Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who's Who Vol.XXII: Steel (12/86)

Steel II is a character I didn't care for on first reading. Then, on second try, I still didn't care for him. Third time was the charm, as it was then I began to realize the potential of the character.

Hank Heywood II, like his grandfather, was a sort of roughhewn, inexperienced, right wing Captain America. In Hank Sr.'s case, that made him a bit redundant in the midst of the WWII bravado typical of Golden Age-styled super-heroes. With Hank Jr. though, it made him an intriguing anomaly. Here's this Reagan Era neophyte in a minority-skewing, lefty super-hero team based out of bombed out Detroit, Michigan. He was the stiff, sure, but also the sensitive Colossus sort under his rigid exterior. He had his own secret headquarters in "The Bunker," access to Heywood Industries gadgets and fortunes, the L.O.S.T. aircraft, a mentor in Dale Gunn, and adversaries/legacy tied to Commander Steel. Of all the new Detroit members, he was the one most ready made to stand on his own as a viable soloist.

Steel was also ahead of his time: Among the first of many old school super-heroes to loosen up by shedding a skullcap... the first to have a cybernetic endoskeleton, ala Steve Austin or "the Terminator," allowing him to take horrific battle damage... among the rare heroes with a clear political ideology... and of course he served on the prototype for misbegotten new line-ups replacing beloved super-hero teams. Steel's career is like a blueprint for '90s comics. All he needed was a brown bomber jacket, useless pouches, and a big gun.

So let's all shed a tear for the lost opportunity that was Steel. He certainly would have.

Art by Chuck Patton & Larry Mahlstedt

No comments: