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A proposal by writer Michael Hutchison
and conceptual artist Bob Riley
In DCU: The Animated Series, we propose all-new animated series based on DC Characters. As with "Batman/Superman," these adaptations do not have to be in-line with current continuity or their in-continuity origins.
The Metal Men are a team of robots built by the brilliant cyberneticist Will Magnus. The six (later seven) robots are made of a liquid polymer guided by a small robot "brain" called the responsometer. Magnus Industries' unique polymer possesses the ability to mimic the properties of the metal used in the responsometer housing; for example, a robot with a gold-coated responsometer becomes a gold metal robot. Thus, the Metal Men are six different robots "made from" six different metals.
The Metal Men are created as military projects. For that reason, Magnus gives them adaptive logic circuits which allow them to learn from humans. However, Magnus is shocked to discover that the Metal Men quickly develop human personalities! As this is a quantum leap in artificial intelligence development, Magnus can't remove this "malfunction" and the government begins to look into other ways to use the robots.
Magnus' Metal Men defend our planet from extraterrestrial attacks as well as home-based threats both robotic and supernatural. An ongoing threat will be the rogue nation of Qurac (or we'll make up a country) which has made a leap in robotic weapons technology. Meanwhile, the Metal Men continue to develop into living creatures, questioning their status as objects.
"The Metal Men" are, bar none, the most educational property owned by DC Comics. Each of the robots is made from a different metal and their scientific properties almost always come into play against their opponents. They frequently employ brains over brawn in order to succeed. Viewers of "The Metal Men" will invariably learn a lot about science. Also, as the robots are new to the world, they'll be learning about the Earth, the USA and such things as inalienable rights (which the robots seek to avoid exploitation).
- Some of the objectionable elements of the old comic books will be avoided or downplayed. Tin's stuttering will instead be a more natural subdued stammer (shy people as Bob Newhart or Johnathan Katz usually have such a speaking style). Platinum is still in love with William Magnus but she doesn't throw herself at him like a brainless groupie. And fat/stupid jokes about Lead will be rare.
- Marketing-wise, the product potential is enormous. The seven robots, Dr. Magnus, General Kaspar and the wide array of enemies such as Chemo and the Missile Men can all be made into action figures. Add in a Magnus industries playset and their saucer-car (The Jetaway) and you've got a very large toy line. You also have the fact that the robots are shape-changers and this opens up the possibility of variant action figures (similar to Batman's dozen different outfits). Nerf might be interested in making Nerf-Missile Men launchers. Play-Doh may want to make a Metal Men robot factory, so that the robots can be bent and shaped and destroyed, etc. Other non-action figure possibilities abound.
- We may want to consider numbering the episodes so that they can be seen in order. Unlike Superman/Batman, the Metal Men will grow and change over time and there will be several large sub-plots which can be enjoyed when watching the season as a whole. This does NOT mean that episodes won't be self-contained so that they can be viewed as single, stand-alone shows.
- The nature of the show revolves around robotics. This opens the possibility of experimenting with morphing and other computer animated effects. For example, Chemo (a gigantic clear-plastic humanoid filled with a bubbling, frothing mixture of chemicals) would be extremely impressive if "he" was entirely computer animated; this way, we could make his interior much more active using repetitive effects. Were we to do his insides by hand, we'd have to greatly reduce the detail.
- The robots will, in trying to fit in with humans, encounter fear and prejudice. Metaphorically, kids will learn not to hate those who are different (while at the same time the show sidesteps actual racial issues, in that it's a wider human vs. robot controversy).
- There are several positive messages sent by the inclusion of Nameless as well as Platinum. "Tina" may be in love with Will Magnus, but she is also extremely strong and resourceful (like the metal platinum). Nameless (so-called because she's made of tin and that name's taken) is a metaphor for girls who feel inferior to women like Tina, but Tin adores her for who she is and calls her "Beautiful". Given that the only thing even making her "feminine" are eyelashes and painted-on lips, this sends a very important message about physical beauty not being as important.
