Will Magnus, art by Dale Eaglesham
|First appearance||Showcase #37 (March–April 1962)|
|Created by||Robert Kanigher (writer)
Ross Andru (artist)
|Alter ego||William Maxwell "Will" Magnus|
|Team affiliations||Metal Men
|Abilities||Currently no superpowers. Creative genius, ally, and mentor of the Metal Men.|
Fictional character biography
One of the most impressive geniuses of the DC Universe with doctorates in theoretical mathematics, mechanical engineering, and particle physics, William Maxwell "Will" Magnus often offers scientific advice to other characters. His greatest achievement is the one for which he first received renown: the creation of the Metal Men. The method through which Doc Magnus created the Metal Man has varied over years with various writers. At first they were just blank slate robots with responsometers, devices which generated their intelligence and personalities which just happened to be evocative of the metals from which they were formed.
In an attempt to boost sales of the comic book, the characters underwent vast changes. The Metal Men all assumed human alter egos, while Doc Magnus became a fugitive scientist dedicated to global conquest. His personality change was credited to having been kidnapped, reawakened, and brainwashed by a mad dictator. Sales plunged instead and the comic was not printed for a few years. Eventually Metal Men was picked up again with Doc's sanity restored and he returned to assist his Metal Men.
In 1993, a four-part Metal Men mini-series retconned much of their backstory. It was revealed that the responsometers were not responsible for the Metal Men's sentience and that the Metal Men actually were imprinted with the intellects and personalities of real people: Magnus's own brother Mike, his fiancee Sharon, two lab workers Redmond Wilde and Randy Pressman, a janitor named Thomas Tinkham, and a pizza-delivery man named Jack. These unfortunate personalities were accidentally transferred to blank robots in a lab accident. At the climax of the miniseries, Gold, one of his robots, was permanently killed and Doc Magnus mortally wounded. Doc permanently transferred his personality into a blank robot known as Veridium, made of a green alien metal, becoming the new robotic leader of the Metal Men.
As revealed during Infinite Crisis, when Superboy-Prime pounded on the walls of reality, he caused the very fabric of reality to shift, changing and merging histories. The "blank robots with responsometers" origin is said to be the definitive origin while the "human personalities" origin and the 1993 mini-series has been described as the byproduct of a mental breakdown suffered by Magnus. When Booster Gold visited, asking for help with Skeets, Magnus commented that the Metal Men "don't quite work anymore."
The responsometers are now described as containing an "artificial soul" invented by Doc Magnus, as inspired by T. O. Morrow, who is revealed to have taught him at college and to have been the only one not to laugh at Magnus's theories. After the unexplained dismantling of the Metal Men, Doc Magnus is unable to recreate these souls and restore their personalities. He now takes Prozac for the bipolar disorder which caused his nervous breakdown and the depression which led to the creation of the Plutonium Man, a tremendous, nearly indestructible superweapon based upon the Metal Men, but with Magnus' then-own deranged, twisted worldview as its operating system. It is implied that although the medication is keeping Magnus from doing anything irrational, it is also deadening his imagination and creativity and that this is the reason he can not recreate the Metal Men.
Magnus is approached by government agents hoping to use the Metal Men as soulless smart weapons, an offer Magnus rejects. Through all of this, Magnus visits Morrow in his cell in Haven. Morrow warns Magnus that there have been numerous abductions of "mad" scientists, including Doctor Sivana, whose lair Magnus investigates.
Eventually Morrow himself disappears, leaving a note for his former student with a string in machine code. Using the code, Magnus is able to revive Mercury, but his robotic friend and creation is apparently destroyed again while trying to save him from the conspiracy trying to kidnap every mad scientist in the DCU.
During Week 22, mindless replicas of the Metal Men force Magnus to escape from his burned house before he is captured by what is revealed to be a separate group "Chang Tzu's Science Squad". This would be the second time Magnus has confronted Chang Tzu. A previous incarnation of the villain once managed to brainwash the Metal Men, but their loyalty to Magnus restored their rightful minds.
This group is based on Oolong Island (said to be part of the territory of China) and has been responsible for the disappearing scientists (including Professor Morrow). The group is being financed by Intergang with the collusion, it is implied, of the Chinese government. The assembled scientists have been given unlimited budgets to invent various super weapons including, in particular, various types of robots.
