I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
One of the things I most regret about my youthful comic book reading is my defensive aversion to any material that I found to be too silly. I switched from devotion to the varied exploits of the likes of Richie Rich to superhero comics because I felt it was a necessary step in the process of growing up, so I tended towards slightly more serious material in that decidedly unserious genre. The problem with this is that I often rejected the most creative work that was out there, just because it wasn’t heavy with the seriousness of, say, Frank Miller’s Daredevil.
To be fair, it’s not as if the Robert Kanigher-written Metal Men had fresh issues on the stand when I was actively collecting superhero fare. There was a short-lived revival in the nineteen-seventies, but the bulk of the Metal Men series ran one decade earlier, before I was even born. Still, when I was seeking out old stories to read, either in back issues or the rare-for-the-time collections, stuff like this made me turn up my little nose. How wrong I was. These comics are blissfully bonkers, and highly entertaining because of their freewheeling creativity. Take one of the most striking issues, featuring a story with the absolutely irresistible title “Birthday Cake for a Cannibal Robot!”
Blessed with zippy art by Ross Andru, the comic wastes no time establishing its goofy bona fides, opening with the robotic heroes of the title whiling away the evening watching the exciting new series Batman.
Sock! Thud! That’s about right for the show.
Furthering the craziness, the villain for the issue is Dr. Yes, the robotic twin to the Wonder Woman villain Egg Fu, a giant egg with an offensive Chinese accent and a evil inclination to inflict communism on the ever-fragile United States. Dr. Yes has dispatched his own giant robot to terrorize the city, sending the Metal Men into action. Naturally, they defeat the clanking terror by having Tin transform into a giant vacuum cleaner to sweep him up.
This was exactly what Dr. Yes hoped would happen. Once the robot is taken back to the massive lab of Doc Magnus, the inventor of the pliable Metal Men, he springs back into operation, swallowing the inventor and planning to do the same with our heroes, but not before reshaping them to be candles on a giant birthday cake. You know, totally normal stuff.
This is just one part of Dr. Yes’s evil plan. What he really wants to do is brainwash Doc Magnus and his periodic table charges to turn against their country, helping to spread his nefarious love of vile communism. He simply didn’t count on the patriot willpower of Doc and the Metal Men.
So much has already happened in this issue by this point, and it’s still only about two-thirds of the way done. Eventually the giant robot begins another attack, leading to the Metal Men to effectively sacrifice themselves, shredding into metallic shards to bombard the titan, bringing him down.
The humans they’ve saved line up with collected pieces of the Metal Men to turn them over to Doc, explaining they’re sure he can do the seeming impossible and put them back together ahead. Sure enough, he can. Everything’s back to normal about a page later.
The is exactly the sort of DC Comics lunacy that Marvel was bucking against with their angst (but still pretty goofy) comic sagas in the sixties, and I was an adherent to the publisher’s supposedly more mature style. I was always quick to dismiss old DC stuff, sure that Stan Lee and his compatriots were right to express their creative disdain for it by crafting stories that were the total opposite. My assessment was tragically short-sighted. I remain thrilled by the Marvel material of the time, but there was clearly room for both approaches, especially when its as giddy and grand as what Kanigher and Andru came up with.
Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
“Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin
Fantastic Four Roast by Fred Hembeck and friends
The Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Marvel Two-in-One #7 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
The New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
Dark Horse Presents
Bizarre Adventures #27
Marvel Team-Up #48 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema