The Thing is leading 4-3, so it's time for Round 8!
In the black corner, in 1967... it's Batman and the Metal Men, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, Brave and the Bold #74, Rampant Run the Robots!
While in the orange corner, in 1974... The Thing and Dr. Strange, written by Steve Gerber and drawn by George Tuska and Mike Esposito, Marvel Two-in-One #6, Death-Song of Destiny!
Looks like Mike Esposito is fighting his own inking... FROM ACROSS TIME!!!!!!! (DING DING DING!)
Bob Haney is in good form here, as I was thinking of scanning in the first three pages of the story in their entirety. It starts with some acrobatic padding as Batman defies "the law of centrifugal force!"
And disses Spider-Man? Geez, that was uncalled for! Then he waits around on the Bat Building (#1 on the list of things you didn't think he had in his utility belt - and apparently, it's got that gargoyle everybody uses when posing for covers).
"Robin's off with the Teen Titans... No action at all!" Too much information, Bats! That page continues with our hero talking to himself and calling himself Bruce before realizing that he should watch that lest he give his secret identity away. And when he finally sets off, it's with these immortal words: "Follow, follow, follow the gleam..." I'll have what Haney's having. Now ok, Batman loses a lot of points in these initial panels, but he loses even more as he shows a rather disturbing prejudice against robots. "What's next? Robots voting?" Oh, and he crashes the Batmobile again. Just another day on the streets of Gotham, I guess. I'm afraid even an appearance by the Whirly Bat can't save him now. Well, he does karate chop a robot's head off. +3 bat-points
But I must say the Thing doesn't do a whole lot better, basically getting his ass handed to him by a giant rodent. However, he gets some points for still being a beloved figure in his old neighbourhood, where a kindly old lady says he hasn't changed a bit since he was a boy - still the same gentle blue eyes. Awww. Uh-oh.
Not UNIVERSALLY beloved, then. Just as he's planning to kill the Yancy St. Gang, he gets into a team-up with Dr. Strange, swings a giant rat by its tail and that's pretty much it. +4 points
The Metal Men have individual personalities and abilities, and that's well exploited here. Tina (Platinum) gets to flirt, cry and slice an evil robot into bits. Iron gets to be strong. Tin gets to stutter and fawn over Batman like the fanboy he's meant to represent. Lead is dumb and well-shielded. Mercury is liquid and snarky. And Gold is the other guy.
A good example of how they use their shape-changing powers to good and entertaining effect. I also give them props for respecting Batman's decision to jail them in a cistern, which they later escape from and throw at the bad guys like a homemade missile. In the end, they melt Batman's racist heart and he's even haunted by them as he almost drowns. +7 bat-points
Dr. Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, the Master of the Mystic Arts... and Voyeur with a Third Eye?
While the Thing has his punch-ups, Doc Strange is stated to be "not a man of action", to which I can only say: Things sure have changed since the 70s. Strange would rather solve every problem with the judicious use of psychobabble. Takes a guy's face away to make him realize he's turning into a drone at the office, so his wife falls in love with him all over again... Kid's self-doubt appears in the form of a giant rat, so Strange gives him a big pep talk which allows the Thing to overcome it. If I want to read about a psychologist, I'll pick up something with Doc Samson, thank you very much, the shrink who PUNCHES YOUR TRAUMA AWAY! +3 points (yes, the voyeur thing actually SCORED him points)
Gotham City is in the grip of a robot-fueled crime spree, and Haney (or perhaps Andru) has fun creating some outlandish designs, like say, waterski-bots:
Now unless you're like Batman and actually believe Doc Magnus and the Metal Men are behind this, you probably figured out the mystery villain from the get-go. Dr. Daedalus (with his "amazing robot Icarus") is a flat-topped scientist who escaped from a Dick Tracy strip. The better to headbutt you, I suppose.
He gets points for setting up the Metal Men and hiding his loot in the GCPD basement, where no one would have thought to look. +5 bat-points
There's no clear villain in Marvel Two-in-One though. The story begins in the New York subway when Strange and his apprentice Clea witness a young girl getting run over by a train and exploding into a shower of glitter. The girl leaves a magic harmonica in Strange's care and posthumously reveals herself to be an incarnation of Destiny. She's affected everyone who saw her "die" by turning their lives into Freudian pablum, apparently. That giant rat I keep referring to, by the way? Insecurity. I'm sure you can look it up in some dream interpretation book for me.
Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
The whole thing starts out at an International Robot Exposition in Gotham. This is strange in itself, but moreso because the sign is bilingual, English/French. Is Gotham in Canada?
Note that I don't take well to my mother tongue being mangled in comics. That sign should say "La première exposition internationale des robots". -1 bat-point
From Marvel Two-in-One:
Steve Gerber still seems to be writing this book against his will. The whole idea of a mystical even touching the lives of ordinary people in a new agey, self-help book kind of a way is straight out of his Man-Thing stories. -2 points
Panel placement is confusing on at least two occasions, and the harmonica's secret magic word is mispelled at least once (Clestia instead of Celestia), which is frankly unforgiveable from editor Roy Thomas. -1 point
Check out that subway scene and see if you can spot the ads for cigarettes and booze in this Code-approved comic. Don't be distracted by how creepy Stephen Strange looks.
Farewells and Scoring
Batman gets a most Friendly Farewell. Not only does he make an about-face regarding robots and their rights ("They're people too!"), but he gets a kiss from Tina as well!
Nothing like the lips of a hot silver robot. Jocasta has nothing on her. +3 bat-points
Ben Grimm doesn't get an Unfriendly Farewell per se, since the story is to be continued, but you have to read between the lines.
Dr. Strange: "Valyrie, Ben [you moron] after the female warriors of Norse legend [you uneducated pile of rocks]. And yes... it is quite impossible. Nevertheless [moron], it's happened [as any fool can plainly see]."
Ben: "Yeah [I can plainly see that]." His expression says it all, really. +1 point
Checking with the judges and... It's a landslide for the Metal Men who seem to have piled up on Dr. "Not a man of action" Strange 17 to 9! Ouch! But that's what Batman needed to swing the score back to a tie. Will no hero take a definite lead?!?