- John Henry fought the machine and won. What I'm fightin' is a deadlier kind of machine -- one I helped put in motion. One I'm gonna stop -- even if it kills me.
- -- Steel src
The Man of Steel
John Henry Irons' parents were murdered when he was young, and he felt that the only way to protect his family was to become rich and powerful. John Henry went to Yale on a sports scholarship before getting hired for Amertek.
John Henry Irons, a ballistics expert, enjoyed both wealth and success designing hi-tech weapons for a contractor with government ties. Irons used the money to help his family and was convinced he was doing good. When a series of weapon prototypes, the BG-60s, were leaked to a terrorist cell in Qurac, a fire fight erupted that left many innocent people dead. Irons, flying over to inspect the scene, was horrified at the thought of what his work had led to. He destroyed all the remaining prototypes and attempted to delete all information of a more powerful model, the BG-80, before going into hiding in Metropolis. He got a job as a steelworker under the assumed name "Henry Johnson."
One day, a coworker on a high-rise fell, and "Henry" swung out to save him, only to then fall and plummet towards his death. Luckily, Superman saved him. "Henry" told Superman "I owe you my life" and Superman replied by telling him he should make it count for something. Not very long afterward, Doomsday smashed his way into Metropolis, and Irons tried to reach Superman, only to be buried in a collapsing building. He was not able to free himself until it was too late.
A few weeks later, his weapons are being used by gangs on the street, under the name "toastmasters." Irons decides he must take action, so he forges a suit of armor, flight boots, and completes the look with an "S-shield" and cape. He quickly learns the source of the guns is a mysterious White Rabbit. A neighbor of his, a psychic named Rosie Kratz, insists that this "Man of Steel" is in fact Superman, or at least Superman's soul in a new body. At the same time, however, there are three other "Supermen" in Metropolis, all with seemingly stronger claims.
The Man of Steel gets to work. Shrugging off an offer of employment by Lex Luthor II, he continues to follow the trail of guns, attempting to nail down the source. During his effort, he meets Lois Lane after he saves her in a manner reminiscent of how she met Superman. Unlike the other claimants, however, the Man of Steel insists that he never claimed he was the actual Superman. He also chides Superboy for being too reckless. His search leads him to the White Rabbit, and as he feared it is his old partner, Angora, who helped him design the weapons. She offers to make him a partner, and when he refuses she blasts him out a window and flees.
As he attempts to track down White Rabbit, Steel encounters the Eradicator, calling himself the "Last Son of Krypton", who brutally kills a thug who had turned a gun on John Henry. Steel criticizes the visor-wearing Superman, telling him there is no way he can be the real thing. Enraged, the Eradicator attacks Steel, and they fight until Lois Lane arrives and is able to pull them apart. The Last Son gets enraged again, however, when a process server arrives telling him that Superboy has secured the actual rights to the name "Superman." Steel attempts to contain the situation, prompting the Eradicator to launch them almost into orbit before crashing in California. The Eradicator resumes the fight, but Steel is able to battle him to a standstill (at least temporarily) yelling that being Superman is about more than just having power, it is also about having humanity and compassion. The Eradicator withdraws from the battle. Steel gets a lift back to Metropolis, where the White Rabbit ambushes him at the airport. Fighting off her thugs, he grabs her and forces her to take him to her manufacturing plant. She attempts another ambush here, but he breaks free. The plant is destroyed and the Rabbit seemingly killed, but Steel knows it is not the end of the Toastmasters.
After Coast City is destroyed, Steel decides to investigate first hand. The Cyborg Superman has announced that he and Superboy were not able to defeat the "Last Son," responsible for the destruction, but Steel does not trust this account. Running into Lois Lane, he finds she does not believe it either. Hearing a nearby disturbance, they find Luthor and Supergirl at the docks, facing a huge Kryptonian war suit. Superboy arrives as Steel knocks down the suit, telling everyone that the Cyborg is the real villain and plans on destroying Metropolis next.
