Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Metamorpho. How Can You Not Dig This?

I recently picked up the Showcase edition of Metamorpho and I have to say, so far I'm in love.

The earliest issues have art by Ramona (Aquaman) Fradon and Charles (Batman) Paris which is just astoundingly beautiful (Oh! How I wish this were in color!). The plot and characters remind me somewhat of Plastic Man's Jack Cole at his height. And Metamorpho himself is a wonderfully "flexible" character.

Soldier-of -Fortune, Rex Mason works for one of the world's wealthiest and most power-hungry scientists, Simon Stagg. Mason is also engaged to Stagg's daugther, Sapphire. The love between Mason and Saphire causes nothing but outrage in the heart of Stagg's henchman, Java- a revived, mentally-enhanced cave man- who hates the dashing Rex Mason with a burning passion. A passion almost as strong as his desire to win the heart of the beautiful Sapphire.

Are you hooked yet? Because it gets even better!

Rex Mason is a cocky, swaggering man-of-action who despises his employer, Simon Stagg. Mason only works for Stagg because A) Stagg pays well and B) Mason is in love with Stagg's daughter and needs the money to marry her.

As our story opens, Mason thumbs his nose at Stagg once too often, returning from an expedition with a rare potion of immense power, only to dump it on Stagg's rug. After all, Stagg asked him to obtain it and bring it back, not to give it to him.

Stagg plots with Java to send Mason on a one-way mission to the Lost Pyramid of Ahk-Ton which holds a famous mystical treasure -The Orb of Ra. Stagg offers Mason $1,000,000.00 to find it and bring it to him. Stagg also instructs Java to go with Mason and see that he never returns. Knowing that a million 1965 dollars would mean financial independence for Sapphire and himself, Mason reluctantly takes the job.

As Mason and Java approach the lost pyramid in their small airplane, the pyramid begins to give off intense heat. Crash-landing the plane, both men survive, but the landing gear has been damaged in the crash.

Once at the pyramid, Java finds a concealed entrance. Soon, Mason finds hieroglyphics which tell the story of an Egyptian priest, Ahk-Ton who found a mysterious, glowing meteorite. Ahk-Ton fashioned an orb from a fragment of the rock and attached it to a sceptre which he presented to Pharoah.

Mason and Java find the sceptre. Java takes the sceptre and then sets off a booby trap, trapping Mason with the original, large meteorite. Java leaves Mason for dead and returns to Stagg, dreaming of how his boss might make him handsome, so that he can win the love of Sapphire.

Meanwhile, Mason is transformed by the meteorite into The Element Man. He quickly discovers that he can alter his form to become gaseous or liquid and can become any element. Mason uses his power to repair the Magnesium landing gear on his plane and return home to confront his boss.

To sum up, Metamorpho uses his new powers to kick the asses of Stagg's private army and Java.

Stagg, not wanting to pass up having a superman in his employ, offers to cure Mason if he'll continue to work for him. Sapphire still loves Rex, even though he is now a hideous freak. Java boils with envy and rage.

This series (I'm only on the 3rd story, mind you) is off to a great start. As mentioned before, I love the art. And DC didn't do very many heroes with unwanted powers in the Silver Age, but they sure did this one right. I was mostly familiar with Metamorpho from his appearances in Batman and the Outsiders and (Keith Giffen's) Justice League. I thought he was an intriguing character then, He's moved up to my top ten now.


  1. I enjoy Metamorpho a lot (with the standard caveat "with a good writer").

    Rex and Barry Allen are among the only DC characters with "origins". To me, an origin is when a guy is minding his own business and *zap* he's got superpowers.

    Most of Marvel's heroes have "origins". Most of DC's heroes have "explanations". "I come from an alien planet/mysterious lost civilization" "I built this suit/gizmo" "I trained and practiced really really hard to be take on this role"

    You've made a good point that Rex is pretty close to unique in having an unwanted origin.

  2. Those old Metamorpho comics were a blast when they came out. My favorite cover was always this one:

    I remember my friend and I reading Metamorpho's speech bubble over and over and just cracking up uncontrollably.

    I enjoyed your post - great stuff.

  3. KB: Thanks! Ha! I love when DC characters talk hip!

  4. Blaze: Yeah, Rexy coulda been the new powerhouse in The Doom Patrol.

  5. I do in fact dig Metamorpho (just to dispute the accusation of being a marvel fanboy)

  6. Metamorpho was one of the first DC heroes to be unhappy about his changed appearance, although he was not alone; see also the Doom Patrol and Ultra, the Multi-Alien.

  7. I always associate Ultra with Metamorpho. Probably becasue they're both divided into mis-matched quarters.