JLA #42, "Metamorpho Says No!"

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #42; DC Comics; February 1966; Julius Schwartz, 
editor; featuring "Metamorpho Says No!"  written by Gardner Fox, drawn by  Mike
Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs.

Review by Bill Henley

The cover,  by Sekowsky and I think Murphy Anderson, is divided into scenes
in which the  shapechanging hero Metamorpho rebuffs the aid of Superman as he
attacks a giant  stone fist by turning his hand into a drill, of Batman and the
Flash as he takes  on a gaseous green cloud by turning himself into a
blowtorch, and of Green  Lantern as he smashes at a giant metal claw with a fist
turned into a  hammer.  "Cut out, Justice Leaguers!  I'll fight off these
menaces--  without any help from you!"  And the bemused caption reads, "The current 
super-hero sensation is invited to join the Justice League-- but the
astonishing  reply is...METAMORPHO SAYS NO!"

On the splash page, Metamorpho  underscores his refusal by turning his hand
into a marker to write a giant "NO!" 
As our story begins, Metamorpho leaves to meet his girlfriend Sapphire Stagg 
for a date, but is distracted by the plight of a kid he sees sitting on the 
ground despondent.  Asking what's wrong, Metamorpho is told the boy is the 
only kid on his block without a skateboard (which I guess was the latest fad 
around the time this story came out).  So Metamorpho transforms himself  into a
skateboard and takes the boy for a ride, and now it is the other kids who  are
jealous because they don't have skateboards that go uphill.  After 
completing this vital mission, Metamorpho goes on to keep his date but is  interrupted
again when his own arms suddenly stretch skyward, against his will,  to
skywrite an invitation to attend a Justice League meeting and present his 
qualifications to become a full-time member.  But our new hero has other  priorities;
"Sorry!  I got me a date with the prettiest gal in the whole  world!  Thanks
all the same-- but join the Justice League?  That's  just about the LAST thing
I'd want to do!"  As a floating arrow created by  the JLA tries to prod
Metamorpho into following it, he tells the JLA to "buzz  off" and himself does so by
becoming a flying buzzsaw.  But then, as  Metamorpho tries to make his refusal
stick,  a new element enters the  scene, as a brick building wall suddenly
extrudes an arm which punches  Metamorpho, and a voice says: "Hold it!  If
anybody's going to join the  Justice League-- it's ME!"  As protean as Metamorpho
himself, the  mysterious new applicant successively animates a  giant
flyswatter and a  baseball bat to attack him.  It seems the would-be new member figures
the  best way to prove his qualificatinos is to "show up" his rival
Metamorpho-- even  though the latter insists that for "personal reasons" he has no
interest in  joining the JLA.

Observing all this on a viewscreen in the JLA sanctuary  is the "drafting
committee on new members", which consists of Superman, Batman,  Flash, GL, and
Atom.  They are puzzled by Metamorpho's attitude--  "Metamorpho must be kidding!
Imagine anybody not wanting to join up with  us!" says Superman-- but even
more puzzled by the identity of his new  adversary.  GL urges the team to get
out there and help Metamorpho-- "He's  in trouble because of us!"-- and Flash
agrees that perhaps a demonstration of  JLA-style teamwork will make the
Element Man more receptive to the team's  invitation.  Arriving on the scene, the
JLA'ers smash the animated objects  that are attacking Metamorpho, only to be
confronted by tendrils of alien energy  that are just as dangerous.  The tables
are turned as the JLA finds itself  in trouble and Metamorpho has to come to
their aid.  Suddenly the JLA'ers  find themselves back inside their sanctuary,
along with Metamorpho.  Given  a respite from their unknown adversary, the
Element Man finally has a chance to  explain why he's not receptive to the JLA's
rush-week tactics.  He briefly  recaps his origin-- how he used to be ordinary
human soldier of fortune Rex  Mason,until radiations from a meteor inside an
Egyptian period turned him into  the powerful but grotesque-looking
Metamorpho, capable of changing into any  shape or chemical element except his original
human form.  He doesn't want  to be a super-being at all, especially an
inhuman, freakish one; he just wants  to be normal Rex Mason and marry Sapphire
Stagg.  "To join up with you  would mean I'd have to keep on being Metamorpho!" 
Once Metamorpho explains  his position, the JLA'ers accept his decision, even
though some of them are  surprised that anyone would want to give up
super-powers for any reason.   Batman reminds the group that they still have their
mysterious  assailant/applicant to deal with.  But before parting with the JLA, 
Metamorpho asks if the JLA, more specifically Green Lantern, can grant his 
dearest wish by transforming him back into Rex Mason.  But as GL directs  his
power-ring beam at Metamorpho, some force prevents it from making  contact.

Following a house ad for the first SHOWCASE issue of the  Spectre,
educational pages on "The Invisible Handicap" and "Amazing Ratios", and  a lettercol
with complimentary comments on the recent JLA/JSA teamup-- Part 2  opens with the
being that has seized control of Green Lantern's beam identifying  itself--
sort of; "I am the Unimaginable!  The mind of man cannot conceive  what my true
shape is, for man's eyes are not capable of registering that shape  upon his
brain!"  After originating and growing to maturity on a faraway  planet, the
Unimaginable began wandering space, but found nothing more  fascinating than
the JLA as it observed their many adventures and  triumphs.  Eavesdropping on a
JLA meeting where the membership committee  discussed the merits of Adam
Strange and the Elongated Man but finally decided  on Metamorpho as the new member,
the Unimaginable decided that having spent its  existence as a "loner" it was
time to become part of a group, namely the  JLA.  And it expects a unanimous
vote in favor of admitting it to  membership.

