REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES METAL MEN PLATINUM with TIN
One achievement 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 accomplished, 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'd really like to see more members of the Legion of Super-Heroes -- and we did get Starman, who also spent some time in the present day as a member of the Justice Society of America -- but, at the moment, I'm not holding my breath waiting for anyone else. In a perfect world, they'd do another twelve-pack. But for reasons far beyond action figures, it's hardly a perfect world.
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.
All three were recent additions to the Signature Series. Lead was sold as an "oversized" figure, and actually used body portions from the Collect-and-Connect figure of Darkseid, which worked astoundingly well. That leaves us with PLATINUM, and TIN, the latter of whom was sold more or less as an accessory alongside Platinum.
Let's consider the history of the Metal Men as a team, and then have a look at Platinum and Tin.
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 metals, Platinum is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pt and an atomic number of 78.
Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina, which is literally translated into "little silver". It is a dense, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white transition metal.
Platinum has six naturally occurring isotopes. It is one of the rarest elements in the Earth's crust. It is the least reactive metal. It occurs in some nickel and copper ores along with some native deposits, mostly in South Africa, which accounts for 80% of the world production.
As a member of the platinum group of elements, as well as of the group 10 of the periodic table of elements, platinum is generally non-reactive. It exhibits a remarkable resistance to corrosion, even at high temperatures, and as such is considered a noble metal. As a result, platinum is often found chemically uncombined as native platinum. Because it occurs naturally in the alluvial sands of various rivers, it was first used by pre-Columbian South American natives to produce artifacts. It was referenced in European writings as early as 16th century, but it was not until Antonio de Ulloa published a report on a new metal of Colombian origin in 1748 that it became investigated by scientists.
Platinum is used in catalytic converters, laboratory equipment, electrical contacts and electrodes, platinum resistance thermometers, dentistry equipment, and jewelry. Because only a few hundred tonnes are produced annually, it is a scarce material, and is highly valuable and is a major precious metal commodity. Being a heavy metal, it leads to health issues upon exposure to its salts, but due to its corrosion resistance, it is not as toxic as some metals. Compounds containing platinum, most notably cisplatin, are applied in chemotherapy against certain types of cancer.
As for tin, it is a chemical element with symbol Sn (for Latin: stannum) and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group-14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4. Tin is the 49th most abundant element and has, with 10 stable isotopes, the largest number of stable isotopes in the periodic table. Tin is obtained chiefly from the mineral cassiterite, where it occurs as tin dioxide.
This silvery, malleable post-transition metal is not easily oxidized in air and is used to coat other metals to prevent corrosion. The first alloy, used in large scale since 3000 BC, was bronze, an alloy of tin and copper. After 600 BC pure metallic tin was produced. Pewter, which is an alloy of 85–90% tin with the remainder commonly consisting of copper, antimony and lead, was used for flatware from the Bronze Age until the 20th century.
In modern times tin is used in many alloys, most notably tin/lead soft solders, typically containing 60% or more of tin. Another large application for tin is corrosion-resistant tin plating of steel. Because of its low toxicity, tin-plated metal is also used for food packaging, giving the name to tin cans, which are made mostly of steel.
And to think, calling someone or something "tin-plated" is somehow regarded as an insult... Anyway, thus endeth today's science lesson.
So, how are the figures? Well, let's start with PLATINUM. The package doesn't really give a lot of details on the character's personality. It provides a basic origin of the Metal Men, and then goes on to day that Platinum was the first of the Metal Men, and is arguably the most human.
That's a fair statement. I think it would be fair to say that Platinum has tended to have the least exaggerated personality. Gold and Iron aren't especially over the top, tending to act like straightforward male heroes, with Gold as something as the leader of the team. Mercury has always been portrayed as a hothead, Lead as -- well, not terribly bright, and Tin has tended to come across as scared out of his rivets half the time, but willing to join the team in getting the job done.
The Keith Giffen stories written as a back-up feature a while back tended to exaggerate the Metal Men, making Gold something of a pompous blowhard, and turned Platinum into a shameless flirt, constantly seeking the attentions of Dr. Will Magnus. However, I think it would be fair to say that these stories bordered on parody -- and sometimes crossed the border. I'm not terribly inclined to take them into consideration overmuch. Either that, or the Metal Men's responsometers were way overdue for their 10,000 mile overhaul and tune-ups -- something like that, anyway.
Unlike a few of the other Metal Men, such as Mercury, Tin, and Lead, Platinum has a relatively normal humanoid physique. The figure uses many of the same body molds common to a lot of the female figures in the line, although she also has a surprising number of distinctive parts.
Obviously, the head is distinctive to the figure. Platinum has a pleasant if determined expression on her face, with neatly painted eyes and eyebrows that I tend to think may have been imprinted over the silver finish that the entire figure has been given. She has shoulder length hair -- and given that she's the only one of the Metal Men to have "hair", and that she's a robot, I sort of find myself wondering what her hair is supposed to be made of. Regardless of that little in-universe question, the Four Horsemen have done a superb job sculpting some very detailed hair for the figure, which looks quite impressive when painted silver.
Platinum is wearing a silver skullcap, with a series of rivets around the edge, and the letter "P" imprinted in black on the front of it.
