Metallo (John Corben)
Metallo (John Corben)
A ruthless villain--"a kind of human robot" with a human brain, a mechanical heart, and an indestructible "all-metal body"--who clashes with Superman in May 1959. He is actually unscrupulous journalist John Corben--an undetected thief, embezzler, and murderer--whose real body, mangled in an automobile accident beyond any hope of repair, is "rebuilt with a special metallic armor plate" and then "covered with a fleshlike, rubber-plastic skin" in an extraordinary emergency surgical operation performed by elderly scientist Professor Vale. Without his moustache, John Corben--alias Metallo--is a perfect look-alike for Superman.
While driving along a lonely road outside Metropolis in May 1959, unscrupulous journalist John Corben, a self-described thief, embezzler, and murderer, loses control of his car on a sharp curve, careens off the road, and is crushed beneath the wreckage of his overturned car, where he is found moments later, mortally wounded but still clinging precariously to life, by elderly scientist Professor Vale. â€œThis manâ€™s body is beyond repair!â€ remarks the professor gravely. â€œOrdinary surgery wonâ€™t help him...! The only way I can save him is to try a desperate experiment- -an experiment scientists have previously performed only on animals!â€
Soon, â€œthe operating lights gleam eerily in the professorâ€™s laboratoryâ€ as Professor Vale embarks on the fateful, life-saving operation. â€œHmm. . . his heart has a fatal wound!â€ murmurs the professor. â€œIâ€™ll begin by giving him a mechanical heart! Iâ€™ll use metal tubing for his circulatory system.
It is days before John Corben comes out of his coma, and when he does, he finds Professor Vale standing concernedly over him. â€œItâ€™s amazing, professor!â€ exclaims Corben. â€œI remember blacking out.. . feeling pain. . . and now I feel perfect! Your operation saved my life! Thanks a million!â€
â€œDonâ€™t thank me yet,â€ replies Professor Vale, â€œ...till youâ€™ve seen what Iâ€™ve done! Let me uncover this blanket. . .
â€œGreat Scott!â€ cries Corben as his bedcovers are pulled aside. â€œI-Iâ€™ve got an all-metal body!â€
â€œCorrection!â€ replies Professor Vale. â€œYouâ€™ve still got a human brain! But the rest of you has been rebuilt with a special metallic armor plate. . . unmeltable and shatterproof! Your new body is indestructible! Your [body is] now covered with a fleshlike, rubber-plastic skin! However, the fluoroscope reveals [its] true metallic structure!â€
â€œExactly!â€ replies Professor Vale. â€œIâ€™ve given you a mechanical heart! Inside this â€˜fuse-boxâ€™ [built into Corbenâ€™s metal chest] is one of the two elements that can energize your synthetic heart and keep you alive! Corben, youâ€™re a-er-machine now! A machine must be powered! Hereâ€™s what powers your mechanical heart--this capsule of uranium Iâ€™ve just removed from your chest!â€
Momentarily deprived of the life-giving capsule of uranium that powers his mechanical heart, John Corben becomes weak and dizzy, only to recover his strength instantly the moment Professor Vale replaces the capsule inside his fuse box. "See --I return the capsule," continues the professor, "and your fatal weakness vanishes! Now remember! --Each capsule lasts only a day! It must be replaced by fresh uranium daily, or you will die!"
Departing soon afterward for Metropolis, albeit without learning the name of the second energizing element alluded to by Professor Vale, Corben obtains employment as a reporter on the Daily Planet and begins secretly using his awesome â€œmetallic strengthâ€ to stage a series of spectacular uranium theftsâ€”â€I canâ€™t purchase it or mine it myself!â€ thinks Corben. â€œI can only steal it!â€â€”in an effort to stockpile the precious uranium needed to ensure his day-to-day existence. â€œEven if they tried to shoot me,â€ exults Corben, â€œthe bulletsâ€™d bounce off my metallic body like green peas! Nothing stops me! Nothing! I can do whatever I want! Iâ€™m invincible!â€
Indeed, before long, although the public is still unaware that journalist John Corben and the super-powerful uranium thief are one and the same man, law-enforcement officials have dubbed him Public Enemy Number One, and the news media have christened him Metallo, the Metal Man.
Soon afterward, after it has been announced that all supplies of uranium in the Metropolis area are being transferred to heavily guarded Fort Taber to protect them from Metallo, Corben cunningly impersonates Superman by donning a Superman costume and shaving off his moustache and then bluffs his way into Fort Taber in an effort to steal its entire uranium stockpile, only to be forced to flee empty- handed when the real Superman arrives on the scene.
A short while later, however, Corben learns that the second element capable of energizing his synthetic heart is Kryptonite. Moreover, whereas each uranium capsule lasts only a day, one capsule of Kryptonite contains sufficient energy to power Corben's heart indefinitely.
And so, after obtaining a Kryptonite capsule from Professor Vale and inserting it in his fuse box in place of the uranium, Corben returns to Metropolis, determined to destroy Superman by exposing him to the Kryptonite so that the Man of Steel will not be able to apprehend him for his previous thefts ... Superman escapes the painful Kryptonite deathtrap, however, and pursues the villain to the home of Lois Lane --whom Corben has been wooing during his brief career at the Daily Planet-- but before the Man of Steel can leap to the attack, Corben collapses, dead of a heart attack, because, ironically, the Kryptonite he stole from the exhibition hall and placed in his fuse box was not real Kryptonite at all, but only "fake, prop Kryptonite" -- ordinary rock, colored green-- intended for use as a display item in place of real Kryptonite to avoid the emission of radiations harmful to Superman (Act No. 252/1: "The Menace of Metallo!").
Corben, however, is not the only criminal called Metallo. Some years later, the criminal organization known as Skull, under the orders of former S.T.A.R. Labs scientist Dr. Albert Michaels (also known as the Atomic Skull), transforms Corben's younger brother Roger into a new Metallo to battle Superman (S No. 310, Apr 1977: "The Man with the Kryptonite Heart!").