Today of all days is the anniversary of young Nate Bellegarde’s birth, and if you have been on the internet in the same tubes as he has, you may know that his sole birthday wish was for everyone to draw Metamorpho, the free-wheelin’ Element Man.
My drawing, however, is no great shakes. Neither is my writing, for that matter, but at least it doesn’t require a scanner. And so…
Happy birthday, Nate. I wrote a present for you AND FOR ALL THE PLANET EARTH.
And here it is:
Header: Dashing REX MASON, soldier of fortune, had his life changed forever when millionaire genius SIMON STAGG sent him on a suicide mission to the burning sands of modern Egypt to retrieve the mysterious ORB OF RA! Bathed in the light of a radiating meteorite from OUTER SPACE, Rex found himself transformed—able to alter the chemistry of his body into ANY ELEMENT THE WRITER CAN THINK OF! As the daring METAMORPHO, THE ELEMENT MAN, square-jawed Rexy boy fights for the heart of dreamy SAPPHIRE STAGG and also occasionally beats up criminals, &c.
Run this shit down the left hand side!
REX “METAMORPHO” MASON!
The Element Man!
SIMON “MR. MILLIONS” STAGG!
“SASSY” SAPPHIRE STAGG!
So elegant, man!
JA“UNFROZEN CAVEMAN BODYGUARD”VA!
URANIA “ELEMENT GIRL” BLACKWELL!
Is not in this comic! Also, Neil Gaiman killed her, that dick.
Holy crap, dudes, I think Metamorpho is for real dead this time, because he is smooth pinned to the ground by a grip of harpoons and has a big, gaping hole in his chest. His face shows him to be in agony, and he is reaching his hands out, as if towards us, the readers! His body also seems to be falling apart at the seams. Behind him gloats Black Manta, that guy from Aquaman, holding his harpoon gun up in the air and shaking his fist in victory.
Also! Behind him floats the deadly Negamorpho, evil twin of Metamorpho! He has a totally black head with a nose, eyebrows, not a harelip, and other features that Metamorpho sometimes has when artists draw him off model. His shirt part is blue and yellow where Metamorpho’s is orange and purple, respectively. His legs are, uh, the opposite of mud? and metal? And his belt buckle has an “N” on it instead of an “M.” (It stands for “Negamorpho.”) Anyway, Negamorpho is like a gaseous cloud of evil, swirling about a panicking Sapphire Stagg, who cannot escape his clutches.
METAMORPHO says: S-s-sufferin’ Sapphire! I never thought I’d go out like this, baby!
Then METAMORPHO says: 86’d by my evil twin and-->choke!<--that guy from Aquaman!
Swingin’ Rex Mason (totally in human form—how can this be?!) and his main lady, Sapphire Stagg, hang loose and hang ten, riding a wave on a couple of surfboards. Rexy boy wears some board shorts, and Sapphire sizzles in a teeny bikini!
REX: Whoa, baby! You better slow down or you’re going to make all the mermaids jealous of those sweet gams!
SAPPHIRE: Aw, Rexy baby! You are the most, lover! How’s this for a goofy-footing hot-dogger?
Simon Stagg stands on the beach facing out into the water. He is dressed in his regular old Colonel Sanders suit like he wears, complete with string tie and all. With one hand he holds up a seemingly ancient document covered in hieroglyphics and runes, and with his other hand he cups his mouth to call out to Rex. Next to him in the sand sits Java, wearing a pair of sweet jamz and holding a bottle of suntan lotion which he squeezes into one hand.
STAGG: Rex! Enough of your showboating! You know you have to surf in the shape of these ancient runes in order to raise the wreckage of the sunken freighter loaded with Aztec gold!
JAVA: Master, can you help Java get his back? Java doesn’t want his tan to be all muddled and uneven when Sapphire gets back to shore.
Close on Rex and Sapphire, grinning as Rex calls back to Stagg on the shore.
REX: Ah, Staggsy, you old stick in the mud! Only you could ruin a happening holiday at the Gulf shore!
SAPPHIRE: Don’t let him spoil your fun, darling! Let’s show daddy that we can really hang ten!
Bird’s eye shot of Rex and Sapphire surfing through the waves, carving out a pattern in the shape of an eldritch rune!
SAPPHIRE: That’s the way, Rexy baby! Show that wave you mean business!
REX: You know no one can carve out cuneiform from a coastal crest like your cuddly chemical crusader, cutie!
Rex and Sapphire react with surprise as the water around them begins to froth and bubble!
SAPPHIRE: Rex! Something’s—happening!
Back on the shore, Stagg grits his teeth in an avaricious grin and clenches his fists in victory, crumpling up his ancient vellum. Java scratches his head.
STAGG: It’s working! It’s working, by Gadfrey!
Rex and Sapphire start to panic as the waves rise and splash all around them.
REX: Blazin’ blue Hannah! He’s not lyin’! The ghost ship must be coming up!
Holy cats! That’s no ghost ship! It’s Black Manta, totally busting up out of the waves, knocking Rex and Sapph off their boards! His fists are all up in the air and he wields the hell out of a harpoon gun.
BLACK MANTA: No such luck, jerks! BLACK MANTA is no ghost ship!
REX: Holy cats!
Rex and Sapphire wash up on the shore. Rex wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, sitting up in the surf. He is not super happy with the state of things right now.
REX: Buddy, if you’re looking for a knuckle-duster, ol’ Rexy boy Mason is rip-roarin’ to give you one!
Java cringes behind Stagg, using him as a human shield. Stagg looks annoyed.
STAGG: Java! What in blazes are you doing?
JAVA: Java is bolstering you, Master, so that the interloper does not knock you down!
Black Manta strides confidently up onto the shore.
MANTA: Calm down, all of you! I’m just looking for a man by the name of METAMORPHO!
Rex shouts at Black Manta, pointing at himself fiercely with both thumbs!
REX: You found him, fish breath! The only chemical freak around these parts is yours truly, buster!
Black Manta nonchalantly fires his harpoon gun.
BLACK MANTA: Right on.
Rex staggers, gritting his teeth, a harpoon sticking through his shoulder. Sapphire and some other ladies on the beach are shocked, eyes wide and mouths a-gaspin’.
SAPPHIRE: Rex, darling! No!
REX: Relax, gorgeous. You know it takes a lot more than that to put down the Element Man!
Black Manta nonchalantly fires his harpoon gun three more times.
BLACK MANTA: You got it, dude.
SFX: PYEW! PYEW! PYEW!
Rex is now pinned to the wall of a, uh, wooden changing station? Or, like, an outhouse or something? Anyway, he’s got like four harpoons going through him. Ladies are just screaming all over the place.
REX: All right, helmet head! Now you’ve got me good and mad!
A cloud of gas begins to seep from Rex’s mouth and eyeholes, and his skin begins to sag. Ladies are smooth screamin at this too.
GAS: You wanna tussle, cuddle fish, let me change into a cloud of FLUORINE GAS—
This one’s all big! It’s Metamorpho, flying out of the now empty latex skin he was wearing, raring for action! He’s solidifying, but part of him is still gassy. His right hand is a giant mace, and his left hand is a giant hammer. Ladies are screamin.
METAMORPHO: --LET’S TUSSLE!
The ladies are left looking at the empty latex skin, all saggin and hangin from some harpoons on the side of an outhouse. Yeah, they’re screamin.
Black Manta, seeing Metamorpho flying toward him, dives back into the ocean.
BLACK MANTA: Oh snap!
Metamorpho morphs into a giant surfboard and chases after Black Manta.
METAMORPHO: Good luck if you think you can outswim a SELENIUM SURFBOARD!*
CAPTION: *Readers of a more scientific bent already know that selenium is the most tubular of all metals**!
CAPTION: **Or whatever.
Metamorpho, catching up to Black Manta, slams him with a left hook made of a giant 16-ton weight. (It says 16 tons on it.)
METAMORPHO: Now let’s see how you stand up to a LITHIUM LEFT!
And now a right cross with a fist made of an anchor!
METAMORPHO: Or an IRON PY-RIGHT!
Black Manta floats face down in the water, while Metamorpho, now in the shape of a buoy, floats on the surface and smiles, yelling back to Sapphire on the shore.
METAMORPHO: Hey, Sapphire! What do you think of your buoy now?
SAPPHIRE: Oh, lover! You know you float my boat as always!
Black Manta was just faking, though, guys! He is still totally conscious and now he totally shoots a harpoon into Metamorpho’s stomach!
Metamorpho grins slyly, still bent over from the force of the harpoon to his stomach. Black Manta smirks, but you cannot see this because of the nature of his helmet.
