Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Metal Men (1964 - 1967: The New Look)


By Deejay Dayton
February 29, 2020 - 12:20

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The Metal Men seem particularly suited to the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look. The crazy visuals by Andru and Esposito were a defining feature of the series, and Robert Kanigher’s tales made the most of the destruction that the robots could endure, and Will Magnus’ endless patience for rebuilding them. The Gas Gang, Missile Men, and Chemo all made returns during this era, and the team would face some new enemies as well, including BOLTS and Professor Snakelocks. Tin would construct his nameless robot partner, and the team would hook up with the Atom in the pages of Brave and the Bold.

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It's pretty much impossible for me not to like a story with a murderous amusement park, which is what gets served up in Metal Men 8. The Metal Men perform for a group of children, but are drawn to a blind boy, Timmy, who has no interest in watching them. Because, you know, he can't see them. Platinum is the first to pay attention to the boy, but Lead, Iron, Gold, Tin and Mercury all wind up allowing the boy to feel them and get a sense of their abilities. Platinum also promises Timmy that Will Magnus will be able to find a cure for his condition, and Magnus spends the rest of the story in the lab, trying to do so. While Doc works away, the other Metal Men take Timmy for a ride on their rocket ship.

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The flight doesn't go exactly as planned, and they wind up landing on a planet where there appear to be no people, but a big abandoned theme park. Timmy and the Metal Men begin with a ride on the roller coaster, as shown on the cover, only to discover that the rides are actually alive, and trying to kill them. This is just great. Murderous rides, I love it. While trying to escape from the park, the Metal Men wind up getting blinded by a flash of light. Timmy is the only one used to this situation, and he leads the robots back to their ship, while the killer rides in hot pursuit.

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The team's responsometers seem to go a bit on the fritz in this one, as they start calling Timmy Billy as the story continues in Metal Men 9. Timmy/Billy leads the team onto the rocket, and they take off, with the killer theme park rides doing their best to hang onto the rocket. They fail, and fall off. As Mercury, Platinum, Lead, Gold, Tin and Iron are all still blinded, and Timmy has no idea how to pilot the rocket ship, they are not able to return to Earth. They wind up landing on another planet populated by robots, One has to wonder who built all these robots on different worlds. On this planet, the robots are giant juggernauts. It's the good fortune of the Metal Men that their vision returns while on this world, and a chemical rain even cures Timmy's blindness. The Metal Men try to get back to the rocket ship, but the juggernauts intercept them. Tin gets Timmy to safety, but the other Metal Men get captured, flattened into discs, and then tossed into a vat and melted down. The Metal Men emerge in an alloyed blend, and are now powerful enough to withstand the juggernauts. They get back on the rocket, but encounter another deadly cosmic storm. Tin shields them all, and Timmy as well, as they return to Earth. Timmy/Billy lost his sight again, and gained it again, thanks to the cosmic rays and Tin's shielding. The Metal Men return to Earth in alloyed form, and Will Magnus prepares to find a way to separate them.

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The story concludes in Metal Men 10. Returning from the planet of the juggernauts, Gold, Platinum, Iron, Lead and Mercury are still fused together into one big Metal Man. Only Tin remains separated. Doc Magnus intends to split them apart, but gets distracted by his new girlfriend, who is apparently named Honey. Platinum is furious, but the other alloyed Metal Men are not too happy about being stuck in their new form, either. The Metal Men decide to repair themselves, and jump into a big boiling vat, but they blend with other elements in there, and now only do they not separate, they grow to immense size and go nuts. I do have to credit the art on this series, which is always inventive.

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This issue in particular allows Andru and Esposito to go wild with the visuals. To try to stop the giant alloyed Metal Men, Doc Magnus re-creates the Gas Gang. This time the Gas Gang get a lot more time to fight the Metal Men, and they also turn on Will Magnus, knocking him out. It's Tin who winds up saving the day, finding a way to separate the Metal Men, which returns them to "normal" behaviour, so that they can defeat the Gas Gang. The Gas Gang are next seen in Brave and the Bold, in 1982.

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Doc Magus' true feeling for Tina get revealed in Metal Men 11. At the start of the story, Doc Magnus creates a new responsometer for Platinum, to remove her attraction for him. It works, in a way, but winds up making her attracted to Gold instead. Doc's jealousy is very clear. He even rebuffs his girlfriend, Honey, who walks out on him, and isn't seen again. The Metal Men decide to go to the beach, and encounter a race of sentient mines, the Floating Furies. The queen of the mines is also attracted to Gold, and captures him, but the other Metal Men free him. The Floating Furies then turn to the god Neptune, and he gives the queen of the mines the power to control both sea life and water. So the Metal Men wind up having to deal with flying sharks, tidal waves, and all manner of aquatic madness. Iron proves the most useful at holding all of this off, but winds up rusting away. Platinum discovers that her new responsometer allows her to call down lightning, and she sacrifices herself, and kills Gold, by having lighting blast them and the Floating Furies. The Furies are destroyed for good, but Doc Magnus rebuilds Iron, Gold and Platinum. Now Tina is back to her old self, and once again in love with Magnus.

