The Legacy of Commander Steel

Commander Steel + Steel II + Citizen Steel

Created by Don Heck & Gerry Conway
Steel created by Gerry Conway & Chuck Patton
Nathan Heywood created by Geoff Johns & Dale Eaglesham

Commander Steel I

NAME + ALIASES:
Henry Heywood, Steel I, Commander Steel

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Henry Heywood II (son, deceased), Henry Heywood III (grandson, deceased), Unnamed daughter-in-law (deceased)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
All-Star Squadron

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Steel v.1 #1 (March 1978)

Steel II

NAME + ALIASES:
Henry "Hank" Heywood III

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Henry Heywood II (father, deceased), unnamed mother (deceased), Henry Heywood (Commander Steel, grandfather, deceased)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice League of America

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984)

Citizen Steel

NAME + ALIASES:
Nathan Heywood

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Unnamed parents (deceased), Kirk (brother, deceased), Henry Heywood (Commander Steel, grandfather, deceased), Henry Heywood II (uncle, deceased), Henry "Hank" Heywood III (Steel II, cousin, deceased), numerous unnamed deceased relatives, Nicole (cousin), numerous unnamed cousins

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice Society of America, JSA All-Stars

FIRST APPEARANCE:
As Nathan: Justice Society of America v.3 #2 (Feb. 2007)
As Citizen Steel:
Justice Society of America v.3 #7 (Sept. 2007)

History

Cover of Steel the Indestructible Man #1

In college Hank Heywood was a talented biology student working with Dr. Gilbert Giles to develop a bioretardant formula. His research was cut short when he joined the Marines after Hitler invaded Poland in 1938. Defending his military base against saboteurs, he was caught in an explosion that left him near death and ravaged his body. In order to survive, he offered himself to Dr. Giles as a human guinea pig. Over the next several weeks Dr. Giles rebuilt him from the skeleton up, using steel alloy to replace damaged muscle, bone and skin. Micro-joints enabled the steel to move like normal human organs. Discovering that the surgery had given him fantastic powers, he developed a matching steel alloy suit and named himself Steel, the Indestructible Man. (Steel #1)

Over the next several months he battled Nazis at home and abroad, and in 1940 he was sent to kidnap Adolph Hitler. Steel was instead captured by Baron Blitzkrieg and put in a concentration camp. They brainwashed him and sent him to England to assassinate Winston Churchill, but the All-Star Squadron intervened and snapped him out of it. President Roosevelt rechristened him Commander Steel, and he joined the All-Star Squadron. He would stay with the team until 1941, when he again went behind enemy lines to rescue the prisoner of war husband of his ex-fiance. The result of this mission is unknown. (All-Star Squadron #8-9)

A Legacy of Pain

Hank retired from being a superhero, serving as an Air Force general and later an industrialist. He had a son who died in Vietnam, and Hank took custody of his grandson Hank Heywood III. (Hank's mother had also died of breast cancer a year after her husband.) Hank was raised by his grandfather and mentored by his father's best friend, Dale Gunn.

Hank falls to Professor Ivo (Justice League of America #260)

Over the years, Hank Sr., became mentally unstable. In his paranoia, he began subjecting his grandson to years of painful operations to duplicate those that had created Commander Steel. He justified this cruelty by professing to wanting to spare his grandson the death that had befallen his son in Vietnam. These operations replaced all of Heywood's bones with case-hardened steel supports and supplemented his musculature with hydraulic motors that increased his strength and stamina. Though he was powerful, young Hank lived with intense daily pain.

Once the procedures were complete he named his grandson Steel II. He learned that the Justice League had recently disbanded and offered the new team a headquarters in his "Bunker"in Detroit — with one condition: that the team accept his grandson as a member and tutor him in the use of his superhuman abilities. Without their satellite headquarters, the League quickly accepted Commander Steel's offer. (Justice League of America Annual #2)

Despite the great resentment toward his grandfather, Steel proved an eager student and served the League well in its struggles against the Cadre, (Justice League of America #233-236) Anton Allegro, (#237-239) and Amazo. (#241-243) Steel's feud with his grandfather came to a head during the so-called Crisis, when the elder Heywood decided that the newly reformed Justice League was influencing Hank to rebel against his grandfather's wishes. (#244) The Heywoods fought a terrific battle that ended when Steel was catapulted through a time warp to the far future. After an encounter with the JLA's old foe, the Lord of Time, Steel returned to the present and discovered that his grandfather had evicted the JLA from the Bunker. (#245-246)

