Metal Men #8, "Playground of Terror!"

METAL MEN #8; June-July 1964; DC Comics (National Periodical Publications);
Robert Kanigher, editor and writer; featuring the Metal Men in the "Playground
of Terror!", a book-length story by Kanigher and artists Ross Andru and Mike
Esposito. On the cover by A and E, the Metal Men and a friend are riding a
roller coaster which really lives up to the names, which some amusement parks
give to their thrill rides, such as "Monster" and "Villain". This coaster has a
malevolent face in front and has extruded claws to seize and hold the Metal
Men. While Tina (Platinum) in the front seat tries to fend off the claws, her
companion, a little human boy, urges her, "TINA!-- Don't stay because I'M
blind-- save yourself!"

Review by Bill Henley

Since the Metal Men have come up for some discussion on ths list lately
(inspired by my query about the merits, if any, of the new DC Metal Men miniseries)
I decided to review one of their "classic" tales. On the splash page, not
only the roller coaster but a whole amusement park full of rides is attacking
the Metal Men, as Iron comments, "It's as if they're ALIVE!" (Odd that a Metal
Man, of all people, er, robots, would be surprised at the idea of mechanical
devices coming to "life".) Again Tina is trying to protect the little blind
boy, and again he protests, "Don't sacrifice yourself for me-- just because I'm

(This raises an interesting question for science fiction fans. Do Isaac
Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics apply to the Metal Men? If so, then Tina
would have no choice but to protect the boy, since the First Law reads, "A
robot shall not harm a human being nor by inaction allow a human being to come to
harm". On the other hand, the Second Law, "A robot shall obey a human being,"
obviously does not apply to the MM, since they (especially Tina) disobey Doc
Magnus and other humans preety much whenever they feel like it. So probably
the Metal Men's "defective responsometers" do not have the Three Laws built
in-- perhaps this is what makes them "defective"-- and Tina protects the boy just
because she wants to.)

As the story begins, a despondent little boy sits on a front stoop as other
kids run laughing past him, eager to get good seats for an exciting event-- a
show for kids put on by the famous Metal Men. When the other kids urge little
Timmy to come along, and see the Metal Men, he demurs; "What's the good of
going-- I CAN'T see!" If he could, though, he would soon see the Metal Men even
without going to the show, since they happen to come skimming along his
street, in their jet platform, on their way to the show. Tina notices the one
little boy about to miss their show and wants to invite him to attend, but Doc
Magnus is in too much of a hurry to stop. "You're a great scientist, Doc, but you
have no heart!" "Stop talking as if YOU'RE the human-- and I'm the robot!"
To avoid delaying the other Metal Men, Tina spins herself backward in wire
form while still linked to the moving jet platform, and urges the boy to come
along. But hearing only a well-meaning female voice, Timmy turns her down;
"Leave me alone, lady! I--just-don't--feel-like--going,that's all!" Crushed, Tina
returns to the jet, apologizing, "Sorry...I...I didn't mean force see the Metal Men...!" As tears fall from his sightless eyes, Timmy
mutters to himself, "I'd give anything to SEE the Metal Men--but I'll never be
able to SEE! Never--never-- NEVER!"

Meanwhile, the Metal Men put on their show for the kids who can see. Mercury
stretches and shrinks under the influence of the hall's erratic air
conditioning. The next act calls for Iron to catch a shower of Gold coins into which
the noble metals transforms himself, but Tin tries to crab the act by catching
the coins himself. Instead Tin is crushed under Gold's weight, but the kids
laugh and cheer, taking Tin for the clown act of the Metal Men. Next, Iron
shapes Lead into a horseshoe and hruls him at Doc to make a "ringer". Good thing
Iron has good aim, or Doc would be squashed flat.

