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From the frigid zone of outer space comes a weird threat to the very existence of mankind ! A threat that is all the more incredible because it is made by creatures of metal ! What defence can prevail against live metal that constantly grows ? 

Context

These space aliens showed up in 1945 (All-Star Comics #26).

While they’re not that remarkable, they’re a solid example of 1940s comic book alien invaders. So if you need that, well here they are.

The opening caption calls them “vampires of the void”, which is rather clickbaity. Another caption calls them the “Jovian horde”, which is plainer but far more descriptive.

With Jupiter in mind

A previous All-Star Comics issue featured another species of metallic-looking beings on Jupiter. But these were full-conversion cyborgs, like a benign version of the Cybermen in Doctor Who.

Still, the two species could easily coexist on Jupiter. It’s kind of big, and in both stories :

  • There was an emphasis on the fact that only metallic creatures could survive on Jupiter.
  • There was a metal-devouring threat.

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Powers & Abilities

On Jupiter, the Horde aliens are only four inches (10cm) tall. This allows them to survive the planet’s 2.5G gravity and terrible environment.

But when they reached Earth they absorbed the Sun’s light, and soon grew bigger and stronger. Their Earth size ranged between two and three metres/yards.

This evokes Superman’s Kryptonian metabolism. Especially since, oddly, lead was toxic to them.

It’s a gas gas gas

Their reaction to solar rays may also imply that the Jovian Horde guys normally live under gas layers, with next to no solar exposure. Especially since they were seen walking underwater without any hindrance.

The aliens were amazed to find metals just laying around, and were unfamiliar with them (though they tasted great).

This might suggest that harvesting metal in their Jupiter habitat is hard work, and brings only small quantities of a few types of metal. Liquid metallic hydrogen, perhaps ?

Jovian metallic horde aliens - DC Comics - JSA - All-Star Comics - pennies

Do you imbibe ?

The aliens eat metal via imbibition, which Hawkman doesn’t want us to confuse with osmosis.

As they ate too much, they soon duplicated the properties of the metal they were eating — including colour — throughout their entire body.

At their Earth size, the “robots” are enormously strong and durable. Hawkman barely survived one punch, by using his wings to cushion the impact.

Infantry weapons are useless against them. Though the imbibition process isn’t so quick that the aliens can eat bullets or blades on impact.

Ship

This ship is oddly fish-shaped. Perhaps because it was designed to fly through dense gases rather than vacuum.

It originally was tiny. Like a toy plane meant to hold a score of 4″ (10cm) action figures.

It also took a bad hit upon entering Earth’s atmosphere. Since Earth’s atmosphere and gravity are nothing compared to Jupiter’s, this likely was because of terrible piloting — from lack of experience — rather than a weakness of the ship.

The story also implies that the transplanetary flight took at least days. Perhaps months, which would make the story work slightly better.

Justice Society of America - 1940s DC Comics - examining small alien space metal sharp ship

History

The arrival of metal-absorbing, living-metal aliens from Jupiter had been predicted by astronomer, physicist and metallurgist Hebert Crawford.

But did anybody believe him ? No, of course not. They called him a crackpot and made fun of him.

In mid-1945, Mr. Crawford detected an incoming Jovian spaceship, made of metal and with metal within.

Dr. Carter Hall (secretly Hawkman) saw his calculations, and thought that they were correct. He proposed that Crawford present his findings to the Justice Society of America. But Crawford thought that they too would just belittle him.

Instead, he made a deal with the aliens. So they would give him enough power to prove that he had been right all along.

Earthfall

As Crawford had predicted, atmospheric reentry didn’t go well. The shocks threw the passengers off the ship across the US.

The ship crashed in the “Frozen North” – let’s assume Alaska for simplicity’s sake.

As per formula, each Justice Society member went to confront a separate contingent of aliens, who had all gorged on a different metal.

  • Hawkman fought silver-eating aliens, who were robbing a mining town. Silver being a good conductor, these “robots” ended up absorbing a vast electrical charge. Hawkman showered them with pennies, fatally short-circuiting them.
  • The Atom (Al Pratt) fought aliens who were devouring iron rails in the subway, perhaps in New York City. He immobilised them by rusting their joints, using water and a tank of pressurised oxygen. From there, oxidation slew them.
  • Green Lantern (Alan Scott) stopped magnesium-devouring aliens, who were ruining a magnesium factory town. He lured them to a safe place, then had his ring produce a big flame. The magnesium violently combusted.
  • Doctor Mid-Nite (Charles McNider) fought aliens who had been devouring copper cables, wrecking the comms infrastructure. Once they reached town they started eating copper from fixtures. But Dr. Mid Nite tricked them by having plumbers disguise lead as copper. The aliens ate that and died of lead poisoning.
  • The Flash (Jay Garrick) fought aliens eating gold. But once they were made of gold, Jay had little difficulty bending them into shapes that no longer could move.

