Metallo (John Corben) is a comic book supervillain and cyborg who appears in Superman stories published by DC Comics. Metallo's trademark is his kryptonite power source, which he often uses as a weapon against Superman. His traditional identity is John Corben. The character first appeared in Action Comics #252 (May 1959).

In 2009, Metallo was ranked as IGN's 52nd Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.[1]

Contents Edit


Fictional character biography[edit] Edit

The Golden Age Metalo[edit] Edit

Cover of Superman Family#217 (April 1982). Artwork byRich Buckler (pencils) and Dick Giordano (inks).

The Golden Age Superman battled an unnamed scientist calling himself"Metalo" who wore a powered suit of steel armor[2] in a story titled "Man of Steel Versus Man of Metal" by John Sikela and Jerry Siegel. Years later, Superman encountered the villain a second time in a story with the same title.[3] Metalo, his real name now revealed as George Grant, had a new suit of armor and had also taken a serum to increase his personal strength to superhuman levels. He exposed Superman to a ray that reduced the hero's power significantly, giving Metalo superior strength in their first battle. Superman engaged in a lengthy regimen of exercise and training to restore his powers and easily defeated Metalo.

The Silver Age Metallo[edit] Edit

Metallo appeared as Jor-El's robot to battle Superboy, in Superboy #49 (1956), but this version of Metallo is not to be confused with the better known John Corben version, who would appear later in the Silver Age.

John Corben was originally a journalist (and secretly a thief and murderer) who had just committed what he thought was the perfect murder. While fleeing from the scene of the crime, Corben suffered a near-fatal accident that mangled his body beyond repair. An elderly scientist, Professor Vale, happened to come upon Corben, and used his scientific skill to transfer Corben's brain into a robotic body covered by a fleshlike artificial skin. Corben discovered that his power source, a capsule of uranium, would only last a day, but was told by Vale that kryptonite would provide him an indefinite power supply.[4]

After obtaining a job with the Daily Planet, Corben briefly tried to romance Lois Lane, while deciding that he would use his powers to eliminate Superman, the one person who might expose his criminal deeds. After setting a kryptonite death-trap for Superman, Corben stole what he thought was another sample of kryptonite from a museum as a new power supply, not knowing it was in reality a fake prop; this mistake caused him to die. Superman eventually escaped from the kryptonite trap.[volume & issue needed]

The Bronze Age Metallo[edit] Edit

A second Metallo, John's brother Roger C. Corben, debuted in Superman #310 (April 1977) by Curt Swan, and Martin Pasko. This Metallo was created by a secret organization named "Skull" that transferred Roger's brain into a new robotic body, so that Roger could get revenge on Superman for his brother's death. Like the previous Metallo, this one was also powered by Kryptonite, although this newer version wore orange and green armor, as well as a green helmet to conceal his "new" identity that he had created using plastic surgery (which turned out to be WGBS Staffer Martin Korda).

This version of Metallo returned throughout the Bronze Age. His final appearance was featured in Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" (1986).[5]

The Modern Age Metallo[edit] Edit

Metallo as drawn byJohn Byrne in Superman (volume 2) #1 (January 1987).

After John Byrne rewrote Superman's origins in the 1986 miniseries The Man of Steel, Metallo was also given an altered backstory.

In this version, John Corben was a small-time con man who was fatally injured in a car crash, but to his luck Professor Emmet Vale happened to pass by. Professor Vale was a pioneer inrobotics, and erroneously believed that Superman was the first in a wave of superpoweredKryptonian invaders after recovering Superman's ship and mistranslating Jor-El's message to his son. Vale transplanted Corben's brain into a robotic alloy body, which was powered by a two-pound chunk of kryptonite, and instructed him to kill Superman. Metallo, now Corben's new moniker, thanked Vale by snapping his neck, which killed him.

