A Tribute to the of
Saturday. Saturday was always the payoff when I was a kid. Yeah, there was time for fun during the week, too, but not like on Saturday, brother. Not when you could sleep in, at least until one or the other of your parents decided you'd been in the sack long enough, ride your bike, watch those great Looney Tunes and head over to see your best friend for a few hours to talk about, swap and generally bury yourself in your favorite super hero comic books. Saturday. Best day of the week. No contest. By the way, don't expect me to break into song here with an old KISS tune. Oh, and for the record, KISS (the letters) didn't stand for anything. All the conspiracy theorist music nazis out there can quote me, too. Anyway, back to those care-free Saturdays. They always equaled fun in my mind. As a matter of fact, I'm composing this little nugget on a Saturday afternoon. So, indulge me if you will while I step back into the mists of the world of DC comics, not to mention my own fond memories and review a magazine that was probably more about fun than actual heroics. Having never interviewed any of the writers or editors of these classic titles, I don't know what went through their minds, but I suspect the title I'm about to unveil was pretty light-weight stuff. The characters were pretty exaggerated in their habits. The storylines held consistent similarities. Let's face it; the Metal Men were kinda campy, but they had their place and like many others before, earned their own title after their debut in Showcase #37 [March-April, 1962 ]. I've not had the privilege of reading that issue yet, but hope to remedy it someday soon. I don't know much about the origin of this band of robots, either, so that will have to wait for another time as well. I'll tell you what I know of them and then we'll watch them in action in Metal Men #30, from February-March of 1968. [Cover by Ross Andru & Mike Esposito] Come on along. It'll be just like a stroll to the corner market on a Saturday afternoon to see what new comics are in the display rack.
As I mentioned before, the Metal Men (who actually count two females in their ranks) are a small group of robots who operate together under the watchful eye of one Doc Magnus, inventor. Doc is always and forever fiddling with something while puffing away on his pipe and as near as I can tell, the only thing he's ever really pulled off is the creation of his robots with their amazing abilities. Each bear the name of the element from which they're created and each have a distinct personality and unique traits. Let's do the roll call. The band includes Gold, who is the leader of the group and is generally the most level-headed; Iron, the strongman, who would be a good company First Sergeant as he tends to follow directions well; Lead, the faithful if somewhat dim-witted sidekick to Iron who none the less provides a good robot to have on your side; Mercury, easily the most intense personality, he tends to be volatile, opinionated, loud, obnoxious and aggressive. Tall, thin and gangly, he's patterned along the lines of The Joker. A real party, this guy, but again, better to have him on your side in a scrape; Platinum, or Tina, the female robot who seems to have a real heart instead of just the responsometers that run these unique heroes and it belongs to none other than the oblivious Doc Magnus; Tin, the stuttering runt of the bunch who more often than not provides comedy relief and his companion "Nameless" who is also made of his element (in fact, I think Tin fashioned her in one story from cast-offs) and while she's also female, her figure tends to put you more in mind of Olive Oyl than the Marilyn Monroe-esque Platinum. Each of the characters are, of course, the color of their respective metal and have the symbol of their element on their foreheads or in Tina's case on her little hat. Tina, you see, is the only one with "hair."
Okay, so you've got a bunch of robots with distinct personalities and they're made of their namesake metals. So what? Well, you'll have to suspend your disbelief for a bit, but these are, after all, comic books. Good, escapist entertainment. As you follow the adventures of this group you'll discover that they can form themselves into all manner of shapes and sometimes even sizes, depending on the storyline and whatever peril they face. Inevitably it's to pull Doc's fat from the fire as the hapless boob tends to be forever in danger. No disrespect intended, Doc. That just seems to have been your lot in this series. Well, now that you know what to expect, this particular issue throws in a pretty big twist as you'll soon see. Enter with me, if you dare, the "Terrors of the Forbidden Dimension!" [Written by: Otto Binder, penciled and inked by: Gil Kane & Mike Esposito and edited by the real creator (at least in this dimension) of the Metal Men, Robert Kanigher.]
