A Tribute to the of

The DC Universe, at least here on Earth Prime, has been experiencing some loss lately.  It's inevitable, of course, but still unfortunate.  Will Eisner is now gone and shortly before him we lost Irv Novick and Bob Haney.  Now I haven't exactly been kind to Bob Haney in some of my reviews.  Frankly, for the most part, I didn't like his work as a writer.  He did, however, contribute one thing to the genre I like a great deal:  The character of Rex Mason, better known as Metamorpho, the Element Man.  So, Bob, this one's for you.

Feature if you can the world's mightiest heroes contemplating yet again adding to their roster when to their great surprise, their nominee declines.  That is precisely the scenario for this edition of the Silver Age Sage when, in Justice League of America #42 from February of 1966, to the shock of all, "Metamorpho Says—No!" This monthly meeting of DC's finest wouldn't have been possible without the creative skills of Editor Julius Schwartz, writer Gardner Fox, cover artists Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson, interior artists Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs.

Things begin innocently enough as the ever love-stricken Element Man is on his way to meet his lady-love, Sapphire Stagg for a date.  He encounters a crying boy and asks the problem.  The youngster says he's the only one in his neighborhood without a skateboard, (remember those days?  Whoever heard of Nintendo?) so Metamorpho takes a few minutes to convert the Iron and Carbon in his body into a skateboard that allows the boy to ride uphill.  Having done his good deed and in the process getting a little closer to his destination, Metamorpho reverts to his regular form, but suddenly his arms begin to elongate skyward.  Soon his hands are exuding a combination of hydrogen and carbon gases and they sky-write a message to the Element Man:  "You are invited to attend a meeting of the Justice League for the purpose of determining your qualifications to be a full-time member!  Just follow the arrow!"  The astonished Metamorpho immediately protests that not only does he have a date, but he has no desire to join with the League.  He forms his body into a huge circular saw blade and begins to spin away when a nearby building seemingly comes to life.  An arm made of the building's brick smacks into the saw blade and a disembodied voice cries:  "Hold it Metamorpho!  If anybody's going to join the Justice League—it's me!"  The Element Man returns to his human form, but continues to be battered about by this unseen presence, which begins to inhabit other inanimate objects, such as a construction crane and a tree.  As the strange interloper batters the hero around he explains that he will be accepting Metamorpho's invitation to join the League in his stead and to prove his worthiness, he'll show up their original nominee.

Meanwhile, back at JLA headquarters, courtesy of Green Lantern's power-ring created monitor, Superman, Batman, the Flash, GL and the Atom observe what's happening to their potential recruit.  Superman comments that he cannot believe anyone would refuse to join the League while GL says that he's more interested in the character giving Metamorpho grief and they need to help since they're responsible for his predicament. 

In moments the team arrives and begin a fierce counterattack while Rex Mason says he can handle things and to just leave him alone.  The initial threats disappear, only to be replaced by huge atomic particles and micro-organisms to further afflict our heroes.  They seem to be getting the upper hand, to the point it's suggested they use their emergency signals to call in reinforcements, when the entities abruptly vanish and the team finds themselves transported back to their headquarters.  As they regain their bearings, Metamorpho asks what it's all about.  The Flash responds that they'd planned to interview him as a possible new member of the JLA and now that he's had a taste of battle with them, the offer still stands.  "In one word—No!  You fellas just gotta understand that I don't like being Metamorpho!  I just want to get back to my old self, Rex Mason!"  The Element Man then explains how he came to be in his current state and briefly recaps the origin story that you can read more fully in this archived review of Brave and the Bold #57.  He further explains that he's in this state unwillingly, so thanks, but no thanks.  He then makes a proposal to Green Lantern that he use his wondrous power ring to restore him to normal.  GL agrees, but when he channels his will through the emerald gem, it's blocked.  As every eye stands transfixed on the beam, it begins to change shape, closing Part I.

Part II opens with what, in essence, is another splash page, showing the six heroic figures bathed in a brilliant burst of energy while their minds "hear" this telepathic message:  "I have the power and will to gain control over Green Lantern's power ring beam—for I am—The Unimaginable!  The mind of man cannot conceive what my true shape is, for man's eyes are not capable of registering that shape upon his brain!"