The real Superman emerges from the war suit. Steel and the others are skeptical at first, especially since Superman is wearing a black costume and is powerless. Upon being told of the situation and having a brief, private conversation with Lois Lane, Superman decides to head for the ruins of Coast City. Steel and Superboy decide to go with him, despite their doubts. Superman borrows a pair of LexCorp flight boots and they set out. They discover Engine City in the midst of the ruins and launch a frontal attack. They manage to get inside the city, but Superboy must quickly leave again to deflect a missile launched for Metropolis.
Steel and Superman continue their way inside. Superman reveals that Supergirl has been with them the entire time, fighting invisible along side them. This only helps affirm to Steel that Superman is who he claims. The trio encounter Mongul, who announces he has just ordered Engine City to fire its reactors, which will cause the Earth to spin out of orbit. While Superman and Supergirl fight Mongul, Steel goes off to stop the reactor. There he encounters the Cyborg, taking on monstrous new forms, and desperately gives all he has got to grind the engines to a halt, saving the Earth and frustrating the Cyborg's plans.
Steel manages to free himself, but his armor is ruined. Superboy returns and saves him from the Cyborg. Green Lantern uses Steel's hammer to defeat Mongul. In the end, however, Superman must battle the Cyborg one-on-one, but emerges victorious and back to full strength. Steel, battered and bruised, leaves the ruins, heading back to Metropolis alongside Superboy and Supergirl via a military transport helicopter.
After a few weeks of doing his best without his armor to round up more toastmasters, John Henry decides it is time to head back to where it all began, Washington, D.C. He parts ways with Superman and leaves Metropolis, and what he thinks is his career as a superhero.
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 Tar 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, Jamahl 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 and 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.
Steel's early adventures pit him against Amertek and against the gangs using the weapons he designed. He quickly learns his nephew Jemahl is involved in one of the gangs, which he thinks offers both him and the family protection. His faith in his "crew" is shaken, however, when a fellow gang member, Spiral, frames Jemahl after a gun deal goes bad. The gang's leader, Cowboy, turns Jemahl over to their supplier, Amalgam. Steel rescues Jemahl and delivers Amalgam over to the police (though not before Amalgam murders Spiral, learning the truth of what happened).
Steel confronts his old employer, Col. Weston, who had already known Steel was in fact John Henry Irons. Steel goes on to break into Amertek looking for proof that they are responsible for selling not only the Toastmasters but Tar as well. During the break in, a firefight sets off a ruptured gas main, leading to the building's destruction. Weston publicly denounces Steel as a dangerous criminal. He then bails Amalgam out of jail, tells him his true identity, and starts in motion numerous plans to attack Steel indirectly. These include a drive-by shooting meant for Jemahl (that leaves Tyke paralyzed), a tar freak attacking John Henry at a funeral, a hit and run that injures Natasha, and Cowboy (masked) mugging Blondell. Realizing he needs help, even with a disk of stolen info from Amertek, Steel contacts a police officer named Shauna Beryl for aid. When Jemahl learns that Cowboy is working with Amalgam against his family, he steals a vial of S-Tar (an upgraded version of Tar) and attacks Cowboy. Steel has to confront his nephew, and manages to keep him contained until the main effects of the drug wear off.
The information Steel gave to Beryl eventually leads to the downfall of Amertek and the arrest of Col. Weston. Not satisfied with ending it there, Steel decides to go after the ones behind Amertex. This leads him to track down a group called Black Ops led by the villain Hazard. The trail first leads back to Metropolis, recently in ruins due to the Fall of Metropolis story line. Steel's arrival also coincides with the World's Collide event. Steel has to fight alongside Superman once again to defeat the power of Rift. He also gets a firsthand look at Hazard and Black Ops. Hazard is all too aware of Steel's intentions.
