De Re Metallica: The Metal Men

Basic Chemistry: Their Origins

The story goes like this: DC has a problem. They don't have a character for the next issue of Showcase, a try-out book featuring new character ideas for one-to-three issues, and the deadline is looming. Can Robert Kanigher come up with a story? Silly boy! Kanigher had a rep for being one of the fastest, most reliable writers in comics. Sure, he sometimes sacrificed sense to speed, but, hey, this is comics, not literature.

This is also Friday. So he picks up Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia from his desk, goes home, and comes up with a story about a bunch of robots against a giant monster. He spends the weekend tossing around ideas on the phone with artist Ross Andru, with whom he's been working on the Wonder Woman book, and comes in Monday with a complete script.

This was basically a fill-in. No one expected much out of it. But something about Kanigher's story is so compelling that he's asked to resurrect the robots for a follow-up -- and another -- and then the sales reports start coming in...

Metallic Properties: Their Personalities

The Metal Men were robots that acted like people. They were apparently composed mostly of the metals for which they were named (Ever wonder how their creator, Doc Magnus, got his hands on so much pure gold and platinum?), and they had the abilities of, and personalities resembling, those metals:







Dr. William "Doc" Magnus

Col. Henry Caspar
Doc Will Magnus and his military liaison, Col. Henry Caspar.

Alchemy: The Secret Origin

Note that the Metal Men were basically 6 of the 7 classical metals associated with the planets: Gold, Lead, Iron, Mercury, Tin, and instead of Silver, Platinum (whose name comes from "little silver"). So what happened to Copper?

Note, too, that Doc's surname apparently came from Albertus Magnus, a 13th century alchemist. (Though in Albertus's case, "Magnus" was an epithet, "Albert the Great", not a surname.)

The Criminal Element: Their Foes

Here are the many menaces the Metal Men encountered.

Showcase #37, March-April 1962, "The Flaming Doom"
The Metal Men's first foe was a mutated, prehistoric manta ray which could fly and which shot transmuting beams from its eyes. One by one, the MM "died" in trying to stop it, until the last ones coated it, suffocating it.

The Nuclear Menace

Showcase #38, May-June 1962, "The Nightmare Menace"
Von Vroon was a former Nazi scientist, now working for the Russians. He developed a Nightmare Menace robot to fight the Metal Men (reconstructed to receive awards) as a propaganda coup. The giant Nightmare Menace was actually, to quote the story, a "Chinese puzzle box" of robots (or perhaps the more familiar Russian nesting dolls would be a better analogy), that is, within each robot was a smaller robot, until Von Vroon himself was revealed to be inside the last robot.
Dr. Von Vroon
The Nightmare Menace

Showcase #39, July-August 1962, "The Deathless Doom"
Chemo was the best known of the Metal Men's foes.

Dr. Norton was trying to develop a growth formula to improve agricultural yields. He poured all of his failures into a large humanoid plastic vat, which he called Chemo. But Chemo came to life, grew itself, then sprayed Dr. Norton with a giantism formula, which eventually killed him.

Now, one might today question the wisdom of dumping random toxic wastes into a single container, but Chemo was created in a more innocent time.

I tried to duplicate the wonderfully craggy face of Dr. Norton from the comics, but I'm not satisfied with the result.

Giant Dr. Ramsey Norton

Showcase #40, September-October 1962, "The Day the Metal Men Melted"
Once you have human-seeming robots, how about a robot-seeming human? This was the first of many occasions where Doc was turned into metal, this time by a squirt from Chemo, which turned him into a radioactive metal as well as a giant..
Giant Radioactive Metal Doc

Metal Men #1, April-May 1963, "Rain of the Missile Men!"
The second most popular of the Metal Men's foes were the Missile Men. Renegade robot Z-1 was dumped onto a junkyard planet, where a solar flare reactivated him. He used the junk to try to develop a partner, but all he succeeded into doing was creating mindless replicas of himself.

I say "he" because he eventually spied on Earth, saw Platinum, and decided to make her his queen. He launched his horde of duplicates into space, falling on Earth like a rain of missiles.

The Missile Men

Metal Men #2, June-July 1963, "Robots of Terror"
Platinum, tiring of being rejected by Doc, built herself a more attentive robot Doc Magnus. But something short-circuited in the process, and the robot Doc, naturally an inventor also, decided to make its own set of Metal Men and attack humanity. These "robots of terror" were Aluminum, Barium, Calcium, Zirconium, Sodium, and Plutonium. The MM match off against one of the robots each and are mutually destroyed.Tina takes the Doc and Plutonium robots to the Moon, where Plutonium is detonated.

One of my favorite lines from the comic comes from the robot Doc, ordering the first of his robots to "Fizz them to death, Sodium!"

By the way, you can see excerpts from the "Robots of Terror" story by
looking up the appropriate elements at the wonderful Periodic Table of Comic Books site.

Doc Robot
The Robots of Terror

Metal Men #3, August-September 1963, "The Moon's Invisible Army"
The real Doc went to the Moon to recover Tina's fragments, but he accidentally scooped up some long-dormant lunar microbes as well. The story ends with the MM having to exile Tin, who has trapped the microbes in a giant can, into space.
The Lunar Microbes (inside an egg)
The Lunar Microbes

Metal Men #4, October-November 1963, "The Bracelet of Doomed Heroes"
This cruel giant robot thought she found in the exiled Tin the robot king she had long sought, but she was disappointed to learn Tin was not only too small but too mild. So she enlarged him and made him mean. The rest of the Metal Men (including Doc) were turned into charms on a charm bracelet for her.
The Lunar Microbes
The Giant Robot Queen

Metal Men #5, December 1963-January 1964, "Menace of the Mammoth Robots"
Tin recovers, and the chained MM lead a revolt by the male robot "dogs" against the queen.