During Week 23, a giant robot, piloted by animals from Intergang, delivers Doc Magnus to Oolong Island.
Magnus is assigned to design and construct a new Plutonium Man robot, but deliberately makes little progress, saying to Morrow that the original Plutonium Man was an expression of his pain and rage brought on by his mental illness and that the reason he takes his medication is to prevent himself from doing something like that again. Morrow reveals this to the Island's leaders and Magnus's medication is confiscated.
Magnus then proceeds to work on Plutonium Man, saying this time he will "do it right." Though he is unstable due to his lack of medication, Magnus is not fully co-operating with Chang Tzu. Magnus goes about scavenging materials from various items (gold from a gold watch, lead from lead shielding, mercury from thermometers, and tin from cans of baked beans which he adopts as his sole diet - presumably in order to ensure the other scientists will not want to spend too much time with him, as well). This allows him to reconstruct his Metal Men, albeit only a few inches high. These new Metal Men are shown to help Magnus remain sane despite being off his pills, such as when they persuade him to deactivate the now completed Plutonium Man after he turns it on during a period of depression.
Ooolong Island is attacked by the JSA seeking to rescue Black Adam, and Chang Tzu orders the Plutonium Man activated. Chang notes that he has been spying on Magnus and knows that several metals have entered the lab and not come back out. The Metal Men attack Chang Tzu, allowing Magnus to escape and switch off the Island's defenses. While he does this Morrow confronts Magnus and destroys Mercury, yet again. Magnus explains to Morrow why it's pointless to stop him from deactivating the shields as the JSA will get in eventually, and instead offers him the chance to teleport out, saying that Morrow was "the best teacher I ever knew" and that he tries "to over look the psychopathic super villain thing". Morrow accepts the offer.
Magnus is then confronted by Chang Tzu whom he apparently kills with the aid of Lead and what he describes as a particle wave ray gun. Magnus also indicates this shooting was a result of his irrationality, brought on by the lack of his medications. Magnus then surrenders to the JSA.
With all charges against him dropped, due to being coerced into collaboration, Will Magnus returns to his home and laboratory. There, when Booster Gold visits him again, exactly one year after their last meeting, with a salvaged responsometer containing Skeets' "memself", asking him to somehow restore the robot destroyed by Mister Mind, Magnus agrees. He reveals to have in his possession a copy of Skeets memories, and so he's able to rebuild him as a security droid 2.0, slightly more advanced, but oblivious of the events of the past years.
Now sane again, he returns to working on his Metal Men.
In the Superman/Batman series Doc Magnus is shown working again with his Metal Men. He has even built a new one, the spunky and wisecracking gynoid Copper. Despite contrary advice from his fiancée he asks Bruce Wayne for a tryout of his Metal Men as security guards. The trial is successful, but the Metal Men fail on the field, due to mistrust by the human personnel and Brainiac's influence, leaving Doc Magnus the responsibility of saving the day.
Magnus has recently assisted the Justice League of America with the rebuilding of Red Tornado. After Red Tornado's first intended body is stolen by Amazo, he's called on again to provide Red Tornado with yet another new body, more powerful and advanced than the previous one. Despite his good intentions, the attempts comes to another downfall, and almost spells his death, when Amazo returns to claim the newer and stronger body for himself.
Metal Men (2009)
The Metal Men are later restored as a second feature in the revamped Doom Patrol (fifth series), written by Keith Giffen. Now living in simple suburbia in Kanigher Street, the Metal Men seem to be affected by his currently, partly deranged, state of mind. Iron seems unaffected, Gold is now humorously self-obsessed and magniloquent, Platina is lovesick, Lead is dimwitted and prone to errors, Tin is always scared and affected by chronic self-esteem issues, and Mercury, once brilliant and humorous, has now developed the same bipolar disturbance affecting Will Magnus himself, and refuses to take medications. Copper, the newest and seventh member, is disturbingly ignored by her teammates, who often refuse to acknowledge her presence despite being side by side with her.