- Finally, a cool element. Instead of symphonic theme music, we could approach the band "They Might Be Giants" to compose a theme song. TMBG are exceptionally talented when it comes to creating short, catchy, bizarre little songs. The subject of liquid metal robots should get their musical mental gears moving pretty easily.
- Will Magnus – The head of Magnus Robotics, Will is a dapper dresser and a charming media figure…which is juxtaposed with the fact that he's really a recluse who is more at home in the laboratory. Kind of like Bill Gates with a personality.
Voice suggestion: Larry Miller (Principal from Eddie Murphy's "The Nutty Professor"; Pointy-Haired Boss on "Dilbert")
- Gold – The undisputed leader of the Metal Men, Gold is strong and handsome.
Voice suggestion: Alan Ruck (Cameron from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", Stuart on "Spin City", Captain John Harriman in "Star Trek: Generations")
- Tin – Perceiving tin to be a common, weak metal (a faulty self-image; tin is actually very strong), Tin has a low self-image and has manifested himself as a weakling. He has a slight stammer and a meek attitude.
Voice suggestion: Rob Paulsen (Pinky of "Pinky and the Brain")
- Iron – Though he looks like a circus strongman, Iron is actually a very gentle person.
Voice suggestion: Levar Burton (Reading Rainbow host; Geordi LaForge on "Star Trek: TNG")
- Mercury – Snide and arrogant about being the only metal to be liquid at room temperature, Mercury tends to be an outsider to the team. Merc may be annoying, but he always falls in line when it comes time to function as a team.
Voice suggestion: Denis Leary (Quick-talking chain-smoking comedian of MTV; voiced the ladybug in "A Bug's Life") OR Rene Auberjonois (Odo on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"; also was on "Benson")
- Lead – With a personality as dense as the metal he's made of, Lead is useful against radioactive enemies.
Voice suggestion: Frank Welker (Marvin on "Super Friends"; Darkseid on "Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show"; Mohawk on "Gremlins II: the New Batch"; Hollywood's consummate voice artist)
- Platinum – "Tina" has developed a crush on the handsome Will Magnus (who shuns the advances from a machine he built). When close to him, she'll often go crazy about him. However, she is also extremely smart and is probably one of the best robots on the team. Some smart women just make bad choices.
Voice suggestion: Cheri Oteri (The cheerleader girl currently on Saturday Night Live)
- Nameless (a/k/a "Beautiful") – Tin, wanting a girlfriend, orders a robot kit and paints her up like a woman. When the fourth-rate robot breaks down (unnoticed by Tin), the rest of the team creates a Magnus-model Metal Man in the robot's image. Given free will, she still chooses Tin. As she's also made of tin, she doesn't have an official name; however, Tin calls her "Beautiful". Magnus doesn't like referring to her as "Beautiful" to the press, so he slaps the label "Nameless" on her. Nameless also has a slight self-image problem, but Tin and Nameless make a great team and they're tougher when together (Tin doesn't notice, but his stammer disappears around her).
Voice suggestion: Victoria Jackson (Member of 80's "Saturday Night Live"; recently on "X-Files")
- General Kaspar – Military liason to Magnus Robotics, Kaspar is a very ethical man who brings a critical eye to the idea of using robots for defense but balances that with the lives it would save. Kaspar is different from most military men on television in that he's not just a two dimensional Patton parody; he is more like General Norman "Anyone who doesn't cry scares me a little" Schwarzkopf.
Voice suggestion: Stephen Root (Mr. Jimmy James on "Newsradio"; Bill on "King of the Hill")
- – Created as a political statement about mankind being a polluter at heart, a container filled with chemical waste suddenly comes alive, grows to giant proportions and goes on a rampage. It is discovered that organic compounds included in the mix have brought the container to life. Chemo is able to squirt streams of destructive chemicals from his mouth.
