This page is for the current Steel, John Henry Irons
For the original Steel see Henry Heywood
For the second Steel, see Hank Heywood
John Henry Irons is a hero forged from his own making. When Superman saved Irons from a fatal fall off a Metropolis skyscraper, he challenged the construction worker to make his life count for something. A former weapons engineer for the ruthless AmerTek Company, Irons longed to atone for the deaths his designs had caused. For that purpose, he built a suit of exoskeleton armor for himself and assumed the primary alias of Steel.
Steel was created Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove as one of the four contenders for the Superman title during the Reign of the Supermen storyline. (The third chapter of the death of Superman saga in the 90s). Inspired not only in the Superman mythos but with elements of american folkclore (the John Henry legend), Steel became a permanent presence in the Superman titles since his debut.
Modern Age: New Earth
As Steel, he crusaded to dismantle AmerTek's weapons programs, including the destruction of every last production model of the BG-60 " Toastmaster", the deadly assault rifle he had designed. Steel is a proud partnr of Superman. Irons even helped Superman rebuild his Fortress of Solitude and gave it a computer linkage to Irons' headquarters, called "The Steelworks", an abandoned arms factory in Suicide Slums. After the Death of Superman by Doomsday, Steel took his place, soaring over Metropolis in high-tech armor and smashing crime with a sledgehammer.
In Superman's absence, or if the Man of Steel needs assistance, Steel often coordinates and leads " Team Superman", a cadre of S-shield-wearing heroes including himself, Supergirl, and Superboy. Steel provided this Super-Squad with stealthy combat-garb meant to protect them from the necrotic touch of Kancer as they aided Superman in battle with General Zod and the armies of Pokolistan.
John Henry Irons has debuted his new armor which is a cybernetic looking suit rather than the classic metallic look. The armor does not have a head piece, but a cybernetic lens to look through.
More recently and as consecuence of his fight against a toxic Doomsday, Steel added a film of liquid steel to protect his body from further damage.
Major Story Arcs
The Death of Steel (Pre-New 52)
Irons suffered mortal wounds releasing Doomsday from the JLA Watchtower to battle Imperiex. Superman was unable to turn away the Black Racer, a being that gathers souls and ushers them into the afterlife. This time, however, the Black Racer delivered Irons to Apokolips, where the evil Darkseid restored life to Iron's body. Darkseid placed Irons in the Entropy Aegis, a burned out Imperiex-probe altered by Apokoliptic science. This new armor was far superior to his old, but Apokoliptic upgrades made it more of a curse than a blessing. Darkseid was able to use the Entropy Aegis to control Steel and make him serve Apokolips.
Superman gathered the members of Team Superman and challenged Darkseid on the field of battle for the return of Steel. After his defeat Darkseid removed Steel from the armor only to reveal that he was returning him as he found him in a state of near death. Luckily Natasha Irons and a Multiverse displaced Supergirl were able to act quickly and save his life. Upon his return to Earth John allowed his niece, Natasha to take up the mantle of Steel while he recovered.
52: the weekly
During the year of absent of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, Steel was the active hero of Metropolis. Using a new armor he had to deal with his rebelious niece, Natasha, the mystery of Supernova and the Luthor Everyman Project. As part of Luthor's conspiracy, John Henry developed new powers: a steel coated skin than he could heat at will. However, this powers were only temporal and before the end of the year, he fought against a Superman-level powered Luthor and won.
Steel led the short lived 2nd incarnation of Infinity Inc. He had his more known costume on during the Infinity Inc. incarnation.
Reign of Doomsday
Steel resurfaces for a fight with Doomsday. With no other heroes around, Steel is left to fight Doomsday by himself. Natasha Irons tries to persuade her uncle not to fight Doomsday, but John insist and heads off into battle. John gave the fight all he had. John even managed to hit Doomsday with a direct hit from his hammer. Steel had hurled his hammer from a thousand feet away. During the fight Doomsday evolves growing armor out his body and also possess the ability to fly. John manages to break away a piece of Doomsday's chest armor which allowed John to introduce nanonytes into Doomsday's body. The nanonytes were suppose to paralyze Doomsday for an hour until help arrived, but the effects only lasted a few seconds. John then gets pounded by Doomsday until he is knocked unconscious. We last see John being carried off by a flying Doomsday.
John Henry Irons debuted as a scientist working for Gral. Sam Lane for Metal-0 Project, an initiative to developt an armored super-soldier designed to stop the recently debuted Superman. But he quitted when he saw how Luthor tortured the captured Superman, under Lane's license.
