DCAU #130: The Way of All Flesh

IN THIS ONE... Lex Luthor turns John Corben into Metallo.

CREDITS: Written by Stan Berkowitz (key DCAU writer who would go on to write for animated DCU projects beyond the DCAU); directed by Kenji Hachizaki (animator on such anime projects as Akira and Howl's Moving Castle).

REVIEW: Metallo is one of Superman's key villains, and John Corben was seeded in the pilot, so... what went wrong? Both script and animated execution seem badly thought-out. Making Luthor the mastermind behind Corben's transformation is a good idea, and keeps Lex at the forefront of the Man of Steel's problems, but was there REALLY a need for a rare virus apparently contained on a small island somewhere, yet known to Lois Lane? He'd bought the prison doctor, the man could have claimed anything. He need not have poisoned Corben. We could then have avoided the scene where Lex screams mouth open while Metallo splashes the virus all over his face. Even if you need the idea of the virus to drive a wedge between the two villains, it need not have been REAL.

But then this is yet another episode where the bad guy keeps punching Superman AWAY from the kryptonite, only showing it off as a ranged attack in the climax. Where Lex's bikini'd girlfriend is sent below decks on the yacht, then not seen again and potentially left to drown when Superman sinks the boat. Where Superman borrows a fisherman's net and never brings it back. Where a promise is made to have him return to take revenge on Luthor, but on the show at least, it never happens. Where the action is only okay, and the humor derives from tasteless double-entendres (oh Mr. Luthor, it's so biiiig - the yacht - and Metallo implying he was jerking off to thoughts of Lois Lane in his cell before sexually assaulting her - ick). And then there's Superman flying off and leaving Luthor to the ocean, only returning to put a button on a shark gag.

I certainly do like Luthor's fearlessness (now if he can stop bragging about how it's impossible to pin anything on him before Superman starts carrying a tape recorder), and there's an attempt at tracking Metallo's disconnectedness to his humanity (if only he hadn't been a psychopath to begin with). By making him a madman, he at least becomes more interesting that if he'd stayed a simple physical threat, though it does put him at the halfway point between Mr. Freeze (mentally) and Two-Face (physically). Not quite original in either sense.

IN THE COMICS: Metallo first appeared in Action Comics #252 (1959), but the look adopted here is from his post-Crisis days. Originally, he was a journalist on the run for a murder he committed, and then involved in a near-fatal car accident. He was found by a Dr. Vale (same name as his prison physician on the show) who placed his brain in a robot body. Because his uranium heart would only power his body for a day, Corben stole a piece of longer-lasting kryptonite and became Metallo. In his civilian identity, he briefly tried to romance Lois Lane, echoed in the animated scene where he forces a kiss on her here. The post-Crisis Metallo has similar origins though he was merely a con man before the accident. His Dr. Vale thought Superman was the spearhead of an alien invasion and told Metallo to destroy him. In a reversal of this episode, Lex TOOK the kryptonite from him. In the New52, Metallo is under General Lane's command; it is suggested he and Lois used to be involved.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - A disappointment, even if it had all the elements required to work.


Anonymous said...

I did kind of like Metallo's slow realisation that he would never be human again, though.

By the way, where would you recommend buying this series?

Siskoid said...

I got it off Amazon, myself, years ago.

LiamKav said...

It's $15 on Amazon:


Although you could just buy the entire series for $26


Also, if you have Prime it might be free. I'm not sure. One thing to note about the DVDs is that they appear to be multi-region. They only released seasons 1 and 2 in the UK, but I found out accidently that my season 3 one worked in my non-region free player. I've checked and apart from BTAS:Season 1 they all work, even the blu-rays. Oddly enough, I don't believe they say that they're multi-region on the boxes, but they are.

Brendoon said...

It's interesting in these "modern times" that Luthor is claiming other men's unfortunate discoveries as his own. The Corben Metallo, If I recall, was Prof Vale's handiwork. The misfortune was his choice of subject, John turned out to not be a nice man.
I also remember the story when Prof Nichols showed the Daily Planet crew his failed machine which resulted in the creation of Bizzarro... another accident which Luthor claims as his own masterful intention.

What's wrong with Lex these days. Is his own evil genius failing?

Andrew said...

The amusing thing about the Post-Crisis Dr. Vale is that he came rather close to the truth--except instead of being the spearhead of an alien invasion Superman was more an unwitting harbinger of one. After all, the massive snowstorm that isolated the Kent farm from the rest of Smallville that winter (and allowed Ma and Pa to pass baby Kal-El off as their own child come the spring) was created by the Manhunters, who went on to co-opt most of the town including baby Lana.

Funny how that part of the origin never gets referenced anywhere.

Brendoon said...

Andrew, all that post crisis super-goodness is a large hole in my own comic reading experience, though I read the Silver age story with Vale and Corben probably 30 years ago!
So much to catch up on.... such a large body of work.

Something I love about the DC universe is the irrelevance of inconsistency, if you read the past 80 years as a whole. It's overall theme has been "what if?" it's more about enjoying new ideas than reinforcing the old ones we've already loved.
Unlike Star Wars and Star Trek, there's no real canon. There were times they tried to rewrite things to be "more realistic" but they don't stick for long.
A NEW origin comes along every year or two, though the old ones are still there to re-read.

I've been re-listening to the 1940's Adventures of Superman... bullying and intimidation were a big part of his character. How things have changed!
Clark was also an enormously clever detective, in fact far smarter than Batman who seemed to be dumb as two bits.

Brendoon said...

Dang. I mis-spelled "its" as "it's".
Don't you hate it when the concrete learning of early school turns out to be falsehood or passing ephemera? I had been taught "apostrophe S" denotes posession.
Why is it that an "it" can't own posessions? Isn't that gender inequality?

LiamKav said...

The same reason that you say "his" rather than "he's". It's consistently inconsistent. :)

Also, I've sorta come to admire your view of the DC universe. Maybe because you've been removed from it for several years, but "the irrelevance of inconsistency" and "enjoying new ideas rather than reinforcing the old ones". is almost the exact opposite of their intention, especially Geoff Johns and Dan Didio. Their current reboot (only 5 years after the last, which was only 5 years after the one before) is based around bringing back the stuff you missed from pre-Flashpoint. They are inconsistent, but it's very relevant. They really, really want you to care about whether Batman's parents were killed by Joe Chill or a random mugger, whether there has been a Superboy or not, and exactly how many Wally Wests there are and whether he is black or white. They want you to care so much that it's essentially the whole point of the current reboot.

It's the main thing that puts me more in the Marvel camp, where they have a little bit more of the approach of "all this happened, but you can ignore it or use it however you want". There is no one perfect answer though. It's impossible to maintain a massive universe full of disparate elements whilst keeping things accessible but also making sure that things "count", and the older the universe gets the more impossible it becomes. I'm curious how approachable the DCAU is going to be by the time we're on the final season of Justice League Unlimited.

I remember Siskoid doing a series of articles on continuity several years ago. I might re-read them...

Brendoon said...

I'm showing signs of aging, seems I've camped out where the happy was and don't have any inkling of what came later. My Itunes is FULL of 70's rock too...

The continuity articles sound interesting, let me know if they're any harder the find than searching for "continuity!"

Siskoid said...

Scroll through the Theory label, or maybe Continuity Bottle.

Brendoon said...

Thankee kindly. The search bar comes up with a nice selection on the theme.
Real continuity seems an impossible task...


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