- "Take it from someone who's been there, we don't always know when we need saving." - John to Clark, Upgrade
John Corben (also known as Metallo) was a journalist who worked for the Daily Planet. He came to replace a missing-in-action Clark Kent and held a personal grudge against the Red-Blue Blur, who he blamed for his sister's death.
After a horrific accident, he was experimented on by Zod's Kandorian army, which involved rebuilding parts of his body with cybernetics and replacing his heart with a piece of green meteor rock. After kidnapping Lois and trying to destroy the Blur, he was defeated by Clark and deactivated.
Months later, he was re-activated by Tess Mercer's scientists who attempted to give him an internal upgrade that could turn off his emotions, making him a mindless machine, but he escaped. After a hectic chase from Tess' science team and helping Clark out of the influence of Zod and red kryptonite, he received a red kryptonite heart from Lois and went underground until things were safe again. The Red Kryptonite heart ultimately didn't work out and John proceeded to become a hired gun for people like Toyman and gunrunners in Congo. He gained a new kryptonite heart that absorbs meteor rocks, which made him even more powerful than before.
John Corben has short, dark brown hair and blue eyes. He is about average height and build. John has a number of tattoos going up his right arm. In all of his appearances, John was seen with an unshaven face.
After John was hit by a truck and left for dead, he was taken and experimented on by the Kandorians who, replaced his heart with a piece of green meteor rock inside a cylindrical device placed in a large metal appliance with spider-leg like appendages holding it in place. He also has a robotic appliance implanted in his left elbow. John could use this device to refuel his kryptonite heart by injecting liquid kryptonite into it. ("Upgrade")
When he worked at the Daily Planet, John wore a brown blazer with a white shirt underneath and blue jeans. ("Savior", "Metallo") When he returned in "Upgrade", John wore a gray, hooded sweatshirt with a dark blue leather jacket over it.
Little of John's personality prior to coming to Metropolis is known. Through Metallo, it is possible to gather what he knew of his sister and his protective sibling nature. It is possible that John was the elder sibling. The two kept in close contact when he was sent of a mission to Afghanistan where he thanked her continued communication and cautioned her to be careful living in the big city alone.
When word reached John about his sister's death, he was devastated. Returning to Metropolis, he bought the building she had lived and died in so he could have some lingering connection with his sister. Publicly appearing charming and witty when introduced to Lois Lane, he revealed a distaste of the Blur which Lois found odd considering the good the Blur did. He told Lois he believed the Blur was showboating vigilante especially after he started signing his work. What no one knew though was that John had developed a near pathological obsession and hatred of the Blur who he had come to blame for his sister's death after the hero had saved a bus full of criminals, as one of them escaped in the confusion and later murdered John's sister.
After the implantation of the kryptonite heart by the Kandorians, John's hatred of the Blur and the device's design flaws resulted in an adrenal overload which drove Corben homicidal. He was eventually stopped by his own desire to kill Clark when he removed the lead sheet Clark slammed on the kryptonite heart. Because he was not thinking straight, he failed to realized the heat of the heart had fused it to the sheet. This caused it to come out when he pulled the sheet off, resulting in his deactivation.
Between the time of his deactivation and reactivation by Tess's scientists, the adrenal flaw of the heart was corrected. This correction restored Corben's sanity.
Powers and Abilities
- Green kryptonite heart: Corben's heart was replaced with a kryptonite-like power source. His heart emits massive amounts of kryptonite radiation making him almost unbeatable to Kryptonians. Both Zod and Clark had to fight Corben from a distance using only ranged powers, as both would have been severely weakened by his presence. Toyman upgraded John's kryptonite heart to also absorb meteor rocks with no problem which later absorbed the Kryptonite fueled nanites that made up Lana Lang's power suit.(Valkyrie)
- Invulnerability: Through the kryptonite heart his overall endurance was enhanced. His durability threshold was also increased to an extreme degree, though the what exact extent remained somewhat vague. He showed no pain when Clark stuck a heated lead plate to his chest, and was able to survive being blown up by Zod, survive having part of the fortress roof be dropped on him and being frozen by Clark and Zod's super breath.
