Day 56: Metron!

The omnipresent, cold and calculating Metron is the Eve of the Eden called New Genesis, he who has bitten the forbidden fruit of knowledge and seeks answers, whatever the expense, regardless of consequence, to his all-encompassing curiosity. He, the master of time and space and infinity, rides the cosmos and timeways of existence on his Mobius Chair, a miraculous, wondrous vehicle that can materialize on Apokolips, in space, at the very edge of the universe, all in the wink of an eye at Metron’s slightest whim. “Luckily for you,” he tells Lightray, “I am everywhere when needed!”

His loyalty is not to Highfather but to the pursuit of knowledge, and Metron is willing to compromise the very survival of his home world, New Genesis, if Apokolips can help in finding the answers he desires. At worst, you could call him a traitor, a “supreme” meddler at best, but Metron sees himself in the loftiest of terms, justifying his cosmos-shaking intrigues by saying he is a seeker to questions about the ultimate power, The Source. Metron is delusional in believing himself a mere humble scientist.

We’re never quite sure of Metron’s motives as he influences events at key moments in the Fourth World saga. He appears, usually, to be an ally of Orion, Lightray and company; but when the backstory of the epic is revealed, we find the seeker maneuvering players and events that portend cataclysmic repercussions. Frankly said, Metron is a schemer who manipulates people and events to serve his desires, not so unlike his professed mortal enemy (and sometime ally), Darkseid.

Metron is the great inventor (if not the visionary) of both New Genesis and Apokolips, having first developed the “Matter Threshold,” which physically links the two worlds and was later refined as the Boom Tube. He is also incisively involved in seeing prophecy fulfilled, serving as a spirit who prods the son of Highfather at pivotal moments in the life of young Scott Free.

It is obvious that this decidedly non-physical character — his furrowed brow gets the most exercise in this saga (I mean, he sits on his skinny fanny for most of the duration!) — was an essential actor when Jack was planning the opus, given the fact Metron was one of the few characters featured in the artist/writer’s initial presentation to DC. And Mr. Kirby did use the Master of the Mobius Chair for a number of critical moments in the series:

Early in the days of the “Great Clash,” Metron tries to seize the X-Element from Darkseid’s grip and we learn of the Master of Time and Space has been less than loyal to his native world, as the stone-face villain says, “On my conditions do you obtain it, Metron!! You recall our ‘private’ meetings!?” And despite the fact Metron knows the armies of Apokolips will invade New Genesis “in the wink of an eye” if he follows Darkseid’s orders to create the “door to anywhere,” the Matter Threshold, all the seeker cares about is obtaining the “unobtainable” X-Element to build his Mobius Chair.

At this infamous occasion, Metron declares his individuality to Queen Heggra and her son Darkseid: “I have no link with the old gods — or new!! I am something — different! Something that was unforeseen!! — On New Genesis — or here!!”

And Darkseid knows what is in store for those who employ this cosmic double agent: “You’ll betray us all in time, Metron!”

Metron also takes a keen interest in seeing the son of Highfather, young Scott Free, run away from Apokolips, fulfilling Darkseid’s scheme to provide a catalyst to break the Pact and thus renew open conflict — only now a wider Super-War, this time involving Earth — with New Genesis. But while the Master of the Holocaust intends for Scott Free to be killed in the escape attempt, this Master of Elements and his oft-collaborator Himon, the Master of Theories, see that the Mister Miracle to-be flees via Boom Tube and arrive on our planet, safe and sound. (Or is Metron merely an observer… hmmmm…!)

(It’s important in noting, too, that Metron comes to young Scott Free at important intervals during the lad’s nightmarish servitude on Apokolips, appearing as a haunting apparition to prod the boy to have courage and eschew the brainwashing in Granny Goodness’s orphanage — to believe in his own individuality… To be Scott Free and find himself…)

It’s difficult, also, not to see Metron as also a supreme believer in destiny, as the character appears time and time again to help his New Genesis brethren to escape their own predicaments: Metron delays the confrontation between Orion and Kalibak the Cruel, in the half-brothers’ first meeting as adults (quite probably to keep Orion in the dark, until the opportune moment, about his own direct lineage to Darkseid). And immediately thereafter he explains the Apokoliptian threat not only to their home world, but to Earth and the entire known universe, to comrade Orion.