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The Missile Men return in Metal Men 12. The Beatles make a cameo right at the top of the story. We see a number of scenes showing how popular the Metal Men are with the public, and the height of this is the way Ringo Starr wants them to autograph his drums. But then, for reasons they do not understand, the military begin to attack the team. They fend off a tank and a fighter jet, and decide to split up for their owns safety.

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This leads to a scene in which a really confused Mercury gets squished to bits by Iron. What is going on? A long flashback makes sense of it all. We learn of a second attack by the Missile Men, which the Metal Men easily defeat. After twice losing to the robot team, the Missile Men decide to create robotic duplicates of the Metal Men. They construct their own evil versions of Iron, Lead, Platinum, Mercury, Tin and Gold, and then send them all to Earth. It's the fake Metal Men that ruin the reputations of the good ones, and cause the military to go after them. The story climaxes with Doc Magnus' Metal Men taking on their evil duplicates. Though each one triumphs over their double, all except for Tina gets destroyed. But Doc Magnus is prepared to rebuild them, as he always does.

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In issue 13, as Doc is rebuilding the Metal Men, Tin doesn't have anything to do. He wanders past a toy store featuring build your own robot kits, decides to buy one and make himself a friend. He constructs a female robot, and immediately falls for her, calling her "beautiful." Many, many years down the road, that would become her name, but until then she goes by the moniker Nameless. Tin brings Nameless to meet the other Metal Men, but Mercury is immediately rude to her, and this leads the team into a squabble, which gets Doc Magnus angry at them. Nameless blames herself for all of this, and runs off. She gets into the team's flying disc, but is unable to control it, and winds up shooting into space. Tin forms himself into a boomerang, and has Iron throw him up to rescue her. Tin and Nameless wind up landing on yet another planet with robots, in this case a giant one that eats skyscrapers. They escape from it, but the monster robot follows them back to Earth. The giant robot eats Doc Magnus, but the Metal Men manage to defeat it, with Nameless helping out, and cut Magnus out of its insides.  The conclusion of the story asks readers to come up with a name for Nameless. Although the lettercolumns would be flooded with suggestions, no name was ever given to her, aside from Nameless, for the duration of the book.

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Chemo, the arch enemy of the Metal Men, makes his return in Metal Men 14. As the story opens, the Metal Men try to deal with chemical rays emerging from the ocean that are damaging ships and planes. Lead winds up getting destroyed trying to protect the transports. Iron, Mercury and Gold are so upset about this that they jump in a vat to melt themselves. It's all very silly, and only part of the story so that, later when they are rebuilt, they can wind up exchanging heads. The chemical blasts are being caused by Chemo, who has re-formed himself after his apparent destruction at the end of his debut story, and is slowly moving to shore, walking along the bottom of the ocean.  Doc Magnus dives to investigate the blasts, and finds Chemo. Chemo has a degree of telepathy in this story, and Magnus can determine his plans to cause further destruction.

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When the Metal Men go into action against Chemo, they have the wrong heads, thanks to Mercury, who wants to be their new leader. Platinum, Tin and Nameless were not rebuilt, so have their correct heads, but overall the team are not able to properly use their abilities, as shown on the cover. It's Tin and Nameless who defeat Chemo, splitting themselves into millions of tiny pieces to seal him in and shut him down. Magnus rebuilds them, although there is some brief question as to whether he can rebuild Nameless. As the story ends, Tin decides that, until they give her a proper name, he will continue to call her just "beautiful."

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The Metal Men get some James Bond flavour in issue 15, as the team gets an acronymic villain, BOLTS, who has all manner of special weaponry in his head. A little of SPECTRE, and a touch of the car. BOLTS is also the name of a secret evil organization, who send Doc Magnus and the Metal Men a threatening, and exploding, letter at the top of the story, announcing their intentions of destroying them. Most of the story deals with the team fighting the giant robot, as the different weapons he carries in his head are displayed, such as machine guns, flame jets and a smoke screen. Iron, Tin, Lead, Gold, Platinum and Mercury all fall to the killer robot, as Nameless watches. Then BOLTS sees Nameless, and falls instantly in love with her. She leads him into a trap, electrocuting the villainous robot. And once again, Will Magnus rebuilds the Metal Men. The stories are really falling into a predictable pattern, with outrageous, often robotic, villains causing the destruction of the Metal Men before being defeated, and then Magnus rebuilds the team.

