DC Animated Universe

"The Way of All Flesh" is the seventh episode of the first season of Superman: The Animated Series, and the seventh of the overall series. It depicts the birth of Metallo. John Corben from "The Last Son of Krypton" returns and is turned into a super strong machine with a heart of Kryptonite. His only desire is revenge against Superman for his humiliation and incarceration.


After his fight with Superman,[1] John Corben is locked away in Stryker's Prison, but still leads a fairly luxurious life due to his refusal to reveal Luthor's involvement. However, he is suffering from pains and eventually collapses. He is taken to Dr. Vale, who informs Corben that he is dying of a fatal disease (later identified as Orozco's retrovirus), but there is a "cure" for it.

Sometime later, someone fires missiles onto the prison. Many of the prisoners attempt to escape, but Superman manages to stop them. Corben, however, had been given scuba gear and manages to evade capture.

Corben's operation

Corben about to undergo the operation.

He then goes to Luthor, who explains that the treatment he has in mind will not only cure Corben of his disease, but also make him stronger than Superman. Corben agrees on the basis that he has nothing to lose. A chunk of Kryptonite and a robotic body are brought into the room.

Corben awakes now feeling better than ever. A few tests reveal that he has both super-strength and invulnerability. He loves having these new powers but mentions that he cannot feel anything and has no desire for food or drink. Luthor assures him that he'll be okay after some adjustments have been made and sends him after Superman. Corben is still not convinced all is well, as he encounters an old woman selling roses, but does not know what she means as he lacks a sense of smell.

Corben's revenge

Corben about to take his revenge.

In order to get Superman's attention, Corben jumps on a subway track, using his super strength to derail the train. Superman shows up in short order and fights Corben to a standstill. When he notices that Superman is still stronger than him, Corben reveals his Kryptonite heart. Superman instantly weakens and nearly gets killed. Lois drives up and tries to save Superman, but is captured by Corben, who forces her to kiss him. Corben suddenly realizes the impact of losing his sense of touch, as he can't even feel pleasure. Superman takes advantage of Corben's temporary distraction and hurls him off the bridge.

Later, Lois and Clark visit Stryker's Island to investigate Dr. Vale. However, Dr. Vale no longer works at the prison. Lois and Clark are still allowed to investigate his office to find something that can stop Corbin though Lois is unnerved by what she saw Corbin do and Clark discovers a vial containing the retrovirus hidden within a sharps box. Lois manages to find a parking validation for LexCorp, linking Dr. Vale to Luthor.

Back at LexLabs, Corben bursts in and demands the promised "adjustments" in the hope of getting the return of his lost senses, but the scientist says that the adjustments are his to make as the loss of his senses is something he's always going to have. Shocked by this Corben threatens the doctor; only for him to point out the procedure has made Corben invulnerable to the typical ravages of mortality including pain and aging. Unfortunately, they don't have ways to restore his ability to feel pleasure as that wasn't part of the equation. Corbin demands that he become flesh and blood again so he can feel pleasure again only to be told that the transformation is permanent and that as such he is stuck in the nightmare of sensory deprivation. In insane rage, Corben rips off his artificial skin and takes on the name Metallo after the alloy he's made of and goes for revenge against Luthor.

Metallo angry at Luthor

Metallo angrily confronts Luthor.

Metallo eventually finds Luthor on his private yacht and threatens to kill him. Luthor is relatively unconcerned and convinces him to leave him alive by reassuring him that his condition could be fixed, given time. He also reminds Metallo of his "practically immortal" nature, but he states that it's actually driving him insane.

Luthor drives his yacht to a lab to repair Metallo's skin. On the way, he tells Metallo he still needs him to kill Superman, who soon approaches the ship to confront Luthor. Pointing out only a matter of time for the Authorities to find Dr. Vale and make him testify; Luthor snidely points out Vale will never be found. Metallo attacks him, and after a short battle, Superman is weakened. However, he manages to reveal a vial to Metallo, telling him that Dr. Vale, who has been killed under Luthor's orders, was told to put the virus in his food which is how he got the virus that caused his transformation in the first place and that he did so because Luthor ordered him to do so that he could get Corben to agree to become Metallo. Though Luthor tries to convince him that Superman is lying, Metallo turns on him and tries to get him to drink the virus himself. Superman then ignites canisters of gas, sending Metallo and Luthor into the ocean. Metallo can't float and sinks to the bottom of the sea. Luthor believes he's won, until a shark swims after him and Superman saves him.

Back on shore, Luthor gloats that Superman can't pin anything of this incident on him as the virus has been destroyed and Metallo is lost at sea with his Kryptonite heart still in effect should Superman try to find him. Superman claims that he's not the one Luthor should worry about and flies away. Luthor looks out to sea, pondering over his adversary's words. Indeed, Metallo is still functional and is walking over the ocean bed with his Kryptonite heart glowing in the dark.

Background information[]

Home video releases[]

Production inconsistencies[]

  • The previous episode, "Feeding Time", featured the debut of the Anti-Kryptonite suit, which would be a logical tool for Superman to use against Metallo (as he does later on in "Action Figures"). However, this adds up when taking the production order into account. "The Way of All Flesh" was produced before "Feeding Time", therefore the suit didn't exist in the former episode yet.


  • Though Superman warns Luthor that Metallo will be out for revenge on him, this never occurs during the series. He does return for revenge in the video game Superman: Shadow of Apokolips.
  • Dr. Vale is named after Doctor Emmett Vale, the robotics expert who created Metallo in the comics.
  • Metallo's inability to feel is a similar trait to that of Mr. Freeze, who cannot embrace warm environments.


Actor Role
Tim Daly Superman/Clark Kent
Dana Delany Lois Lane
Clancy Brown Lex Luthor
Lauren Tom Angela Chen
Malcolm McDowell John Corben/Metallo
John Rubinow Dr. Vale
Jeff Bennett Young Doctor
Escaping prisoner (uncredited)
Neil Ross Male Anchor
Jennifer Richards Young Woman

Uncredited appearances[]


Ralph: Mr. Corben, I hope you don't mind me asking, but after all these months I just gotta know. How do you rate all this?
Corben: (pulls out a one-dollar bill) Ralph, the trick is to never underestimate the value of a good friend, and always keep your mouth shut. (puts the bill in Ralph's jacket pocket)

Luthor: I have a luncheon to attend, but I expect to hear the tragic news about him just before dessert.
Corben: Dessert. I haven't had anything to eat or drink since the operation. Haven't wanted anything.
Luthor: The only hunger you should have is for power, my friend. The only thirst for revenge.

Superman: How did you do it, Corben? A drug? Some kind of operation?
Corben: Elective surgery. Jealous?

(Corben flashed Superman with the Kryptonite.)
Corben: What's the matter, guy? You're looking a little green at the gills.

Corben: I think you are jealous of me, because now I'm the real Man of Steel.

Corben: I can't even feel a kiss... What did they do to me?

Corben: It's all fake. A FRAUD! There's the reality! The metal behind the man! It's all I am now! It's who I am... (smashes mirror) Metallo.

Young Woman: It's so big, Mr. Luthor. I've never seen a yacht this size!

Superman: I know about Dr. Vale. It's just a matter of time before the police find them.
Luthor: And what makes you think there's any of him left to find?


  1. Burnett, Alan, Dini, Paul (writers) & Riba, Dan, Timm, Bruce (directors) (September 6, 1996). "The Last Son of Krypton, Part III". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 3 (airdate). Episode 3 (production). Kids WB!.