- Super strength: Through the kryptonite heart, his overall bodily strength was increased to a higher capacity. This was first demonstrated when he threw Emil Hamilton across the room during an examination. John's strength, whether it be solely because of his Kryptonite-heart or due to his LuthorCorp uprgrades, seem to be on par with Kryptonian's, as he was able to pick up Clark and throw him and kick Zod straight into a wall in the Fortress. He was also able to smash his way through a block of ice containing him. (Upgrade)
- Super speed: Corben was able to kidnap Lois seconds before The Blur arrived. (Metallo) He was able to move fast enough to catch Lois from falling to her death. (Upgrade) Corben was able to stop Lana who charged at him at super speed. (Valkyrie)
- Super stamina: Increased because of bionic enhancements. (Upgrade)
- Meteor Rock Absorption: Thanks to Winslow Schott, John received an upgraded John's kryptonite heart to also absorb meteor rocks with no problem, which he later used to unknowingly absorb the Kryptonite fueled nanites that made up Lana Lang's kryptonite nanite infused power suit.
- Magnetism: After being charged by Lana, John gained magnetic abilities, he could call metallic objects towards him, move them with his mind, and even fuse them to his body.
John Corben was a reporter who lived with his sister Becca before she moved to Metropolis. He was sent to cover a mission in Afghanistan and from there he kept in touch with his sister through video messages and reminded her to be careful because she was alone in the city. During this time, a truck carrying prisoners had a mishap and was rescued by the Blur but amid the commotion, a murderer managed to escape and ended up killing Becca.
John was shattered by this news and returned from his trip to buy the building in which his sister lived. He blamed the Blur for what happened and since then he has been determined to expose him to the Earth.
- "Control myself? That's easy for you to say. It doesn't take... much to stay in control when you watch from the shadows. You stand apart from the world... while the rest of us live in it. Even when it breaks your heart." - John to The Blur, "Metallo"
John Corben was brought into the Daily Planet as a replacement for Clark Kent who was on indefinite family leave and went to the site of the recent monorail crash to investigate a story. He snuck inside to find Lois Lane looking for clues on the ninja who attacked her. Lois at first presumed he was a detective and tried to leave but Corben played along and questioned her. When a real cop saw the two, Corben kissed Lois and the cop presumed they were just passing civilians and told them to leave. Lois then smiled and stamped on Corben's foot.
Corben later went to his desk opposite Lois' and began squeaking his chair and Lois thought it was Clark but saw Corben and still thought he was a detective but Corben revealed himself as a field reporter to replace Clark. Lois says that Clark will be back but Corben says he is on indefinite leave and shakes Lois' hand before leaving.
One night Corben was covering a story that involved the Blur and after talking with Lois and discussing his plans to expose the Blur for what he really is, he was run over by a truck. His bloodied body was found by Zod and his soldiers, who used him to try an experiment to regain their powers. Using stolen technology from LuthorCorp, they rebuilt Corben's body and transformed him into a cyborg with a kryptonite heart. He was abandoned in the building where the surgery took place and after waking was confused and afraid by what had happened to him. He was transported to the Metropolis General and attended to by Dr. Hamilton who informed him that the implants were what had kept him alive. In a fit of psychosis, John gets up scared, discovered that he now had super strength, and escapes leaving an orderly in a coma. His adrenaline level started to rise clouding his mind making it think that what happened was a gift to kill the Blur for what he had done to his sister.
He attempted to track the Blur using the Daily Planet archives and there he meets Lois, who gives him her key to the Planet's archives room. Realizing that Corben is the man who ran wild at the hospital earlier in the day before fleeing, Lois goes to a phone booth and speaks to the Blur. However, John realizes that Lois had contact with the Blur and decides to kidnap her to find out what she knew. He takes her to the basement of the building in which he lived and after Lois' refusal to collaborate with him, he sent her flying through a wall. Clark appears at that time and tells John that he regretted what had happened to his sister. Corben refused to accept the apologies, and then Clark set off an electromagnetic pulse grenade and momentarily disabled the cyborg. Corben restarted instantly and prepared to kill Lois.
Unable to approach the cyborg because of the radioactivity of the kryptonite, Clark heated a lead plate and slammed it into Corben's chest. Realizing the weakness of the Blur, Corben tried to expose his kryptonite heart by ripping the lead plate from his chest, but in the attempt, the meteorite rock stuck to the plate, leaving Corben without power and shutting him down.
At a later point, Tess Mercer received an update on Corben, who had apparently been "repaired." However, the operations have left him more machine than man, also leaving no vital signs. Later, when Tess visited Winslow Schott, a mad criminal genius who used to work for Lex, she gave him John's kryptonite heart for him to tinker with in an attempt to see if he could help reboot John's systems.
Later, when it was revealed that Kandorians were experimenting on humans, Clark asked a doctor if there were any human experiments that survived. The response he got was a bit gruesome, being they were never found. The only one was John Corben.
