REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES METAL MEN LEAD
One thing that Mattel's online edition of DC Universe Classics-style figures, the DC Universe Signature Series available through Club Infinite Earths on MattyCollector.Com, has achieved, is the completion of several super-hero teams within the DC Universe.
For example, the DC Universe Classics line gave us both Robotman and Negative Man from the Doom Patrol. This group was more or less completed with the arrival of a special over-sized figure of Elasti-Girl in the Signature Series. I suppose they could still do Steve Dayton as Mento, and Dr. Niles Caulder, but -- nothing too urgent there in my opinion.
Then there are the METAL MEN. The DC Universe Classics line gave us Gold, Iron, and Mercury. That still left us with half the team -- Platinum, Tin, and Lead. Of the three, only the female Platinum could conceivably use any existing body molds, so I was a little concerned about what might happen here.
Then, much to my surprise, not only was Platinum brought into the line, but so was Lead! Let's have a look at the history of the Metal Men, and then have a look at the figure of Lead.
The Metal Men are a team of robot superheroes created by writer Robert Kanigher for DC Comics in 1962. They made their first appearance in Showcase #37-40 as part of a four-issue series created as a last-minute filler feature. They proved unexpectedly popular and the characters were revived for more stories under their own title and had subsequent appearances in various series in the DC Universe. It was commonplace in the stories for the characters to be destroyed and then rebuilt during the same story.
The Metal Men were presented as advanced artificially intelligent robots, created by scientist Dr. William "Will" Magnus. "Doc" Magnus (as his creations affectionately call him) states that their intelligence and personalities are generated by devices called "responsometers". They mirror characteristics commonly associated with their namesake metals, both in personality and in substance. According to some accounts the Metal Men are actually composed of various metals, while in others, they are made of a chemical substance that can duplicate the properties of a specific metal as determined by the programming of their individual "responsometers".
The team consisted of their field leader Gold, strong man Iron, slow-witted and loyal Lead, self-doubting and insecure Tin, hot-headed Mercury (the only metal liquid at room temperature), and Platinum, or Tina.
While all of the Metal Men were basically shapeshifters, each of them had abilities that reflected the traits of their namesake metal; Gold could stretch his body almost infinitely, Iron was super strong, Lead could block harmful radiation and the like and usually morphed into thick shields, Mercury could melt and reform himself through small spaces, or over vast distances, and Platinum could stretch and flatten herself, usually into coils of thin strands. Tin seemed to prefer acting as a "can" or container, his other efforts usually failing due to his weak strength.
On several occasions, Doc constructed new robots of different metals such as Uranium, Silver, Cobalt, Chromium and others. The new robots always went to the scrap heap. The Metal Men also had many adventures on other planets, usually meeting robot menaces.
The Metal Men had a broken run of sixty issues in their own comic book title. Their Silver Age run, from issues #1 to #41, began in 1963 and ended in 1970. Several issues included the "Metal Facts & Fancies" feature which featured factlets about various metals.
The Metal Men reappeared in 1973 in reprints of earlier published material. New stories continued with issue #45 (April-May 1976) by artist Walt Simonson and various writers. Doc Magnus's sanity, which had been used to take him out of the picture for several years, was restored and he once again joined his robot creations. Simsonson was succeeded as artist by Joe Staton. The comic's publication run ended with issue #56 in 1978 when, despite acceptable sales, the book fell victim to the DC Implosion.
The Metal Men have appeared as guests in several other comic book titles including The Brave and the Bold where they teamed-up with Metamorpho, the Atom, and several times with Batman. The Metal Men also guest-starred alongside Superman in DC Comics Presents and Action Comics after it became a team-up title under the direction of artist/writer John Byrne.
A four book mini-series was printed in 1993. In a retcon of their origin story, it was revealed that the Metal Men carried the intellects and personalities of Doc's brother Mike (Gold), his fiancee Sharon (Platinum), two lab workers Redmond Wilde and Randy Pressman (Mercury and Iron), a janitor named Thomas Tinkham (Tin), and a pizza-delivery man named Jack (Lead), which were accidentally transferred to blank robots in a lab mishap rather than being artificially generated by "responsometers" as the story was first told. In a fast and furious climax, Gold was permanently killed and Doc Magnus mortally wounded. Doc transferred his personality into a blank robot known as Veridium, made of a green alien metal, and became the new robotic leader of the Metal Men. This episode was itself retconned away as a delusion suffered by Doc Magnus. (Shame, too -- I rather liked Veridium. His green color added a bit of additional variety to the Metal Men.)
