A Tribute to the of

I recently finished Bill Schelly’s excellent biography, “Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary,” and enjoyed it just about as much as his “Man of Rock” book about Joe Kubert’s life that I actually reviewed here at the Silver Age Sage. Bill could really tell a good story, though of course it helps immensely to have someone to profile who had a story to tell. Otto had a story to tell. From his beginnings in the pulp science fiction field to his entry into comics, where he worked for all the majors, to include Fawcett (where it’s estimated he wrote nearly 60% of the Marvel stories across all their titles), Quality, Gold Key, DC and even Marvel. Later he got into science fact and Ufology and was just a writing machine. One particular quote that struck me from the book was when he said that, “A professional writer can write anything, from a technical manual to an opera libretto.” Well, Otto was all pro and boy, did he write! The Grand Comics Database lists over 4,500 credits for him and who knows what was overlooked or forgotten. For DC he wrote Superboy stories, co-created Supergirl, Jimmy Olsen, Superman, Lois Lane, Tommy Tomorrow, co-created the Legion of Super-Heroes, co-created Krypto and on and on. Interestingly, I discovered that he is credited with three, and only three, consecutive Metal Men issues, #30, 31 and 32. It just so happened that one of the earliest reviews here was of issue #30 (Sage #19) and at the time, I didn’t even know who wrote it. It was a favorite from boyhood, too.

It also just so happens that I own a copy of issue #31 with a publication date of April/May 1968 and an on-sale date of February 15, 1968. It sure seems like it’s made to order to review and to remember and honor the great Otto Binder. Remaining credits for this issue are Robert Kanigher in the editor’s chair, cover art by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito with Ira Schnapp lettering and interiors also by Kane and Esposito with Joe Letterese doing the lettering. It makes me wonder why Kanigher didn’t script these three issues and why Gil Kane was penciling in place of Ross Andru, but I guess there’s no one left to ask. Let’s check out, “The Amazing School for Robots!

The premise of this story is that Doctor Will Magnus, the inventor of the famed Metal Men is growing weary of having to put them back together again seemingly every time they have an adventure. He has concluded that there should be a second string team of Metal Men for smaller jobs.

As good as his word, it isn’t too many days down the road when our hardy metal band meet their substitutes, who look remarkably like the originals with the exception of sometimes being a different color and each having a small fin on their heads along with other slight design differences. Their new counterparts are Silver for Gold, Cobalt for Iron, Zinc for Tin, Osmium for Lead, Gallium for Mercury and Iridium for Platinum. Now it falls to the original Metal Men to train up their substitutes, but meanwhile, we see a strange sight in the highest reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. It’s a head, an evil looking one at that, inside a bubble, drifting through space until it is deflected by a passing meteor toward Earth. Its thoughts reveal it is Darzz the dictator, former ruler of the giant world of Thrombb. Apparently Darzz was your basic bad guy, as dictators tend to be and the people of his world executed his body while placing his mind in a protonic bubble and set adrift in space in some sort of crazy solitary confinement.

Back at Doc Magnus’ laboratory complex, the Metal Men are putting the second stringers through their paces and they seem to be giving as good as they get. Silver demonstrates his high conductivity and jolts Gold during their workout while Cobalt knocks Iron for a loop and reminds him that Cobalt is added to Iron to make Cobalt steels, which are among the hardest of alloys. Iridium seems to also have the hots for Doc, making Platinum, aka Tina jealous and there is a brief cat-fight between the robots until Doc orders Tina off until she can maintain more self-control. But then, fate steps in when Tina stumbles across a strange meteorite containing a disembodied intelligence. Darzz quickly decides to leverage the situation, closing Part I.

Part II opens with Darzz turning on the charm and turning Tina’s metal head. He’s soon persuaded her to release him from his imprisonment. Quickly, he takes control of a nearby statue and professes his adoration. A delighted Platinum heads back to the compound to inform Doc and hopefully make him jealous. Darzz lingers behind and decides to shift his consciousness to a car and when he reaches the nearby city, animates an entire skyscraper.

Back at the lab, Tina is rebuffed by Doc as usual and departs. Just then, a special monitor makes Doc and the Metal Men aware of the “walking” skyscraper and Magnus decides this will be a good mission for the new team to tackle. The original team is monitoring their progress as they make a catapult to hurl the incredibly dense Osmium at the skyscraper. The resulting collapse knocks Darzz completely out of the building and he then inhabits a mannequin and addresses the returned Tina. He asks who the Metal Men are that the nearby crowd seem to be cheering. After she explains, he flatters her further and proposes that he give her tactless creator, Doc Magnus a good dressing down.

At the complex, Doc is celebrating the success of the new team and suggests they’re even better than the originals, but it appears Tina isn’t the only one with feelings and the band depart in disgust, determined to make their own way in the world. Gold, for example, takes a job at a high-end jeweler, fashioning gold ingots into treasures. Iron becomes a steeplejack, working with a bridge building crew, but back at the lab, Darzz is beginning his nefarious work, departing the dummy and heading over to the gathering of the new metal crew, closing out Part II.

As Part III opens, we see Lead working in an atomic plant and Mercury cleaning out pipelines, but Darzz is on the move and splits into six separate but equal entities to take over the new Metal Men and seize control of the lab. Tina now realizes what she’s done and is determined to make amends. She tells Magnus that Darzz is unaware of the original Metal Men and they’re the only hope for reining in the dictator. They board the jetaway, collect the Metal Men and prepare to do battle.

The first to engage are Gold and Silver and after Gold foils Silver’s attempt to zap him with electricity, Gold strongarms Silver into a vat of concentrated nitric acid. Gold emerges, as Aquea Regia, a mix of nitric and sulfuric acids is the only thing that can affect the precious metal. One down.

The other Metal Men quickly follow suit with Iron taking advantage of the brittle nature of Cobalt to shatter him and Lead setting a trap for Osmium, whose density drops him through the floor while Mercury leads Gallium through a frigid pipe that freezes him up. They are disposed of while Tin and Nameless put the squeeze on Zinc while Tina winds herself around Iridium and drops her into the melting vat. With six down, to include six Darzz entities, all is back to normal, wrapping up another imaginative adventure of the unique Metal Men.

This series seemed like a match made in heaven for Otto Binder’s talents. The creator of Adam Link and the original “I, Robot” story featuring him should be reason enough, along with a long list of S-F credentials. Too bad it was only three issues, but thankfully we have those. Otto Binder did a fine job on this short stint of the Metal Men and I’ll rate this particular issue with a 7 on the 10-point scale. Otto’s life story is fascinating and tragic and simply compelling. I highly recommend Bill Schelly’s book and hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Your patronage is always appreciated here at the dear ol’ Silver Lantern and we hope you continue to find something of value here. You won’t want to miss the next edition on July 1st when we’ll be proud to present a new interview! Until then, feel free to drop a line any time and let us know how we’re doing or what you’d be interested in seeing. You know the address by now: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you at the appointed date and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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