A Tribute to the of

Welcome, dear reader, to the latest edition of the Silver Age Sage.  It recently came to my attention that this is a significant year for those of us who dig into comic book history.  April 18th, for example, was the 75th anniversary of the debut of Action Comics #1 [Sage #113] and therefore the 75th anniversary of Superman and Lois Lane.  This is also the year that the Legion of Super-Heroes marks 55 years of existence, [Sage #41] courtesy of Otto Binder and my friend Al Plastino.  The Secret Six is 45 years old and that series will always hold a particular place in my heart because a review of issue #1 [Sage #163], which led to some particular research, further led to my opportunity to begin interviewing a passel of creators.  Oh, and lest I forget, this little ditty that you're reading now happens to be the 13th anniversary edition of the Silver Age Sage [#1]. I continue to marvel at the doors it has opened and the enjoyment it has given to me (and hopefully some of you) and I again offer my humble thanks to our webmaster, that guy in the background that continues to make it all work, for this corner of the web to call my own.

In honor of my latest published piece for BACK ISSUE magazine (issue #64, available at fine comic shops everywhere or at www.twomorrows.com) which came out on the 24th, I thought I'd spotlight another Silver Age of adventure of Metamorpho, the Element Man.  My article for BACK ISSUE concerns Metamorpho in Action Comics (#413, #414, #415, #416, #417 and #418) as a backup feature from June to November 1972, but I also squeezed in a short history and some comments from co-creator Ramona Fradon and I was surprised to realize that Ramona was only involved with Metmorpho for the first 4 issues of his self-titled book and of course his two introductory tales in The Brave and the Bold. [Sage #20 & #61]  Perhaps due to the fact that Charles Paris continued on as inker, the subsequent stories didn't look significantly different, at least to my eye, but her being involved in just four of the seventeen issues really was a surprise to me [Sage #176].

With that, howzabout we look at a Ramona Fradon (with Charles Paris inks) illustrated edition of our Fab Freak, scripted, as usual, by Bob Haney, with editing performed by George Kashdan.  I've decided to go chronologically and take on issue #2 from September/October of 1965 and the "Terror From the Telstar!"

This story actually picks up where issue #1 [Sage #277] left off, with Rex Mason, alias Metamorpho, having saved the day, but blown himself into a million pieces against an atomic threat, which also transformed Java back into his fossilized caveman form.  Simon Stagg had retrieved as much of Rex as possible with a sophisticated vacuum system and toted the statue-like Java back to his laboratory to begin the work to revive them.

Elsewhere, it seems the world is coming apart at the seams as we're shown three different crises scattered about the globe from a stolen crown at a coronation, caught on Telstar T.V. to the loss of radar on a police patrol boat allowing the escape of a smuggling vessel to a breakout at a fully automated, robotically manned prison.  Urgent cries arrive from London, Paris and Washington for the aid of the Element Man.

Back at the lab, "Mr. Millions" aka Simon Stagg is gearing up to revive Rex Mason with the help of some lightning, taking a page from Dr. Frankenstein, apparently.  He's also placed a sort of humanoid form for the Element Man.  It's a kind of plastic housing, reminding me of both Chemo, from the Metal Men and the old Visible Man model I had as a kid.  

As one might expect, the process succeeds and the Element Man is restored.  Just then, a strange figure walks in, complete with dripping trench coat and fedora.  He flashes some credentials and informs Rex that his country has need of his services.  They are to leave for Washington at once, but not before a revived Java emerges from his immersion in the Bio-Bath.  The whole gang boards a helicopter and departs.

At a command center, the briefing takes place, informing them of the international crime wave taking place.  They've further discovered a tie-in with an orbiting communications satellite owned by the Government and named Telstar.  Telstar is being used to perpetrate the aforementioned crimes, likely via a clandestinely placed device hijacking it for nefarious purposes.  The plan is to rocket Rex up to the satellite to effect repairs.

Part II opens with a NASA rocket blasting off with Metamorpho's head emerging from the nose cone.  Soon it detaches from the rest of the rocket and continues on its journey to the rogue satellite.  Rex soon discovers he has company, however, as a stowaway, Java, reveals himself.

Segue now to an island hideaway off the coast of South America where Nicholas Balkan and his son are at work in a laboratory.  Gunther has announced that he has found his future bride, brandishing a photo of Sapphire Stagg.  Nicholas assures his son that she shall be his, just as soon as Operation Telstar has finished up the creation of his international crime empire.  A monitor on Telstar, however, reveals the efforts of Metamorpho and Java, so Balkan fires off a signal that knocks the Telstar out of orbit.

Mason quickly forms his body into a protective heat shield as they plummet to earth.  As a drag chute deploys, the duo find themselves on the mysterious island at the Balkan compound.  After introductions, Rex decides to disrupt Nicholas' equipment by forming himself into a massive electro-magnet.  Unfortunately for our hero, Balkan has contingency plans in place and soon he and Java are prisoners with Rex literally frozen via an application of liquid oxygen, closing out Part II.

Part III opens with Gunther being wed to Sapphire, courtesy of the self-appointed Balkan clergy.  The Balkans depart with Sapphire, leaving Simon Stagg, Java and Rex behind.  Stagg and Java are soon free of their bonds and the scientist uses some of the equipment at hand to revive Rex.  Mason is soon closing in on Gunther and Sapphire, just as they're entering a miniature submarine on the way to a honeymoon.

Converting himself into a magnesium torpedo, the Element Man dodges depth charges and plunges his body through the sub, grabbing Sapphire on the way.  Then it's some rapid transformations, first into a diving bell to preserve his lady love and then into a surfboard once they reach the surface.  The Balkan family, however, will not go down so easily. An attack from a nearby "pillbox" is averted by Rex and so Nicholas activates a last ditch effort toward victory by starting a concealed Doomsday Clock. Using his incredible abilities, Rex forms himself into a cobalt-tipped drill and searches for the subterranean device, ultimately locating and defusing the threat.  The Balkans are hauled off by Uncle Sam's agents and once again, Metamorpho has saved the day!    

More goofy fun from the pages of Metamorpho.  I'll give this one a 6 on the 10 point scale. Ramona Fradon's whimsical art is always a great accompanist to these Bob Haney scripts and Rex Mason will always be good for an interesting romp.   

Thanks again, readers, for coming along for the ride.  As we enter our 14th year, the webmaster and I continue to solicit your input.  If you'd like to see something here that you've not seen before, by all means, let us know.  We stand ready to cover questions and comments of all sorts.  All you gotta do is use the e-mail addy: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you next time and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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