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Posts Tagged ‘Metal Men’

Wednesday Was Yesterday

September 25th, 2009 No comments

The final issue of DC’s Wednesday Comics hit stores this week. My initial enthusiasm about this experiment–a 12-issue miniseries of weekly installments printed in the manner of a Sunday comics supplement–waned after the fourth issue or so. Several of the stories wasted too much of their limited page count dicking around. Neil Gaiman’s Metamorpho featured two straight weeks of full-page panels in which the Element Man walked and talked.

So, how did the individual strips fare?

Batman – A wonderfully moody first chapter turned into an unambitious murder investigation. You mean that the rich geezer was done in by his hot, gold-digging wife? What a “mystery!”

Kamandi – This Prince Valiant-style excursion through a post-apocalyptic world ruled by beasts was terrific from beginning to end. It made me want to check out creator Jack Kirby’s original run.

Superman – The one which failed most spectacularly is disappointingly the one which received the most exposure courtesy USA Today. Superman spent six issues moping until he remembered the time he was adopted by loving parents and spend thirty years living happily among humans. Then he punched some aliens.

Deadman – Enjoyable overall, but not necessarily a good introduction to the character. Deadman’s main traits are his incorporeality and his ability to possess others, and the setting of much of the story–a hellscape in which he had a physical form–rendered both of those moot.

Green Lantern – A very slow start that, while it picked up midway through, didn’t amount to much of a story.  At least it wasn’t about a guy with a power ring who only fights other guys with power rings, as is the case with the monthly comic.

Metamorpho – I was very annoyed by the panel in which the characters name-checked the (off-panel) traps they faced. If you’re going to reference a “laser attack” room, I’d rather see that than two weeks of walk-and-talk. Still, I liked that Gaiman heavily mined Silver Age continuity here, particularly the inclusion of Algon the ancient Element Man. He kept teasing with the idea of an ongoing Metamorpho title, and I think that he should convince someone at DC to let him take a whack at it.

Teen Titans – I had no damned idea what was going on here. I don’t know if it was the art or the script, but I couldn’t make sense of it. Something about Deathstroke the Terminator dressing up as an even sillier villain.

Strange Adventures – Paul Pope’s art was…interesting. Yet I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy his version of Adam Strange via Edgar Rice Burroughs. It took some enormous liberties with the concept–particularly the nature of the Zeta Beam and the notion that Adam is an old man when he’s not on the planet Rann–but it was intriguing and fun.

Supergirl – Second only to Kamandi. I loved this, and would buy an ongoing monthly in a heartbeat. The artwork was appealing to the eye, and full of character moments. Krypto and Streaky (and Supergirl!) have never been cuter. Aquaman’s clam phone? Brilliant!

I want to know what a bucket of shrimp is thinking.

Metal Men – My number three choice. I know that people dump on DC Comics’ executive editor Dan DiDio, but he bulls-eyed this one with a script that included everything I like about the Metal Men, with none of what I dislike about them.

Wonder Woman – Again, no idea what happened here. I think it was supposed to be a riff on all those old stories that told how WW won the individual elements of her costume, but I felt as if I was battling the artwork, and the artwork won.

Sgt. Rock – It just seemed to be a standard-issue Rock story that made no attempt to fit into the newspaper format.

Flash – The initial idea–a Flash strip running in tandem with one about his suffering wife Iris–was neat, but I lost track of what was going on with all the time-travel. In stories of this sort–in which multiple incarnations of a character from different time-periods simultaneously appear–the writer needs to clearly signpost which version is which. And I’m not sure what was up with the suggestion that the Flash had intentionally created Grodd’s gorilla-filled parallel realm.

Demon/Catwoman – It was okay, but I started out wondering why Catwoman was in the story and ended it feeling the same.

Hawkman – Well done for the most part. I was happy to see Dinosaur Island. Leaving Hawkman without his wings for half the story was probably a mistake; he’s pretty much Manman at that point.

I wouldn’t mind seeing DC try something like this again, but I think that the creators need to remember how to tell a complete story in twelve pages. They managed it all the time in the Silver Age.

If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Avoid My Colossal Metal Fist

October 14th, 2007 No comments

Who knew that Ann Coulter built a giant robot?

Panel from Metal Men #15, August 1965.

