Saturday, June 10, 2023

Showcase Corner - Metal Men Volume Two!

Writer Robert Kanigher and artistic team Ross Andru and Mike Esposito found good success with the Metal Men. It's a wonderful fusion of talent, with Kanigher supplying fast-paced and weird stories for the art team to draw. The Metal Men are famous for their constant transformations which enable them to eventually defeat a vast array of mostly metallic enemies from this Earth and beyond. Gold, Lead, Iron, Mercury, Tin, Nameless, and Tina are all there to help their builder Will Magnus to defend mankind. Good stuff indeed. 

The Metal Men were a colorful band of characters and their ability to change shape made for creative tales and evocative covers. The Metal Men covers by Andru and Esposito are some of the most inventive and eye-catching at DC, a company which was quite excellent at supplying a good cover. 

The comic had a marginally Marvel feel to it. Stories might continue from time to time and the constant bickering among the characters does remind a reader of the squabbles which were a staple of Marvel's efforts in these years. Metal Men could not be a Marvel comic by any means, but there are echoes. 

When DC made the decision to add Go-Go Checks to the tops of their covers to make them distinctive in the copious spinner racks of the time, it was a stylistic change much in keeping with the established tone of the Metal Men comic. Their adventures were just the zany kind of tomfoolery which we often identify with the Go-Go Checks era. 

There were of course attempts to broaden the Metal Men's appeal by having them show up in the pages of the Brave and the Bold alongside another odd hero -- Metamorpho the Element Man. This is an ideal pairing and gave artist Mike Sekowsky his first chance to draw the "Metal Band".  It would not be his last. 

Behind this truly wacky cover is the even more bizarre villain Dr. Yes, the ovoid robot duplicate of bizarre Wonder Woman villain Egg Fu. Even counting Marvel's MODOK, I don't think there has ever been a stranger character in comics. Being racially offensive is just the stuff of what happened back then. Strange even by Metal Men standards. 

The Sizzler was a strange robotic addition to the team. Beginning as an enemy, she was taken in by Magnus so that he could help her deal with her immense powers. The character would stick around for several issues. 

As always, Doc's complicated feelings for Tina are on display with his usual blend of disdain and concern. I guess DC just couldn't commit to a love relationship between a man and a robot, but they skirted it barely. 

Strange villains like the Balloon Man and others added to the zest of the Metal Men. 

Chemo remains my favorite of their antagonists, despite his inability to speak. His relentless onslaught when he confronts the team makes feel somehow more dangerous than the other freakish threats they confront. 

After four appearances in Showcase and twenty-nine issues of the comic itself, the original art team of Andru and Esposito steps away. They move over to the pages of The Flash to replace Carmine Infantino who was moving up into his role as publisher. 

Otto Binder takes on the writing chores from Kanigher and the very talented Gil Kane steps into give us a few exceedingly well-done issues in his distinctive style. 

Mike Sekowsky shows up to take the artistic reins from Kane joining Binder for one story. Then things really begin to change for our Metal Band. 

With the next issue Kanigher is back to take the controls of the comic again, and now working with Sekowsky they swing the team into a new direction. The Metal Men had often been at odds with humanity in the past but usually by the end of a single story things were put right. Not the case now as the robots become hunted by men. 

This second volume ends with the team still on the outs with humanity but still fightng the the good fight to protect man and the world in which he lives. They have to battle giant grasshoppers and volcanic ghosts to do so, but the press on. It's truly unfortunate that these Showcase volumes couldn't have been just a little heftier or that we might have gotten another one. The original Metal Men run is about to end after the team is utterly changed by Mike Sekowsky who takes over the writing as well the art. The book will be cancelled soon thereafter but revived in the 70's with art by the likes of Walt Simonson and Joe Staton. Those are some dandy stories, well deserving of collection. Maybe some day. 

Rip Off


  1. Besides being a unique super hero team, they also battled a lot of unique villains. The Sizzler -- what a doozie!

    1. Until I read these volumes through I didn't quite realize they specialized in artificial menaces though. I got the sense that the Sizzler was going to be added to the team in some way, but then she just vanished with the new direction.