Back in D.C., John Henry meets Doctor Amanda Quick while checking on Tyke's condition (his paralysis has left him depressed). Hazard orders his troops to attack Steel at the National Mall. Steel battles Flatline, Hotspot and Quake while his family is nearby (at the Vietnam Memorial). Hazard calls off the troops, sending his teleporter, Split (New Earth), to pull them out. Shortly thereafter, Steel saves a U.S. Senator from Hazard's assassination attempt, whereupon Hazard sends Shellshock, Hardsell and Mainline to attack him. Split turns up in the battle and takes everyone to Hazard's lair, where Hazard himself knocks Steel unconscious. Stripped of his armor, John Henry tells his entire story to Hazard. After his offer of employment is refused, Hazard fires on Steel, whose armor mysteriously appears around him. Breaking free, Steel forces Split to take him clear of Black Ops. He knows the situation with Black Ops is far from over.
A serial killer has also been on the loose in D.C. Investigating, Shauna Beryl is convinced to contact a psychic, who turns up being Steel's former neighbor, Rosie Kratz. Beryl is being aided by a recent transfer from Chicago, Det. Ben Carroll. All of the recent victims were decapitated and were all involved in drugs, prompting the police to suspect a link to tar. Steel asks Shauna how to contact Rosie. Unfortunately, he arrives just after the killer has attacked her, leaving her to bleed to death in Steel's arms. Before she dies, she mentions the word "alter" and draws a police badge in her own blood. Beryl and several uniformed police show up and place Steel under arrest. Quickly concluding he is innocent, Beryl helps him escape custody. Rosie's murder provides a few more clues which allow them to discover Ben Caroll is in fact the real killer. They set an ambush for him involving Shauna. Caroll is not simply a killer, however, but has a metagene that allows him to transform into an enormous, feline like being. Caroll (who real name was Adam Kratz) had been abused as a child and developed "the Alter" as an alternate personality, a monster that tracked down and murdered child abusers. Steel defeats the Alter, clearing his own name when Caroll is arrested.
Wanting to track a Black Ops satellite in orbit, Steel turns to the Justice League for help. Maxima, on Earth at the time and working with the League, offers to help him by bringing him into orbit. Once there, however, they are captured by an alien warlord named De'cine, and his accomplice, B'add. De'cine is trying to force Maxima to marry him as a means of seizing power on Maxima's home world. Steel is not killed because the alien scan indicates he is a cyborg. During this time, Steel's armor demonstrates it will appear around him whenever he is directly threatened (i.e. in mortal danger). Steel manages to break free, defeating B'add, and then rescuing Maxima from De'cine and his mother, who has rendezvoused with them in her own warship. The two steal De'cine's ship and head back to Earth with their enemies in pursuit. They detonate the ship after fleeing in a life pod, creating the impression they were both killed so De'cine and his mother depart. Steel and Maxima are then rescued by the Justice League, but the satellite he wanted to investigate self detonates when he gets near it, leaving another dead end.
Steel's search for Hazard's Black Ops was interrupted by the return of the White Rabbit. She sent her operative, Bomb, to distract Steel while she embarked on a plan to brainwash several prominent members of Congress. Bomb succeeded in distracting Steel and even Superman as the plan proceeded. Another operative, Double, is also investigating the White Rabbit. The two work together, and uncover the White Rabbit's plans. They confront her in her hideout, battling an entire squad of super powered thugs but defeating them all. Unfortunately, the Rabbit escapes from them.
Returning home after defeating the White Rabbit, Steel learns that Tyke has been kidnapped. Confronting a gang of tar freaks ends up being a dead end. Shauna Beryl informs him there have been a string of kidnappings lately and gives him information on where he might start investigating. Steel set out to follow the lead, but is confronted by Chindi, a bounty hunter who claims someone has put a reward on Steel's armor. The two battle to a stalemate in a parking garage, withdrawing when federal agents arrive on scene. Steel goes home to make some minor repairs, unaware that Chindi planted a homing device on him. While setting out to find Tyke again, his armor "acts up" again, disappearing while he is in midair only to reappear. He decides to take it to [S.T.A.R. Labs]], but they are only able to tell him about the tracking device. Federal agents arrive there trying to arrest him, but he has just left the scene.