In a memorable exchange, Orion lays out differences between the two new gods. “I feel! I anger! I fight! — and you — You are like your cold machines!” declares Orion the Mighty. Metron cooly replies, “I serve life in my own way! What there is to know — I wish to know! My knowledge is my power! Time and space is my domain!

Metron goes on to hint at his contribution to recent events: “When the old gods died, their bridge to Earth was destroyed! It was I who found the way to create what our young ones call the Boom Tube!” By his own machinations, Metron brings the threat of Darkseid to our unsuspecting, innocent sphere, leading one to wonder just why is the seeker boasting about reuniting gods with humans…

When Lightray is threatened with the final touch of The Black Racer, the bringer of death to the new gods, Metron intercedes by deflecting the cosmic skier to Earth, thereby igniting yet another chain of events, some not so good!

A bit later on, Metron takes on the youngest new god, Esak, as student and travels the corridors of space and time to teach the boy, instilling in Esak a similiar unrelenting thirst for knowledge, one that just might have ferocious consequences at the grand finale of our epic.

We may not quite understand Metron’s motives at any given interval. His ally Orion raves, “For a scrap of knowledge you would sell the universe into slavery!” (To which, the seeker replies, “Who runs the universe matters not! What makes it run is my prime objective!”) He has a deep and abiding relationship with Himon of Apokolips, one that influences the overarching course of events. It is a collaboration we’ll discuss in detail later…

Most of all, perhaps, Metron is the embodiment of absolute conceit and self-aggrandizement, possessing a supreme lack of humility as he believes he is entitled to become privy to answers about the greatest mystery of eternity: the secret of The Source. “What wouldn’t I give to possess the knowledge of the ‘Source’!” In his Mobius Chair, he travels to the Final Barrier, confident he can accomplish what the Promethean Giants could not, and penetrate into the realm of infinity to discover the secret of life itself. In the end, Metron, “the seeker and wielder of cosmic knowledge,” may prove to have been the greatest, most ignorant fool of all.

14 thoughts on “Day 56: Metron!

  1. patrick ford

    Jack Kirby (Amazing Heroes #47): “There’s never been a god like Metron. There’s never been an academic god, but we have him now.

    Edward Teller was a scientist of great repute, and probably a very nice guy. Yet he created something which can wipe out the human race. So too must Metron keep searching for knowledge, regardless of the fact Darkseid can use his discoveries for evil, as he has with the Boom Tube. Metron has his own drives. He wants to know all there is, and that’ll be his eternal frustration.”

    Has anyone ever wondered if Metron wasn’t confined to his chair like Professor X of the X-Men?

    Metron is only shown out of his chair once in the series (I think), and that’s as part of a flashback during a time before Metron invented the chair.

    I asked Mark Evanier if Kirby had ever mentioned the possibility and Evanier said no, but Kirby had something of a penchant for characters with outsized heads and diminished, or absent bodies.

    This goes all the way back to Dr. Chuda in The Lone Rider. Aside from Prof. X, there are also Ego, the Living Planet; Egg-Head from Captain Victory; and the Overmind, seen in Mister Miracle.

    1. John S.

      Patrick, you’ve really got me thinkin’ now. You’re sure right when you say that Kirby had a thing for characters with outsized heads and diminished or absent bodies! Here’s a few more…

      The Head of the Family, from Black Magic; the Gargoyle from The Incredible Hulk; Modok from Tales of Suspense; the Misfit from Kamandi; General Electric from Sandman; the Uni-Mind from Eternals; the Star Child from 2001: A Space Odyssey; the Six Million Year Man (“Hatch 22”) from Black Panther; Esak from the Fourth World finale, Hunger Dogs (who becomes a sort of tragic reflection of Metron himself); and a couple of even loopier variations on the theme, Quasimodo from Fantastic Four and Arnim Zola from Captain America. I might even be tempted to put the Red Skull himself on this list, since his outfit was deliberately designed to be undramatic, so as to draw even more attention to that already striking crimson mask.

      There’s probably a few more out there, too, but those were the ones that I could think of just “off the top of my head”!

