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I Love Ya But You’re Strange – Watch The Metal Men Answer Their Critics

Every week, I will spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books). Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have a suggestion for a future installment!

Today, based on a suggestion from Fraser, we look at an issue of Metal Men where the cast decides to addresses reader complaints that they were fighting too many robot bad guys by specifically seeking out non-robot bad guys!

Now 1966’s Metal Men #21 was certainly not the first comic book where the characters specifically addressed fan complaints. It was roughly four years after Stan Lee did as much in the classic Fantastic Four #11 (read about the legendary “Lincoln’s Mother Defense” here). And heck, Robert Kanigher had already done his issue of Wonder Woman where he fires the supporting cast of the book (you can check that one out here).

Still, when Metal Men #21 came out in 1966, I don’t think many folks were expecting the following…

So will the Metal Men finally net themselves a human villain?

Not so fast (pun not intended)!!

They get the same results in all of the other superhero cities they head to (a joke about the Batman TV series is coming!)…

I absolutely adore the whole “What are we going to tell Irene?” bit.

Luckily, they come across a human bad guy! Only he also has PLASTIC minions!!!

I love the idea that robot bad guys are too repetitive, but robots that are made out of plastic are totally original?

The Metal Men eventually save the day (as you would imagine)…

And they learn that Doc Magnus (who has seemingly been making out all day long) is not who they think he is…

I love the idea of creating a cardboard cutout of himself making out with some lady.

Anyhow, that is certainly one strange comic book. Thanks for the suggestion, Fraser! If YOU have a suggestion, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

28 Comments

One of the Metal Men’s lesser known weaknesses was the inability to tell the difference between cardboard and flesh.

And the craziest thing about it, Robert, is that they encounter the cutout a few times during the issue!

I’m surprised they didn’t tell Irene to wash her mouth out with soap.

I’m sure someone will mention it, but that’s future Marvel employee Irene Vartanoff (one of her jobs included inventory of all the artwork in the warehouse) during her prolific letter-writing days.

What a great “fuck-you” to overcritical readers. The sarcasm displayed here is legendary.

I should know this, seeing as how I write about Wonder Woman every week, but I really do not understand why Paula von Gunther was called “von Gunta” in the Silver Age. It seems deliberate, but for the live of me I can’t fathom why.

Think of the material from letters that DC could get if they still had letters columns!

Just wondering, did the Metal Men ever end up facing villains that were not robots? I’m not to familiar with the Silver and Golden ages, but books like this are tons of fun. I can see why the Metal Men are remembered with such fondness.

@Mageturtle, some of my favourite non-metallic Metal Men villains were the Brain Children of Seventies – well worth seeking out.

@buttler I wonder if Robert Kanigher thought readers who hadn’t grown up during the Big One wouldn’t know how to pronounce such a very German name. Then again, it’s not like there weren’t plenty of folk from Europe living in the US.

Anyway, cheers Brian, what a stonkingly odd, fun story – not so much Metal as Meta Men.

Their first foe was a giant, radioactive flying manta ray. Third foe was Chemo, a vat of chemicals that walks like a man. But overwhelmingly yes, it was robots by that point in the series–in fact unless you count mad scientists there never really was a time their foes weren’t mostly metal, no matter what Irene says.
As a kid science nerd, I found this great fun for learning about plastic.

Trivia fact: Irene Vartanoff is now also known as the wife of “Scintillating” Scott Edelman.

Kanigher did this kind of stuff a lot. I remember an Elongated Man story where he interrupted the story to directly address the reader. And I recall Brian once profiled a Sea Devils story where he sent several DC artists to make sketches of the scuba heroes in action.

“Hey, Irene. Gold here. Listen, we’re trying to best we can to entertain you AND fight bad guys. AND I have to hear all the friggin’ creaking anytime Tin and his ‘g-g-g-girlfriend’ get freaky. If we get another nitpicking letter from you, I will personally fly to Bethesda, Maryland, and I will shove Lead in a VERY uncomfortable place. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta make cardboard cutouts of Doc getting second base action.”

I would love to see the Metal Men fight the robot monster from Robot Monster.

And of course, Ross Andru draws the classic George Barris TV Batmobile, just minus the orange piping on the edges.

It’s a shame “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” isn’t on anymore. They could’ve easily turned this into an episode.

Ahh, one of the books from my silver age collection! Remember it well, now need not pull it out!

For some reason, the funniest thing to me is the thought of Wonder Woman, the badass Amazon warrior, sitting on the veranda with her boyfriend, sipping a soda…

Gotta love the Silver Age…

@Lot49 yeah, but how cool is she, calming doing the bullets and bracelets thing while sipping merrily. And it shows that ice cream is nothing new to Diana.

I never thought of joining a motorcycle gang until I saw the far-out costumes of these boss guys! Ginchy!

interesting that not only way back then did even the metal men break the fourth wall by reading fan letters but doc had to resort to a carboard standee to keep them out of his hair.

It wasn’t even the first fourth wall they broke. They regularly solicited letters from readers on what name Nameless should get, and at the end of their original Showcase run, they reminded readers it was up to them whether the team had further adventures.

@Martin Gray- Thanks!

I’ve heard of Chemo, but wasn’t sure if it counted as a robot. I always liked the imagery. The Metal Men episode from Batman Brave and the Bold was a favorite of mine- I didn’t know Chemo was one of their villains.

Giant radioactive manta rays? That is glorious. Brain Children sounds wonderfully 70s. Makes me wonder about some of the stuff I’ve been reading and where the fun went… and I’ve only been at this hobby for a short time!

The Metal Men were a wonderfully fun book. The Doc/Tina relationship is also interesting–reading them in the Showcase collection it’s quite obvious he has more feelings for her than he admits to.
Yes, the Brain Children were fun too. Martin Pasko’s 1970s work on the book was generally good. And of course, Walt Simonson’s art.
The Metal Men’s B&B TV appearance was interesting for giving the post-Crisis human-minds-in-metal-bodies origin to the Gas Gang.

Another example of Kanigher sort-of breaking the fourth wall was having DC artists show up in Sea Devils for two or three issues to capture their exploits–while the magazine encouraged readers to write in and vote on which artist did best.

Despite which they wound up with an artist on the next few issues who wasn’t any of the candidates.

Irene Vartanoff

April 2, 2013 at 5:46 am

It was a thrill to see our comments in print in the middle of a comic book. Of course as fans we wanted the impossible of the creators. Robert Kanigher liked to laugh at us, but most of his laughter was kindly.

It’s Irene Vartanoff – legend! Hi :)

Go on and tell me Prof. Bravo isn’t the prototype for Mercury.

Try to imagine what the Metal Men would be like today if they truly carried on in the same spirit as the original, fighting quasi-lifeforms as people on the sidelines exposited various odd facts about artificial intelligence, superconductors, Turing tests, and the uncanny valley. All while perpetuating the myth that a “genius inventor” would have the social skills or personal hygiene to score leggy brunettes.

Say, wasn’t that cardboard woman eventually resurrected as a foe in a later issue?

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