Shauna's lead takes him to an old waste plant. Chindi confronts him there again, maintaining the upper hand, until their fight spills into a holding cell full of children. Steel explains he learned that the children were being held there for experimentation by Black Ops. Chindi confesses Hazard was the one who hired him, but breaks the contract because of the experiments. They rescue the children before the building explodes. Tyke was not among the children, however. Steel now knows where to find Hazard, and sets out for a direct assault. Chindi backs him up, and they easily penetrate Hazard's lair and take down his goons. Steel confronts Hazard himself and rips off his mechanical arm, but Split teleports his boss away. Tyke is there and John Henry brings him home, but Tyke had gone there on his own, since Hazard promised to make him walk again, and now bears a hatred for his uncle.
During Underworld Unleashed, a string of riots breaks out throughout D.C. While attempting to help the police, Steel encounters Metallo, now with the ability to reform any metal into a new body for himself. Steel tries to fight him off and recover a bomb planted beneath a mosque. He uses the bomb on Metallo high above D.C., seemingly stopping him. Afterwards, he meets the Alpha Centurion, who was seeking him to join a Superman Rescue Squad, as the Man of Steel had been kidnapped by an alien Tribunal. Steel agrees to join the team.
Steel joins Supergirl, Superboy and the Eradicator onboard the Centurion's ship and head out into space. Superboy tells the others he does not trust the Centurion. These fears are realized when the Centurion abandons the rest to battle an alien platoon on an asteroid. Steel modifies some equipment the Centurion left them to form a makeshift transport. Arriving on a nearby planet, the team is confronted by the Cyborg Superman, who easily takes down all four of them. He turns them over as prisoner of the Tribunal, whom he is working for.
While in custody, Steel discovers the Alpha Centurion is also a prisoner. Steel manages to call his armor and stage an escape, along with Supergirl and the Eradicator. While Steel and Supergirl, both in disguise, go to a local bar to try and find information, the Eradicator stays behind to try and rescue Superboy. Unfortunately, Steel and Supergirl are discovered and a bar fight breaks out. It ends quickly when the Cyborg turns up and easily recaptures them. For escaping, they are both sentenced to death.
Fortunately, neither Superman nor any of the team is put to death. They manage to break free and rally together behind the Man of Steel when the Cyborg betrays his Tribunal masters. Superman leads them to confront the Tribunal itself, which ultimately "exonerates" Superman and lets him go. The team (including the Centurion) return triumphantly to Earth.
Tragedy would strike the Irons family upon his return from space. Tyke, frustrated and angry over his handicap, betrayed John Henry's true identity to federal agents working with Hazard. The agents release a cyborg named Hardwire (modified courtesy of Hazard) who opens fire on the Irons family as they sit down to dinner. Most of them receive minor injuries, though Butter is seriously wounded. Hardwire battles Steel at the Washington Monument, resulting in Hardwire's suicide. Steel had to send his armor away to save his life. This resulted in his secret identity being made known to the world at large. Child Protective services reclaim Tyke and Darlene (Tyke is later shown to end up in the custody of Hazard). Steel is then taken by Hazard, but he manages to escape, recalling his armor again. Steel retrieves an anti-matter weapon, called the Annihilator, which he had designed and hidden years before, for his showdown with Hazard. He also learns at this point that he can teleport himself, not just his armor. He confronts Hazard in his lair and utterly destroys it with his weapon. In this battle, three young soldiers of Hazard (Flatline, Quake, and Hotspot) are apparently killed by Irons.
Now that Steel's identity is out, his family has no peace. They are harassed by neighbors and mobs of people. Natasha is kidnapped by Plasmus, who is trying to blackmail Steel into creating a suit for himself. Steel rescues her, outsmarting Plasums, but cannot help but be grieved at all the pain he is causing the family. Steel moves out (temporarily staying with Doctor Amanda Quick) but the family is still harassed. Then the family is attacked by both Doctor Polaris and the Parasite, both arriving seeking the Annihilator. The Parasite's alternate personality ("Doc" Parasite) is the personality of a scientist who once knew John Henry (and who always resented him). John Henry's beloved grandmother Bess is killed in the fight trying to help her grandson.
