Inventor Curtis Metcalf was stunned to learn his mentor, Alva Technologies CEO Edwin Alva, secretly led a vast criminal empire. Metcalf tried to expose Alva's corruption through conventional channels like the media, but to no avail. This inspired him to develop the Hardware Mark I armor, the weapon that would enable him to destroy Alva's criminal operations. Metcalf secretly built the suit using materials and apparatus that he could scrounge from Alva Technologies labs without attracting attention. ("The moral equivalent of using the office copying machine for personal business," as Curtis once put it.) As a result, the Mark I was not the ideal armor design that Metcalf had in his head. Nevertheless, the suit performed impressively against Alva's security forces. The Mark I also enable Metcalf to prevail against more unusual foes ranging from the self-cloning Reprise to SYSTEMatics, armor-clad soldiers of the sinister conspiracy SYSTEM.
Eventually, Alva discovered Metcalf was Hardware, a revelation that caused the industrialist to strangely feel a sense of pride instead of murderous rage. Thus, the pair struck a deal, in which Alva would gradually shut down his criminal empire through legal means while Metcalf had full use of Alva Technologies' resources. Metcalf used this deal to design the highly advanced Mark II armor, which he would use as his primary suit as Hardware. Still, he kept the Mark I armor for sentimental reasons.
The Mark I armor has only been taken out of storage twice since that time. The first time was when the shapeshifting menace Hephaestus stole the armor in its attempt to kill Curtis Metcalf. However, Metcalf defeated Hephaestus using his Mark II armor and reclaimed the Mark I suit.
The second time was after his Mark II armor was badly damaged fighting the SYSTEMatic Mark III. Before he could repair the armor, Hardware learned that the crimelord Holocaust was planning to buy a stolen F-22 Raptor fighter jet. Thus, Hardware had to go into action using the Mark I armor. Despite being "outdated," the suit performed well during this mission and the subsequent one, in which he aided the Justice League of America in defeating the cosmic vampire Starbreaker.
The Mark I armor consists of two layers, the basic armor and the external armor, which are described below.
The basic armor is a plasticized metal alloy of Curtis' own design. Using a device called the Shell Forge, Hardware coated his body from head to toe with this material. Once polarized, the shell served as a skintight, impact-resistant foundation upon which his external armor rested.
Though not bulletproof, the shell is highly bullet resistant and can easily shrug off small caliber gunfire. Also, the shell somehow enhances Curtis' physical strength to nearly superhuman levels. One drawback to the basic armor is that Curtis cannot eat or drink while wearing it.
Over the basic armor Curtis wears the battery-powered external armor that is composed of a highly durable, non-conductive metal alloy. He dons the armor in a truly unique fashion. After the Shell Forge applies the basic armor, Curtis then leaps into the abandoned elevator shaft connecting his main laboratory to the secret underground lab that he used as Hardware. His descent is reduced to a safe speed thanks to the inertia winder, an alien device supplied by Augustus Freeman that he installed at the bottom of the shaft. As Curt slowly falls, a series of robotic manipulator arms along the shaft's walls whirl into action to assemble the external armor over his basic armor.  When he lands at the bottom of the shaft, Hardware's armor is fully assembled, powered up and ready for action.
Hardware's helmet includes wide-range spectral scanning capabilities that enabled him to see in wavelengths ranging from infrared to ultraviolet as well as granting him telescopic vision. This unit is fully integrated into the tracking and target sub-system that beamed a sighting crosshair onto Hardware’s right eye. The target sub-system determines target acquisition by following Hardware’s eye movements and then fires on verbal command.
Hardware also uses the tracking system to send hands-free visual commands to his on-board computer, OBIE. He can spell out these commands by focusing his right eye on letters and short commands from a special menu bar on his tracking monitor. Hardware refers to this system as his visual input mode (also known as “Sutter-Meagher” mode). OBIE accepts verbal commands as well.
The rest of the external armor consists of metal plates covering Hardware's chest, forearms, legs, calves, feet, and hands. This armor is more resilient than the basic armor, especially the chestplate which can resist penetration by high-caliber rifle fire. The armor fully insulates Hardware from electricity-based attacks as well.
Housed in Hardware’s collar is his speech synthesizer that gives him his unique and chilling voice.  The synthesizer also enables him to reproduce other voices, which is useful for undercover missions. The synthesizer can translate any foreign language stored in OBIE's databanks.