When Brainiac, calling himself the Collecter of Worlds, attacked Metropolis and take control of John Corben, Irons donned a Metal-0 suit prototype and stopped the controlled soldier with a PC virus of his own design.
Steel has been seen within the pages of Action Comics, during a back up storyline. In this story, Steel helps Superman to fight crime. Steel was then seen in Action Comics Annual helping Superman fend off the villain called Kryptonite Man. Steel defeats the villain and managed to make his powers defunct. He is later was seen in Australia, helping the poor and searching new ways to use his technologies in less aggressive scenarios.
He has joined The Reverse Suicide Squad with Power Girl, Unknown Soldier, and Warrant. The Thinker under the guise of Amanda Waller is leading them.
After Forever Evil, Steel joined the forces than were fighting against Doomsday, but he was affected by the toxic emanations from the monster. To stop the damage and prevent more infection, Steel added to his armor a film of liquid metal. He would join to Lana Lang in a search for Doomsday possessed Superman in space to help him but they discovered than in Superman absence, Brainiac attacked the earth again.
Currently he is in a relationship with Lana Lang.
Powers and Abilities
John Henry Irons possess no superhuman powers. He is an exceptionally gifted intellect that specializes in various fields of engineering. A genius of the highest order, he built a bullet proof suit of armor whose computerized pneumatic exoskeletal joints gave him superhuman strength.
In specific situations Steel had temporarily developed superpowers:
- Teleportation: When under unexplained circumstances he was able to transport himself to a "white void zone".
- Organic steel skin: During 52 Steel was injected with the formula of the Everyman Project by Lex Luthor and developed an invulnerable organic steel skin than he could super heat at will and throw as projectile.
Weapons and Equipment
Steel had used diferent armors since his first appearance:
- Man of Steel armor: Created in his home, this armor was built homagin Superman.
- Shieldless armor: Used after the return of Superman and from the time Steel fought against Hazzard and AmerTek.
- JLA armor: From the time he joined the JLA, and used a similar yet different "S" shield.
- Faceless armor: Similar to the previous one, but with a faceless helmet instead his steal coated face.
- Entropy Aegis armor: Forged in Apokolips, was instrumental to bring him back to life. However it was feeding of his soul, so he had to quit to still using it.
- 52 armor: Using after Infinity Crisis and during the year of absent of Superman, he used again the El hose crest as his own symbol.
- Metal-0 Prototype armor: In the new 52 continuity, this one was his first armor. He used it to fight Metallo and the Kyptonite Man.
- Shield Armor: Using against the Suicide Squad and Doomsday. He would later add a film of liquid steel.
- Helmet systems include broadband communications array, VDU readouts for environmental controls, and retractable one-way visor.
- Life-support systems which recycle oxygen supply, remove waste, and convert perspiration to potable water.
- Independent heating and freon-compressed air-conditioning units regulate internal temperatures.
- Hydraulic servomotors along his exoskeletal joints increase strength and speed tenfold
- Air-cooled cannons in his forearms gauntlet fire metal spikes and rubber projectiles. They function as the launching platform for concussive sonic grenades.
- Segmented breakaway boots that can be jettisoned if necessary.
- Micro-jet engine compressors controlled by Pressure sensitive toggles in his gloves.
- Thrusters proved a wide range of airborne manoeuvrability.
- Armor is composed of breathable fire-retardant nomex fabric.
- Embedded solar cells help keep his armor fully charged.
- His suit is made of a composite high-tensile steel alloy treated with micron-thick reflective sealant to shield against microwave and subatomic particle radiation.
- Trivia : According to JLA 1000000, his Armor is going to last all the way to the 118th Century and be worn by Steel 7 in the 51st Century, Steelman of New Centurions in the 100th Century and Lancelot Grail, the Cosmic Knight in 118th Century
- Can alter trajectory or stop mid-throw
- Polarizing inertial dampers within hammer increase inertia relative to distance hurled
- Magnetically attaches to back of armor.
- Segmented handle telescopes into locked position.
Justice League Unlimited
Steel has appeared in the comic series.
Steel appeared in Kingdom Come as a member of the Batman's Legion. In the KC universe, Steel changed his loyalty from Superman towards Batman, changing his armor to look closer to a Batman batsuit, including a riveted bat-insignia and using a bat-shaped axe instead a hammer.
