can fulfill his plot.  He reasons that a planet with a triple sun like his native Dhor, but with the properties he seeks will make him triple the strength of the Man of Steel, three times as fast as the Flash and so on.  He only needs to get some manpower to build a lab. 

We then shift scenes and time (a few weeks later, to be precise) to the planet Rann of the triple-star sun Alpha Centauri.  There we find Adam Strange and his sweetheart Alanna of Rann in the midst of a scientific research expedition.  The duo is at the site of the aurora borealis of Rann.  As the pair fly toward it for further investigation, Alanna comments that it's wonderful Adam isn't under the influence of the Zeta-beam that is his usual and temporary mode of transport between Earth and Rann.  For details our editor refers us to Mystery in Space #74 and "The Spaceman Who Fought Himself!"  We're then given a quick review of how Adam traverses the 25 trillion miles via the Zeta-Beam that travels between the worlds on uneven intervals.  Last time, however, Adam made the journey via a teleport machine made by the Kai warriors who had invaded Rann, so now he is not at the mercy of the whims of the beam.  Adam is free to stay on Rann permanently if he so wishes and he seems to wish exactly that.  He and Alanna are taking advantage by doing scientific research, which brings us back to this point where the lovers enter Rann's answer to the Aurora Borealis.  Adam explains that the Earth version is caused by streams of electronically-charged particles emitted by the sun striking the upper atmosphere, taking the shape of curtains.  Here on Rann they are of a cylindrical shape.  They're also apparently much more powerfully charged electrically, to the point they could wreak havoc with the human nervous system.  The two proceed with appropriate caution while doing their research.

Some days later, their research complete, they leave for Rann only to encounter a potential threat in the form of Zooran barbarians riding huge Targal birds over the vast plain of Klystoral.  They appear to be herding a group of people walking below them.  They seem to be in some sort of trance.

Just as the earth-man and Rann-woman are about to pull their ray-guns one of the bird-riders draws a tiny bell and a metal mallet from his belt and strikes the bell, causing waves of tones to ring out that immediately cause the pair to lose their ability to control their movements.  Adam and Alanna are paralyzed and cannot change their trajectory.  Meanwhile their research carrier falls to the ground.  To their relief they can still communicate and their uniforms automatically switch on thermal controls to keep them warm in the thinning atmosphere, but they soon find themselves locked into an orbit over the planet with only the prospect of eventually running out of fuel and falling to their deaths.  Chapter One closes on that grim note.

Chapter Two has our heroes in the same pickle, but we learn a few more details, such as the fact that they're in a jet stream far above the surface of the planet Rann.  The winds in the jet stream mimic those of Earth, blowing at 130 miles an hour or more.  Adam begins to devise a plan and instructs his love that they're tumbling in a westerly direction and they'll soon hit the main stream which will seem like they've hit a brick wall.  The air pressure they then experience manages to shift their fingers onto their control jets, allowing them to maneuver a bit.  Soon they've successfully changed their trajectory to send them hurtling through the electric cylinders of the Aurora Borealis.  As hoped, the electrical current bathes their bodies and frees them from the paralyzing effect of the bell.  No sooner are they freed, though, than their jets lose power, leaving them in freefall.  Fortunately they're a mere ¼ mile from the planet surface and land in a snowdrift.  Adam had known their whereabouts and the possibility that the trip through the cylinder would short out their jets, so their ordeal is at an end.  Using tool kits that are magnetically attached to their jets, Adam repairs the mechanisms and they're soon on their way again.

Once they return to the city of Ranagar where Alanna's father, Sardath is waiting, they compare notes.  The Great Council had learned of the menace of the Zooran's, but each expedition sent to investigate failed to return.  Adam reports on what is going on and offers his theory that the paralyzing sound waves, while affecting the body, must first enter through the ears.  He suggests that they follow the lead of Ulysses in Greek mythology, who defeated the siren's song by plugging the ears of him and his crew.

Adam and Alanna are soon back to the land of the Zoorans to test the theory.  Strange instructs her to stay concealed while he tests his theory and he'll signal her if it works.  His specially prepared ear plugs do their work and he is immune to the spell of the bells but feigns being affected.  Soon Alanna follows and they join the other captives, marching toward the ancient ruins of Vardana.  Adam recalls being there before when the Zoorans teleported him to Anthorann.  Julie reminds us that occurred way back in Showcase #17, containing the debut of Adam Strange in "The Planet and the Pendulum!"  This story is also available in the Sage Archives.  Strange then spots Kanjar Ro and wonders what his role is in the unfolding saga. As it turns out, this is the world that Kanjar Ro has sought with its triple sun and readily available workforce to do his bidding.  He orders the captives to be marched to his underground lab where preparations are being made to allow the native of Dhor to bathe himself in radiation that should allow him to surpass Superman's powers.

