- John Henry fought the machine and won. What I'm fightin' is a deadlier kind of machine -- one I helped put in motion. One I'm gonna stop -- even if it kills me.
- — Steel src
With Superman's death, John Henry Irons attempted to fill the loss felt by Metropolis by taking on the Man of Steel persona with a high-tech suit of armor. When Superman returned alive, he became known as Steel.
The Man of Steel
John Henry Irons' parents were murdered when he was young, and he felt that the only way to protect his family was to become rich and powerful. He went to Yale on a sports scholarship before getting hired by Amertek Industries.
Irons, a ballistics expert, enjoyed both wealth and success designing hi-tech weapons for a contractor with government ties. Irons used the money to help his family and was convinced he was doing good. When a series of weapon prototypes, the BG-60s, were leaked to a terrorist cell in Qurac, a fire fight erupted that left many innocent people dead. Irons, flying over to inspect the scene, was horrified at the thought of what his work had led to. He destroyed all the remaining prototypes and attempted to delete all information of a more powerful model, the BG-80, before going into hiding in Metropolis. He got a job as a steelworker under the assumed name Henry Johnson.
One day, a coworker on a high-rise fell, and "Henry" swung out to save him, only to then fall and plummet towards his death. Luckily, Superman saved him. "Henry" told Superman he owed him his life and Superman replied by telling him he should make it count for something. Not very long afterward, Doomsday smashed his way into Metropolis, and Irons tried to reach Superman, only to be buried in a collapsing building. He was not able to free himself until it was too late.
A few weeks later, his weapons were being used by gangs on the street, under the name "Toastmasters". Irons decided he must take action, so he forged a suit of armor, flight boots, and completed the look with an S-emblem and cape. He quickly learned the source of the guns was the mysterious White Rabbit. A neighbor of his, a psychic named Rosie Kratz, insisted that this new Man of Steel was in fact Superman, or at least Superman's soul in a new body. At the same time, however, there were three other "Supermen" in Metropolis, all with seemingly stronger claims.
The Man of Steel got to work. Shrugging off an offer of employment by Lex Luthor, he continued to follow the trail of guns to the source. During his effort, he met Lois Lane after he saved her in a manner reminiscent of how she met Superman. Unlike the other impostors, however, the Man of Steel insisted he was not the actual Superman. He also rebuked Superboy for being too reckless. His search led him to the White Rabbit, and as he feared, it was his old partner, Angora, who helped him design the weapons. She offered to make him a partner, and when he refused, she blasted him out a window and fled.
As he attempted to track down White Rabbit, Steel encountered the Eradicator, calling himself the "Last Son of Krypton", who brutally killed a thug who had turned a gun on Irons. Steel criticized the visor-wearing Superman, telling him there was no way he could be the real thing. Enraged, the Eradicator attacked Steel, and they fought until Lois arrived and was able to pull them apart. The Last Son got enraged again when a process server arrived telling him that Superboy had secured the actual rights to the name "Superman". Steel attempted to contain the situation, prompting the Eradicator to launch them almost into orbit before crashing in California. The Eradicator resumed the fight, but Steel was able to battle him to a standstill (at least temporarily) yelling that being Superman was about more than just having power, it was also about having humanity and compassion. The Eradicator withdrew from the battle. Steel got a lift back to Metropolis, where the White Rabbit ambushed him at the airport. Fighting off her thugs, he grabbed her and forced her to take him to her manufacturing plant. She attempted another ambush there, but he broke free. The plant was destroyed and the Rabbit seemingly killed, but Steel knew it was not the end of the Toastmasters.
After Coast City was destroyed, Steel decided to investigate first hand. The Cyborg Superman had announced that he and Superboy were not able to defeat the "Last Son" responsible for the destruction, but Steel did not trust this account. Running into Lois Lane, he found that she was incredulous also. Hearing a nearby disturbance, they found Luthor and Supergirl at the docks, facing a huge Kryptonian war suit. Superboy arrived as Steel knocked down the suit, telling everyone that the Cyborg is the real villain and planned on destroying Metropolis next.
The real Superman emerged from the war suit. Steel and the others were skeptical at first, especially since Superman was powerless and wearing a black costume. Upon being briefed of the situation having and a private conversation with Lois, Superman decided to head for the ruins of Coast City. Steel and Superboy decided to go with him, despite their doubts. Superman borrowed a pair of LexCorp flight boots and they set out, discovering Engine City in the midst of the ruins and launched a frontal attack. They managed to access the city, but Superboy had to quickly leave again to deflect a missile launched for Metropolis.
