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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 197

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Ramona Fradon and Bob Haney’s short run on Metamorpho…

Enjoy!

Haney and Fradon created Metamorpho in the pages of Brave and the Bold #57 (he returned the next issue, as well). The character was popular enough to warrant his own bi-monthly series that ended up lasting for 17 issues. Fradon, though, only drew the first four issues.

But boy, what great issues they were!!

Haney and Fradon’s Metamorpho was, in a lot of ways, a throwback to the classic Jack Cole Plastic Man stories of the 1940s – creative and quirky explorations of what a hero can do when he can do all sorts of wacky stuff with his body.

Here’s a snippet from the first issue…

See how Fradon just has an absolute blast with the creativity inherent in someone with powers like Metamorpho? No wonder such a minor character has managed to stick around on the fringes of the DC Universe for so many years!

The supporting cast in the comic is strong, as well. You have the rich guy, Simon Stagg, who is Rex’s benefactor, but also likely his exploiter. You have Sapphire Stagg, Simon’s daughter, who loves Rex, but isn’t the most faithful of girlfriends, and you have Java, a caveman that Simon Stagg de-frosted to become his right-hand man – Java naturally wants Sapphire for himself and hates Rex. With a cast like that, all SORTS of plots are available to you! Haney did such a good job coming up with an interesting cast for the book.

The book isn’t JUST whimsy – the whimsical stuff also mixes with action, like this sequence from issue #2…

In issue #3, Fradon shows the especially weird side of Metamorpho when he gets chopped into pieces!!!

You don’t get much stranger than that, superhero-style.

In the final issue, Sapphire falls for a fellow from Latin America, but he’s up to no good, so Stagg, Rex and Java need to rescue her – it’s quite a romp….

The book really did not get a LOT worse when Fradon left, as she was followed by another great artist, the late, great Joe Orlando (and Charles Paris inked both artists, to give a sense of continuity), but still, the Fradon issues stick out as the best of the bunch. Luckily, DC collected all of this run into their Showcase edition of Metamorpho. It’s in black and white, but it’s still awesome! Go get a copy!

11 Comments

The Haney/Fradon Metamorpho is spectacular. Fradon is one of the great cartoonists of all time.

From the way Metamorpho used his powers in the old days, it’s no wonder that sometimes DC would pair him up with the Metal Men, sometimes with Plastic Man.

I read this series in the Showcase format and I loved it. I loved the creativity and the energy. The series was just a lot of fun!

What’s with Metamorpho’s fondness for magnesium? Wouldn’t iron be a better choice in most cases?

Ha! I meant to make a comment about that, too, Rob. I think Haney just thought Magnesium was awesome, sort of like how Stan Lee thought transistors were amazing.

I need too many comics.

I guess magnesium sounds cool–like it’s magnetic or magnificent or something.

Clearly a lot of the “fun” for Haney was playing “name the obscure element.” In most cases Metamorpho could’ve managed by turning into iron for a solid and oxygen or nitrogen for a gas.

With his abilities, Metamorpho should be one of the most powerful heroes in the DC universe. Kind of a combination of Element Lad, Chameleon Boy, and the Metal Men. I mean, he turns into an untouchable gas and floods someone’s lungs until they pass out. How does a Wonder Woman or even a Mongul defend against that?

But has anyone ever portrayed Metamorpho that way? Not that I recall. He’s mostly portrayed as a comic hero a la Plastic Man, Elongated Man, or Elastic Lad, which isn’t especially interesting. Other characters already have that territory covered.

Metamorpho’s powers would be more interesting if he could use each element only once every 24 hours or whatever. That would force his writers to use the periodic table more cleverly.

But has anyone ever portrayed Metamorpho that way?

When he was in the JLI, they regularly had him as one of the most powerful members of the team (to wit, when the teams would merge forces, bringing the most powerful members of both teams – something they did in the Quarterly books a number of times, Metamorpho would always get the nod).

Charles Paris’ inks merged beautifully with Fradon’s pencils.
He gave the same energy to the Golden Age Batman especially the Dick Sprang. Look at his early work on the Batman and Robin daily strip and compare to the Metamorpho showcase, you’ll see the continuity.

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