Sunday, 19 May 2019

Metal Men #44, Rain of the Missile Men.

Metal Men #44, Rain of the Metal MenImagine standing in a butcher's shop in the early 1970s, reading a comic about robots while old people stand around complaining they can't understand this fancy New Money the government's introduced and that it's all just an excuse to put prices up.

Personally, I don't have to - because I lived it.

That comic was Metal Men #44 and, as a child, I always had a soft spot for it. It seemed odd. It seemed different. It seemed somewhat mystifying.

But now I'm not in a butcher's shop anymore and everyone, even old people, can understand that fancy New Money, so, how will I feel about this comic now?

It's the early 1960s (because this is a reprint book) and Doctor Magnus has created a bunch of robotic friends from various metals. He now uses them to fight the forces of evil and help mankind.

Unfortunately, mankind really does need his help because an evil space robot has the hots for the Metal Men's only female operative - Tina - and is determined to rain an army of his doppelgangers down upon Earth until he gets her.

Metal Men #44, rain of the metal men
Happily, like most of us, our resourceful doctor just happens to have a big cannon on him that makes things super-magnetic.

Once the evil space robot's been zapped with it, his mechanical army sticks to him and he ends up entombed at the heart of a giant ball of robots, trapped forever at the bottom of the nearest river, wherefrom he shall never escape .

The first thing that strikes me reading this tale now is its artwork. Drawn by Ross Andru, it has a cleanness and assurance that it's impossible not to be impressed by and it seems noticeably more accomplished than I'm used to from reading all those early Marvel comics of the same era.

Metal Men #44, Tina cries
The second thing that strikes me is what a complete and total jerk Doctor Magnus is. While his robots are totally devoted to him, and have a level of selflessness that's genuinely moving, he seems to have no concern for their welfare at all.

He even, at one point, sends Tina off to spend the rest of her existence in a glass case in the local museum, no matter how hard she begs him not to, only taking her back when the museum gets fed up of her crying all day long and returns her to him, complaining that she can't be a real robot because she's not acting like one.

Does this make Magnus change his attitude towards her?

No it doesn't.

Metal Men #44, The third thing that strikes me - and struck me as a child - is that this is probably the grimmest comic book story I've ever read. The Metal Men get killed twice in the course of this story.

Admittedly, Magnus does manage to recreate them, with their original memories intact, but the sight of the story's heroes melting to death as they attempt to put out a fire is the sort of thing that can leave a man, let alone a child, traumatised.

So, do I still like it?

Sort of. I like the Metal Men themselves. They each have clearly differentiated personalities, in line with their properties as metals, and how can you not like anyone as self-sacrificing as they are? I also like the villain who isn't exactly what you'd call a developed character but I like his short-temper, and his frustration at only being able to produce replicas of himself whenever he tries to create a wife.

But the elephant in the room that is Magnus is hard to get round. Call me sad but I had exactly the same feeling when I tried to watch The Powerpuff Girls. I couldn't bring myself to keep watching it because the sight of a grown man sending small children into battle with homicidal villains, without heed for their safety, bothered me so much I had to switch off. And that was just a cartoon. This, on the other hand, is real; it's a comic.

So, I'd be very happy to read more issues, provided Magnus has been replaced by a legal guardian who the Metal Men actually deserve.

Are the Metal Men still on the go in the modern DC universe? I hope so, and I hope they're having a happier time than they are here.

Metal Men #44, an army of myselves

34 comments:

Aggy said...

Not sure where they are now but back in the 90s they had a mini-series. Been years but from memory. Something happens that means the next time they die they cannot be brought back.

One dies (Gold I think) and Doc is almost killed. The surviving Metal Men transfer his mind into a body made out of some super alloy and he becomes one of his own creations.

I remember quite enjoying the mini series but not enough to seek out previous appearances or look for new ones. I vaguely remember them appearing in the background of various crossovers afterwards

Killdumpster said...

Last time I had read anything that had to do with the Metal Men, was the Marvel/DC Amalgam issue, titled Magneto and his Metal Men. I virtually can't remember anything about it.

When I'd read Metal Men, it was my buddies' books, and I found the team too unbelievably silly.

If I were going the DC "goofy" route in the silver age, it would be Metamorpho or Doom Patrol. My father would occasionally pick me up a issue, along with a Batman comic (I was a huge fan of the TV show as a child) if I was good & did my chores.

When I scavenged-up money on my own, I rarely bought DC comics. Marvel was always first and foremost.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to old people from the 70s Steve, prices HAVE gone up a lot since decimalisation.

You'll be pleased to hear that Dr Magnus wasn't around by the time of the only Metal Men story I ever read, from a mid 70s Brave & Bold. Set in a museum on a train (?!) hijacked by native Americans who've seized the actual declaration of independence and threaten to destroy it if the thieving US govt doesn't return their lands, it was terrible.
But your review makes their old series sound alright.

Like most DC characters, the Metal Men turn up in 52 New Infinite Crises Rebirthed, where no doubt everything we knew about them was wrong, and they were changed forever, til the next crossover Event.

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I must confess that as I read the review above and saw the picture of the Doctor I was cofused b/c I had in my mind the doctor/professor/boss of The Doom Patrol.

Imagine confusing Metal Men and Doom Patrol? Hey - I wonder if they ever teamed up?

Anyhow most of you guys know the craft of comics better than me. When I saw the pages above it looked "so D.C." I mean, you would never confuse if for Marvel.

So what defines the "D.C" look?" Was it something in the art production process? The lack of action being conveyed?

Steve W. said...

Charlie, there's no doubt DC artwork was a lot less dynamic and more understated than Marvel artwork. I think that's the main difference.

Sean, I think I remember seeing house ads for that Brave and the Bold issue.

KD, I always felt that Marvel did super-heroes better than DC, and DC did horror and mystery better than Marvel.

Aggy, thanks for the 1990s Metal Men info.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I think Doc Magnus rebuilt Cliff Steele in the late '80s revival of Doom Patrol (I know how much you love reading comic book info like that).

Personally, I reckon DC generally had a higher standard of artwork, which makes sense considering editorially they were dominated by artists - Orlando, Kubert, Infantino etc - whereas over at Marvel the writers, from Stan Lee to Shooter, were in charge.

Whether that equals "better" - or more appealing to kids - is open to debate of course.

-sean

TC said...

The "museum on a train" was A Thing IRL in 1975-76. The American Freedom Train toured the US to commemorate the Bicentennial. It carried items including George Washington's copy of the US Constitution, the document from the Louisiana Purchase, a moon rock brought back by one of the Apollo expeditions, and Jesse Owens' medals from the 1936 Olympics (one of which was lost or stolen during the tour).

AFAIR, the Metal Men never met the Doom Patrol, but Dr. Magnus did find and rebuild Robotman (the only survivor from the original DP) in Showcase #94 in 1977. The MM did appear in The Brave & the Bold, teaming up once each with Metamorpho and the Atom, and several times with Batman.

Dr. Calder, the Doom Patrol's "Chief," slightly resembled Cmdr. Tremayne, who was "chief" of The Champions in the 1960s British TV spy-fi adventure series. Or maybe I should say Tremayne resembled Calder, since the DC comic came first.

Magnus was knocked out in a laboratory accident and was in a coma for months (maybe years) before he revived, which may be why he was out of the picture at the time of the museum-on-a-train story.

Anonymous said...

Metal Men also featured in The Wednesday Comic (DiDio, Garcia-Lopez and Nowlan) roughly ten years ago. I really liked the broadsheet format but, presumably, no-one else did as there was never a second series.

DW

Anonymous said...

During Grant Morrison's memorable run on Doom Patrol, Magnus does show up and he is one cold, analytical bastard, and is only preferable to Niles Caulder because he, unlike Caulder, doesn't go around murdering and maiming people to satisfy his own scientific curiosity. Magnus isn't not evil, per se, but I wouldn't wanna hang around the guy.
I mean, that dude was stiff.
the appeal of the Metal Men is lost on me, but their enemy Chemo was interesting.

M.P.

Steve W. said...

MP, DW, Sean and TC, thanks for all the Metal Men info. I'm starting to feel like I'm becoming an expert now.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

As we all know, SDC has impact far and wide in ways never anticipated...