The next day Kanjar Ro does that very act, standing in front of the generator screens and absorbing the radiation of the triple star-sun system of Alpha Centauri.  He spends five minutes in the beams and soon can snap steel bars with little effort.  Glorying in his triumph, he begins a daily regimen of the radiation while Adam, Alanna and others work on the laboratory as slave labor.  After several days have elapsed the time has come for a full field test.  The former Delon has created robot duplicates of the JLA and activates them for battle.  With great ease he destroys "Superman" with brute strength and then uses super speed by whirling one arm to take out "The Flash."  Disintegrator vision destroys the magic lasso of "Wonder Woman" and he proceeds to annihilate the other automatons in turn.

That night, Alanna sees Adam slipping away and deduces he's gone to stop Kanjar Ro before he can unleash his new found power on the Justice League of America.  She follows to be on hand to assist, but unfortunately an intruder alarm is triggered and Kanjar Ro notes that Adam has his ray gun drawn, meaning he is not under the control of the tinkle bell.  Swiftly the alien marauder strikes the nearby Gamma Gong, duplicating the cover and freezing Adam Strange in mid stride.  Soon the guards bring Alanna forth as well.  A puzzled Kanjar Ro does not understand how they escaped the spell of the bell, and the range of the gong vibrations weren't powerful enough to affect her, but he doesn't have time to investigate further.  He next blows on a supersonic whistle that frees Adam from the latest paralysis and leaves the two heroes seated in a gravity prison.  Other than for feeding, the Earth man and Rann girl are held fast under a force equal to 5 Gs, (making Adam Strange weigh approximately half a ton, per our editorial note) unable to move so much as a finger.

Later, at meal time, their restriction is lifted enough so that they can move their lips and one arm in order to eat.  Adam quickly instructs Alanna after eating to fling her plate at the gravity control lever to try and lift it higher.  She questions how increasing their weight could help, but does as instructed.  Unfortunately she misses, so it's up to Strange to try with his plate.  His throw is successful after observing the angle and level of force from Alanna's failed attempt and soon the pressure increases on them dramatically.  Soon they're enduring 30 Gs of force.  Another editorial note is provided with the panel:  "Recent experiments with a centrifuge by Navy researches at Johnsville, Pennsylvania, have shown that the human body can withstand the force of 25 Gs—but theorize it can "take" much greater pressures!"

Luckily, Adam's idea bears fruit.  The ancient wooden beams and stone work beneath them give way under the tremendous pressure, freeing the duo and dropping them below the range of the gravity unit.  They strap their jets back on and Strange tells Alanna he has a plan to defeat Kanjar Ro, but he must return to Earth first.  He tells her to jet back to Ranagar and wait for him there.

Somehow Adam gets Kanjar Ro's energi-rod and his space-going galley ship and is rowing for all he's worth toward Earth and the Zeta-beam.  Chapter Two closes on this odd development.

Chapter Three takes up where we left off, with Adam having successfully navigated to the "...ancient and mysterious city of Zambebwe in the heart of Africa."  He ditches the ship there and flies off at top speed to a point a hundred yards away to catch the Zeta-beam, which instantaneously sends him back to Rann.

A little later, the Flash, who had been visiting Gorilla City, a hidden stronghold of a super-gorilla civilization happens by the very place where Strange left Kanjar Ro's vessel.  Recognizing the Slave Ship of Space, the Fastest Man Alive activates his emergency signal to the rest of the Justice League.  It isn't long before they converge on his location, minus Superman, who is on a case in the bottle city of Kandor.  Swiftly Green Lantern scoops up Batman and J'onn J'onzz and they head for the meteor planet to investigate while Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Snapper Carr linger behind with the ship in Africa.

Meanwhile, back on Rann, Adam Strange has arrived via Zeta-beam and Alanna asks about his plan.  He responds that he hopes to defeat Kanjar Ro with his Gamma Gong.  As they speed toward the ruins of Vardana he tells Alanna that she'll create a distraction while he grabs the mallet to strike the gong.  She suggests earplugs will be useless against the sound waves of the gong, but we have to wait to hear any further discussion while we join GL, Batman and the Martian Manhunter as they query the three remaining prisoners of the meteor planet.  They comment about Kanjar Ro's wish to find a triple star planet and that it wasn't far from Earth's sun.

The three JLA members are soon in flight again, headed toward Alpha Centauri.  GL signals Wonder Woman with his ring.  They've located Kanjar Ro and are going for the capture.  Little do they realize, however, that on the opposite side of Vardana, Adam and Alanna are speeding in.  They observe Kanjar Ro running out of his lab and they make a beeline for the gong.  Adam swings with all his might, seemingly taking no heed that he is about to paralyze all life on Rann.  His thoughts, however, tell the rest of the story:  "In time, when the Zeta-beam wears off—my body will be drawn back to Earth—out of the range of the gong—where it will regain its normal powers!"  Literally days later the Zeta-beam strikes and Adam, upon his return to Earth, jets across the Indian Ocean into the heart of equatorial Africa where he finds the four members of the Justice League waiting.  He, however, is not recognized.  Editor Schwartz to the rescue yet again:  "Justice League readers with sharp memories will recall that Flash proposed Adam Strange for membership in the JLA story "Doom of the Star Diamond!"  This adventure you are reading occurred before that membership meeting!"  By the way, that story is in JLA #4, also contained in our mighty and growing archive section.

