Metamorpho Pt. 1: The Brave & the Bold #57
Title: The Brave & the Bold
Issue #: 57
Cover Date: Dec. 1963/Jan. 1964
On Sale Date: Oct. 29, 1964
Writer: Bob Haney
Artist: Ramona Fradon
Editor: George Kashdan
The Origin of Metamorpho
Soldier of fortune Rex Mason returns from South America… by skydiving out of his plane and into the convertible of his love, Sapphire Stagg. Her father, Simon Stagg, who funds Rex’s adventures, and his genetically altered henchman, Java, are none too pleased about the prank he pulled on the crowd awaiting him at the airport…
Simon states that no one will marry his daughter without his approval, and he has a “very special mission” to remove Rex from the picture…
Simon sends Java with Rex, accompanied by his fantasy about Sapphire:
Perhaps the master can alter my body as he did my brain… make me handsome! Then she’ll love me!
Java knocks out Rex and flees with the orb. Rex wakes to find himself on a conveyor belt slowly moving toward “a big rock,” the original meteor.
Great blazes!... It’s true! I—I’m no longer Rex Mason! I’m someone… something… else!
Realizing he’s trapped in the pyramid, a “strange thought occurs in his confused brain” and he changes into a gaseous form that can escape from between its stones.
Java returns to Simon’s mansion, begging his master to use the powers of the orb to make him handsome and lovable, while Sapphire beats him on the chest for leaving Rex behind. Then, they hear Rex’s voice:
Simon Stagg! Hear me! I’m coming in after you!
Rex Mason, “soon to be famed as Metamorpho, the Element Man,” uses his new powers to elude Simon’s “goons” and access the mansion. Sapphire faints at the sight of him and Rex approaches Simon…
The two seem to form a reluctant alliance as Simon uses his money and power to put Rex/Metamorpho through “a fantastic series of scientific tests.” However, he finds no way to cure him.
In a rage, Java sets fire to the mansion, leaving Metamorpho to perform his first heroic act: rescuing Sapphire from the tower room.
Rex decides to make the best of it if Sapphire will stick by him, while Simon recognizes Metamorpho’s value to him and believes he can control him with the scepter.
So now there faces the world, born of the very elements of the universe, possessed of the most fantastic power any mortal ever had, a new being, a new superhero… Metamorpho, the Element Man!
Why Metamorpho? Sure, I found a run of his mid-1960s comic book at a local shop for a great price; however, I’ve always liked the character. This is not necessarily because of Metamorpho’s powers, but because of Rex Mason’s situation. His relationship with Sapphire and Simon Stagg, plus the fruitless interventions of Java, create compelling drama. . I’d never read the origin story from The Brave & the Bold #57, but it’s a fun one, perfectly establishing the aforementioned aspects, but also leaving us with several burning questions. Most interesting to me is that I wonder, after her Bride of Frankenstein moment where she in essence rejects Rex’s monstrous form, can Sapphire continue to love Rex? . A lot happens in this specific story and writer Bob Haney tells the tale in an evenly paced manner. You can imagine the story today spreading over a 6-issue mini-series (which the character had in 2007’s Metamorpho: Year One. The art by Ramon Fradon is terrific. I particularly like the way she draws Simon with the silver wings of his hair. . Something else I notice about comics of this era is that, just in case we have a short attention span and forget what happened in the first few pages, there’s usually a mid-issue recap to remind us:
Speaking of “comics of this era,” I always find it interesting to see what other titles are being promoted within the pages of the one I’m reading. Of note here is that, although there’s a full-page ad for 80-Page Giant #5: Batman Silver Anniversary Issue, three of the other four titles advertised are more adventure-oriented than they are super-hero oriented:
I’m excited for the next issue of The Brave & the Bold, and then Metamorpho. More promising than my previous series on my favorite pre-Crisis DC characters (e.g. Man-Bat or Eclipso), the creative team, including editor George Kashdan, will remain intact for a good, long while.