Welcome back! It’s been a very long time since I took a look at a DC comic series. In fact, the last one, and for that fact only one, I did was for Sherlock Holmes back on March 28th 2013. I did talk about some of their characters when I covered the Marvel and DC crossovers that took place in the 1970’s, but that was not all about one of their homegrown heroes so I think its time to give them another look. Growing up I was a comic reader as I am sure you could have all guessed by now, but I always found myself reading more Marvel than DC. Given the option back then of reading Superman or Spider-Man, I would choose Spider-Man hands down. It’s not to say I didn’t read my fair share of DC issues, I just couldn’t get into the characters as much as I could Marvel’s. So one year when I was in my mid 20’s I decided to go out and buy a bunch of DC comics to read on a trip I was planning with my then girlfriend, Jennifer, who was from a small village called Oswego in Illinois. We were going to see her family who all still lived there. So I went to Mavericks and Bell, Book And Comic and grabbed some older issues of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and found an issue # 1 for a super hero I had never heard of called STEEL The Indestructible Man that was only .50. So I took the chance on it and packed them with the rest of my luggage and looked forward to a great trip with my girl. I met Jennifer at work as both of us worked for Blockbuster Video at the time. While at different stores, we met up thanks to the fact BBV wanted to use the actual cover art for the DVDs they were renting out and not just generic logo inserts like they had been. So they had a team of two employees from every store in the district go from store to store and change them over. I worked at the store on Smithville and was chosen to be one of the team as was Jennifer from her store, and from the start I was considered the MVP of the team because I was a fast scanner and cover changer and hit it off with everyone else selected including Jennifer. By the end of the change over we went on our first date to see the movie Fantastic Four. But anyways, I always looked forward to our trips to Oswego as the car ride was a fun time that we would make late at night with music on the radio from mix CDs I made and trips to 24 hour Starbucks for a quick coffee fix, all great memories. The town was also a really cool place and had the very small town feel to it were high school sports were important and small locally owned businesses were all over downtown. But it was also in the small town that I read the first issue of STEEL and found myself really liking the character who I would say was DC’s version of Captain America. So in this update I am going to revisit STEEL # 1 and read the other 4 issues in the series and see how in 2014 at the age of 34 I feel about this character. And while Jennifer and I split up we still remain close friends to this day, and I still look at her in great respect and still have great memories of all the trips and adventures we went on.
Before I get into STEEL, I have to share with you readers a film I saw for the first time in April 2014 that could be one of the best/worst low budget horror films I have ever seen called Night Of The Demon. The film is not about Demons at all; it’s about a pissed off Bigfoot who murders anyone who dares get in his way! The film was released in 1980 and was directed by James C. Wasson, who on IMDB only has this film linked to his name, and stars Michael Cutt, Melanie Graham and stuntman Shane Dixon as The Bigfoot. Dixon went on to do stunts for many other great films like Lethal Weapon 1, 3 & 4, Rambo III, They Live, The Hunt For Red October, Maniac Cop 2-3, Death Warrant, Night Of The Demons 2, Godzilla and so many more. The guy was all over the place in Hollywood but this role as Bigfoot for me is his crown jewel. Sadly Dixon passed away in 1999 from cancer so while he may be gone his film work will live on for the world to enjoy. The film follows a professor and some of his students going into the woods where people have gone missing and a Bigfoot has been spotted, but they should have never have entered those woods because Bigfoot is on the prowl and doesn’t like it when people enter his homeland. The film ends with a clash between the humans and the Bigfoot that will leave you breathless with horror and laughter. The film is so over the top that I found myself drawn into it and truly enjoying every blood soaked bad acting moment. In the film Bigfoot does so many messed up things. From yanking a person’s penis off to ripping out someone’s guts and swinging them around a room, you realize that this Bigfoot plays for keeps. I don’t want to give away to much of the “plot” of this film because I really think if you like cheesy horror films then you should check this one out. For those wanting a little more push to see the film, watch James Rolfe’s Monster Madness review of the film for his 2010 line up that dealt with Campy Cult films. At some point I am hoping that I can get a custom comic book made that would act as a sequel to the film, and if I can pull it off, keep your eyes open because I will 100% review it for Rotten Ink. The film was also part of England’s Video Nasty list for all the blood and guts and here in the US can be found on DVD and VHS for those wanting to watch its amazing goodness. So this summer if you’re walking through the woods, for God’s sake please keep an eye out for Bigfoot because if this film has taught me anything, it’s that he hates it when people mess in his woods!