Despite ignoring Vale's commands, Metallo came into conflict with Superman on various occasions, in large part due to his continued activities as a petty thug. Metallo later lost his kryptonite heart to Lex Luthor, though back-up life support systems allowed Metallo to reactivate himself and escape. He remained a thorn in Superman's side, and is powerful enough to cripple the Doom Patrol. Still, the Indian-born hero who called herself Celsius did blow him apart with her thermal powers. Metallo later received a major upgrade via an unholy bargain with the demonNeron. As a result, Metallo was now able to morph his body into any mechanical shape he could imagine (turning his hands into guns or "growing" a jet-pack from his back) and project his consciousness into any technological or metallic device (powers very similar to those of theCyborg Superman). He could also now grow to monstrous size. During one battle, his gigantic fists were separated and later actually turned into housing by other superheroes. In another incident, Metallo was rendered more insane by the Joker and used his height to destroy an elevated train of commuters.

As Superman and others learned on various occasions, the most effective way to neutralize Metallo was to remove his (largely invulnerable) head and isolate it from other metallic items.

In Superman/Batman #2 (November 2003), evidence was uncovered that implicated John Corben as the criminal who shot and killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, the parents of Bruce Wayne.[6] This proved to be a ruse by Lex Luthor, orchestrated in order to lure both Batman and Superman into a "final" confrontation. Later[when?] Corben's mind was removed from the Metallo body, and placed into a cloned version of his original human body, by the (second, post-Crisis) Toyman, Hiro Okamura, whose family had invented the metallo alloy. Despite the fact he is once again just a man, he still intended to oppose Superman.

Superman: Secret Origin[edit] Edit

In the 2009-10 miniseries Superman: Secret Origin, (which retells the origins of Superman and his supporting cast), Metallo is Sgt. John Corben. He serves under Lois Lane's father, General Sam Lane. General Lane is trying to push his daughter, Lois into a relationship with Corben. Though they had one date, she does not return his feelings for her. Corben is next seen signing up for a military option to neutralize Superman (ostensibly with the help of a powersuit built by LexCorp). However, in his first encounter with Superman, a stray bullet hit the Kryptonite rock inside the suit, leading to a disastrous energy cascade within the battlesuit which almost killed Corben. But through the efforts of Lex Luthor and a crack team of scientists, Corben survived, part-man, part-machine, with the kryptonite rock functioning as his new 'heart'. Driven by a hatred for this alien invader, he became the villain known as Metallo. Metallo subsequently attacked Superman again, now wearing a green orange and red armor (an homage to the Bronze Age Metallo) in a rampage which endangered not only the citizens of Metropolis, but his own fellow soldiers. He was defeated by Superman once more.

The New 52[edit] Edit

In the rebooted continuity of The New 52, John Corben is under the command of General Sam Lane.[7] General Lane tells Corben to talk to Lois Lane, when she keeps questioning where Superman is. It is implied that Corben and Lois once had a relationship. When Superman escapes from the military's custody, Corben is seen enlisting in what appears to be a military project co-opted by Lex Luthor, General Lane, and young scientist Doctor John Henry Irons to go against Superman called "Project Steel Soldier".[8] Corben is seen in the "Metal 0" suit with scientists, mostly Irons, trying to help him. He continues believing that he did it for the affection of Lois and when the robotic needles are in his head, Metallo takes control and his heart bursts. Metallo then screams "Where is Superman?"[9] Although the attack on Superman succeeds, Metallo is revealed to have been subverted by Brainiac as part of his own plans, and his rampage is defeated when Doctor Irons uses an armoured suit of his own to fight Corben and upload a computer virus that he designed in the event of such a situation.[10]After escaping and still under Brainiac's control, Corben continued to fight Superman[11] until Superman was able to reason with Metallo to fight Brainiac's influence due to his feelings for Lois Lane. In doing so, Corben attacked Brainiac until Superman was able to defeat the villain, but he subsequently fell into a coma and was taken back by the army. It was revealed that the armor was keeping him alive thanks to the alien technology, but without a heart he would soon die. General Lane told his scientists to find a way to save him since he helped to save Metropolis. He was later given a Kryptonite heart to keep him alive since it was the only energy compatible with his cybernetics.[12] After thirty-one months on vegetative state, Corben was brought back with a shard of kryptonite and back to active duty in U.S. Army, but since his actions caused the death of hundreds of civilians, General Lane tried to kill him by exploding the plane he was being carried on. He survived, and sought vengeance on Lane at his base, only to be confronted by an upgraded soldier like himself " Metal-2.0". When Corben proves too much, Metal-2.0 activates his self-destruct mechanism, hoping to destroying with him. However he is saved by the Scarecrow, and offered a place in the Secret Society of Super Villains, now calling himself Metallo.