The New 52
In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, Will Magnus is first mentioned in the Forever Evil storyline. A rebuilt Cyborg heads out to find Will Magnus so that he can learn about his "Metal Men" project. Meeting with Will Magnus, Cyborg learns that he can not help him. Magnus tells him the history of the Metal Men project, how they were built to execute search and rescue missions that humans could not tackle. After he was able to get them online, the government went back on their word and chose to have the Metal Men become assassins. The Metal Men hid at Magnus' apartment where they help protect Magnus and the population from an experiment gone wrong, destroying themselves in the process. Seeing their responsometers that control them in Magnus' lab, Cyborg senses that their minds and hearts are still active encouraging Magus to activate them once more to help him.
Powers and abilities
- While human, Doc Magnus had no special abilities aside from his great intellect. His vast intelligence was responsible for the creation of the Metal Men, along with various other robots.
- While he was Veridium, Magnus was the most powerful of the Metal Men. He could store and channel heat and energy.
In other media
- His character was alluded in The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure. In the episode "The Twenty-Third Dimension", a Magnus Labs building is seen in the Midway City skyline (referred to by the narrator as the Magnus Building) and Hawkman's pet hawk Screal is on the top of it.
- The character appears as Dr. William Milton Magnus in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, voiced by Corey Burton. In the episode "Clash of the Metal Men", he shows up with the Metal Men to help Batman defeat Chemo. Later, he shows Batman how he created the Metal Men as a step to a new tomorrow. The Gas Gang kidnap him to their base, and reveal their identities as Magnus's assistants presumed killed in a lab explosion that turned into gaseous states to him. They ask him to make them new bodies to store their fading ones. When Batman and the Metal Men track down Dr. Magnus to the Gas Gang's base, they ended up being defeated and locked in a special cell when Dr. Magnus appeared. After being told what Batman learned that happened that day with his former assistants, the Gas Gang emerged in their robotic bodies. The Gas Gang then strapped a chemical capsule to Dr. Magnus and slowly lowered them into the volcano stating that they will use the explosion of the chemical capsule a bid to create a weapon that will make volcanoes erupt causing mass destruction. He is saved by the Metal Men and Batman. Will reappears again with the Metal Men in the episode "The Super-Batman of Planet X" helping Batman stop Kanjar Ro and a group of Space Pirates. During that time, the Metal Men were disguised as some of Dr. Magnus's additional clothes and gear until the fight with the Space Pirates began. After the Metal Men managed to defeat the Space Pirates, Dr. Magnus asks when their next assignment will be to which Batman tells him that he will call him. Magnus reappears in the episode "The Siege of Starro" [Part 2] when Booster Gold needed the Metal Men to fight Starro's giant composite titan form. Unfortunately, Dr. Magnus was controlled by Starro and tried to use the Metal Men to work for Starro. Skeets managed to stop the mind control enabling the Metal Men to help Batman fight the giant composite monster.
- Dr. Will Magnus appears in the Metal Men shorts of DC Nation Shorts, voiced again by Corey Burton.
- Dr. Will Magnus appeared on Warner Premiere's animated feature Justice League: The New Frontier, voiced by Townsend Coleman.
- An alternate reality version of Will Magnus appeared as the main antagonist in Justice League: Gods and Monsters, voiced by C. Thomas Howell. He first appears as an ally of Kirk Langstrom, having helped devise Kirk's serum that transformed Batman as part of an attempt to cure from cancer. However, it is later revealed that a year after Kirk's accident, he accidentally beat his wife Tina to death after he realized that Tina preferred Kirk to him, prompting him to set out to try and end all human conflict as he felt that his actions, committed by himself as a particularly rational, intelligent and benevolent man, proved that there was no hope for humanity. To this end, he frames the Justice League members Superman (Hernan Guerra), Batman (Kirk Langstrom) and Wonder Woman (Bekka of New Genesis) for the deaths of various scientists like Ray Palmer, Silas Stone, Victor Stone and Victor Fries. This is all part of the goal of driving them out of their base so that he can use Superman's old ship as a power source for his plan to create a series of miniature Boom Tubes to plant nanites in the minds of every other human on the planet so that he can link them in a collective consciousness. Although Superman and Bekka are kept occupied by various human troops who believe that the League were responsible for Magnus's murders, Kirk manages to keep Magnus occupied long enough for Lex Luthor to reveal the truth, allowing the League to destroy Magnus's equipment. With his plan destroyed and regretting his actions, Magnus commits suicide by apparently destroying his organic nanites.
- Will Magnus is featured in DC Universe Online. He appears as a vendor in the Watchtower's Tech Wing.