Later, it was revealed that Tess' scientists were able to correct the adrenal flaw in the kryptonite heart, thereby returning Corben to sanity. Seeing him as a potential weapon if the Kryptonians ever turned hostile, they implanted a control chip into the back of his neck that would turn him in to a mindless drone.
Lois infiltrated the base where experiments were being done on red kryptonite just as they were bringing Corben back online. When she was discovered, the scuffle set of an explosion from the red kryptonite, throwing her through the base and down an elevator shaft, only to be caught by the reactivated Corben. Waking up the next morning not remembering how she got home, Lois later found him in the Talon basement. While understandably skeptical after their last encounter, Corben assured her he was now sane and he had saved her the previous night. He explained to her about Tess' experiments and the control chip but also that his artificial heart was nearly out of energy and unless he replenished it soon with more meteor rock, it would deactivate and effectively kill him.
Taking him to one of Chloe's weapon stashes, Corben was able to recharge the kryptonite heart with liquid meteor rock. He then encountered Clark (who was under the influence of red kryptonite) but before anything could happen, Zod blew the truck up with his heat vision. He survived and Lois found him nearby unharmed, having been blown from the wreckage.
Deciding it was best to get him somewhere safe, Lois was prepared to take him over to the Badlands and out of Tess' reach to a doctor she trusted. Before they could get on the bus, one of Tess' people slipped the control chip onto the port of his neck, instantly taking over his mind. He then returned to the lab, where Tess and Chloe prepared him to stop the Red K infected Clark, who had taken Zod to the Fortress. Chloe, still not trusting Tess deactivated the monitoring system so Tess wouldn't learn the location of the Fortress.
Arriving at the Fortress, he was confronted by Zod and Clark. While he had the advantage due to the kryptonite heart, his lack of free will made it difficult for him to effectively battle the two when they split up. The control chip was knocked loose by debris and his mind restored when Clark used his heat vision to bring down part of the Fortress roof on the cyborg intending to crush him.
Coming back to his senses, Corben went straight for Clark again, only to be frozen solid by a combination of his and Zod's super breath. This was short-lived when they noticed the heart began to beat at a faster rate and Corben proceeded to smash his way out of the ice with ease. Being so close to him, they were helpless against the aura of the kryptonite heart and Corben proceeded to kick Zod into one of the fortress walls.
Turning his attention back to Clark, he pulled out a krytonite shard he had been given by Chloe, saying he didn't blame Clark for attacking him in the past but someone who cared about Clark sent him to help. Grinning madly, Clark said he didn't need saving, as Corben knelt down next to him saying from experience that sometimes people don't know when they need saving before stabbing Clark with the shard, freeing him from the Red K.
Now back in the right state of mind, Clark leapt backwards carefully, observing the cyborg. Corben picked up the removed control chip so no one could control him again and waved off Clark's suspicion of him by saying Clark could thank him another time. He pulled out the Key to the Fortress and placed it in the console, disappearing in a flash of light.
After the hectic day, John secretly met Lois on the streets of Metropolis. She gave him a new kryptonite heart, this one being powered by red kryptonite instead of green. Corben said that he was going to go underground until it was safe again and wanted Lois to come with him. Lois told him that there was someone else in her life (Clark) and that he was the one. John expressed that the guy should know how lucky he is to have a girl like Lois. After saying their goodbyes, Corben left.
Time in between
The Red Kryptonite heart ultimately didn't take to Corben's biology or liking. After failed attempts at reclaiming a normal life, he became a mercenary.
John, now going under the name of "Metallo", accepted a job under Toyman's Marionette Ventures, a league of super-villains. During their meeting, each member was assigned to target one member from the Justice League. Metallo's target was Clark's Kryptonian cousin; Supergirl. In the process of the deal, Winslow supplied John with a new Kryptonite heart which in turn could absorb meteor rock with no problem at all. However the job didn't work out the way Schott wanted it to, something that John was secretly glad of.
Corben was hired as a "consultant" to deal with The Angel of the Plateau in Congo. When asked why he was doing it besides for money, he simply retorts that "the heart wants what the heart wants".
Corben later went to the Angel's camp and caused havoc making Lois and Lana Lang enter the destruction and try to stop it. As Lana and Lois were fighting John, Lois and John were explaining his back story and why he went to become a hired gun after their last meeting. As Corben was explaining how his new heart works, Lois realizes what this means and tries to stop Lana from attacking him, but it was too late. As Lana proceeds to rush John and hit him with a flying kick, he grabs her leg and puts her in a choke hold.
In the choke hold, John's heart inadvertently absorbs the Kryptonite fueled nanites stored underneath Lana's skin which fused with John Corben and weapons close by which allowed John to control the weapons.
