Batman and the Metal Men: 1982: True Mettle, Chapter 1: Missing: One Doc Magnus

by Libbylawrence

Return to chapter list

On a sweltering August night, even the air-conditioned ballroom at the Gotham Regency Hotel felt uncomfortably warm, and the crowded conditions didn’t help the situation.

Elegantly dressed men and women mingled and chatted by a buffet table, while others danced to the sounds of the Swing Sisson Quartet. A banner stretching across the room proclaimed Jason Bard for D.A.

Two young men leaned against a wall and watched the proceedings with the apathetic and world-weary demeanors of the idle rich.

“Len, this is a total bore,” said Devin Douglas. “Still, Wayne never fails to put out a good spread, and his little events do attract a surprising number of prime ladies.”

His equally bored friend nodded and added, “I couldn’t care less about Jason Bard and his campaign for D.A., but I figured some real babes might show up. Wayne does have an eye for the ladies, and he is paying for this fundraising dinner.”

Their eyes widened as a striking newcomer entered the room. She had long, platinum-blonde hair, a delicately beautiful face, and a killer figure, and she wore a simple but elegant black dress with matching heels. Walking into the crowded room, she instantly became the center of attention.

“What a living doll,” said Devin. “Excuse me. I have plans for her.” He hurried over to the girl in the black dress and heels and said, “We’re two happening adults. Why not skip the preliminaries and give me your number?”

She frowned, then replied in a soft, breathy tone, “My number? My atomic number is 78. Excuse me.” She stepped away from him, but he reached out and grabbed her.

“I’m Devin Douglas,” he said. “As in heir to the Douglas Industries fortune, as in I can buy you any little thing your heart desires.”

The blonde sighed and said, “How sweet! But I’m in a hurry.”

Devin grinned and said, “That’s the way I like to hear you talk. I’m pretty fast, myself.”

She reached over and pried his hand off her arm, then continued to exert pressure until he yelped with pain and drew back. Glancing over her shoulder as she flounced away, she said, “Sorry. I tried to be nice.”

Devin rubbed his hand as his would-be conquest made her way directly toward Bruce Wayne. Figures she’s one of Wayne’s dolls, mused Devin. She must be some kind of fitness freak.

Meanwhile, as Bruce Wayne’s keen and appraising gaze caught sight of the blonde newcomer, he frowned in concern and hastily excused himself from a discussion with Jason Bard, the candidate he was honoring with the night’s celebration. “Pardon me, Jason. I see an old friend.” Bard nodded in understanding.

Wayne stepped swiftly across the room and stopped in front of the stunning woman. “Miss Plat? What brings you here?” he asked in a commanding-yet-friendly tone of voice.

She looked up at him with concern in her eyes as she said, “You recognized me? But you’ve never seen me like this. I mean, I came this way so that I wouldn’t cause a scene.”

Bruce smiled and led her across the room as he whispered, “Don’t worry. Your makeup is perfect. Only someone with a trained eye could detect the artificial cosmetics, and your voice is very distinctive. I could never forget that sound. I’d describe it as liquid gold, if our mutual friend wouldn’t object to the phrase.” He didn’t add that each step she took left an imprint in the carpet that indicated her weight was much greater than her dainty appearance would suggest.

She smiled winningly, and a look of relief covered her pretty face. “Thank goodness,” she said. “I didn’t want to cause you any problems, but you see, we need your help to contact Batman. We figured you — his friend — would be here, and we just didn’t know what else to do!”

Bruce gently led her outside and then spoke in a serious voice. “Tina, Platinum, what is it?” he asked. “Are the Metal Men in trouble?”

She shook her head and answered in what could only be described as a tone choked by tears and emotion. “No, Bruce. It’s Doc!” she cried. “The poor, dear man is missing!

***

Later, in his guise as the Batman, Gotham City’s Caped Crusader, he listened as Miss Tina Plat, AKA Platinum of the celebrated robotic heroes known as the Metal Men told her story while her equally colorful friends watched.

She had discarded the blonde wig and the body makeup along with the dress and heels. Platinum now stood before the detective in her natural form as a gleaming, metallic beauty made of platinum and given humanlike emotions and personality by a remarkable device called a responsometer.

Nearby stood the stolid Lead, the stalwart Iron, the acerbic Mercury, the noble Gold, and the diminutive-but-hardy Tin. The six robots had all been created by a genius called Dr. Will Magnus, and it was in his laboratory that they now assembled. Papers lined the floor, and a chair rested crookedly on its side.

Batman had seen many marvels in his storied career, and yet he still felt some surprise at how extremely human these metal beings were in demeanor and manner. In some ways they displayed more personality or at least more exaggerated quirks than even his good friend and fellow Justice League of America member, the synthetic hero Red Tornado. And he had always thought of the Tornado as a very humane and caring being. He had worked with the robots on several occasions as the Batman and a couple of times in his Bruce Wayne identity, and the Metal Men knew only that Wayne and Batman were friends. As much as he liked the robot super-heroes, he only divulged his secret identity to those within his small circle of trust.

“Thank goodness you’ve come, Batman,” Tina said in a gushing tone. “I just know you’ll help us make sense of this terrible nightmare!

Mercury rolled his eyes and said, “Batman, forget this crazy, mixed-up platinum doll. Her brain is all clogged up with Marilyn Monroe flicks. Let me explain what happened.”