Steel and Superman continued their way inside where Superman revealed that Supergirl had been with them the entire time, fighting invisible alongside them. This only helped affirm to Steel that Superman was who he claimed. The trio encountered Mongul, who announced he has just ordered Engine City to fire its reactors, which would cause the Earth to spin out of orbit. While Superman and Supergirl fight Mongul, Steel went off to stop the reactor. There he encountered the Cyborg, taking on monstrous new forms. Steel desperately gave all he had to grind the engines to a halt, saving the Earth and frustrating the Cyborg's plans.
Steel managed to free himself, but his armor was ruined. Superboy returned and saved him from the Cyborg, while Green Lantern used Steel's hammer to defeat Mongul. In the end, however, Superman had to battle the Cyborg one-on-one but emerged victorious and back to full strength. Steel, battered and bruised, left the ruins, heading back to Metropolis alongside Superboy and Supergirl via a military transport helicopter.
After a few weeks of doing his best without his armour to round up more Toastmasters, John Henry decided it is time to head back to where it all began, Washington, D.C. He parted ways with Superman and left Metropolis, and what he thought was his career as a superhero.
Steel returned home to Washington, D.C. after five years, erroneously believing that his old employers at Amertek would no longer be interested in him. He was met at a bus station by his niece, Natasha, just before a gang fight erupted. One side was using Toastmasters, the other relying on a drug called Tar which granted temporary super strength. Irons, unarmed and without his armor, tried to intervene, but was distracted when he thought he saw his nephew, Jamahl, resulting in him being knocked out by a "Tar freak". When he regained consciousness he headed home with Nat, where he was greeted by his grandparents, Bess and Butter Irons, his sister-in-law, Blondell Irons, and the rest of her children, Paco, Tyke and Darlene (the latter of two were foster children.) Jemahl arrived at dinner time, just before an attack on the home by soldiers working for Amertek. Between this attack and his knowledge that the Toastmasters were now being used on the streets of D.C., he reforged his armor and began his crusade against Amertek, which he correctly knew was responsible for leaking the weapons onto the street. Steel decided not to use the S-shield, however, since he felt that his battle might take him outside the law, and he did not want to tarnish the symbol.
Steel fought against Amertek and the gangs using the weapons he designed. He quickly learned his nephew Jemahl was involved in one of the gangs, which he thought offered both the family and himself protection. His faith in his "crew" is shaken, however, when a fellow gang member, Spiral, framed Jemahl after a gun deal went bad. The gang's leader, Cowboy, turned Jemahl over to their supplier, Amalgam. Steel rescued Jemahl and delivered Amalgam over to the police (though not before Amalgam murdered Spiral, learning the truth of what happened).
Steel confronted his old employer, Col. Weston, who had already known Steel was in fact, John Henry Irons. Steel went on to break into Amertek, looking for proof that they were responsible for selling not only the Toastmasters but Tar as well. During the break-in, a firefight set off a ruptured gas main, leading to the building's destruction. Weston publicly denounced Steel as a dangerous criminal. He then bailed Amalgam out of jail, told him his true identity, and created numerous plans to attack Steel indirectly; including a drive-by shooting meant for Jemahl (that leaves Tyke paralyzed), a tar freak attacking John Henry at a funeral, a hit and run that injured Natasha and Cowboy anonymously mugging Blondell. Realizing he needed help, even with a disk of stolen info from Amertek, Steel contacted a police officer named Shauna Beryl for aid. When Jemahl learned that Cowboy was working with Amalgam against his family, he stole a vial of S-Tar (an upgraded version of Tar) and attacked Cowboy. Steel had to confront his nephew, and managed to keep him contained until the main effects of the drug wore off.
The information Steel gave to Beryl eventually led to the downfall of Amertek and the arrest of Col. Weston. Not satisfied with ending it there, Steel decided to go after the ones behind Amertek. This led him to track down a group called Black Ops led by the villain Hazard. The trail first led back to Metropolis, which was in ruins, where Steel had to fight alongside Superman once again to defeat the power of Rift. He also got a firsthand look at Hazard and Black Ops. Hazard was all too aware of Steel's intentions.
Back in D.C., Irons met Dr. Amanda Quick while checking on Tyke's condition whose paralysis had left him depressed. Hazard ordered his troops to attack Steel at the National Mall where he battled Flatline, Hotspot and Quake while his family was nearby at the Vietnam Memorial. Hazard called off the troops, sending his teleporter, Split, to pull them out. Shortly after, Steel saved a U.S. Senator from Hazard's assassination attempt, whereupon Hazard sent Shellshock, Hardsell and Mainline to attack him. Split turned up in the battle and took everyone to Hazard's lair, where Hazard himself knocked Steel unconscious. Stripped of his armor, Irons told his entire story to Hazard. After his offer of employment was refused, Hazard fired on Steel, whose armor mysteriously appeared around him. Breaking free, Steel forced Split to take him clear of Black Ops. He knew the situation with Black Ops was far from over.