Now it’s main event time. We have talked about Jen and Oswego as well as a killer Bigfoot, but now it’s time for STEEL! As I said I have read issue 1 in the past and found it very entertaining so I am very hyped to read the rest of the series and see how his story pans out. I want to remind my readers I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, it’s entertainment value and it’s art and story. And I want to thank an Ebay seller for having the full set for sale dirt cheap. So with that let’s go and fight the good fight with STEEL.
STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 1 ***
Released in 1978 Cover Price .35 DC Comics #1 of 5
Hank Heywood along with his soon to be father in-law Dr. Giles are in Germany in 1939 as part of a medical conference and are run out when Hank saves an old man from Nazi thugs and Giles claim to make artificial organs gets sneers. When returning home Hank finds that his fiancé Gloria has bad news as Hitler’s army has invaded Poland, and this sets Hank off who goes and joins the Marines in order to help out in the coming war. During his time at boot camp Hank stops some Nazi spies but during the attack he is blown up with dynamite. Hank is in bad shape with broken bones, a lung gone and bad burns all over his body. He turns to Dr. Giles and his artificial organs and is rebuilt. Hank gets a new robo-lung, steel for bones, mechanical joints and even a devices to help his heart. When returning to the military, Hank must keep Giles’ secret that he used him as a test subject and is forced to take a desk job. Hank can’t just sit by knowing that he now has all these powers and makes a red, white and blue steel suit and calls himself STEEL! Meanwhile the Nazi’s have sent over a super powered goofy suited super solider named Baron Death who is to try and see if some new weapons could help defeat the Americans. Hank, dressed as STEEL, sneaks into an armory to take some weapons to upgrade for his one man war on Nazi’s and finds a group that was there to steal from the army as well and makes quick work of them, and by doing this he makes an oath to himself that he will do all he can to defeat Hitler’s crazed army and defeat Baron Death!
I have to start off by saying STEEL is just as good as I remember it, and in fact issue # 1 is even a little better than I remember. The plot in issue one is pretty standard World War II stuff and has an American who wants to do what he can to help in the war with the Nazi’s. After an accident he is left broken until, by a medical miracle, he is fixed and is better than before cause now he has super human strength. In fact the best way to describe this plot is just mix Captain America, RoboCop, Six Million Dollar Man and a touch of The Weapon X Project into a DC Comic stew and poof, out would pop STEEL. Hank Heywood is a strong headed college student who really wears his heart on his sleeve as he acts when he sees that something is wrong, even after being blown up and is at deaths door he still was more worried about helping in the war than his own health. As STEEL, he is a little more cocky and knows that his body can take all types of damage and almost seems as if when dressed up he doesn’t even fear death. STEEL is pretty strong and can easily lift half a ton as well as hold his breath under water for 30 minutes. Dr. Giles is your typical old scientist/doctor who has discovered a “cure” for many medical issues but is laughed at because it all seems too extreme. He also clearly loves his daughter Gloria and respects his soon to be son in-law. Gloria is a complainer and seems to be on Hank’s need to be a hero like white is on rice. She is kind of annoying and my least favorite character. Baron Death is a goofy looking bad guy with a yellow and purple suit on and a black and yellow mask. He is only in this issue for a few panels, and I look forward to seeing STEEL stomp him into the mud. The comic’s art is done by Don Heck and really has that classic 70’s looking DC comic style, making it feel just right. Heck’s work is great in this issue as is the cover that I find very eye catching. I can’t wait to read issue two for the first time and hope it holds the charm and old timey feel of this issue. So with no more wait let’s charge into issue # 2!
STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 2 **1/2
Released in 1978 Cover Price .35 DC Comics #2 of 5
Lots of things have been going on in Hank’s life since he took on the alter ego of STEEL. For one he is trying to keep it a secret from Gloria and her father, and second he is trying to show the Army that as STEEL he could help them win the coming war with the Nazi’s. Meanwhile across town a scientist is ambushed by Baron Toten and Bruno, two Nazi spies living in America who shove him into a machine he created that gives animated life to objects like rocks and jewels. After falling into the machine, the scientist is turned into a blue skinned monster that can animate matter all around him into creatures. His name is The Mineral Master! While trying to impress the army with his skills STEEL is treated as a joke and a showman by the ones he is trying to impress and is left alone with his own angry thoughts, but his thoughts are broken when he finds Mineral Master in a hanger. The two have a fight that leaves STEEL one the losing end. Returning to desk work as Hank he hears Mineral Master’s voice over the radio as the crazed miracle maker has taken over a radio show. He changes to STEEL and rushes to the station and has a battle that in the end leaves Mineral Master weak and STEEL wondering when the time will come when he has to pick war or his love for Gloria.
This second issue is good but not as good as the original. While the first issue had a full fledged classic superhero feel to it, this second issue while good seemed a little forced and things changed in a kind of goofy way. Dr. Giles seems to have an issue that if Hank is STEEL, that’s a bad thing, Now if Giles is as smart as he is supposed to be, I cannot see how he couldn’t know that they are the same person. Plus in this issue Dr. Giles takes a back seat and is barely in it. Gloria is as annoying as ever just whining about war and how she doesn’t want Hank near it. Hank/STEEL is as noble as ever and really wants the green light from the army so that he can go overseas and kick some Nazi butt. Plus I do like in this issue while he plays the straight laced superhero for a brief time, he is telling jokes and making fun of his foe to anger them. Speaking of foe, Mineral Master is much like Doctor Doom in the aspect that he knows what’s good for us all and what’s good is not fighting a war with The Nazi’s. Mineral also seems to hate the government but yet loves the United States and wants it to live in a perfect world. The first fight between STEEL and Mineral shows just how powerful they both are and how while they both have different strengths they are very much equals. That’s why the second fight is more suspenseful as it makes you wonder just how STEEL will beat him. The only major downside to this issue is the fact that it’s getting a little eye rolling at this point with Gloria’s anti war feelings and the pro-war we have to stop them speeches of STEEL. We get it and know how each of them feels and don’t need to be force feed it over and over. I also would like to note that in issue # 2 I had many spots where the words are hard to read due to the ink being smudged and this made for some frustrated reading. The cover is pretty cool and shows action and almost has a monster comic feel to it. The art is done by Don Heck again and looks fantastic. Over all while not as great as the first issue, this one still was a fun and entertaining read. So let’s see what Issue 3 has to offer, shall we?
STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 3 **1/2
Released in 1978 Cover Price .35 DC Comics #3 of 5
STEEL arrives at a building that he has been called to by a newspaper owner named Edward Runyon just in time as a group of Chicago mobsters show up to end the guy’s life! STEEL makes short work of the gangsters that is until their giant fisted boss nicknamed Sledgehammer shows up and knocks STEEL into a bus and leaves as the police come to the rescue. STEEL gets free of the bus and has a talk with Runyon who tells him that once upon a time he and Sledgehammer were friends until the giant fisted freak was arrested for killing another kid on accident. STEEL tracks Sledgehammer to a rundown motel and takes him down and finds out the truth that he was there to kill Runyon because he is the one who turned him into the cops that lead to his arrest. Returning to base, Hank is upset and finds that Runyon is just as scummy as Hitler and questions why he even helped him, but his anger turns to sadness as he finds out the Dr. Giles has suffered a heart attack and he rushes to be by his bedside. Meanwhile Runyon is going on a date now with his girl but once more has caught the eye of a bad guy who has all types of gadgets and calls himself The Gadgeteer who robs him and his girl of all their wealth. After the crook leaves, it’s clear that Runyon’s woman has a crush on STEEL who she thinks will stop Gadgeteer and get her jewels back. When Hank gets to the hospital and talks to Gloria he finds out that her father had a heart attack while reading a story about STEEL that seemed to upset him and his final words before collapsing was Hank’s name!
Issue 3 is another fun issue that breaks the mold finally of WORLD WAR II drama and focuses on mobsters and home grown super baddies. STEEL this time around shows off some Batman type guns and even questions why he has given so much of his life to being a costumed hero. I love that aspect of the issue seeing how Hank is dealing with all the pressure of being STEEL and knowing that he has to save scumbags like Runyon from punishments they lead themselves to. I also like how the issue ends with a cliffhanger of Dr. Giles heart attack might be because of him finding out Hank and STEEL are the same person. Dr. Giles and Gloria both take a back seat in this issue and only come into play towards the end when Hank finds out he is in the hospital. Runyon is an ass who is a big shot around town that made his money by ratting out his one time friend for the reward money, and while a bad guy, he is not evil and for the most part has everything he wants money, power and women. Sledgehammer, the mob boss, is a pretty cool character that reminds me a lot of some Spider-Man villains like Hammerhead and Tombstone. Too bad he is beaten pretty fast and I am sure will never make another appearance in this short lived series. The second baddy is a waste. The Gadgeteer is soooooo lame. He wears a green spandex costume and has all types of silly little gadgets that he uses….I just can’t even waste my time talking about this goon. Speaking of Spider-Man, even the cover of this issue reminds me of a Spidey comic. I wonder if in some ways DC was trying to make STEEL a cross between Captain America and Spider-Man…makes me wonder. The issue’s artwork is once more done by Don Heck who does a fantastic job and makes the character come alive. Over all issue 3 is pretty good but nothing special and is getting closer to being just a plain silly comic with stuff like Gadgeteer leading the way to sudden dumbness. Well let’s see what is going to happen in issue four where we are going to find out about Dr. Giles’s heart attack as well as how will STEEL stop The Gadgeteer.
STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 4 **1/2
Released in 1978 Cover Price .35 DC Comics #4 of 5
At the hospital Hank finds out that if Dr. Gilescan make it through the night, he should be okay. He goes back to the base and gets caught in his STEEL outfit and is attacked by soldiers who think he is stealing government weapons! He breaks away and goes to Runyon’s office and makes a deal with him that if he takes out The Gadgeteer and gets back his and his girls riches, that in his paper he would run a pro-war piece about why America should get involved in the war against Hitler. Runyan agrees but has no intent of keeping his promise as STEEL goes after The Gadgeteer and finds him robbing an armored car. The two fight for a moment but the gadget using baddy gets away and the Cops blame STEEL for the robbery. STEEL breaks away and chases The Gadgeteer and once more fights him and just as he beats him The Gadgeteer tosses a grenade at our Hero, but things get bad as it explodes on his chest, and while he is alive the massive blows brings the Indestructible Man to his knees. It’s clear he needs help and his only hope is Dr. Giles who is in the hospital still!
This issue is a good solid comic, but the problem is that while good, it’s lost the classic hero charm that the first issue set in place. STEEL spends most the issue running around trying to find The Gadgeteer and once more goes to Runyon for a favor that he thinks he will actually honor. I will say that once more it’s nice to see STEEL doing something else besides talking about Hitler and the Nazi’s and focusing on a super villain that is a homegrown terror. STEEL also shows that he truly does care for Dr. Giles and his daughter Gloria as the Dr’s heartattack seems to really bother him. I can’t tell you how much I hate The Gadgeteer. He is a terrible character who reminds me of the worst Batman or Spider-Man villain whose only power is lame silly gadgets he uses. Even his back story is just so oh hum. I don’t understand why this character has been in two issues so far but Baron Death has only had a tiny part in the first issue and was never spoken of again. Once more Gloria and Dr. Giles have a smaller role and seem to take a backseat once more. While they are a big part of the over all story, I am fine with the smaller roles given to them. The art is done by Don Heck again and looks amazing, but this time around the cover is just so-so and not all that eye catching. This issue is good just not as good as the others in the series so far. The next issue is the end of STEEL’s solo run at DC and I can’t wait to see how they end the series..so let’s get to it.
STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 5 **1/2
Released in 1978 Cover Price .50 DC Comics #5 of 5
STEEL is injured and hitching a ride on a truck that has Olivia on board. She’s a young woman he went to college with who has a some medicine that can be used to help not only STEEL with his wounds but also help the now dying Dr. Giles. But the ride is cut short when a giant white furred swamp monster attacks the truck killing the driver, beating STEEL up and leaving him in quicksand and finally kidnapping Olivia. STEEL wakes up sinking deeper and deeper in the quicksand, and after freeing himself, he follows the track of the swamp monster to a mansion in the woods that belongs to the Hawk Brothers. Once inside, he finds it’s like a funhouse that has dangerous traps. Once he gets to the end of the line, that he gets to once he kicks out the glass to a giant aquarium he is stuck in, he finds that the monster is in fact one of the Hawk brothers who was once a silent film actor and now a mishappen monster and that the doctor down there is the other brother who watches after his brother hoping to find a cure. STEEL tangles with the beast and snaps its weak back with a well places karate chop and saves Olivia as the mansion comes falling down around them killing the brothers once and for all.
Well DC pulled the plug on this series and didn’t give it a full last issue as this one leaves itself wide open for an issue # 6 and nothing is settled with Dr. Giles at death’s door. The issue holds a little monster comic feel to it, and its nice to see a super hero fight a swamp monster and once more this formula reminds me for some reason of Marvel’s Man-Thing. STEEL in this issue is not as unbeatable as he has been in the past issues and for the most part is the underdog in the fight with the Hawk Swamp Monster. I also really liked the idea of him being trapped in the quicksand and having to use his special guns in order to save himself. The Hawk Brothers are more of the sad kind of bad guys as one brother is tormented by the accident that left the actor brother mangled and later a monster. While they are “bad,” they don’t have evil intentions. While mentioned Dr. Giles and Gloria do not appear in this issue, and by the end of this series all we really know is that he is going to die unless STEEL can get him this medicine. I really do hate the fact that DC just decided not to continue the series after this issue and find that when comic companies do this kind of stuff, it really shows a lack of respect to those fans who have bought every issue and are invested in the characters. I really wonder why they canceled the series. I am leaning toward poor sales. I just don’t think kids of 1978 really cared much for old style heroes who had a bone to pick with Hitler. I also find it funny that Baron Death is built up to be the series’ main bad guy and never even meets STEEL once. Sadly the only villain to show up twice in this series was the lame Gadgeteer. But out of all the baddies he fought in this series I would say my favorite would have to be The Hawk Brother Swamp Monster, just because well he was a white furred monster who put up a good fight till his spinal cord was karate chopped by STEEL. The whole series was drawn by Don Heck. I find myself really liking his style and feel he was perfect for making this comic come alive. The cover on the last issue is great and could have drawn in not only the super hero fans but also the horror comic kids. Over all I really enjoyed the series a lot and found that issue one really held up well after all these years of my first reading of it and that all the issues that followed while not as good were still very solid and fun. If you’re a fan of older school super heroes and are into World War II comic stories, then this comic would be up your alley, but if your looking for fast pace action and plots than I would say you would probably not enjoy this series at all. Below is some of Heck’s artwork that I find sums up the mood and feeling of the series pretty well.
So I would say that STEEL is a great comic series that holds lots of charm of classic super heroes and is filled with the American Pride and just old school Americana. So for those of you wondering what ever became of STEEL, let me sum it up for you real quick: he went on to join a team called The All-Star Squadron and did indeed made it and fought in World War II and was called Commander STEEL. When Hank retired as the hero, his grandchildren took up the mantel and after one of their deaths he returned as STEEL and died a hero setting off a device that killed the Super Villain Eclipso. So that was the dear old fate of this patriotic super hero. So next up we are going to cover a real life Egyptian feast so make sure you’re not late to dinner because it’s going to be a Blood Feast! Until next time, read a comic or two and enjoy life.