As I said, for the most part, the figure uses a lot of common body molds. This includes the upper torso, mid-torso, upper arms, and upper legs. I suspect it also includes the hands and feet.
The lower arms and lower legs are distinctive to Platinum, however, as they include glove and boot tops that have sculpted rivets around their perimeters. This, obviously, isn't something that's turned up on any previous DC Universe female figure, and it's unlikely that it ever will again, unless Mattel decides to make the other Metal Men female member, Copper, although she was such a late addition to the team, and seldom seen (and not very well treated by Giffen) that I don't consider this terribly likely. Shame, really.
Additionally, the front of Platinum's torso is distinctive to the figure, and features a triangular metal plate with rivets around the outside edge. This is a common structural feature for all of the Metal Men.
And, Platinum also has a silver skirt as part of her lower torso. Initially, I thought this might have been the same skirt worn by Saturn Girl from the Legion of Super-Heroes, but it's not. The two designs are different, and Platinum has a production date of (12) stamped on the back of the skirt, so this is an entirely new piece.
Paintwork on the figure is somewhat limited -- just the eyes, eyebrows, and emblem on the cap, really -- but these are neatly done. And the entire figure has been painted a very nice shade of bright silver.
Of course, Platinum is superbly articulated. She is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Any complaints? Well, the legs aren't especially poseable because of the skirt, but there's no getting around that. The mid-torso joint was a bit looser than I'd like. Hopefully this isn't something plaguing the entire production run. At least there weren't any problems with mold creases or anything. That was a situation a while back, and on an all-silver figure like this, would've been incredibly glaring.
Now, as for TIN. I'm going to try to be as fair as I can here. This was doubtless a character that presented some difficult challenges. There was no way in the world that this figure could have used any existing molds. He's short, skinny, and almost cartoonish in his appearance. He had to be created from scratch, which doubtless required some additional expense. Still, I wish I could say that I'm more impressed with the results than I am.
The figure stands a little over 3-1/2" high. That's probably about right, although I wonder if it isn't just a little short. The headsculpt, really, is excellent. Tin has a rather worried expression on his face, and all of the details are superbly well done, including the elongated nose, which had to be molded as a separate piece, rather large ears, and all of the paint details have been nicely done.
As to the rest of the figure -- did they have to make him THAT skinny? I'm not sure that's quite right. He's painfully thin, most of his scrawny body wrapped in a silver tunic, with the metallic triangle down the front, with the emblem of "tin" on the front, which looks something like a number "4". It's also on the forehead of his riveted helmet.
Here's one thing that bugs me a bit about the figure. He's very pre-posed. His arms are bent at the elbows, his hands posed in pointing motions for some reason, his torso is bent over, and his knees are bent. He also doesn't stand up very well on his own. But he looks so fearful, so terrified, that you get the impression he's about to oil himself, if you get my drift. I don't really think the character is THAT much of a coward.
And, really bothering me -- there's not much articulation here. Head and arms. That's it. I think about some of the other "small" figures Mattel has made in this line. There was a Bat-Mite figure sold with a Batman a while back. Although a K-mart exclusive which I didn't purchase at the time, a cursory observation made me think he was decently articulated. Then there's that Green Lantern three pack that included Green Lantern B'dg, the successor to the squirrel-like Ch'p; Dex-Starr, the Red Lantern who was formerly an ordinary cat on Earth; and Despotellis, a member of the Sinestro Corps who was a sentient virus. Although Despotellis had no articulation -- and I have no idea where you would've put it -- both B'dg and Dex-Starr had very adequate articulation for their shapes and sizes. They weren't up to the amazing articulation levels of a standard figure, of course, but they had poseable heads, arms, legs, and even tails.
Frankly, although I can't complain about the excellent headsculpt, and the overall detail on the Tin figure, and I acknowledge the fact that we're lucky to get this character at all given the limited production of the Signature Series in the first place, I do have to say that I believe the character deserved better than an overly-scrawny, pre-posed representation with only three points of articulation.
Let me throw in a word about the artwork on the package. I have been highly impressed with the illustrations that have graced these packages. And coming up with an effective painting of a pair of characters, one otherwise fairly human in appearance, the other one humanoid if rather cartoonish, both with metallic finishes to their entire bodies, and making those illustrations look this good, required a substantial degree of artistic talent on somebody's part, and they are to be commended for it. The paintings of the two characters are truly superb.
So, what's my final word? Okay -- if you're specifically a fan of Tin, you're likely to be a bit disappointed. But, if you're a fan of Platinum, you've got nothing to complain about. She's a superb figure. And at least the inclusion of Tin, plus the oversized figure of Lead offered in the same month as the Platinum/Tin combo, does finally complete the core team of the Metal Men, and that's certainly commendable, and I'm pleased that this has finally been achieved.
I wish Tin were more impressive. But I'm glad to have him, and I'm certainly pleased with Platinum, as well as the ability to now display all of the Metal Men as part of this superb line of DC Universe Classics action figures. These robots may not be the best known team in the DC Universe, but they've been around for a good while, are well-established, and certainly have their fans. And these figures, overall, are truly excellent, and I'm glad to have them, and my thanks to Mattel for completing the team.
The DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES figures of PLATINUM and TIN of the METAL MEN definitely have my highest recommendation!