Retro Review: Metal Men #36

This week I present DC Comics’ Metal Men # 36, cover dated March 1969.  It’s got a terrific Mike Sekowsky/Dick Giordano cover featuring small-sized Metal Men pulling  a small cart being driven by a giant Clown!  Yes you heard me right, I said a Giant Clown!  Enough to cause nightmares to those that find clowns just a little bit creepy!

The story is entiled; “The Cruel Clowns!” and is written by Bob Kanigher, with interior art by Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos.  Too bad the inside art doesn’t look as attractive as the cover art!  Maybe that’s one of the reasons that the Metal Metal needed some changes about this time.  Their sales had dwindled and their comic was being plugged as the New Hunted Metal Men to try to stir up new readership!

The book starts with a bang, with the Metal Men being menaced by a giant clown, forcing them to perform and make him laugh or they die!  Then three pages later, the story jumps back in time to show the reader how the Metal Men came to be in this fix.  Previously their creator, Doc Magnus had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and they were forced to try to survive on their own.  But to their chagrin, they seemed to mess up in every endeavor they attempted.  So bad did they screw up that the human race had turned against them and wanted to see them dead (if a robot could actually die)((maybe dismantled would be more correct)).

This comic showed a couple of their misadventures and screw ups, until Tina gets the idea that the Metal Men should entertain the humans, and thus regain their trust and love.  So they devise a scheme to put on a circus.  Of course, the Metal Men only screw up once again, but this time a bunch of clowns (yep, more clowns) come to their rescue and cause the humans to leave laughing and happy.  But then the clowns minaturize the Metal Men and reveal that they are from a far planet, where the inhabitants all look like clowns, rather than humans in costumes.

The clowns take the Metal Men back to their planet and they are back to where the comic started, forced to perform and make the clowns laugh, or die!  A female clown, or clowness, (is that really a word?) takes Tin for her own and the rest of the Metal Men are forced to escape their prison circus to rescue Tin and find a way to flee the planet of clowns.

One thing that really bugs me about Kanigher’s story is that he uses the word yak(s), rather than yuk(s), which gives the whole clowns wanting to yak a whole different creepiness factor!

The Metal Men suceed in making their escape and are returned to their correct size by exposing themselves to a passing meteor shower that threatened to destroy their stolen space craft!  Yeah, pretty darn conveient, if you ask me!  And the comic ends with the restored Metal Men on their way back to Earth.

I can only give this comic two (2) Legion Flight Rings out of five (5), as it just is just so-so in both writing and art.  You can see that the Metal Men writer and artist were really struggling to make this comic more interesting to the reading public and frankly not doing a very good job of it!  Next they would go on and turn the Metal Men human, before the book finally was cancelled.

About Greg Turner

Greg Turner (@gregturner16) is Back to the Past’s archivist and an auctioneer. He writes the columns “Fabulous Finds” and “Retro Reviews” on alternating weeks for the website and spins classic 45′s each week for Vinyl Tuesdays.

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