Powers and abilities[edit] Edit

Metallo’s metallic body offers him a high degree of protection from physical and energy attacks. He has enhanced abilities. Metallo no longer needs to eat, sleep or breathe. His brain is hermetically sealed inside a shielded alloy skull that has its own power supply. When he was first created he was powered by a Kryptonite heart. Additionally, as a result of his cyborg body, Metallo possesses superhuman strength and speed, enough to pose a challenge and even a threat to opponents such as Superman.

Metallo sold his soul (or what was left of it) to Neron in order to gain the ability to absorb any mechanical or metal object he touches. He can transform any machine into an extension of his exo-skeleton (an ability similar to the Cyborg Superman).

Brainiac 13 upgraded Metallo to tap into light spectra and energy frequencies. Metallo also used the technology to upgrade his body to monolithic proportions.

He is also occasionally portrayed as having a liquid metal-based exoskeleton, possessing the ability to morph parts of his body, specifically his limbs, into different weapons or tools, such as chainsaws, shovels, hammers, etc.

Other versions[edit] Edit

  • Metallo appeared in Superman: Red Son as a project (among many others) invented by Dr. Lex Luthor for the US government to combat Superman, who serves Communist Russia.[13]
  • Marvel Comics cover-featured an unrelated character named Metallo in Tales of Suspense 16 (April 1961).[14]
  • The Silver Age Metallo appears in the series Justice.[15]

In other media[edit] Edit

Television[edit] Edit

Live-action[edit] Edit

Superboy[edit] Edit

In the second-season Superboy episode "Metallo", Roger Corben (played by Michael Callan), a bungling bank robber, tries to rob an armored car even though he is having extreme chest pains. Superboy arrives and apprehends the bank robber, but the small time crook has a heart attack and is taken to a hospital. After a lengthy recuperation, he escapes by murdering his doctor. After he leaves, he suffers another attack and his car crashes into a tree and explodes. The police presume he is dead, but journalist Clark Kent is not so sure. Meanwhile, Corben is actually alive. He falls into the hands of a mentally-unbalanced doctor who turns Corben into more of a machine than human being and replaces his failing human heart with the radioactive power source Kryptonite. As Metallo, Corben made several more appearances in the Superboy series, specifically in the episodes "Super Menace", "People Vs. Metallo", "Threesome" (parts 1 and 2), and "Obituary for A Super-Hero".

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman[edit] Edit

In the second-season Lois & Clark episode "Metallo", Johnny Corben (played by Scott Valentine) was the boyfriend of Lucy Lane and, unknown to her, a petty criminal. Not only does he have a criminal past, but he's hitting up Lucy for money. Lois Lane tries to convince her sister that Johnny's no good, but Lucy will hear none of it. Johnny was shot when a holdup went wrong and having fallen into the hands of Dr. Emmett Vale, a former Lexcorp scientist with the help of his brother Rollie Vale, rebuilt Johnny into a Kryptonite-powered cyborg named Metallo and begins causing havoc in Metropolis. And, since Metallo is powered by Kryptonite, even Superman can't stop him. When Metallo kidnaps Clark to use him as bait for luring Superman, it's up to Lois and Jimmy Olsen to save Clark, but nothing can save Metallo after a final run-in with Superman, who, now aware of his Kryptonite power source, keeps his distance, using his super breath and heat vision to defeat him. Emmett is captured, but Rollie manages to escape with Metallo's Kryptonite, leaving Metallo dead.

