THE MIRACULOUS METAL MEN
(By Rob Reynolds)
DC had a small problem; The Atom was getting too big for the pages of Showcase to contain him. The Atom’s demands for his own book left longtime DC editor and scribe, Robert Kanigher with just two weeks for Showcase #37 (Mar/Apr 1962) to get to the printer. Kanigher took a long weekend, with input from penciller Ross Andru, to create what he thought was a one-shot, disposable team of robot heroes, the Metal Men. Andru, along with inker and lifelong collaborator Mike Esposito, cranked out the issue leaving just days to spare.
The Metal Men’s first appearance climaxed in their heroic deaths, ending for good the menace of the prehistoric, winged, radioactive, flaming doom. Unexpectedly, the fans clamored for more. Showcase #38 (May/Jun 1962) began with inventive genius and creator of the Metal Men, Doc Magnus, scavenging their destroyed parts to rebuild them for another adventure. The death and rebuilding of the automatons was a recurring theme throughout the run. No team in the history of comic books has suffered as many deaths and subsequent revivals as the Metal Men.
Doctor William “Doc” Magnus forged each robot from a different metal, powering them with his ingenious “responsometers,” which also instilled in them a unique personality. Gold is the acknowledged leader of the group, fearless Iron is the strong man who often combines with Lead, who is slow but fiercely loyal. Mercury is confrontational, egotistical, and often brags about being the only metal that’s liquid at room temperature. Tin is the smallest and weakest of the Metal Men, yet the bravest of all, first to lay down his life for the team.
The Metal Men fought various robotic villains over the years, none more dangerous then Chemo, a plastic humanoid filled with unknown toxic chemicals. Other villains included the Missile Men, Dr. Yes, and the Gas Gang, a group of evil gaseous robots created by Doc Magnus while in a warped state of mind. Chemo has proved to be the most resilient of the lot; he was recently dropped like a bomb by Lex Luthor’s Secret Society of Supervillians onto the city of
Bludhaven , killing a million people with his radioactive concoction of toxic chemicals.
Metal Men #1 (Apr/May 1963) debuted to fan praise and strong sales running 41 issues to finally retire in December 1969. They were called back in to service in Metal Men #45 (Apr/May 1976) with various writers and with art by Walt Simonson. The team was again retired by the DC Implosion of 1978, when over two dozen titles were cancelled or merged with others.
DC published an 8-issue Metal Men miniseries in 2007, written and drawn by Duncan Rouleau and had a strong comeback this year in Wednesday Comics, scripted by Dan Didio. The Metal Men are co-featured in the new Doom Patrol series (2009), co-written by Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis with pencils by Kevin Maguire. Accordingly, back issues have started to climb in value with the renewed interest in the Metal Men. It seems these heroes aren’t so disposable after all.
Click Metal Men for back issues.