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BOLTS gets rebuilt in a disgustingly racist story in Metal Men 20. At the start of the issue the Metal Men watch Batman on tv, and comment on how it now airs twice a week. It's basically an ad, as Batman and Robin do not show up again in the rest of the issue. Even so, it's the best part of the story. On the next page we get introduced to Dr. Yes, a robotic Asian egg. Later in the issue, he will be referred to as the robotic equivalent of Wonder Woman's foe, Egg Fu, and has the same ability to grab people with his moustache, and the same over the top insulting accent. The Metal Men are gathering up pieces of BOLTS, unaware that the dismantled robot is under Dr. Yes' control. He has BOLTS eat Dr. Magnus, and the rest of the team cannot find a way to make BOLTS open his mouth again.

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Iron, Gold, Platinum, Tin, Lead and Iron, as well as Nameless, finish putting BOLTS back together, hoping to find a way to make it open its mouth. They succeed, by feeding it a birthday cake, but getting Doc Magnus back does not mean success. The robot grabs them all, and brings them to Dr. Yes. The robot egg then brainwashes all of them into becoming anti-American, and sends them out to spread their message. Rather than defile their country, the Metal Men short circuit themselves. I'm just going to move on to the next issue now.

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There are loads of guest stars in Metal Men 21, and a delightfully silly story that even made me laugh the first time I read this. Platinum is not at all happy in this tale, as she sees Doc Magnus making out with a woman in his lab. The Metal Men go without Magnus for the issue, as every time they return to the lab, he is still there with the mystery woman. Gold then starts reading letters from the readers, complaining about the way every story pits the team against other evil robots. Much the same as the complaints I have about the series by this point. They decide to go find some human criminals to battle. The Metal Men head to Central City, but the Flash has already taken care of the gang threatening his town. Batman and Robin find time to promote their tv show, while fighting criminals, so the Metal Men aren't needed in Gotham City.

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And Wonder Woman stops Paula Von Gunther from killing her and Steve Trevor, before the Metal Men can do anything about that. They do find a man stealing a car, but when the team go after him, it turns out he has an army of plastic men that he has created. So instead of robots, the Metal Men fight the Plastic Gang. Just when it felt the story was going in some new territory, it's back to the same old thing. Wild art, and goofiness, but as the letters show, it's getting tired. The best scene comes at the end, when Tina gets so upset at Magnus that she storms in, and finds out that the woman was not real, and it wasn't really Magnus either, just a cardboard cut out he made so that the robots would let him get some work done.

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Speaking of team-ups, the Metal Men appeared in two issues of Brave and the Bold during this era. One story teamed them with Metamorpho, which I will be dealing with under that hero’s entry. The other was Brave and the Bold 55, which brings together the Atom and the Metal Men. This tale is not so much a team-up as a Metal Men story, in which the Atom guest stars.  To Will Magnus' increasing distress, the Metal Men start getting killed through silly fluke accidents.  Platinum, Iron, Gold, Mercury, Tin and finally Lead all get destroyed in front of Magnus' eyes.  And while it all looks accidental, we see that two mysterious characters are actually behind it. Magnus tries to rebuild the Metal Men, but discovers that their atomic structures have been changed, which was what caused them to malfunction in the first place.  Another robot, Uranium, reveals himself to be behind this.  He was a prototype built by Magnus, but destroyed by him (or so he believed) for being too dangerous. 

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This is the first hint of Magnus creating dangerous creatures with his skills, something that will be more developed as time passes.  Anyway, Uranium not only survived, but created his own robot, Agantha, to help him get vengeance on Magnus. Will Magnus sends an SOS for help, which is intercepted by Ray Palmer.  He switches to the Atom, and comes to Magnus' aid, fixing the atomic structures of the Metal Men, so that they can be rebuilt. The Metal Men then attack Uranium and Agantha, and while Platinum is able to subdue Agantha herself, the Atom fuses Mercury and Lead together, temporarily, to create a robot immune to Uranium's power, who can overcome him.

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The Sizzler and Professor Snakelocks get introduced in Metal Men 22. Snakelocks works for an unnamed foreign country, opposed to the US. So Russia is clearly intended. He has created a robot powered by the Aurora Borealis, called the Sizzler. She has electrical powers, and later displays more abilities. Even Snakelocks himsel admits that he is not aware of everything that she can do. But really, he and his superiors only care about the fact that the Sizzler should be able to destroy Will Magnus and the Metal Men. Snakelocks flies the Sizzler to the US on what appears to be Wonder Woman's invisible plane. Andru and Esposito were drawing Wonder Woman at this time, but even so, this feels like a weird "theft" of a concept. Snakelocks has a small army of other robots, which he considers expendable, and sends them out to attack, in order to lure the Metal Men into action.