METAMORPHO: Ah, c’mon, Manta. You gotta know by now your harpoons don’t work on me.
BLACK MANTA: Yeah. This one’s got a little something extra.
Metamorpho reels back from his own stomach in fear! That harpoon has a bundle of dynamite on it, with a fuse that’s hissing on down!
BLACK MANTA: DYNAMITE!
Metamorpho just explodes while Black Manta swims away.
BLACK MANTA: Adios, suckas!
Sapphire reacts with shock and terror, while Stagg puts his arm around her shoulders, comforting her. Java rubs his hands together and grins deviously.
SAPPHIRE: Rex! NO!
STAGG: Don’t worry, daughter. You know our boy Rex always pulls himself back together, no matter what.
JAVA: HAH! Now that Rex Mason is blow into tiny pieces, the delectable Sapphire is free to go steady with…JAVA!
Sapphire looks down angrily at Java, who grins sheepishly back up at her.
SAPPHIRE: Dude, I’m standing RIGHT HERE.
Stagg points Sapphire’s attentions out to a purple puddle swimming its way toward shore.
STAGG: Look! Here he comes now!
SAPPHIRE: Oh, Rexy baby! Thank goodness!
Rex pulls himself back together as Stagg and Sapphire run toward him. In the background, Java looks thoughtfully at Rex’s skin hanging loosely from the harpoons, rubbing his chin. Oh, yeah: also: Rex has a big hole in his chest.
METAMORPHO: Heya, Sapph. I’m…I’m not feelin’ so hot.
SAPPHIRE: Rex! Your chest!
STAGG: We must get you back to the lab immediately! If we get there in time, I know I can save you, by Jasper!
Cut back to Black Manta, who is swimming away, holding what appears to be a big chunk of purple rock in his hand. (Guys: it is a piece of Metamorpho.)
BLACK MANTA: Heh! Heh!
Establishing shot: a mysterious lab!
CAPTION: Later, at a mysterious lab!
Black Manta, inside the lab, tosses the hunk of purple rock on a desk covered in test tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks. A shadowy man is seated at the desk.
BLACK MANTA: All right, doc. I got your hunk of purple man rock. Now where’s my money?
Now we see who the shadowy figure sitting at the desk is! Holy crap, it’s Dr. Sivana! He picks up the purple rock and examines it.
SIVANA: You’ll get your money, Black Manta, after I’ve completed my experiment! Heh! Hehhh!
Black Manta and Sivana stand next to a machine that looks like a busted overhead projector.
BLACK MANTA: What are you going to do? Shoot the rock with that busted overhead projector?
Sivana places the rock on the machine, under the lens or laser or whatever’s on the arm part.
SIVANA: Imbecile! I’m going to bathe it in the rays of this, my imperfect duplicate machine! It makes imperfect duplicates of anything! Weeds out of flowers! Poisons out of sweet chocolate egg creams! Three-legged babies out of four-legged babies! Heh! Heh! Hehhhhh!
Black Manta looks down at Sivana, who looks moderately annoyed.
BLACK MANTA: Sure, sure, doc. But why’s it look like a stack of dogshit?
SIVANA: Yes, well. Hmm. It’s not my own design. This is actually an imperfect duplicate I made of Luthor’s imperfect duplicate machine by shooting his imperfect duplicate machine with that machine’s own imperfect duplicate ray.
Black Manta stands behind Sivana, who peers intently at the rock.
BLACK MANTA: So what are you going to do? Shoot that rock with that ray and make…what? A…less good rock?
SIVANA: You fool! Can’t you see the big picture?
Sivana raises his hands and stares up at the ceiling in victory!
SIVANA: I will shoot this piece of Metamorpho with my imperfect duplicate machine and create an evil Metamorpho! One who will only be able to transform into substances found on the Periodic Table of Evil Elements! One who will do my bidding!
SIVANA: One who will help me regain my long lost formula for Sivanium, a living metal I once used to nearly defeat the wizard Shazam and that big red cheese!* Heh! HEHHHHH!
CAPTION: *You all remember this, of course, from Captain Marvel Adventures #100, September 1949! It’s a classic!
Sivana dramatically presses the button on the overhead projector!
SIVANA: And now I begin to reap the limitless benefits of applied mad science!
A ray issues from the lens of the machine and zaps the rock!
Sivana and Manta look on as the rock begins to shake and sizzle!
SIVANA: It’s working! Heh! It’s working!