As seen in the Infinite Crisis limited series, the Metal Men are attacked by the super-person killers, the O.M.A.C.S. cyborgs. Lead and Mercury are seen in issue #6, as part of a superhero army assembled to protect the city of Metropolis from the Secret Society of Supervillains. During the successful defeat of the Society, the two are briefly shown confronting Doomsday.
The series also affects the very reality of the characters. When Superboy-Prime pounded on the walls of reality, he caused the very fabric of reality to shift, changing and merging histories. The "blank robots with responsometers" origin of the Metal Men was returned to continuity and the "human personalities and Doc as Veridium" origin was dismissed as a delusion suffered by Doc Magnus after his first mental breakdown.
The responsometers are now described as containing an "artificial soul" invented by Doc Magnus inspired by T.O. Morrow, who is revealed to have taught him at college and to have been the only one not to laugh at Magnus' theories. After the unexplained dismantling of the Metal Men, Doc Magnus is unable to recreate this soul and restore their personalities. He now takes Prozac for the bipolar disorder which caused a nervous break down and depression which led to the creation of the Plutonium Man, a towering, monstruous being similar to the Metal Men, but with radioactive properties and imperatives based upon Magnus' own then-deranged mind, which drove it to kill and destroy as its main objectives.
Magnus is approached by government agents hoping to use the Metal Men as soulless smart weapons, offers Magnus always rejects. Through all of this, Magnus has been visiting Morrow in his cell in Haven. Morrow has warned Magnus that there have been numerous abductions of "mad" scientists, including Doctor Sivana, whose lair Magnus investigates.
Eventually Morrow himself disappears, leaving a note for his former student with a string in machine code. Using the code, Magnus is able to revive Mercury, albeit his robotic friend and creation is apparently destroyed again trying to save him from a conspiracy trying to kidnap all the mad scientists in the DCU. Mindless replicas of the Metal Men force Magnus to escape from his burned house before being captured by what is revealed to be a separate group "Chang Tzu's Science Squad".
This group is based on Oolong Island and has been responsible for the disappearances of the scientists (including Professor Morrow). Magnus is assigned to design and construct a new Plutonium Man robot, but deliberately makes little progress.
When Oolong Island is attacked by the JSA seeking to rescue Black Adam, Chang Tzu orders the Plutonium Man activated. Magnus refuses and the Metal Men attack Chang Tzu allowing Magnus to escape and switch off the Island's defences. While he is doing this Morrow confronts Magnus and destroys Mercury. Magnus explains to Morrow that it's pointless stopping him deactivating the shields as the JSA will get in eventually and instead offers him the chance to teleport out saying that Morrow was "the best teacher I ever knew" and that he tries "to over look the psychopathic super villain thing". Morrow accepts the offer.
The entire team of Metal Men (all with new, modified appearances) appear in a three part Superman/Batman story in issues 34-36. The rebuilt Platinum calls herself Platina, and Gold is a disembodied head, due to the expense of building a new gold body. The team also includes new female member, the sarcastic Copper. The Metal Men are hired by Lucius Fox as security for WayneTech, but come under the influence of Brainiac.
In 2007, DC began publishing a new 8-issue Metal Men miniseries, featuring the new team. The team find themselves up against Will's brother David, who wants to erase the act of their creation because an ancient being known as the Nameless plans to use them to take over the world. Magnus is able to stop the Nameless' plans with the aid of a future self, T.O. Morrow, and Morrow's special timetravelling machines (although Morrow betrays him and Magnus kicks him out of the machine). David is accidentally transformed into a new version of Viridium, and vows revenge on his brother.
The Metal Men have also appeared in a storyline in the "Wednesday Comics" limited series, and were a back-up feature in "Doom Patrol" written by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis and pencilled by Kevin Maguire, the same team responsible for the comedic Justice League of the mid to late 1980's. They tried to do the same with the Metal Men, and -- let's say I'm not that sorry that the back-up stories have ended, although I hope we haven't seen the last of the Metal Men. They seem to be back to their traditional selves, although the Doom Patrol back-up feature also utilized Copper, whom I don't mind since she adds a new female and a new interesting character to the team.
One might also assume that the Metal Men are capable of being notoriously long-lived, since Platinum turned up in the "DC One Million" story line, still very much functional in the 853rd century!
The Metal Men have appeared in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Clash of the Metal Men", and in "The Super-Batman of Planet X", and Iron and Gold were added to that action figure line before it ran its course.
