Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Just When You Think You Know Everything...

Well, it seems that even if you are a font of all knowledge--even if your genius lifts you to tower above all others--even if the enormity of your perspicacity is matched only by your extraordinary humility--even if, well, even if you're just like me:

Then it will still turn out there are things you don't know.

For instance, I knew that the first Metallo (John Corben) originally appeared in Action Comics #252 (May 1959)--the same issue that introduced us to Supergirl. I knew Corben died in this story and some time later his brother Roger became the second Metallo.

But I was somehow under the impression that Metallo #1 was resurrected and made at last a few more appearances during the Weisinger-era of Superman stories. But, by golly, I was wrong. John Corben had one and only one appearance.

That story was written by Robert Bernstein and is a pretty good one. A reporter named John Corben has committed murder to avoid getting caught embezzling money. But while making his getaway from what he thinks is a perfect crime, he's in a car wreck. A scientist named Professor Vale finds him and--as the only way of saving the badly injured Corben's life--rebuilds his body out of metal.

I should pause here to say I like the way the story handles Professor Vale. He isn't doing this because he's a mad scientist driven to insane experiments. He does it because Corben will die if he doesn't and he later breaks the news to Corben as gently as he can. Vale is obviously just a decent human being taking the only options open to him.

Then Vale has a stroke and collapses, taking him out of most of the rest of the story. He gets better near the end of the tale. I'm glad, even though I'm pretty sure he doesn't ever make another Silver Age appearance. He's a nice guy.

The robot body still appears human and retains Corben's outer appearance. When he discovers he has super strength, Corben decides he's happy with the situation. He moves to Metropolis and (because the murder he committed is still unsolved) gets a job on the Daily Planet.

But he must soon go on a crime spree, raiding labs and hospitals to steal the uranium he needs to power his mechanical heart. When he learns that Kryptonite will also work, he tries to steal some from a Superman souvenir show and nearly killed Supes with a small bit of Kryptonite he stole from Professor Vale. But Corben doesn't realize that the Green K being kept at the show is fake. When he tries to use it, his heart powers down and he dies from heart failure.

The story has its flaws. The Man of Steel performs a couple of super-rescues during the course of the story, but these are just random events unrelated to the main plot. They too obviously exist just to make the story come out to the correct page length. Also, a sub-plot in which Lois thinks Corben must be Superman is abrupt and doesn't really go anywhere.

But even so, it's still an entertaining story with an interesting villain. But that was it for Metallo as far as the Weisinger-era books are concerned. And it wasn't until 1977 (after 18 Metallo-less years) that his brother Roger had his brain transplanted into a new Metallo.

Roger proved more successful at villainy than his brother. I suspect this was because Roger had a much cooler visual design--he started out human looking, but eventually morphed into a more interesting robot body. Also, being able to shoot Kryptonite radiation out of his chest is a pretty nifty power.

So there you go. I thought John had at least a few appearances and I thought Roger came into Superman's mythology much earlier. But I was wrong. I always wondered what that felt like.

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