After Adam fills in the gaps for the League members they realize that their teammates must be immobilized by the gong as well.  (You'd think after a few days they'd catch on that something was up.  Maybe there's some sort of space-time continuum thing going on between Earth and Rann.)  Next it's all aboard the cosmic ship and off to Rann, where they find everyone paralyzed.  Adam races to the laboratory of Kanjar Ro and retrieves the supersonic whistle, first using it to free Alanna with a soft, short-range burst.  Next it's the members of the League, but ominously they note that the frozen figure of Kanjar Ro has disappeared.  A sinister voice retorts that his moment of victory has arrived at last.  Strange brings his ray gun up and fires, but it has no effect on the enhanced powers of the native of Dhor.  He divulges that his powers allowed him to escape the power of the gong without the aid of the whistle.  One by one the members of the Justice League of America engage the alien menace only to fail to beat him.  Adam Strange meanwhile looks on helplessly and seemingly hopelessly.  Finally after subduing the Flash, Green Lantern, J'onn J'onzz and Wonder Woman in turn, Kanjar Ro uses a startling ability on the remaining members of the JLA.  An anti-evolutionary beam issues from his eyes and begins to change Batman Aquaman and Snapper into knuckle-dragging cavemen.

Turning now to Adam Strange, beams designed to utterly destroy the hero of Rann burst forth, but Adam retaliates by hurling the energi-rod at the villain.  Once it strikes the former Delon he is immediately weakened to the point of losing consciousness.  Immediately Green Lantern's power ring responds to its owner rather than the superior willpower of Kanjar Ro.  He swiftly frees and restores his fellow members.  Wonder Woman asks the obvious question of Adam Strange:  How did he do it?

Adam replies that while he appeared to be standing helplessly by, lacking any sort of super powers, his mind was racing for all it was worth.  When Kanjar Ro had mentioned Superman it occurred to him that perhaps like the Man of Steel, Kanjar Ro would now be vulnerable to metal from his home planet of Dhor.  At that moment Flash thinks to himself that he's going to nominate Adam Strange for membership at the next meeting of the Justice League.  Strange continues that the rod, made of Dhorite did the trick, causing Kanjar Ro to keel over.  Adam did absorb a bit of the yellow beams from the villain, but only feels a bit queasy.  Alanna insists that her love be examined by a doctor on Ranagar.  Sadly, the physician gives his diagnosis that enough of the yellow beam hit Adam that he cannot remain on Rann with its triple-sun for more than a year at most.  Shorter periods will cause no harm, either.  Green Lantern observes that he cannot help since his ring won't work on the effects of a yellow beam.  Tearfully Alanna exclaims that Adam cannot remain permanently on Rann now and will have to go back to his Zeta-beam visits.  Strange suggests that perhaps one day he can bring her to Earth.

Soon the Justice League has mopped things up, placing Kanjar Ro in a prison cell on Ranagar equipped with bars of Dhorite.  His cosmic ship and other weapons are transported back to be stored in the souvenir room and of course to save his life, Adam Strange is also transported back to Earth with the rest of the JLA.

A forlorn Alanna is left behind, longing for the time she and her love will not be separated and the adventure comes to its conclusion.  

As mentioned at the beginning, this tale won the Alley Award for the best book-length story of 1962, so it holds a rather impressive pedigree.  For those unaware, here is the data from the online Wikipedia:  "The Alley Awards are comic book awards originally sponsored by Alter-Ego magazine, edited by Jerry Bails, Roy Thomas, , and, in 1978, Mike Friedrich. The name is at least partially derived from that of the comic strip character Alley Oop, in whose likeness that statuette is cast. They were given out from 1961-1969, with comic strip awards added in 1966. The final two years' awards were presented at the New York Comic Art Convention." Incidentally, I noted among the other Alleys for 1962 Gardner Fox was listed as the best script writer with Carmine Infantino taking the award for pencils and Murphy Anderson did the best inks.  Sounds like a hat trick plus to me. This one is most definitely a classic from the Silver Age and easily merits the maximum rating of 10.  A great story, through and through with a rich and complex storyline and splendid art with the very finest team cranking it out, so how could it miss?  Well deserving of the Alley Award and I know you'll enjoy it, too, if you get the opportunity to read it.

Thanks as always for your patronage.  We hope you'll continue to journey with us through the Silver Age and that you'll make your own contributions with your thoughts, questions and feedback. We're all ears at professor_the@hotmail.com.   

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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