Steel Annual 1: Crucible of Freedom
In the elseworld from 1994, Steel is a slave in a southern cotton plantation. He works as a smither and when the civil war is declared he forge an armor for his master (and tragically, former childhood friend), but he ends using the armor for freed his friends and fighting his former owners. As a final twist, in the elseworld story, he is the John Henry from folk tales.
DC: The New Frontier
In the Darwyn Cooke story, a New character John Henry appeared, holding a hammer as weapon and fighting back against the racist members of the Ku Klux Klan. A younger John Henry Irons also appeared, hinted than this other John Henry would inspire his path towards justice.
Supergirl/Batgirl: Elseworld Finest
In this elseworld tale, Steel is gifted with the power of Shazam. From the dialogue is hinted than the same as Billy Batson, John Henry in this continuity is also a kid.
In an alternate future, where the Rot began to take over the world, he built a war armor and transferred his consciousness into it, so that the Rot could not touch him. He banded with the Red and, alongside Black Orchid and Beast Boy, he saved Animal Man from the turned Hawkman and then brought him to the stronghold of the Red. On the trip there, he explained what had happened to the world since Animal Man's disappearance into the Red. It is also revealed the John Henry Irons body died and was taken over by the ROT and his soul is and mind is in the Steel costume. He can pick up sounds from far away when there is trouble coming to attack the team of heroes.
A chibi version of Steel is one of the heroes recruited by Thunderer to help in the rescue of Nix Outan. This Lil' Steel could be original from earth-42 and member of the Lil' Leaguers.
Shaquille O'Neal, best known for his athletics in NBA pro basketball, acted out the title role in the first film about the character to date, titled Steel. His castmates included Annabeth Gish and Judd Nelson. The former acted out Susan Sparks, one of Irons' Army compatriots, and the latter acted out Nathaniel Burke, the enemy Steel had to face off against.
According to the story of the film, John Henry Irons (O'Neal) was a former first lieutenant in the United States Army, one of whose weapons experts and designers he had been. Susan Sparks suffered paralysis as a direct result of ordnance tests that Irons and Nathaniel Burke were conducting, owing to Burke's sabotage of Irons' project to create weapons that would neutralize soldiers harmlessly, and Irons allowed himself to be mustered out in disgust. Burke became an arms dealer and a crime boss in civilian life, and after seeing gangs using his weapons on the street, Irons joined forces with Sparks using his intellect and the junkyard know-how of his his Uncle Joseph Irons (Richard Roundtree) to forge an exoskeleton power suit, becoming a real man of "steel". Making no effort to duplicate Superman's power to fly in the motion picture, Irons, using the alias of Steel, instead traveled by motorcycle. Moreover, Steel's hammer was primarily an energy rifle. Nor was the existence or non-existence of Superman even discussed in the film, which instead linked Irons to him through a tattoo of Superman's jacket emblem. O'Neal was forced, by dint of his sheer height, to perform all his own stunts; Kenneth Culver Johnson, who directed the film, could not find any stuntmen who could match O'Neal's height.
None of Steel's activities sat well with Burke, who framed Steel for a bank robbery. In reality, hoodlums who reported to Burke had committed the robbery. Steel's armor was supposed to be made from steel which he had forged himself, but the armor and helmet that O'Neal wore flexed, as if it had been made from painted rubber, throughout the movie. Steel was not a box-office success.
Justice League: the New Frontier
A very young John Henry Irons appeared on Justice League: the New Frontier.
Superman: The Animated Series
Steel appears in Superman: The Animated Series as an ex- Lexcorp employee. He helped to design a prototype power suit for Metropolis police, but the suit's neural interface turned its wearer, Srt. Corey Mills, into a dangerous power-hungry addict. Later Irons perfected the suit and helped Superman to defeat Metallo.
Justice League Unlimited
Steel also appears in Justice League Unlimited, voiced by Phil LaMarr. Steel makes his first speaking appearance in "The Return". He, along with Supergirl warns Lex Luthor that Amazo is returning to hunt down Lex. He appears later as part of the League's ground defense team to stop Amazo. After Amazo plows down both the space and sky levels of the league's defenses, he prepares to attack the ground. Without even one shot fired, Steel, along with Ice, Flash, and Wonder Woman are all blown away by Amazo. All of them, however, survived. Following this, Steel was among the Justice League present on the Watchtower while it was attacked. He attempted to defend the power core from Supergirl's clone, but was left incapacitated by her superior power.
Death and Return of Superman
He appears in the Death and Return of Superman game for Super Nintendo and the Genesis.