These same robots appeared in an earlier Wonder Woman story, in Wonder Woman #136 (vol. 1), where they were known as The Machine Men. Their appearance was identical to the Robot Queen, except for the color and the crown-antenna, but there was no mention made of "gender" differences there.

The Giant Robot Queen

Metal Men #6, February-March 1964, "The Day Doc Turned Robot"
The Metal Men are returning from space when cosmic rays change Doc into a cold-hearted metal humanoid. He refuses to let the Metal Men rescue another spaceship from a Comet-Creature. They defy him and rescue the ship. Back on earth, he creates new robots to be more loyal, this time based on gases: the Gas Gang. When the MM melt the Gas Gang, the combined fumes return Doc to normal.
Metal Doc

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon Dioxide
The Gas Gang

Metal Men #7, April-May 1964, "The Living Gun"
A solar flare breaks away from a sun and is bombarded with radiation from an exploding planet. The flare's plasma coalesces into the Solar-Brain, a creature with tremendous telekinetic powers. A disintegration meteor shield on the Metal Men's ship destroys the Solar-Brain.
The Solar Brain

Metal Men #8, June-July 1964, "The Playground of Terror"
The Metal Men take a blind boy, Timmy, into space as a thrill. They land on an uninhabited planetoid, where a still-operating amusement park is the only remnant of a vanished civilization. Too late they learn that the park rides are robot creatures which did away with their creators.
The Playground of Terror Roller Coaster

Metal Men #9, August-September 1964, "The Robot Juggernaut"
Escaping from the planet of the Playground of Terror, the MM and Timmy (now called Billy!) land on a planet inhabited by Robot Juggernauts, creatures made up of metal-rolling-mill components, which act like the cannibals in an old jungle movie and try to cook the MM. They escape, and a radiation shower restores Timmy's sight. Aw!
The Playground of Terror
The Robot Juggernauts

The Brave and the Bold #55, August-September 1964, "Revenge of the Robot Reject"
In the Silver Age, DC's comic The Brave and the Bold became a Batman team-up book after the success of the Batman TV show. Prior to that, it was a general team-up book. Here, it's the Metal Men and the Atom.

Turns out Doc Magnus had created another robot, Uranium, before the Metal Men. But Uranium was dangerously anti-social, as well as radioactive, so Doc scrapped him and sold off the raw metal. Some experiment reactivated him, and he built a "female" partner, Agantha (silver), then took revenge on Doc by using a long-distance atom-smasher to destroy the Metal Men. Doc contacts the Atom, who manages to undo the effects of the atom-smasher. Agantha is destroyed in a fight with Tina, and Uranium exhausts himself by sending out his much of his radiation in the form of humanoid bullets called Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. This turns him into radium, and he melts down.

The Atom is made using the modified Gil Kane template I use for my Green Lantern micros.

Yes, I know what Alpha, Beta, and Gamma look like. But that's what they looked like in the comic. It was a more innocent time...

The Atom
Alpha, Beta, and Gamma

Metal Men #10, October-November 1964, "Revolt of the Gas Gang"
Returning from the planet of the Juggernauts, all of the Metal Men but Tin have been fused into a single humanoid alloy. Doc takes too long to figure out how to separate them, so the MM jump into a smelter, figuring Doc can rebuild them afterwards. But "hostile alien elements" they were exposed to have been trapped in their alloy, and the smelter's heat causes them to expand and become hostile themselves. Doc rebuilds the Gas Gang to capture the renegade fusion, but the Gas Gang turns on Doc, and the process to restore the MM turns out to destroy the GG as well.

The Gas Gang were drawn in a slightly different manner in this book, but I didn't feel like redoing them for minor differences.

Metal Men Alloyed
Metal Men Alloyed with Hostile Elements
Carbon Monoxide
Carbon Dioxide
The Gas Gang

Metal Men #11, December 1964-January 1965, "The Floating Furies"
Out for a sail, the MM attract the attention of the Floating Furies, creatures made of old mines and other sea wreckage. The Furies' queen claims Gold as salvage, but the MM fight her off. She then appeals to King Neptune, who gives her additional powers over the seas to recapture Gold. Eventually, Gold attracts lightning to detonate the mines.
The Floating Furies' Queen
The Floating Furies
King Neptune

Metal Men #12, February-March 1965, "Shake the Stars"
Apparently, Z-1 left other Missile Men behind him, as some Missile Men scientists send a probe (the Rocketman) to explore space and find Earth. They assume the Metal Men are typical humans and build robot duplicates to attack them. But the MM are more versatile than their duplicates, and the Missile Men are forced to attack Earth en masse again.
The Missile Men Scientists
The Missile Men

Metal Men #13, April-May 1965, "Raid of the Skyscraper Robot"
Tin has never felt equal to his other Metal Men colleagues, so he goes to a department store and buys a Do-It-Yourself Robot kit, which he customizes with cast-off responsometer parts from Doc. He makes a nameless Tin female companion. Mercury laughs at her, and she runs away into space. Tin follows her, and they discover a planet where human-sized robots fight each other, the victors eating the fallen, and the ruined city they all live in, and growing in size. One skyscraper-sized robot follows them to Earth, where Tin and "Nameless" manage to defeat it.