After that Lana and Lois start hiding from John Corben behind a car. When Lois sees the military helicopters, that her father sent, she realizes that they are her father's men but she is worried because as she says the only thing Corben needs is more metal and especially helicopters blades to use against them. John magnetizes the helicopter's rotor blades, causing the helicopter to fall from the sky.
Corben throws the helicopter blade against the two women but Lois manages to push Lana so nobody gets hurt. As Lana and Lois try to escape from Corben he tells them that after he kills both of them he will go after Superman. The two women respond they will not let that happen. Lana says they must find a way to defeat him and Lois suggests that the source of his power is his heart. Suddenly some soldiers appear aiming with their guns at John. He then takes their guns using them to fire against Lana but thanks to Lois, who uses her vest and takes the shots, Lana does not get hurt.
After that Lana drives a truck and hits John with it while Lois uses a weapon to shoot him. John is able to take that weapon but Lois takes another gun and shoots at the weapon John is holding making it explode. Then Lana and Lois find the chance and reap John's kryptonite heart off his chest leaving him in an off mode.
Later Lana asks Lois what will happen to Corben and Lois says that a Department called D.E.O. communicated with her father and took John.
In the Comics
In the Silver Age version of Metallo, John Corben was originally a journalist (and secretly a thief and murderer) who had just committed what he thought was the perfect murder. While fleeing from the scene of the crime, Corben suffered a near-fatal accident that mangled his body beyond repair. However, elderly scientist Professor Vale happened to come upon Corben and used his scientific skill to transfer Corben's brain into a robotic body covered by a fleshlike artificial skin. However, Corben discovered that his power source, a capsule of uranium, would only last a day, but was told by Vale that kryptonite would provide him an indefinite power supply.
After obtaining a job with the Daily Planet, Corben briefly tried to romance Lois Lane, while deciding that he'd use his powers to eliminate Superman, the one person who might expose his criminal deeds. After setting a kryptonite death-trap for Superman, Corben stole what he thought was another sample of kryptonite from a museum as a new power supply, not knowing it was in reality a fake prop; this mistake caused him to die. Superman eventually escaped from the kryptonite trap.
A second Metallo, John's brother Roger Corben, debuted in Superman #310 (April 1977). This Metallo was created by a secret organization named "Skull" that transferred Roger's brain into a new robotic body, so that Roger could get revenge on Superman for his brother's death. Like the previous Metallo, this one was also powered by kryptonite, although this newer version wore orange and green armor, as well as a green helmet to conceal his "new" identity that he had created using plastic surgery (which turned out to be WGBS Staffer Martin Korda). This version of Metallo returned throughout the Bronze Age. His final appearance was featured in Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" (1986).
Various versions of Metallo (namely the modern age version) have him become super-powered by a kryptonite heart, to become more machine than man.
After John Byrne rewrote Superman's origins in the 1986 miniseries The Man of Steel, Metallo was also given an altered backstory. In this version, John Corben was a small-time con man who was fatally injured in a car crash, but to his luck Professor Emmet Vale happened to pass by. Professor Vale was a pioneer in robotics and, after recovering Superman's ship and mistranslated Jor-El's message to his son, erroneously believed that Superman was the first in a wave of superpowered Kryptonian invaders. Vale transplanted Corben's brain into a robotic alloy body, which was powered by a two-pound chunk of kryptonite, and instructed him to kill Superman. Metallo, now Corben's new moniker, thanked Vale by snapping his neck, which killed him.
Despite ignoring Vale's commands, Metallo came into conflict with Superman on various occasions, in large part due to his continued activities as a petty thug. Metallo later lost his kryptonite heart to Lex Luthor, though back-up life support systems allowed Metallo to reactivate himself and escape. He remained a thorn in Superman's side and was powerful enough to cripple the Doom Patrol. Still, the Indian-born hero who called herself Celsius did blow him apart with her thermal powers. Metallo later received a major upgrade via an unholy bargain with the demon Neron. As a result, Metallo was now able to morph his body into any mechanical shape he could imagine (turning his hands into guns or "growing" a jet-pack from his back) and project his consciousness into any technological or metallic device (powers very similar to those of the Cyborg Superman). He could also now grow to monstrous size. During one battle, his gigantic fists were separated and later actually turned into housing by other superheroes. In another incident, Metallo was rendered more insane by the Joker and used his height to destroy an elevated train of commuters. As Superman and others learned on various occasions, the most effective way to neutralize Metallo was to remove his (largely invulnerable) head and isolate it from other metallic items.
In Superman/Batman #2 (November 2003), evidence was uncovered that implicated John Corben as the criminal who shot and killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, the parents of Bruce Wayne. This proved to be a ruse by Lex Luthor, orchestrated in order to lure both Batman and Superman into a "final" confrontation. Later Corben's mind was removed from the Metallo body and placed into a cloned version of his original human body by Hiro Okamura, the second post-Crisis Toyman, whose family had invented the Metallo alloy. Despite the fact he is once again just a man, he still intended to oppose Superman.
In the limited series, Superman: Sercet Origin, John Corben is a solider under General Sam Lane. The General wanted him to marry his daughter Lois but she believes him to be a heartless killer. Corben is next seen signing up for a military option to neutralize Superman (ostensibly with the help of a power suit built by LexCorp).However, in his first encounter with Superman, a stray bullet hit the Kryptonite rock inside the suit, leading to a disastrous energy cascade within the battlesuit which almost killed Corben. But through the efforts of Lex Luthor and a crack team of scientists, Corben survived, part-man, part-machine, with the kryptonite rock functioning as his new 'heart'. Driven by a hatred for this alien invader, he became the villain known as Metallo. Metallo subsequently attacked Superman again, now wearing a green orange and red armor (an homage to the Bronze Age Metallo/Roger Corben) in a rampage which endangered not only the citizens of Metropolis, but his own fellow soldiers. He was defeated by Superman once more. Metallo has since come into the employ of Project 7734, the secret American military office that targets alien, specifically Kryptonian, threats. Alongside Reactron, he is one of their primary offensive assets. He has also worked with the Superman Revenge Squad along with, whose membership have included Lex Luthor, Bizarro, and Parasite. Lex Luthor proceeded to give him multiple Kryptonite around his body.
In the rebooted continuity of The New 52, John Corben is under the command of General Sam Lane. General Lane tells Corben to talk to Lois Lane, when she keeps questioning where Superman is. It is implied that Corben and Lois once had a relationship. When Superman escapes from the military's custody, Corben is seen enlisting in what appears to be a military project co-opted by Lex Luthor, General Lane, and young scientst Doctor John Henry Irons to go against Superman called "Project Steel Soldier". Corben is seen in the "Metal 0" suit with scientists, mostly Irons trying to help him. He continues believing that he did it for the affection of Lois and when the robotic needles are in his head, Metallo takes control and his heart bursts. Metallo then screams "Where is Superman?" Although the attack on Superman succeeds, Metallo is revealed to have been subverted by Brainiac as part of his own plans. His rampage is defeated when Doctor Irons uses an armoured suit of his own to fight Corben and upload a computer virus that he designed in the event of such a situation.
After escaping and still under Brainiac's control, Corben continued to fight Superman until Superman was able to reason with Metallo to fight Brainiac's influence due to his feelings for Lois Lane.
In doing so, Corben attacked Brainiac until Superman was able to defeat the villain, but he subsequently fell into a coma and was taken back by the army.
It was revealed that the armor was keeping him alive thanks to the alien technology, but without a heart he would soon die. General Lane told his scientists to find a way to save him since he helped to save Metropolis. He was later given a Kryptonite heart to keep him alive since it was the only energy compatible with his cybernetics.
- Brian Austin Green revealed that an alternate ending was filmed for Upgrade in which John, while wearing the Red Kryptonite heart, voluntarily chose to reactivate the chip and become devoid of emotion following Lois’ rejection. Green also revealed he initially decline to reprise the role due to the fact the script wasn’t completed at the time of the offer. He expressed dissatisfaction with the final product, while also expressing a willingness and desire to return to the series in the final season. While Corben did appear in Prophecy, Green did not return and body double was used in his place. 
- Green later speculated that his unfavorable remarks on the episode were responsible for his not being invited back for the final season. 
- This marks the third live-action appearance of Metallo aka John Corben. His first live-action appearance was in the Superboy television series, played by Michael Calla. However, Metallo's counterpart on Superboy was Roger Corben, John's brother. The second was 1993's Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, played by Scott Valentine.
- Although John Corben is best known in the comics as Metallo, and until "Prophecy", he was never referenced as such in the show (outside of the title of an episode).
- While this version of Metallo, is John Corben, his vendetta against the Blur (who he blames for the death of his sister), mirrors the vendetta of the Silver Age Roger Corben (who became the second Metallo, following his brother's death), against Superman (whom he blamed, for John's death).
- John has met and shared scenes with Lois, Clark (as his 'S' bearing alias), Chloe, Tess and Zod. Oliver is the only main character that John has not interacted and it's worth noting he never met Clark outside of his Blur persona.
- Corben is the main antagonist of "Valkyrie".