      1. J.A. Fludd

        And on the subject of vast intellects and vegetated bodies, let’s not forget Gideon Challenger and The Child from one of the most obscure Kirby Creations, Chip Hardy. You may remember this unsold and tantalizing comic strip about the clean-cut boy who attended an MIT-like university, and the dwarf who wanted to recruit him for some awesome Kirbyesque mission that we’ll never get to see: Gideon Challenger, the frail, little old man who had built an enormous Buddha-like automaton, The Child, to carry him around. Alas that we’ll never know what other purposes The Child was meant for or what Challenger wanted with young Chip…

    2. Tom Scioli

      Metron is standing in the double-page splash in The Forever People #7, so he definitely isn’t confined to the chair. Subsequent writers, Alan Moore in his unpublished Twilight of the Superheroes and Grant Morrison in his Mister Miracle miniseries have depicted the character as confined to the chair.

      1. JonBCooke Post author

        Du’oh! Thanks, Tom! I see Metron is also on both his feet with Izaya in “The Pact,” negating the thought of a singular standing sequence earlier in that tale, when he rushes to snag the X-Element from Darkseid…

  2. John S.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Jon. And let’s all thank The Source for our blessings — blessings like the amazing comics of JACK (King) KIRBY!

    Metron. Is he good? Bad? Indifferent? All of the above, as his actions clearly demonstrate. He is a God of Knowledge and therefore his primary interest is the pursuit and application of knowledge. Just as Ares in Greek mythology is a god of war whose primary interest is warfare and who is therefore intended to personify war without regard to its consequences, Metron in The Fourth World is a god of knowledge whose actions are intended to exemplify the effects of pure applied knowledge unhindered by concern for the consequences of that application.

    Jack often said that the gods of mythology were nothing more than exaggerated symbols, created in the image of Man. In my opinion, Metron was just that: an exaggerated symbol of Man’s thirst for knowledge, in and of itself — which is exactly why he thinks of himself as being above most moral considerations — except the ones which serve his own relatively single-minded purpose of gaining even greater knowledge! When his actions result in harmful consequences, it could be that Jack is giving us a sort of cautionary tale to point out the problems that are inherent in the pursuit of knowledge untempered by concern for one’s fellow man.

    All the gods are flawed, incomplete individuals because of their unbalanced focus on their own unique, symbolic “specialty.” Metron is particularly flawed because, in spite of the fact that he’s always flying around (sitting around?) trying to unlock the secrets of The Source, he’s totally blind to the fact that to be a complete person, knowledge — as vital as it is — must always play second fiddle to love. You’d think that, with all the resources he has at his command, he’d at least be able to unlock that one most important secret of The Source…but (like so many pompous, puffed-up university graduates) he has utterly failed to learn the real lesson.

  3. patrick ford

    Looking at the design concept painting of Metron by Kirby that Jon posted, I’m reminded that ever since I first saw it I’ve always wished that Jack had stuck with that simple tubular Moebius strip design. Course, that may represent the prototype, before Metron began to hot-rod the design. In the final image the chair towing the planet looks like an 18-wheeler version of the original.

  4. J.A. Fludd

    Metron, for some reason, reminds me of an old children’s song:

    “Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds,
    You and your arithmetic will probably go far.
    Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds:
    Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful they are.”

  5. patrick ford


    The sequence in “The Pact” is still prior to the creation of the chair isn’t it? As I recall it’s Element-X Metron needs to build the chair.

    The splash Tom mentions (and looking now I see the following page as well) in The Forever People is pretty conclusive though.

    Notice that Metron refers to himself in the third person as we might expect from him.

    “Speaking for Metron, I’d say your friends are in bad straits.”

    The “your friends” reference is similarly cold and distanced.

    Didn’t know about what other writers have done with the character.

    How many people here have never read any of the “gnostic” Fourth World stories?