DC ran a contest to name "Nameless", and while lots of suggestions were printed in the comic, no one ever settled on a name. Tin always called her "Beautiful", but everyone else used "Nameless".

"Nameless" was eventually forgotten, in some late-'60s revisions of the MM. In the 1980s, a fan wrote a nice story, in which Batman investigates Nameless's disappearance, which appeared in The Brave and the Bold #187, "Whatever Happened to What's'ername?".

The Skyscraper Robot

Metal Men #14, June-July 1965, "The Headless Robots"
The Metal Men reveal their responsometers are in their heads. Even with the heads detached, the responsometers can control the MM's bodies. Rushing the newly restored MM to an emergency, Mercury holds off on attaching their heads to their bodies. Chemo rises and decapitates him, leading to a wild scramble for the correct responsometers.

Metal Men #15, August-September 1965, "The Revenge of the Rebel Robot"
In the James Bond- influenced 1960s, it seems everyone at DC fought a criminal organization with an acronym like SPECTRE's. Aquaman had O.G.R.E., Hawkman had C.A.W., and the Metal Men had B.O.L.T.S. No explanation for the name was ever given, and the MM formed an equally meaningless counter-organization called N.U.T.S. for that issue, just so they could say "NUTS to BOLTS!"

Anyway, the leader was a giant robot built behind the Iron Curtain. It took control of some primitive robots to deliver Doc to it. BOLTS (the robot) saw Nameless and fell in love. It chased her through a refrigerated railroad car to an electric fence and, Nameless having become a superconductor in classic comic-book science, BOLTS was zapped when it tried to kiss the electrified Nameless.

The Mechanical Men

Metal Men #16, October-November 1965, "Robots for Sale"
The Metal Men follow an SOS into space, but the sender accidentally hits them with a shrinking ray. On arrival, they find the senders to be incredibly stupid wooden robots (that is, the robots themselves are stupid, not the concept of wooden robots, be that as it may) whose planet is being attacked by robot termites (the one with the antenna is the leader). Since the MM are termite-sized now, they face the termites as equals and still manage to beat off an entire army of them. The termites swear revenge by attacking Earth next. The wooden robots (the Srelbmub -- they say all names backwards, even the MM's) send the MM off with a promise to reverse the shrinkage, but instead they paralyze the MM. Back on Earth, the MM are mistaken for toys and are sold to a little boy. When the termites attack Earth, the boy's tears cause the shrinkage-paralysis to end, and the full-sized Metal Men destroy the robot termites once and for all.

If you ask me, "It's a long way to tip a Rarey" -- that is, this was something of a shaggy dog story that took a lot of detours to justify the cover image that inspired the story.

The Robot Termites
The Srelbmub

Metal Men #17, December 1965-January 1966, "I Married a Robot"
Mysterious giant spider-webs are falling on things and causing them to vanish. Doc and the Metal Men find one of the webs and learn it's a space warp, which takes them to a planet ruled by robot spiders. They manage to rescue everyone caught by the webs and send them back to Earth, but they themselves are caught by a Black Widow spider robot, who intends to make them a series of meals. The Black Widow picks Doc first and hypnotizes him into thinking she's a beautiful female. The MM trick other spiders into freeing them, then fight off the spider band, who vow to leave Earth alone, and then return through the space-warp web.
The Robot Spiders
Black Widow Spider Robot
(humanoid illusion)

Metal Men #18, February-March 1966, "The Dinosaur Who Came to Dinner"
Tina receives a charm bracelet from an unnamed admirer. A dinosaur charm grows to gigantic (and robotic) size. Since it eats metal, Tina tries to tame it by feeding it a hot meal -- pots and pans warmed on the stove -- but the dinosaur still gobbles up Doc and all the Metal Men. Then they learn it's really a spaceship, which takes them to its Boss, a robot inventor who fell in love with Tina from afar. The Boss imprisons Doc and makes an android version of Doc as a new body for himself, but Tina can tell the difference. So the Boss transfers his mind into Doc's own body and tries again. Nope, Tina's still not fooled. Meanwhile, the rest of the MM have been dumped into a smelter. When the frustrated Boss tries to dump Doc and Tina in, the MM burst out, fused at the wrists and ankles, and stop him. Boss tells the dinosaur to grab them all and dump them into space, but the dinosaur secretly takes them back to Earth, since Tina treated it kindly in the first place.
The Robot Dinosaur

Metal Men #19, April-May 1966, "The Man-Horse of Hades"
The still-fused Metal Men meet Tessie Galtch, a plain girl who doesn't have a date for the prom. Tina spins a platinum dress for her, Gold makes golden boots, and Doc shrinks the fused MM into a necklace for her. At the prom, Tessie is a hit, but a gang of robbers, led by Mulehead, tries to steal her valuable clothes. The tiny MM still beat off the robbers and receive kisses from various female students, which oddly makes them glow.

Returning to the lab, Doc shuts himself away on a secret project (after re-enlarging the MM). Tina, meanwhile, is attacked by a giant centaur. The MM try to fight it off but fail, and the commotion attracts Doc. He gets the centaur to tell his story: ages ago he fell in love with a nymph. However, Jove had his eyes on the same nymph and, in revenge, turned the nymph into a statue and the centaur into a giant. He sends the centaur to Alpha Centauri, inhabited by giant centaurs, where he's the only one without a mate. Aphrodite gets Jove to promise to return the centaur to Earth when the nymph is moving again, but Jove has a sneaky plan. Turns out Tina is the spitting image of the nymph, and her creation was enough to break Jove's curse, but the centaur finds his love is still, essentially, a statue -- that is, Tina's metal, not flesh and blood. Doc whips up a quick giant centauress android with Tina's features, and the two giants trot back to Alpha Centauri. Then Doc reveals what he was secretly working on: metal women whose kisses contain sufficient electric power to break the bonds fusing the MM together.

