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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.

Origins

John Henry Irons was a successful US Army officer married to famed television news reporter Lois Lane with a daughter named Natalie. One day Superman suddenly turned on humanity and tried to take over the world with an army of Kryptonians. The Kryptonians began their conquest by completely destroying John's home city Metropolis in seven minutes.[3] John 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]

Prior to his death, Sam had also created Project 7734 and tasked them with finding a way to combat the seemingly unstoppable invaders. Project 7734 eventually learned that the Kryptonians were vulnerable to Kryptonite, a mineral from their home planet. Project 7734 had managed to create a number of Kryptonite weapons, but only Sam knew the location where they were stored and he was killed before he could tell John. The Irons family relocated to a hidden bunker, but Lois left the safety of their hideout to to inform humanity of the Kryptonian's secret weakness. She got around a global communications blackout by broadcasting from high ground, but this allowed Superman to easily find her and he murdered her live on air.

John wanted revenge so he and Natalie 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 its 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. John also eventually found and retrieved Sam's hidden stash of Kryptonite weapons. He was ambushed by two Kryptonians and was able to fight them off with the aid of the suit but they called Superman for help. Superman attacked John but he managed to escape uninjured except for a cut on his face which left a scar.[5][3]

John quickly used up his limited supply of Kryptonite and so 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 another world.[6]

Season One

John believed that 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 the new world 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.[7]

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 counterpart from their universe, 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" rather than “Captain Luthor” and drove off to explore the new world.[8]

Weeks later Superman agreed to join Edge, who had revealed his true identity as Superman's previously unknown Kryptonian half-brother Tal-Rho, to protect his family as Tal-Rho had learned his secret identity. 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.[9] 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.[6]

While he decided what he would do next, Irons stayed at 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 that 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.[10]

Morgan Edge absorbed the power of the Eradicator and escaped from prison. 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.[11]

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 but just as he was preparing to leave a capsule crashed to Earth on the farm and Natalie emerged.[12]

Season Two

Natalie attempted to hug Lois but John stopped her and explained that she was not her mother, and they departed in John's RV. They settled in Metropolis under the names Henry and Natalie Johnson and Natalie enrolled in Metropolis High School. However, Natalie came home three hours late on the first day of school, having walked out after encountering her best friends' counterpart. She told John that they did not belong on this parallel Earth and wished she had died with the rest of their world.

Lois called John and asked him to arrange a meeting between her and Natalie. John took Natalie to Smallville and met with Lois, who convinced Natalie to move to Smallville.[13]

John and Natalie moved into the Kent farmhouse until John could find work in Smallville, claiming that he was an old friend of Clark's from Metropolis. Although he intended to stay out of superheroics in order to provide as normal a life as possible for his daughter, he agreed to help Lois investigate mysterious earthquakes at the Shuster Mines. While they were there a miner intentionally collapsed the mines after he was attacked by something underground. Later that day John realised that the incidence of the earthquakes corresponded with mysterious painful headaches and visions Clark had been having, and deduced that whatever was in the mines was causing his attacks.[14]

Sam Lane provided John with false credentials to allow him access to the mines, posing as an inspector. Dr. Faulkner accompanied John into the mines and knocked him out. While John was unconscious, a monster escaped from the mines. Superman tried to fight the creature but it overpowered him. Sam and Lois woke John up over his comm link and John rushed into the fight, summoning his armor from the Kent Farm. The monster was immune to John's red solar weapons and severely damaged John's armour before escaping. Later, Superman told John, Sam and Lois that the creature was a doppleganger of him. John agreed to help Superman fight the creature.[15]

Superman's duplicate attacked the Kent Farm and during the fight waves of energy radiated out from a pendant he was wearing and bound the two together. John used the Kinetic Hammer to break them apart without using his control gauntlet, injuring his wrist in the process. The creature flew away, but John developed a way to track his pendant's unique energy signature. However, as only the DoD had access to the satellites necessary to scan the Earth to detect the energy, Superman was forced to ask Lieutenant Anderson for help. Anderson detected the energy signature in Bolivia but rather than alert Superman he sent in the Supermen of America. Superman had a seizure and was able to see through his duplicate's eyes and realise what was happening, and that two of the Supermen were already dead. Superman flew to stop his double and John followed in his damaged armour. They managed to fight the creature off, but John was left severely injured and comatose. Superman flew him to a military hospital.[16]

