Hercules Unbound #7, November 1976

“To Slay a Legend”

Cover: Rich Buckler, Wally Wood & Tatjana Wood, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: David Michelinie; Pencilers: Walt Simonson & Wally Wood

Letterer: Milt Snapinn; Colorist: Jerry Serpe

bronze-age

At the shores of Loch Ness, Hercules and friends are greeted by three beautiful women who invite them for a dinner and a peaceful repast. Naturally, Hercules is suspicious, but relents when the others see nothing wrong here.

Surprise! The parties are drugged into unconsciousness! When they awake, they are bound and Kevin is staked at the shores of the loch. The villain is revealed: Casper Zedd – given magical powers by a Cthulhu-esque insectoid who appeared at Loch Ness days after WWIII began.

Zedd was ordered to capture Kevin and imbue the new and weakened god-thing with Kevin’s more-than-mortal power!

Hercules recognizes the god-thingie as Oceanus the Titan! Hercules … unbinds and attacks Zedd, knocking him out and stopping Oceanus’ recharge.

Per Hercules, only Zeus’ lightning can destroy Oceanus. Our heroes decide to use the nearby hydroelectric dam to generate a large enough charge to destroy Oceanus – who felt the destructive power of WWIII and came to investigate the end of the world, but became too weak in transit.

Oceanus attacks the heroes at the dam, and is joined in battle once again with Hercules. Hercules wields the electrical bolts of “lightning” and knocks Oceanus back to his nether realm.

Zedd’s scepter explodes when Oceanus disappears and his followers leave him. He is now as he was before the war – alone.

***

The letter column “Myth Mail” thanks legendary writer David Micheline and legendary artist Walt Simonson for this “fill-in” issue. Gerry Conway, we are told, is gone forever, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez will be back next issue.

Simonson’s art is also hidden by Wood’s dominating pencils and/or inks, but it still makes for a dazzling combination!

And thank you, David, oh thank you for NOT having Nessie pop up anywhere in the story. Oceanus the Titan was enough of a Loch Ness Monster for all of us!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

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Metal Men #52; July, 1977

bronze-age

Cover: Walt Simonson

“Doctor Strangeglove and the Brain Children”

Writer: Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker: Joe Staton

Colorist: Liz Berube

Story editor: Paul Levitz; Managing editor: Joe Orlando

Doc’s friend Johanna, tells the story of Happyland – an amusement park turned into a pre-natal laboratory. Johanna’s sister was killed at the facility when the nuclear reactor powering the plant exploded, also killing her sister’s unborn baby. Yet, lately Johanna has been getting letters from her nephew…

At first, she asked for General Caspar’s help, but she hasn’t heard from him in weeks.

Magnus and the Metal Men split up – Iron, Tina and Doc will find Caspar; the others to Happyland.

Approaching Happyland, Gold, Mercury, Tin and Lead are blasted out of the sky by soldiers guarding the Happyland facility!

Meanwhile, Doc, Tina and Iron discover the General’s notes about Babylab, located at Happyland. They are shot at by guards, but safely escape after knocking them out.

The other Metal Men have also survive their crash and head into Happyland.

Throughout the story we see the shadowy Dr. Strangeglove and his super-intelligent infants. Strangeglove confronts Johanna’s nephew, Dennis. Dennis shoots a mental blast at Strangeglove – who reveals the secret to his name – his right hand (shaped like an old typewriter) emits power blasts of its own! Dennis manages to escape.

Dennis is killed by the mental blasts of the other Brain Children and Johanna and the Metal Men are captured by Strangeglove. The evil doctor and his children watch Magnus, Platinum and Iron fly to Happyland to the rescue.

If they can survive the Helix Ray!!! To be continued!

***

The letter column printed only one missive – and asked the readers for more input! The letter and the answer explained the “tongue-in-cheek” approach to the comic announced in the previous issue.

***

Tongue in cheek? It was deadly serious to me at the time! I enjoyed this run of Metal Men, and now I can see the parody that Marty Pasko wrote into the series. The writing is more than silly and less than serious.

