This development, and the notion of giving the Metal Men human appearances, destroyed the most inviting aspect of the series. One of its strengths had always been that, in action, the Metal Men provided remarkable visuals for the reader---Gold stretching into lengths of micrometre-thin wire; Mercury turning into globs of fluid; Iron and Lead changing into massive walls or constructions. Even at repose, they had been striking in terms of colour---gold, red, blue, grey, silver, white.
Indeed. Although I covered the initial Metal Men Showcase tryout issue earlier, I thought it might be interesting to take a longer look at the team.
As mentioned in CB's post, one of the interesting facets of the Metal Men was the way the stories contained a relatively painless introduction to chemistry. It was a rare issue that didn't contain something like this:
And editor Robert Kanigher often used educational fillers:
Another interesting thing about the series was that the robots were all given different personalities. This was blamed on Doc Magnus' (the creator) "faulty responsometers". Mercury was a hot-tempered martinet, while Gold was noble and intelligent. Lead and Iron were lunkhead strongmen. Tin was perhaps the most interesting character, with his oddball combination of timidity and courage, as I discussed years ago. The final member of the initial team was Tina, a platinum beauty who was madly in love with her inventor:
Mmmmm, machine oil!
I classify the series as "superhero" in nature, mainly because the robots do things that shouldn't ordinarily be possible. For example, while we accept that platinum could be stretched out into an extremely fine wire, is it reasonable that a platinum robot could do so? There are presumably gears and pulleys inside that would be damaged, right? In addition, Iron and Lead are often shown making themselves much bigger than normal; how exactly do they add that mass to their forms?
As mentioned above the series was pretty successful. Here are the circulation figures for 1964:
Metal Men was moving 396,000 copies an issue! But in the next two years, sales just plain collapsed, probably due to Batmania and the superhero craze that accompanied it. Sales were down to 240,000 per issue in 1967 and 207,000 in 1968, putting the series dangerously close to the 200,000 mark where DC in that era typically cancelled titles.
I agree with CB that the change was a mistake. The problem with dramatic shakeups is that they are almost certain to annoy a large percentage of your existing audience, with no guarantee that it will capture new readers.