A serial killer had also been on the loose in D.C. Investigating, Shauna Beryl was convinced to contact a psychic, who turned out to be Steel's former neighbour, Rosie Kratz. Beryl was being aided by a recent transfer from Chicago, Det. Ben Carroll. All of the victims were decapitated and all involved in drugs, prompting the police to suspect a link to Tar. Steel asked Shauna how to contact Rosie. Unfortunately, he arrived just after the killer attacked her, leaving her to bleed to death in Steel's arms. Before she died, she mentioned the word "alter" and drew a police badge in her own blood. Beryl and several uniformed police showed up and placed Steel under arrest. Quickly concluding he was innocent, Beryl helped him escape custody. Rosie's murder provided a few more clues which allow them to deduce Ben Caroll was the killer. They set an ambush for him involving Shauna. Caroll is not simply a killer, however, but has a metahuman that allowed him to transform into an enormous, feline like being. Caroll—whose real name was Adam Kratz—had been abused as a child and developed "the Alter" as an alternate personality, a monster that tracked down and murdered child abusers. Steel defeated the Alter, clearing his own name when Carroll was arrested.
Wanting to track a Black Ops satellite in orbit, Steel turned to Extreme Justice for help. Maxima offered to help him by bringing him into orbit. Once there, however, they were captured by an alien warlord named De'cine, and his accomplice, B'add. De'cine was trying to force Maxima to marry him as a means of seizing power on Maxima's homeworld. Steel was not killed because the alien scan indicated he was a cyborg. Steel's armour had demonstrated it could appear around him whenever he is directly threatened. Steel managed to break free, defeating B'add, and then rescuing Maxima from De'cine and his mother, who has rendezvoused with them in her own warship. The two stole De'cine's ship and headed back to Earth with their enemies in pursuit. They detonated the ship after fleeing in a life pod, creating the impression they were both killed, so De'cine and his mother departed. Steel and Maxima were then rescued by Extreme Justice, but the satellite he wanted to investigate self detonated when he got near it, leaving another dead end.
Steel's search for Hazard's Black Ops was interrupted by the return of the White Rabbit. She sent her operative, Bomb, to distract Steel while she embarked on a plan to brainwash several prominent members of Congress. Bomb succeeded in distracting Steel and even Superman as the plan proceeded. Another operative, Double, was also investigating the White Rabbit. The two worked together and uncovered the White Rabbit's plans. They confront her in her hideout, battling an entire squad of super-powered thugs, defeating them all. Unfortunately, the Rabbit escaped.
Returning home after defeating the White Rabbit, Steel learned that Tyke had been kidnapped. Confronting a gang of Tar freaks ended up being a dead end. Shauna Beryl informed him there had been a string of kidnappings and gave him information on where he might start investigating. Steel set out to follow the lead but was confronted by Chindi, a bounty hunter who claimed someone had put a reward on Steel's armour. The two battled to a stalemate in a parking garage, withdrawing when federal agents arrived on the scene. Steel went home to make some minor repairs, unaware that Chindi planted a homing device on him. While setting out to find Tyke again, his armor acted up, disappearing while he was in midair, only to reappear. He decides to take it to S.T.A.R. Labs, but they were only able to tell him about the tracking device. Federal agents arrived, trying to arrest him, but he had just left the scene.
Shauna's lead took him to an old waste plant. Chindi confronted him there again, maintaining the upper hand until their fight spilled into a holding cell full of children. Steel explained he had learned that the children were being held there for experimentation by Black Ops. Chindi confessed Hazard was the one who hired him but broke the contract because of the experiments. They rescued the children before the building exploded. Tyke was not among the children. Steel now knew where to find Hazard, and set out for a direct assault. Chindi backed him up, and they easily penetrated Hazard's lair and took down his goons. Steel confronted Hazard himself and ripped off his mechanical arm, but Split teleported his boss away. Tyke was there, and Irons brought him home, but Tyke had gone there on his own since Hazard promised to make him walk again, and now bore a hatred for his uncle.
During Neron's play for humanity, a string of riots broke out throughout D.C. While attempting to help the police, Steel encountered Metallo, now with the ability to reform any metal into a new body for himself. Steel tried to fight him off and recover a bomb planted beneath a mosque. He used the bomb on Metallo high above D.C., seemingly stopping him. Afterward, he met the Alpha Centurion, who was seeking him to join a Superman rescue squad, as the Man of Steel had been kidnapped by an alien tribunal. Steel agreed to join the team.
