Contents: Showcase #37 (March-April 1962) to #40 (September-October 1962); Metal Men #1 (April-May 1963) to #15 (August-September 1965); and The Brave and the Bold #55 (August-September 1964)
Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Ramona Fradon, and Charles Paris
Key First Appearances: Doctor Will Magnus, Gold, Platinum (“Tina”), Lead, Iron, Mercury, Tin, Henry Caspar, Chemo, Nameless,
Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 2
Overview: Sometimes the greatest comic concepts develop out of a last-minute rush to meet a deadline. Such was the case in late 1961/early 1962 as DC was putting together the contents for Showcase #37. Showcase had been a try-out book for six years, to see if characters could sell their own monthly title or not. Over the years, the Barry Allen Flash, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, the Ray Palmer Atom, the Challengers of the Unknown, Adam Strange, and many others all made their debuts in this title. However, as #37 was being prepared, some undocumented delay forced DC to come up with a story at the last minute to fill the issue. Writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru stepped up with a comic about robots with personalities. This is Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 1.
In the story, Doctor Will Magnus has developed a “responsometer”, a device that is implanted into the robots that gives them the ability to interact and respond with others, while developing a personality that mimics many of the chemical properties that each robot is made from. Perhaps taking a page from Marvel’s Fantastic Four, these characters would squabble and bicker among each other, but would always rally together when their backs were to the wall.
The team had a debut run in Showcase for four issues, and the popularity of the characters quickly earned them their own title the following year. In a situation that was more common at Marvel than DC in that era, stories would continue from one issue to the next, referencing events in the previous issue. The Metal Men comics were quickly building a continuity, not just a series of stand-alone issues. And while most of their foes were random “villains of the month”, never to be heard from again, one major villain was introduced early on that would become a mainstay in the DC Universe – Chemo!
Perhaps as a good indication of how popular the characters were becoming, the Metal Men got to team up with the Atom over in the pages of The Brave and The Bold (which was not yet the “Batman Team-Up Book” that it became known as later). Since the Atom was a member of the Justice League at that time, this issue firmly establishes the Metal Men as being part of the building DC Universe of superheroes, and would lead to future team-ups with Metamorpho, which we will see in Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 2, and much later Batman.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: I have been casually aware of the Metal Men for years, but this was my first time reading their first adventures. I have to say that I was very impressed with this title. Yes, shape-shifting robots with quirky personalities is a very “Silver Age” concept, but this book reads more like a Marvel book than a DC book. Kanigher, Andru, and Esposito worked as a team on a variety of titles in this era, and the Metal Men has moved to the top of the list of my favorite books that they worked on together. I’m eagerly looking forward to picking up Volume 2 and continuing their story.
Meet the Metal Men:
- Gold is the unofficial field leader of the Metal Men. We are reminded each issue that Gold can stretch into a thin wire miles long.
- Lead is not the smartest member of the team, but you can always depend on him. He is often called to provide protection for the team from radiation rays.
- Iron is the strong man of the team. He is quick to format his body into any shape or object needed for the situation at hand.
- Mercury is hot-tempered and views himself as a more appropriate leader of the team. Given the chance, he will let you know that he is the only metal that is a liquid at room temperature.
- Platinum, who goes by the nickname of Tina, is the only female member of the Metal Men. She has genuine feelings for Doc Magnus, who often gets confused trying to figure out if Tina is a robot who thinks she is a woman or a woman who thinks she is a robot.
- Tin is the bravest of the Metal Men, but he is also the smallest and weakest of the team. Suffering from insecurities compared to his teammates, Tin stutters and often questions his value to the team.
- Nameless is a robot built by Tin using a mail-order kit and spare parts. She was never given an official name, nor was she officially made a member of the team.
If you like this volume, try: the Wednesday Comics project from 2009. DC released a 12-issue weekly series of stories collected in a folded newspaper format. When it was properly spread out, it would remind the reader of the Sunday comic strips found in many newspapers for years. The series had 15 ongoing stories, with one page per story in each issue. One of the featured stories in this project was the Metal Men, by Dan DiDio, José Luis García-López, and Kevin Nowlan. In terms of the concept, it’s a great idea and I wish DC (or any other publisher) would do it more often. In delivery, the newspapers were a little bulky and hard to store without damaging. Thankfully, DC released an oversized hardcover collection the following year on a standard white paper stock that makes the art look more beautiful. The individual issues still show up in the back-issue bins, but you might have better luck tracking down the hardcover to get the complete story at once.