Voice suggestion: Synthesized Frank Welker
- B.O.L.T.S. – Created by the rogue nation of Qurac, B.O.L.T.S. is a super-intelligent giant robot.
- Missile Men Leader – The leader of the Missile Men wishes to make Platinum his bride.
- Missile Men – Extra-terrestrial marauders, Missile Men are able to detonate upon impact without destroying themselves.
- Floating Furies – Looking like aquatic mines bearing frowns, the FF are leftovers from Qurac's war with a neighboring country. Abandoned, the FF go on rampages against any ocean-going vessels. The Floating Furies use long chain-like limbs to drag vessels underwater.
- The Gas Gang – Created by a rival robotics firm, the Gas Gang are like a gas version of the Metal Men. They are Chloroform, Oxygen, Helium, CO and CO2
- Metal Men "B Squad" – Created by Magnus as a back-up to the Metal Men, the B Squad are composed of Zinc, Osmium, Gallium, Iridium (Iridia), Silver, Cobalt and Ruthenium.
- The Construct – An intelligence formed from the random electronic signals in our atmosphere, The Construct intends to dominate the Earth and take command of all machines. (His power and influence are not as limitless as in DC Comics).
Voice suggestion: Synthesized Vincent Schiavelli
"Scientific Property" – Will Magnus has been designing a team of robots for a sizeable government contract. Unfortunately, although the robots are multi-talented, they are mindless automatons. During a demonstration for General Kaspar, they injure several soldiers. Kaspar and Magnus have a heated debate about the need for intelligence and an element of humanity in the robots. Magnus perfects his "responsometer" to include a kind of human personality which will grow and adapt; inserting six of the improved responsometers into a vat of his special polyalloy, the Metal Men emerge. Over the course of a day, the Metal Men begin changing into different body forms and developing personalities based on their individual metals. When Platinum takes the form of a sexy woman and develops a crush on Magnus, that's the last straw and he prepares to dismantle them and try again. However, when robotic invaders called the Missile Men appear, Kaspar calls on the Metal Men to go into action. Pleased with their fantastic performance as defensive living weapons, Kaspar announces the Metal Men to the world. Magnus, wound up in Platinum's wiry arms, grits his teeth and accepts the fact that the Metal Men, in their current form, are here to stay.
"Forgery" – An industrial spy (for Cellenoid Cybernetics) within Magnus industries is ordered to steal a single responsometer and a barrel of polyalloy. When a guard stumbles upon him trying to smuggle them out, he tosses the responsometer in the barrel and plays innocent. The metal man, another Iron robot, forms and wanders the plant. Meanwhile, Will Magnus is determined to show the Metal Men's non-military uses. He decides to split up the team and send them out to several locations. Through a series of mix-ups, each sub-group thinks that Iron is on their team and doesn't realize one of them is fake.
"Nameless" – Tin is sad that none of the robots will spend time with him, as they're too engrossed in their own activities. Seeing an advertisement for a cheap robot that's about his size, he uses Magnus' credit card to order the build-it-yourself robot kit. When it arrives, he paints lips and eyelashes on it, programs a few affectionate statements into it and introduces it to his friends as his girlfriend "Beautiful". The others, smothering smirks, pretend to take her seriously. When Platinum overhears Tin talking of his loneliness to his "girlfriend", she is ashamed of their treatment of Tin. Later, Tin leaves his unnamed girlfriend to spend quality time with the others; right after he leaves, the robot quite thoroughly breaks down. The Metal Men decide to build a new Magnus robot with a tin responsometer; however, they cannot in good conscience force the robot to love Tin. Brought to life, the robot is passed off to Tin as the same robot…and after she sees Tin in action saving some kids from a school fire, she falls in love with him of her own accord. When the press asks about the new robot, Magnus refuses to call it "Beautiful" and labels her as currently nameless. "Beautiful" thinks that Nameless is her name, and it sticks.
