Metal Men Questions AKA I Was Wondering #12

I have most of the Silver Age Metal Men comics, the Archive and the Showcase Presents so I know the chronicles of the Elements of Justice. And there's little point in questioning the logic of their adventures or deciphering the surrealism of their stories. My pondering about the Robotic Responders focuses on their origins and existence and the subtext behind them. So...

1) I always wondered why Doctor Will Magnus (Doc) made a Platinum robot in the first place. His other robots were based on metals that were known in the Ancient World. Platinum was discovered in the 1730s. Alchemically speaking, she should have been Silver.

2) If Doc had no feelings for Platinum (Tina), why did he make her beautiful? In their first scene together, they're dancing! For all his anger and threats, he seemed to have gotten his Pygmalion on!

3) Speaking of his sculpting ability, why do Gold, Iron, Lead and Tina look normal but Mercury and Tin don't? And their appearances grow more cartoonish over time.

4) Did Doc "create" the Metal Men's personalities? Or were they "born" that way? Did he have any control over the parameters of their emotional development?

Aside: I always felt that Doc based the Metal Men's personas on people he knew and cared about: family, friends, the girl he loved and lost. Possibly they could even be aspects of himself: smart, strong, loyal, hot-tempered and insecure. It certainly beats the Post-Crisis retcon where real people are absorbed into the robot bodies with their memories surpressed. That made Doc into a monster!

5) If Tina with her forward personality was considered defective, why weren't Mercury and Tin also labelled as unrobotic? Both acted just as human as Tina yet only she was classified as "flawed".

6) If the Metal Men were the stars, why did Doc save the day so much, particularly in the earlier issues? And why were the MM destroyed so much? It was already established quickly that Doc could not exactly duplicate them so it was heart-breaking to see them crushed so often!

7)Did the army/government finance the Metal Men? They seem to have to respond every time General Caspar ("But I'm a FRIENDLY General!") called with some dangerous mission. Disposable agents, anyone?

8) In Brave & Bold #55 (S'64), we learn that Doc's first robot was Uranium who was dangerous and had to be tendered inert. It predates Data and Lore from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Still is Uranium considered canon or was Tina Doc's first creation?

Aside: B&B #55 is a good candidate for a "Silver Sightings" as I had it when I was a kid with that beautiful Ramona Fradon artwork!

9) Mercury was awfully high on himself (I'm the only metal that's liquid at room temperature-bit) yet he usually got clobbered early on (just after Tin). Did he suffer from delusions of grandeur?

10) "Nameless". From a Build-It-Yourself robot kit! That changed shape! Wow. Just wow. I mean good for Tin but that really stretched suspension of belief.

11) Did the Metal Men have internal parts or were they solid metal animated by their respondometers? I've seen it both ways.

I hope these questions test your "mettle"!


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  • As to the repeated destruction of their bodies, I don't know much about the old-timey Metal Men, but having read all of Cliff Steel's Silver Age appearances, it looks like the writers leapt at the chance to use metal characters to show how fragile and easily broken our own bodies are.  That's something all of us fret about as we grow older, and its obviously something writers want to discuss.  Maybe the kids reading the comics weren't very conscious of their fragility, but the writers were getting older (and them without medical coverage etc, natch!).


    When there were restraints on showing injury and death in comics, writers had to be content with wreaking destruction on robot bodies. What happens to Cliff is just beyond torment!  You only have to read modern storylines like Death of the Family (or any New 52 book really), to see that once writers are allowed to show injury, death, dismemberment, disembowelment etc they leap right in there.


    As well as the fragility of our bodies, the writers are playing with the old mind-body dichotomy. If there's nothing left of someone except a head and an arm, or their body is completely mangled into a different shape, are they still the same person?  Is there a seperate entity altogether to the actual body being ripped to bits, that experiences the events?


    Bit of philosophy for you there...


    I don't know much about the Metal Men, but look out for Platinum's short but important role in my next DC One Million installment.  Grant Morrison made her Platinum qualities thematically central to her role, there.