Whether or not the Metal Men have turned up in the "New 52", I really don't know -- nor do I especially care.
Just for a little information on the actual metal, lead is a soft and malleable metal, which is regarded as a heavy metal. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed to air. Lead has a shiny chrome-silver luster when it is melted into a liquid.
Lead is used in building construction, lead-acid batteries, bullets and shot, weights, as part of solders, pewters, fusible alloys, and as a radiation shield. Lead has the highest atomic number of all of the stable elements. Its four stable isotopes have 82 protons, a "magic number" in the nuclear shell model of atomic nuclei.
And in the DC Universe, it can protect Kryptonians from kryptonite, but it is extremely toxic to Daxamites.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, even if I was surprised that he turned up. So, why was I surprised? Allow me to explain.
The Metal Men, as both robots and shapeshifters, are a rather diverse group as far as their physical appearance is concerned. Now, they all have a default humanoid form, but even here, there's a certain amount of above-average variety.
Gold and Iron were able to fit into the standard male humanoid body molds that Mattel has used for a great many DC Universe action figures. On the other hand, Mercury, a notably slender individual, required a completely unique set of molds. Platinum, the team's female, was able to make use of many of the standard female body molds. She came with Tin, a rather scrawny and short fellow, who unfortunately was turned into a far too-short and rather unimpressive "accessory" sold in the same package with Platinum -- but that's another review.
And then there's Lead. In his "default" form, he's one of those wide-bodied characters, sort of like the Hulk, but not as big, green, or as menacing. Such characters exist in almost any comics universe, although they are not generally all that commonplace. Nevertheless, I knew that trying to make a decently agreeable Lead figure using the standard male body molds was impossible, and I couldn't quite fathom Mattel creating an entirely unique figure for the online subscription Signature Series, even to complete the basic Metal Men team.
So, whose body molds could be used, even in part, to create a figure of Lead? Really -- I should have figured this one out myself... Darkseid.
Darkseid is, of course, the evil lord of Apokolips, a devastated flaming ruin of a planet populated by some of the most evil beings around and a horribly oppressed, enslaved population. Darkseid seeks power, conquest, and the "Anti-Life Equation", which will give him control over all life in the universe. He's generally regarded as one of the greatest threats in the cosmos.
And he himself has an interesting history within the DC Universe action figure line from Mattel. He first appeared in the DC Super-Heroes line, the precursor to the DC Universe Classics series, which was a rather Superman-Batman-centric line. Since Superman had gone up against Darkseid on numerous occasions, he qualified.
However, although the figure was certainly well-designed, it was generally regarded by most fans to be too small. Mattel was maintaining a very distinct size, more than scale, within that particular line, and Darkseid has always been portrayed as a rather large and imposing individual. His initial figure in this instance -- not so much.
During the course of the DC Universe Classics line, an entirely new Darkseid figure was created, and offered as one of the larger-size "Collect-and-Connect" figures. Coincidentally, Lead's fellow Metal Man Iron, the first of the Metal Men in the collection, was in the wave that featured the various parts to assemble Darkseid.
This Darkseid was a far more appropriate height, and was certainly an impressive action figure incarnation of this ultimate villain. And among other attributes, Darkseid has a rather stocky, wide-bodied physical build.
Enter Lead of the Metal Men.
Now, the end result, overall, is a Lead figure that while he certainly has the wide-bodied look of the character, is arguably too large relative to his teammates. Although Lead was certainly portrayed as bulkier than characters such as Iron or Gold, he generally hasn't been pictured as this much larger. The average male figure in the DC Universe Classics line is 6-1/2" in height. Lead is 8-1/2".
Now, I'm not terribly inclined to complain. I'm pleased we got this figure in order to round off the Metal Men team, and height notwithstanding, it's certainly a good likeness. If an explanation for Lead's greater size is required, then let's consider the fact that the Metal Men are shapeshifters. It probably would be no great effort for Lead to simply expand his overall size should he wish to do so. Maybe he wants to look more imposing or some such. I can live with it.
Now, the question arises -- how many of Darkseid's parts have made their way into Lead? And my answer to that would be -- quite a few of them, even if in a few instances it's a little hard to be absolutely certain.
Certainly the upper arms and upper legs are from Darkseid. Darkseid has a rather rough hide, looking like rock with some cracks in it (although nowhere near on the level of Marvel's Ben Grimm, the Thing). It's not too much of a stretch to see that transferred to Lead and see these limbs as metal with some cracks in it. For that matter, Iron has a rather rough finish to him.
