Metal Men: Why Chemo Would Be the Perfect Villain for DC's Animated Movie

The world of DC Comics films is continuing to expand out in some interesting ways, with an array of characters being brought to life in both live-action and animation. One of the most surprising DC concepts to join that list might be the Metal Men, a group of sentient robots with zany personalities and superpowers who were confirmed to be getting an animated movie late last year. The announcement arrived after a Metal Men project was in the works for the better part of a decade, with Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld initially involved. There's a lot that's still unknown about the Metal Men animated movie, outside of a few key crew members working behind the scenes, so it's too early to tell exactly what shape the film will end up taking. While the group has a decades-long history to potentially draw from, one antagonist of the group stands out as a great contender for the movie — Chemo.

Created by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito, Chemo first debuted in some of the Metal Men's first comic stories in Showcase #39 and #40. Eventually, it was established that Chemo was a plastic vessel filled with literal chemical by-products, who was created by an evil scientist named Ramsey Norton. (The New 52 canon briefly retconned Chemo's origin, as having been accidentally created by Metal Men founder Will Magnus.) Through a series of events, Chemo gains sentience and rampages through the city, before being defeated by the Metal Men.

Over the years, Chemo became a pretty frequent antagonist of the team and of the larger DC universe, as he was used as a living weapon during Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. He also crossed paths with Superman and Supergirl over the years, with writer Len Wein regarding him to be a "physical match" against the Man of Steel. Chemo appeared once again in the most recent Metal Men comic series, which saw him briefly gain the ability to speak and apologize for the carnage he unintentionally causes.

On the surface, Chemo is an inherently ridiculous character — one with a goofy character design and a limited speaking role, and who a good chunk of DC fans would probably admit to being unfamiliar with. But in a roundabout way, that would make him perfect for the Metal Men movie, which is already sure to deal with a more-obscure corner of the DC universe. The ensemble of the Metal Men arguably revel in absurdity, with outlandish personalities and even more outlandish physical proportions that are sure to flourish in animation. To an extent, Chemo would balance that out perfectly, with a character design that is visually interesting and goofy (think of all of the action figures and plush toys he could inspire!), but relatively static, and dialogue that most likely would consist of various sound effects. Still, as countless comic appearances have already proved, he would pose a genuine dramatic threat for the Metal Men — both in terms of his physical abilities in a fight, and the dangerous nature of his chemical abilities.

At the same time, Chemo could bring a heartfelt emotional through-line to the Metal Men movie, depending on how the film decided to tackle his origin. Whether he is a creation of Norton or Magnus, it's clear that Chemo is a sort of giant pawn in a larger scientific game, one who (in the words of Marvel's Rocket Raccoon) "didn't ask to be made," much less turned into a dangerous monster. That concept is something that the Metal Men themselves deal with pretty often (particularly Tina, who often believes she used to be a real woman), and also something that Western animation has used a lot over the years. Just look at how Disney's Moana ultimately handled its "big bad" reveal — by having the characters and audience discover that the giant, dangerous monster was really a kind creature who was misunderstood and mistreated — and it's easy to imagine that sort of treatment being given to Chemo.

Given the corner of the DC universe that the Metal Men animated movie is set to occupy, it feels like anything is possible with how its story will be told. But after animated appearances in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants, and the Metal Men DC Nation shorts, it's time for DC's Chemo to get his due — and this new movie feels like the perfect opportunity for it.