    While I'm on the subject, I have a few more questions to add, also based on the Metal Men as they appear in DC 1m.


    Where did Viridium come into it?


    What about the huge Power-Ranger-esque composite Metal Man?


    Maybe they were both just some more bad ideas of the 90s?


    How did they resolve them, I wonder?


    Apart from DC 1m, I supect the MM weren't used much in the 90s.  I guess they were too old-fashioned and hoaky for the pre-Reconstructionist era?

  • This isn't related to one of your questions, but mercury isn't red, but silver (hence its name quicksilver). I think the notion that it's red comes from its association with thermometers. From what I understand red thermometers are really alcohol-based.


    Wikipedia tells me mercury thermometers are banned in various countries now. When I was in school we used them in science experiments. Sometimes they got broken (including through over-heating), and the teacher would use a special compound to clear the mercury up.

  • I think the notion that it's red comes from its association with thermometers.


    Smart thinking, Luke.

  • Thanks, but it's not an original thought to me.


    As I recall, the most recent version of the Metal Men, which I missed, renamed Tina Platina and added another "female" robot, Copper.


    Commander Benson has posted columns on the Metal Men here and here. Mr. Silver Age posted a column on the new Metal Men era here.

  • Still, I've often wondered why he is red, and the thermometer thing is so obvious now that you mentioned it.  It shows you the level of 'science' these comics were pitched at.


    That the MM 'Lead' is actually a blob of alcohol explains a lot.

  • Viridium was the "Metalized" Doc Magnus. I believe that he was transformed into a green alien metal.

    The Metl Men have been combining into giant forms since the Silver Age, Figs, but the giant form you see is probably Alloy, the merged Metal Men composite from Waid & Ross' Kingdom Come.

    And it's about time Copper gets its Metal Men due!

    I wonder if the Metal Men considered each destruction like dying and Doc resurrecting them as their All-Powerful Creator!

  • Luke Blanchard said:

    Mr. Silver Age posted a column on the new Metal Men era here.


    Of course, when you say "new"...

  • Indeed; I should have capitalised "new".


    Regarding its science, the title did feature some factual "Metal Facts and Fancies" pages. These sometimes included Metal Menish characters who didn't appear in stories (a Copper appeared in one; I was just looking at another with Potassium, Arsenic, Bismuth and a different version of Zirconium to the one from robot Doc's evil Metal Men in #2).

  • Am I right in thinking the Metal Men didn't feature much between say 1986 and DC One Million in 1998? (Doc Magnus appeared in the sublime Mallah and the Brain issue of Grant's Doom Patrol, but Grant loved all that cooky old stuff.)


    I know that DiDio has said that he limited their use in the Noughties as he had a fondness for them and was waiting for the right approach.


    I was most interested to see where Waid, Morrison et al were going with the Doc Magnus/ Metal Men strand of 52, but that's stalled at the moment.

  • They appeared in The Brave and the Bold several times, in a revival of their own series in 1976-1978,(1) in Showcase #100, and in DC Comics Presents #4 (with the result that Chemo became a recurring Superman villain).(2) Gold also guested in the Superman/Batman story in World's Finest Comics #239.


    Post-Crisis they appeared in a John Byrne-era issue of Action Comics, #590, (when it was Superman's team-up title), and again in #599, which the GCD tells me was written by Byrne and drawn by Ross Andru. They also appeared in a 1993 mini that attempted to redefine them, which Philip alluded to and which is described by Brian Cronin here.


    As likely as not they were some other appearances. My list make it sound like they appeared a lot but I'm with you; they didn't really, at least in the 70s/80s. I can't speak to the 90s.


    (1) The GCD lists these issues as part of what it calls the 1973 series. (The title had previously been revived, briefly, as a reprint title). The first of the issues with new content was #45. Walt Simonson and Joe Staton drew the stories, various parties wrote.

    (2) In the DC Comics Presents issue Tina made passes as Superman the way she normally does at Doc.

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