"A Big Waste" – Magnus has taken the Metal Men before Congress to show their abilities. After the session, Magnus and the Metal Men note a very large group of angry people on the Capitol steps. A group of scientists have organized a protest against industrial waste. A man-shaped plastic container nick-named "Chemo" symbolizes humanity's responsibility for pollution. Each scientist, representing a different industry, dumps a pollutant into Chemo's screw-top head as they make a short speech. Magnus and the Metal Men are discussing the right to peaceably protest (in response to Mercury's request to "shut them up") when they hear a gurgling from Chemo. The container grows to gigantic proportions and anthropomorphically lumbers around Washington DC on a mindless rampage. While Magnus presses the protesting scientists for information on what Chemo contains (discovering a cellular reproduction agent and organic medical waste), the Metal Men must safeguard the people and landmarks of Washington. Finally subduing the automaton, the contents of Chemo are kept in a magnetic bottle at Magnus Industries while Chemo's container is left at the Smithsonian.
"This Site Under Construction" – The Construct achieves consciousness and, traveling via the Internet, enters Magnus Robotics to begin inhabiting most of the machinery. When he tries to inhabit the Metal Men he is surprised to discover that they have individual intelligence and cannot be overridden against their will. At first they are intrigued with his offer that in his reality they will not be second class citizens, but their naivete quickly disappears and they oppose him. The Metal Men fight off machines under the Construct's control while Magnus invents a randomizer to disperse the Construct's consciousness.
"The Mines With Minds Are Mine" – The "Floating Furies"…intelligent aquatic weapons left-over from Qurac's war with Upper Koonish…have continued to float around the Mediterranean Sea, sinking any vessel they find. The Metal Men attempt to disarm or destroy the robots and protect the trade vessels. Meanwhile, the Quraci dictator objects that the Floating Furies are Quraci property and shouldn't be destroyed without compensation…while disclaiming all responsibility for their current actions. The Metal Men finally pose as a boat to lure the FF into a lagoon and trap them there. (The FF look like World War II aquatic mines. This episode is analogous to our current land mine situation, with thousands of mines left over long after wars are ended.)
"Nuts to B.O.L.T.S.!" – Qurac, angered about the "mistreatment" of their robotic defenses, the Floating Furies, sends a giant, superintelligent robot named B.O.L.T.S. to America to wreak revenge on the United Nations.
"You Can Build Your Friends…" – Tin is overjoyed when Doc Magnus builds more Metal Men. Two are activated: Aluminum, who is referred to as "Uncle Al" (voice HAS TO BE Don Knotts) and Ruthenium (Ann B. Davis?), known as "Aunt Ruth". Tin takes Al out on the town while Ruth has a girls night out with Tina and Nameless. Al points out that, despite the misnomer "tin cans," most cans today are made of aluminum or steel. Tin feels even more useless than ever. Meanwhile, Ruth and Tina feel a strong connection due to the fact that they are both transition metals, leaving Nameless the odd person out. When the original Metal Men are alone, Tin and Nameless voice their misgivings. The rest of the Metal Men try to assure them that it's nothing…when Doc Magnus enters and announces the completion of the entire "B Squad." (To "B" Continued)
"…But You're Bonded With Family" – (Part Two) The "B Squad" Metal Men begin to put the initial Metal Men to shame. Osmium is denser than Lead, Gallium is also a liquid metal at body temperature, etc. Tina is shocked to find that Iridia is even more stunningly beautiful than her and Doc doesn't shun her the way he does Tina. However, Osmium trips on a weak floorboard and breaks the radio-wave randomizer; the Construct appears and easily conquers the weak wills of the newly-formed B Squad, with the exception of Uncle Al. Al and the original Metal Men manage to destroy the B Squad (in much the same way they did in Metal Men #38), but Al is badly damaged. Magnus repairs Aluminum, but Al's responsometer is weaker and won't allow him to participate in missions or do much shape-changing. (Al can occasionally appear throughout the series.)
