A Tribute to the of
So are you interested in getting into some real heavy metal? I sure hope so because this edition of The Silver Age Sage is going back to 1962 when, 40 years ago in the March/April timeframe Showcase #37, under the editor/authorship of Robert Kanigher, brought the world the debut and origin of Doc Magnus' Metal Men (and one metal woman). Artwork provided by Kanigher's Wonder Woman collaborators Ross Andru & Mike Esposito. Their nemesis is "The Flaming Doom!" Let's see how they do.
The unlikely setting for the story's beginning is at the very dawn of Earth's existence. The text suggests that the demise of dinosaur life could have been due to sudden, unexplained radioactive bombardment, killing off virtually all life. "And then, just as today when certain strains of insects resist insecticides like DDT…there WAS a lone survivor of the radioactive storm." (How many of you out there recall DDT?) The flying creature that was just mentioned is essentially an enormous green flying manta ray that you might see on a National Geographic special. This critter has a few abilities beyond just that of flight, though, that we'll soon see as it is freed from suspended animation in a glacial prison, just in time to menace the planet in 1962.
The first encounter with the modern world is with an empty lighthouse, which the creature reduces to boiling water with some sort of ray emanation from its eyes. Continuing merrily along it's flight path, it soon happens upon a military aircraft and casting it's menacing gaze yet again, it freezes the plane in ice and then carries the craft along in it's tail. The crew ditches and manages to snap a couple of photos of the beast during their descent by parachute. Later, the radioactive mutation brushes against a skyscraper that looks suspiciously like the Chrysler Building. It soon leaves the monolith in flaming ruins.
We fade now to a conference room where an emergency meeting of Defense Department heads is taking place. Colonel Casper suggests enlisting the aid of Dr. Will Magnus to try and combat this newly identified menace. The colonel is next seen winging his way to the massive laboratory complex of Dr. Magnus via helicopter. We're told that Magnus has financed this through his profits from countless patents. The soldier is admitted electronically to a lab in the complex and comes upon the inventor, dancing with a glittering figure. Casper apologizes for intruding and Will suggests he take a turn with his dance partner. It is then that the stunned military man discovers that the silver figure is none other than Tina, the platinum robot. Magnus explains that a microscopic, nuclear-powered activator powers Tina. Colonel Casper then relates the problem facing them. Doc Magnus muses that the creatures' powers of heat and cold suggest a chemical origin that is probably radioactive in nature. It should therefore be combated chemically. The inventor then goes to work in his sophisticated laboratory, which is fully automated and includes devices and assembly lines that would have made Henry Ford proud. After a short while, Dr. Magnus introduces Col. Casper to the Metal Men. One by one they describe their properties. I'll let them speak for themselves: "I am Gold! Symbol: AU, for Aurum! Atomic No. 78! Atomic Weight 197.2! I melt at 106.3 degrees centigrade! An ounce of me can be drawn into a wire 50 miles long! Or hammered into a sheet 4 millionths of an inch thin! Anybody here top that?" "That's not my specialty, Gold! I'm Lead! I'm used as a shield against harmful rays—including radiation! What's your specialty, buster?" "Muscle! Plenty of muscle! I'm Iron! If you want anything done—ask me! I've been around! I've traveled to Earth in meteorites! Who are you, skinny?" "Maybe you've traveled through space, Iron—but it's evident you've never seen a thermometer! Or you'd know I'm Mercury! The only metal that's liquid at room temperature! I react to temperature changes like a hot rod! I'm full of steam! I'm dynamite! I'm…" "Won't anybody ask who I am? Anybody? No? Well—I—I'm Tin—T-I-N! I'm softer than Zinc. B-b-but harder than Lead! N-n-no offense meant, Mister Lead! I turn to powder at 200 degrees centigrade—but I'll do my best to be worthy of you all—if you give me a chance?"
Duly impressed, Col. Casper wonders aloud if they'll be a match for the flying fiend. Doc Magnus suggests that the only way they'll find out is by putting the Metal Men into play against the beast. Moments later, they see their foe, playing around with the Mid-City bridge. As Doc sheds his white lab coat he tells his newly formed metal band that they're going to do battle. Part I closes on that note.