I didn't bother to do the metal women, who appeared only in a couple of panels at the end. Maybe some day...

Gussie Taltch
The Man-Horse of Hades

Metal Men #20, June-July 1966, "Birthday Cake for a Cannibal Robot"
Warning: I apologize in advance for the racially offensive material, but this is part of the MM's history, and I can't ignore it.

Remember B.O.L.T.S.? Well, it turns out the "Iron Curtain" country that created it is actually a "Bamboo Curtain" one (and, yes, that was a real term in the 1960s).

Background: Author Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru also did DC's Wonder Woman comic at the time. One of their most notorious issues had WW going to "Oolong Island", where she fought the Oriental mastermind Egg Fu. Egg Fu was a giant egg-shaped stationary computer, with tentacle-like mustaches. Egg Fu was also a Major Offensive Chinese Stereotype. It had orange skin and regularly turned Rs into Ls, and Ls into Rs, when it talked. These were typical traits for Japanese stereotypes during World War 2, and I guess Kanigher never got them out of his system. (Nor did many DC editors, for that matter. There was a Plastic Man villain called the Japanese Beetle with the same traits (story by Arnold Drake), and probably others. It was a more innocent, um, okay, ignorant time. Actually, pretty much any non-WASPy character had stereotypical traits: Germans, Italians, Mexicans, etc.)

So, now you know the context. BOLTS's creator was Doctor Yes, another sessile stereotype, slightly smaller than Egg Fu and wearing glasses, but otherwise identical. Doc Magnus tries to implant a responsometer in the remains of BOLTS, but the head gobbles him up. The MM find Doc's lab empty and, assuming Doc has succeeded and moved on, reassemble BOLTS and command it to take them to its leader. (Actually, Dr. Yes is still controlling BOLTS.) They arrive at the unnamed country and find a giant birthday cake in an empty room. Thinking to spy on the as-yet-unseen master of BOLTS, they tell it to stick them into the cake like candles. BOLTS then tries to eat the cake, and the MM. But once its mouth opens, Doc is set free. Dr. Yes appears and brainwashes them all, so that, when the MM appear at a scheduled event before thousands of schoolchildren, they shout "Down with America!" At the event, the MM resist the brainwashing, so that they blow their own responsometers. Furious, Dr. Yes (watching from afar) tells BOLTS to kill everyone, but the Metal Men's pieces, apparently fueled by pure patriotism, come to action and shatter BOLTS again.

All in all, an embarassing story to read even back then.

By the way, another version of Egg Fu is soon to appear: Wonder Woman, a few months later, meets Egg Fu the Fifth, who is a human-sized giant robot egg. So, assuming each successive Egg Fu was somewhat smaller than its predecessor, I'd guess Dr. Yes is actually "Egg Fu the Second". Mercifully, we have been spared Egg Fu the Third and Fourth. (Although John Byrne did reinvent Egg Fu for one of his latter-day Wonder Woman stories. I didn't buy that issue. Let ghosts lie.)

PS: The DC series 52 features a sub-plot in which Doc Magnus is kidnapped and taken to Oolong Island, which is run by a vaguely egg-shaped robot named Chang Tzu. Some ghosts are unquiet.
Doctor Yes

The Brave and the Bold #66, June-July 1966, "Wreck the Renegade Robots"
Prof. Kurt Borian isolates himself on a resource-rich island and spends the next 15 years developing (from total scratch) humanoid robots based on metallic elements. When he returns to civilization, he finds Doc Magnus has anticipated him and done a better job of it. He's just wasted 15 years of his life -- it's really because he chose to be a hermit, but he doesn't see it that way. (Doc actually complements him on his skill in doing what he did without any outside help.) So he wants revenge on Doc and uses the Metal Men to get it. He imbeds a device in Lead that causes all the MM's responsometers (and how that works, I have no idea) to obey only him. Metamorpho has coincidentally come to Doc recently for a cure (he being the Ben Grimm of the DC Universe), and Doc does cure him, just in time for Borian to take them all prisoner. Metamorpho makes the appropriate sacrifice and becomes the Element Man again, and in fighting the MM, Borian's device is found and destroyed.
Prof. Kurt Borian

Metal Men #21, August-September 1966, "The Metal Men versus the Plastic Perils"
So have you noticed a certain... sameness about most Metal Men stories? So did the readers. This issue opens with the MM reading actual fan mail written to DC, complaining about the number of robot foes the MM have fought in recent issues: Giant Robots, Robot Termites, Robot Spiders, Robot Dinosaurs, Robot Eggs... (Obviously Kanigher had read this mail and written the previous issue's Man-Horse story in response, but here he tries to address his failings as a plot point!) The MM go in search of more human foes, but everywhere they find human super-heroes (Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman) get there first. Dejected, they return to Doc's lab, only to find a more human menace has come to them.

"Prof. Bravo", he calls himself, but he's not a real professor. As he admits, he's just a crook. But he's managed to create a plastic android. The rest of the story is the MM versus various plastic androids, and Bravo taunting them because "Plastics are the future". Finally, Gold decides to read up on plastics and learns of their low melting point, so the MM pour molten metal on the androids, destroying them, and capture Bravo.

