Review of Some Robots, Part 4, By Johnathan

It's that time again: time to make critical assessments of fictional robots that were created forty years ago. We must be silent no longer! This time we're going to look at the Gas Gang - a group of evil robots based on... gases. When you get right down to it, this is an odd idea, even for The Metal Men. Let's take a look:

As you no doubt guessed, the Gas Gang were built by Doc Magnus, during a period of time that he spent as a robot, which I'm sure that we can all relate to. Since the strange space gasses or whatever it was that transformed him that particular time also made him evil (as so often happens), he set the Gas Gang on his beloved Metal Men.

I'm pretty fond of the Gas Gang because they're just total assholes. A lot of other Metal Men foes were world-conquering tyrants or twisted scientific geniuses or were in love with Tina for some reason, but the Gas Gang is mostly concerned with beating the holy hell out of the Metal Men. They're refreshingly uncomplicated, the robotic equivalent of spinach salad.

They also die oddly:

That's right, the Gas Gang - beings composed primarily of gas - are evaporated out of existence. Which, uh, seems... weird. Is there a new state of matter between gas and plasma that nobody's taken the time to tell me about? Super Gassey? Xtreme Gas? Gas Plus Plus? Whatever it's called, the Gas Gang go down like chumps.

Gas Gang Roll Call!


I always think of Chloroform as the leader of the Gas Gang, but this is possibly because he attacks first. I've got to say I've got some issues with Chloroform's design. I mean sure, he's got a great face, but he also doesn't have any arms. Arms that would be useful in a fight against robots. Robots that don't breathe and therefore can't possibly be affected by chloroform gas. Right?

Oh. I'm wrong. The Metal Men breathe, apparently. And chloroform makes you laugh before knocking you out, a fact that the Metal Men crew were quite impressed by, as seen here:

See? Arms are useful! The above image actually marks Chloroform's first appearance, on a one page collection of factoids.

Anyway, my real problem with Chloroform is that he looks like a nutmeg grater that my grandmother owns, like Evil Robot Doc Magnus had originally started work on a gang of robots called the Spice Squad (Nutmeg! Cinnamon! Pepper! Oregano! Onion Salt!) but then realized that that was lame. Rar! I am Chloroform! I have no arms! I'm riddled with holes! I dispense gases that should have no effect on shape-changing uber-bots! I'm kicking your asses! Lame. Lame. Lame. Lame. Lame.

Nonetheless, nostalgia for that nutmeg grater compels me to say JOHN APPROVED.


By contrast with Chloroform, I do very much enjoy Oxygen's design. He's got cute little limbs and an adorable hose arm. His angry little pressure gauge face is just precious. Plus, I need him in order to live. However, he shouldn't be able to do this:

Iron reacts with atmospheric oxygen to form rust, right? Well, tin, gold and platinum don't do that! They're known for it! Rar! Johnathan smash! Johnathan get worked up about scientific inaccuracy in forty-year-old comic and bitch on the internet! Johnathan sulk in comfy chair for a while!

I do love the way Oxygen looks, though. Plus the little valve that's poking up from his shoulder kind of resembles a grinning face, like Oxygen has a tiny sidekick. "Come, Thread Head, let us improbably rust some things! Take that, aluminum!"




The Carbon Brothers don't get to see much action, which is kind of a shame. Carbon Monoxide actually has a rather clever design, being represented as a Bunsen burner, of the type that offed so many scientists before they discovered the wonders of ventilation. However, he should have absolutely no effect on the Metal Men.

Carbon Dioxide is represented as a chunk of ice and would probably be really effective against some of the more brittle metals like Tin or Mercury, if any of the other members of the Gas Gang had fists with which to punch them. As it is, he's just a minor irritant. Also, he's a solid.



From the same facts page that spawned Boxin' Chloroform. Check it out:

"You're cool, Carbon Dioxide! So cool that I'm going to need multiple skin grafts! Love the hat, though."


Oh lord I love Gangster Carbon Monoxide. Gangster Carbon Monoxide is possibly the best anthropomorphic personification of a gas that I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty. Gangster Carbon Monoxide should have been a Silver Age Batman villain, seriously. They could've defeated him with ionic air purifiers. Post-Crisis he could've turned up in Swamp Thing or something as a champion of the auto industry. Grant Morrison would kill him off somehow but then another writer would get nostalgic and he'd show up in an airtight cell in Arkham Asylum. He'd totally team up with Parade Hater Horace. It would be glorious.



Helium's pretty boring, frankly. He looks like a dirigible, which is thematically appropriate, but all he really does is grow, see?

I didn't even know that that was a property of helium. In fact, I don't think it is. Helium could just as easily been Just Plain Air, which would have been cheaper, at any rate.

