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John Henry Irons, aka "Captain Luthor" or The Stranger, is a refugee from an alternate Earth destroyed by that world’s version of Superman.

John Henry Irons was a successful US Army officer married to famed television news reporter Lois Lane with a daughter named Natalie. One day his world came crashing down when Superman turned on humanity and tried to take over the world with an army of Kryptonians. The invaders seemed unstoppable, but they were secretly vulnerable to Kryptonite. Lois went on the air to inform humanity of the Kryptonian's secret weakness, and was murdered by Superman on live television in the middle of the broadcast.[3]

Irons joined a military force called Hellfire 3-1 led by his father-in-law General Sam Lane who tried to fight off the invaders. Hellfire 3-1 wore dog tags in the shape of an inverted Superman logo with “hELL/7734” engraved on the back. When Hellfire 3-1 engaged Superman he killed all of them except Irons.[4][2] Irons and his daughter built a Warsuit to allow him to fight the Kryptonians, using books to teach themselves the advanced engineering techniques required. The suit was built from Luthorcorp-manufactured parts and as such it's AI was programmed to only recognise Lex Luthor as it's pilot. Irons began using the name "Captain Luthor" to allow him to use the suit.[3]

John created the Solar Missile, a rocket propelled projectile which released an immense blast of red solar radiation that would completely drain a Kryptonian’s powers. He lured Superman into space and detonated the Missile, but before he could see if Superman was affected, a portal opened up in front of his ship and he was transported to Earth-Prime.[5] He believed the Superman of this alternate reality would also destroy the world and planned to kill him before that could happen. He sabotaged two nuclear plants so he could observe Superman in action while hidden from his x-ray vision by the lead lined walls. At each site he would leave a microscopic inscription reading “You are not a hero, Kal-El” in Kryptonian.

At the third plant, he attacked Superman, his Warsuit proving equal to the Kryptonian’s superpowers. The two fought an aerial battle across the world and even into orbit, which ended when Irons stabbed Superman with a Kryptonite blade.[1]

The knife he had stabbed Superman with had been his last piece of Kryptonite, so Irons searched the world for more, only to find that all Kryptonite on this world had been systematically gathered by the Department of Defense. As his Warsuit was running low on power he travelled in his ship which Sam Lane, an ally of Superman on this world, was able to track to Mongolia.

Superman followed him and the two fought again, but Irons escaped by setting his ship to self-destruct and sending it to fly to the nearest city, forcing Superman to abandon him to stop it. He sent his Warsuit, operating on remote control, to the Department of Defense. The suit fought its way to General Lane’s command position and warned him not to trust Superman, handing him the alternate Sam Lane’s dog tag.[4]

Until he could find the materials necessary to build a new Warsuit, Irons and his AI partner relocated to an RV and tracked the Lois Lane of Earth-Prime to Smallville, Kansas, correctly deducing that Lois had a connection to Superman and that wherever Lois went, Superman would follow. Irons approached Lois, posing as a reporter named Marcus Bridgewater and claimed to be investigating Morgan Edge. He found that this other Lois was identical to his wife in almost every way.

Irons detected Superman flying over Smallville as he fought another man with Kryptonian-like superpowers. He shot them both down but by the time he reached the crash site, Superman had left and his opponent had been destroyed by his own powers. The next day he saw Lois with her husband Clark Kent and destroyed his AI in a jealous rage.[2]

He approached Lois with a plan to infiltrate the Shuster mines disguised as inspectors, providing her with an extremely high quality fake ID badge. They were able to get into the mines but once they were inside Lois quickly became suspicious of him when he revealed he had access to top-secret schematics of the mines, claiming a hacker friend had stolen them; and when he unveiled a powerful laser that allowed him to cut into the rockface. He uncovered and identified a deposit of X-Kryptonite, a variant of Kryptonite neither Superman or Lois had ever heard of. They were attacked by Leslie Larr, but Irons fought her off with his laser and they fled. Lois demanded to know who he really was and what he was doing in Smallville, as he was clearly not a reporter. He refused to tell her and Lois had to leave when Clark called her to tell her that their son was hurt.[6]

Lois met with "Marcus Bridgewater" and again asked who he was. While Lois was distracting him, Clark broke into Irons' RV and the recently repaired AI greeted him as "Captain Luthor". Lois had to cut the meeting short again when Chrissy Beppo called and told her that X-Kryptonite was being removed from the mines. The AI also informed Irons about the activity at the mines and he hijacked the shipment, which Lois and Clark were following. Irons told Lois he needed to meet with Superman, unaware that Superman was standing in front of him at that very moment. Lois agreed to arrange a meeting if, as a sign of good faith, he handed over the sample of X-Kryptonite. She lifted his fingerprints from the casing and sent them to the Department of Defense for matching.

Lois and Chrissy investigated the possibility that "Marcus" was an unknown relative of Lex Luthor but determined that was impossible. The DoD matched Irons' fingerprints to his Earth-Prime counterpart, who had been dead for six years. Lois tried to call Clark to inform him and tell him that Irons was The Stranger but realised something was wrong when he did not respond.

Meanwhile Superman met with him at the agreed location and "Luthor" drained Superman's powers with red sunlight lamps, then attacked him with his Kinetic Hammer. Superman was rescued by his sons, who hit Irons with their truck and destroyed the lamps, restoring Superman's powers. Irons managed to block the worst of the impact with the Hammer but was still injured and incapacitated. Enraged, Superman almost attacked the helpless Irons with his full strength but Lois arrived in time to calm him down. Irons was taken into custody by the DoD.[3]

Irons was interrogated by Sam Lane and Superman, but refused to answer their questions, insisting he would only speak to Lois. Sam ordered Lieutenant Rosetti to take Irons back to his cell, where they were met by Lieutenant Trask, an unofficial torturer. Trask tried to take Irons but Rosetti murdered him, revealing that he had Kryptonian powers.

Rosetti planned to take Irons from the Pentagon (presumably to Morgan Edge), but stopped off at Vault 7734, where the Army kept their experimental Kryptonite weapons, to get a weapon to kill Superman with if necessary. Irons triggered an alarm, hoping to see Rosetti and Superman kill each other. Superman came to the vault which Rosetti had filled with synthetic Kryptonite gas, putting Superman at a disadvantage as Rosetti was protected by a gas mask. Rosetti eventually beat Superman as he was weakened by the Kryptonite, however, Irons killed Rosetti with a Kryptonite spear before he could finish off Superman.

Irons then tried to kill Superman while he was helpless, but a squad of soldiers and Lois, who had come to speak with a military psychiatrist, got to the vault before he could and Lois convinced him to stand down. Superman and the Department of Defense decided to release him and give him back his weapons, reasoning that they would need him as an ally if the Kryptonian invasion he feared came to pass. At the Kent farm he said goodbye to Lois, acknowledging that she was not the woman he loved. He ordered his AI partner to refer to him as “John Henry Irons” rather than “Captain Luthor” and drove off to explore the new world.[7]

Superman agreed to join Tal-Rho, who had learned his secret identity, to protect his family. As they left, Tal-Rho told Lois to take one last look at the man she knew. Fearing Tal-Rho would turn Superman, she called John and asked for his help.[8] John planned to build another Solar Missile and use it to depower Superman, then kill him. Lois tried to convince him that Superman could still be saved, as one of Edge’s Subjekts Kyle Cushing had been able to briefly fight his brainwashing, and even revealed that Superman was her husband Clark, but John was unmoved. Jonathan Kent also tried to convince him that killing Superman was not the only option.

John flew to the Badlands and fought Superman, who was possessed by the mind of General Zod. Irons briefly gained the upper hand, and over his comm link Lois begged him not to kill Superman. Superman overheard Lois’ voice and was able to briefly regain control of his body, telling John to kill him for the good of the world. Realising that unlike the Superman of his world, this one had a home and family to fight for and therefore may be able to break the brainwashing, John convince Superman to fight his programming and he was able to destroy Zod within himself. The two went after Morgan Edge together and John shot him down with the Solar Missile. Edge was imprisoned in an advanced military prison.[5]

While he decided what he would do next, Irons stayed on the Kent Farm. Clark suggested he could work for the DoD but he was not interested. He did however help Superman foil Leslie Larr’s attempt to break Edge out of prison. After Larr was incarcerated, he and Superman met with Sam Lane, who returned the dog tag and told them that he had ended Project 7734 and was planning to destroy almost all the military’s Kryptonite weapons, keeping just enough to guard Edge and Leslie. Superman was uncomfortable with this, as he believed the humanity needed a way to protect itself from him if he ever became evil. He asked John to take some of the weapons and be ready to kill him if he ever became a danger. John was reluctant as he now saw Superman as a friend, but agreed to do it.[9]

Over the next three weeks, John remained on the Kent farm and continued to improve his armour. Jonathan Kent would often try to help and learn from him but John was not interested in being a mentor and eventually asked the boy to leave. Morgan Edge reappeared and freed Leslie Larr from prison and the two headed to Metropolis to announce the invasion as had happened on John's world. John, Superman and Lois chased them to Metropolis, where Edge effortlessly transformed four civilians into Kryptonians and set them loose on the city. Irons and Superman fought the four Subjekts and Leslie while Lois reported live on the situation. Leslie attempted to kill Lois on air as had happened to John's wife, but he was able to save her. With Leslie and the Subjekts in custody John and Superman tried to capture Edge but he blasted them away and escaped.[10]

Irons upgraded his Hammer with red solar technology to allow it to penetrate the Eradicator’s force field and nullify his powers, but to be effective it would need to thrown from orbit. The Eradicator attacked the Shuster Mines along with the resurrected Kryptonian Defense Council and a possessed Jordan Kent, using the X-Kryptonite to generate a massive energy wave. Irons incapacitated Jordan and carried him back to the Farm, but the blast necessary to take him down drained half the Warsuit’s energy. He and Superman fought off the Council, which further drained his energy reserves to dangerously low levels. John flew into space while Superman restrained the Eradicator to give him a clear shot. John threw the Hammer at the Eradicator, stopping the energy wave and restoring him to normal. With his energy depleted he fell to Earth, but Superman saved him.

With the invasion finally averted Lois invited him to stay on the farm, but he told her it would be too painful to be around her all the time. He decided to contact his sister’s counterpart on Earth-Prime but just as he was preparing to leave a capsule crashed to Earth on the farm and Natalie emerged.[11]


Abilities

Equipment

  • Warsuit: A suit of high-tech power armour which allows him to fly and grants him sufficient strength, speed and durability to fight Superman.[1] It is equipped with wrist mounted blasters and is capable of operating without a pilot. He sent it to carry a message to Sam Lane[4] but the Army eventually returned it to his possession.[5]

Transportation

  • Ship: (Formerly) An advanced, AI controlled flying vehicle, later destroyed.[4]
  • RV: After his ship was destroyed, Irons relocated to an RV filled with weapons and advanced computers.[2]

Weapons

  • Kinetic Hammer[3]
  • Kryptonite Knife (Formerly)[1]
  • Laser: Irons owns a portable laser able to cut through rock and knock the invulnerable Leslie Larr unconscious.[6]
  • Solar Missile: (Formerly) A rocket propelled projectile which explodes with a burst of red solar radiation to completely drain a Kryptonian’s powers. He used his only missile on Morgan Edge.[5]
  • Twin Bazooka[2]


Earth-Prime's John Henry Irons's file

.

  • In the main universe, John Henry Irons was an engineer and counter-insurgence specialist in the Army. Lois Lane found his file while searching for the identity of "Marcus Bridgewater"; this John Henry Irons was killed in action in 2015.[3]
  • Irons knows Superman's birth name is Kal-El, but did not recognise Clark Kent as Superman. It appears the Superman of his world did not have a secret identity.

Related

Footnotes


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Superman Villain(s)
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This character is or was primarily an enemy of Superman in any of his various incarnations, or members of the Superman Family. This template will categorize articles that include it into the "Superman Villains category."

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