Action Comics #252: "The Menace Of Metallo!"

Action Comics #252
"The Menace Of Metallo!"
May, 1959

Story: Robert Bernstein
Art: Al Plastino

Throughout the years, we have seen the Man of Steel battle the most bizarre super-villains in history! Now his newest foe may prove to be the deadliest of them all... "The Menace Of Metallo!" On the splash page, Lois Lane sees bullets bouncing off of John Corben's body, and comes to the conclusion that he is Superman, the man she loves! Corben knows he is in a spot! If he and the Man of Steel ever appear at the same time, Lois will know he is not Superman, but Metallo, the Metal Man!

One summer evening on the outskirts of Metropolis, reporter John Corben tunes into a popular radio program, "Crime File" As the radio show ends with the criminal being told there is no such thing as the perfect crime, Corben smiles, and knows he has committed the perfect crime! Unlike the killer in the radio program, the reporter wiped his prints off the murder weapon, leaving the gun in the victim's hand, making it appear to have been a suicide! The reporter killed the only sole witness to him having been a thief and an embezzler! No one will suspect it of murder! The authorities will not search for him or anyone! That is what John Corben calls the perfect crime! As the automobile turns around a curve... BARMMM! SCREEEEE As an older automobile makes its way around the bend, Professor Vale and his housekeeper see the driver pinned beneath the overturned car. Professor Vale knows the badly injured driver will not live long enough to make it to the local hospital! His only chance is if Vale operates on him at once! Together, they carry the body to their car!

John Corben's body is beyond repair! Since regular surgery will not save him, Professor Vale must try an experiment previously performed on animals! The housekeepr knows her employer will do whatever he can to save the man's life! Beneath the operating lights in Professor Vale's laboratory, a mechanical heart and metal tubing for the patient's circulatory system are being installed... Days later, John Corben comes out of his coma. He remembers blacking out, feeling intense pain, and now feeling perfectly well! Professor Vale cannot accept any thanks until his patient has seen what has been done to him beneath the blanket. John Corben now has an all-metal body! Corben still has his human brain, but the rest of him has been replaced with a special unmeltable and unbreakable metallic armor plate! His new body is now indestructible! Corben's arms are now covered with a flesh-like, plastic skin! Only a fluoroscope reveals their true metallic structure! John Corben is now a kind of human robot with a mechanical heart! Within the "fuse-box" is one of two elements that can energize Corben's synthetic heart and keep him alive!

Corben is now a machine, powered by a uranium capsule! Once removed, the patient feels weak and dizzy! Once the capsule is returned, Corben's fatal weakness disappears! Each uranium capsule lasts for twenty-four hours! It must be replaced by another one or else Corben will die! When his patient asks what the second element is, the professor's response is cut short by CRRASSHH! RRRRR! A lightning bolt and the day-long storm has started a rock-slide! As the rock-slide shakes the foundations of the building, Professor Vale suffers a stroke, and Corben dons some clothes to go search for aid!

When Corben tries the door... RRRIPPP! it comes away in his hand... torn clean off its hinges! His metal hands have given him super-strength! Suddenly inspired, John Corben dashes his fist through the rock wall. His robotic body and metallic strength have overcome the barrier of rock! Corben leaves the professor to be found by his housekeeper! He only regrets not learning what the second element is! The next day in Metropolis, John Corben applies for a job on the Daily Planet. Editor Perry White can use a good reporter and checked Corben's references! The Eastport News editor gave him his highest recommendation! As Corben meets Lois Lane and Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter notices his iron grip, and pretends to be hurt by the strong handshake! Perry is glad Corben will be able to tackle those tough assignments Clark is too timid to handle! Lois prepares to show the reporter his desk!

John Corben is impressed by Lois, but the girl reporter is unimpressed by Corben's iron grip! As the reporter gets his first assignment, he ducks into an empty office... He feels weak because his supply of uranium is all used up! Professor Vale only gave him one extra capsule! Time enough to keep his metallic heart beating until tomorrow! He must obtain more uranium -- and fast! As the Daily Planet reporters cluster around a teletype, Clark overhears the atomic submarine Neptune's distress! It was trying to set a new record for remaining submerged! With only three days to go, its air system has broke down! The mild-mannered reporter sneaks into the storeroom and makes a quick change! The Man of Steel uses his fingers to compress his Clark Kent clothes into a compact ball! The resilient clothing is then thrust into a secret pouch in the lining of his cape. The Man of Steel must replenish the Neptune's air supply before it is forced to surface! He must give the submarine crew enough oxygen so they can remain underwater long enough to set their new record! Seconds later, the Man of Steel soars over the Arctic Sea, using his telescopic-vision to locate the submerged submarine... Prior to plunging to the Neptune's depth, Superman inhales deeply and fills his lungs with fresh air!