Tina’s eyes flashed with irritation as she snapped, “I’ll have you know Platinum is one of the most chemically stable metals around!”

“Don’t let our toxic pal get to you,” Iron said. “He’s as upset as we are. After all, Doc made all of us, and we all think of him as a friend.”

Gold, the noble leader, spoke up. “Batman, as Tina said, our creator Dr. Will Magnus is missing. We hoped you might help us find him. We’ve all seen your impressive deductive powers in action.”

“I’ll be glad to help,” said Batman. “Don’t worry, Tina. We’ll get to the bottom of this. You were right to come to me. That’s what friends are for.”

The shy and insecure Tin grinned with pleasure. “B-B-Batman called us friends,” he said softly and with real pleasure.

“Batman,” began Gold, “perhaps I should give you some background on how things have been between us and Doc Magnus. He created us, and he’s like a father to us in some ways. Well, that parental bond was stretched unpleasantly when stress led to changes in Doc’s mental state. You see, he had some difficulties for a while, but he got better. He continued to see his therapist, though. It was her call that alerted us to his disappearance. He failed to show up for his session, and Dr. Isobel Sullivan became concerned. She called us, but we have not seen him in a while.”

Batman nodded and said, “I was glad when he showed such obvious and public signs of improvement. Do you suspect he’s had a setback of some kind? Perhaps the U.N. declaration upset him.”

“We wondered about that,” Tina said. “When the United Nations granted us status as citizens of the world, it made us all very happy. We weren’t trying to rebel against Doc, but we wanted to have the same kind of liberties and freedoms others enjoy. I think he understood that and was proud of us.”

Gold nodded and said, “The military tried to prevent us from gaining that precious liberty. They viewed us as nothing more than property because they helped finance much of Doc’s work. They used one of Doc’s creations, the Inheritor, to try to take us into custody.”

Repo us!” snapped Mercury. “They tried to repossess us like we were rusty old hot rods!

“Doc Magnus wasn’t a party to the attack on us at the U.N.,” said Iron. “The Inheritor was acting independently through some kind of flawed programming. Doc even rebuilt us after we defeated the Inheritor, and the U.N. granted us the status we wanted.”

“As I recall, I was the one who defeated the high and mighty Inheritor,” said Mercury, muttering in a low voice. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Inheritor Kills,” Metal Men #56 (February-March, 1978).]

“Uh… Batman, it… uh… don’t matter who did what in the past,” said Lead. “We just want you to help us find Doc. We have been on our own since that day at the U.N., but we don’t want Doc to be hurt.”

Iron nodded and said, “Lead’s right. There’s no getting past the point that, while we’re somewhat estranged from Doc, we still care about him.”

“I felt so bad for him after he fixed us all and wished us well,” said Tina. “I just know he really wanted us to stay. He is so reserved sometimes. The poor dear can’t say what is in his heart.”

As Batman looked around the lab, he quickly came to some conclusions. “I’m glad you left things the way they were when you came here after Dr. Sullivan’s call,” he said. “I take it you are living elsewhere now?”

Tin piped up and said, “We h-have a condo. It’s got a y-yard and everything!

Tina said, “Tin grows the prettiest flowers there!”

Batman nodded and said, “The lab shows some signs of disarray beyond the norm. Magnus is a bit eccentric, like many scientists, but he always kept a tidy lab. I would take the mess to indicate there was a struggle here, but I found no blood, nor is there any sign of a break-in.”

“We thought that, too,” said Gold. “Someone took Doc against his will.”

Lead said, “But, uh, how did the bad guy get in?”

“He let him in,” concluded Batman. “That’s the only reasonable answer. Once inside the lab, the unknown assailant turned on Magnus and abducted him.”

“I bet it was that brass-faced creep General Caspar,” said Mercury. “He was still steamed at how his toy soldiers lost control of us. Doc would have let him in. He thought of the old goat as an ally.”

“Unlikely,” said Batman. “Before coming here, I did a quick check of Caspar’s recent activities, since I suspected his involvement as well. I thought he might have recruited Doc for some secret mission for the government, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Caspar is busy with the aftermath of one of your other cases. He is trying to find a use for the victims of Norman Techno’s mad experiments.”

“The Brain Children!” said Gold. (*) “I feel sorry for those mutated infants. Caspar is not my choice for a father figure.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Doctor Strangeglove and the Brain Children,” Metal Men #52 (June-July, 1977).]

“That leaves Caspar out,” said Iron. “Batman, what’s our next move?”

“Doc owns a second lab,” said Batman. “I suggest we go there and check it out.”

Tina frowned and said, “We never heard of another lab. Why would he have kept it a secret from us?”

“He established it with funding from the Karnian agents who kidnapped him once before,” explained Batman. “This was during the time that he was ill. (*) With that version of the Karnian government being ousted shortly thereafter, and his own mental collapse, there was no one to use it. It is possible that he literally blocked its existence out of his memory after his recovery, or merely abandoned it since it brought back unhappy associations.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Evil is in the Eye of the Beholder,” Metal Men #45 (April-May, 1976).]

“How did you learn about it, Batman?” asked Iron.

“I did a bit of investigating of my own when he first had his breakdown,” said Batman. “I didn’t want to see his talent for inventing misused by the wrong hands. Luckily, my own intervention proved unnecessary.”

“We can take our hovercraft,” said Gold. “Doc gave it to us when we left after the U.N. declaration.”

Return to chapter list