Steel joined Supergirl, Superboy and the Eradicator on board the Centurion's ship, where Superboy told the others he did not trust the Centurion. These fears were realized when the Centurion abandoned the rest to battle an alien platoon on an asteroid. Steel modified some equipment the Centurion left them to form a makeshift transport. Arriving on a nearby planet, the team was confronted by the Cyborg Superman, who easily took down all four of them. He turned them over as prisoner of the tribunal, whom he was working for.
While in custody, Steel discovered the Alpha Centurion was also a prisoner. Steel managed to call his armour and stage an escape, along with Supergirl and the Eradicator. While Steel and Supergirl, both in disguise, went to a local bar to try and find information, the Eradicator stayed behind to try and rescue Superboy. Unfortunately, Steel and Supergirl were discovered and a bar fight broke out. It ended quickly when the Cyborg turned up and easily recaptured them. For escaping, they were both sentenced to death.
Fortunately, neither Superman nor any of the team was put to death. They manage to break free and rally together behind the Man of Steel when the Cyborg betrayed his tribunal masters. Superman led them to confront the tribunal itself, which ultimately "exonerated" Superman and let him go. The team—including the Centurion—returned triumphantly to Earth.
Tragedy would strike the Irons family upon his return from space. Tyke, frustrated and angry over his handicap, betrayed Jon's true identity to federal agents working with Hazard. The agents released a cyborg named Hardwire who opened fire on the Irons family as they sit down to dinner. Most of them only received minor injuries, while Butter was seriously wounded. Hardwire battled Steel at the Washington Monument, resulting in Hardwire's suicide. Steel had to send his armor away to save his life. This resulted in his secret identity being made known to the world at large. Child Protective services reclaimed Tyke and Darlene. Steel was then taken by Hazard, but he managed to escape, recalling his armor again. Steel retrieved an anti-matter weapon, called the Annihilator, which he had designed and hidden years before, for his showdown with Hazard. He also learned at this point that he could teleport himself, not just his armor. He confronted Hazard in his lair and utterly destroyed it with his weapon. During the battle, three young soldiers of Hazard; Flatline, Quake, and Hotspot, were apparently killed by Irons.
With Steel's identity public, his family had no peace. They were harassed by neighbours and mobs of people. Natasha was kidnapped by Plasmus, who was trying to blackmail Steel into creating a suit for himself. Steel rescued her, outsmarting Plasums, but could not help but be grieved at all the pain he was causing the family. Steel moved out, but the family was still harassed. The family was later attacked by both Polaris and Parasite, both seeking the Annihilator. Parasite's alternate personality, "Doc" Parasite, was the personality of a scientist who once knew and resented Irons. John's grandmother Bess was killed in the fight trying to help her grandson.
The family was forced to go into hiding, relocated by Double. Steel's guilt and pain nearly consumed him. He teleported into the "white zone", the place he could go or send his armour between teleports, and was confronted there by a nightmarish version of his armor. He quickly teleported again, ending up at Hazard's old lair, discovering Flatline, Quake and Hotspot were all alive. They cornered him as he teleported without his armor, but the Demon Armour followed him to the lair. Iron's worked with the other three to try and fight off the Demon Armour. They engaged in a running battle onto the streets of D.C. Natasha, having run away from the family, met up with him there and tried to help. Steel realized that the Demon Armour was part of him. When he thought he killed Hazard's troops, he somehow manifested the ugly, monstrous side of himself into a physical form. Realizing this, Steel banished the Demon Armour to the white zone, seemingly for good.
Natasha was more grief-stricken over the loss of Grandma Bess than she first admitted. She spent several nights sleeping at the cemetery and even violently attacked John when he confronted here there. A blind gravedigger told them that Bess' soul was not at rest because someone stole her wedding ring and she wants to be buried with it. Reviewing media footage of the attack by Polaris, Steel was able to track down the thief and the wedding ring. Bess's body was exhumed and reburied with the ring, letting her soul rest. John and Natasha fixed up the family home, good as new, before leaving it forever.
A Fresh Start in Jersey City
Steel relocated to Jersey City with Natasha to begin a new life in a new city. He built a new suit of armor that was significantly less powerful than the previous one, but one that featured the return of an S-shield. He decided to sacrifice strength for mobility, as this suit was more easily compact, abandoning teleporting fearing an incident similar to the one involving the Demon Armour. He also started work at a hospital, alongside Amanda Quick. His job involved designing medical equipment, under the coordination of the hospital administrator, Dr. Villain. On his first day in his new city, he met the local law enforcement, a police captain named Margot Fields.