John eventually regained consciousness but still had some residual brain damage, and had a brief lapse of memory where he forgot that Lois was not his wife. Natalie was not happy to move back into the Kent home, as she still hated and mistrusted Clark the way John did when they first met. Clark suggested that Natalie may be more comfortable living in her own place, and the Irons's moved into an old repair shop in town.[17]

Superman chased Ally Allston into the inverse world that the other Superman had come, and in the month that followed John took over his heroic duties, using an upgraded Warsuit. The morning of Smallville's mayoral election, he took Natalie to Lana Lang's campaign headquarters to volunteer and attempted to flirt with Lana until Natalie furiously demanded that they go home. When they got back, Natalie yelled at him for forgetting her mother and John realised it was the anniversary of Lois's death. Natalie stormed off to her room and John watched an old video of Lois and a newborn Natalie. He apologised to Natalie and told her he had been trying to move on from Lois's death because his grief had driven him to extreme actions, but that he never meant to forget her. He made waffles using Lois's recipe and they watched old videos of Lois together.[18]

That night, Lois called to tell him that Clark was back and they needed his help. John went to the Kent Farm and they told him that Ally had fused with her counterpart on the inverse world, and that Jonathan's evil doppleganger Jon-El had also crossed over, planning to fuse with Jonathan. They asked John to find a way to stop Jon-El.

John and Natalie built a device that could potentially destroy the pendants which Jon-El and Ally needed to merge the worlds, but it required so much energy to power it that merely running it for a few seconds blacked out the town. They went to the Shuster mines to collect X-Kryptonite to power the device. They found a rich vein near the portal to the other world and, as John was cutting a crystal from the wall, the inverse world's Lana Lang came through the portal and attacked them. John attempted to fight her off but his red solar weapons only made her stronger. As Lana was about to kill him, Natalie stabbed her with a shard of X-Kryptonite and the wounded Lana fled back through the portal.

When they got home, John got an idea to collapse the portal and left to call Sam. Natalie offered to help but he told her he could handle it.[19] John and Sam Lane developed a plan to collapse the portal, but when they presented it to Superman he refused to go along with it, unwilling to leave the other world to suffer under Ally. He told them that, although neither he or any device could produce enough energy to destroy the pendants, his mother had determined that he and Bizarro together would have been able to do it, and suggested that he and Tal-Rho together could also destroy the pendant. John caluclated that the two together would have enough energy, and he and Sam reluctantly agreed to the plan.

Sam released Tal-Rho from prison, and the Kryptonians took the pendant to an active volcano. They attempted to destroy it with their combined heat vision, but as it began to break Ally Allston, who had fused with her counterpart and gained great power, appeared and stole the pendant back. Superman and Tal attempted to fight her, but she was able to drain their powers and incapacitate them. John attacked Ally in his armour and managed to make her drop the pedant, then fought her off while Superman and Tal destroyed it. Ally took the fragments and returned to the inverse world, but while Superman and John were distracted by her, Tal-Rho escaped.[20]

John had been protected from Ally's energy draining abilities by his suit and studied it to discover why, but while he was doing so he stumbled across Natalie's designs for a suit of her own. John confronted Natalie and insisted that she destroy her armour, but she refused, insisting she was able to do more than simply help him fix his suit. John refused to let her take the risk and decided to destroy the suit himself if she would not. However, he found that Natalie's armor was virtually indestructible as it was reinforced with X-Kryptonite. Natalie told him that she wanted to fight for this new world after they had lost their home, and asked him not to try to hold her back. Although he was still concerned for her safety, John agreed to let her join him.