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He then releases the Sizzler. Her radioactive attack does not kill the Metal Men, instead it changes Gold, Iron, Lead, Mercury, Platinum, Tin and even Nameless into human beings. Tina is really excited about this, until she sees that it had the opposite effect on Will Magnus, turning him into a robot. In one way, this is a good thing. Without their powers, the Metal Men are now in danger of being defeated by Snakelocks other robots. It's the robotic Magnus who is able to defeat them. But as a robot, he has no interest in Tina. Sizzler also finds herself attracted to Magnus, and deserts Snakelocks. She comes to the Metal Men's base, and bathes them in sparkly radiation, which changes them all back into robots. There is no change to Magnus, though, and he has no interest in either Tina or the Sizzler, who are now competing for his attention.

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The story continues in Metal Men 23. Professor Snakelocks launches another attack on the Metal Men with his little green robots, while trying to regain control of the Sizzler.  This does not succeed, and the Sizzler turns Snakelocks into a robot as well. The Metal Men capture Snakelocks and imprison him, while he tries to convince the team not to trust Sizzler, pointing out that if she could turn on her creator, she could turn on them as well. Platinum gets jealous of the attention that robot Doc Magnus gives to the Sizzler, although this is really only because he wants Sizzler to turn him back into a human. Tina runs away, and winds up getting captured by a really ugly criminal, called the Lizard. The Lizard forces Tina to write a ransom note, indicating various locations that Tin, Lead, Iron, Gold and Mercury are to drop off the money.

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They, and Nameless, head out, and traps are laid for each of them by the Lizard's men. Of course, the Metal Men overcome each of these.  Doc Magnus heads to the final location, and the Lizard's men try to shoot him, but Platinum jumps in front, and takes the bullet. Why this would kill her, when nothing else ever does, is far from clear, but everyone acts as if getting shot is some big deal.  Magnus operates on Tina and saves her life. Sizzler finally decides to turn Magnus back into a human, and also does so for Snakelocks. Snakelocks is sent to prison, and Sizzler decides to stay with the team, to Tina's dismay.

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The Metal Men go out on their own in issue 24. Doc Magnus spends the issue working on the Sizzler, trying to understand more of her powers, and find some way to get the robot under his control. This inflames Tina's jealousy, but the other Metal Men get bored sitting around as well. The team head out, and encounter the Balloon Man, an inflatable thief who can emit both laughing and sleeping gas, and fly away with his loot. They fail to capture him in their first outing, but run into him again while performing for a crowd. The team then split up, and Iron, Lead, Gold, Platinum, Mercury and Tin each try to capture him individually, although Tin has Nameless at his side. This fails, but when they come together at the end, Lead and Gold work together to turn the creature into steam.  Doc Magnus is so busy with Sizzler he has no idea what has been going on.

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The Metal Men choose their own leader, and face Chemo once again, in Metal Men 25. Right on the first page of the story the Sizzler blows up, impaling Doc Magnus through the chest with a piece of shrapnel. It's a very abrupt end to her plotline, and a disappointing one as well. She was visually interesting, and had some potential as a character. Now she's just scrap metal. The Metal Men operate on Magnus, and save his life, but he spends the rest of the story recuperating, while Platinum stays at his side. Chemo comes back, being his old chemically destructive self. The Metal Men vote on who will lead them, and everyone votes for Gold, except for Mercury, who votes for himself.  Gold sends the various members of the team out, including Nameless, but each one falls to Chemo.

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Mercury believes that Gold is intentionally leaving him out, due to his voting against him. But Gold is just waiting for the right time to send the liquid hero after Chemo. For all of Mercury's complaining, he does no better than the other members, and gets destroyed as well. The story ends as Chemo reaches the Metal Men's lab, intending to go after Magnus. Together, Gold and Platinum heat the villain until he explodes, and then Magnus recovers and rebuilds the team yet again. He doesn't even try to rebuild Sizzler.


Metal Men continues in the next period, 1964 – 1967: It’s a Happening!

Metal Men: Metal Men 8 – 26 (June/July 1964 - June/July 1967)
Brave and Bold 55, 66 (Aug/Sept 1965, June/July 1966)

Next up – Legion of Super-Heroes!

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Last Updated: February 29, 2020 - 12:38

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