Steel quickly became suspicious of Dr. Villain when he found a monster lurking in the sewers beneath the hospital. He also discovered being a parent to Natasha was more than what he expected, particularly after she met a strange boy named Boris. The two kids even stole his armor and got into trouble. Steel recovered the remains of the creature for Villain to examine.
John tried to get closer to Doctor Quick. Margot told him she suspected Quick had been targeted by an assassin to get at Steel. This ended up being true, as a killer named Skorpio goaded Steel into fighting. In the midst of the fight, Steel teleported to the white zone, and was forced to grapple with the Demon Armour until teleporting to Villain's office. Villain removed a microchip from Steel's body that he claimed was the source of his ability to teleport. What Steel did not know was that Villain was the one who hired Skorpio, hoping to draw media attention by more conflicts involving Steel.
Villain was subsequently kidnapped by an African warlord and Steel had to go rescue him. He joined up with the Question to free Villain. While in Africa, Steel met up with Double and asked him to track down Hazard for him. On the way back to Jersey City, he stopped off in D.C. to visit Col. Weston in prison, asking if he knew anything about the microchip that had been implanted in him. Weston denied any knowledge of the chip. Hazard contacted Steel and claimed he knew nothing about it and that he was no longer interested in Steel. Unknown to Irons, his brother Clay, assumed dead, had come to Jersey City to settle some scores under the name Crash.
Steel designed a new hammer to augment the new armor. At the same time, Natasha was beaten up by a creep at her school named Kilo after she refused to sleep with him. Kilo was found dead the next day. Margot brought John in for questioning. He admitted to confronting Kilo, but said he did not kill him, and the D.A. had no choice but to let him go for lack of evidence. Double, Crash, and Skorpio all confronted Kilo but none of them killed him either, but Skorpio discovered the real killer was Doctor Villain.
Crash kept an eye on Nat from a distance. Steel helped deliver a baby before Irons had a date with Doctor Quick. After getting lost driving in the city, they are pulled over by racist white cops who pull John Henry out of the car and beat him senseless. They let the pair go after stealing John's flight boots from the car. Amanda drove them to the hospital, where Steel learned that Boris was HIV positive, and Amanda learned that Skorpio was actually a doctor at the hospital, but she did not tell Steel.
Unnerved by strange events, Steel decided to go to Metropolis to see if Superman had any answers. Superman, the Man of Energy, met up with him and explained that super-powered beings all over the planet were having problems with their powers. When he zipped out, he created an EMP pulse that shorted out Steel's boots, causing him to plummet to the streets of Metropolis. He was not badly injured, and decided to stick around briefly. He had a talk with Lois Lane about Amanda before having to go off and help the rest of the world's heroes. Afterwards, exhausted, he returns home to Natasha and Boris.
John decided to settle matters with the police who beat him up and stole his flight boots. Locating the right township, he dropped by the police department and was immediately placed under arrest. The two officers in question had recently been murdered by Crash and Irons was a suspect. Margot arrived from Jersey City to get John out of jail, citing he was in Metropolis when the murders occurred. The police insist on keeping his flight boots, however, as one of the officers had kept the pair he stole and now they were missing. They later return the boots in pieces, telling him no charges were being pressed. Having repressed all the anger over the incident, John finally lost control. He smashed his entire kitchen in a violent burst of rage.
Things keep getting more complicated. First, Superboy arrived in town to ask Natasha out on a date. John Henry has a talk to Boris while they are gone, who admits he has feelings for Nat but would never act on them because of his condition. John Henry was trying to settle his feelings for Amanda, unaware that she has just slept with Skorpio, despite knowing he was a killer. Steel pulled Superboy from the date to help him stop a runaway train. Much to his relief, Natasha was not interested in pursuing a relationship with Superboy, because she realized he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend, Tana Moon.
When Christmas rolled around, Nat wished to go see her family. Steel arranged for Double to take her to them, while he swung by New York City. He encountered a racist jeweller who would not serve him before stopping by Warriors to chat with Guy Gardner. Of all people, Gardner convinced him to go to Amanda straight away and tell her how he felt. Steel did just that and Amanda admitted she loved him, too.
Steel was notified by a man named Cardinal that Crash was the one who took his flight boots. Crash planned on ridding Jersey City of crime by controlling the criminal element. Steel was still unaware Crash was his brother when he confronted him. He was then asked by Doctor Villain to bring a heart transplant to the hospital. Along the way, he was attacked by Deadline, who was hired to destroy the heart being rushed to a Mafia Don. Steel fought him off and the transplant was successful, though Skorpio killed the man shortly thereafter.