Lois' journalism partner Chrissy Beppo called Sam Lane's emergency DoD number, and John realised that she and likely Lois were in trouble. John and Natalie responded to the distress call but Ally was too powerful to stop and simply left of her own accord. Natalie was able to resuscitate Clark using a defribrillator built into her suit, and they carried him and Sam back to the DoD. At the hospital, doctors ran tests on Clark and found that they were able to pierce his skin to draw blood. They determined that he would klive but he remained unconscious and his powers appeared to have been compeletely removed, potentially forever.[21]

Clark regained consciousness but was severely weakened and his powers were not restored by the sun. He asked John to take him to the Fortress to consult with a hologram of his mother. At the Fortress Lara diagnosed that his cells had been damaged and lost their ability to process yellow sunlight, and they could take years to recover. Lara told them there may be a way to accelerate the process, but she glitched and disappeared before she could tell them what it was. John noticed a second, red, cube-shaped sun appear in the sky and they realised that the worlds had begun to merge.

They returned to Smallville and John and Natalie went into the strasophere to scan the red sun. They found that it was putting out approxiamtely 3% of the energy of the normal sun but the output was increasing as the worlds merged together. They calculated that they had less than twelve hours before the worlds merged and tracked the source of the merge to the Shuster Mines, but couldn't detect Ally in the area. They received a distress call from the Kent Farm and responded in time to chase Lana-Rho away before she could harm anyone. They told Clark and Sam what they had found and Clark realised that Ally was in the space between worlds that he and Natalie had passed through when they crossed between dimensions.

John decided to go into the void and stop Ally. Natalie insisted on going with him and John pretended to agree, but when it was time to leave he triggered a safeguard on her armour which would prevent it activating for ten minutes. He told her to stay behind on comms and protect the Kents if necessary, and left her the Kinetic Hammer. He enterred the void and saw Ally forcing the portals into both worlds together. He shot her with a thermonuclear missile but she simply absorbed the energy of the explosion and hit him with a powerful energy blast, knocking him unconscious and leaving him to drift away into the void.[22]

John regained consciousness and managed to reestiablish contact with Natalie. He told her to load all the X-Kryptonite she could find into her escape pod and bring it with her into the void, planning to use the X-K to blow up the portals and prevent the merge. Natalie came for him, but she hadn't heard the part of the message telling her to bring the X-K and only had the pod, believing he needed it to leave the void. Their armour was too damaged to allow either of them to go back and collect the X-K. Natalie suggested they sacrifice themselves by transferring the remaining X-Kryptonite energy from their suits to the pod. John reluctantly agreed as otherwise billions of people would die. The exploding pod disrupted the merge and Ally flew towards them in a rage. Believing they were about to die Natalie tearfully told John that he was her hero and she loved hin. John attemoted to protect Natalie from Ally but they were both saved by Superman, who had regained his powers. He scooped them up and returned them safely to Earth, then defeated Ally and undid the merge, saving the world.

At a celebration afterwards, John Diggle met with John Henry and told him that A.R.G.U.S. were investigating his counterpart's death and believed he had been murdered by Bruno Mannheim, the head of Intergang.[23]


Abilities

Other Characteristics

  • Brain Damage: (Formerly) John Henry suffered from residual brain damage after his encounter with Bizarro, which caused occasional lapses in memory.[17] He appears to have since recovered.

Equipment

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: A powerful sledgehammer that gains kinetic energy the further it is thrown, hitting hard enough to injure Kryptonians.[3] It was damaged when he used it against Tal-Rho[12] and eventually destroyed in a fight with Bizarro.[16] He later built a second hammer.[20]
  • Kryptonite Knife (Formerly)[1]
  • Red Solar Laser: Irons owns a portable laser which fires concentrated beams of red sunlight, able to cut through rock and knock the invulnerable Leslie Larr unconscious.[7][19]
  • 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.[6]
  • Twin Bazooka[2]


  • Irons knows Superman's birth name is Kal-El, however, as the Superman of his world did not have a secret identity he did not initially recognise Clark Kent as Superman.

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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Superman Family member
This character is or was an incarnation of or an ally of Superman, and a member of the Superman Family. This template will categorize articles that include it into the "Superman Family members" category.

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