Smallville[edit] Edit

Brian Austin Green as John Corben on Smallville.

Brian Austin Green portrays John Corben/Metallo in three episodes in Smallville's ninth season. His first appearance was in the ninth season premiere episode "Savior". In Smallville, he is a war time reporter, which is similar to the Silver Age John Corben.[16] As a back-story for this version, he had been recently stationed in Afghanistan. When he meets Lois Lane, he expresses his distaste for vigilantes, particularly "the Blur" (Clark Kent).

In the next episode "Metallo", John Corben is hit by a truck. He wakes up with bionic additions, including the Kryptonite powered matrix that replaced his heart and now powers his body. He seeks assistance in a hospital, with Dr. Emil Hamilton attending to him, but Corben loses control when they attempt to sedate him. With new power due to the implants, Corben begins a hunt for the Blur, blaming the Blur for his sister's murder. Later it is revealed that the Blur had saved a prison bus full of convicts from a crash, one of which escaped and went on to kill John Corben's sister. Corben overhears Lois Lane telling the Blur/Clark that Corben is the person from the hospital incident, and he kidnaps her. Clark confronts Corben and attempts to disable his cybernetics using a short-range EMP. Corben revives from the EMP after only a few moments, throws Clark and then turns to an unconscious Lois. Clark heats a lead door from a nearby boiler and quickly fixes it to Corben's chest, covering the heart. When Corben attempts to remove it, the heart is ripped from his chest and he appears to die. Later, it is revealed that Tess Mercer has both the kryptonite core and Corben. She asks one of her scientists if Corben can be revived and he states that since he is more machine than man, he has simply gone "offline."

At the conclusion of the episode "Echo", Tess takes Metallo's kryptonite heart to the incarcerated villain Toyman. She instructs him that he is going to tell her how the kryptonite heart functions, which he agrees to do.

Corben is "reactivated" in the episode "Upgrade" after Tess' scientists are able to correct the initial design flaw in the Kryptonite heart that causes an adrenal overload and resulting psychosis. Tess intends to use him as a defensive weapon against the Kandorians, implanting a control chip that can make him a mindless drone.

Corben is spared this fate when Lois infiltrates the base he is imprisoned within. She is on an undercover mission for the Blur - really Major Zod posing as the Blur - and is discovered. The commotion gives Corben a chance to escape his restraints and flee the base in an explosion. Freed of his psychosis and mind-control and feeling obligated to Lois, he saves her when the explosion throws her down an elevator shaft where he is hiding.

Lois later discovers him in the basement of the Talon. He collapsed the night before as Tess had drained his Kryptonite heart to keep him contained. While skeptical after their previous encounter, the revelation he has saved her and the discovery of the port in his neck (similar to that of Wes in the Ares Project) makes Lois sympathetic. He is subsequently reactivated using red kryptonite as his power source, helping to cure Clark of a recent red-K 'infection' that had caused him to side with Major Zod in destroying Chloe's stash of kryptonite-based weapons, before he departs Metropolis, Lois declining the offer to go with him due to her feelings for Clark.

He reappears in the finale season episode "Prophecy" as a member of Marionette Ventures, with Supergirl assigned as his target.

Animated[edit] Edit

Metallo as he appeared inSuperman: The Animated Series

Superman: The Animated Series[edit] Edit

Metallo appeared in Superman: The Animated Series, voiced by veteran actor Malcolm McDowell.

John Corben was an English criminal-for-hire, who was involved in a plot by Lex Luthor to sell the LEXO-SKEL SUIT 5000 to Kasnian terrorists (Luthor knew that the Pentagon would want him to design something bigger and better to combat the suit the terrorists had "stolen"). Corben was caught by Superman and jailed, but while in jail he contracted a rare and lethal disease. Luthor offered him a chance at new life, as a cyborg, by having his brain transplanted into a robotic body; a Dr. Vale assisted in the procedure. Corben's new body, made of a revolutionary new metal called Metallo, was powered by a kryptonite "heart", which Corben was eager to use against Superman in revenge for taking him in. Metallo is also almost as strong as Superman in the series.