Skorpio, angry at Steel for "stealing" Amanda, contacted Crash and promised to help him get Steel's attention. Crash did not know the details, and was shocked and angry when Skorpio poisoned Natasha. Steel used an EMP pulse to knock all his hoods out of the air before confronting Crash, realizing finally it was his brother. Skorpio's poison had no antidote, but required a complete blood transfusion. His plan had been to leave Steel at Crash's mercy, but instead Crash volunteered for the transfusion to save Steel's daughter. Steel battled Skorpio, who admitted working for Doctor Villain. Steel refused to kill him, but had Skorpio and Villain arrested. Amanda was arrested as well for not disclosing what she knew about Skorpio. Nat recovered and John was appointed the new hospital administrator.
JLA and the Men of Steel
Steel was called on to assist Superman Red, Superman Blue and many other heroes do battle with the Millennium Giants. Shortly after the battle, Steel was asked to join the recently reformed JLA. Superman chose Steel as part of a mass recruitment drive in response to Batman's concern that the League had too many hard-hitters and needed more intellectual members. Although Steel initially doubted his value in dealing with League-level threats, he became a worthy asset to the team, even serving as the leader of the JLA left in the past during the attack by Solaris. He stayed on as a supporting member for quite some time.
Steel did not stay with the hospital long, but soon relocated with Nat to Metropolis to run his own workshop there, called Steelworks, developing non-lethal weapons and equipment for the Special Crimes Unit and other outfits.
Irons and Superman became partners of a sort, helping him build a new Fortress of Solitude. Superman eventually decided to reveal his secret identity to his partner, but John had already deduced it. Nevertheless, he was honoured to have Superman's full trust.
During the Imperiex War, Steel was essentially killed and his soul claimed by the Black Racer, but he was brought back when he was used to animate the Entropy Aegis, an alien armor created on the evil planet, Apokolips. The Aegis proved a valuable asset in the final stand against Imperiex and Brainiac 13, but Superman was forced to engage Darkseid in single combat to arrange for Steel to be transferred out of the armor when it nearly consumed his soul.
During his retirement, Irons made a suit of armor for Nat, who became the new Steel. Although he was no longer actively fighting crime, he remained an important ally of Superman. He unintentionally usurped the position of Emil Hamilton as Superman's technology guru, one of several developments that led to the emergence of Ruin.
Irons donned his armor once more in the wake of the Battle of Metropolis. Along with most of Earth's heroes united, Steel helped defeat the Secret Society of Super Villains in Superman's city, but has become extremely bitter about life and what he felt was the self-absorbed narcissism of Earth's superhero community.
During the clean up of the disaster, John baited his Nat into an argument when he prevented her from leaving Metropolis in order to join the Teen Titans. John refused to let her go and ordered her to continue collecting all the debris in the city, culminating in him destroying her armor.
He later identified a recently discovered corpse as that of a Lex Luthor from a parallel universe, exonerating the real Lex Luthor from all of his recent crimes.
A week later, at his Steelworks facilities, John was hallucinating due to the effects of an unknown metabolic toxin. Irons' flesh appeared to be in the middle of transforming into metal just before the lab exploded.
With the help of Kala Avasti from S.T.A.R. Labs, John learned that he was injected with a small dosage of Lex Luthor's new exo-gene therapy, causing his skin to mutate into stainless steel and back again. He returned to Steelworks to find Natasha attempting, and failing, to build a new suit. She then claimed he is a hypocrite for accepting Lex's exo-gene treatment, not aware of the truth.
Three days and two nights later, Irons transformed into a man of living steel, and appeared at a party held by Lex Luthor. In a rage, he attacked Luthor, demanding to see Natasha and threatening or endangering anyone that got in his way. However, Natasha herself soon appeared to stop John before he killed Luthor. John, still enraged, was then beaten by Natasha until he came to his senses. Although conceding that Natasha was right to stop him from killing Luthor, he maintained that he was also justified. He asked Natasha to "give it up, come home", who responded by punching John repeatedly, sending him flying into the Metropolis Bay.
He resurfaced several weeks later, having built a new suit of armor for Natasha, to make up for his behaviour towards her. He broke down emotionally when he realized that it was too late to make amends.
Irons returned to active duty and discovered from Kala that the exo-gene therapy allowed Luthor to take away any powers he has given out. He shared his suspicions with the Teen Titans and a former test subject who had his powers stripped away.