The creature then explains its own origins, on a planet far from the Earth where it lived for untold eons until maturing to perfection and deciding to explore the cosmos.  One day it encountered the Justice League, battling the metal creations of Kraad the Conqueror on the planet Aralax.  The Unimaginable continued to follow and monitor the JLA's exploits until visiting their very headquarters recently when they were pondering recruiting a new member.  The Flash suggested the Elongated Man, while Batman mentioned Adam Strange.  Superman then proposed Metamorpho just as the Unimaginable decided to join with them.  When the creature hears it, he vowed to prove his superiority over their candidate, but when they came to Metamorpho's aid, the Unimaginable broke off the attack.  "Now I'm here to be admitted to membership!  Of course the vote will be unanimous—"  The members of the League, however, beg to differ and refuse to allow the creature to invite itself into their ranks.  The angered apparition warns them that it may be unimaginable, but its powers are very real and they should reconsider…or else.  The JLA continues to rebuff the creature and the battle is on.  Each member, along with Metamorpho, is soon engaged with a different menace.  The Unimaginable gloats that there is no escape from the entities and that only he has defeated them.  After getting over the element of surprise, however, the heroes begin to overcome each foe, in many cases tossing them into the paths of the other members' nemeses, displaying that famous JLA teamwork yet again.  The Unimaginable vows that they've only won the battle and that he'll take his warriors home to regroup and launch an even more devastating offensive. 

Metamorpho, meanwhile, has been busy with his assailant and thinking that perhaps the Unimaginable can help him regain human form, quickly dispatches the warrior, leaving it at JLA headquarters, and then quickly returning, disguised as the creature.  The Element Man is then drawn along with the other entities into the wake of the departing Unimaginable.  As they travel through space, Rex drops an atom from his body as a trail for the League to follow. 

As the JLA regroups they harbor the wish that they could take the battle to the home world of their foe and also note that Metamorpho seems to have taken a powder.  They then return to their headquarters to plot further strategy when they discover the overcome warrior left behind by the Element Man.  Deducing Rex Mason's plan, the five heroes speed away, determined to follow.  End of Part II

Part III finds our heroes in space, with Superman following the trail of atoms while Green Lantern follows closely behind with Batman, Atom and the Flash encased in the same emerald bubble.  It isn't long before they encounter a super nova in the throes of an eruption.  Our good editor explains super-nova for the reader:  "A star which explodes catastrophically, liberating most of its energy it is a thousand times as bright as an ordinary nova, releasing as much energy in one second as our sun does in 60 years!"  The Flash speculates that perhaps the Unimaginable veered into this dynamo to regenerate its powers.  Green Lantern's beam confirms that the energy pathways coincide with the atoms of Metamorpho.  For his next trick, the Emerald Warrior converts all of them into negative radiant energy so they can be absorbed into the body of the Unimaginable along with the energies of the super-nova.  Resembling ghost-like figures, the 5 heroes are soon flowing along with the other energy until they are absorbed into the Unimaginable.  As they travel through its body, the heroes begin to strike and attack vital organs, Batman and Superman launching their offensive near the "heart" while the Flash and Green Lantern attack the "brain."  At a subatomic level, the Atom scrambles atomic particles, while Metamorpho, going back to the circular saw configuration, wreaks his own havoc.  The Unimaginable realizes what is happening, but is powerless to retaliate without harming itself and under the onslaught is soon destroyed. 

The heroes emerge and GL converts them to their normal forms.  He also assists Metamorpho in retrieving his trail of atoms.  Then, it's back to Justice League headquarters, where Green Lantern takes up where he left off, again bathing the Element Man in an emerald beam, but again to no effect.  GL suggests that perhaps the meteor that transformed Rex Mason contained some yellow radiation, thwarting his efforts. 

Mason is philosophical and thanks the League for a great adventure.  They then propose that he at least be a stand-by member until he is able to be restored to normal.  Metamorpho agrees to those conditions and the story comes to a close.    

As we've just seen, Metamorpho wasn't what you'd call a joiner, but you can always count on him in the clutch.  In later continuity, he did join a group headed up by Batman who called themselves The Outsiders.  According to a new goodie in my resource material, the DC Comics Encyclopedia, the Outsiders first appeared in Brave and the Bold #200 in July of 1983.  Apparently the most modern incarnation of this team includes a successor (a clone, actually) of Metamorpho called "Shift."  I also learned that Metamorpho did eventually join Justice League Europe in later continuity.  Despite his long held desire to abandon the mantle of "freak," he has, at least on occasion, given in to his fate and used his abilities for the greater good.  He's a complicated hero, but I've always enjoyed his exploits.

I'll give this adventure a rating of 9 for a pretty good storyline and a fine guest hero who contributed a little tension and a lot of help to our favorite team of super-heroes.   

Join us again in about two weeks for another trip to the fabulous Silver Age.  In the mean time all questions, comments or requests will be entertained at my handy dandy e-mail at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2005 by B.D.S.

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