Joe Staton’s art is looking less like Simonson’s and more like his own familiar style. And still Wonderful!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Metal Men #51; May, 1977

 

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

 

Cover: Walt Simonson

“Killing Me Softly With His Scream!”

Writer: Jack C. Harris & Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker: Joe Staton

Colorist: Liz Berube

Story editor: Paul Levitz; Managing editor: Joe Orlando

#50 had new material book-ending the excellent reprint of MM#6. Remember, this is a blog about the Bronze Age – there is no place for even an excellent Silver Age story here!

The new story in #50 (Consisting of only just over two pages) was as follows: Magnus and his robots are ordered to a secret military base wherein lay “Project Automaton”. When they arrive, they are informed the Metal Men are now in the custody of the US Army!

The robots are locked into a chamber while Colonel Craven tries to convince Doc Magnus to use his robot building technique for Project Automaton. An attack on the Metal Men by unknown armed terrorists is foiled by our friends, and one of the unspeaking attackers kills himself during the interrogation.

We meet Vox – a man with a mechanical jaw and voice box whose scream can kill and who is building a cyborg army for America’s enemies. Vox and his cyborg army invade the army base to capture Magnus and the Metal Men. The robots fight off the cyborgs, but Vox manages to make off with Magnus, Iron and Colonel Craven! Vox demands the secret on how the Metal Men can alter their forms – with this knowledge his own cyborgs will be invincible!

Magnus refuses to tell his secret – but Craven tells Vox in exchange for a mechanical heart to replace his pacemaker! Craven tells Vox about the Metal Men’s responsometers, that allows them to change their form. Vox refuses to honor his end of the bargain and his heart gives out in his rage.

The Metal Men trick the Cyboriginals (Vox’s cyborg army) into leading them to where Vox is keeping Magnus and rescues him.

***

The letter pages ranged from complimentary to scathing in their reviews of issue #49, which the editor says is the start of their new “tongue in cheek” version of the Metal Men. Did I read the same issue? That was part two of the Eclipso story … tongue in cheek? Wha…?

***

I suppose this issue shows the “tongue in cheek” direction of Metal Men. A strange villain, true, but not in the goofy mode of, say, Plastic Man.

The eclectic story is magnified by the dual writers. The prior issue said Harris came in to help with Pasko’s plot.

The artwork is fine and solid – a good description of the style of Joe Staton. His fluid style complements strange plottings of the story in addition to the Metal Men themselves. Staton captures their powers and abilities cleanly and clearly. By this time, he has already become the Bronze Age artist for all things Earth-2 and will shortly become THE Green Lantern artist. He is currently doing his usual thorough workman-like job for the Dick Tracy comic strip.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Metal Men #49. January 1977

 

BEHOLD!

bronze-age

“The Dark God Cometh”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor: Joe Orlando, Story Editor: Paul Levitz

Writer: Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker/Plotter: Walt Simonson

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Ben Oda

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

The god Umbra increases Eclipso’s power and he unleashes it on the Metal Men, turning Lead to molten slag! Eclipso captures Mona, but Gold and Iron mold Lead into a magnifying glass and aims him at Eclipso. The bright intense light changes Eclipso back into Bruce Gordon.

We learn that ancient aliens landed in Peru and were considered gods by the prehistoric natives before being banished by white magic. Generation after generation of witch doctors kept the alien cult alive until the last servant/priest Mophir died battling Bruce Gordon. Mophir scratched Gordon with the Black Diamond – a segment of the jewel in Umbra’s forehead – used in their Umbra worship, turning him into the Umbra’s new servant, Eclipso.

Back in the cave where Gordon first fought Mophir, the Metal Men find another parchment, this one a Spanish translation of the Incan scrolls. Magnus reads what he cans, reviving Umbra who attacks!

Umbra sends death bolts to kill off the human companions – bolts that criss cross to get to their intended targets and … eclipse each other. Gordon changes to Eclipso who joins the Metal Men in battling Umbra. Magnus orders the Metal Men into specific configurations to create a giant laser beam emitter to focus Eclipso’s Black Diamond beam into Umbra’s forhead jewel and shatters it. Umbra explodes and sloughs back into the ocean.

