Who is Metallo?
We’re calling it right now: CW’s Supergirl has become better than Arrow right now, and the reason for that is that the Girl of Steel’s series doesn’t fall for that whole flavor of the week formula that has plagued many a series in the history of television shows, not to mention superhero adaptations. This week’s episode just proved that. Titled “Luthors,” it focused on the eponymous family’s dynamic and delved deeper into the back story of Lex’s sister, Lena. And with matriarch and Cadmus head Lillian Luthor in custody after her last encounter with Supergirl and her prodigal daughter, she enlists the aid of John Corben, also known as Metallo, to escape from the clutches of the justice system and continue her anti-alien plans.
This episode, though heavily focused on the Luthor family, gave Metallo the chance to show how dangerous of a villain he is, especially to Kryptonians like Kara Zor-El. Now, fans of the supervillain may feel that the CW series is doing a disservice to Metallo by demoting him to nothing but muscle for Lillian and Cadmus, but you have to remember two things when it comes to this. One, it’s a TV show based on a superhero property, so it’s more than likely that we may get to see more of Metallo in the future (come on, no one really dies in comics). And second, it is actually a bit of a calculated risk for the CW to opt for a well-known character like Metallo to serve “just as a henchman,” but we think it paid off; it gave the whole episode a fair amount of threat that says not only is Lillian Luthor one of the most powerful and influential villains of the series but shows a villain like Metallo is a very dangerous one, and that says about the latter. If Lillian had opted for some unheard of, generic steroidal henchman, it wouldn’t have been as exciting.
So, if you think John Corben is a disposable character, let us enlighten you with a little information about this Kryptonite-powered cyborg’s rich history in the comics. The Metallo character has been around ever since the golden age of comics and has been held by a number of characters in the DC universe. In his golden age iteration, his name was spelled with a single “L”, Metalo, whose alter ego was George Grant. He also wasn’t a cyborg back then, but just a guy in a metal armor. In the silver age, another Metallo character appeared on the pages of Superboy #49, this time serving as a robot servant for Jor-El. However, the Metallo we know and love (or hate) today is, of course, John Corben. In the comics, he used to be a journo who was moonlighting as a criminal. After an accident left him near the brink of death, a scientist named Professor Vale was able to save his life by turning him into a cybernetic creature powered by a uranium heart. The drawback is, uranium only lasts one day for Corben and has to be replaced regularly if he was to survive. Professor Vale, however, tells him that Kryptonite is a better alternative. And the rest, as they say, is history.
You can find out more about John Corben’s initial appearance within the pages of Action Comics #252. And if you want to explore more about the character, try reading the classic John Byrne mini-series The Man of Steel.