Negamorpho (remember him from the first page?) bursts forth from the machine, knocking Sivana and Manta down!
NEGAMORPHO: Hark! ‘Tis I, NEGAMORPHO, the NEGATIVE MAN of EVIL ELEMENTS!
Negamorpho flies over to Sivana and Manta on the floor, hovering above them as a mist.
NEGAMORPHO: Hail, my mad creator and yon dark assassin! My eternal thanks that thou hast given to me life. How shall I do thy bidding, my lord and master?
Sivana looks up at Negamorpho and adjusts his glasses.
SIVANA: Heh! Well, well. At last someone who does what he’s told without asking for money. Why don’t you show Black Manta here what you can do?
NEGAMORPHO: Your merest wish is my most hearty command, your worship.
Sivana and Manta stand surrounded by a hazy mist. The two of them are just openly weeping. Manta has tears streaming out of his weird eye porthole things.
BLACK MANTA: Aw, man! What the hell? Is this tear gas? Why is tear gas making me feel sad?
SIVANA: Heh! He must have converted into the first evil element! CRYDROGEN!
Black Manta now stands with all of his clothes missing except his helmet. He wears boxers with little fish on them. Sivana rubs his hands in glee.
BLACK MANTA: Man! WHAT THE FUCK. Where are my pants, you dick?
SIVANA: Heh! The element with the atomic evil number of two! STEALIUM!
Black Manta now looks exceedingly worried, holding his fingers up to his “mouth” as if he’s chattering away at his fingernails. Sivana’s glee grows.
BLACK MANTA: Now I’ve got a sense of doom about my prospects for the future!
SIVANA: Heh! FOREBODIUM! The evilest of the alkali metals!
Black Manta and Sivana screw up their faces in disgust and wave their hands in front of their faces.
BLACK MANTA: Aw, man! Rank! What is this one? Stinkium?
SIVANA: Heh! No, this one is…>sniff< Ah! FARTS!
Negamorpho resolidifies his head and shoulders and floats above Sivana, who looks up at him, very pleased.
SIVANA: Bravo, my evil element man! Now! Turn into that most precious evil element of all: SIVANIUM!
NEGAMORPHO: Nay, my lord. Though I bow my will to thine every caprice, I would as lief first slay my simp’ring counterpart, Rex Mason!
Sivana does not look pleased about this.
SIVANA: What?! Bah! Bah! You have to do what I say, and I say make Sivanium!
Negamorpho stands, lit dramatically, as a man on a mission.
NEGAMORPHO: Though it does my heart ill to refuse thy command, the burning coal of the element ALONIUM that glows within my breast doth demand that I alone be the sole man of elements! And to that end, I MUST SLAY METAMORPHO!
Negamorpho flies off; Sivana stomps the ground in anger; Black Manta just laughs, standing in his skivvies.
NEGAMORPHO: And so, my liege, farewell.
SIVANA: No! BAH! BAH! My Sivanium!
BLACK MANTA: Heh! Heh! Heh!
Establishing shot: Stagg’s mansion!
CAPTION: Meanwhile, back at Stagg’s mansion!
Sapphire and Stagg stand over the body of Metamorpho, who lies on a table hooked up to life support, with a huge hole in his chest.
SAPPHIRE: Daddy, can you fix him? Please tell me Rex is gonna make it!
STAGG: I’ll do my best, darling, but without the final piece he seems to be missing, I’m afraid Rex will be stuck in this…inert state.
Sapphire looks up, with a sudden look of concern across her face. She kind of hugs her own arms in anxiety. A wrinkle makes its way to Stagg’s brow as well.
SAPPHIRE: Daddy! I know I’m worried about Rex, but suddenly it feels like an uncool wave of super anxiety just rocked my pretty little head!
STAGG: Strangely, daughter, I feel it too! And, hmm…that oddly sulfurous smell…
Stagg holds up a Geiger counter-like device. His face shows alarm.
STAGG: By Gadfrey! My instruments confirm my worst suspicions! That odor and our feelings of concern are being brought about by the presence of the evil element DYSTTERBIUM!
Stagg spins around as suddenly a body has materialized behind him!
STAGG: This can only mean one thing!
VOICE: Aye, sir!
Negamorpho stands fully solidified, holding Sapphire around the neck with his arm.
NEGAMORPHO: A man of evil elements!
SAPPHIRE: Daddy! Help!
