Justice League of America #1 debuted today. Brad Meltzer’s story is off to a slow start, typical of the “write for the trade” style. Sure, once it’s all assembled, there will be action in the story, we just don’t get to see it in this installment. That said, it makes for an intense read with some touching moments and solid drama, and I’m especially pleased to see the attention paid to some second-string characters I’ve loved for years, namely The Metal Men and Red Tornado.
First off, the Metal Men. I’m somewhat glad that the Infinite Crisis simply wiped out the 1993 mini-series and re-established that they are robots, not human souls trapped in robot form.
And the “somewhat” is only on account a’ I had a pitch to bring the Metal Men back and it too is now scrap alongside the “Merry Adventures of Elongated Man and His Wife”, my Captain Carrot mini, my Suicide Squad focused on Captain Boomerang, my story about Robin camping with his dad, my Blue Beetle mini that would make Ted a serious character again, my plans for a Guy Gardner Warrior mini and everything else I ever planned to pitch to DC. You know how Ronald Reagan said he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, it left him? I’m still a lifelong DC fan, but over the last several years, the DCU has pretty much moved beyond anything I’d want to write. Forget “want”…almost none of the characters I’d want to write are available or in the same shape they were in before. The only thing left in my pitch pile for ideas I could throw at Dan Didio if the situation came up are Elseworlds stories, and DC isn’t really doing those anymore. At this point, I’m pretty much a mere spectator…and at $3 a pop for everything on the stands, maybe not even that for much longer. (I’m unemployed, remember?)
So…ahem…sorry for the diversion. Back to the Metal Men. I detailed back in my first contributions to Fanzing about how the Metal Men had been through numerous revamps mainly due to the differences in writers and the progression of the initial concept. The early issues of Metal Men had the characters as solid robots with very limited shape-changing abilities. I even remember an early issue where they made a point about how one was exposed to enough flame to start melting; this is radically different from the robots today who change shape at will. (What’s the big deal about Mercury being liquid if they all can liquefy, I wonder?) Although years before such ideas as nanorobotics and liquid metal T-1000s, it came to be accepted that the robots weren’t the ordinary kind with nuts, bolts and wires, but were solid metal clear through. It’s pretty batty to insist that their outer casings’ properties would apply to their interiors if they aren’t made of the same metals.
John Byrne finally redefined them very well in Action Comics, where it was revealed that the robots were made of a special Magnus polymer which duplicated the properties of the metal assigned by the Responsometer… and the Responsometers were shown to be microscopic. Well done, John! Then this was ignored in the 1993 mini, when the responsometer became the size of a casaba melon.
And now, in 52 (or should I say “then” in 52?) the Metal Men are back to being solid metal robots with wires and hoses and nuts and bolts, and they can be disabled just by taking off their heads. This is actually the first time in Metal Men history that separating their heads deactivates them.
Why are the Metal Men brought back only to be feebs? They’re not feebs! They could be one of the coolest teams around if they were written right. Argh!
This is one of the problems with being a minor neglected character. Here’s another:
How old is Traya? You know, Traya, who was adopted by Red Tornado and his “wife” Kathy Sutton when RT found her in a war zone way back in issue 152 of Justice League of America from 1978? Believe it or not, she actually looked to be about 12 years old in her first appearance! They moved the age back a bit when she was brought back to the USA and adopted, but let’s be charitable and say she was as young as 7.
Now, granted, there’s that 10-year timeline. Even there, when it was written back during Zero Hour, six years would have passed between Traya’s introduction and the “present”, and the present is many years back. If Traya was seven when she was adopted, she’d have been a budding pre-teen during Zero Hour. And how many years have passed since Zero Hour? During the time since then and now, the Justice League has gone through a whole ‘nother run. And let’s not forget, the DCU just threw on a whole whopping ‘nother year!
Even within “Young Justice”, Traya went from a little kid watching Pokemon to a small teenager attending a private school…and that was with the same writer doing the stories!
I don’t know how many “years” have passed, but here’s what’s happened in the DCU during the time that Traya appeared up til now:
- Robin went from a freshman in college to splitting with Batman to becoming Nightwing to a cop in his late 20s.
- Firestorm’s Ron Raymond went from a high schooler (I don’t think he was even a senior) to a college student, to a famous male model, to a senior respected hero, to dead.
- Booster Gold was years away from his first appearance, let alone 20 years of stories that have happened since then.
- The JLA was still in their satellite. Since then, there’s been JLA Detroit, JLI (Giffen’s era), the post-Zero Hour sucky team, the Morrison era, five years of post-Morrison stories and a skipped year where they don’t exist.
Traya has to be about 15 now. Instead, she’s three feet tall and looks to be about five years old!
No matter how flexible you want the DCU timeline to be, I don’t think kids can age backwards.
P.S. According to the Unauthorized Chronology of the DCU, Traya’s story occurred in “Year Nine” and we are now in “Year 23”, so Traya would be drinking age about now! Mind you, that’s unofficial and I think the timeline there is too literal to work, but even if you cut it in half, there’s no way Traya is as young as she appears in JLA #1.
UPDATE: I just re-read it and noticed another thing. Lian, Arsenal’s daughter, who was BORN several years after Traya was adopted, now looks to be about three or four years old.