Metal Men #37 (April-May, 1969)
“To Walk Among Men”
Plot – Len Wein
Script – Denny O’Neil
Penciller – Mike Sekowsky
Inker – George Roussos
The last time we read an issue of Metal Men I wasn’t terribly keen on it… though, that might’ve been more due to Eclipso showing up than anything. I wasn’t planning on covering them again anytime soon… however, after seeing this cover in the bin… I just couldn’t resist. I mean, just look at it! Such a striking image!
Could the inside hope to match up? Let’s find out…
We open with the Metal Men careening toward the city in their space ship (which is apparently out of fuel). Iron is able to weave their way between the skyscrapers before smashing into the ground… well, actually smashing into what looks like a parking lot, or at least it used to be. As they crawl from the wreckage, the Metal Men find themselves surrounded by an angry mob… and police with their firearms drawn.
We get the impression that the Metal Men aren’t exactly the most popular folks around town… and if we’re being honest, they’ve kinda earned their reputation here. I mean, they risked the lives of countless people here because they didn’t realize their ship was out of fuel until it was too late! Anyhoo, the police load the team into the paddy wagon (for their own safety) while the mob yells that they ought to be melted down and scrapped.
Over the next little while, the court of public opinion is in session… and the Metal Men are proclaimed Public Enemy Number One… (two, three, four, five, and six as well). The Mayor is approached by a concerned group of citizens who demand he do something about the Metal Menace. He’s a bit sympathetic to the bots, since Dr. Will Magnus is currently in a coma…
… but even he must admit that something must be done. He decides it would be prudent to actually put the Metal Men on trial… where they are ultimately declared guilty, and sentenced to… immediate destruction?! Da hale?
From here, the Metal Men are loaded into another van… and driven down to the scrapyard. Upon arrival, they watch in horror as a car gets smushed in a compressor… knowing they’re about to share its fate.
Lead decides to go first… and right before his team, he is crushed into a cube!
The rest of the crew reluctantly follows…
The End! Wait, no… we rejoin the Metal Men in a darkened room. Suddenly, a man nearby turns on a light… exposing himself to be Mister Conan… who just so happens to be the same guy who condemned them to their crushed fates!
Conan reveals that he only had them “destroyed” as a means of saving them. He thinks they could be useful to him somewhere down the line, however, the Metal Man “brand” is pretty much shot. Since he owns the junkyard, it was easy for him to gimmick the crusher (don’t think about it too hard…). He introduces a Doctor Peter Pygmalion… and makes the Metal Men an offer to hide their robo-metal visages from the world.
The Metal Men agree, and so… over the next several pages a team of doctors attend to them. Before we know it… bingo-bango, the Metal Men now have secret identities! Just like Superman, Batman, and everybody!
Let’s meet them, shall we? We start with Gold aka. Guy Gilden, a glittering socialite and philanthopist.
Platinum aka. Tina Platt… beautiful model and fashion icon.
Tin and Lead aka. Tinker and Ledby Hand… folk singers?
Mercury aka. a hot-headed artist and sculptor named Mercurio.
And finally, Iron aka. Jon “Iron” Mann superstar engineer. Wow, this Mr. Conan has a knack for setting up some bad-ass secret identities!
Six months pass… and the former Metal Men begin to get bored… and feel as though they’ve gotten soft. Mr. Conan assures them that they’re still needed… and recommends they remain sharp. At that moment, we wrap up at a Park Avenue apartment… where a group of ghouls called The Black Coven convene!
Wow, I had no idea the Metal Men ever went the secret identity route… had a lot of fun with this one!
Let’s chat up all the stuff that happened before the big reveal. The Metal Men are declared menaces… which, c’mon… they kind of are! If there was a group in the real world who negligently crash their ship into a crowded city street, I doubt the city-folk would take kindly to their presence. This wasn’t just a “lost control” situation… this was just an “oops, forgot to get gas!” deal!
Not saying they deserved to be… ya know, put to death or anything… but, maybe… I dunno, suggest they not to fly ships anymore? The angry mob scenes made me think I was reading old X-Men comics… which was pretty neat. The fact that this actually led to a trial was a bit silly… but, whattayagonnado?
Let’s talk about the actual condemning scene. How morbid was that? I mean, they arrive just as a car is being crushed into a cube. It’s easy to dismiss all of this because we’re dealing with machines… but, the fact that they were depicted as being fearful… confused even, really made the scene more powerful than it had any right to be.
We don’t get a feeling of finality… which, is probably for the best. Really not much to dwell on, considering what happens a page later. If this scene were to occur today, I’d expect it to be a gory mess of gears and oil, rather than a sound effect followed by the appearance of a colorful cube.
The new identities were pretty neat to see… and were fun, if you don’t think too much about it. I mean, we’ve got Gold… who just appears outta nowhere as a wealthy socialite and philanthropist. Seems far-fetched, but considering the subject matter… we can allow it.
Worth mentioning… Mike Sekowsky is frickin’ amazing. The art here is fantastic throughout… the Metal Men all look great, in both robo and fleshy forms, and hey… how ’bout that Coven. Those are some freaky looking creeps! Really, just an awesome looking book!
Overall, this was a very interesting wrinkle in the Metal Men mythos… and I’d say it’s worth checking out if you come across it. The cover is spectacular and the story ain’t nothing to shake a stick at either. It doesn’t look like its ever been collected (SHOWCASE Presents: Metal Men, Volume Two unfortunately ends with #36). It also doesn’t appear to be available digitally… so, this’ll be a bin-dive if you’re interested.
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