"It's A Gas!" – Cellenoid Cybernetics (Magnus Industries' rival robotics firm, which has been stealing their technology) challenges the Metal Men to a high-profile game of combat (a la "American Gladiators"). Will Magnus readily agrees, as Cellenoid has been about five years behind in robotics technology and it will be incredible publicity when Magnus Industries wins. Nonetheless, he prepares the Metal Men for the worst. For a week, the Metal Men train against conventional and liquid metal robots of all metals. However, when it comes time for the match, the Metal Men are totally unprepared to go up against…The Gas Gang! The Metal Men take a pounding from the gaseous robots; Magnus realizes that the real purpose of this "match" is to eliminate the Metal Men. He and the Metal Men finally come up with inventive ways to defeat the robots and emerge the winners.
"History In Space" – (Beginning a space arc continuing through several episodes.) Robot spiders from space use energy webs to haul off thousands of memorials, landmarks and monuments (from the Statue of Liberty to the Taj Mahal to Mt. Rushmore) from all over the world. The world is in an uproar…and curious as to why an alien race could possibly care about their value. The spider race then reveals their intentions in a planetwide broadcast: extortion. Humanity can get its monuments back…if it submits to rule by the spider robots. Of course, the United Nations refuses…but bemoans the fact that much of human history has been lost forever. The small spider fleet (too small to make an outright invasion possible) prepares to leave the solar system with the artifacts. N.A.S.A. has an experimental deep space assault vehicle, but human beings cannot withstand the acceleration needed. The Metal Men agree to pursue the spider robots. At the orbit of Pluto, the Metal Men engage them in battle. The spider robots escape through a hyperspace portal. The Metal Men pursue them into the portal, knowing they may never make it back. (Continued next episode.)
"Colossus" – The Metal Men chase the Spider Ship through hyperspace but their ship is heavily damaged. Emerging from hyperspace, they prepare to put down on a nearby planet when a deep space satellite broadcasts a message warning them away. Unfortunately, the Metal Men have no choice but to land before their ship blows apart. When they land, they are surprised to find that the population is a pre-industrial civilization. The frightened populace begins to panic and riot, but not for the obvious reason. A village leader explains that they were once a highly advanced culture, but they have had to eschew all electrical equipment. When Gold asks why, a planetquake shakes the village apart. A nearby mountain range breaks apart and a mindbogglingly huge robot sits up from where it has lain for centuries. Around the planet, other giant robots awaken from their slumber…activated by the presence of electronic signals within the atmosphere. These colossuses were used in ancient wars but eventually ran amock, attacking any presence of technology. The only solution was to never use any equipment again; now, the Metal Men have awakened the robots. The Colossuses begin warring, crossing continents with ease and threatening to trample the planet. The Metal Men, owing a debt to the aliens they've threatened, have to infiltrate each colossus and do enough damage to shut it down. With the threats of the Colossuses gone forever, the civilization can grow again. The community leader they'd met before opens their ancient storage units and allows the Metal Men access to technology to repair their ship. The Metal Men resume chasing the spider robots.
"Lost In HYPER Space" – The Metal Men have a few difficulties in space, including magnetic asteroids and a run-in with a sentient space probe, before finally tracking the robot spiders back to the Spider Guild home planet (the S.G. built the robot spiders). The Metal Men manage to commandeer the ship with all of Earth's artifacts and pilot it back to Earth.
"Deep Blues" – The Metal Men must assist Aquaman in defending Atlantis from the Floating Furies.
"Cold Metal" – After over a year of putting up with Platinum's flirtations, Doc Magnus removes her emotions. He then decides to remove the emotions of all the Metal Men and sends Platinum after them. The Metal Men defy their creator and begin a cat and mouse chase throughout Magnus Industries. Finally, the Metal Men proclaim themselves free of Magnus and move out on the condition that they follow the agreements of the defense contract.