High Five! Comics

Posts Tagged ‘Metal Men

There’s no denying it, we’ve pretty much concluded that Silver Age comics are completely bizarre. They all seem to follow the same formula: villain does something nefarious, hero intervenes, hero appears to fail miserably, hero totally psychs everybody out and saves the day. This happens every fucking time and somehow it never gets old. April 1962’s Showcase #37 (which, by the way, is the first appearance of Will Magnus and the Metal Men) took this formula to a whole new level, though. It has been a long time since a Silver Age book actually managed to throw me a curveball and leave me shocked at the end. Yeah. It’s probably better if I just explain this with a recap.

Our story starts out in a jungle millions of years ago, where radioactive fire rains from the sky, wiping out everything on the planet with the exception of one creature: a giant flying manta ray with both heat and ice powers! Suddenly, without explanation, the ray is frozen in a glacier that was in a jungle for whatever reason. And then, years later, global warming melts the glacier and the ray is free to wreck shit up! After using his heat ray to melt a lighthouse, his freeze-y ray to crash a jet, and setting the entirety of the fucking Empire State Building on fire, the military decides to intervene. But who can they get to help?

Colonel Henry Caspar takes a quick helicopter ride to the headquarters of none other than Will Magnus, who he finds slow dancing with a shiny silver woman. Magnus invites the colonel to dance with her and he discovers that she is made of metal! What kind of sorcery is this? Before the colonel has time to recover, Will goes, “Oh shit, yeah, I got a whole bunch of these guys.” The Metal Men proceed to introduce themselves and bore readers with random facts about metal (yes, yes, mercury is liquid at room temperature, we know!). The colonel asks Magnus if he can send the Metal Men to help defeat the marauding freezing and burning manta ray. Magnus agrees. Oh, except he doesn’t want to send Platinum because she’s a useless woman. That’s not a joke, he explicitly states that. She ties Magnus up with her power to turn into wire and he relents with, “Fuck, fine, whatever. Everybody into my thought-controlled hovercraft.”

They come across the giant manta ray fucking up some bridge and go into a huddle. After arguing about which of the robots can do the job better, Magnus determines that Iron should shape Lead into a giant ball covered by Tin and throw it at the ray. Perfect! Except when they do that, the ray slaps the giant metal ball back at the hovercraft, knocking out Magnus and crashing it into the rooftops. The ray circles around to shoot his heat ray but Tin jumps in the way, melting to death. Way to go, Metal Men!

Lead turns into a shield against the ray’s rays, allowing Magnus to wake up. He devises a new plan, using super-stretchy Gold as a lasso with Iron acting as an anchor. Surely the ray can’t lift both of them off the ground! Except he does. And then he drops them into the ocean, rusting Iron to death and killing Gold somehow. Way to go, Metal Men!

Fortunately, Will Magnus always has a backup backup plan. What would happen if they cut off the ray’s oxygen? Using Lead as a shield again, Mercury throws his liquid-y self at the ray, coating it completely. Yeah, it doesn’t die. Magnus realizes that it doesn’t breathe air, but draws it’s life from radioactivity! Suddenly, the ray whips its tail around, grabbing the hovercraft! To save her beloved creator, Platinum turns herself into wire, tying up the ray. Lead takes the opportunity to jump at the ray, blocking it from it’s radiation lifesource. The ray wrapped in Mercury wrapped in Platinum wrapped in Lead crashes into the sea, killing them all. Way to fucking go, Metal Men!

Now, this is (one of) the thing(s) that weirds me out. The very last panel of the comic is Will sitting at his desk, bumming out at little statues of his now dead Metal Men. Colonel Caspar stands behind him and does something that I have never ever seen before: in a precursor to the Jason Todd phone poll, he addresses the reader directly, asking us to send postcards to Julie Schwartz about whether or not we want them to bring the Metal Men back to life. The end!

Now, I don’t know how long it took to write a Silver Age comic, because the very next month’s issue of Showcase also starred the Metal Men. Unless the poll was just some weird way of giving the fans a sense of interacting with the story, it doesn’t really seem possible to conduct a survey of that magnitude, plus script, draw, print, and ship a comic all in the course of a month! You know what this seems like to me? Remember in Peter Pan when he makes the kids slow clap to bring Tinkerbell back to life? Replace Tinkerbell with potentially killer robots and Peter with DC Comics’ editorial staff, and it’s the same fucking thing. Whoa, I think I just blew my own mind.