In the Gas Gang's second outing (in which they are resurrected by a sane Doc Magnus to combat an insane amalgam of most of the Metal Men) Helium proves himself a bit more useful:

I'm not sure why he chose to inflate the Metal Man-Woman by sticking his nozzle into the only female mouth on the thing but it creeps me out slightly (I am pleased to see that Chloroform Mark II has arms, though). It's a tribute to Doc Magnus' genius that he can invent a robot composed primarily of gas and manage to simulate human perversion, but damn.


Review of Some Robots, Part 3, By Johnathan

Hey there, robot fans! John Review here, fresh from a weekend of debauchery and recovery from the same, with another look at some of those wacky anthropomorphic elements from the pages of Metal Men comics. I was kind of thinking of reviewing the Gas Gang today but don't really have the mental stamina required to stay on one topic for so long. So: random robots it is!

First up is Potassium, who starts off strong but doesn't really stand up to heavy scrutiny. Let's watch:

Okay, so the good points of this little tableau are as follows: Potassium's a pretty sharp-looking guy. I think that he might be wearing a blazer, and he's definitely rocking one of the best Metal Men hats that I've seen thusfar. Plus, he's into gardening, so that's a plus. Wait, though... did he just interrupt Romeo and Juliet to brag about his fertilizing abilities? Yeesh, Potassium, I gotta say: that's a bit intrusive. Did you just dash in to name-drop yourself the once or hang out there all night?

ROMEO: But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

POTASSIUM: Potassium carbonate, or potash, is used in glass manufacturing!

ROMEO: It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!

POTASSIUM: Soybeans are a good source of dietary potassium!

ROMEO: Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

POTASSIUM: Potassium chloride is used in executions by lethal injection!

ROMEO: Who is already sick and pale with grief

POTASSIUM: Research has indicated that diets high in potassium can reduce the risk of hypertension!

ROMEO: That thou her maid are far more fair than she.

POTASSIUM: ... Potassium is the seventh most abundant element in the earth's crust!

If I were Romeo I'd've kicked him off of the ladder.


Potassium also has a sister:

I don't know. She seems cool, and she can use her dandruff to grow flowers with faces, but I don't trust her. I'm pretty sure that if you put her in a room with Hamlet she'd be telling him about the important part that potassium had played in the manufacture of his bare bodkin.

In contrast to the super-useful Potassium Twins comes this sorry bunch, who as of 1967 had nothing to offer mankind:

Aw. Look at the sad, unemployed elements. Not only are they not enriching the lives of everyday Joes like you and me, they can't even get the respect necessary for that security guard to get their names right. Seriously: Farancium? Rubibium? You're not making it any easier for the poor schmoes, security man.

Depending on your level of empathy for fictional robots, you might be happy to know that - according to my minimal research - the line has shrunk in the last forty years. Now it's just Berkelium, Francium and Protactinium standing out there, trying to impress each other with stories about their half-lives and tales of researchers whom they've irradiated. Sometimes Francium cries at night.

The Robot Unemployment Line is JOHN APPROVED!

This one's my favourite:

Old Uncle Technetium telling the tots about being the very first artificially synthesized element. Man, do I love his suit. And his cigar. And the fact that he wears a medallion with his name on it around his neck, which just might make him the Original Gangster, or possibly the Original Old-Timey Senator. I'll bet he can filibuster 'til the (irradiated, sickly) cows come home. Plus, those are the cutest robot kids ever. Plus plus: robot rug!


Not quite a robot but still:

There's something about a bald, yellow giant who's punching out what are apparently sentient insects that just gets me right here, you know? Look at how grim they all are: Arsenic doesn't love his job - he just does it. The boss tells him to 'take care of' some troublemakers and WHROOOSH! they're history. That's what I like about this picture: everyone's appropriately solemn in the face of death.

Not at all like here:

That's right, Metal Men. Smile and eat your robotic sandwiches whilst dozens of lives are extinguished directly above you. Why the hell are you sanctioning the sterilization of the local ecosystem? It's not like the mosquitoes are going to bite you, is it? Or are you afraid that a fly will devour one of your metal sandwiches? Seriously, guys. Just because you're hanging around with an animate can of bug spray doesn't mean that you have to have it spray every bug you see. At least wait until Doc Magnus is being carried away by fire ants or something.

Such environmental irresponsibility is NOT APPROVED.

Review of Some Robots, Part 2, By Johnathan

Boy oh boy do I have big news! Remember how last time around I showed you the first appearance of Silver and Copper as made-up extra Metal Men? How they were just kind of standing on a beach, all generic and miscoloured? Well evidently they realized that they hadn't made too good an impression the first time around because Silver and Copper are back! They both made repeat appearances in the "Metal Facts & Fancies" section of Metal Men comics and kicked a fair bit more ass in their second times at bat.