Whilst at a dinner soiree with other Europeans, here in Chicago, I mentioned SDC's devotion to Abba. This led to discussions about Eurovision 2019 (another fav subject of SDC). This led to discussions of a popular group in Europe called Boney M.

So Boney M is German / Carribean, sold 100 MM records, and were really popular in Europe.

Pray tell... do you Euro Gents know Boney M and their great hits like Daddy Cool and Ma Baker.

And FWIW none of this group were happy with the Dutch winning tune...

Steve W. said...

Charlie, Boney M were huge in Britain for three or four years. Rivers of Babylon and Mary's Boy Child are two of the biggest selling singles in British history. But their masterpiece is Rasputin, one of the least likely - and greatest - disco tracks of all time.

Also, their resident dancer Bobby Farrell was a legend in his lifetime. Bizarrely, given the band's musical link with the mad monk, he died on the anniversary of Rasputin's death and in the same city.

I have to say I've not encountered anyone who liked the Dutch winning tune. The workings of Eurovision are often a mystery and there have long been dark rumours of jiggery pokery about it. personally, my vote went to Iceland.

Killdumpster said...

Man, how many times have Boney M been mentioned on this site?

Charlie, there's an insanely entertaining lip-syche video on Utube of Daddy Cool. I think it may have been from a European music show. I had Daddy Cool on '45 as a kid ( I believe that was their only mainstream American hit). You've got to bring it up, oh my brother. It is MIND BOGGLING!

Steve, I agree with your assessment of Marvel heroes & DC horror. In the seventies Marvel "horror" always seemed superhero flavoured. I usually preferred the reprint filler stories in Man-Thing, etc than the cover event.

Because I was such a Marvel zombie, I had limited exposure to DC's horror titles. I only had so much change jangling in my pocket, and had to get my fix.

Creatures On The Loose, Where Monsters Dwell, Fear etc was what I'd buy if there were no heroes on the stand.

Now that I'm older, and would like to be entertained by stand-alone stories as a horror buff, I'm going to submerge myself into the Distinctive Competition.

House of Secrets, The Witching Hour, the whole nine yards.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, whilst you're chatting with your European associates about SDC, possibly over intriguing wines, are you mentioning how cool M.P. is?
If not, then M.P. must ask, "Where is the love?"

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie did not mention any the SDC's tribe by name to protect the innocent when we were speaking of Abba, Eurovision, etc. at the Soiree.

What was interesting, they noted, was how many of the groups now perform in English and not their native tongue. Charlie chimed in with asking how many Abba songs had they heard in Swedish? Charlie excels at killing conversation.

They were also intrigued by the gay moslem man who performed for France and, in a back handed way, took jabs at "conservatives" in America suggesting that France was a big no-go zone run by Sharia law, lol.

Charlie was mostly intrigued by French, Romanian, and Serbian people getting their ya yas out with Boney M, of whom Charlie never heard.

And, as a pop quiz Charlie asked them to sing "Money Money Money" by Abba to see if their love of Abba was legitimate or feigned group-think. Bammo - they all started singing in unison.

At that point Charlie decided to sit in the corner sticking his thumb in the pie trying to pull out a plum...

Anonymous said...

I believe the only time I've heard the word "soiree" in a sentence was in the movie The Shining. It was used sarcastically by Jack Torrance while he was conversing with the ghost of a guy who had taken an ax to his family.
I suppose the word will always have dark connotations with me.

M.P.

Anonymous said...

We have soirees all the time here M.P. - they're basically compulsory under sharia law in centres of liberal elitism like London.
Its one of the main reasons most of the British - well, English really - voted to leave Eurovision.

-sean

Anonymous said...

T.V. talent shows are an abomination in the eyes of God and man alike.
This is how the world ends.

M.P.

dangermash said...

I voted for Cyprus at the weekend.

But, then again, I liked the original Ms Marvel costume.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen Eurovision M.P.? It isn't a talent show...

-sean

Redartz said...

Great column, Steve! Most entertaining. I have fond memories of the Metal Men, particularly an issue of DC Comics Presents. Superman teamed with the Metallic Men and Maiden, and fought Chemo. Who is pretty odd, and cool.

Oh, and Boney M ? Love 'em. Had never heard "Rasputin" until a couple of years ago when I encountered a very amusing YouTube video. "Oh, those Russians..."

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie feels like a loser... he never heard of Boney M. Charlie is going to put on my Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight to soothe his soul...

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie just watched Boney M do Rasputin. Charlie be totally speechless.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Boney M Daddy Cool at 2:40... Charlie even more speechless...

Colin Jones said...

Steve, Iceland was my favourite at Eurovision 2019 too. The winning songs are so uninteresting and forgettable nowadays - a few days ago I referred to Save Your Kisses For Me as corny Eurovision tripe but at least it was memorable, not to mention the classic winners from the likes of Sandie Shaw, Johnny Logan, Bucks Fizz, Nicole and Abba. There hasn't been a decent winning song since Katrina & The Waves in 1997. And when was the last time a Eurovision winner reached No.1 in the UK singles chart? I think it was Nicole in 1982.

As for Boney M - don't forget Brown Girl In The Ring. It's often said that Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever is the greatest ever double-A side but actually the greatest ever was Rivers Of Babylon/Brown Girl In The Ring :D

Anonymous said...

Never mind Charlie - next time the subject of Boney M comes up at a soiree, you can always impress those fancy Europeans with how cosmopolitan you are by telling 'em you prefer the version of Rasputin by Thai singer Panadda Chayapark.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3sluEoHRfQ
Who'll feel like the loser then, eh?

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie can only say that this has been the most enlightening cultural experience in many a decade! But for a few minutes Charlie is going to literally sleep on this experience.

Hey Sean and Colin - what the hell are you two doing up at 3:00 AM London time? You work early/late? It's only 9:30 PM in Chicago

Killdumpster said...

Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle!!!

I'm the only guy that fessed up to owning a piece of Boney M vinyl, and while checking out their music & available video online is nostalgic (thank you, Steve,for the venue). Don't you guys feel that a disproportionate amount space on this site has been taken up by Boney M?

I just got tickets for George Clinton.

Any incarnation, Funkadelic, Parliment, P-Funk All-Stars could take Boney M into the alley and FUNK them up. Lol.

"Tear the roof of the sucka..!"

Colin Jones said...

Charlie, I'm often awake in the early hours because I can't sleep. I had a cup of coffee and a tomato sandwich then I thought "I wonder what fascinating discussion is happening on Steve Does Comics". But now I'm going to bed for a while. Goodnight!

Anonymous said...

Plus, Ramadan is easier for us metropolitan liberal elitists living under sharia law if we sleep during the day Charlie. C'mon, you should know that - haven't you've been to France?

Seriously though, I often working late I tend to leave deadlines til the last minute, but I still skive off for a break to check out the fascinating discussion at Steve Does Comics.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Er, that last comment got a bit garbled toward the end, sorry about that. Time for me to crash out too!

-sean

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Red. Doing the review has given me an urge to read more adventures of The Metal Men.

KD, as Samuel Johnson once said, when a man is tired of Boney M, he's tired of life.

Sean, thanks for that Panadda Chayapark link. It is truly awesome.

Colin I generally agree about the terrible quality of recent Eurovision winners but I will always defend Conchita's Rise Like a Phoenix which is the greatest James Bond theme of all time - even though it's never actually been a James Bond theme.

Dangermash, don't worry. At least the Greek jury agreed with you. Admittedly, they've given Cyprus maximum points every year for the last fifty years but I'm sure there's nothing at all suspicious about that...

Killdumpster said...

Steve, I guess I'll adventure into the realm of Boney M a bit deeper, than just "Daddy Cool', as I'm still having relative fun & not ready to give-up-the-ghost just yet. Lol.

From previous posts, I realized that Boney M was a big deal on your side of the mudball, but WOW! Such dedication! I can appreciate that kind of devotion to an artist or group. Much like we praise or snark illustrators and writers here on your premium blog, oh my brother.

To be honest, I thought in the UK, Cliff Richards was considered Elvis-level.

Steve W. said...

KD, brace yourself. There may be more news of Boney M in tonight's post.

As for Cliff, in terms of sales, he's Elvis level. In terms of credibility, he definitely isn't.

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