Investigating the Everyman Project along with Doctor Mid-Nite, Beast Boy, and Kala on Thanksgiving, John discovered that his metal skin was peeling off, and the therapy granted powers only for a limited time before they disappeared completely.
After Natasha was captured by Luthor, Irons, in his full armor, led the Teen Titans, consisting of Raven, Beast Boy, Aquagirl, and Offspring in an open assault on LexCorp. After defeating armed robot guards and Infinity Inc., Irons, with his armor destroyed, engaged Luthor in battle. However, Luthor gained similar abilities to Superman and thrashed Irons. Natasha used Irons' sledgehammer to create an EMP that shut down Luthor's exo-gene and John defeated him. John and Natasha later re-establish Steelworks.
Main article: Convergence
Mr. Irons would later be caught up in Brainiac's trans-reality experiment along with his niece and nephew Jemahl and Natasha Irons, as well as Prof. Hamilton well before the Zero Hour event occurred.
While everyone else at Ironworks were busy testing samples of technoorganic nano-particles extracted from the dome surrounding Metropolis on a pet feline called Allie Cat, Steel was out on patrol keeping the section of Metropolis that was snatched by their captor's machines safe from various criminals using the chaos to their advantage. Such as Lexcorp-Renegades fighting over territory in his neighborhood, but just as he finishes cleaning house the power behind their confinement delivers his ultimatum to the bottled reality sections.
Cutting power to the dampeners which neutralize the special abilities of the various habitats superhuman residents, the criminal Parasite goes on a rampage after being trounced by Jemahl for stealing a TV. Right around the time Telos pits Steel's crew and the repowered crazed supervillain against Gen 13.
John Henry suffers critical injury during the life & death melee as his niece Natasha jumps into the fray, knowing full well that John is exhausted from fighting twenty of Luthor's former security detail and maintaining the peace in Southside for the past year alone. Natasha was able to rescue her comatose parental surrogate and wisk him back to headquarters while Rudy distracted the Gen-Actives long enough for her to getaway clean. But the injuries he received when he intercepted the combined attack of Rainmaker, Burnout and Freefall meant for his kin were so extreme that Professor Emil Hamilton's deep scans back at Ironworks showed he had incurred skeletal & neural complications. Indicating that even if Steel managed to wake up, he'd never be able to walk again.
As he regained consciousness, John was stunned to find himself immobile, being unable to feel let alone stand upright on his own. Hamilton states to John that he was paralyzed due to near fatal traction only to lose his grip on Allie Cat while the two converses. Seeing the feline's transformed state, John Henry has an epiphany.
In order to save his niece, save everyone in the captured city. Steel surmised he would have to take on his hero name; literally as it happens. The professor was adamant in his rebuttal as such a procedure was highly theoretical compared to experiments run on a lower lifeform. But John Henry Irons copped that they were out of time and out of options, and if he did nothing everyone would end up doomed without his help. With a heavy heart, Hamilton flipped the switch on the gene splicing device and John was forever transformed.
He found jubilation in his new self as the microtechnology coursing through him sharpened all of Steel's natural physical utilities. As he steadily rediscovered what all he could really do, John returned to the battle to help his family.
Irons would find his niece & nephew hanging back while their adversaries, the Gen 13 crew, still fought through a losing battle with the Parasite. Whom had managed to steal much of their power, weakening them in the process. As they managed to overcome them and were just as set to overwhelm the two, Steel intervened showing off his newfound powers in all their glory. The two teams would fight on for a little while longer until they wised up and realized neither side was the real enemy, both crews opted to work together for the purpose of opposing a shared enemy. Now suffused with the micro-machinery their assailant, Steel used his hammer to ring the doorbell putting their mystery antagonist on notice. But in doing so, the Gen Actives are swept away in portals displacing them to parts unknown. Leaving Steel, Jem and Nat utterly confused as to what'd happened as well as uncertain of what is to come.
Powers and Abilities
Dome Tech Transfusion: After incurring near fatal inquiry during Convergence, John had his entire physiology surgically modified with alien techno-organics to both restore and improve himself dramatically. Now a nanomechanical entity, John Henry had once again become a literal Man of Steel.
- Genius Level Intellect
- Computer Operation
- Expert Combatant
- Steel Power Armor: Steel's powers vary in accordance with what hardware is currently available to him. He has modified the original weapons systems and suit several times since its debut and continues to refine its abilities. With his engineering, physics and ballistics knowledge, it is conceivable that the suit may potentially possess even greater power in the future.
- Energy Resistance: Steel has immune systems in his armor to help him fight off computer viruses. This system also protects him against mind control agents like Queen Bee's hypnotic pollen.
