Rumored to have been a fighting American soldier since the days of the Civil War, John Steele developed powers through unknown means that greatly enhanced his physical strength and nullified the aging process. He went on to join the United States Army and fought in World War I as Private John Steele. He ended up being captured by the Germans, who kept him in stasis to study him in the years after the war. The research scientists conducted on him would later result in the experiments that created Captain America and Luke Cage.
John Steele was created by Dan Barry in the first issue of Daring Mystery Comics in 1940 as a brave Allied soldier in a story where he helps a spy reach her destination after they are both trapped behind enemy lines.
For the most part, John Steele was left an obscure footnote of the Golden Age with his original story by Dan Barry. Ed Brubaker, in the Marvels Project limited series, shed new light on the character and greatly expanded on John Steele. Steele was established as being much more than an exceptional American soldier. He was in fact a superhuman with great strength and resistance to physical injury with mysterious origins that dated back to the Civil War. Brubaker recast Steele as America's real first super-soldier.
Major Story Arcs
The Marvels Project
During World War II, the Nazi laboratory John Steele was being held and studied in was destroyed in an Allied bombing. He awakened from his years of sleep and found himself in the middle of a new war with Germany. So he did what he knew best and fought the Nazis wherever he found them. He soon met up with Nick Fury and Red Hargrove in Nazi-occupied France, allying with their band of soldiers to aid the resistance. This was where Steele first encountered the evil of the Red Skull. When Fury and Hargrove were called back to the United States, Steele opted to remain to hunt down the Red Skull.
Steele's chase of the Red Skull deep into Nazi territory led him to discover the secret alliance the Nazis had made with Japan and a rogue faction of Atlanteans and their secret plans for dual attacks on the United States. He abandoned his hunt for the Red Skull so he could send warning back to the United States. Steel continued to fight the Nazis on his own until shortly after the invasion of Normandy, when he disappeared.
John Steele was revealed to still be alive in the 21st Century and operating as a high ranking member of the Shadow Council. This was discovered by Steve Rogers and his Secret Avengers, who had stumbled onto the Shadow Council's activities while investigating the suspicious actions of Roxxon on Mars.
Dealing with the Secret Avengers' interference fell to the Shadow Council's top two operators, namely Steel and Max Fury. The Shadow Council was making a pact with Zheng Zu, helping to resurrect him as their end of the bargain for an alliance. It was up to Steele to sort out Rogers and Secret Avengers. To this end, he and Max abducted Sharon Carter, using her as leverage against Rogers to get their hands on Shang Chi, a necessary factor in Zheng Zu's resurrection. Ultimately, Steele was unable to completely shake the Secret Avengers off the Shadow Council's trail. The team intervened in Zheng Zu's ritual, preventing the resurrection. Steele was beaten by Valkyrie, discovering the hard way that he was not invulnerable against her sword.
As a result, Steele was apprehended and imprisoned in the Raft. Using advance technology, the Beast and Steve Rogers were able to discover that Steele in August of 1865 was altered along with Aloysius Thorndrake when Steele was being chased by Throndrake's men during the end of the Civil War. Steele had stumbled upon the Thorn Crown, which worked as a gateway to the Abyss. John Steele, Thorndrake and the rest of Thorndrake's party were altered by the Abyss and virtually made immortal and invarnible to almost any type of of weapon that wasn't magical. Steele originally worked with the Shadow Council when it was first formed, but was able to break away due to his hatred of Thorndrake and eventually entered World War I for the Allies until he was captured by Germany and studied in stasis until he was freed during the second world war.
During a mission with Captain America and the Prince of Orphans, Steele discovered the Shadow Council trying to reopen a gateway to the Abyss through a ritual and after killing several Shadow Council members, he unknowenly created the sacrifice in blood that allowed Thorndrake to open the gateway. Steele in the process was turned back over to the Shadow Council's side, where he remained until currently. Following the freedom of the Abyss's control, Steele made a deal with Steve Rogers to take apart the Shadow Council from the inside.
Council of Masters
Steele joined forces with the Avengers and agreed to act as an undercover agent within the Shadow Council. Steele was uncovered as a spy by the Shadow Council's new Masters of Evil and was tortured and finally killed by them. Steele managed to warn the Avengers of Max Fury's plans to bring together the Serpent Crown, the Crown of Thorns and the Crown of Wolves before he died.
Powers and Abilities
John Steele possesses super strength and invulnerability to a high enough degree that even high caliber artillery fire will not do him notable injury. He is sufficiently physically enhanced to seemingly prevent aging.
Steele is also a highly trained and extensively experienced soldier. However, due to his power making it unnecessary, Steele has not honed his hand-to-hand combat skills and is not an exceptionally skilled fighter.