Move over, Iron Man: The Metal Men are heroes who are actually made out of metal
Gold, iron, tin, lead, platinum, mercury. No, we’re not talking about chemistry or construction work, but about the Metal Men, one of DC Comics’ lesser-known (at least to the general public) favorite superhero team.
That may be about to change, however, as Warner Bros. is in the process of producing an animated feature film based on the team.
However, we still don’t know if that’ll be enough to push the team to mainstream success, after all, the Metal Men aren’t your conventional superhero team.
Unlike Marvel’s Iron Man, who is basically a guy wearing a super armored metal suit, the Metal Men superheroes are actually all metal.
Created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru, the Metal Men uh…men made their first appearance in 1962. Showcase #37, an anthology intended to “test” new characters to gauge their effectiveness before giving them their own titles.
Some of the main characters to debut in Showcase include Barry Allen (The Flash), Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), and Ray Palmer (The Atom). While the Metal Men didn’t quite have the same impact as those three, the heroes still garnered enough attention to remain in DC continuity even today.
“Forged in the fiery foundries of science, and rising like glowing ghosts out of the boiling steam, are the most fantastic band of heroes the world has ever known, the Metal Men!” goes team intro in Showcase #37.
The Metal Men are essentially a group of cyborgs made of pure liquid metal, created by a scientist named Dr. William Magnus. The team primarily consists of Platinum, Gold, Lead, Tin, Iron, and Mercury, although later versions of the team also included members like Copper and Nth Metal.
The characters were animated by Dr. Magnus and were first “animated by a microscopic nuclear-powered activator” (whatever that was). Later, in their first solo title in 1963, Dr. Magnus states that they are “metal robots equipped with miniature ‘Responsometers’ to respond to any situation science could think of”.
One thing that set the Metal Men apart from many superheroes at the time was how science was always part of the team dynamic. With each member of the team possessing the strengths and weaknesses of the metal they’re based on, this allowed for some interesting combat combinations and tactics.
For example, iron is the muscle of the team, but it is susceptible to rust; Lead can shield the team from radioactive waves… you get the idea.
The team’s origin has been changed and retconned many times over its 60-year history, but the one constant has been Dr. Magnus, who has been hailed as one of the greatest geniuses in the world. DC Universe and its main robotic engineering mastermind.
Like his creations, Dr. Magnus has also undergone many changes over the years. At one point he became a rogue scientist bent on world domination (later explained as having been brainwashed by an evil dictator), and in a four-part miniseries in 1993 he was fatally wounded and managed to transfer his mind into a “Void” Metal Man named Veridium.
In the 2019 limited series, Dr. Magnus decided he was tired of sitting helpless while his Metal Men fought enemies, and decided to turn his entire lab into a giant robot called Magnum Opus!
Dr. Magnus has also featured in other DC stories and once even helped fix Doom Patrol’s Robotman.
Although each Metal Man has his own personality, the reason for this has changed many times over time. At first, their personalities were only tied to their original bodies, but later it was explained that Responsometers were what gave them their characteristics.
The 1993 limited series Metal Men then tried to change that – with the robots’ personalities deriving from real people whose personalities were accidentally transferred into the Responso-meters – but it didn’t work.
The latest attempt to revive the Metal Men came in a limited series that ran from 2019 to 2021, which again changed the origin of the team’s personalities by positing that the heroes reflect aspects of behavior of Dr. Magnus, but ultimately, the presence of the Nth Metal Man awakens his own inner personality for real.
Each Metal Man has his own set of powers, though they all have some common powers, including superhuman strength and the ability to stretch and shapeshift.
Gold was the leader of the bunch and can stretch its shape to almost infinite length (fun fact, it’s actually been proven in real science that a single ounce (or 28.35g) of gold can be stretched into an ultra-thin thread that can stretch a distance of 80 km).
The super tough iron is the muscle of the team, but it’s susceptible to rust. Lead is dense (in every sense of the word) and is often considered to protect the team from dangerous radiation. Mercury has the most, uh, mercurial personality and is able to melt into a liquid form. Pewter suffers from low self-esteem (as it is considered one of the least precious metals), but can transform into different forms.
And last but not least, is the only (original) female member of the Platinum group, who is also one of the most powerful members of the team thanks to her high durability and immunity to radiation.
Platinum, who also responds to Tina, was the first metal “man” to appear in Showcase #37, although it was the 1960s she was constantly subjected to the demeaning and casual sexism prevalent at the time (which makes reading uncomfortable today).
Thankfully, that changed somewhat in later, more modern iterations of the team, and there was even another female member at one point – Copper, who unfortunately didn’t stick around for long.
The 2019 reboot of the title Metal Men also introduced the Nth Metal Man, consisting of the psychic alien Nth Metal (the same material used for Hawkman’s mace) who has a different set of powers.
The Metal Men had their fair share of enemies, of course, starting with the “Radioactive Manta Ray Monster” that the team fought when it first appeared (and also revived for the 2019 reboot).
One of his biggest enemies is Platinum Man, a member of the Metal Women team created by Dr. Magnus, when his team members decided they wanted girlfriends (and a boyfriend in Tina’s case). ). Do not ask.
Other foes include Chemo, a highly radioactive chemical being who debuted in Showcase #39 as one of the Metal Men’s new adversaries, and the Gas Gang, a new group of robots developed by Dr. Magnus. and based on the five gases Oxygen, Helium, Chloroform, Carbon Monoxide, and Carbon Dioxide.
There were also the Death Metal Men – future radioactive replicas of the Metal Men (Uranium, Strontium, Thorium, Radium, Lithium, Polonium and Fermium) built by Dr. Magnus’ brother David.
And then there was Z-1, a sentient alien robot missile on the unwanted planet Space Junkyard 9 who felt lonely and while trying to build a woman out of leftovers, inadvertently built an army of replicas of himself, which he called his Missile Men. Z-1 finally decided to kidnap Platinum to make her his wife and sent his Missile Men to capture her.