- Radioscopic Scans: His armor is able to analyze photonic energy given off from an object through readouts the armor gives.
- Superhuman Durability: The suit's ability to impart a resistance to physical injury was quite considerable before the addition of the inertial dampening field. Small arms fire was generally not a threat but larger firearms could prove dangerous. All of the suits have performed admirably considering Steel's opponents, who include the Cyborg Superman and Metallo.
- Superhuman Strength
- Jet Boots: With what are probably his greatest creations, the flight protocols for his armor are every engineer's dream. The distance that can be traveled before refueling is unknown, but Steel has made a documented trip of at least 1,500 miles before touching down again. It has been determined, by observation, that Steel can reach speeds just short of the speed of sound, which is 700+ miles per hour.
- Kinetic Hammer
- Rivet Cannon: This short range weapon has fired red-hot rivets similar to those used in construction.
- Priest's run on Steel focuses heavily on themes of racism.
- Steel's real name is based on the folk hero, John Henry
- John has been defined as a warrior in the eyes of the Black Racer.
- Previously, during the 52 event, John Henry Irons was altered by the Everyman Project and had become composed of stainless steel due to Lex Luthor tampering with John's DNA without John's consent. Eventually, the metal skin peeled off completely, leaving him again a normal human.
- John's armor can only be interrupted for 30 seconds at a time. This interruption can come from viruses, mind control, electrical pulses and more.
- Computerized Communications and Scanning Array (CCSA) is an integral to the armor's technological advantages. The onboard computer comes equipped with high density, flash memory protocols for suit operation, including weapons management, power management, gyroscopic balancing, and analysis of electromagnetic phenomena.
- 415 Appearances of John Henry Irons (New Earth)
- 63 Images featuring John Henry Irons (New Earth)
- 8 Quotations by or about John Henry Irons (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: John Henry Irons (New Earth)
- Steel (Volume 2) #0
- Superman: The Man of Steel #22
- Superman: The Man of Steel #23
- Action Comics #689
- Superman: The Man of Steel #24
- Superman: The Man of Steel #25
- Superman (Volume 2) #81
- Adventures of Superman #504
- Action Comics #691
- Superman: The Man of Steel #26
- Superman (Volume 2) #82
- Adventures of Superman #505
- Superman: The Man of Steel #28
- Steel (Volume 2) #1
- Steel (Volume 2) #2
- Steel (Volume 2) #3–5
- Steel (Volume 2) #6–7
- Steel (Volume 2) #8
- Steel (Volume 2) #9
- Steel (Volume 2) #10
- Steel (Volume 2) #11–13
- Steel (Volume 2) #14–16
- Steel (Volume 2) #17–19
- Steel (Volume 2) #20
- Steel (Volume 2) #21
- Adventures of Superman #529
- Superman (Volume 2) #107
- Steel (Volume 2) #22
- Superman (Volume 2) #108
- Adventures of Superman #531
- Steel (Volume 2) #23–27
- Steel (Volume 2) #28
- Steel (Volume 2) #29
- Steel (Volume 2) #30
- Steel (Volume 2) #31
- Steel (Volume 2) #33
- Steel (Volume 2) #34
- Steel (Volume 2) #35
- Steel (Volume 2) #36
- Steel (Volume 2) #37
- Steel (Volume 2) #38
- Steel (Volume 2) #39
- Steel (Volume 2) #40
- Steel (Volume 2) #41
- Steel (Volume 2) #42
- Steel (Volume 2) #43
- Steel (Volume 2) #44
- Steel (Volume 2) #45
- Steel (Volume 2) #46
- Steel (Volume 2) #47
- Steel (Volume 2) #48–49
- Steel (Volume 2) #51
- Steel (Volume 2) #52
- Steel (Volume 2) #50
- Superman: The Man of Steel #96
- Superman: The Man of Steel #100
- Superman: The Man of Steel #114
- Superman #714
- Convergence #1
- Convergence: Superman: The Man of Steel #1
- Convergence #4
- Convergence: Superman: The Man of Steel #2
- 52 #4
- 52 #29
- 52 #8
- 52 #14
- 52 #3
- Steel (Volume 2) #1
- Steel (Volume 2) #4
- Superman: The Man of Steel #28
- 52 (Volume 40) #
- 52 #1
- Superman: The Man of Steel #116
|Justice League member|
This character is or was a member of the Justice League of America, or the Justice League in any of its various incarnations, sworn by a duty to act as guardians of America and the world by using their skills and/or superpowers to protect Earth from both interstellar and domestic threats.
Superman Family member
Suicide Squad member