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DC Comics' "metal marvels".
Specifically, the Metal Men are a team of six (later seven) robots created by Dr. Will Magnus, whose powers and personalities are based off their namesake metals: Gold, Mercury, Iron, Lead, Tin, and Platinum (aka Tina.) In the original series, Tin's girlfriend Nameless -made from a do-it-yourself-kit- was later added.
The team was originally created in 1962 by writer Robert Kanigher, artist Ross Andru, and inker Mike Esposito to fill a last minute vacancy at DC's anthology series Showcase, and because they weren't intended to last past the issue, the robot team was destroyed at the end. However the team proved popular enough to return in the following issues, with their distinguishing feature firmly established: they would willingly throw themselves at any threat and even risk being destroyed because they knew Doc would always gather up their responsometers (microscopic computer brains) and rebuild them.
In their first story, it was established that eccentric genius Will Magnus had invented the responsometer, and used it to create a shape-shifting robot in the form of a woman- Platinum. However due to the unforseen effect of sunspot activity, Platinum somehow developed a human personality- that of a vain girl with a crush on Magnus (a platinum blonde, get it?) Then the US Army asked Magnus to create more robots so they could help stop a giant flying monster that was terrorizing the world. He agreed, and like Platinum, the rest of the Metal Men developed human emotions he didn't intend them to have.
The Metal Men became something of a fan favorite, although they had sporadic success in their own title. Over the course of their series, they faced a number and variety of enemies, including recurring foes such as the Missile Men and the walking chemical vat called Chemo. Keeping with the chemistry theme, some issues even included 'fun factoids'. The original series eventually came to its end in 1978 after 56 issues.
Both during and after the series, there were frequent team ups with other DC heroes, including Batman and The Atom, and occasional appearances in other series. They wouldn't get their own series again until the 1993 miniseries that rewrote their origin so that their personalities originally came from humans. This and other changes were greatly disliked. Thankfully, the miniseries Fifty Two easily fixed this while focusing on Doc Magnus, who would eventually rebuild his Metal Men.
Their next series was the 2007 eight-issue miniseries that told a new origin of the metal marvels with the addition of a new member, the female Copper. In 2009, they were featured in the new Doom Patrol series as a second feature.
Recently, the Metal Men have become recurring characters in the Batman the Brave And The Bold cartoon, and are considered one of the most powerful and useful teams in that series' universe.
- Instant AI, Just Add Water: In the original series, while Doc was deliberately trying to make sentient robots, the fact that he succeeded so well with these six was a bit of a fluke that he was not readily able to pull off again. This was originally attibutted to sunspots, but that has since been forgotten.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The responsometers, the device that is the source of the powers and personalities. Can be seen as early Nanotechnology.
- In addition, a retcon by John Byrne in the late 80's established that the Metal Men are actually made of a secret polymer (read: plastic) that can be rearranged in form and characteristics by their responsometers. This was likely done to explain the logical discrepances that their being actually made of the indicated metals would entail (eg. Mercury would be highly toxic, Platinum would be more costly than all the gold in America, etc.)
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: Various giant humanoid shaped robots, animal robots, insects, and even moon microbes.
- Back for the Dead: Nameless. After disappearing from the series without a mention in issue 33, it wasn't until The Brave and the Bold #187 that the mystery was solved. During an upgrade of her body to be more humanoid like the Metal Women, Nameless was damaged and ran off, leaving Doc to believe he'd destroyed her. The upgrade he gave the Metal Men was partly to erase their memory of her. Once reunited, Nameless and Tin became married and the issue ended with her sacrificing herself to save the others from an explosion.
- Bash Brothers: When executed well, this is how the Metal Men fight as a unit. When done badly you tend to get bombarded by a long-winded explanation.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Happens occasionally with the Metal Men, and a couple of times to Doc. A more sustained version occurred when Doc was kidnapped by a foreign dictator, brainwashed, and then began threatening nations as an evil Mad Scientist; he eventually got better.
- Catch Phrase: Mercury's "I'm the only metal that's liquid at room temperature!" (In one story Platinum mutters in response "You always forget about caesium, don't you?")
- Character Development: Doc Magnus in the '07 mini-series. You really feel for the guy.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Believe it or not, Magnus' experiments were originally designed to "merely" aid mankind in ease of construction ("Imagine a bridge rising out of the ground, simply because we asked it to.") and other fields. While money was never the primary reason for his research, Magnus did intend to profit from his breakthroughs. But after the creation of the Responsometer things get a tad more hectic...
- Darker and Edgier: Arguably what they tried to do beginning in issue 33. During an upgrade of the Metal Men's responsometers, Doc is injured and in a coma. The upgrade makes the teams powers harder to control, the public turns against them, and the team becomes wanted fugitives. A good bit of the humor is gone, as is Nameless. The series is even called "The New Hunted Metal Men." Later issues have the robots disguised as humans, and Doc kidnapped and brainwashed, threatening nations.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mercury.
- Determinator: Being blasted into their component parts amounts to little more than a setback to the Metal Men, most of the time.
