Will Magnus is one of the most impressive geniuses on the planet with doctorates in theoretical mathematics, mechanical engineering, and particle physics, Magnus often offers scientific advice to other heroes.
His greatest achievement is the one for which he first received renown: the creation of the Metal Men. Throughout his career, he has been an associate of the Doom Patrol, a member of the Science Squad, and an advisor on the White House presidential cabinet.
William Magnus was a student of noted futurist T.O. Morrow, studying Elementics; the field of science that combined chemistry and robotic science, in the hope of creating artificial life. Magnus's ideas on the subject were dismissed by most of his colleagues, apart from Morrow, his mentor.
Magnus's breakthrough was the creation of the Responsometer; a microcomputer capable of animating constructs, bringing them to life, transforming them into sentient, free-thinking humanoids. He built six robotic creations, each made from a different metal, and implanted a Responsometer in each one.
These creations were the first Metal Men - Gold, Platinum, Lead, Iron, Tin and Mercury. Each of them manifested personality traits associated with their respective metal - Gold was noble and heroic, Mercury was irreverent and volatile, Tin felt disposable, and so on. Together, Magnus and the Metal Men embarked on a variety of adventures, their specialty fighting monsters spawned from weird science. Though the Metal Men were repeatedly destroyed, Magnus was always able to rebuild them.
This period came to an end when Magnus was captured by Karnak, dictator of the country of Karnia, and brainwashed, his talents bent to Karnak's service. Eventually, Karnak was overthrown, and Magnus was forcibly returned to the USA, where he was placed in a government-operated mental institution, while a method of breaking his conditioning was sought. A spy for the government of Karnia, in the guise of an American bureaucrat, arranged for Magnus to work on a project for the U.S. government, in the hope of creating something that could be used to blackmail the USA into providing repatriation for Karnia. The result of Magnus's project was the Plutonium Man, a rampaging death machine, embodying Magnus's rage and depression. The Metal Men managed to stop the Plutonium Man at the cost of their own lives, and the sight of their self-sacrifice snapped Magnus back to sanity. Restored to his rightful mind, Magnus was able to bring the Metal Men back to life. However, the creation of the Plutonium Man eventually triggered an even greater psychological breakdown in Magnus. At one stage during this, he came to believe that he had become a robot and the Metal Men had once been human. Magnus finally managed to recover from the breakdown with psychiatric help.
- Magnus first appeared in Showcase #37 (March–April 1962)
- While Magnus doesn't smoke, he often has a pipe close to hand to give him something to chew on.
- Magnus suffers from bipolar disorder. He takes medication to control his condition.
- The female Metal Man Platinum is deeply in love with Magnus and often tries to make him reciprocate her feelings by making various attempts at being a "human woman".
- "Doc Robot" is a robotic duplicate of Magnus that was created by Platinum when she became fed up with being constantly rejected by him. However, something short-circuited in the process and the robotic "Doc" decided to make its own set of Metal Men to attack humanity.