The gloves are distinct to Lead. Darkseid's gloves don't have rivets around them. And certainly the lower legs and feet are distinct to Lead. Darkseid wears rather high boots. Lead does not. They're of a more conventional height, and like the gloves, have rivets around them. Also, the underside of Darkseid's boots have some Kirby-esque detailing to them that Lead obviously lacks.
Then there's the torso. And here's where we have perhaps a slight mystery. The front of Lead's entire torso, not atypical for the Metal Men, is encased in a tunic that drapes somewhat below his waist. A triangular front to this tunic, "riveted" to the rest of the body, and with a huge letter "L" on it, completes the tunic.
Interestingly, the tunic hangs to precisely the same length as the tunic that Darkseid is wearing. However, Darkseid's upper body is not encased in a tunic. It's only below the belt line where this aspect of his wardrobe appears.
So, was the Darkseid upper body still used for Lead? Yes, I suspect all the way to the lower torso. If you stand Lead next to Darkseid, it is evident that the all-covering tunic that Lead is wearing is readily of sufficient size to have the Darkseid upper body underneath it. And I suspect this was the only way the Mattel could produce a Lead figure for the line, creating as few new parts as possible.
Additionally, Lead's upper back is visible. The tunic is secured to the front of the figure near the shoulders, but only wraps all the way around at waist level. It's almost more of a sort of apron than a tunic. And the upper back visible on Lead is clearly identical to that of Darkseid's, just molded in Lead's color.
Of course, Lead doesn't look like Darkseid, so the figure has its own headsculpt, and once again, the Four Horsemen have come through with a really superb likeness, that might well have been a little more challenging than average, since although Lead has relatively human features, much like the rest of his body, they are rather broadly placed.
Lead has a rather wide face, on a head that appears to be wearing a skullcap that has been riveted into place. The letter "L" also appears on the forehead of this skullcap. His ears are surprisingly human-looking. Lead has rather prominent eyebrows, and a wide, friendly grin on his face.
I find myself wondering if choosing a facial expression for Lead was something of a challenge. For all of his strength and ability, Lead isn't exactly the sharpest robot ever to walk off the assembly line. Regarding him as an artificial intelligence is to almost make an exaggeration, but I wouldn't go so far as to call him an artificial idiot. He's just a little slow on the uptake most of the time.
As such, a friendly grin is probably the best facial expression for him, or at least the most considerate or diplomatic. It's certainly preferable to one of abject confusion. And, having checked the other Metal Men figures, Iron, Mercury, and Platinum are all smiling. Gold seems to be the serious one in the group.
Admittedly, Lead is not the most colorful figure around. Neither are the others, for that matter. They all tend to be one main color, with a certain amount of detailing where appropriate. Platinum -- and Tin -- are bright silver. Gold is obviously gold. Mercury is a semi metallic red. Iron is a dark metallic blue-black. Lead is a dark metallic gray. The only real color on him consists of the black letter "L"s, white teeth, black eyebrows, and his eyes.
Lead does not come with any accessories. Not a big deal to me, although it is worth noting that the three Metal Men that were sold as part of the retail DC Universe Classics line -- Gold, Iron, and Mercury -- all had accessories that could be clipped to their hands, to mimic their shapeshifting abilities.
Lead is, of course, impressively articulated, although the tunic is something of a hindrance. He is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, glove tops, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. His legs seem to be a little bit loose, but I checked my Darkseid figure, and so are his. I think part of this is the sheer weight of the body parts competing with the connection joint. I've experienced the same situation on other large and particularly bulky figures, such as Stel, the robotic Green Lantern, and S.T.R.I.P.E., a robotic battle suit, both of whom were Collect-and-Connect figures. I don't anticipate any of them falling apart on me.
So, what's my final word? I'm delighted that Mattel found a way to bring us Lead from the Metal Men. While I may not be especially pleased with the Tin figure that they crafted (again, that is addressed in a different review), I am pleased that Mattel has seen to it that we have the complete foundational Metal Men team. Now, personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a figure of Copper at some point, but I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for that to happen. I suspect most fans consider the team complete at this point, I imagine Mattel does as well, and I am content with that.
And certainly, this is an extremely impressive figure that Mattel has turned out. If you're any sort of fan of the Metal Men, especially if you have the rest of the team, you won't want to miss out on this one. Although he's likely sold out of MattyCollector.Com by now, there are always other means to acquire these figures, and Lead is assuredly worth it!
The DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES figure of LEAD from the METAL MEN definitely has my highest recommendation!