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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Trample! Raze! Annihilate!

If you've been following the ISB over the past week, you've probably realized that ever since the release of their first Archive collection last week, I've become more than a little obsessed with The Metal Men. And considering that my last post on DC's chrome-plated crimebusters covered the final three issues collected in that volume, it was a reasonable assumption that I'd gotten it all out of my system.

Reasonable, yes. But completely untrue.

Because today, I picked up 1976's Metal Men #45-49, a run that reads like a rapid-fire tribute to Bob Kanigher, scripted by an all-star lineup of Swingin' Steve Gerber, Merry Gerry Conway and Mad Marty Pasko, with pencils by this guy you might've heard of: Walt Simonson.

He's not on the book long--according to the new Modern Masters that hit stores today, he was doing Manhunter with Archie Goodwin, and running through three writers in the span of five issues was a little much to deal with, but still: Walt Simonson. And I think it's safe to say...

...that's pretty awesome.

The above image, by the way, comes from the first issue of the run (which, considering it came out three years after #44, was an all-new start for the ISB's favorite robots), a story that sees Will Magnus--having been brainwashed into insanity and left in an asylum where he barely controls his genocidal urges and plots daily to destroy his former creations--being duped by a spy into creating THE PLUTONIUM MAN, an atomic powered robot that absorbs its creator's appetite for destruction!

The Metal Men, of course, sacrifice their own lives to stop him (as should be expected by now) and the shock of seeing it brings Doc back to his senses, but man: That's a good way to kick off some comics.

But it's not as good as how the whole thing ends.

After battling Chemo in the canals of Venice and fighting a mad robot with Doc Magnus's personality (and pipe) at the South Pole, it all comes down to a story with what might be the greatest title in comics history:

"Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing These Terrible Things To Himself?!

Now that's a title that tells the reader: "Hey, why don't you figure out who this guy is and what his motivation's going to be. I'll be over here with all the explosions."

Bruce Gordon is, of course, Eclipso, and while I have no idea why he's up to his crazy shenanigans, I'll do my best to hit the high points for you, but be warned: It is mind-shattering.

Traveling to Diablo Island, Eclipso uses a flying saucer to create an artificial solar eclipse, which in turn allows him to summon Umbra, the Dead God of Oblivion From The Depths of Outer Spaaaace. And this is what's commonly referred to as "a bad thing."

Got all that? Yeah, me either. But don't worry, all you really need to know is how Doc Magnus plans to stop him:


I am freaking out so hard right now.

BONUS FEATURE: The Awesome Sound Effects of Walt Simonson's Metal Men

And of course...

I Swear That's The Last Metal Men Post! But If You Still Want More...

| It Lives! It Walks! It Gurgles! |
| The Crank File: Metal Men #3-5 |


Anonymous DF said...

The Metal Men seem to operate on so many planes of flawed logic that it tends to just confuse me.

But then I see them forming into a giant laser cannon and I stop caring about if it makes sense or not.

Laser beams make everything better.

7/20/2006 3:24 AM

Anonymous James Holloway said...

I cannot decide if "Trample-Raze-Annihilate" is the greatest thing ever, or if it's "Shoo-Bop-Barraoom." In a completely unironic way, the work of genius.

7/20/2006 5:04 AM

Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

I bought the second Metal Men series when it first came out and it instantly became one of my favorites.

In fact, Eclipso's appearance in the strip is still definitive in my estimation. God of Vengeance my butt ...

7/20/2006 5:49 AM

Anonymous jayunderscorezero said...

My mind was blown by the time I got to 'Pizwang'.

When I got to 'Snap, Crackle, Pop', I could have died.

7/20/2006 5:51 AM

Blogger jonni said...

That's like, ten plus levels beyond the realm of awesome!

heh, pizwang - yep, you can't beat a good pizwang in the morning!

7/20/2006 7:14 AM

Blogger googum said...

I do kinda like the Metal Men, but they were more formulaic than making Kool-Aid, which is too bad. Rebuilt after sacrificing themselves, Chemo attacks, sacrifice themselves to stop him, stir, repeat.

If the Metal Men had had even one more decent regular villain, that book could've been unstoppable: adding Eclipso seems like a step in the right direction, but then is that Chemo in the same story?

Of course, I could just be grumpy because I think those Simonson issues are at home (in the Art of Walt Simonson trade) and I wanna read them now for snap-krackle-pop.

7/20/2006 9:49 AM

Anonymous R.Nav said...

The ISB Terry Avisory alert system failed me, man. I wasn't ready.

7/20/2006 11:03 AM

Anonymous Mark said...

...and 30 years drop away like fallen leaves. If you think it's awesome now, try reading it when you're 10.
As few other things, going from memory:
--Umbra is a member in fine standing of the Cthulhu pantheon. Good to have friends.
--Doc Magnus threatens to beat up Eclipso, mano a mano. Yeah, Eclispo's been de-powered, but _still_....
--TRAMPLE-RAZE-ANNIHILATE is heady stuff when you're 10. I can still see Doc Magus ripping up the cute little story cards of the Metal Men and being hauled off in a straitjacket--and it;s been 30 years.

7/20/2006 1:00 PM

Blogger C. Elam said...

Boy, this brings back the memories. METAL MEN #48 was the comic that started me on the path of a lifetime of comic book nerdiness. I love it so much.

In the ISB tradition of higher learning, I'd like to mention that #48's wacky title is, in fact, a movie reference. Which doesn't make it any less wacky, I know.

7/20/2006 2:11 PM

Anonymous Chawunky said...

You know, many writers would be satisfied with just depicting a laser made of robots shooting an evil space god...but some realize there's room for more to really, peg it--such as, say, having the scientist behind it all say "TA-DA!" as it fires.

7/20/2006 2:21 PM

Blogger RAB said...

I can't fault anyone for praising Walt Simonson's work on these issues...but for me, issue #45 was all about an astonishingly good script from Steve Gerber that managed to stay true to the frivolity of the original series while simultaneously investing it with more genuine emotional content. I've reread that one issue over and over again throughout the years, just trying to grasp all the great stuff both Gerber and Simonson brought to it. By comparison, the Conway and Pasko issues are more pedestrian...but the storytelling of Simonson makes them pretty damn entertaining all the same.

As for this series being a tribute to Kanigher...well, maybe. Gerber has deflected praise for his issue because Kanigher was upset at someone else doing the book without his permission or prior knowledge, something Gerber now deeply regrets because of his own experiences with creator rights versus corporate property. And Pasko has been known to say some downright unflattering things about Kanigher; in his case it may not have been so much a case of wanting to pay tribute as simply having an assignment in front of him and trying to make the best of it.

I know for a fact that a decade later, Kanigher was trying to pitch his own Metal Men revival to DC and no one at the company was interested, and he wasn't too happy about that either. There may be a bit of poetic justice in that, Kanigher having been "Mr. Company Man" for all those years, refusing to stand with Arnold Drake and the other writers who sought a share in their own success for DC, and sticking with the company even when they were all effectively blacklisted. Hoist by his own responsometer, you might say...

7/20/2006 6:08 PM

Anonymous beccarii said...

Thank you, thank you for posting the Metal Men items. This was probably my favorite comic series when it was running (as Mark said, "...try reading it when you're 10"). It's astounding all over aqain, from a surreal perspective. I'm now a chemist, with this being a significant early influence (along with Scientific American and Science News...).

7/20/2006 9:39 PM

Blogger Kevin Church said...

There's a super-sweet The Art Of Walt Simonson trade paperback from the 80s that you should find. Dr. Fate, dude. Dr. Fate.

7/21/2006 12:45 PM

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