Lyle and Ora. Artists: Carmine Infantino and Frank Giacoia.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1951
Creators: Robert Kanigher (writer) and Carmine Infantino (artist)
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A Mercurian dictator attempts to export his government to the outer planets. An all-powerful alien plays …

continued below

… games in which whole worlds are destroyed. A nuclear fusion experiment threatens to melt Earth's entire crust. Who ya gonna call?

The Knights of the Galaxy, of course. These 30th century do-gooders, patterned after King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, were ready at the drop of a hat to hop into their individual spacecraft and rocket off from their base on the planetoid Gala, to right wrongs wherever they may be found.

The Knights began in DC Comics' Mystery in Space #1 (April-May, 1951), in a cover-featured story written by Robert Kanigher (writer/editor of Wonder Woman and DC's war comics) and drawn by Carmine Infantino (who had earlier drawn DC's Black Canary and would later draw The Flash). Kanigher and Infantino (who together created The Trigger Twins about the same time) stayed with the series for its whole less-than-lengthy run. Mystery in Space was editor Julius Schwartz's second comic (after Strange Adventures, which had started less than a year earlier) featuring 1930s-style pulp adventure sci-fi.

The series opened with Lyle, a blond-haired, stalwart hero type, wanting to prove himself to the Knights, of which organization he was the rawest recruit. This he did by neutralizing the menace of Korvo, a would-be space conqueror. In the process, he rescued and won the heart of the fair maiden (and apparently the only woman on planetoid Gala) Ora — who happened to be the daughter of Artho, the Knights' commander.

Incidentally, Lyle was the only Knight of the Galaxy who was at all developed as an ongoing character, and thus the only one for whom the reader had anything resembling sympathy. Tho Lyle would sometimes grieve for his fallen comrades, to the reader, his fellow Knights were mere props, discarded without a thought whenever convenient just like some of the less famous of King Arthur's 99 knights. In fact, even their names were mentioned rarely, and usually just in passing.

The basic pattern, in which the dashing young hero loves and is loved by the daughter of the local authority figure, is found in series as diverse as The Spirit and Bucky Bug. But it's worth noting that a later Mystery in Space feature, Adam Strange, duplicated it fairly closely. It's only one of many ways in which the various continuing characters in the Schwartz-edited science fiction comics of the 1950s presaged his superheroes of the '60s.

In Mystery in Space #7, Ora applied to become a Knight. Since the 1950s-style 30th century was no more enlightened than that decade's here-and-now, this was greeted with guffaws from Lyle, Artho, and whoever those Knights in the background were. By story's end, of course, she'd proven herself and become a full-fledged Knight, but the shock of having a female member seems to have done the organization in. That issue was the first in which the Knights didn't appear on the cover. Ora's Knightly status wasn't mentioned in #8, and that issue, dated June-July, 1952, was the last in which the Knights of the Galaxy appeared.

The series was never revived, unless you count a few 1970s reprints — those eight stories (each of which was only 8-10 pages long, by the way) were it. It's not a highly influential series, nor a cult classic. But it's well crafted and worth noting, as are Chris KL-99, Darwin Jones, Captain Comet and all the other 1950s series in Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space, for their place in the development of Julie Schwartz's career.


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