    1. JonBCooke Post author

      Yeah, my phrasing was more than a little awkward; My intention was to note that there was another instance of Metron standing, albeit pre-Mobius Chair, as it was previously mentioned that there was that single occurrence…

      I’ve read with pleasure Walter Simonson’s Orion, as well as Mark Evanier and Steve Rude’s Mister Miracle Special, and confess to enjoying John Byrne’s Fourth World comics (as well as his Apokoliptian-infused Superman tales). The Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers Mister Miracle was fun stuff, as well as that Michael Golden/Russ Heath-drawn issue…

      Most of the non-Kirby material is dreadful though. I’m unfamiliar with what Grant Morrison has done with the mythos, though I have read some nonsense about a “Fifth World.” The more I delve into the canon, the more I wish they’d just have left the characters and concepts on Adon with The Forever People.

      Re-reading The Hunger Dogs this weekend, it’s a bloody shame, I think, Jack was hampered from doing exactly what it was assigned for him to do: Finish his opus. The DC caveat to allow the mythos to live, to NOT have Darkseid and Orion battle to the death in Armagetto, is a letdown of sorts. But Jack, with his usual aplomb, still handles the directives with grace, giving Orion an out into a life with the promise of love and companionship, and imparting a degree of comeuppance to Darkseid by taking away his kingdom.

      On a lark, I checked the Wikipedia entry for Para-Demons yesterday and it stated (sans hyphen) parademons were stupid creatures, though some are associated with this or that super-group. Frenzied, excitable, hysterical — those I see in Jack’s characterizations… but stupid? I thought that “Batter poles up” and “Go, demons” comments showed they had some wit, and wit connotes intelligence, I reckon!

      1. JonBCooke Post author

        I’m also turning around considerably about the quality of “Even Gods Must Die!” and The Hunger Dogs. Dark and grim stuff, to be sure, but a solid commentary on the loss of nobility and the threat of technology. Any disappointment I held has vanished and I’m with you firmly, Patrick, in the belief that Jack was an excellent writer, on all counts… plotting, captions, dialogue. Realistic? I say who the hell cares if it’s realistic… It’s KIRBY, dagnabbit, and reality through the prism of Jack Kirby always results in something fantastic, in the best definition of that word.

        1. patrick ford


          “Even Gods Must Die” and The Hunger Dogs are two of my absolute favorite Kirby stories, marred only by the heavy-handed inking supposedly done at the request of DC’s editorial staff. The Royer-inked pages are fine, but the rest —ouch! I’ve seen the pencils in TJKC and they look great to my eyes. If only more photocopies of the penciled pages could be found (why the big gaps?).

          I know some fans don’t go for the look of the art, but I’m a guy who likes Picasso and Vermeer, if you follow my drift. Another step towards abstraction in Kirby’s long artistic journey doesn’t bother me one bit.

          It’s the darkness in Kirby’s later work which caused me to wonder about Metron’s legs. Seeing the monstrosity Metron’s apprentice Esak became, I could see Metron’s legs becoming atrophied over time, because Metron is always in his chair, he’d have no use for them, not even miss their use, while others seeing what had happened might be shocked.

          1. JonBCooke Post author

            I remember the increasing abstraction of Jack’s work making me concerned about whether or not he had suffered a stroke. A three-dimensional quality was lost and everything seemed slanted to the left. It was obvious to me there was a physical component here and that alarmed me. The jump in quality between early issues of Captain Victory (between #2 and 3?) startled me. I would later learn the first two issues or so had been penciled years beforehand… Still, the New Gods finale is marvelous stuff and I’m finally shedding my prejudices about the closing…

    2. John S.

      It doesn’t make any sense that Metron would be confined to his chair. He is a super-scientific genius from a Utopian world of GODS who would have long since found ways to heal every possible type of physical disability. In other words, New Genesis is basically like Heaven. And there are no physical infirmities in Heaven. Even after Orion gets blasted nearly to shreds at the end of New Gods #6 [1984], he is fully restored in The Hunger Dogs.

      The only thing in New Genesis which is not perfect and flawless is Orion’s true face — except when its appearance is transformed by Mother Box. This is one of the inconsistencies in the storyline. If Orion’s body could be completely restored, it’s pretty hard to believe that they couldn’t do some kind of super-duper New Genesian plastic surgery to permanently fix his face as well! Unless, of course, Orion has actually chosen to leave it the way it is. Perhaps, deep down, he takes pride in all his scars… including the greatest one of all!

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