- One instance in their '07 mini-series saw stone golems smash them to pieces. We assume they're dead, until Mercury, Lead, Iron and Platina arrive on the scene as one great, big composite Metal Man.
- Distaff Counterpart / Spear Counterpart: The Metal Women (Gold Girl, Iron Girl, Mercury Girl, and Lead Girl) and Platinum Man were created by request by Doc as potential mates for the team. They did not get along and they were destroyed at the end of the issue. Platinum Man turned out to survive and appeared as a foe in The Brave and the Bold #187. Nameless counts as Tin's counterpart, but he created her well before the others were created.
- Dumb Muscle: Lead is as thick as a pyramid and twice as tough.
- Fastball Special: The team occasionally employs this tactic.
- Five-Man Band:
- Fusion Dance: The Metal Men have merged into larger pieces of machinery on occasion, most notably into the giant robot Alloy featured in the Kingdom Come miniseries.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Gold and Lead in the '07 series. Fortunately, they're saved. By the villains.
- Hidden Depths: Chemo, of all people.
- Implacable Man: Chemo. And he always comes back.
- I Work Alone: Doc Magnus is the literal embodiment of this trope; he's a social misfit, but genuinely strives to help his fellow man. His isolation is both a source of sadness and the drive he needs for his research.
- Jerkass: Mercury has a very inflated ego and is extremely selfish.
- Doc's elder brother, Colonel David Magnus, is quite an ass.
- Luckily, My Powers Will Protect Me: Mercury never shuts up about being the only metal that's liquid at room temperature, but in the earliest stories the whole team would run up against a threat and rattle off their boiling points or atomic weights, whichever being appropriate.
- Mad Scientist: Doc Magnus. A rare heroic variation.
- The intention was always that Doc would be less human than his robot creations (for irony.)
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: If you come across a group called "The Death-Metal Men", you'd be smart to run for your goddamn life.
- No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Though it's uncertain whether he'd be warmer to Platinum if she wasn't so flagrantly insane in her adulation of him, Doc seems to actively hate her because she is.
- Recently, however, it's been suggested he deliberately programmed her to act this way, for reasons of his own.
- No Name Given: Nameless, obviously. She's always called that because no one gave her a name, though Tin called her "Beautiful." There was even a long running contest to name her, but they never picked one to use.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Chemo, in the '07 mini-series at least. He leads a hostile corporate takeover of Magna-Tech, becoming the Head Chairman, and gets an eloquent, sinister memo right before he and his cohorts attack mankind.
- This is of course a huge retcon, originally he WAS just a walking menace.
- His dialogue still consists solely of noises such as "Glah!!", however.
- The Professor: Doc Magnus, of course. Right down to wearing plaid and smoking a pipe.
- The Psycho Rangers: Missile Men and Gas Gang. There have also been a two teams of evil Metal Men, one made by Doc during a moment of temporary insanity, the other by a jealous rival.
- Pygmalion Plot: Unintentionally occurs with Platinum and Doc Magnus.
- Played straight with Tin and his made from a do-it-yourself kit girlfriend Nameless. He always called her "Beautiful."
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Except for their looks.
- Robot Buddy
- Rubber Man: All of them, though Gold particularly so.
- Running Gag: Early strips always resulted in the Metal Men getting destroyed, but their sacrifice always assured victory. Besides, the Metal Men can overcome death like a bad hangover if they've got a roboticist handy.
- Shaped Like Itself: The personalities of the various Metal Men, while somewhat basic by most standards, are literally derived from their atomic make-up. The robots don't merely "act" according to their respective metals; the properties of their metal dictates their world view.
- This is also why some of them (particularly Iron) appear to have one-track minds.
- This is elaborated upon in the '07 series when Lead and Gold have their metals switched. Their personalities, thought processes and overall attitudes switch, too. They can't do anything about it.
- As they become more self-aware, the Metal Men ask Doc to customise their bodies accordingly. Mercury asks to have "the piercing blue eyes of Bob Hope".
- The So-Called Coward: Tin is unconfident and weak-willed, but has "the bravest soul" of all the Metal Men.
- Status Quo Is God: Most of the early issues pretty much run on this. Whenever Doc creates a new team to help the original team, they are always destroyed by the end and he rarely attempts to rebuild them.
- Super-Powered Evil Side: The Death-Metal Men.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Mercury is...well, mercurial and often belittles both Tin and Gold. Iron's also pretty belligerent and his temper can often just make things worse.
- Unobtanium: Veridium. The alien alloy introduced in the 1993 miniseries is indestructible and had more power than all the Metal Men put together. Considering the main idea behind the team was playing with the properties of known metals, adding this wonder metal kinda tossed the theme out the window.
- Was Once a Man: In the 1993 miniseries, the Metal Men were retconned to have been people. Gold was Doc's brother Mike, Platinum was Mike's fiancee Sharon, Mercury and Iron were fellow scientists (Redmond Wilde and Randy Pressman), Tin was a janitor named Thomas Tinkham, and Lead was a pizza-delivery man named Jack. Gold was soon killed, and Doc became Veridium. This was retconned away.
- Yandere: Platinum.