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Commander Steel (also Steel or Citizen Steel) is the name of three fictional characters, superheroes published by DC Comics, all members of the same family. The first Steel appeared in Steel, The Indestructible Man #1 (1978) published by DC Comics, and was created by Gerry Conway and Don Heck. His stories were set in World War II. The two later characters called Steel are his grandsons.
Steel first appeared in a series set in 1939, Steel: The Indestructible Man, written by Captain America writer Gerry Conway. The series was canceled after five issues, and Steel later made a guest-appearance in Justice League of America. Steel or Commander Steel also appeared in and was a member of the World War II era All-Star Squadron team. He made a prominent appearance many years later in four issues of the Eclipso ongoing series, where he was killed. After this, he appeared in issue #2 of the 2010 series, DC Universe: Legacies, which chronicled the superheroes of the 1940s.
Starting in 1984, the second Steel appeared as one of the lead characters in Justice League of America, until its cancellation during the Legends crossover in 1987. He made a single appearance several years later in issue #38 of Justice League America, a continuation of Justice League International, where he was killed off. In 2006, he played a leading posthumous role in a single story arc of JLA Classified, which chronicled a previously unrevealed adventure of the Detroit-era JLA. In 2010, he played a major role in the two-issue Justice League of America (vol. 2) tie-in to Blackest Night, where he was temporarily resurrected.
The third Steel made his debut in the 2007 relaunch of Justice Society of America, where he appeared for several years until the team was split into two separate groups by writers Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges, where he appeared as one of the lead characters in JSA All-Stars. In The New 52 he is shown to exist on Earth 2, under the name Captain Steel.
Fictional character biography
Steel, The Indestructible Man # 1, artist Don Heck.
|First appearance||Steel, The Indestructible Man # 1 (March 1978)|
|Created by||Gerry Conway (writer)
Don Heck (artist)
|Alter ego||Henry "Hank" Heywood|
|Team affiliations||United States Marine Corps
|Abilities||Cyborg, great strength, limited invulnerability, limited superspeed|
The World War II version of the character, Henry Heywood, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps prior to the United States involvement in the war, but was injured when saboteurs, spearheaded by the man who would become Baron Blitzkrieg, attacked his base. Heywood had been a biology student under the tutelage of Doctor Gilbert Giles, and his former professor performed extensive surgery on him, enhancing his damaged body with mechanized steel devices that gave him superhuman strength, speed, and durability. At the request of Doctor Giles, Heywood kept his newfound gifts a secret, and was returned to service in a desk position. Frustrated at his inability to help more directly, Heywood adopted the masked-hero persona "Steel", and was attempting to steal armaments from the military base where he worked—to send to those more directly in the war's fray—when some fifth columnist saboteurs broke into the base. Heywood defeated the saboteurs, and embarked on a career fighting foreign threats and other criminals before America went to war.
Heywood entered more directly into World War II as a secret weapon before he allied himself with the All-Star Squadron. In that time he was commissioned Commander Steel by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. His membership in the Squadron was only for a brief period as Crisis on Infinite Earths caused him to shift from his native Earth-Two to the Post-Crisis Earth, wherein he retired from his superhero career as there were no active costumed heroes at that time on his new home.
Years later, as a wealthy industrialist, he incorporated the same mechanized components into his grandson, Hank Heywood III.
After his grandson's death, Heywood resumed the mantle of Commander Steel and died battling the supervillain Eclipso, while a member of the Shadow Fighters. He did come to a heroic end - detonating the Sunburst 300 (a device meant to destroy Eclipso) as his teammate Nemesis escaped.
Hank Heywood III
Art by Tom Derenick.
|First appearance||Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984)|
|Created by||Gerry Conway|
|Alter ego||Henry "Hank" Heywood III|
|Team affiliations||Justice League|
|Abilities||Superhuman strength, limited invulnerability, limited superspeed|
The second Steel was the late Henry "Hank" Heywood III. Commander Steel, a wealthy industrialist, incorporated the same mechanized components into his grandson, much to his grandson's disapproval. Heywood III was a "Justice League Detroit" team member, and was mortally wounded in battle against an android belonging to one of the team's classic foes, Professor Ivo. His body remained preserved in the JLA Bunker until it was discovered and destroyed by Despero.
Although it was originally stated that Heywood performed unnecessary surgeries on his grandson, it was later revealed in Justice League of America #260 that if he hadn't made his grandson into Steel, "Hank would have been dead... years ago." This is questionable, as Hank later remarked that his grandfather may have been driven insane by the metal in his skull.
In a Justice League of America tie-in to the Blackest Night crossover, Steel was reanimated as a member of the Black Lantern Corps in the Hall of Justice. Alongside the Black Lantern Vibe, Steel attacked his former teammates, Gypsy and Vixen, until Doctor Light destroyed him. During a later battle between the Justice League and Crime Syndicate of America at the Hall of Justice, Steel's remains were destroyed by Superwoman. The villainess even went so far as to use one of Steel's severed legs as a club, which she proceeded to use to bludgeon Donna Troy.
Art by Alex Ross.
|First appearance||Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #1 (February 2007)|
|Created by||Geoff Johns
|Alter ego||Nathan Heywood|
|Team affiliations||Justice Society of America|
|Abilities||Superhuman strength, invulnerability, organic metal skin, superhuman speed|
The relaunched Justice Society of America features another member of the Heywood family. During an interview to Newsarama, new series writer Geoff Johns announced him as a brand new character with new powers. He debuted in Justice Society of America #2 with the name of Nathan "Buckeye" Heywood.
Nathan is the grandson of Henry Heywood and cousin of Henry Heywood III. Formerly a football star at The Ohio State University, Nathan retired after shattering his kneecap and having his leg amputated due to an undiagnosed infection. The incident left Nathan addicted to painkillers.
While attending a Heywood family reunion, he is attacked by the Fourth Reich, a team of metahuman Neo-Nazis ordered by Vandal Savage to wipe out the bloodlines of Golden Age heroes. The Fourth Reich fails to completely destroy the Heywood bloodline, as both Nathan and a few children manage to survive. Both Nathan's brother and mother are turned to metal statues by the villain Reichsmark. Nathan jams his crutch into Reichsmark's mouth, causing him to spit liquid metal blood onto Nathan. Hawkman takes him to Dr. Mid-Nite, who notes that the metal is being absorbed by Nathan's skin.
Later, it is revealed that the metal has grown out from where Nathan's amputated leg once was, forming metallic bone, muscles, and flesh. Waking in his hospital room, Nathan is shown to have superhuman strength. Dr. Mid-Nite informs Nathan that he is now a being of living steel, due to an unknown reaction to Reichsmark's blood. However, the steel tissues do not give Nathan tactile response, meaning he cannot feel textures or temperatures, nor gauge exerted pressures, and his weight has greatly increased, causing his footsteps to crack the ground. He is given a costume, a "second skin" of a stainless steel alloy developed by Dr. Mid-Nite and Mr. Terrific specifically to restrict his movements and reduce his strength to a more manageable level. They chose the costume's colors because of Heywood's heritage. He then joins the Justice Society to defeat the Fourth Reich. Afterwards, the press asks if he is the new Commander Steel. Nathan denies it, saying that he is just an ordinary citizen, and so he is christened "Citizen Steel" by Power Girl.
When the Third World survivor Gog appears, Nathan is one of the JSA members who sides with him, hoping that Gog can restore his sense of touch. It is later revealed that Gog is rooting himself into the Earth, which would cause its destruction if he ever left, and when the unconverted JSAers battle him, they are blown away by winds created by Gog. Nathan alone is able to withstand the winds. Gog offers Nathan his greatest wishes fulfilled if he sides with him and worships him, but Nathan refuses, and joins the fight against him. For this act, Gog induces excruciating pain in Nathan. Nathan then tears off his suit and unleashes his full strength against Gog, actually managing to topple the giant, which gives Gog's former herald Magog the chance to cut off his head and send him to the Source Wall.
Following Gog's defeat, Nathan takes time off from the JSA to be with his family. This consists of survivors of the attack on the reunion, various children, most of whom call him 'Uncle Nathan' or 'Uncle Nate'.
During the events of Blackest Night, Nathan helps fight off the hordes of Black Lanterns attacking Manhattan. He tries to help Power Girl during her battle with the newly reanimated Kal-L, but is knocked aside by the hero, who mockingly refers to him as a "paperweight" compared to him.
The New 52
Hank Heywood Jr. appears as Captain Steel in The New 52 title, Earth-2. The modern version of Hank is revealed to be a young Asian man of Filipino descent. It is stated that Hank was originally a young boy born with a degenerative bone disorder that would have killed him by his 18th birthday, and that his father replaced all of his bones with an experimental metal to save his life. (although it also made him unable to feel emotion). During Darkseid's invasion of Earth-2, Hank's father killed himself and destroyed his research in order to prevent the Parademons from getting their hands on it.
Powers and abilities
Originally Commander Steel could only lift 1,000 pounds, but when he appeared in the pages of the All-Star Squadron he was attributed 'super human' strength without an exact limit. He is by no means as strong as Superman or Wonder Woman, but he is able to hold his own with Robotman and Baron Blitzkrieg.
Citizen Steel's metallic body grants him superhuman strength and allows him to take direct blows from opponents as powerful as Gog, and remain standing, and in turn knocking him to the ground - the only one in the JSA able to do so. His alloy suit limits his strength to controllable levels but a cost of slowing him down. Upon removing his suit, he is able to unleash his full strength without a speed penalty.
In other media
- Hank Heywood III appeared several times as Commander Steel in the Justice League Unlimited series. He was voiced by Kevin Conroy. A Mattel action figure in the character's likeness (presumably called "Commander" Steel to differentiate him from the better known, current version of Steel, already a figure in the toyline) was released. In the series finale episode, "Destroyer", he saved Hawkgirl from being killed by a Parademon by throwing a shield at it. Also in "Destroyer", he is seen running down the Metro Tower stairs with Vibe, Vixen, and Gypsy, the four members of the Justice League Detroit era created by Gerry Conway.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Powerless", he is referred to as Aquaman sings his rousing song of heroism he appears as Commander Steel as one of the heroes.
- The original Commander Steel, Henry Heywood, was the first figure released in the eighth wave of the DC Universe Classics line.
Commander Steel was also released through the Mattel Justice League Unlimited line, coming in a six-pack with Superman, Crimson Fox, B'Wanna Beast, Deadman, and Vibe.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "Thanks to scripter Gerry Conway and artist Don Heck, the red, white, and blue shone like never before - on the steel-alloyed suit of the World War II cyborg, Steel."
- DeMatteis, J. M. (w), McDonnell, Luke (p), Montano, Steve (i). "Flesh!" Justice League of America 260: 22-23 (March, 1987), DC Comics
- Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "The prestigious Justice League of America got a bit easier to join, thanks to writer Gerry Conway and artist Chuck Patton. Marking the debut of camouflaging hero Gypsy, the shockwave-casting Vibe, and the second generation hero Steel, this landmark comic saw many of the more famous League members step down in order to make way for a younger roster to carry on their legacy."
- Wallace, Dan (2008). "Commander Steele". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 86. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. OCLC 213309017.
- Conway, Gerry (w), McDonnell, Luke (p), Heck, Don (i). "From Hell is Forged ...A Hero!" Steel: The Indestructible Man 1: 18/4 (March, 1978), DC Comics
- DeMatteis, J. M. (w), McDonnell, Luke (p), Montano, Steve (i). "Flesh!" Justice League of America 260: 16-20 (March, 1987), DC Comics
- DeMatteis, J. M. (w), McDonnell, Luke (p), Montano, Steve (i). "Flesh!" Justice League of America 260: 22 (March, 1987), DC Comics
- Justice League of America (vol. 2) #40
- Justice League of America (vol. 2) #39 (November 2009)
- Justice League of America (Vol. 2) #40 (December 2009)
- Justice League of America (vol. 2) #51
- Justice Society of America 7 (), DC Comics
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #19
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #21
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #22
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #23
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #9
- Blackest Night: JSA #3
- JSA All-Stars #1
- Earth-2 #13
- Justice Society of America 15 (), DC Comics
- "Commander Steel in "Destroyer"". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2011-01-15.