Here's Silver:

Beating the hell out of some germs! I like the diseases-as-gangsters motif, though it'd be even better if they had, like, cilia on their faces or gross snotty-looking speech balloons or something. Silver herself ain't bad, though I'm not sure I like the granny panties that she has riveted on there. What I do like is that the requisite Metal Men headpiece is a nurse's hat - very thematically appropriate. (On a side note: I had one Metal Men comic when I was kid and I had no idea what was up with Tina. Like, I thought that she was Silver, because Tina = short for Platinum isn't the first assumption an eight-year-old makes. Plus, I thought she might've been Jewish, because whoever was drawing her made her little hat look a lot like a yamukle).

Anyway, Silver's still JOHN APPROVED

Copper came back too, and guess who she's dating?

Tin! Tin's got a girl he didn't even build! And what a girl! Copper's a stone fox, fictional robot-wise. She's got a crazy miniskirt with sleeves on, a neat headband-influenced hairdo - i think I see a dimple, even. This robo-lady's definitely JOHN APP- hold on...

What's this?

Huh. A smelter-wedding. Haven't been to one of those in years. Good to see the old traditions kept alive. Anyway, as I was saying, Copper's JOHN APPROV- huh.

Oh, gross. That's just wrong. No wonder Doc Magnus doesn't want to marry Tina. Bronze is apparently going to be the Metal Man that comes out of storage once a year to scare children on Hallowe'en. I blame the Comics Code Authority - they were probably all like "You can't melt a boy-robot and a girl-robot together and get a functioning individual, it'll challenge children's sexuality. Next thing you know two kids'll be crawling into a furnace so they can melt together. You're gonna have to make this thing look like an abomination, sorry."

Pre-melting Copper is JOHN APPROVED. Bronze is NOT APPROVED.

Last one!

Now supposedly this panel is about Copper and Silver, but I just see Copper, who has apparently gotten over the divorce from Tin by forming a rock band and switching genders again. That's the kind of emotional resiliency that gets one metal (Copper) into the upcoming Metal Men comic while other metals (Silver) just sit and tarnish gently.

Though I'm not sure what a metal Beatles-analog has to do with heat conductivity, I do enjoy seeing that old classic "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" being played. You don't hear it much any more but it was one of the top songs of the Sixties in the DC Universe, along with "Baby, Baby, Baby" and "Yeah Baby Yeah." The crowd of swooning metal gals is a nice touch, too . Say! maybe they're fainting because of the heat! That's where it all comes together!

The Copper Beatles are JOHN APPROVED.

Review of Some Robots, Part 1, By Johnathan

Ah, the Metal Men. They, in all of their vaguely-educational glory, are my latest semi-obsession.

Assuming that someone who's not a comic book nerd is reading this, a quick description of the Metal Men and what they stood for:

The Metal Men were a group of robots created by Dr. Will Magnus. Thanks to a bit of technology called a "responsometer" they were astonishingly human-like, with genuine personalities and everything. As the name suggests, they're all made out of a different metal, and they're obsessed with that metal. Seriously, check it out:

That's their first appearance but really, they talk like that all the time. Every second sentence is about melting points or ductility or something like that. Luckily they're entertaining as hell, so it doesn't get old. Metal Men fans note: the third sentence out of Mercury's mouth is the "liquid at room temperature" bit.

The Metal Men are cool on a lot of levels: first, they've got real personalities - they're not just a bunch of clones of every other super-team of the 1960s. Tin's inferiority complex and Mercury's arrogance were especially unusual for heroes of the time. Plus, Tina the Platinum robot was in love with Doc Magnus, which led to sufficient dramatic tension to fuel a battleship.

But enough about the Metal Men! Entertaining as they are, they're not the focus of this series of reviews. Rather, I'm going to write about the other elemental robots who appear in the series, because there are a lot of them. They creep in around the edges, whether as antagonists or as bit characters in the little "Metal Facts" sections that appeared in every issue.

The very first of these characters came as a pair:

Aw, look at them. So generic. Not only did Copper and Silver have some lousy character design problems, they evidently had the wrong names - I'm pretty sure that that's what the Romans are so surprised about. Still, there's one thing that this panel did well: set precedent. It said "why show the kids boring lumps of metal when you can anthropomophise? And robotiform?"

For that reason, Copper and Sillver are JOHN APPROVED.

This one's interesting. It's from a page about gold and features three Metal Men-as-knights in the centre, flanked by a couple of Generic Metal Dudes (GMDs). I gotta say, when I started writing this review I thought it'd be easy to figure out who these guys were supposed to be, but after ransacking half of the Alchemy sites on the internet I don't have much. GMD on the left might be Antimony and GMD on the right might be Arsenic, but probably not. Darned artists forty years ago... didn't they realize that someone would obsess about that sort of thing someday? Plus, Gold is looking kind of fat.