By the mid-1960s, BRAVE AND THE BOLD had morphed into a pretty strange comic book. It had started out, as its name implies, as a venue for stories of adventures in medieval times, starring characters such as the Silent Knight and the Viking Prince. When interest in those sorts of adventures waned, the book segued into being a try-out series, a sister title to SHOWCASE. The Justice league of America debuted in B & B’s pages, as did the Suicide Squad, the update of Hawkman, and a few others. But again, that approach ran its course. Eventually, a few years down the line, the book would find the identity it would hold until it’s eventual end: as a team-up venue for the Caped Crusader, Batman. But before that all settled out, the series hosted random team-ups of characters from across the DC line, weird pairings that crossed editorial offices and styles. They were always entertaining, but they often didn’t make a whole lot of sense or jibe with the home titles of their players. And so, this issue featured a meeting between editor Julie Schwartz’s The Atom and Robert Kanigher’s Metal Men–a bit of a stylistic gap to span.
This particular story, like so many to come in the pages of BRAVE AND THE BOLD, was written by Bob Haney. Haney was a prolific, clever writer who had only one drawback in the eyes of fandom, but it was a biggie: he didn’t give a hang about continuity. Whatever made for an interesting story to Haney, he would do (presuming his editor could be persuaded to go along with it.) If something didn’t line up properly with some other comic book, who cared? Haney was about entertaining kids twelve cents worth, not building a massive interconnected mythology. In B & B, he often was called upon to handle characters with whom he had only a passing familiarity, and so he interpreted them however he thought best. While the times were changing,. comics were still considered disposable ephemera by most, so making sense out of anything apart from the pages of this one book was outside of Haney’s job description. Reading a Bob Haney story was akin to getting a Hydrox rather than an Oreo–it looked outwardly the same, but didn’t taste as good.
So this story represents a bit of departure for both the Atom and the Metal Men, though it captures some of the spirit of the latter. Part of that is due to the illustrative abilities of Ramona Fradon, who drew this issue. Fradon’s work was always appealingly cartoonish, attributes that were right on point for Doc Magnus’ quirky robotic band. And in fact, the Atom doesn’t appear at all within the first chapter of this story. Rather, after bringing the Metal Men on stage and introducing them and their personalities to the readers, one by one they are destroyed due to their own clumsiness or a foul-up on Doc Magnus’ part. This was no huge thing–the Metal Men were forever sacrificing themselves in the line of duty, only to be reconstructed again afterwards. But here, two mysterious figures chuckle at Doc Magnus’ pain over the demise of his creations, and over the Metal Men’s misfortune.
Because I dig these vintage house ads, let’s look at another one. This one was for the ninth Giant Superman Annual, devoted to the most classic Imaginary Stories ever published. This book didn’t quite materialize in the form shown here: by the time it reached the racks, it had been rechristened SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1 and was in the 80 Page Giant format. You can still see a remnant of where the word GIANT had been lettered in the burst atop the logo.
The second chapter reveals who the two shadowy figures are, and it’s a revelation that makes a substantial addition to the Metal Men’s origin (albeing one that will never again be mentioned after this story runs its course.) It turns out that the main figure is Uranium, a Metal Men-style robot that Doc Magnus had once created as a prototype of his Metal Men process. But Uranium proved to be too dangerously radioactive and unstable. Doc destroyed Uranium, or thought he did, and went on to create his more perfected Metal Men. But Uranium’s remains were reanimated by an atomic test (presumably, his responsometer was still intact somehow) and he was able to reconstitute himself. He also went ahead and made himself a girlfriend moll out of Agantha, the silver metal. And now he’s come back for revenge against his creator and the robots who replaced him.
Having eliminated the Metal Men, uranium needs Doc’s assistance to build a long range Metal Ionizer, an improvement of the weapon he used to polish off Doc’s other robots. But while Doc works, he’s able to surreptitiously send out an SOS message–one that is received by Ray Palmer, the Atom. Coming to Doc’s aid, the Atom discovers the plot, then realizes that he may be able to restore the fallen Metal Men by reversing the damage done to them on a molecular level. So the Atom goes about gathering up the remnants of the fallen robots and restoring them on a subatomic level. By this point, Agantha’s had about enough of the troublesome Doc (she was created completely by Uranium, so she hasn’t a shred of loyalty to Magnus) and decides to polish him off despite Uranium’s protests. But Doc’s demise is forestalled when the heroic Metal Men come crashing into the lab, whole once more.
BRAVE AND THE BOLD still carried no letters page. Instead, editor George Kashdan ran text pages remotely related to the subject matter of the issue. The one in this issue, about certain minerals, is about as tenuously connected as possible, but it fulfilled the Post Office’s second class mailing requirements, and that’s all that counted. Also, here’s an ad for another Giant Annual, this one dedicated to Jimmy Olsen and the many different guises he’d taken on over the course of his career. (And yes, GIANT JIMMY OLSEN does imply that the reporter should be a colossus in this book, when he won’t be.)
As Part Three of this story opens, the Metal Men fly to the attack, justifying the cover image on this issue by mimicking it. But Uranium isn’t so easily toppled, and he materializes a trio of bullet-headed minions, Alpha, Beta and Gamma, based on the radioactive rays given off by uranium. Now the odds are just about equal between the two groups. The only robot who really stands a chance against Uranium is the radiation-proof Lead–but he’s off being seduced by Agantha to keep him out of the battle. Because the DC books of this period are notoriously chivalrous, it’s the female robot Platinum who gets to throw down with Agantha, as it would be to ungentlemanly for any of the other heroes to strike her, evil robot or not.
Being a scientist himself (and not really having much else to do at this point), the Atom is able to devise a strategy against Uranium and his hench-bots. He’s able to amalgamate Lead with Mercury, giving Uranium a target against which his radioactivity is useless. The evil robot exhausts himself of all of his energy trying to destroy Mercury, then plaintively wails that he only wanted to impress Doc as he expires once again. All that’s left as the story wraps up is to separate Lead back out of Mercury’s system and reconstitute him. But that’s the end. It’s a story with very little stakes to it–nobody other than the heroes themselves are in any sort of jeopardy, and even they get killed and resurrected with such regularity across its pages that it’s tough to worry about them. Still, twelve cents worth of entertainment delivered, just as Bob Haney promised.