The family is forced to go into hiding, relocated by Double. Steel's guilt and pain nearly consumes him. He teleports into the "white zone" (the place he can go or send his armor between teleports) and is confronted there by a monstrous, nightmarish looking version of his armor. He quickly teleports again, ending up at Hazard's old lair. He discovers Flatline, Quake, and Hotspot are all alive. They corner him, as he teleported without his armor, but the Demon Armor has followed him to the lair. John Henry works with the other three to try and fight off the Demon Armor. They engage in a running battle onto the streets of D.C. Natasha (having run away from the family) meets up with him there and tries to help. John Henry realizes that the Demon Armor is part of him. When he thought he killed Hazard's troops, he somehow manifested the ugly, monstrous side of himself into a physical form. Realizing this, Steel banishes the Demon Armor to the white zone, seemingly for good.
Natasha is more grief stricken over the loss of Grandma Bess than she first admits. She spends several nights sleeping at the cemetery and even violently attacks John Henry when he confronts here there. A blind gravedigger tells them that Bess's soul is not at rest because someone stole her wedding ring and she wants to be buried with it. Reviewing media footage of the attack by Polaris, Steel is able to track down the thief and the wedding ring. Bess's body is exhumed and reburied with the ring, letting her soul rest. John Henry and Natasha fix up the family home, good as new, before leaving it forever.
A Fresh Start in Jersey City
The title received a shakeup when Christopher Priest became the lead writer for issue #34. In addition to relocating Steel and giving him new armor, Priest completely abandons virtually the entire supporting cast from the series.
Steel relocates to Jersey City with Natasha to begin a new life in a new city. He built a new suit of armor that was significantly less powerful than the previous one (but one that featured the return of an "S" shield on it). He decided to sacrifice strength for mobility, as this suit was more easily compact (as he had abandoned this teleporting, fearing another incident similar to the one involving the Demon Armor). He also started work at a hospital, alongside Amanda Quick. His job involves designing medical equipment, under the coordination of the hospital administrator, Doctor Villain (pronounced "will-hane"). On his first day in his new city, he meets the local law enforcement, a police captain named Margot Fields.Steel (Volume 2) #34</ref>
Steel quickly becomes suspicious of Doctor Villain when he finds a monster lurking in the sewers beneath the hospital. He also realizes being a parent to Natasha (who regresses, both in age and maturity) is more than what he expected, particularly after she meets a strange boy named Boris. The two kids even steal his armor and get into trouble. Steel recovers the remains of the creature for Villain to examine.
John Henry tries to get closer to Doctor Quick. Margot tells him she suspects Quick has been targeted by an assassin to get at Steel. This ends up being true, as a killer named Skorpio goads Steel into fighting. In the midst of the fight, Steel teleports to the white zone, and is forced to grapple with the Demon Armor until teleporting to Villain's office. Villain removes a microchip from Steel's body that he claims apparently was the source of his ability to teleport, which ends the "white zone" business forever. What Steel does not know is that Villain is the one who hired Skorpio, hoping to draw media attention by more conflicts involving Steel.
Villain is subsequently kidnapped by an African warlord and Steel has to go rescue him. During this adventure, he joins up with the Question to free Villain. While in Africa, Steel meets up with Double and asks him to track down Hazard for him. On the way back to Jersey City, he stops off in D.C. to visit Col. Weston in prison, asking if he knows anything about the microchip that had been implanted in him. Weston denies any knowledge of the chip. Hazard then contacts Steel and admits both that he knows nothing about it and that he is no longer interested in Steel. Unknown to John Henry, his brother Clay Irons, assumed dead, has come to Jersey City to settle some scores under the name Crash.
Steel designs a new hammer to augment the new armor. At the same time, Natasha is beaten up by a creep at her school named Kilo after she refused to sleep with him. Kilo is found dead the next day. Margot brings John Henry in for questioning. He admits to confronting Kilo, but says he did not kill him, and the D.A. has no choice but to let him go for lack of evidence. Double, Crash, and Skorpio all confronted Kilo but none of them killed him either. The real killer was Doctor Villain, though no one discovers this but Skorpio.
