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Chemo, DC Comics' towering engine of destruction, began its startling existence, innocently enough, as a vat of chemicals. Writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru's Showcase #39 (1962), featuring the third appearance of the robotic superheroes the Metal Men, introduces Professor Ramsey Norton, a chemist feverishly determined to eradicate world hunger and disease. Storing the by-products of his failed experiments in a 10-foot humanoid-shaped plastic test tube he nicknames “Chemo,” Norton disposes of an organic plant compound into his synthetic mix. Its introduction sparks a chain reaction that imbues Chemo with a primitive sentience. Its toxic contents hissing and gurgling with each of its lumbering steps, Chemo enlarges in size and discharges a lethal chemical spray that kills the professor. The leviathan tromps into the city on a Godzilla-like single-minded mission to eradicate everything in its path. The Metal Men narrowly defeat Chemo by trapping it in a cavernous natural-gas prison. Boasting the abilities to grow to over 100 feet tall and spew deadly compounds, Chemo has managed to repeatedly return to menace the Metal Men and has even threatened the prodigious Superman. In a 1987 Superman/Metal Men team-up, the Man of Steel was temporarily mutated into a Chemo duplicate after exposure to industrial refuse. The Suicide Squad dispatched Chemo against the despot Imperiex in the 2001 crossover Our Worlds at War, and Chemo was dropped as a living bomb on the city of Blüdhaven in Batman #649 (2006). With its uncanny knack for regeneration, however, Chemo may be impossible to permanently defeat.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.