Actually, someone wrote another letter, which DC published the previous issue, in which he proposed a Plastic Gang, each member of which has the abilities of a certain kind of plastic. Kanigher answered the letter, claiming he was amazed at the fellow's precognitive abilities, because he'd just described the menace the MM were next to face. I mean, talk about gall! Not only does the guy take complaints about his work and turn them into the story he's getting paid for, but he also steals an idea from a letter writer and throws his hands up in amazement at the "coincidence"!

Anyway, Prof. Bravo is pretty cool, with his sheer nonchalance towards crime. And the Plastic Gang do make good (and literally colorful) foes. They are

  • Ethy (ethylene)
  • Sty (styrene)
  • Sil (silicone)
  • Meth (methacrylate)
  • Poly (polyethelene)
Prof. Bravo
The Plastic Gang

Metal Men #22, October-November 1966, "Attack of the Sizzler"
The non-robot foes continue. Prof. Snakelocks, from a hostile country, has created an artificial life-form from the Aurora Borealis: The Sizzler, who looks like a living comet, and whose complete powers are unknown, but the Prof. is sure they'll be able to smash the US, starting with the Metal Men. Under diplomatic immunity, he smuggles suitcases full of expandable (and expendable) robots and has them capture a trainload of movie stars, as bait for the MM. When the MM appear, the Sizzler changes them all into humans. Tina thinks this is her big chance with Doc, but he's been turned into a robot! (Again! This is the 3rd time Doc has become a metal humanoid, and there were two other Doc robots built by others as well!)

Turns out the Sizzler is actually a female artificial life-form, and she's fallen in love with Doc and rebels against Prof. Snakelocks. She turns the MM into robots again, and there the story ends, to be continued next issue.

Prof. Snakelocks
The Sizzler
The Expendable Robots
Rubber Robot

The Human Metal Men
Human Gold
Human Iron
Human Lead
Human Mercury
Human Platinum
Human Tin
Human Nameless
Robot Doc

Metal Men #23, December 1966-January 1967, "Rage of the Lizard"
Despite expandable toy soldiers, the MM take Snakelocks into custody. He warns the robot Doc against the Sizzler's whims, and she turns him into a robot, too. Tina tries to spend time with Doc, but he's not interested in her as a robot, either. She runs off in tears and is caught by the Lizard, whose sub was supposed to rescue Snakelocks. The Lizard uses Tina to lure the other MM into traps, but they beat him. Sizzler turns Doc and Snakelocks human again. Tina has a rival in the Sizzler.
The Toy Soldiers
Robot Prof. Snakelocks
The Lizard

Metal Men #24, February-March 1967, "The Balloon Man Hangs High"
The Balloon Man can expand to the size of a blimp, or shrink to deflated toy balloon size. He can blow gas or smoke as needed. And he's self-sealing. Why? He just is, okay?

So Gold conducts electricity into coils and vaporizes him.

Don't ask so many questions. In a Kanigher story, it's all about the Image. (Say! Maybe someone could start a whole company around that idea!)

The Balloon Man

Metal Men #25, April-May 1967, "Return of Chemo - the Chemical Menace"
Doc tries to install a responsometer in the Sizzler (!) but blows her up. While he's healing, the MM are on their own.

Chemo comes back. The MM are beaten, one by one, until only Tin and Nameless remain. They become "tin pest", a flaky form of tin, and coat Chemo, suffocating him.



Metal Men #26, June-July 1967, "Menace of the Metal Mods"
After beating the Metal Mods, a gang of crooks who wear metal makeup and mod clothing, the MM attempt to track down an S.O.S. signal. They land on a planet of *real* Metal Mods, robots who are having civil rights issues with their android slaves. After teaching the planet to dance, the MM hear the signal again and track it to -- Doc's lab! A plastic robot has entangled him in unbreakable threads. Iron smashes it.
The Metal Mods The Androids The Plastic Robot

Metal Men #27, August-September 1967, "The Startling Origin of the Metal Men" (retelling of Showcase #39, plus new material)
A descendant of Genghis Khan, armed with a laser sword, decapitates the MM. Tina takes this opportunity to retell the MM's origin, then they put their heads back on and go after the Khan, who is so surprised he drops his sword and zaps himself. (Not quite, but close enough.)

   1) Many "descendant of Genghis Khan" villains seem to use "Khan" as a family name, rather than the title ("prince" or "lord") it actually is.
   2) According to a 4/25/05 New Yorker article, some .5% of the world male population may be related to Genghis Khan. So much for you, Shiwan!

The Nuclear Menace
Genghis Khan

Metal Men #28, October-November 1967, "You Can't Trust a Robot!"
After escaping capture by the MM, the leader of the Leopard Mask Gang bops Doc on the head and finds a set of duplicate MM, with "evil responsometers", which Doc was developing for a military exercise.  Naturally, everything the evil MM do is blamed on the real MM.  Tina finally manages to round them all up and jumps into a smelter.  The LMG leader presumably falls to his death.
The Leopard Mask Gang

The Brave and the Bold #74, October-November 1967, "Rampant Run the Robots!"
Although he actually drew one more issue of Metal Men, I consider this B&B issue to be Ross Andru's Metal Men swan song.  He got to create over a dozen new robots for this story, about the First International Robot Exposition, held in Gotham City.  Dr. Daedalus, the organizer, is secretly using the robots to steal for him, and Batman has to overcome some prejudices about robots to work with the MM to catch the thieves.

