Bizarro Back Issues: Body Swaps And Human Metal Men In ‘Silver Age!’ (2000)
So let's talk about The Silver Age. No, not the period from 1954 to 1971 that was largely defined by rigid rules, bizarre transformations, and Superman constantly playing educational pranks on all of his friends and loved ones; the other Silver Age. The fifth-week event from 2000? That's the one I want to talk about today, largely because I'm not sure that anyone else ever has.
If you don't remember it, The Silver Age was essentially a fun, semi-satirical event structured as a throwback to the swingin' '60s, spearheaded by Mark Waid. It's one of the most underrated crossovers ever published, slipping right under the radar despite the fact that it had pretty interesting consequences. It also marked the time that Bob Haney returned to The Brave and the Bold along with Kevin Maguire for a story where the Metal Men were turned human --- and then turned back after three and a half pages.
So here are the basics for the bigger crossover: The Silver Age marked the debut of Agamemno, a spacefaring conqueror with unusually large hands, who helped the Justice League's greatest villains swap bodies with their heroic counterparts. While most of the body-swaps were pretty obvious --- Superman switched with Lex Luthor, for instance --- a few other villains stepped in to pinch-hit against characters who didn't really have their own adversaries. Catwoman, for instance, got Black Canary's body, and Green Arrow was switched with Felix Faust.
The whole thing was pretty self-assuredly goofy, mostly built around the idea of doing covers that replicated the Silver Age's tendency to go for shocking images up front that would be explained away once you got into the story, like Batman driving the Batmobile as a getaway car while the rest of the JLA robbed a bank.
The thing is, while most people weren't paying attention to The Silver Age itself, "the Agamemno case" became the canonical reason that Batman kept files on his teammates' weaknesses in Mark Waid and Howard Porter's fondly remembered "Tower of Babel" storyline in JLA.
But while most of The Silver Age saw decidedly modern-age creators taking on the style of a past era --- there's even an early appearance by Geoff Johns in there, where he and Dick Giordano introduce a new Seven Soldiers of Victory --- there was one title that went all the way back to the source: The Brave and the Bold. Which, as you might recall, spent most of the Silver And Bronze Ages as a Batman team-up title usually written by Bob Haney.
And when Haney comes back, he brings the Metal Men with him.
The Metal Men were, of course, created by Ross Andru and Robert Kanigher, the Silver Age's other infamously bizarre Bob, but Haney wrote a handful of team-ups in BATB. They're pretty good, even though Haney neglected to follow Kanigher's lead in constantly mentioning that Mercury is the only metal that's liquid at room temperature.
So as this story opens, the Metal Men have formed into a tank to help out in Gotham City, where Batman --- who is actually the Penguin, but who has also convinced the world that he's the only member of the Justice League who hasn't "gone evil" --- has ordered the government to help him apprehend "Felix Faust" and "Catwoman" --- who are actually Green Arrow and Black Canary --- dead or alive!
It might sound a bit confusing, but all you really need to know is that Batman's really the Penguin and he's hanging out with a tank made up of five shape-shifting robots that's capable of giving a thumbs-up.
As for the Good Guys, Ollie and Dinah have made their way to the Gotham City Public Library in search of a mystical tome that will allow Green Arrow to use Faust's mystical powers to try to remedy their situation. And yes, before you ask, the GCPL does have mystical tomes on the shelves, and that is likely the source of at least some of that city's many, many problems.
Before they can do anything, though, the Metal Men's tank crashes through the wall, sending them scattering with the only book that they can find in the rubble. And as you might expect, from the fact that this crossover still had four more issues to get through, it is not the correct book.
And with that, the Metal Men are mystically turned human. And that means that it's time for Platinum to finally put the moves on Doc Magnus.
This might seem a little unusual if you haven't gone back and read a bunch of Silver Age Metal Men stories --- and with that sentence, I'm starting to figure out why this one maybe wasn't all that popular in an era before reprints and Wikipedia --- but Platinum is desperately in love with Doc Magnus. It's kind of her defining trait, along with her ability to turn herself into an extremely thin but high-tensile wire, but her affections are constantly rebuked on account of the fact that Will Magnus is a complete and total jerk.
It's not just that Magnus is (understandably) freaked out by accidentally creating a super thirsty robot lady --- although it really does raise the question of why he designed a robot whose body is essentially a Sexy Nurse Halloween costume if that's not what he expected --- but that he's constantly reacting to her affections by telling her that she's a stupid object and then threatening to sell her to the Science Museum. Heck, there's even one story where he does sell her to the Science Museum!
Once Tina's human, though, he's a little less of a jerk, and a whole lot more oblivious.
Since Doc doesn't return her love, Tina decides that there's no reason they should stay human when they can still do so much good as robots. So with that, after a mere two pages as humans, they convince Doc Magnus to throw a switch that'll turn them back into robots.
Fortunately, even once they re-form the tank and start rampaging through Gotham, they can't quite manage to stop "Faust" and "Catwoman," who make their getaway to join up with the rest of the team for the end of the story.
As for the Penguin, while his signature waddling and over-the-top speech patterns threatened to give him away even while he was in Batman's otherwise perfect body, even that starts to elude him when the body-swap starts to wear off:
And as an added bonus, now you know exactly what I'm going to look like on Halloween.