Real Name: John Henry Irons
Weight: 290 ibs
Place of Birth: Washington, DC
First appearance: Adventure of Superman #500 [June 1993]
Universe: New Earth
Origin: DC comic
Steel [John Henry Irons], also known as the Man of Iron, is a fictional character, a superhero in the DC Universe. First appearing in The Adventures of Superman #500 (June 1993), he is the second character known as Steel and was created by Louise Simmonson and artist Jon Bogdanov. Aspects of the character are clearly inspired by the African American folk hero John Herny, as well as Superman.
Powers and abilities
John Henry Irons has no superhuman abilities; however, he is an extraordinary inventor and engineer, and a natural athlete who frequently displays an impressive degree of strength. In addition, he wears a suit of powered armor which grants him flight, enhanced strength, and endurance. Steel modified his suit many times through his career. The initial “Man of Steel” design was armed with a wrist-mounted rivet gun and the sledgehammer (like the one used by his namesake John Henry) that was ubiquitous for most of his designs. The original design on his breastplate featured a metal version of Superman’s “S” insignia in tribute to the (temporarily) deceased hero, which Irons removed after the return of Superman. Two later armor designs incorporated a similar, but different, “S” symbol. A large hammer is also a key weapon in the suit’s arsenal. His most current “smart hammer” hits harder the farther it is thrown, is capable of independent flight, and has an on-board computer guidance and analysis system capable of detecting a target’s stress points.
When he wore the Entropy Aegis, he had god-like strength and durability and could enlarge himself to giant size. He also had the ability of flight due to energy wings, could travel through time and space at will, and could fire blasts of energy that would reduce a target to its composite elements. However, the Aegis made him very violent and was slowly erasing his soul.
During the 52 event, John Henry Irons was altered by the Everyman Project and had become composed of stainless steel due to Lex Luthor tampering with John’s DNA without John’s consent. Steel’s strength and durability were now on a superhuman level. In addition, he could generate enough heat to turn metal fluid (including his own body, which he can then drip off of himself in small amounts). In52 Week 29, the metal skin peeled off completely, leaving him, again, a normal human. He has since returned to using powered armor of a design similar to his original “Man of Steel” armor.
The Death of Superman: Man of Steel:
He recovered, but to discover that the gangs in inner-city Metropolis (now unopposed by Superman) were fighting a devastating gang war using BG-80Toastmasters, an upgraded version of his earlier AmerTek design. Irons created and donned a suit of power armor (similar to that of Marvel Comics’ Iron Man) in Superman’s memory in order to stop the war, as well as the weapons, which were being distributed by Dr. Angora Lapin (also known as the White Rabbit), a former partner and lover of his during his time a AmerTek Industries.
Interestingly enough, although Steel never claimed to be the “true Superman”, Lois Lane seriously considered the possibility that he was a walk-in — someone who was now inhabited by Superman’s soul. Lois met all four “Supermen” that appeared after the apparent death of Superman, and while she never concluded that any of them was the one true Superman, she evinced less skepticism of Steel than she did of the others.
Steel Solo Series
The series began with Steel leaving Metropolis and returning home to Washington, D.C.. Steel reveals it has been five years since he left D.C. He erroneously believed that his old employers, Amertek Industries, would no longer be interested in him. He is met at a bus station by his niece, Natasha Irons, just before a gang fight erupts. One side is using toastmasters, the other is relying on a drug called Tae which grants temporary super strength. John Henry, unarmed and without his armor, tries to intervene, but is distracted when he thinks he sees his nephew, Jamah Irons, resulting in his being knocked out by a “tar freak.” Coming to, he heads home with Nat, where he is greeted by his grandparents, Bess & Butter Irons, his sister-in-law Blondell Irons, and the rest of her children, Paco, Tyke, and Darlene (the latter of two are foster children. Jemahl arrives at dinner time, just before an attack on the home by soldiers working for Amertek. Between this attack and his knowledge that the Toastmasters were now being used on the streets of D.C. he reforged his armor (now stronger than ever) and began his crusade against Amertek, which he correctly knew was responsible for leaking the weapons onto the street. Steel decided not to use the “S” shield, however, since he felt that his battle might take him outside the law and he did not want to tarnish the symbol.
JLA and the Men of Steel
Around the time of Steel’s cancellation, he was recruited as a member of the Justice League, due to Batmans’ concern that the League was already top-heavy in brawn and required more thinkers. During his time in the League, Steel played a crucial role in the defeat of villains such as Prometheus and the Queen Bee. He even served as the leader of the reserve team- consisting of Huntress, Barda, Plastic Man, and Zauriel left in the present during the DC One Million crisis. Following the battle against Mageddon, he ceased to serve as a full-time member of the League, although he stayed on as a supporting member for quite some time. He also became a regular member in the Superman titles, having relocated with Nat to Metropolis to run his own workshop there, called “Steelworks.” He also revealed at this time that he had known Superman’s identity for some time. The two became partners of a sort and John Henry helped Superman build a new Fortress of Solitude, although he maintained some contacts with the Justice League, as shown when he was able to contact Batman to help Superman find Lois Lane after she had been abducted by the Parasite.
Steel retired from active duty during the Imperiex War after he was injured while wearing the Entropy Aegis, an alien armor created on the evil planet, Apokoips; it nearly consumed his “soul” after he was taken by the Black Racer while attempting to release Doomsday and use him against Imperiex.
During his retirement, Irons made a suit of armor for his niece Natasha Irons, who became the new Steel. Although he was no longer actively fighting crime, he remained an important ally of Superman. He unintentionally usurped the position of Emil Hamilton as Superman’s technology guru, one of several developments that led to the emergence of Ruin.
Here’s a clip of the 1997 Steel movie starting Shaquille O’Neal:
Where is Steel now?: