Kanto is one of the characters created by Jack Kirby to flesh out his Fourth World concepts which played out across several of Kirby’s DC projects when he started work at the company in 1970. As a master assassin, Kanto lives to serve the glory of Darkseid and his quest to find and secure the Anti-Life Equation to satisfy his mad desire to rule all of existence.
Before Kanto became Apokolips’ greatest assassin he was known as Iluthin. As an orphan, Iluthin proved himself as an up and coming warrior under the tutelage of the sadistic Granny Goodness. His rising trajectory was halted after disappointing Darkseid who was disgusted by Iluthin’s unsuccessful attempt to steal weaponry belonging to the man serving as Darkseid’s master assassin, Kanto-13. Kanto is a title and not a name. Darkseid exiled Iluthin to early 16th century Italy. Rather than seeing it as punishment, Iluthin saw banishment as an opportunity to take advantage of his situation. Iluthin learned from Cesare and Lucretia Borgia. It should be noted that Cesare’s life as a ruthless politician and mercenary leader trying unite the various countries on the Italian peninsula served as the inspiration for Machiavelli’s The Prince.
During his exile Iluthin had at least two romantic or sexual relationships. The first one which is originally established as part of Iluthin’s origin story involves Kanto-13 using a Boom Tube to travel to Renaissance Italy to murder his lover Claudia. Iluthin followed Kanto-13 to Apokolips and beat the assassin which immensely impressed Darkseid. As a reward, Darkseid killed Kanto-13 and gave the title Kanto to Iluthin. The second relationship is the reason for writing this profile. Writer Tom King in issue nine of his 2018 Mister Miracle series included an interesting revelation about Kanto. Kanto casually mentions in a conversation with Scott Free that he had an affair with Leonardo da Vinci during his exile in Renaissance Italy. While King used Kanto throughout the series nothing else of note was revealed of this affair or of Kanto’s sexuality beyond the scene in this specific issue.
Kirby intended his clothing design to reflect a fondness for Kanto’s time spent in exile in Earth’s Renaissance. In my reading of Kanto’s initial appearances in the Mister Miracle TPB collection I’m struck by some of Kirby’s dialog choices for Kanto. Examples such as: “I dare say there are tons of weight holding you down, sweet thing” said to a trapped Big Barda. “Kanto is the name!!” “See here! If you keep this up, I shall be forced to crush your companion with additional weight” and “…Not until I see if you ply your trade with the quality I give to my own” to Mister Miracle. Repeated uses of “my dear fellow” in talking to Scott Free. These and a number of other phrases and word choices and Kanto’s Renaissance style clothing combine to a foppishness in my opinion, which is not to say that I think Kirby was inferring anything about the character’s sexuality. That said, I now read Kanto’s dialog in a Cary Grant voice.
Like many of DC’s characters, Kanto has a long history which has been affected by different storylines and continuities. Most notable is his death in Jim Starlin’s Death of the New Gods mini series of 2007 – 2008 in which he is killed by Infinity Man. This profile draws on the first volume of Mister Miracle and the aforementioned Tom King Mister Miracle series and does not attempt to be a comprehensive accounting of the character’s fifty year history.
Kanto is a weapons master, as adept and comfortable using swords and knives as he is with Apokolips based tech weaponry, in addition to being a hand to hand fighter. At different times he has been in charge of small squads of soldiers or assassins. Kanto also possesses superhuman strength, speed, and stamina, and a high degree of invulnerability. He has a long life span as evidenced by his exile to Renaissance Italy.
Kanto is a creation of Jack Kirby and first appeared in Mister Miracle #7 in 1972.
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