OBIE (On-Board Computer) - OBIE is a wafer-thin CPU that controls many of the on-board functions of the Mark I armor. The CPU is generally on Hardware's hip while its separate hard drives, up to six, are worn strapped or otherwise attached to his armor at various points. Hardware views OBIE's computer output via a heads up display (HUD) projected onto his right eye. This output is fully visible to Hardware, tucked into a corner of his field of vision, but completely invisible to others. OBIE can also display its output on external monitors like those in Hardware's vehicles such as the Skylark.
Hardware's external armor has hardpoints on its helmet, gauntlets and shoulder pads on which can be mounted various weapons and equipment. This enables the Mark I armor to function as a modular system that can be quickly customized for a given mission. Thus, very few items employed by Hardware are hand-held.
The following are some of the paraphernalia for the Mark I armor.
Quick Pick - The Quick Pick is a unique lock picking tool of Curt's design. After its nozzle is inserted into a keyhole, the Pick pours Hardware shell alloy in liquid form into the lock. The Pick then polarizes the alloy into a perfect key in seconds. As a result, no standard lock is safe from this device.
Other equipment Hardware has used include a forearm-mounted welding tool, tracking devices, a flashlight helmet attachment, a handheld depolarizing device (used to remove his basic armor during emergencies), and a wrist-mounted energy analyzer.
Curtis has designed and employed an extensive arsenal of weapons for his Mark I armor. These weapons range from hand-held armaments to much larger systems that are mounted on his armor's gauntlets and shoulder pads.
- Plasma Whip: Hardware's whip is perhaps his most versatile weapon, which he can employ offensively, as a grapple for climbing, and as an extended arm for grabbing. The whip is composed of magnetically conducted metal segments shielded with a non-magnetic housing. When a reverse magnetic charge is applied to the collapsed segments, magnetic repulsion instantly extends the whip and keeps it rigid. The whip is 15 feet in length when fully extended. By reversing the polarity of the magnetic charge, the segments collapse to a mere 10 inches due to magnetic attraction. Including the power supply and housing, the retracted whip is slightly less than 18 inches long.
- Under normal circumstances, the power pack in the whip's handle has enough power to extend or retract the weapon for hours. The whip is equipped with a specially-constructed step transformer that when activated by Hardware amplifies the power pack. This causes a small burst of high-energy plasma to be released from the power pack and race to the tip of the whip. Hence, the destructive plasma charge can be delivered to a specific target.
- The whip delivers an amount of plasma equal to the mass of matter converted on contact. Put simply, Hardware can employ the whip to disintegrate virtually anything it touches via a matter-to-energy conversion triggered by its plasma charge.
- Hardware's whip can maintain its charge for a maximum of 10 minutes and no more than four minutes at any given time. Any longer than that will completely exhaust the power pack and burn out the mechanism. An energy-ablative coating of Curt's design protects the whip from being consume by the plasma is generates.
- When not in use, the whip is carried in a holster on the right side of Hardware's belt.
- Retractable Sword: The retractable sword consists of four magnetized blade segments of varying length. When a reverse magnetic charge is applied to the segments, magnetic repulsion pushes the segments from their housing. The sword's full length is 30 inches when extended. By altering the the charge's polarity, the segments are retracted into their housing. The sword has double edges that are kept razor sharp by an automatic sharpening mechanism that edges the blades every time they retract.
- Fluid Gun: This weapon shoots streams of various liquids under high pressure to impair the movement of opponents. Typically, the gun is loaded with Hardware shell alloy in a fluid state. When polarized and applied to the ground, the liquid metal will adhere to and immobilize anyone who steps in it. The shell fluid can only be removed if it is depolarized with the proper electrical charge.
- Other weapons Hardware uses less frequently include tasers, timed explosives, a liquid oxygen-fueled flamethrower, a micro-rocket (a small rocket that attaches to an opponent's back and then launches him helplessly into the air), a remote-controlled thruster unit (a miniature jet thruster that latches onto a fleeing vehicle and causes it to spin wildly out of control), a rocket pistol (that shoots explosive mini-missiles),  and a kusarigama.
Links and References
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Hardware #1
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 Hardware #16
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Hardware #2
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hardware #4
- ↑ Hardware #14
- ↑ Hardware #15
- ↑ "Hardware #33"
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Justice League of America (Volume 2) #33
- ↑ Justice League of America (Volume 2) #34
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "Hardware #6"
- ↑ "Hardware #12"
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 "Hardware #13"
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Hardware #10"
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Hardware #3"
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 "Hardware #5"
- ↑ Shadow Cabinet #0