Diving to the side of the atomic submarine, the Man of Steel exhales gently, so as to not blow the Neptune away, and breathe enough oxygen into the torpedo hatch to provide enough air for one hundred men for six days! Within the atomic submarine, the sea-valves are opened to allow the compressed air from Superman's lungs to circulate throughout the Neptune. The crew can breathe again, thanks to the Man of Steel! They no longer need to surface and can remain submerged until they break the submarine record! Another "Man of Steel" is performing an errand of his own, as John Corben breaks into the Metropolis Research Laboratory! Since there is no legal way for Corben to obtain the uranium he needs, he must steal it! CRRRACKK As the reporter batters through a vault door, he sees only a small supply remains! He will need much more and cannot be without the life-sustaining uranium capsule! The uranium must be stockpiled, and this must be done before news of this theft alerts all uranium holders to take the necessary precautions to safeguard their supplies! For the rest of the day, John Corben continues his series of raids upon hospitals, science institutes, and United States Army projects! Even if anyone were to shoot at him, the bullets would bounce off of his metallic body like peas! Corben can do whatever he wants to, and is virtually invincible!

The following morning, the nation is introduced to the name of Metallo the Metal Man! Laboratory tests have proven no human being could have committed the thefts! Only an purely metallic, indestructible robot! The authorities consider Metallo the Metal Man to be public enemy number one! At the Daily Planet office, Clark overhears radio news about screen star Sherry Blair about to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel! Ms. Blair is counting on the publicity from the Man of Steel saving her from danger! The mild-mannered reporter intends on teaching the starlet a lesson! Clark uses a stomach-ache as a pretext to sneak away and become Superman! As he departs, the mild-mannered reporter hopes Lois is careful while he is away! The girl reporter has been digging up information to expose a gang of desperate criminals... who may decide to silence Lois - with a bullet! The Man of Steel has arrived in time at Niagara Falls and sees the barrel going over the falls! He must rescue the publicity-seeking starlet in a manner that no one will know he did it! He swims up the falls like a salmon underwater! The dense mists from the falls will prevent anyone from seeing him pushing the barrel upwards!

As the Man of Steel swims upstream to a secluded area, he leaves the barrel behind. Sherry Blair will never know she was actually saved by Superman! Because her publicity stunt failed, others will be discouraged from performed a similar feat! As she emerges from the barrel, the starlet figures a rock must have deflected the barrel toward the shore! Since the Man of Steel never appeared, she would have been killed if she went over the falls! She will never pull this stunt again! At that moment, Lois Lane is going out for lunch. She is spotted by gang members who fire from their speeding car! RAT-A-TAT-TAT! As John Corben tells her to wait up and have lunch with him, she sees the bullets bouncing off of his chest! Her fellow reporter is unharmed! John Corben must be the Man of Steel's secret identity! She tells John not to cover up the bullet-holes in his suit! He is the man she loves and she promises to make it up to him from now on! Corben knows if he and Superman ever appear together at the same time, Lois will know he is a fraud! At a chinese restaurant, Corben overhears the radio news report about all local uranium supplies being stored under heavy guard at Fort Taber! Lois has opened her fortune cookie!

"Neither faint heart nor false heart e'er won a fair maid!" John Corben plans to take his Superman impersonation a step further! Without his mustache, he could pass as the Man of Steel's twin! That same afternoon, Metallo is clad in an imitation Superman costume, and begins his bold plan. Unlike the real Man of Steel, this Superman cannot fly! This will not stop Metallo from entering Fort Taber! When they roll out the red carpet for Superman, he will roll out with the uranium! At Fort Taber, Metallo's makeup and Superman avoid detection! His feat of super-strength involving an overturned truck convinces them he is the Man of Steel! He asks to use a private phone to call his pal, Jimmy Olsen. Once he is alone, Metallo finds the uranium vault and CRRASHHHs through it! Now he will have enough uranium for an entire year! They will soon realize the Superman costume was merely a disguise for Metallo! Once Metallo exits and returns to his automobile, he is spotted via telescopic-vision by the real Man of Steel! Metallo tries to stop him with a bronze deer!

The flying bronze deer shatters against its intended target. BRRONNGG! Superman is glad he decided to check on Fort Taber on his way back from Niagara Falls! The Man of Steel uses his super-breath to blow the uranium out of his automobile! WHOOOOOOSSHH! Another blast of super-breath sends Metallo's automobile into the yard of a state police station. Before he can collar Metallo, the Man of Steel spots an emergency at the world-wide sculptor's exhibition! WHOOOOSSH SCREEEE! A hoist has snapped and the enormous marble world that is supposed to fit onto Atlas' shoulders is falling! The Man of Steel serves as a stand-in for Atlas and carries the weight of the world upon his mighty shoulders! The Man of Steel's brief absence allows Metallo to make his escape! One hour later, John Corben visits Professor Vale at his laboratory. Vale has recovered from his stroke! Telling the professor he couldn't get any uranium, he asks what the second substance is. The second substance is Kryptonite! It's energy will last forever! Professor Vale has a sample in his safe!

Professor Vale had intended to experiment with it to find an antidote for its effects against the Man of Steel! Since John Corben's life is at stake, Vale gives it to him! Unbeknownst to the professor, Metallo plans to use the deadly element against Superman! That evening, in a basement room beneath the Metropolis Exhibit Hall, Metallo has disguised himself as the Man of Steel, and is carefully laying out his plans. Superman is preparing a souvenir show for charity and will be there in seconds to arrange his various trophies! The Man of Steel will be feeling the effects of Corben's piece of Kryptonite the instant he enters! Five minutes later, Superman arrives, and succumbs to the Kryptonite wedged between the pipes! His powers fade and he feels weak... He cannot reach the Kryptonite and each step he takes will be pure torture! The agonizing minutes pass as the Man of Steel is bombarded by the deadly Kryptonite rays. His super-breath is not strong enough to dislodge it! Since Metallo's Kryptonite is destroying Superman, he will make use of the Man of Steel's sample! Metallo places Superman's Kryptonite inside his mechanical heart. It will have enough energy to live forever! Now, he will visit Lois Lane! Once Metallo has left, the Man of Steel concentrates the heat of his x-ray vision upon the Kryptonite for as long as possible! Six minutes later, for the first time in his career, Superman has discovered a way to conquer Kryptonite! He has melted it! Now he can go after Metallo and locate him as soon as his vision powers return to normal strength!

At that moment in Lois Lane's apartment, Metallo has entered, still disguised as the Man of Steel. The doorknob has ripped his shirt and the girl reporter sees the metal body beneath. Now that she knows he is Metallo, he must get rid of her like he got rid of Superman! Suddenly, Metallo moves forward, emits a choked cry, and falls over. The real Superman arrives in time! Metallo is dead of a heart attack! He exchanged his Kryptonite sample for the Man of Steel's, not realizing Superman was using a false, prop Kryptonite, colored green for a color picture in a weekly magazine! Although Kryptonite powered the mechanical heart in his metal chest, the green colored rock gave Metallo nothing but... heart failure! Lois realizes the fortune cookie prophecy came true! "Neither faint heart nor false heart e'er won a fair maid!" At police headquarters, Superman and Lois learn John Corben was going to be arrested that very night! Corben made one mistake by wiping the gun clean, but not the cartridges he loaded the gun with! Corben's print was found on an unfired cartridge! If he thought he had committed the perfect crime, he was dead wrong!

This story was reprinted in DC Silver Age Classics Action Comics #252 (1992).

Robert Crane had his human brain transplanted into a metallic body and became Robotman.

Race car driver Cliff Steele suffered a race car accident, causing Niles Caulder to transfer his human brain into a metallic body, and become the member of the Doom Patrol known as Robotman.

His heart wounded by shrapnel, Tony Stark created the life-saving armor, and became the Invincible Iron Man.

In Superman II, Lois Lane went over the falls, and tried to get the Man of Steel to save her.

Clark Kent may not seem to have a cast iron stomach, but he is charming when compared to Metallo's mechanical heart.

At the time of this story, whenever the Man of Steel used his heat-vision, it was referred to as being the heat of his x-ray vision.

Actor Michael Callan portrayed Metallo on the Superboy TV series.

Actor Scott Valentine portrayed Metallo on the Lois & Clark TV series.

Actor Brian Austin Green portrayed Metallo on the Smallville TV series.

Actor Malcolm McDowell portrayed Metallo on Superman The Animated Series.

Steve Chung
"The Review Of Metallo!"