A Tribute to the of

At this rate, I’m going to need to sit down and do an index of the Silver Age Sage. It seems like every time I’m ready to ponder the latest installment, I have to go back through the thumbnail archive to make sure I don’t do a repeat. I suppose as we inch ever closer to edition #400 it’s inevitable that I’ll look at a story and think, “Hey! Perfect!” only to realize I’d already done it before. It’s happened twice so far, though thanks to the splendid memory of the webmaster, only once did it slip by him. Still, it’s kinda embarrassing.

So it struck me that the wonderful Mike Esposito left this world six years ago on October 24th and he was easily one of my favorite creator contacts. I will never forget how saddened and honored I was that his sweetheart Irene called me to let me know, just a short while after contacting his longtime friends, John Romita and Stan Goldberg. I actually broke the story for the internet, though it wasn’t with any particular satisfaction. It seems like a good time to remember my friend. For those who may have missed it, I had the honor of eulogizing him for the Scoop news site.

Mike and long-time partner Ross Andru did plenty of things during their career, but I always seem to come back to the Metal Men. We’ve covered all four Showcase appearances of the team here at the Silver Lantern along with a few in their own title and leave us not forget two Brave and the Bold team-ups with the Atom and Metamorpho. [Links to all past Metal Men reviews are on this page.] I wonder if anyone ever thought of teaming them up with the Doom Patrol? It would have been cool to see them interacting with that bunch, especially Robotman.

So, while there are plenty of other appearances of our heroes to look at in the future I’m taking it right back to issue #1 (though the number was left off the cover, a move undertaken to calm the fears of distributors who felt readers wouldn't waste 12 cents on an "untried" title) and review the Bob Kanigher scripted and edited Rain of the Missile Men! All art, both cover and interior were by Andru and Esposito with cover lettering by Ira Schnapp and interior lettering by the great Gaspar Saladino. Publication date for this issue is April/May of 1963.

Part I begins with some of the usual tropes in any Metal Men story. The group is posing for a photo when Mercury begins to rise under the rays of the sun, remarking that when heated, this will be a natural reaction. Doc Magnus, inventor of the band asks Lead to shield Mercury from the sun’s rays and Mercury resents it. He also mentions to the photographer that they’re each equipped with a responsometer to aid them in responding to any and all situations.

Tin, in his usual self-deprecating manner, displays his inferiority complex while Tina, the Platinum robot reassures him that he’s a necessary part of the team. She also dotes on Doc and he announces that he’s sending her to the science museum. She resists and pleads, but ultimately obeys her maker.

Back at the laboratory/compound, Magnus tries to shake off the blues settling over the Metal Men in losing their comrade by taking them out in the jet platform, which looks a lot like a flying saucer when abruptly a bunch of meteorites strike a housing that blows sky high and consequently blows Magnus and the Metal Men right out of the craft, ending Part I on a cliffhanger.

Part II opens with the team plunging downward toward the burning tank, but Mercury takes advantage of his natural reaction to heat by shooting upward and providing a lifeline for Doc Magnus. Meanwhile, Tin, the first to land near the inferno tries to contain it, but soon discovers it’s hotter than his 232 degrees Centigrade boiling point and melts. Next up is Lead, but he succumbs as well since the heat exceeds his 327 degree Celsius boiling point. Gold and Iron decide to join forces in sort of an amalgam, but despite their 1063 degree and 1535 degree Centigrade rates, they also melt, but they do manage to contain the blaze through their effort.

Magnus finishes off the task with a fire extinguishing setup in the jet platform, but it’s too late for everyone but Mercury. In a familiar routine, Doc salvages his Metal Men and takes them back to the lab for a resurrection effort. As he waits for them to finish their recovery, Mercury tries to show that he’s still the greatest of them all, but Will Magnus is too distracted to notice the hot head’s gyrations.

Just then he receives a call from the museum director demanding he retrieve his platinum robot. Apparently Tina was drawing some huge crowds, but her tears led them to believe she’s just a fake and it’s causing trouble. So, Doc and Mercury return to the museum to collect the overjoyed Platinum, closing out Part II.

As we flip the pages of this magazine, a one-page piece called “Metal Facts and Fancies” continues our scientific education, explaining among other things that one hundred million atoms laid end to end would measure a single inch and that when the ancient Romans invaded Britain in 55 B.C. only seven metals out of the eighty currently known had been discovered. Interestingly they were Gold, Mercury, Lead, Tin, Iron, Copper and Silver. On to Part III:

…where we finally begin to get to the heart of the conflict in this story. Doc has Tina check the remains of the fuel storage tank site for debris that he can analyze. She comes up with a piece that he determines is not organic space matter, but something assembled by a machine.

Segue now to deep space where a space craft is on a routine patrol to check on a space junkyard where “uncontrollable Robot Z-1” had been left long ago. As the ship orbits the planet, it is suddenly attacked by meteorites from the surface that turn out to be the missile men, creations of Robot Z-1.

In a flashback sequence we see that Z-1 was dropped off there “an unmeasured time ago” due to his incorrigibility and “destructive fury.” The dormant robot is unfortunately revived by a solar flare and he immediately begins the business of creating a queen from the nearly limitless junk around him so the they can reign over this realm. When Z-1 is done, however, he discovers he’d only duplicated himself, so he dismisses his clone and continues his labors, ultimately creating an army of duplicates. Slow learner, this robot.

Finally, Z-1 rigs up a telescope to search for a queen and wouldn’t you know he spots Platinum on Earth and it sends a thrill through his metal body. Soon he and his clones are bound for Earth where they end up striking the lab complex with a few of their number, bringing us back to the present and wrapping up Part III.

Part IV has the metal band back at full strength and soon we see the missile men causing havoc all over the world as they bust up everything from Big Ben to the Sphinx, the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower. As they shower down, the Metal Men attempt to fend them off and Doc Magnus concludes they must be under the control of a single intelligence. Almost immediately, however, hapless Magnus is bonked in the head by a missile man and is rendered unconscious. Soon it’s a duplicate of the cover and splash page where the inventor is out cold while the Metal Men deal with overwhelming odds and are getting bashed up badly themselves.

Soon it’s down to just Doc and Tina and a groggy Magnus orders her to run off, against her wishes. The upset Platinum decides to run to the bottom of the nearby bay and that’s when Doc’s theory bears fruit. He realizes that there’s a reason Tina has been spared and when she runs away, one of the missile men suddenly changes course to follow. Magnus takes the controls of a weapon mounted to the jet platform and fires a ray at Robot Z-1 that causes his body to be powerfully magnetized, drawing the other missile men to it in a huge mass which quickly sinks to the bottom of the bay where it is entombed.

So, the threat is neutralized, the Metal Men are in recovery…again and Doc Magnus vows to fix Tina’s faulty responsometer as she continues to gush over him.

I’ve said it in the past and I’ll say it again. The Metal Men are pure fun and I love ‘em. These stories just make me smile and I always marvel that while the plots are usually pretty similar, there was a lot you could do with such characters, putting them in different fixes, but coming up with ways to exploit their flexibility to overcome the longest odds. I give this one a solid 9 on the 10-point scale as the official kick-off to a long and fun run.

I miss your easy laugh and sense of humor, Mike Esposito, along with the many phone calls we enjoyed. Rest in peace, my friend and thanks for all you’ve given to your fans through your body of work.

Check in again the first of November, dear reader, when we’ll mark another Silver Age milestone. As you wait for that, don’t hesitate to communicate your thoughts and other feedback. Just e-mail me at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you soon and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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