Showcase #39 (2nd Metal Men)

SHOWCASE #39; May-June 1962; DC Comics; Robert Kanigher, editor (and 
writer); featuring the Metal Men vs. "The Nightmare Menace!"  On the cover  by
regular MM artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, the Metal Men begin their  long
tradition of fighting mostly other robots, as a giant green robot fires a  beam
at the MM which is melting them down.  Urged on by Platinum, Gold  stretches
out an arm to get the merely human Doc Magnus out of the path of the  deadly
beam. (Curiously, on this and other early Showcase-MM covers, Gold is  colored
lemon-yellow rather than the actual gold color he sports inside the  comic.) 
The blurb tells us, "Out of smoke and flame arises the most unique  band of
fighters-- METAL MEN-- to battle the NIGHTMARE MENACE!"  

Review by Bill Henley

It's one of the more famous "inside"  stories of the Silver some
other feature planned for SHOWCASE #38 in  1962 fell through, and within a few
days to meet the deadline veteran  writer/editor Robert Kanigher conceived a
quirky band of robotic heroes and in  collaboration with artists Andru and
Esposito rushed them into print.  And  how the last-minute creation struck a chord
with readers and did well enough to  win its own series which ran through the
rest of the Silver Age (and sporadic  revivals and guest shots since).  This
review however isn't of that very  first Metal Men story, but the second one,
after DC higher-ups apparently  decided the Metal Men had potential and gave
the OK for a full tryout run in  SHOWCASE.

The splash page is a recast version of the cover scene, again  with the
hostile robot melting down the Metal Men as Gold slings Doc to  safety.  Our story
begins with headlines referring to the previous SHOWCASE  adventure, "Metal
Men Save Country From Flaming Doom!" (the "doom" was a flying  manta-ray-shaped
monster) and a scene of a "spontaneous meeting" in which eager  crowds call
for the nation's newest heroes to appear publicly and receive  accolades for
their feats.  They don't realize, apparently, that the Metal  Men were even more
heroic than they know, for the robots sacrificed their  mechanical "lives" to
stop the monster menace.

Meanwhile, in an  unidentified "foreign country" (but one whose architecture
includes  Russian-style onion domes), a leader now frets, "The world now
believes we have  lost the race for supremacy to America's latest secret weapon--
the METAL  MEN!  We must destroy these super fighters in a way that will prove
to the  world that WE are invincible!"  And this task is assigned to Von
Vroon, an  ex-Nazi scientist recruited by the unidentified foreign foe.  (Unlike 
Marvel and other comics publishers, DC at this period was leery of explicitly 
identifying Russian Communists as villains.  Of course, while the fictional 
Von Vroon is a bad guy, the ex-Nazi scientists *we* recruited, like the 
real-life Wernher Von Braun, were good guys....)  "Until now-- we have kept  your
terror inventions a secret!", the foreign leader tells Von Vroon.   "The time
has come to unleash them!"  Von Vroon is eager for the  assignment; "I will go
to America and turn these Metal Men into  junk!"

But will there be any Metal Men to be turned into junk?  Not  if "Doc" Will
Magnus, the brilliant inventor who created them, has his  way.  When Colonel
Caspar, Doc's liaison with the military, arrives at  Doc's lab to relay the high
miltary brass's order that the Metal Men be  recreated, he finds Doc fondling
and polishing miniature models of the Metal  Men, particularly the
pseudo-female Platinum.  But as for rebuilding the  life-size versions, "No!  I'll never
assemble them again!  Only to go  through the torture of seeing them
sacrificed-- one by one!"  But when  Caspar reminds Doc that the MM are "only metal,"
not human, and that anyway  their assignment will only be to receive medals,
Doc accedes; "I--I guess I AM  behaving like a fool-- instead of a scientist!" 

Before long, a  whole new set of full-sized Metal Men stand in review for Doc
and Caspar.   But something is different from the previous versions.  When
told that they  are going to receive medals for their predecessors's heroism,
they have no  reaction other than saying in unison, "Thank you, sir!"  When Doc
tells her  that after the medal ceremony he will have to keep his original
promise to send  her to the Science Museum as an exhibit, an impassive Platinum
merely says,  "Yes, sir!"  Caspar notices the difference, commenting how when
the  previous Platinum was told she would be sent to the museum, she threw her
arms  around Doc and begged to stay with him.  "From Gold to Lead, each one of
them was different!  But these Metal Men seem all alike-- like  ROBOTS!" 
"That's what they are!", Doc points out.  Duh.  

The difference, though evident to Doc and Caspar-- "Maybe there was a 
deviation in the ORIGINAL band that made them act the way they did!"-- is not 
apparent to the cheering crowds that gather on the Washington Mall for the award 
ceremony (metals receiving medals).  But the sinister Von Vroon is hidden  in
the crowd and ready to activate a remote control to "make the Metal Men look 
like all-American flops!  HA! HA! HA!"  The ceremony is interrupted by  the
appearance of a giant, purple, clanking robot "crushing everything in its  path".
Doc orders Platinum to carry out her "specialty" against the giant  robot,
trapping it in a metal web.  But though she obediently says, "Yes,  sir!"  she
clumsily casts her net not around the foe but around Doc and the  other Metal
Men themselves.  Meanwhile, in the sky above, one of the jet  fighter pilots
forming an honor guards decides to attack the robot himself,  since "the Metal
Men seem to have gotten combat-fright or something!"  And  at the same time,
Doc orders Iron to brace Gold's feet as the ductile metal  stretches and
reaches out to seize the giant robot.  But missing the robot  entirely, Gold instead
collides with the diving jet fighter.  Doc next  orders Iron to shape Lead
into a cannonball to hurl at the robot, but the strong  metal applies so much
friction that Lead starts to melt.  And so, as the  crowds flee in panic and the
giant robot continues its rampage, Von Vroon gloats  that he has accomplished
his mission of disgracing the Metal Men and humiliating  America before the

Will the Metal Men somehow redeem  themselves?  Before finding out in Part 2,
we have house ads for SEA DEVILS  (another Kanigher-created feature) and a
SUPERBOY issue featuring "The  Super-Mischief of Superbaby!"  Then there are two
educational pages of  "Metal Facts and Fancies!', drawn by Andru and
Esposito,   Back at the  scene of the catastrophe, more jet fighters try to repair the
failure of the  Metal Men by downing the giant robot, but it shoots a green
beam out of its head  that disables the jets and forces the pilots to
crash-land.  Victorious,  the robot vanishes out of reach by drilling itself into the
ground.   Meanwhile, cheers have turned to jeers for the hapless Metal Men, and
the  military orders Doc Magnus, "Get them out of here before the crowd melts
them  down into pennies!"  The crowd doesn't get the chance, for as he
returns to  his vast lab complex, Doc himself dumps his failed robots from his 
flying-saucer-like jet flyer straght into a giant smelter.  But does this  mean
Doc has given up on the Metal Men for good?  No, for he and Col.  Caspar muse
that perhaps some unknown, accidental factor gave the original Metal  Men their
unique personalities-- and success in battle.  Looking up his  notes on the
original creation of the MM, Doc finds that at the same time he  molded them,
"intense aurora borealis activity" occurred.  He concludes  that the radiation
must have had "a mysterious effect on their metallic  structure"-- and that,
therefore, the "real" Metal Men might "live" again if the  metallic shards left
when they were destroyed battling the Flaming Doom can be  gathered up. 
Caspar is skeptical , suggesting such a recreation is  impossible, but a
now-enthusiastic Doc responds, "Impossible?  So was a  MATCH!  A RADIO!  A CAR!  A
PLANE!"  Setting out on their  quixotic mission, Doc and Caspar find the twisted
form of Tin still lying where  he fell (apparently the street cleaners around
here aren't very  efficient).  The other Metal Men lie inert at the bottom of
the sea and are  recovered from there by Doc and Caspar in scuba gear (maybe
they should have  called on the Sea Devils for help). 

And so, once more Doc sets to  work turning metal junk into functioning
robots.  But as the new/old Metal  Men stand ready , Caspar worries; "They look
exactly like their  IMITATIONS!  How do you know they won't be as USELESS?"  "I
won't know  until I ACTIVATE them!  All I have to do is press their
atomic-powered  starter button-- but-- I-- I'm almost afraid to--!"  While Doc hesitates,
we have a "Magic With Metals" text page and an ad in which Superman invites 
readers to attend the King Bros. Sells & Gray Circus at the Palisades 
Amusement Park in New Jersey.  But then, as Part 3 of "The Nightmare  Menace!"
opens, Doc plucks up his courage and one by one, flicks each robot's on  switch and
finds each one reacting to being reborn in characteristic  fashion.  Humble
Tin begs, "I know I'm not as strong as other metals, but  if you'll only give
me another chance!", and is reassured, "You've got nerves of  steel, Tin and
that's what counts!" Iron says, "Don't mention steel in my  presence!  Steel's
still wearing diapers compared to me!"  Boastful  Mercury insists, "I may not
be the oldest, but I'm the most unusual!" because of  being liquid at room
temperature.  (I don't think it ever was adequately  explained how Mercury managed
to function at all as a humanoid-shaped robot  without melting down into a
blob even when not being attacked by heat rays and  such..) Though not quick on
the uptake, Lead recalls that he "has a gimmick"  too-- protecting against
atomic radiation.  Gold boasts of his monetary  value-- "Only kings could afford
shields made out of me!"  (He doesn't  mention that a shield made out of
heavy, soft gold probably wouldn't be of much  use in actual battle.)  As for
Platinum, her first words are, "I hope  you've forgotten about sending me to the
Science Museum!" (if he had, she's just  reminded him).  When Doc points out
that he made a promise,  "Tina"  hugs her inventor and urges him to tell museum
officials that "you can't part  with me-- like so many other artists who fell
in love with their own  creations!"  Doc's affectionate response is, "I always
knew your reactor  system had bugs in it!!  I'll have to work them out later!"

But though the reborn Metal Men clearly have their unique personalities 
back, it remains to be seen whether they can redeem in battle the failures of 
their earlier replacements.  "It is our task to find that robot of terror--  and
turn defeat into victory!  No matter how many of us perish in the  attempt!" 
stalwart Gold speaks for the group.  Meanwhile, the U.S.  prepares to hold a
World's Fair spotlighting "American ingenuity" creating the  "world of
tomorrow".  Hiding with his giant robot in a cave, Dr. Von Vroom  sees the fair as an
obvious opportunity to humiliate America yet again.   But Doc and the Metal
Men also arrive at the scene of the fair, deducing that it  will be the robot's
next target.  As the MM move through the crowds, they  are jeered as
"super-flops", and emotional, egotistical Mercury gets steamed  up.  But Doc warns that
he will be sent back to the lab if he can't control  himself until the Metal
Men get their chance to redeem themselves.  As Doc  and the MM pass by, Von
Vroom, mingling in the crowd, trying to avoid being  recognized as a Nazi war
criminal before carrying out his plan, jumps on a  merry-go-round to escape
notice, but falls victim to a personal weakness,  becoming dizzy and nearly
fainting due to the whirling motion. (I can empathize,  Doc-- my wife who loves
amusement parks is always dragging me along to them  though I can't stand the
rides.  Though a mere merry-go-round I can manage  to tolerate.)  Noticing a lost
child crying for her mommy, the  feminine-looking Tina reassures her and Tin
does handstands to amuse her.   The child's mother is grateful when she catches
up, but hr husband is still  scornful; "They're supposed to be super heroes--
not super NURSEMAIDS!"   Another minor crisis is resolved when a couple are
trapped atop a stalled  amusement park ride, and Gold stretches upward to form
a ladder for them to  reach the ground.  But still much of the crowd is
unimpressed; "They're  supposed to be super heroes-- not super ACROBATS!" 

