John Henry Irons: 1983 - 2010
John Henry Irons was born in the depths of Metropolis' Suicide Slums. Times were rough and John was expected to pull his weight at an early age. At five years old, John would babysit his younger brother Clay whenever both his parents were out working their back-to-back overtime shifts or second jobs. One night, when John was seven and Clay was four, their parents never came home. The next day, when the police had discovered his parents’ murdered bodies, John and Clay were taken away from the only home they ever knew and would eventually got to live with their grandparents. Butter and Bess were good, honest, and hard-working people that took good care of their son’s children, but despite their example, John grew up thinking that the only way he could protect himself and those he cared about was to become rich and powerful.
Now, John was a smart guy, like really smart, but that went unnoticed by most due to his size and build as John stood a head taller than most. Using this advantage, John got into basketball, hoping that athletics would be his ticket to wealth. John Henry Irons landed a scholarship at Ivy University where he graduated egregia cum laude in mechanical engineering while also leading his team to two consecutive national basketball championships.
Shortly after college, John learned that Bess was diagnosed with MacGregor’s Syndrome. As there was hope of recovery in the early stages if one could afford the costly treatments. John got a job at the local AmerTek factory as a weapons designer. John made a fortune by doing what other ballistic expert had deemed impossible: reverse-engineering weaponry from the Brainiac invasion of 2004. John was also able to improve on the design and launched a new highly profitable weapons series known as the BG (Beam Gun) line. While he hated knowing that he was making weapons, John justified it as his success allowed him to afford the best medical care possible for his grandmother, allowing the strength to overcome MacGregor's.
Steel: 2010 - Present
After a chance encounter with Superman, John Henry Irons discovered that prototype models of his weapons had fallen into the hands of some of the local gangs in Suicide Slums. John had ordered all prototypes destroyed as they were completely untraceable, lacking the identification technology integrated into the final design. John testified against his employers in a Senate hearing, dropping AmerTek's stocks. John didn’t care about that as he had more than enough to live off comfortably and decided to quit. Shortly after the hearing, John’s house was shot up by gangs using the BG-60s. John managed to take out a few thugs and use their weapons to fight back; scaring off the rest of the gang; but his grandmother Bess had been killed.
Working out of a workshop in his brother’s salvage yard, John built himself a suit of scrap metal and recycled electronics, not that you’d know it by looking at it. As he built his armor, he was reminded of his chance meeting with Superman and their conversation about his namesake, the folk hero John Henry, so he added an homage to both heroes by slapping a big ol’ "S" on his chest and arming himself with a sledgehammer that he had upgraded with some fancy tech to make it hit with ten times the force.
In the course of a single week, John Henry Irons had earned attention of the media, who had dubbed him the second Man of Steel after he single handedly took down the gangs using his weapons. However, after his week-long crusade was over, while John was in the midst of melting down the armor and hammer, Superman tracked John down. The Kryptonian had realized that John was this new Man of Steel character, but to John’s surprise, Supes hadn’t come to talk him into surrendering to authorities. Instead, Superman asked for John’s help with the Fortress of Solitude, having seen John’s resourcefulness with alien tech. After seeing the Fortress’ tech, John got an idea for a second, upgraded suit and an even bigger hammer. Using the name “Steel”, John Henry Irons joined the Justice League.
- Mechanical, Robotics & Weaponry Expert
- Eidetic Memory and an I.Q. of 200
- Will of Iron, Abs of Steel, and a Heart of Gold
- Personalized Suit of Kryptonian Power Armor
- Amplified Mechanized Strength
- Supersonic Flight Capabilities
- Several Less-Lethal Weapon Systems
- Smartforce Tech Big-Ass Hammer
Trivia and Notes
- In April 17th, 2011, Steel joins the Justice League nominated by Superman.
- Upon his induction into the Super Family, he was given access to the Fortress of Solitude to help figure out its tech. He used some of that tech for his suit and hammer. Most of the suit is his own work though.
- His armor is equipped with: Thruster assisted flight, armor resistant to nearly all small-arms fire, electromagnetic shielding, mechanical strength augments, alternate visual modes (thermal, ultraviolet, EMF, night-vision), wrist grapnel launcher with taser capability, identity verification system, uplink to Watchtower's GIDEON system, field repair kit, internal temperature control, and of course the hammer that has variable setting smartforce repulsor tech so that when it hits it hits as hard as it needs to (up to the force of Superman's punch against anything able to resist that kind of force).
- He came up with Strange Visitor's name.
- He built an arm for his niece Natasha Irons with the help of the Fortress' robotic assistant, Kelex.
- When Natasha asked him to become his sidekick, he told her to finish school first. When she graduated he tried to bribe Natasha with a car to convince her to attend college. She refused.
- John Henry's address is a nod to his first comic book appearance: The Adventures of Superman #500, by Louise Simonson in 1993.
- Him being good in basketball might be a nod to Shaquille O'Neal, who portrayed him in the movie Steel.
- In E27, he could hold his own against Superman or Supergirl for a while, maybe even take the Kryptonians down if he had the better strategy or element of surprise. Though in a straight sparring match, he'd be outmatched against the raw Kryptonian might. Against Diana, he could withstand more punishment and deal more damage, just barely. However, her superior fighting skills would see her through 9 times out of 10.
- MacGregor's Syndrome is a fictional disease, similar to cancer, that was first named in Batman & Robin as the name of the disease that afflicted Nora Fries. It's since been used in Gotham and The Flash.