The bright light from the explosions turns Eclipso back into Bruce Gordon. Doc Magnus uses the parchment to recreate Umbra’s undersea prison and, with the Metal Men’s help, trap Umbra again.

***

The letter column explains that Gerry Conway has moved back to Marvel with most of his books going to Joe Orlando and a series of assistant editors. The letters were positive with suggestions of guest heroes and villains.

***

Walt Simonson’s dark and gritty style was perfect for Umbra and his brethren – Cthulhu-esque kaiju but of mezzo-American design. Pasko did a fantastic job finishing this semi-revival of Eclipso.

The comics really is getting better and better! This is Simonson’s last issue as the series artist …

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Metal Men #48. November 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

“Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing All Those Terrible Things to Himself?”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor/Plotter: Gerry Conway

Writer: Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker/Plotter: Walt Simonson

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Gaspar Saladino

Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C Harris

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

Doc Magnus and the Metal Men meet Mona Bennett, Bruce Gordon’s fiancé. She needs their help: Bruce Gordon is really the evil Eclipso! He was scratched by a black diamond and anytime he is in the presense of any sclipsed sphere of light he turns into the evil spirit! While trying to destroy his alter-ego, Bruce accidentally releases him instead!

Eclipso finds a letter from Gordon’s father saying the data he seeks can be found in a library in West Germany. Mona tells the Metal Men the “data” is ancient Incan parchment saved from destruction by a Spanish monk. The Metal Men fly to the German library to find Eclipso already there! Eclipse fights off the Metal Men and leaves with the parchment.

A dying librarian points to a Peruvian map. The Metal Men deduce this must be where Eclipso is headed and they go back across the Atlantic.

The apparently beat Eclipso to an ancient abandoned Peruvian city, but not by much… Before they can make a plan Eclipso attacks!

Tin counters with the bright light of a welding torch. Eclipso screams and turns back into Bruce Gordon.

Another clue leads our heroes to Diablo Island – where Gordon first became Eclipso. They find Mophir’s cave (Mophir was the sun-god priest who fought Bruce causing his black diamond scratch …). They find an ancient tablet.

Unfortunately, retrieving the hovercraft causes an “eclipse” as it flies past the sun releasing Eclipso! He snatches the tablet and heads to a cliff overlooking the sea. Before the Metal Men can stop him, Eclipso reads from the tablet and releases the ancient god Umbra from his undersea prison!

***

The letter column explains that Gerry Conway has moved on, leaving Walt Simonson and Martin Pasko to finish the story and printed two positive letters.

***

One writer praised Simonson’s art and said it was an unusual style for the Metal Men. I agree. Although his usual excellent workman-like effort fits Eclipso and this grittier-style of story (it would not work with a lighter style of story). He captures the possibility of a grim apocalypse!

Gerry Conway (with help from Martin Pasko) advance the story of one of DC’s most interesting characters in Eclipso – he makes an unusual villain for the Metal Men which makes the story interesting and exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens next issue! Can you?

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Metal Men #47

Behold!

bronze-age

Metal Men #47. September 1976

“The ‘X’ Effect”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor: Gerry Conway

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler/Inker: Walt Simonson

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Gaspar Saladino

Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C Harris

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

A cadmium robot attacks McMurdo Sound (Antarctica) Army Base but then suddenly disappears! For the next six days the base is attacked by a robot representing a different element:  tungsten, barium and chromium and others.

Searching for the robots, the army finds the Metal Men wandering the polar wilderness, looking for Doc Magnus. The army attacks, thinking the Metal Men to be among the culprits! The army blast the robots’ de-freezing devices on their arms and capture the frozen (or in Mercury’s case, shattered) bodies.

HQ contacts the base and prevents the Metal Men’s destruction. The soldiers thaw out the robots who tell the military why they are in the Antarctic: last issue, Chemo hurled the safe containing Doc’s ten-million-dollar-ransom money into space. Doc’s computer calculated the safe landed somewhere in Antarctica.

As their hovercraft approached McMurdo Sound, the Metal Men and Doc Magnus were shot down and attacked by a giant Liquid Oxygen robot – destroying Tin and kidnapping Magnus! The Metal Men went in pursuit but were captured by the army.