It's not a great story, by any means, but Andru uses these throwaway robot designs again and again in crowd scenes, etc. -- just like you'd expect to see the same people over and over at a convention.  It just shows what a craftsman he was.


Batman Dr. Daedalus Icarus

Klang R4573 Chinese Robot Six-Armed Robot Clawfoot Robot Long-Legged Robot Water-Ski Robot
Wheeled Robot
Roadblock Robot
Hexagon Robot
Boxer Robot
Bullet-Proof Robot
Bubble Robot
Karate Robot
Wrestler Robot

Metal Men #29, December 1967-January 1968, "The Robot Eater from Metalas 5!"
This is Andru's last MM story, and it's written by Raymond Marais, not Kanigher, so there's rather more actual plot.

Doc takes Dr. Helen Garin to see the MM race (as cars) for charity. A giant robot appears and starts eating all metal in sight. Despite their best efforts, the MM are swallowed, along with Doc and Dr. Garin, but are transported to another world, where the metallic Horbok explains Torgola, the robot, is supposed to seek out uninhabited planets and gobble their minerals, but something's gone wrong. They use Ethos, another giant robot, to return to Earth and tackle Torgola again. In the middle of this, Dr. Garin, who hasn't said Word One since the opening panels, tells Ethos to send her back to Horbok's planet. The MM finally beat Torgola, but what's become of Dr. Garin? Ethos shows them: she's with Horbok, with whom she apparently fell in love during their first brief meeting, and has chosen to become metallic, too.

Dr. Helen Garin
Governing Body of Metalas One
Metalized Dr. Garin
Guard Robot
Assault Robot

\Metal Men #30, February-March 1968, "Terror of the Forbidden Dimension"
Doc is working on a dimensional portal device, when an explosion kills him. With nothing left to lose, the MM use the device to take his body to another dimension, in hopes of finding something to resurrect him. On the dimensional world, they find their bodies have strange new properties: Gold is dull and mute, Mercury green and brittle, Lead shiny and feather-light, Iron weak, Tin and Nameless strong, and Tina combustible when wet. The local ruler, King Dymond, promises a cure for Doc if the MM will perform three tasks: destroy the Mechan-Monster, fetch a treasure chest of precious clay, and rescue his daughter from the Madness Maze. They do all three, but Dymond was lying -- he has no cure. Tina weeps fiery tears, which fall into a perfume bottle, and the vapors resurrect Doc.
King Dymond
The Mechan-Monster

Copper Gold; Brittle Mercury; Shiny Lead; Combustible Platinum

Metal Men #31, April-May 1968, "The Amazing School for Robots!"
Doc is tired of having to rebuild the MM after every little misadventure, so he creates a team of "second-string" Metal Men, to be used for lesser tasks. The MM train the new MM and find them at least as good as they are. Tina, in fact, is upset because she thinks "Iridia" is more beautiful than she. Tina runs away and witnesses the "meteorite fall" of a glassy globe containing the gaseous Darzz. Darzz is an exiled alien dictator, but he sweet-talks Tina into setting him free. He then possesses, and animates, a series of objects, including (unknown to Tina) a skyscraper. Doc sends the second-string out to stop the skyscraper, and he is afterwards so effusive in his praise that the original MM feel unwanted and leave. Darzz is impressed, too, and now possesses the second-stringers and shows his true self to Tina. She summons the original MM back, and they destroy their now-evil replacements.

This and the previous issue were drawn by Gil Kane.

Darzz the Dictator
The Second-String Metal Men

Metal Men #32, June-July 1968, "The Metal Woman Blues"
We are now in the middle of a major transition for the MM. All along, Kanigher has edited, as well as written, the title. But now, former JLA penciller Mike Sekowsky, renowed for his chunky men and "big foot comic" art, has become penciller and editor. This is apparently a story written before he took over, and it's the last time we'll see Nameless (not counting reprints) for about 15 years. (DC never did resolve their name contest for her.)

The other MM wish they had girlfriends to fuss over them, like Nameless does for Tin, and even Tina agrees a boyfriend might take her mind off Doc, so Doc creates opposite-sex duplicates of the MM. But they're rather more independently minded than the MM had wished. The Metal Women certainly don't want to be slavishly devoted to their male counterparts, and Platinum Man is more in love with himself than he is with Tina. The new team (Nameless joins them) show they're just as good as the originals (Didn't we just do this?) by smashing a runaway robot tank. The tank was the forerunner of invading Robot Amazons, who create a cute girl ("chick" is the word used) robot who's an alloy of all the MM's metals. She lures the MM into a trap, and the Metal Women have to rescue them, smashing the Amazons. But in the process, a vein of lava is opened up, and the new counterparts (minus Nameless) sacrifice themselves to save the originals.

The Robot Amazons
Robot Amazon Queen
Cute Girl-Robot
The Metal Women
Gold Girl Iron Girl Lead Girl Mercury Girl Platinum Man

Metal Men #33, August-September 1968, "Recipe to Kill a Robot!"
We open in media res, with the MM being hunted. Why? Because Doc Magnus has given them a new C-X charge to increase their powers. Feedback from the charge puts him into a coma, but Doc's brother shows up and encourages the MM to follow his last, vocal wish: that the MM continue to serve humanity. But they're not used to their new power levels, so every attempt to serve humanity ends up endangering humans instead. So the police decide to hunt down these "renegade" robots. Doc's brother, Col. David Magnus of the Army Special Services, rescues them, puts them to sleep with a special wristwatch, and awakens them when Fferka, a giant fly-alien, attacks Earth for its food. They beat Fferka, but are still mistrusted.
Col. David Magnus Fferka

Metal Men #34, October-November 1968, "Death Comes Calling!"
Col. Magnus awakens the MM again to fight the Astra Maximan (that is, someone from Astra Maxima, not a Maxi-Man), an exiled alien sorcerer. The Astra Maximan falls in love with Tina and shows her how he can animate store mannequins to be his army. While the other MM fight the mannequins, Tina learns the Astra Maximan's weakness is great heat and so lures him into a volcano.

