Justice League of America | Silver Age Origins
Classic Comic Books Home Page (with many articles on comics)
Justice League of America
These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number. They were edited by Julius Schwartz.
Mystery writer John Dickson Carr was one of editor Julius Schwartz's favorite writers. Snapper Carr's last name is perhaps a homage to him.
The Slave Ship of Space (1961). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Mike Sekowsky. Kanjar Ro, a powerful villain from Antares, forces the Justice League members to battle for him against his rivals for dictator of the Antares solar system. The origin of Kanjar Ro, a recurring villain in Fox's 1960's stories.
This is one of the most science fictional of the Justice League tales, and it benefits from this. The story contains a series of battles. Each one pits a member of the League against a different would be dictator, each one with his own special abilities and powers. Each battle takes place on a different uninhabited planet, with its own sf landscape. This construction resembles Fox's Star Rovers stories, which often involved the three Star Rovers each having a parallel adventure or contest on a different planet. (However, unlike the Star Rovers stories, there are no mystery elements here, and no plot aspects that can be given ambiguous interpretations). As in the Star Rovers tales, Fox makes each separate adventure share as many parallel plot developments as possible. Each is based on a similar series of events: a Fox cycle.
Fox has a continuous stream of sf invention here. All of Kanjar Ro's poetic sf concepts are created here: his galley ship that rows across space, his immobilizing Gamma Metal gong, his wand. These will recur in this story's immediate sequel: the Adam Strange tale "The Planet That Came to a Standstill" (Mystery in Space #75, May 1962). There these elements will play deep structural roles in the plot. Here they are more poetic concepts, floated by Fox and enjoyed for their own sakes.
When Gravity Went Wild (#5, June-July 1961). Members of the Justice League tell stories about how Green Arrow seemingly turned traitor, followed by Green Arrow's own version of the events. The plot structure of this tale resembles Fox's Star Rovers stories, in which each member would give their own version of events, followed by the truth, which was always quite different. Both here and in the Star Rovers, Fox constructs events that have multiple appearances. As in the Star Rovers tales, the events here are science fictional. The sf allows for some multiple interpretations. The story is mildly ingenious, but not as clever or as richly developed as the best Star Rovers stories. Also, the background events here are more a routine fight against bad guys, further limiting this story.
This story transforms the plot of "The Slave Ship of Space" (1961). In that tale, alien beings wanted to become dictator of Antares, and fought the Justice League members on a series of planets; here the alien beings want to become dictators of Appellax, and fight the Justice League members at various locales on Earth. This is typical of Fox, to have one story be built as a variation on another. It adds to the formal interest of his work. This story in turns became the foundation for a further variation, Fox's "The Million-Year-Long War" (Hawkman #12, February-March 1966).
Each combat goes through a series of stages. These stages form a Fox cycle (please see the article on Adam Strange for an in depth discussion of Fox cycles):
As is usual in Fox cycles, the state of the characters at the end is the same as at the beginning.
The tingle here recalls the tingle felt by Superman when Red Kryptonite begins to affect him. Like Red Kryptonite, the aliens here cause transformations of the characters.
The cover shows the Justice League members turning into trees. This recalls the ancient Greek legend of how Daphne turned herself into a laurel tree to escape from Apollo. The myth has been a favorite of painters and authors - both E. M. Forster and Ursula K. Le Guin have written works on the subject. The cover is especially close to the Renaissance painting by XXX.
Fox sets his story in a series of locales all over the world. It recalls the travels of Adam Strange to many exotic places, and those of Hawkman to come. Each of the Justice League members patrols a certain area; this is their turf. In this they resemble such Fox Western characters as Pow-Wow Smith, who is Sheriff of Elkhorn County. Fox tends to like having his characters associated with locations. The birthday celebration for the League in this tale also recalls "The Sheriff's Birthday Party" (Western Comics #78, November-December 1959). Fox liked parties and celebrations, such as all the Rann holidays in Adam Strange.