But in Part 2, when it comes Platinum's turn to perform for the crowd, she is
still haunted by the one little boy who "didn't want" to see the Metal Men.
"I'm going back to keep that lonely little boy company!" Finding him still
sitting on his stoop, Tina tells Timmy, "If YOU won't go see the Metal Men--
then THEY'll come to see YOU!" But when Timmy replies, "I couldn't see them!"
Tina at last realizes he is blind. But now Timmy "sees" Platinum in his own
way, as he reaches out to touch her metallic face and feels tears on it.
"There's only ONE metal in the world that can CRY! You must be TINA-- the PLATINUM
robot!" Now happy at last, Timmy asks if he can "see" the other Metal Men by
touch as well. Tina is heartbroken, or responsometer-broken, to have to tell
him that only she is there-- until she turns around to find that the other
Metal Men, and Doc, have indeed followed her to find out what's going on. "You
all heard our young friend, Metal Men! Let him 'see' you!" As each Metal Man
greets Timmy, he gives a clue to enable to boy to guess which metal he is;
"You'll find ME in tooth fillings!" "GOLD!" "I--I'm used in cans-- guess who
I--I am?" "TIN!" "If you want to know how hot or cold you are-- just ask me!"
"MERCURY!" "I'm---uhh-non-conductor! A shield!" "LEAD! "That's a REAL
muscle!" "IRON!"

Finally hearing all the commotion involving her son, Timmy's mother comes out
and explains that a cure for his blindness has been delcared hopeless, at
least until "new dhemical compounds are discovered!" But at least heis now
realizing another hopeless ambition, as he has idolized the Metal Men and dreamed
of meeting and visiting them. With his mother's permission (which she probably
wouldn't grant if she had any idea how much trouble her son would get into)
Timmy goes off to spend a whole day with the Metal Men. But then, the
irrepressible Tina makes a rash promise; Doc will cure Timmy's blindness. Timmy's
brief hopes are dashed as Doc explains, "I can't do anything the doctors can't!"
But Tina is insistent that Doc try to find the "new chemical compounds" that
might help Timmy. She tries to persuade Doc with a kiss, but he complains
that it "tastes like being smacked by a cold, wet platinum bracelet!"
Nonetheless, Doc agrees to go to his lab and search for a cure while the Metal Men take
Timmy on his tour of their lab and headquarters. Having heard about the Metal
Men's visits to other worlds in their giant rocket, Timmy asks if he can
visit the rocket and "maybe touch the controls". The Metal Men offer him more
than that; touch the launch button, and, after a "short flight", despite his
blindness, Timmy will return to Earth as "the first boy astronaut in history!"

After a house ad for issues of JLA and HAWKMAN, we have two pages of "Metal
Facts and Fancies!" After humorous descriptions of the real-life uses of
various metals, we see a line of rejected robots at a stage door, being told,
"Sorry! We haven't discovered any parts for ACTINIUM, AMERICIUM, BERKELIUM,
we'll keep trying!" (Did they? Some of these names sound vaguely familiar, as
if I'd heard of them being used for something during the 40-some years since
this page first appeared.)

Meanwile, back in Part 3 of "Playground of Terror!", Doc is entirely unaware
of his robot babysitters' excursion into space as he labors in vain in his
lab. He finds no chemical known on Earth can cure Timmy's blindness; "It's
hopeless-- HOPELESS!" (Seems like it might be more within Doc's specialty to try
to create some sort of bionic eyes for Timmy.) Things aren't going so well
for the Metal Men and Timmy either, as their supposedly short space flight is
extended by a "vast cosmic turbulence that's pulling us away from Earth!" As
the rocket flips end over end, only Tina forming into a safety net prevents the
other Metal Men from tumbling into the fragile Timmy. Finally, the Metal Men
find themselves "out of the cosmic storm" but "far from our own galaxy!"
(Funny how Kanigher can be a stickler for scientific minutiae involving metals,
but so cavalier about the size and scale of a galaxy or the unlikelihood of
traveling millions of light-years in a few minutes of time.) Trying to turn a
lemon into lemonade, Tina suggests that "boy astronaut" Timmy become the first
boy to land on an unknown planet. Curiously, when they approach this planet, it
contains some rather familiar Earthlike artifacts-- rides resembling those
found in an Earth amusement park. You'd think Timmy's excitement potential
would have blown a fuse by now, but he's enthralled by the thought of visiting an
alien amusement park, since due to his blindness he's never been allowed into
the crowds and commotion of an Earthly amusement park.