The Astra Maximan The Doom Dummies

Metal Men #35, December 1968-January 1969, "Danger -- Doom Dummies"
Tina escapes the volcano, but the Astra Maximan has transformed into a Volcano Man, who still pursues her. Meanwhile, the MM learn the Astra Maximan had animated not only plastic mannequins but also wax museum figures (such as Capt. Blood), and they're losing the fight against the combined armies. Tina returns to the MM and calls to the Volcano Man to save her from the animated "Doom Dummies". It melts them all, then follows her into a river bed, where the cold water causes it to explode.
The Volcano Man The Doom Dummies Captain Blood

Metal Men #36, February-March 1969, "The Cruel Clowns!"
Trying to win over humanity's sympathy, the Metal Men give a free show, but grateful humanity boos them. A troupe of clowns comes to the rescue, and the show is a hit. Afterwards, the MM wish to express their gratitude but discover the clowns' faces are not made with make-up -- they're aliens from the Clown Planet, come to capture Earthlings to amuse them. The MM are shrunk in size, put into the alien equivalent of a flea circus, and told to make with the boffs. (Wasn't this the same clown who had to help the MM when humans found them unfunny? Short memories?) The MM escape their varied captors and return to Earth.
Clown-Captor Axe Clown Clowness Short Clown
The Cruel Clowns

Metal Men #37, April-May 1969, "To Walk Among Men"
Apparently the wristwatch shtick and Col. Magnus weren't working out. because the MM gain a new master this issue.

The MM are finally declared to be so dangerous, they are to be scrapped, compressed into cubes in a junkyard. Surprise! The presiding judge is actually Mr. Conan, head of a secret organization, who believes the MM are still useful but are hampered by humanity's fear of them. So he's faked their executions and had his group provide new "human" identities for them all. Dr. Peter Pygmalion (get it?) even invents a flexible plastic skin for them.

In each of their identities, the MM excel at their new professions. Gold becomes a philanthropist jet-setter, Platinum a super-model, Lead and Tin a Simon and Garfunkel-styled singing duo, Mercury an avant-garde artist, and Iron an award-winning engineer.

Oops! Too much exposition! No time left for more than a splash panel of next issue's villains...

Mr. Conan Dr. Peter Pygmalion

Guy Gilden Tina Platt Leadby Hand Tinker Mercurio Jon "Iron" Mann

Metal Men #38, June-July 1969, "Witch Hunt - 1969!"
...The Black Coven! Mr. Conan introduces Dr. Honorius to explain: seven latter-day witches (even though only one is female) are threatening humanity. They've conjured a spell of darkness and set demons free in underground places like subways and parking garages, in order to rule the world by fear. The MM go on a witch hunt and, two by two, the witches die: two crash their car fleeing from Lead and Tin, but not before running over two more chased by Mercury. Gold and Platinum catch two, who try to escape by becoming spiders, but Tina instinctively squashes them, not realizing they were the witches. Iron traps the leader, who fears iron so much, he leaps to his death, at which point the darkness spell is broken. Do you believe in witches, reader?
The Black Coven The Black Coven's Leader demon
Dr. Honorius

Metal Men #39, August-September 1969, "Beauty of the Beast!"
Tina is acting in a movie but is kidnapped by Hugo Stark, a former leading man who's been haunting an old studio since being scarred in a horrible accident. Hugo is astonished that Tina is not repelled by his ugliness and falls in love with her. Police Lt. McDonald is called in, but it's the MM who find Stark and drive him into the open, where he's killed by the policemen.
Hugo Stark Lt. McDonald

Metal Men #40, October-November 1969, "Destroy Doc Magnus -- Madman and Traitor!"
Mr. Conan says, I've got good news and bad news. Good news: Doc Magnus is out of his coma. Bad news: he's been driven mad and is working for dictator Karnak of Karnia, and you Metal Men must hunt him down and kill him.

Yeah, right. Sure thing, Mr. Conan! We'll rescue him from Karnak, but that killing stuff is right out. (Dang independent robots!)

Doc has developed a humanoid army for Karnak. The MM invade Karnia and try to rescue Doc, but he zaps Tina with a blaster (showing how unredeemably mad he is). Karnak falls to his death, the MM evac Tina, and Doc escapes.

Karnak of Karnia Karnak's Killers

Metal Men #41, December 1969-January 1970, "Requiem for a Robot"
So Tina's in the hospital, failing to recover because she's broken-hearted about being shot by Doc. Lt. McDonald pays a visit, and then another, and the next thing you know, he's a love interest.

Doc's stolen a nuclear bomb and high-tailed it to the Superstition Mountains, so there the other MM go, to stop him. They climb a booby-trapped mountain and face Doc, but he's only a robot proxy. They recover the bomb, but the real Doc is still at large.

Oh, and McDonald has proposed to Tina.

