Saturday, June 3, 2023

Showcase Corner - Metal Men Volume One!

I've always loved the Metal Men. Six sentient robots created by the genius Doc Will Magnus, these artificial heroes sacrificed themselves time and time again to save their allies, their creator, or the very world itself. They battled mostly other mechanical threats, and stymied many an alien invasion. The robots are of course named for the elements from which they are primarily created, and each individual Metal Man has powers which derive from the aspects of that element. 

Gold is the leader of the team, handsome and shinty, he says little but seems the most level-headed using his highly ductile body to solve problems. Lead is the one they depend on for protection from the varied radioactive menaces they confront, and he often uses his body to create a protective wall. Not the smartest Metal Man, Lead is nonetheless utterly reliable. Iron is the strongest, making formidable hammers and other weapons from his body to attack the sundry threats. Iron seems to be Gold's solid right hand in their adventures. Mercury is as his name suggests quite mercurial, changeable both in body and in mood. He often loses his temper but in the end is there for the fight. Tin is the weakest of the team, and he knows it. His stuttering reveals his lack of confidence in himself, despite often being the only Metal Man able to save the day. Tin will eventually get a girlfriend made from the same stuff and who quite literally will remain Nameless. And finally, there is Platinum, the gorgeous original female member who due to presumably faulty programming is hopelessly in love with her creator Doc Magnus. 

The Metal Men debut in the pages of Showcase and their first mission is to defend the Earth from "The Flaming Doom", a strange giant creature from the planet's distant past. The team is all but destroyed their debut, but their singular characteristic is that from the smallest of remnants the originals can be recreated. 

It's unfair when reading these large collections to judge some aspects of a story. One thing which these Metal Men stories are is repetitive, the conversations and internal conflicts are exceedingly similar from issue to issue. Reading these on a monthly basis that wouldn't have been as noticeable, but in a collection such details are glaring. 

Perhaps the Metal Men's most infamous enemy is Chemo and he debuted in the third issue of their Showcase run, but he's not on the cover. Chemo has always been an awesome and deadly enemy. 

The Metal Men begin their run and with the talents of writer Robert Kanigher and artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito still in place and that trio gives these early issues an incredibly sophisticated look for the time, and especially when compared to other DC books which were still suffering with old-fashioned graphics 

The Metal Men could also feature continued stories. The saga had continuity, a memory from issue to issue generally but they'd go so far in some instances as to have cliffhangers such as the two stories featuring the Metal Men encouraging a blind boy on a planet full of robot carnival rides gone mad. 

Ramona Fradon takes the artistic reins in the Metal Men's appearance in The Brave and the Bold when they team with The Atom. 

Tina's endless and possessive affection for Doc Magnus was a regular feature. Many stories begin with Doc rebuffing her advances and proclaiming he will fix her so she won't be a problem. He never does and we all draw the correct conclusion, that despite his protests he's at a minimum flattered by her attentions. 

The Metal Men covers are fantastic fun to look at. The ability of the characters to transform gives Andru and Esposito a wide range of options in how to portray them. They use their imaginations to great effect. More on the Metal Men when the Dojo features volume two next week. 

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  1. DC always seemed to come up with some quirky line-ups and this is definitely one of them. Andru and Esposito were a good fit for this title. A favorite!

    1. Love the Andru-Esposito team, underrated for certain.

  2. My first issue of Metal Men was number 45 in 1976 when Walt Simonson took over the art chores ( with various writers) on the revamp. That was a great series as was the more recent Keith Giffen / Kevin Maguire serie . I have managed to pick up a couple of issues from the first series (33 & 44) which were fun. Those covers you have shown are wonderful

    1. Those Walt Simonson Metal Men (followed by Joe Staton on some issues) are on my most-want-to-see-collected list.

  3. I like the series under Kanigher as well, but despite his repetitive writing he's still the definitive creator, and I've yet to hear any later person touted as being his equal on the feature.

    One thing bugged me in the day: RK frequently kept explaining how the robots' responsometers gave them human emotions, but *I* wanted to know how all of them could assume so many complicated shapes. They weren't like any other robots I knew of in that respect.

    1. I'd agree that Kanigher is definitive. The repetition only glares I think when you read them in close succession. The team was like a gang of "Plastic Men", though metallic.