Stagg furrows his brow, thinking doggedly about his situation.
STAGG: Blazes! Of all the times for Rex to be out of commission, why did it have to be when we need him most?
STAGG: I’d even take Java’s help, by Jasper! Where is that slant-jawed buffoon?
Cut to Java, sittin in a bubble bath, all wearin a hair net, all surrounded by candles, all listenin to bubblegum hits of the 50s.
JAVA (singing): SPLISH SPLASH JAVA TAKIN A BATH DUH NUH NUH ALL UPON A SATURDAY NIGHT
Cut back to Negamorpho, holding Sapphire hostage.
NEGAMORPHO: If thou yet hast hope to save thy daughter’s life, think thou not to battle me, but rather to direct my own gaze to the stead wherein resides the ELEMENT MAN!
Negamorpho spins around, as he hears a voice behind him!
VOICE: Hey! >coff< >coff< Did…
Big panel! It’s Metamorpho! He’s gotten up from his death bed, and he’s all trailin oxygen tubes and catheters and smooth holding his own guts in despite the huge hole in his chest.
METAMORPHO: Did someone call for an ELEMENT MAN?
Negamorpho casts Sapphire aside and approaches Metamorpho.
SAPPHIRE: Rex! Don’t try to fight him! You’re too weak!
NEGAMORPHO: Wench, thou wilt be silent!
NEGAMORPHO: Good sir, I challenge thee to a duel of honor to prove which man alone deserves the name of ELEMENT!
Close in on Metamorpho’s face, who grins through the pain.
METAMORPHO: >coff< Buster, I don’t understand a single word leakin’ out of your slimy gob, but >coff<--
METAMORPHO: --YOU’RE ON.
Actually, this whole page is kind of splashy, with Metamorpho and Negamorpho flying all around changing into different elements, winding around each other as various clouds and streams of gases, puddles of liquids, piles of solids, miasmas of plasmas, &c.
Metamorpho, floating on by, manages a wry grin.
METAMORPHO: All right, Negarino, try these on for size! >coff<
Once more, the two element men intertwine, flying through the air as gases.
NEGAMORPHO: I say—
Negamorpho crashes headlong into a wall, panicking.
NEGAMORPHO: No! I—NOOOOO!
Negamorpho reverts back to a chunk of purple rock, smoking at Metamorpho’s feet.
METAMORPHO: Heh. >coff< Sorry, Charlie. I just sank your battleship.
Sapphire rushes over to Metamorpho, who leans over to pick up the purple piece of himself.
SAPPHIRE: Rexy baby! Honey! Lover! Doll! You’re alive!
METAMORPHO: Yeah, but I’m not quite 100%, so don’t go eating me alive just yet, darlin’.
Metamorpho puts the piece in the hole in his chest, where it begins to heal immediately. Sapphire clings passionately to his arm.
METAMORPHO: Blazes! There’s nothing like plugging a hole in your chest to make you feel alive!
SAPPHIRE: But how did you do it, man o’ mine? How did you beat him?
METAMORPHO: He was a man made of evil elements, see, so I knew he could never change into—
METAMORPHO: --THE NOBLE GASES.
Stagg wanders in and pats Metamorpho on the back. He is holding a strange and complicated working contraption.
STAGG: Rexy boy! You did it, by Jasper! I ran into my lab to whip up this evil element neutralizing transistor, but I see I needn’t have bothered! Good to have you back, old boy!
Now Java strolls in, looking like the cat that ate the canary, except that he is wearing the latex skin that Rex abandoned at the beach way back at the beginning, and it is all stretched and contorted over him and he just smooth looks like the scariest serial killer caveman ever. All the others are stunned speechless. Also Java is carrying a bouquet of flowers.
JAVA: Sapphire! Now that Rex Mason is dead, you can go steady with Java! As added incentive, Java is now exactly as handsome as Rex Mason was, when he was once alive, which is he no longer.
Everyone just kind of stares at Java, who stands there expectantly.
SAPPHIRE: Oh. Oh, god.
CAPTION: Oh, Java!
P.S. DC editors, this is totally my spec script for an ongoing Metamorpho series. Call me!
P.P.S. Special thanks to Chris Sims for saying the word “Bizzaromorpho” and thus helping me solidify this story when all I knew was that I wanted Black Manta in it. Acknowledgement also of some emotion or other to Sims and Good Sarah for convincing me to go back and rewrite all of one character’s dialogue.