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My Own Boiling Point Is 56.7 Degrees Celsius

October 7th, 2007 No comments

In the ’60s, we got to the moon by flying through a PICTURE of the moon.

While my love of so-called “Silver Age” (1956-69 or thereabouts) DC Comics remains unabated, I have to admit that in rediscovering them through the massive reprint volumes known as Showcase Presents I’ve found that all too often, they…well, let’s just say that they’re not quite as good as I remembered.

Must be a Russian robot.

The Showcase books, which reprint entire runs of comics in chronological order, aren’t necessarily the ideal format for these stories. Consuming issue after issue in one go rather than waiting a month or two for the next installment highlights their repetitive and formulaic nature.

Submitted in support is the most recent volume, featuring the Metal Men. This unusual super-team debuted in 1962, in issue #37 of the original Showcase title. Showcase (no “Presents” back then) was a book which tried out new characters and concepts, with the most popular given their own titles. “Metal Men” was originally intended as a mere fill-in story, but the heroes were so well-received that they appeared in four issues before spinning off into a bimonthly series which ran for another seven years.

Lead became so concerned over his atomic weight that he developed an atomic eating disorder.

The Metal Men were robots created by the brilliant Doc Magnus, each a shape-shifting humanoid endowed with the properties (and anthropomorphized personality) of a metallic element: noble Gold, strong man Iron, slow-moving Lead, hot-headed Mercury, weakling Tin, and beautiful Platinum, the latter the only female in the band.

Look, I said it was the ’60s.

It was established from the beginning that the effectiveness of the Metal Men as superheroes stemmed from their imperfections. The “responsometers” that governed their actions left them with human-like emotions, ironically making them better at their job than mere robots would have been. On several occasions, Doc built duplicate Metal Men without this flaw, and the dopplegangers inevitably proved a danger to others.

Platinum (aka Tina) got the worst of it, exhibiting stereotypically “female” behaviors as only a ’60s comic book writer could envision them. While the other Metal Men were loyal to their creator, Tina was in love with Doc, and said so…constantly. Doc had to keep reminding her that she was “only a robot.”

Get used to this line of conversation. It’ll come up again.

As I mentioned, comics of this period frequently repeated themselves, often for the benefit of new readers. You could bet that most of the following would occur in any given Metal Men story:

  • Mercury would arrogantly declare that he was the only metal that was liquid at room temperature.
  • Doc would tell Tina that she was not a woman, and that she should behave like a robot.
  • The Metal Men would announce their respective atomic weights and/or boiling points. DC Comics were scientific like that.
  • Tin would fret about his uselessness, then rush the latest menace in a foolhardy and ultimately futile gesture. (Each time he met another pathetic fate, the other Metal Men commented on his bravery. To them, it seemed that “bravery” was expressed as pathological, self-loathing suicide.)
  • Tina would act like an unpredictable woman, forcing Doc to remind her that she was, in fact, not one.
  • One or more of the Metal Men would die horribly, to be rebuilt in a later issue. (The very first story killed off the entire team.)
  • Did I mention that Tina was really a robot? And not a girl?

Just another day at the office for Tin.

The Doc and Tina relationship got pretty sick. Doc kept promising to ship her off to the Museum of Science (or, as I prefer, Museum of SCIENCE!!!). This he eventually did, but they sent her back because the patrons complained.

Museum goers are a tough crowd.

That’s because the Museum of SCIENCE!!!, when gifted with a metamorphic, self-aware work of unparalleled genius–which could stretch itself thinner than a human hair and was capable of pleasuring others in ways of which human women had never dreamed–could think of nothing better to do with it than to lock it in a glass coffin and demand it to stand very, very still. And they were dissatisfied when it began to mope.

I can hear the families now:

“Mommy! That robot lady is crying!”

“Well, naturally, Jenny. She’s a sentient being put on eternal display in an enclosure slightly larger than herself. Now, eat your ice cream while you appreciate her endless, living hell.”

I know that rationality was not the order of the day here, but it occurred to me that if one was a scientist who had committed to donating one’s fabulous platinum robot to the Museum of SCIENCE!!!–and had, in a previous story, built a second model without those pesky human behavioral traits–one would really be an asshat to give them the crying one.

That’s Doc Magnus, inventor and asshat.

Only 37 more times. This issue.