At first, Corben reveled in his new body, but when he learned it had no sense of touch, taste, or smell - no way to sense even a simple kiss or the taste of an apple - the sensory deprivation drove him insane and he took to referring to himself as Metallo. When Superman later revealed to Corben that Luthor himself had arranged for Corben to get ill while in prison, Corben turned on Luthor, but in the battle he was thrown off of Lex's yacht, and his non-buoyant body sank.

Metallo walked across the ocean floor, eventually reaching the shore of a small island that Superman was helping to evacuate due to an impending volcanic eruption. Initially, Metallo had no memory of who he or Superman were, and befriended two children on the island (the son and daughter of one of the seismologists studying the eruption). Metallo did eventually regain his memory and attacked Superman, but was caught in the lava flow. It cooled around him, leaving only part of his head and one arm exposed, the rest trapped in rock. Unable to free himself, he began to recite his name and history to himself, so he would not forget again. Metallo was eventually rescued and repaired by Intergang, who modified him with Kryptonite Vision, and he returned to plague Superman once more. In the course of this encounter, he had a battle against Steel (John Henry Irons), who had come to Superman's aid, and was defeated by him when Irons' hammer smashed his kryptonite heart.

Metallo reappears once more in the final season, when he uses Jimmy Olsen's new-found fame as Superman's friend to lure the latter to a junkyard in order to take revenge. Jimmy saves the day however, when he sprays battery acid in the direction of Metallo's heart and disconnects the kryptonite energy source from his body, thus rendering him defenseless.

Justice League[edit] Edit

Metallo has also appeared in the Justice League episode "Hereafter", voiced by Corey Burton. He appears as a member of the Superman Revenge Squad. After briefly struggling with the Martian Manhunter, he was removed from the battlefield byWonder Woman and the Flash, who use the former's lasso to catapult him into the ocean.

Justice League Unlimited[edit] Edit

Malcolm McDowell reprised his role as Metallo in Justice League Unlimited as a member of Gorilla Grodd's Secret Society. He, along with Silver Banshee, were sent on a mission to Skartaris (an area in the center of the Earth) to obtain a large kryptonite rock, but were thwarted by the Justice League when Supergirl removed his kryptonite power supply. He was coerced to give them information in exchange for his power source, but just before divulging the information, he was forcibly shut down by an outside source. He was taken to the Watchtower so that his mind could be probed for information.

In the Superman DVD sets, the producers noted that the character was difficult to write for since his kryptonite power source would logically enable him to kill Superman easily. As a result, plots had to be carefully contrived to give the superhero believable means to fight him.

The Batman[edit] Edit

Metallo (John Corben appeared in season 5 of the animated series The Batman, voiced by Lex Lang. His kryptonite heart is not in his center, but in the upper left quadrant of his chest. Also, Metallo has a back-up power source and can operate without the kryptonite heart. Metallo was paid by Lex Luthor to kill Superman. Because of the Kryptonite, Superman fought a losing battle until Batman and Robin showed up. They managed to get the Kryptonite out of Metallo long enough for Superman to recover. After he recovered, Superman defeated Metallo by trapping him in a hydraulic compactor, although it is said that a certain type of battery keeps him alive. His origin is not given.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold[edit] Edit

Metallo makes a cameo appearance as one of the villains Superman and Batman take down together in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Superman is wresting with Metallo on top of a building when Metallo exposes his kryptonite heart and weakens Superman. Batman comes and uses a grappling hook to pull the kryptonite heart from the center of Metallo's chest. Metallo is then easily beaten by Superman in one punch. His design is similar to the Bronze Age Metallo although much bulkier than Superman.

Film[edit] Edit

  • Metallo appears in the animated movie Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, which is based on Jeph Loeb's 2003 comic book story arc of the same name that appeared in the Superman/Batman comic book. In the movie, Metallo is voiced byScrubs star John C. McGinley.[17] He acts as Lex Luthor's bodyguard who then fights with both Superman and Batman. After they escape him, he is killed by Major Force and his death is used to frame Superman, although a cursory analysis of his body by Batman confirms that he was killed by a radiation blast rather than heat vision.
  • Metallo makes a brief appearance in All-Star Superman. He is seen lifting weights when Lex Luthor, escorted by armed guards, and Clark Kent (who is interviewing Lex Luthor) walk past his glass cell. He looks up when they pass by. Clark Kent seemed to shy away from Metallo's cell since it wasn't made of lead. This led to Parasite's escape from his cell near Metallo's since Parasite easily absorbed Clark Kent's power from a few meters away. The only reason Superman was not affected by the kryptonite heart was because his overcharged powers made him impervious against it.
  • Metallo appears in the animated film Justice League: Doom, voiced by Paul Blackthorne.[18] He is part of Vandal Savage's Legion of Doom, and is his counterpart to Superman. He is more lighthearted than his fellow Legion members, as shown by him attempting to shake Bane's hand after saying he was a fan of Bane's work, and openly laughing when Vandal Savage presents his plan. He draws Superman's attention by posing as Daily Planet reporter Henry Ackerson and heading to the top of the Daily Planet itself, claiming to commit suicide. Lois Lane tells Superman about Ackerson, and the Man of Steel flies onto the roof and convinces him not to jump. Metallo then pulls out a gun containing a Kryptonite bullet and shooting Superman in the chest and exposing his Kryptonite heart before knocking Superman off the roof and into the streets below. Despite mocking Savage's plan initially, he takes part in his genocidal plan. When the Justice League storms the Hall of Doom, Metallo fights Superman, gaining the upper hand using his Kryptonite heart to weaken the Man of Steel. Despite holding off Superman for most of the fight, once Savage launches his missile Superman slammed the plating containing Metallo's heart over the Kryptonite, forcibly trapping it before Superman uses his heat vision to decapitate Metallo. Metallo's head was most likely reattached and put into custody.

Radio[edit] Edit

Dirk Maggs' 1990 BBC Radio adaptation of The Man of Steel included Metallo as a major character. In this version, Corben (played by Simon Treves) was wearing the suit of battle armour that Lex Luthor sent up against Superman. In order to cover his tracks, Luthor ensured that the suit's psionic interface was unstable, leaving Corben a complete vegetable. He was 'rescued' by Doctor Schwarz, a disgruntled former Lexcorp employee, who had been tracking the capsule that brought the infant Superman to Earth and stole this from the Kents' farm. Having built Corben an android body powered by the capsule's Kryptonite power source, they hatched a plan to kill Lex Luthor and Superman. Metallo double-crosses Schwarz and breaks his neck. Kidnapping Lois Lane, Metallo holes up at the power station at Two Mile Island waiting for Superman to face him. During the ensuring battle, Lex Luthor steps in and tears out Metallo's Kryptonite heart.

Video games[edit] Edit

  • Malcolm McDowell rerpises his role as Metallo in Superman: Shadow of Apokolips as the final boss.
  • Metallo appears as one of the bosses in Superman: The New Adventures.
  • Metallo appears as one of the bosses in Superman: The Man of Steel, voiced by Roger L. Jackson.
  • Metallo appears as a recurring boss in Superman Returns, voiced by John Billingsley. In the game, he is able to assimilate metal cars, light poles, etc., to become a larger and stronger version of himself.
  • Metallo appears in DC Universe Online, voiced by Ryan Wickerham.[19]
  • Metallo appears in Injustice: Gods Among Us. He is an interactive character in Stryker's Island.

Toys[edit] Edit

His DC Universe Classic figure is a Collect N Connect figure in Wave 5 featuring the Riddler (Head & Torso), The Atom (right arm), The Eradicator (left arm), Amazo (right leg), and Black Lightning (left leg).

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