Crash keeps an eye on Nat (his daughter) from a distance. Steel helps deliver a baby before John Henry has a date with Doctor Quick. After getting lost driving in the city, they are pulled over by racist white cops who pull John Henry out of the car and beat him senseless. They let the pair go after stealing John Henry's flight boots from the car. Amanda drives them to the hospital. While Steel learns that Boris is there (he is HIV positive), Amanda learns that Skorpio is actually a doctor at the hospital, but she does not tell Steel.
Unnerved by the Genesis event, Steel decides to go to Metropolis to see if Superman has any answers. Superman (in his "Man of Energy" phase) meets up with him and explains that super-powered beings all over the planet are having problems with their powers. When he zips out, he creates an EMP pulse that shorts out Steel's boots, causing him to plummet to the streets of Metropolis. He is not badly injured, and decides to stick around briefly. He has a talk with Lois Lane about Amanda before having to go off and help the rest of the world's heroes contend with the Genesis event. Afterwards, exhausted, he returns home to Natasha and Boris.
John Henry decides to settle matters with the police who beat him up and stole his flight boots. Locating the right township, he drops by the police department and is immediately placed under arrest. The two officers in question had recently been murdered (by Crash) and John Henry is a suspect. Margot arrives from Jersey City and gets John Henry out of jail, citing he was in Metropolis when the murders occurred. The police insist on keeping his flight boots, however, as one of the officer had kept the pair he stole and now they are missing. They later return the boots in pieces and tell him no charges are being pressed. Having repressed all the anger over the incident, John Henry finally loses control. He smashes his entire kitchen in a violent burst of rage.
Things keep getting more complicated. First, Superboy arrives in town to ask Natasha out on a date. John Henry has a talk to Boris while they are gone, who admits he has feelings for Nat but would never act on them because of his condition. John Henry is trying to settle his feelings for Amanda, unaware that she has just slept with Skorpio (despite knowing he was a killer). Steel pulls Superboy from the date to help him stop a runaway train. Much to his relief, Natasha is not interested in pursuing a relationship with SB, because she realizes he is still in love with his ex-girlfriend, Tana Moon.
When Christmas rolls around, Nat wishes to go see her family. Steel arranges for Double to take her to them, while he swings by New York. He encounters a racist jeweler who will not sell to him before stopping by Warriors to chat with Guy Gardner. Of all people, Gardner convinces him to go to Amanda straight away and tell her how he feels. Steel does just that and Amanda admits she loves him, too.
Steel is notified by a man named Cardinal that Crash is the one who took his flight boots. Crash plans on ridding Jersey City of crime by controlling the criminal element. Steel is still unaware Crash is his brother when he confronts him. He is then asked by Doctor Villain to bring a heart transplant to the hospital. Along the way, he is attacked by Deadline, who is hired to destroy the heart (being rushed to a mafia don). Steel fights him off and the transplant is successful, though Skorpio kills the man shortly thereafter.Steel (Volume 2) #48</ref>
Steel is called on to assist Superman Red and Superman Blue as well as the Justice League and many other heroes do battle with the Millennium Giants, part of the crossover Behold! The Millennium Giants!.
Shortly after the battle, Steel is asked to join the recently reformed JLA.
Skorpio, angry at Steel for "stealing" Amanda, contacts Crash and promises to help him get Steel's attention. Crash does not know the details, and is shocked and angry when Skorpio poisons Natasha. Steel uses an EMP pulse to knock all his hoods out of the air before confronting Crash, realizing finally it is his brother. Skorpio's poison has no antidote, but requires a complete blood transfusion. His plan had been to leave Steel at Crash's mercy, but instead Crash volunteers for the transfusion to save Steel's daughter. Steel battle Skorpio, who admits to working for Doctor Villain. Steel refuses to kill him, but has him and Doctor Villain arrested. Amanda is arrested as well for not disclosing what she knew about Skorpio. Nat recovers and John Henry is appointed the new hospital administrator.