And on this cliff-hanger, the MM series ends. And none too soon, as it's been flailing around, looking for a new identity, since Sekowsky took over. Lt. McDonald is never seen again (guess he took it hard when Tina turned him down), and Doc doesn't reappear for 6 years. Meanwhile, the "hunted MM" and "secret identity" stuff is forgotten, as the MM begin a run of guest-starring roles in The Brave and the Bold, the Hollywood Squares of DC Comics (meaning that it served the same purpose that game show did for out-of-work comedians: it kept them in the public eye while they looked for a new vehicle).

Mad Doc Magnus

The Brave and the Bold #103, September-October 1972, "A Traitor Lurks Inside Earth"
Batman; John Doe

Metal Men #42, , "The Deathless Doom" (reprint of Showcase #39)

Metal Men #43, , "The Headless Robots" (reprint of Metal Men #14)

Metal Men #44, , "Rain of the Missile Men!" (reprint of Metal Men #1)

The Brave and the Bold #113, June-July 1974, "The 50-Story Killer"
Batman; crooks

The Brave and the Bold #121, September 1975, "The Doomsday Express"

Metal Men #45, April-May 1976, "Evil is in the Eye of the Beholder"
The Plutonium Man; Whittier

World's Finest Comics #239, ,"The UFO That Stole the USA"
Superman; Batman; aliens

Metal Men #46, June-July 1976, "The Chemo Conspiracy"

Chemo; Joanna Rome

Metal Men #47, August-September 1976, "The "X" Effect"
The Plutonium Man; The Drone

Metal Men #48, October-November 1976, "Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing Those Terrible Things to Himself?"
Eclipso; Umbra

Metal Men #49, December 1976-January 1977, "The Dark God Cometh"
Eclipso; Umbra

Metal Men #50, February-March 1977, "Our Mentor, the Robot" (framing sequence to partial reprint of Metal Men #6)
General Craven

Metal Men #51, April-May 1977, "Killing Me Softly with His Scream"
Vox; General Craven

The Brave and the Bold #135, July 1977, "More Than Human"
Batman; Ruby Ryder; Jason Morgan

The Brave and the Bold #136, September 1977, "Legacy of the Doomed"
Batman; Green Arrow; Ruby Ryder; Jason Morgan

Metal Men #52, June-July 1977, "Dr. Strangeglove and the Brain Children"
Dr. Strangeglove; The Brain Children

Metal Men #53, August-September 1977, "The Hand That Shocks the Cradle Rules the World"
Dr. Strangeglove; The Brain Children

Showcase #94, , "The Doom Patrol Lives Forever"
Robotman; Doc Magnus (in flashback)
Metal Men #54, October-November 1977, "After the Ending"
Metal Men #55, December 1977-January 1978, "The Master Machinations of the Missile Men"
Metal Men #56, February-March 1978, "The Inheritor Kills"

Showcase #100, , "There Shall Come a Gathering"
Although never named in the story, the villain of the piece is identical to a living energy creature from the Adam Strange series. Ziathrion; plus every character who premiered in Showcase

DC Comics Presents #4, December 1978, "Sun-Stroke"

Superman; Chemo; I.Q.

Superman #342, December 1979, "Hero Under Glass"
Superman; Chemo

Superman #370, April 1982, "Better Vengeance Through Chemo-stry!"

Superman; Chemo

The Brave and the Bold #187, June 1982, "Whatever Happened to What's'ername?"

Batman; Platinum Man; "Nameless"; Chemo; The Floating Furies; The Gas Gang; The Missile Men; B.O.L.T.S.

DC Comics Presents #70, June 1984,"Survival of the Fittest!"
Superman; Otto Brisbane

The Scrap Heap: Metal Facts and Fancies

For some reason, the mail laws of the 1960s required comics to have random material, beyond the comics story, in order to be allowed to be sent through the U.S. Mail. Many comics in the '40s and '50s had one- or two-page text pieces. Others had "educational" features in comic form. For example, The Flash had half-page "Flash Facts" about various speeds in nature. Other DC comics had "Science Says You're Wrong..." (if you believe certain "facts"), and such. But the Metal Men had "Metal Facts and Fancies".

This was a series of little snippets of fact and lore about various metals. For example, Platinum is used in pen points, Mercury is also the name of a planet, sound travels faster through Steel than through Iron, etc. The point was often illustrated (by MM artist Ross Andru) with the Metal Men (Lead flattened on a pipe to illustrate lead paint, Platinum talking to Archimedes to illustrate buoyancy) taking a part. But as time went on, other metals were also discussed, and Andru came up with robot versions of those metals, too. He wasn't consistent; Copper, for example, appeared in a number of forms. But some were better than others.

The feature stopped in issue 16 or so. If DC ever does a Metal Men Archives, I want the "Metal Facts and Fancies" pages included as well.

Here are some metal robots from various "Metal Facts and Fancies" features.

Arsenic (MM #8) was shown leaping from a spray gun at insects Bismuth (MM #15) was a fountain of stomach-settling medicine This Copper came from a feature (MM #9) where she and Tin were wed (alloyed) to make Bronze. (Since the Metal Men were based on the 7 classical metals associated with the planets, I always wanted to bring this Copper in as one of the regular Metal Men, and complete the cycle.) Nickel (MM #13) appeared with Iron in a meteorite: "Look me up when we get to Earth, big boy!" Potassium (MM #15) was a nymph fertilizing the flowers she danced over Technetium, the first man-made metal, is proudly telling his life story to some metal children (MM #8)