The story opens with Doc showing off his latest gadget to the Metal Men. It's a dimension monitor, allowing him to peek in on the parallel worlds that exist around earth. It also comes with a nifty attachment, the Dimension Doorway, that will afford exploration of these worlds. Well, wouldn't you know in the very next panel Doc takes a jolt from the machine when the main electrode blows and he dies. Yep. Colder than a mackerel. The robots try to revive him but nothing works. Tina, driven by her love for her creator, insists that there must be something they can do and suggests they use his new invention to seek a cure that this world doesn't offer but that may exist on a parallel world. They make the necessary repairs, open a portal and head off into the unknown with Doc Magnus in state in a clear coffin. Upon emerging, they realize that some of their physical traits have abruptly been altered. Mercury is now green instead of red. Gold is more of a Copper color and Lead has a shiny surface. Over the next few pages, the extent of the effects of this new environment continue to manifest themselves. Mercury discovers he's brittle instead of liquid. Gold is rendered mute, causing the need to relinquish his role as leader to Mercury, who prods him into it. Iron discovers to his chagrin that he's a soft metal when he tries to shield them from a meteorite shower and the stones pass right through him. Tin and Nameless, meanwhile, have become the hard metals and take over for Iron. Lead learns that in addition to his new shine, he's lightweight, too, when a gust of wind takes him for an unexpected trip. Finally, our gal-pal Platinum learns that she is a highly combustible material on this strange new world. Now that they've assessed their new strengths and weaknesses, they proceed onward to the nearest sign of civilization, where they meet King Dymond. The king and his subjects are humanoid in appearance, though they bear a mild resemblance to the bug-eyed critters you've seen that hang out in Area 51. After the royal physicians give Doc the once-over, they determine that they can't do him any good, but before they make that public, the king decides to take advantage of the situation. He tells the Metal Men that they can cure Doc, but only after they've performed three tasks for him. Gold was able to hear the secret report to the king, but is unable to get the message across to the egotistical Mercury.
Part II begins with Task #1, which is to defeat the dreaded Mechan Monster. Feature if you can a mechanized beast, large size, that gets around on a steam roller, has hooks on the ends of it's appendages and a long, flexible tail. Well, the first thing it does is roll over our heroes, who of course can take that sort of thing in stride. After becoming foil, they revert back to their usual shapes and try to figure out how to combat the monster. As the band looks for leadership from Mercury it becomes apparent that he was in it more for the glory than the responsibility. He tries to delegate, but no one takes the bait. He then suggests they alloy together into another large machine and go head to head. That works for about 30 seconds. Well, even with incompetent leadership, the robots prove their, ahem, mettle and individually come up with a divide and conquer strategy. Lead takes advantage of his new appearance to reflect the sun's rays on the beast, melting one of it's arms. The Tin Titans form a battering ram to plow into the monster and Gold forms himself into a lightning rod to short circuit the critter. They return to the kingdom with a large bucket of scrap and receive their next assignment.
The search for the lost treasure. They follow the map provided by the king and meet several obstacles, each of which they are able to breach with their shape-changing abilities. Tin and Nameless form a bridge over a chasm, Tina shines in the darkness of a tunnel and lead becomes a balloon with Iron as the gondola as they proceed onward. Finally they reach the point where the treasure supposedly rests after following a solid rainbow. After digging up half the countryside, Gold makes a drawing in the dirt with a stick to instruct Tin to become an ax and to chop into the large, nearby tree where the chest is revealed. Apparently it had been caught up into the root structure and foisted upward. They return with their treasure which turns out to be the most coveted material on their planet...clay bricks. End of Part II.
Part III sends the intrepid group on their final task of solving the mystery of the mad maze and rescuing the king's daughter in the process. How he knew she was there is anyone's guess. Incidentally, Gold has tried over the course of their feats to somehow alert the others that they're being taken for a ride but is consistently misunderstood. Well, once they enter the large cavern that holds the maze, they discover how it earned it's name. For all intents and purposes it's a massive mirror fun-house, with images and echoes from floor to ceiling, giving no solid point of reference. Good ol' Gold again comes to the rescue and begins to play himself out like wire as he closes his eyes and gropes his way out. After successfully navigating the maze, he starts to jiggle the copper-colored wire that is his body, getting the attention of his colleagues and they meet outside. Tina soon stumbles across a perfume bottle and they find the princess, who is using the hidden grotto as a trysting place for her and her secret love. They bring her back to the palace and then request the cure for their deceased creator. When the king angrily admits that he duped them, Tina freaks. She begins to "cry" tears of flame due to the influence of this strange environment. Gold notes that one of the flames has struck the perfume bottle she still held and is causing some sort of chemical reaction. Tina leans down to give Doc a farewell kiss and he suddenly sits up, fully revived from the fumes. Gold, of course, is the only one who realizes what happened while the others choose to think more along the lines of Sleeping Beauty. They all go home through the portal in triumph and revert to their normal selves on Earth.
Campy, corny, even a little silly? Sure. Fun? Absolutely. Rating? I gotta give this one an 8 for sentimental purposes on this sentimental Saturday. Take a little time this next weekend and do something carefree for yourself. You'll be glad you did.
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