Meanwhile, Doc Magnus confronts his kidnapper – it is Plutonium Man disguised as Doc Magnus! The evil robot explains how he came back to life after his previous battle with the Metal Men – he was able to split himself in two, causing his physical bodies to be below critical mass and reform. One robot retained Plutonium Man’s abilities, the other a drone who could change into any elemental robot. The robot harassed the army base, ensuring the soldiers would blame and attack the Metal Men when they were found!

Because of its rising radiation due to his hatred of Magnus, Plutonium Man unintentionally destroys the cash in the safe!  The Metal Men and the army burst into PM’s hideout and attack! PM turns his drone into Liquid Helium who immediately freezes the soldiers and destroys Platinum. Plutonium Man destroys Lead, as Doc realizes that PM is headed for a chain reaction.

Lead covers the drone and melts it into slag – destroying it in much the same way Platinum destroyed PM back in issue 45. Gold flings Plutonium Man into a glacial fissure that seals itself shut due to PM’s excessive heat. It causes a massive earthquake, crushing the evil robot.

***

The letter column contains the mini-soapbox found in all of Conway’s Corner comics in summer/fall of 1976 asking for ideas and suggestions (how I longed for a team-up between Kobra and Kamandi!).

The letters on the Metal Men revival were very positive!

***

Hmm, was this a fill-in issue? It filled some of the holes left from the story arc from its final first-run issues. The only thing left was Magnus’ money.

I love the work of Gerry Conway. I do. In this storyline of the Metal Men conflict and eventual rapprochement with the army was excellent; but the Plutonium Man portion was … not. The science was silly and baseless. Oh, I know these are comic books and not a JPL thesis, but Gerry is better than this. PM’s return and his ability to control his drone isn’t even Star Trek-ish mumbo jumbo. Gerry doesn’t just make up science and hope we don’t giggle or roll our eyes.

I love the work of Walt Simonson. I do. Both he and Gerry Conway would be on the first inductees in any Comic Book Hall of Fame – on the first ballot (well, maybe behind Kirby and Kubert, but I think even THEY would agree with that…). But the art here was rough – even for Simonson’s gritty style.  Was this a rushed fill-in issue? Should I ever meet either artist, I … well, I wouldn’t waste my time discussing THIS issue, I would be gushing about the exemplary work they have done elsewhere…

Even Babe Ruth struck out a few times…

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

The Bronze Age: Metal Men 46

Behold!

Bronze age

Metal Men #46. July 1976

“The Chemo Conspiracy”

Cover: Dick Giordano; Editor: Gerry Conway

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Walt Simonson; Colorist: Carl Gafford

The rebuilt Metal Men try to find Doc Magnus’ cash store received when Magnus blackmailed the world in his evil phase, but the hiding place was empty. Magnus eventually joins the search and finds a chemical trail leading away from the hiding place. The trail leads to the home of the two keepers of the vault who once worked for Magnus and the vault’s guard – Chemo!

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, someone claiming to be Doc Magnus destroys a mugger …

The Metal Men attach Chemo! They drill through his ankle to drain the monster of his chemical innerds and then smash his glass exterior. Gold, Lead and Mercury give their artificial lives to achieve their victory.

***

There are still a few loose ends to clean up in the Metal Men’s strange late-silver-age continuity. Gerry mops it up while re-introducing one of the MM’s popular villains. Add that it is defeated simply by draining it and smashing its glass container. Except for the environmental disaster that would result, it seems a pretty simple way to get rid of it!

Metal Men was probably not the best-selling comic in DC’s stable. Would it not have benefitted a little by being one of the “DC Salutes the Bicentennial” comics – in which one stripped off the special cigar-band logo to win a precious Superman belt buckle?  Well, it couldn’t have hurt anyway …

Once again the art and story fit perfectly with the mood of the book. The Metal Men are still finding their way in this revived continuity – they are no longer hunted and Doc is on their side, a complete reversal from prior issues. And their personalities are coming back: Lead is slow, Mercury is argumentative, Gold is the leader and Iron his (near) invincible back-up. Tin is meek and Platinum is hot.  The fun of the comic continues!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!