Gold cautiously lands the rocket some distance from the "park" "in case we're
met by any threats!" He's noticed that the planet seems entirely deserted of
any life or any habitation other than the "amusement park". (So you're going
to be careful with the rocket, but you're taking the little boy with you
right into this potential threat? Right, Gold.) As they walk toward the "park",
Tina notices Timmy is counting, and he explains he is counting steps and
keeping track of turns, blind people's means of keeping their bearings in a strange
environment (and presumably he's never been in a stranger one than this).
When they reach the rides, Timmy is disappointed to find no controls to make the
rides go. But he and the Metal Men take seats in the roller coaster anyway,
and Timmy muses, "I guess-- all I can do is WISH-- that this ride can GO--!"
(Be careful what you wish for, kid....) When the roller coaster starts
moving, the Metal Men deduce the ride must have its own "responsometer" to act on
its own. But these responsometers are apparently even more defective than those
of the Metal Men, as the ride seizes and traps the Metal Men with claws.
"Now you know what happened to the people who lived here! The robot rides they
built must have turned on them!" (Didn't this planet have any safety
regulations for amusement rides? And were the inhabitants such thrill-ride fanatics
that tey lined up to ride even after the rides started killing people?)

Before Part 4, we have the "Metal Scraps" lettercol on which letters are
answered by the Metal Men themselves. One reader, Leo Steiner of Detroit, asks
for advice in dealing with a friend who won't read the Metal Men because he
thinks they're "boring" (naybe he was a Marvel fan). Iron's suggestion is, "Tell
him to have his responsometer checked! It must be rusty!" A femmefan, Connie
Graff of Titusville, PA, wants Doc Magnus to create a whole new team of Metal
Women, but Platinum wants none of this idea; "I already have enough trouble
getting Doc to notice ME! Why should I ask for a whole flock of robot girls
surrounding him?" (Despite Tina's wishes, a later issue, MM #32, did feature
the creation of a band of Metal Women, though they proved short-lived.)

Back at the extraterrestirial Coney Island in Part 4, the Metal Men struggle
to escape the clutches of the monster roller coaster. Gold escapes in the
form of a shower of gold coins (though how he manages to function while
separating himself into separate pieces, only God and Doc know). Mercury separates
into globules to ooze away, and mighty Iron pulls apart the claws holding Lead
long enough for Lead to escape. Tin tries to perform the same service for Iron
himself, and succeeds, though the humble bends and buckles in the process.
And Tina spins free, carrying Timmy with her, though he urges her to escape on
her own and not sacrifice herself for him. Back on the ground, the Metal Men
and friend find they are not out of danger, for the coaster is not the only
amusement park attraction to run amuck. A spinning "rocket ride" hurls its
rockets like missiles at them on the ground. Iron and Lead transform in turn into
ground-to-air missiles to halt the attack. A Ferris wheel rumbles forward to
crush the robot visitors (resembling the giant War Wheel of Blackhawk infamy)
but despite his skepticism that the ploy will work, Mercury follows Gold's
directins to spin himself through the center of the wheel and spin it off into
space. Heading back for their rocket, the Metal Men pass a giant "photo booth"
which suddenly goes off in a gigantic flash-- and now, all the Metal Men are
just as blind as their young human charge! Not to mention, a sinister
rumbling indicates all the evil amusement park rides have uprooted themwleves and are
pursuing the fugitives. Now their only hope is the "helpless" Timmy, who has
memorized the route and number of steps back to the rocket. Will they make
it, and launch away from the planet, before the rides get them? Back on Earth,
will Doc find a cure in his lab for Timmy's blindness? And if and when the
Metal Men get back there, will they be up on charges for reckless child
endangerment? You can probably guess the answers, but if not, you'll have to (a)
look up the next issue in your own collection, (b) pick up the new METAL MEN
Showcase book, which includes this issue and the next one (though I'm reviewing it
based on the original issue) or (c) wait for me to get around to reviewing
the next issue.