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Robot superheroes are an interesting bunch. You can write the back-story any which way you want, but pretty much all of them have a Pinocchio complex. Today, I present for your approval or derision: my top five favorite robotic or android superheroes, malfunctioning emotion chips and all.

Smug bastard.

Smug bastard.

(5) Robot – From Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, Robot is actually the secondary consciousness of Rudy Connors, a guy with a busted body living in a tank a la post Wampa Luke in Empire. Rudy projected his consciousness into the Robot body until he’d gathered enough whatever to become a real boy. Then he split his awareness between his organic body and his robotic bod(ies). Best of both worlds, this jerk gets to be human and a robot AT THE SAME TIME. His girlfriend turns into a monster, in the good wrecking-shit way, not the psycho clingy way. Robot is kind of a know-it-all and a bit of a dick. He’s also a freaking genius, so he’s usually right, which makes him worse or better I’m not sure. He’s number 5, because while conceptually awesome, I consider him to be a total prick.

(4) Platinum – Poor Platinum, poor, poor Platinum. I mean Tina. Whatever we’re calling her now. Until recently, she was the only female member of the Metal Men. She doesn’t even want to be human, not really. She just wants her creator, Dr. Magnus, to love her. Or do her. Whichever. Magnus is kind of a dick, why the hell did he program her to want to jump his bones all the time if he wasn’t going to take her up on it? It’s a good thing the poor tortured dear doesn’t have an advanced emotion chip, she’d fucking flip her shit and kill him if she could truly understand the reality of the situation. That’s a book I’d like to read, actually.

platinum

Poor thing thinks she's a sexbot. Magnus is a dick.

Robot depression is worse; suicide isn't even an OPTION.

Robot depression is worse; suicide isn't even an OPTION.

(3) Robotman – This Doom Patrol member was originally¬†human, until a horrible racecar accident nearly killed him. They stuck his consciousness in a robot body, so now he’s a robot who used to be human who wants to be human again. He’s fucking emo, because even though he’d be DEAD if not for his sweet, super power enhanced Robot Body, he complains that robot senses aren’t as good as human ones. He really can’t decide whether he wants to live or die, this one, and with good reason too. He’s the only wannabe human who has always truly known what he’s missing. Even though he’s unquestionably mentally unbalanced he’s pretty much the heart and soul of the parade of freaks that is the Doom Patrol.

Tears of an Android!

Tears of an Android!

(2) The Vision – Marvel’s resident android and member of The Avengers. He’s got a vibranium suit. He’s married to/dating/being emo with Scarlet Witch depending on what era Marvel you’re reading. The Vision gets loads of points for somehow putting up with Wanda, cos homegirl is batshit crazy (not that I blame her. You try finding out your beloved children are actually fragments of a demon, then tell me how YOU handle it.) The Vision gets emotions and a soul, as it were, by being imprinted with a human consciousness. This is a problem when he dies because he can pretty much never get the same human to donate their soul a second time. The Vision dies a lot, and I kind of lose track, just like our #1 Robot Superhero.

(1) Red Tornado – Red Tornado achieved what all loveable androids dream of. He actually became human. He got to have real sex with his real wife. He hugged his adopted kid. Then Solomon Grundy ripped his fucking arm off and it ruined my life. Then they stuck his consciousness BACK in his robot body and he has somehow managed NOT to go on a trauma-induced killing spree, though he definitely needed a good shrink or some Robot-Prozac for a while there. I got severely verklempt about 4 times when I read The Tornado’s Path. He wins because even in a nearly depowered human form, seconds after losing an arm, he was STILL fighting Solomon Grundy, making 350 MPH whirlwinds with his good – I mean ONLY – arm.

Other arm? You mean the one ocer on the other side of the room where the bad guy threw it?

Other arm? You mean the one on the other side of the room where the bad guy threw it?

Think I left anyone out? Think these are out of order? Blast me in the comments, dear readers.


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