Part II begins with a short discussion and a little dissension in the ranks. Tin asks if he's allowed to go along and Magnus replies that of course he needs every metal man, but Tina will stay behind out of harm's way. This does not sit well with the Platinum robot and she angrily retorts that she's made of metal just like her compatriots and has every right to join in the upcoming melee. The disgusted inventor replies, "You sound just like a real woman! Can't take orders without arguing! You'd be in the way anyway! Useless!" Bad move, Doc. Tina proceeds to change her body into a thin Platinum wire and trusses him up, demonstrating her abilities and potential worth in the clutch. Magnus acquiesces and the delighted Tina tells her creator how handsome he looks when he's angry. He quickly rebuffs her, blaming it all on a faulty activator, but we get a hint of things to come regarding her relationship to Magnus.
The group heads for the rocket port field and boards another of Magnus' inventions, a rocket disc. Picture an open-air flying saucer and you get an idea of the configuration. It can be powered by thrust in any direction either manually or with telekinetic thought commands. They're soon flying toward the manta-like creature at the bridge.
Each member of the Metal Men is anxious to engage the beast with their unique abilities. Magnus suggests that Iron use his great strength to form Lead into a cannonball. Tin, anxious to assist, forms a coating over the newly formed ball. Iron then hurls the weapon, only to have the creature bat it back like a ping-pong ball, smacking into the rocket disc with great force. Dr. Magnus is knocked silly and the craft begins to plummet. He's able, however, to get enough of a grip to mentally cushion the crash landing on a nearby building roof. The tin-coated Lead cannonball falls near them, too and as the two metal men separate and re-form into their natural state, the flying menace swoops toward them again, flashing beams from it's eyes. Tin leaps into the radioactive beams, intent on proving himself and is destroyed, ending Part II.
Their numbers now reduced to five, the metal heroes look again to Doc Magnus for the next move as Part III begins. Doc tells Lead to form a shield for them. Mercury and Tina support the Lead barrier as Doc instructs Gold and Iron in the next strategy. Calling upon Gold's ability to be drawn out for 50 miles, Doc tells him to lasso the creature with Iron playing anchorman and keeping Gold from being swept away. Gold stretches out and wraps himself around the head of the beast and the creature responds like a prize game fish by taking off. Higher, ever higher it climbs into the atmosphere until finally Gold is at his limit, which causes Iron to be pulled aloft as well. The strong man of the metal band is soon caroming off buildings and being drug through the destructive waters of the ocean, where salt and moisture work their awful mission on his iron body. He begins to rust. Still he maintains his grip and when Gold is flung off by the prehistoric beast, they both plummet to the sea floor, the latest casualties in the battle.
Grimly, the remaining Metal Men regroup and board the disc, determined to prevail or die in the process. The military is now getting involved, but the anti-missile missiles prove ineffective against the melting fury of the beast. Changing tactics again, Doc Magnus calls Mercury into play, with his ability to liquefy and coat the creature, possibly cutting off its supply of oxygen. With Lead in place as a shield once again, they maneuver over the flying foe. Mercury leaps off the platform and envelops the beast, but is ineffectual. To Doc Magnus' chagrin, he realizes it doesn't need to breathe, but draws its life force from radioactivity. In the next fateful moment, the creature snares the flying disc in its tail. Tina, acting of her own accord, exits the craft and repeats her earlier performance, winding infinite strands of platinum wire around the creature. Lead follows suit, creating a third coat of metal over the winged menace. This proves to be the straw the breaks the camel's back as the lead cuts off the radioactive life force from the creature, causing it to sink harmlessly to the bottom of the ocean. The Flaming Doom is neutralized at last.
The closing panel to our story brings us back to Magnus' laboratory where the inventor wistfully looks over scale models of his creations. "The Metal Men existed for a brief moment in time! But if it weren't for them—who knows—time might have run out for the world!" Curiously, Colonel Casper, standing in the background, addresses the readers directly: "Will another vast threat arise to summon the Metal Men into being again? What do you think? Would you like to see them in action again? Just drop a card to Metal Men, c/o National Periodical Pub., 575 Lexington Ave., New York 22, N.Y." I guess we know how that went, since the Metal Men were successfully resurrected for the very next issue of Showcase, which I'll review here at a later date.
As with many of the heroes introduced in Showcase, the Metal Men went on to their own magazine and enjoyed popularity for a number of years, including team-up appearances in the Brave and the Bold. As I said in my last review of a Metal Men story, they tended toward camp a bit, but I always enjoyed reading of their exploits. This debut appearance and origin story makes it a classic so I grant the issue a 10. A little fluffy, but still a good addition to the Silver Age.
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Long live the Silver Age!
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