Meanwhile, Von  Vroom has recovered from his attack of vertigo and is ready
to reactivate his  robot, which drills up from the ground to invade the
fairgrounds.  The  crowd is reassured, not by the presence of the Metal Men, but by
jet fighters  which attack the robot (never mind that the fighters didn't do
any better than  the MM earlier).  The robot's green beam partially melts the
planes,  sending them hurtling toward the ground.  But, anchored by Iron,
Platinum  this time unerringly forms a giant net to catch the planes and lower them
safely  to the ground.  As the robot continues its rampage, Doc directs the
Metal  Men to split into teams;  Iron and Lead join forces, Mercury insists on 
operating alone, and Tina is also insistent on staying with Doc himself,
leaving  Gold and Tin as an oddly assorted team.  And those two are the first to 
encounter the giant robot.  Gold stretches upward to attack the robot, with 
Tin trying to serve Iron's usual role as anchor on the ground.   Predictably,
the lightweight Tin fails, causing both robots to flip upward off  the ground. 
But the failure turns into an unexpected success as their  momentum hurls Gold
and Tin into the giant robot's head and knocking it to the  ground. 
"Everyone will be fighting to have you on his team!", Gold  reassures Tin.  But the
victory is short-lived, as the felled robot opens  up to reveal a slightly
smaller robot hidden inside, which rises and continues  its rampage.  Next
encountering the solo Mercury, the enemy robot becomes  articulate, warning the liquid
metal "Out of my way, you walking junkpile!   I'll boil you into soup!"  But
Mercury dodges the robot's heat beam as he  taunts the foe, and as a beam
strikes in back of Mercury he utilizes the energy  to expand and strike the
robot's vulnerable head.  Once again the robot  falls, but a smaller one emerges
Chinese-box fashion from inside.  Meeting  it, Iron and Lead try the same trick
their earlier versions failed at, with Iron  molding Lead into a cannonball. 
This time Iron holds his strength in check  enough to keep Lead solid, and Lead
makes a heavy impact on the robot's  body.  But yet again, as it falls,
another robot appears from inside  it. 

As the robot teams reunite with Doc and Tina and compare  notes, the latest
robot appears and targets them directly with its heat  beam.  "Once you're out
of the way-- you'll invent no more defenses!", the  robot's voice tells Doc. 
But, enacting the cover/splash scene, Gold lifts  Doc out of the direct path
of the beam.  As the Metal Men melt into  helplessness, a new robot just
life-size emerges and chases Doc through the  fairgrounds.  Fortuitously, however,
Doc and the robot both fall through a  chute onto one of the fair's spinning
rides, and the robot suddenly becomes  helpless.  The reason becomes evident as
the last robot opens up and the  vertigo-prone Von Vroom himself emerges from
it.  Doc subdues Von Vroom and  recognizes him as "the Nazi scientist missing
since the war!  The  authorities will be glad to see you!  You have many
crimes to answer  for!"  Returning to the half-melted Metal Men, Doc announces that
their  mission is accomplished (even though, technically speaking, the Metal
Men  themselves failed again to stop the robot) and that he will return them
to the  lab to be rebuilt again.  That accomplished, Gold announces, "Doc--
we're  ready for our next mission!"  But Tina chucks Doc under the skin and says,
"Give the poor man a chance to rest!  After all, he's only human!"   "And so
ends the second adventure of the astonishing Metal Men!"  It wasn't  the
last, of course-- the Metal Men appeared in two more issues of SHOWCASE and  then
went on to a 41-issue Silver Age run in their own title.  (Another 
curiosity-- the Metal Men's debut in SHOWCASE #37 does not seem to have been  their only
"fill-in" appearance in that title.  At the end of SHOWCASE #39,  an editor's
blurb announces that "this is the last trial issue of METAL MEN!" as  the
robots and their creator wait for word from their readers whether they shall 
return in their own title.  But then the MM appeared yet again as the  feature in
SHOWCASE &40.  Looks like once again, something else planned for  that issue
of SHOWCASE fell through and Kanigher, Andru and Esposito were called  on to
fill the gap with another MM issue.  Or was it that DC brass decided  they
needed one more tryout appearance to make sure if the MM could support  their own