Superhero teams are a popular concept, and many teams have a core line-up. Attempts to alter or change said line-ups are often difficult to say the least. Though there have been, for example, alternate line-ups for the Fantastic Four, those line-ups are always temporary at best and eventually the founding foursome will be back to do what they do. Other teams may add other members, but a core group is always present. No matter what the Avengers’ line up may be, there will generally be spots for Captain America, Iron Man, and/or Thor in some combination. The Justice League will generally have at least some of the “Big Seven” members, though who that seventh member is changes over time. Runs without these characters are often less memorable for a wide variety of reasons. Even lesser teams like the Doom Patrol, where the original team was all killed off and replaced by newer characters, eventually goes back to something like the classic line-up.
But sometimes attempts are made to add new characters, and that’s where Copper comes in.
Who was Copper? At a certain point, that was the joke. Allow me to explain…
…you have no choice if you really want to know, actually.
The Metal Men were a superteam of robots built by genius inventor Doctor Will Magnus, or just Doc Magnus as far as most people were concerned. Originally little better than the pipe-smoking stereotype of a scientist, even the characters’ creators didn’t take Magnus and his creations all that seriously, even by Silver Age standards. Metal Men was the book most likely to in some minor ways break the fourth wall, like when a frustrated Doc wanted to go to a benefit for insane comic book writers. This was long before characters like Deadpool or even the She-Hulk made such moments popular, but happen these things did in minor ways.
As it is, Doc built a group of shapeshifting robots, mostly of the male-but-genitalless persuasion, and each had a single personality trait based off his metal of origin with one noteworthy exception. They were:
- Gold, the smart one, team leader, and able to stretch his body to thin wires without any real trouble.
- Iron, the strong and steadfast one.
- Mercury, the hot-tempered one with a tendency to remind people he was liquid at room temperature.
- Lead, the slow-but-protective one that specialized in shields.
- Tin, the weakest metal with a serious stutter and an even more serious self-esteem problem.
- Platinum, generally known as “Tina,” whose defining characteristic was being in love with Doc, despite his not being into robots, in a way that would be seen as disturbing and stalkerish today at best and highly sexist no matter how you look at it.
Premiering in the March-April 1962 issue of Showcase, the typical Metal Men story would have Doc run into trouble and call in the Metal Men to deal with it, though he’d be trying to keep away from Tina the whole time as she tended on the overprotective side on top of everything else. During the story, most if not all of the Metal Men would be destroyed, usually Tin first since he was big on the whole “self-sacrifice” thing, and they’d somehow win the day while Doc repaired the ones that were broken for the next adventure while any survivors looked on, and the survivors generally meant “Tina”.
Now, obviously, adding more Metal Men can be something of a problem, but it happened once. Tin built himself a girlfriend. Tin, who considered himself weak and useless, built himself a girlfriend. Seriously, Tin and Platinum have some serious mental issues that should be looked into, and that’s not even considering Mercury’s temper.
The girlfriend has no real name, aside from Tin nicknaming her “beautiful”. But at some point, the adventures of the Metal Men went from silly to more serious, and the instant that happened, Tin’s girlfriend vanished between issues without a single explanation. It wasn’t even a case of a new creative team. It was the same people. They just stopped writing about the girlfriend and she went poof.
Now, a good deal has been done with the Metal Men over the years. Once when Doc was injured and Gold more or less destroyed, Doc became a Metal Man himself called Veridium, and starting in the pages of the future-set Kingdom Come and preceding to other appearances, the Metal Men gained the power to merge into one giant Metal Man named Alloy.
But, basically, the Metal Men have a core group that never goes anywhere.
That would be about when someone opted to add another member, a female robot named Copper.
First appearing as a mostly sarcastic robot in a Batman-Superman story arc, Copper was, well, she was there. When the Metal Men were relaunched as a new series set as a back-up to a Doom Patrol book co-written by Keith Giffen and J.M DeMatteis and drawn by Kevin Maguire, you know, the guys who made the Justice League America book funny, they decided to play around with Copper as a forgotten member of the group.
That meant the joke was that Copper had to literally remind people she existed on a consistent basis.
Yes, even Doc and the other Metal Men would routinely forget Copper was on the team, or in the room, or even existed at all, and further, she barely seemed to notice that everyone forgot her at first. The group would head out to do something and she’d be left behind. They’d have conversations where she was ignored, even when she tried to put in her two cents. She had to quite often remind people what her name was.
That’s actually some cool meta commentary on characters like Copper if you think about it. The “Cousin Oliver” for the Metal Men was there and everyone would just prefer to assume she wasn’t.
When the New 52 rolled around and the Metal Men reappeared, guess who was missing?
That’s right! Tin’s nameless girlfriend!
And Copper. Seriously, she’s like the textbook definition of a Misplaced Hero.