Not so fast, says the membership committee.  "We hardly  know anything about
you!" says the Flash, and Batman warns, "As far as I'm  concerned my vote will
be-- no!"  But "no" isn't the answer the  Unimaginable wants to hear, and it
warns that it is a better fighter than all  the JLA put together, including
Superman, and if necessary it will just batter  the JLA into submission until
the members agree to vote it in.   Accordingly, the Unimaginable transports the
JLA (and Metamorpho) out of their  sanctuary and into battle with an
assortment of bizarre aliens it has conquered  and enslaved over the years.  At first
our heroes look like being  overwhelmed by their foes, but then they turn the
tables and get the upper hand  (all except the Atom, who is nearly sucked
inside his amorphous alien foe-- but  when the other JLA'ers rescue him, he
complains, "Let go of me!  I was just  about to shrink myself and get inside this
messy mass and teach it a good lesson  in stick-to-it-iveness!  Next time keep
your cotton-picking hands to  yourself!  You're hurting my super-hero image!" ) 
But, the  Unimaginable warns, even if the JLA can defeat its alien agents,
they have no  hope of actually defeating the Unimaginable itself, a foe that can
never tire  and which they cannot even perceive in its true form.  The
Unimaginable is  going to withdraw now and take its aliens with it, but only in
order to "plan a  more devastating attack". 

But what of Metamorpho during all  this?  The Element Man too has been
fighting the Unimaginable's aliens,  protecting himself against attack by changing
into various forms.  It  occurs to him that he has a special stake in the fight
against the Unimaginable,  since the powerful being might be able to change
him back to Rex Mason, but only  if it is conquered and made to obey the JLA's
will.  Even Metamorpho can't  fight a foe he can't identify, but he comes up
with a plan.  He transforms  himself into the shape of one of the
Unimaginable's aliens, while leaving the  real alien behind in the JLA sanctuary.  As the
Unimaginable returns to its  homeworld, taking the various aliens with it,
Metamorpho leaves a trail of his  own atoms across space to lead the JLA there. 
Meanwhile, the JLA returns  to the sanctuary discussing how to fight the
Unimaginable and also how the  vanished Metamorpho wasn't such a hot prospect for
membership after all; "He  ducked out on us even before the fight was over!" 
But finding the defeated  alien in their HQ, the JLA'ers realize that they have
misjudged the Element Man;  he has not deserted them, but rather arranged to
act as a spy for them.   "Let's go where the action is, then!", GL exhorts, and
Flash responds, "Into  space-- on operation 'Outer Go-Go!'"  (This was a
mercifully brief period  when Gardner Fox was making occasional excruciating
attempts to sound "hip" and  "with it" in his dialogue and captions.) 

Soaring into space in  Part 3 (with Batman, Flash and Atom riding in GL's
green bubble), the JLA spots  Metamorpho's trail ot atoms and follows it across
space.  They take note  that the trail veers off course toward the vicinity of
a supernova (an editor's  note explains that a supernova is an exploding star
and that it releases as much  energy in one second as Earth's sun does in 60
years).  Noting that the  energies from the supernova are flowing away in the
same direction the  Unimaginable was taking, the JLA'ers deduce that the being
somehow derives its  energy from the supernova.  Green Lantern transforms
himself and the others  into "negative radiant energy" so that they can blend in
with the supernova  energy and be swept along into the very interior of the
Unimaginable's amorphous  body.  Our heroes use their various powers to attack
the Unimaginable from  within, until it succumbs; "The Justice League has found
the one way to overcome  me-- by becoming part of my body!  I can't destroy
them-- without  destroying myself!"  "There is a gasp-- a silence!" and then the
JLA finds  itself victorious as their foe has vanished.  "What happened to
the  Unimaginable?"  "There's no way of knowing!"  "Perhaps it simply  ceased to
exist!"  (No such luck, as the Unimaginable would make a return  appearance
in just a couple of issues.) 

Reminding the JLA of his  presence, Metamorpho asks GL to vacuum up and
restore the atoms he left  scattered across space in lieu of bread crumbs, and then
to finish the job of  restoring his Rex Mason self.  But for once the mighty
Power Ring fails,  having no effect on Metamorpho; "There must have been some
yellow radiation in  the meteor that changed you!"  Taking the failure in good
grace, Metamorpho  shakes hands with the members all at once by forming extra
hands, and thanks the  heroes for a "swell time".  Supeman proposes that
Metamorpho accept a kind  of "stand-by" member status in the JLA, on call if his
abilities are needed and  he is still Metamorpho, and the Element Man accepts. 
However,  Metamorpho did not revisit the JLA during the Silver Age.  His own
title  which had started in 1965 folded in early 1968, and he made no further 
appearances in his JLA "stand-by" role until the anniversary issue #100 in
1972.  Still later, Metamorpho would become more of a joiner, serving with the
original  Outsiders and with Justice League Europe. More recently, he appeared
prominently  in a two-part animated JUSTICE LEAGUE TV episode,
"Metamorphosis", featuring a  much-revised version of his origin.

Editor Julius Schwartz told  readers in a later lettercol that Metamorpho
didn't join the JLA officially  because he, Schwartz, figured that an offbeat,
unusual hero like Metamorpho wold  do something unusual like refusing to join
the JLA.  Schwartz admitted in  fanzine interviews, though, that the real reason
was that he just didn't like  the character of Metamorpho (who was created by
Bob Haney under the direction of  another DC editor, George Kashdan) very
much.  (Presumably if the  METAMORPHO title had become a bigger hit, he would
have joined the JLA  regardless of Julie's feelings, or at least made more
"stand-by"  appearances.)

As far as I know, the only place this issue has been  reprinted is in the
JUSTICE LEAGE ARCHIVE series-- I'm not sure which volume,  probably 4 or 5.

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