Y’know, I can’t help to suspect that if Wonder Woman had been sent in instead, she’d have fixed everything without killing anyone.

Metallication

During these cases, the Society observed that the aliens were also stealing cash and artwork, which made no sense. Furthermore, they spoke English.

Meanwhile, that idiot Johnny Thunder found the ship. It could devour any solid matter, and was by then about the size of a bathtub. Though people increasingly don’t have bathtubs, so maybe it’s no longer a great reference point for size.

It devoured anything Johnny tried to hit him with. This was such a disaster that the natives intervened, hurling javelins at Johnny to make him stop his foolishness.

Out of his non-existent depth, Johnny had his Thunderbolt fetch the other Society members.

By this point, the ship was about the size of a DC-3  .

Hawkman came up with another chemical trick, and Green Lantern fetched a half-dozen industrial vats of acid. Showering the ship with acid turned the metal into a nitrate, killing it.

Scientific metalhead

Hebert Crawford then came to the Justice Society’s HQ.

He had allied with the “robots” back when they were still on their way toward Earth. He presumably had taught them English, and requested that they steal the money and paintings.

Fed up with being mocked, Crawford also requested that the aliens give him a way to transform his body into a polymetallic one. Incensed that the Society had defeated the aliens, he attacked them.

However, the Society was by that point proficient at fighting metallic people. They used the weaknesses of silver and magnesium, two of his component metals, and defeated him.

Science, I tell you !

Crawford revealed that he had told the aliens where to find big deposits of metal. The “robots” had been starving during their long flight. Which is why they were so thankful to learn where to find food ASAP.

However, Crawford soon realised that he had gone much too far in taking revenge against the world’s incredulousness and ridicule. He apologised before passing out.

The Society arrested him. But now that everyone knew that Crawford wasn’t a crackpot, they intended to support him in gaining employment in the national interest once he’d be out of jail.

Jovian metallic horde aliens - DC Comics - JSA - All-Star Comics - fight Atom

DC Heroes RPG

Generic Jovian metal eater

Dex: 03 Str: 12 Bod: 12
Int: 02 Wil: 02 Min: 02
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 02
Init: 007 HP: 000

Powers:

Acid: 15, Molecular Chameleon: 07, Sealed systems: 08, Water Freedom*: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Acid only to break down metal wot they absorb by eating/imbibition.
  • Molecular Chameleon only to adopt the chemical properties of a metal that they have just eaten large quantities of.
  • Molecular Chameleon therefore has next to no benefit for them, and they never sought to take advantage of it as these metals were new to them. At this point, cost-wise, it’s closer to MPR Drawback.

Skills:

None demonstrated.

Advantages:

Life Support (No need to breathe or drink; Toxic Atmospheres), presumably a Jovian Language.

Connections:

Among themselves, presumably.

Drawbacks:

Exile (Voluntary), Fatal Vulnerability (eating lead). Once they have Molecular Chameleoned themselves, they acquire a Fatal Vulnerability to means that could be used to destroy this specific metal.

Motivation:

Eat.

Occupation:

Eat.

Wealth:

N.A.


Design notes

STR and BODY are difficult to assess. I’m assuming here that they didn’t attempt Flailing Attack, and the punch that hit Hawkman was a lucky roll.

It is possible that STR/BODY were in fact much higher.

One commented that they felt stronger when eating iron. I’d assume they were just making a nutrition PSA.

Jovian metallic horde aliens - DC Comics - JSA - All-Star Comics - Hebert Crawford polymetallic

Hebert Crawford

We only briefly see this odd-looking polymath.

He seems to have DEX 08 STR 06 BODY 08 and 020 Hero Points, or so.

However, he also has the Vulnerabilities associated with the metals he can now be composed of (silver and magnesium are demonstrated, and the other colours strongly suggest iron, copper and gold). But these are a -1CS Attack Vulnerability (or a 09/09 attack) rather than a Fatal Vulnerability.

Having Crawford return or have a legacy could be intriguing. The most obvious one would be precursor work that made it possible/easier for Will Magnus to create the Metal Men.

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: All-Star Comics Vol. 1 #26.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 24th of July, 2022.