Thursday, April 22, 2010

Episode #122: Reign Of The Supermen Month Week II: The Man Of Steel!

The second of the four new Supermen to be introduced was the Man of Steel, who wore an armored suit, in the pages of Superman: Man Of Steel #22, June, 1993 (Triangle #13). All four of the Superman titles which introduced the new Supermen were published on the same day, April 27, 1993. Mike Carlin was the editor, and the assistant editor was Jennifer Frank. Both the regular and deluxe covers were pencilled by Jon Bogdanove and inked by Dennis Janke. The story, titled Steel, was written by Louise Simonson, pencilled by Jon Bogdanove, inked by Dennis Janke, lettered by Bill Oakley and colored by Glenn Whitmore.

The story opened with John Henry Irons telling the John Henry folk story to a small group of neighborhood boys. Irons was dressed in a sleeveless blue sweatshirt and red gym shorts, wearing Superman colors. A car full of gang members drove by, carrying hi-tech energy rifles. After Irons finished the story the boys walked down the street. One of the boys was murdered by one of the gang members in the car, who fired one of the energy weapons. Irons rescued the other boys, and chased after the gangsters. He caught up with the car before it could speed away, and fought with the gang member who shot the boy. The driver smeared Irons against a wall in an alley and drove away.

Irons awoke in the hospital, and was soon visited by a boy named Keith and a woman named Myra. Irons comforted Keith over his dead friend, and both wished that Superman had been around to save his friend. Irons told Keith how Superman had saved him. Irons had been working as a construction worker on a skyscraper, and he grabbed a cable to swing out and catch a falling co-worker. After he got his co-worker to safety the cable came loose, and Irons was falling to his own death. Superman saved Irons, and after his release from the hospital a few days later, Irons wondered how he could repay Superman.

He did not notice that he was followed by the the same gang members he had fought a few days earlier. Later, Irons forged a steel mask, and put on an armored costume. The gang members threw a homemade firebomb into the basement that Irons was in, setting it on fire. Irons rescued his neighbor Rosie from the inferno. Lois Lane was among the reporters interviewing Rosie after her rescue.

In the middle of both editions of the issue was a poster of Steel, drawn by Bogdanove and Janke.

Lois was met by union organizer Jeb Friedman, an old friend. He comforts Lois over her loss of Clark.

Lex Luthor II followed reports about this armored Man of Steel, and ordered Happersen find out where the hi-tech weapons came from.

Steel followed the gang responsible for the attacks to their hideout and attacked them. One gang member fired through another one to hit Steel. We learned that the hi-tech energy rifles were called Toastmaster BG-80's, and were invented by Irons himself. He subdued the gang and questioned one of the surviving members. Before Steel could get any information from the gangster, the gang member was shot from a distance by a woman who was called the White Rabbit. She was the head of the gang, as it was revealed, and was responsible for the spread of the Toastmasters.

The issue ended with Luthor wanting to talk with this new Man of Steel.

Eventually we learned that John Henry Irons had once worked at AmerTek Industries, for whom he designed the Toastmaster BG-80's. The real identity of the White Rabbit was Dr. Angora Lapin, then of AmerTek, and a former lover of Iron's.

As Steel, Irons never claimed to be the real Superman. After Lois met him, she wondered for a moment if he was Superman reincarnated, because he was closest in personality and purpose to the original Man of Steel.

Steel would also star in his own title, also named Steel, for 52 issues, from the February 1994 issue, published on July 28, 1993, through the July 1998 issue, released on May 6, 1998. In his own title, Irons returned to Washington, D. C. after an absence of five years, unaware he was still being followed by AmerTek. Corporate operatives attacked his family, paralyzing his nephew Tyke. Early issues had Steel battle AmerTek and the gangs who were using the weapons he had invented. Eventually he would succeed at toppling Amertek and the gangs, and battle the group Black Ops, led by the villain Hazard.

Later, Steel would become part of a Superman Rescue Squad when Superman was captured and put on trial on an alien world for the destruction of Krypton. This took place in the storyline The Trial Of Superman, which was published in the Superman titles cover dated December 1995 and January 1996.

Irons' nephew Tyke would later betray Iron's secret identityto Hazard's gang. Steel would defeat the group, but his family would be forced into hiding after the death of his grandmother.

Irons and his neice Natasha would move to Jersey City, New Jersey, where he worked at an area hospital. As Steel, he would meet Milestone's Hardware during the World's Collide crossover, cover dated July and August 1994. Steel found Hardware too rebelious, while Hardware found Steel too much a part of the status quo.

Eventually, Irons would join the Justice League. During the DC 1 Million storyline he would lead a reserve Justice League team consisting Barda, Huntress, Plaastic Man and Zauriel. Steel would later leave full time League status and become a reserve member.

He and Natalie moved to Metropolis, where Irons set up Steelworks, his own workshop. He would reveal to Superman that he had known his secret identity of Clark Kent for a long time. They would become partners, and Steel would supplant Prof. Hamilton as Superman's tech support. This may have contributed to Hamilton's becoming the villain Ruin.

Steel would retire after the Imperiex War, where he was injured while wearing alien armor built on Apokolips. He would create a suit of armor for Natalie, who would then become the new Steel. Irons came out of retirement to defend Metropolis during Identity Crisis. After the conclusion of that crossover, Irons would identify a corpse as an alternate Earth Lex Luthor, Jr., who would be blamed for crimes "our" Luthor had been accused of. Luthor would repay Irons by infecting him with an exogene that caused his skin to mutate to steel and back to normal.

A rift would develop between Irons and Natalie over her voluntary acceptance of Luthor's exogene, to the point that he destroyed her armored suit. When he discovered that Luthor was the source of his mutation he attacked Lex. Natalie stopped her uncle from killing Luthor. In an attempt to heal their relationship Irons built a new suit of armor for Nataile, but it did not heal their rift. They would discover the exogene eventually wore off.

Steel led the Titans when he rescued Natalie from Luthor, who had kidnapped her. Luthor defeated Steel using the exogene on himself and mimicing some of Superman's powers. Natalie would help to defeat Luthor. With their rift healed they reopened Steelworks.

Irons was severley injured by Atlas during the World Against Superman storyline. Now recovered, Steel is back in action.

Next Episode:Reign Of The Supermen Month Part III: Cyborg Superman!

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