STEELMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1993
Creators: Louise Simonson (writer) and Jon Bogdanove (artist)
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To those not familiar with the ways of comic books, the 1992-93 "Death of Superman" event/promotion might have made it look like DC Comics was planning to have one less superhero in its universe. Instead, when the dust cleared and Superman was back (as always) from the dead, there were more than ever. One of
the new super guys to come out of Superman's "demise" was named after a couple of earlier heroes that DC hadn't achieved much success with — Steel.
Steel was John Henry Irons, formerly an engineer working for the U.S. military in weapons design, who got disgusted with his job and went to work in construction instead. He, along with several other heroes reminiscent of the late Superman (who had "died" a few months earlier) was introduced in Adventures of Superman #500 (one of two issues dated June, 1993). His story, written by Louise Simonson (New Mutants) and drawn by Jon Bogdanove (Power Pack), explained that Superman had saved him from accidental death; therefore, he felt it appropriate that when the Man of Steel was no more, he become a man of steel himself, as a replacement. So he used his technological skills to create a suit of armor, gimmicked up like Iron Man's, and went into the superhero business. He also, like the steel-drivin' man he was named after, carried a gimmicked-up but otherwise Thor-like hammer.
Even after hearing Superman had, as all comics-savvy readers expected, survived his own death, Steel kept on superheroing. In fact, he had his own comic for 55 issues and two annuals, dated February 1994 through July 1998. Right after it folded, he joined a latter-day incarnation of The Justice League. His first appearance there was in JLA #16 (March, 1998), but he stayed with the group only about a year. While all this was going on, he was adapted into a movie.
Steel was released by Warner Bros. (whose more recent comic book movies include V for Vendetta and Watchmen) on August 15, 1997. Shaquille O'Neal played the title role. The Superman connection was dropped, as was his work in construction. Instead, his motive for becoming a superhero was to put a stop to Los Angeles gangs that somehow got hold of weapons he'd designed. DC adapted the movie back into comic book form and published it as a special.
Steel has also been animated, but never in a starring role. In Superman: the Animated Series, his voice was done by Michael Dorn (also heard in Danny Phantom, Duck Dodgers and Kim Possible). In Justice League Unlimited, he was voiced by Phil LaMarr (Static).
DC let a few years go by without exploiting the character in any major way; then, in 2003, had him retire from the superhero game. The new Steel, keeping the trademark alive, is his niece, Natasha.