JLA and the Men of Steel
Around the time of Steel's cancellation, he was recruited as a member of the Justice League, Superman choosing Steel as part of a mass recruitment drive in response to Batman's concern that the League had too many hard-hitters and needed more intellectual members. Although Steel initially doubted his value in dealing with League-level threats, he became a worthy asset to the team, even serving as the leader of the JLA left in the past during the attack by Solaris. He stayed on as a supporting member for quite some time. He also became a regular member in the Superman titles.
Steel does not stay with the hospital long, but soon relocates with Nat to Metropolis to run his own workshop there, called Steelworks, developing non-lethal weapons and equipment for the Special Crimes Unit and other outfits.
The two became partners of a sort and John Henry helped Superman build a new Fortress of Solitude. Superman eventually decided to reveal his secret identity to his partner, but John Henry had already deduced it. Nevertheless, he was honored to have Superman's full trust.
During the Imperiex War, Steel was essentially killed and his soul claimed by the Black Racer, but he was brought back when he was used to animate the Entropy Aegis, an alien armor created on the evil planet, Apokolips. The Aegis proved a valuable asset in the final stand against Imperiex and Brainiac 13, but Superman was forced to engage Darkseid in single combat to arrange for Steel to be transferred out of the armor when it nearly consumed his soul.
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.
John Henry Irons donned his armor once more in the wake of the Battle of Metropolis during Infinite Crisis. Along with most of Earth's heroes united, Steel helped defeat the Secret Society of Super Villains in Superman's city, but has become extremely bitter at life and what he feels is the self-absorbed narcissism of Earth's superhero community.
During the cleanup of the disaster, John baits his niece Natasha into an argument when he prevents her from leaving Metropolis in order to join the Teen Titans. John refuses to let her go and orders her to continue collecting all the debris in the city, culminating in him destroying her armor.
He later identifies a recently discovered corpse as that of a Lex Luthor from a parallel universe, namely Alexander Luthor, Jr., exonerating the real Lex Luthor from all of his recent crimes.
A week later, at his Steelworks facilities, John Henry appears to be hallucinating due to the effects of an unknown metabolic toxin. Irons' flesh appears to be in the middle of transforming into metal just before the lab explodes.
Three days later, Steel, again wearing his armor, is called in by Doctor Mid-Nite to help him with the wounded heroes, returned from space after the Crisis. He uses Psuedocytes to aid in Mal Duncan's recovery.
With the help of Kala Avasti from S.T.A.R. Labs, John learns that he was injected with a small dosage of Lex Luthor's new exo-gene therapy, causing his skin to mutate into stainless steel and back again. He returns to Steelworks to find Natasha attempting, and failing, to build a new suit. She then claims he is a hypocrite for accepting Lex's exo-gene treatment, not aware of the truth.
Three days and two nights later, Irons appears, transformed into a man of living steel, (similar to the Marvel Comics character Colossus), at a party held by Lex Luthor. In a rage, he attacks Luthor, demanding to see Natasha and threatening or endangering anyone that gets in his way. However, Natasha herself soon appears to stop John before he kills Luthor. John, still enraged, is then beaten by Natasha until he comes to his senses. Realizing that Natasha was right to stop him from killing Luthor, he admits it, but maintains that he is right, too. He then asks Natasha to "give it up, come home." Natasha responds by punching John repeatedly and sending him flying into the Metropolis bay.
He then resurfaces several weeks later, having built a new suit of armor for Natasha, to make up for his behavior toward her. He emotionally breaks down when he realizes that it is too late to make amends.
He later returns to active duty, saving lives and discovers from Kala that the exo-gene therapy allows Luthor to take away any powers he has given out. He then shares his suspicions with the Teen Titans and a former test subject who had his powers stripped away.
Investigating the Everyman Project along with Doctor Mid-Nite, Beast Boy, and Kala on Thanksgiving, John discovers that his metal skin is peeling off, and the therapy grants powers only for a limited time before they disappear completely.
In week 40, after Natasha was captured by Luthor, Irons, in his full armor, leads the Teen Titans, consisting of Raven, Beast Boy, Aquagirl, and Offspring in an open assault on LexCorp. After defeating armed robot guards and Infinity Inc., Irons, with his armor destroyed, engages Luthor in battle. However, Luthor gained similar abilities to Superman and thrashes Irons. Natasha uses Irons' sledgehammer to create an electromagnetic pulse that shuts down Luthor's exo-gene and John Henry defeats him. John Henry and Natasha had later re-establish Steelworks.
- Steel Power Armor: Steel's powers vary in accordance with what hardware is currently available to him. He has modified the original weapons systems and suit several times since its debut and continues to refine its abilities. With his engineering, physics and ballistics knowledge, it is conceivable that the suit may potentially possess even greater power in the future.
- Energy Resistance: Steel has immune systems in his armor to help him fight off computer viruses. This system also protects him against mind control agents like Queen Bee's hypnotic pollen.
- Radioscopic Scans: His armor is able to analyze photonic energy given off from an object through readouts the armor gives.
- Superhuman Durability: The suit's ability to impart a resistance to physical injury was quite considerable before the addition of the inertial dampening field. Small arms fire was generally not a threat but larger firearms could prove dangerous. All of the suits have performed admirably considering Steel's opponents, who include the Cyborg Superman and Metallo.
- Superhuman Strength
- Jet Boots: With what are probably his greatest creations, the flight protocols for his armor are every engineer's dream. The distance that can be traveled before refueling is unknown, but Steel has made a documented trip of at least 1,500 miles before touching down again. It has been determined, by observation, that Steel can reach speeds just short of the speed of sound, which is 700+ miles per hour.
- Kinetic Hammer
- Rivet Cannon: This short range weapon has fired red-hot rivets similar to those used in construction.
- Priest's run on Steel focuses heavily on themes of racism.
- Previously, 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. Eventually, the metal skin peeled off completely, leaving him again a normal human.
- John's armor can only be interrupted for 30 seconds at a time. This interruption can come from viruses, mind control, electrical pulses and more.
- Computerized Communications and Scanning Array (CCSA) is an integral to the armor's technological advantages. The onboard computer comes equipped with high density, flash memory protocols for suit operation, including weapons management, power management, gyroscopic balancing, and analysis of electromagnetic phenomena.
- 374 Appearances of John Henry Irons (New Earth)
- 51 Images featuring John Henry Irons (New Earth)
- 6 Quotations by or about John Henry Irons (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: John Henry Irons (New Earth)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Steel (Volume 2) #0
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #22
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #23
- ↑ Action Comics #689
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #24
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #25
- ↑ Superman (Volume 2) #81
- ↑ Adventures of Superman #504
- ↑ Action Comics #691
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #26
- ↑ Superman (Volume 2) #82
- ↑ Adventures of Superman #505
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #28
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #1
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #2
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #3-5
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #6-7
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #8
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #9
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #10
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #11-13
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #14-16
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #17-19
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #20
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #21
- ↑ Adventures of Superman #529
- ↑ Superman (Volume 2) #107
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #22
- ↑ Superman (Volume 2) #108
- ↑ Adventures of Superman #531
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #23-27
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #28
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #29
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #30
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #31
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #33
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #35
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #36
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #37
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #38
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #39
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #40
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #41
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #42
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #43
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #44
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #45
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #46
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #47
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #49
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #50
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #51
- ↑ Steel (Volume 2) #52
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #96
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #100
- ↑ Superman: Man of Steel #114
- ↑ Superman #714
- ↑ 52 #3
- ↑ 52 #4
- ↑ 52 #1
|Justice League member|
This character is or was a member of the Justice League of America, or the Justice League in any of its various incarnations, sworn by a duty to act as guardians of America and the world by using their skills and/or superpowers to protect Earth from both interstellar and domestic threats.
Superman Family member
This is an in-universe article with out-of-universe material.