During Darkseid's attempt to rob the Earth of its "legends," Steel was attacked and mortally injured by one of Professor Ivo's androids. (Justice League of America #260) Hank was believed dead by everyone, but instead his grandfather kept him on life support for a time. Regardless, he was fully destroyed by the revenge-mad Despero. (Justice League America #37) Sadly, Hank's dead form has twice been resurrected. (JLA Annual #2, Martian Manhunter #12)

Commander Steel himself came out of retirement to lead a band of super-heroes on a mission to kill Eclipso, the god of vengeance. The mission turned into a massacre, and Steel was murdered by Eclipso. (Eclipso #11-13)

Nathan Heywood defeats Reichsmark. From Justice Society of America v.3 #3 (2007); art by Dale Eaglesham and Ruy José.
Citizen Steel on an alternate cover for Justice Society of America v.3 #7. Art by Alex Ross.

Forged. From Justice Society of America v.3 #7 (2007).

Citizen Steel: Legacy or Curse?

Another one of Hank Heywood's grandsons, Nathan Heywood was a hero in his own right — a star quarterback for Ohio State. That was, until a knee injury ended his career. Nathan's leg developed an undiagnosed infection and had to be amputated. (Justice Society of America v.3 #3)

With his leg, so disappeared the accolades of Nathan's family. Nathan became somewhat withdrawn, brooding over the way his family had always idolized their heroes, his grandfather and cousin, and even Nathan himself as a football star.

Nathan had no way of knowing that his grandfather's legacy would haunt him as well. At a reunion celebration, the Heywood family was targeted by a metahuman supremacist group called the Fourth Reich. The Reich was on a campaign to eradicate the legacies of heroes who wore symbols of American patriotism (such as Liberty Belle and Mister America). Nathan watched as the Reich slaughtered his mother and brother, Kirk. But before they could finish the job, the Reich were stopped by Hawkman. Nathan found himself head-to-head against the German villain Reichsmark, who claimed that his own metallic form was derived from Commander Steel's own body. (#2)

While fighting, Nathan stabbed Reichsmark through the mouth. Metallic blood ran over Nathan's body and was absorbed by his skin. His body went into shock and he was taken to JSA headquarters where he was put under the care of Dr. Mid-Nite. (#3) While comatose, his entire body transmuted into organic steel and grew a new metal leg. (#4)

When Nathan awoke in Dr. Mid-Nite's lab, he discovered he possessed immense strength and his skin bore a sort of sheen. This news did little to soothe him; he had lost scores of family members and was trapped in a new body devoid of the sense of touch. Dr. Mid-Nite had some good news, however: several of his younger family members had also survived.

Every move that Nathan made was powerful and destructive. To reduce the effects of this, Mr. Terrific devised a way to restrict his movements. The process involved encasing Nathan in a steel mold and forming a metal shell around his body. This "second skin," with the tensile strength of over 280,000 pounds per square inch, would restrict his movements and cut his strength by half.

When he emerged from the forge, Nathan was angered to find that Terrific had put him in a replica of his grandfather's Commander Steel costume. But before he had time to argue, Power Girl entered with news that the Justice Society had located a supremacist cell sympathetic to the Fourth Reich. Nathan had his chance for vengeance and the JSA rounded up the supremacists. Power Girl dubbed him Citizen Steel, and he joined the Justice Society. The name was Nathan's own assertion that he was no military man, just a normal civilian. (#7)

Heywood continued to look after the remnants of his family but found it difficult to form personal relationships. He fell for Hannah Carson, a girl he'd saved. Despite their feelings, his true condition was shocking to her. (JSA 80-Page Giant 2011 #1)

When the JSA split into two teams, Nathan went with the new JSA All-Stars. (JSA All-Stars #1) That team operated for a brief time until they remerged and he returned to the main team. (Justice Society of America v.3 #52)

This timeline may no longer exist. DC rebooted its universe in 2011 to launch the "New 52." That universe's Earth 2 has a hero called Captain Steel.

Notes

The third man to take the name Steel was John Henry Irons, a close ally of Superman's.

+ Powers

Both Commander Steel and his grandson Hank were a skilled fighters and a trained athletes. In addition, their steel-alloy body frames gave them superhuman strength (able to lift half a ton) and speed. The micro-motors in their joints allowed them to leap great distances. The combined subdermal layer of steel in their body and the armor-mesh of their uniforms made them virtually indestructible. Commander Steel sometimes carried a modified flare-gun and military rifle.

Though their operations that transformed them were slightly different, the younger Steel's reconstructed body also granted him enhanced hearing and vision, which could register infrared.

Citizen Steel's body is similarly composed of an organic steel, though the difference between it and his cousin's unclear. He possesses immense strength and invulnerability. To protect the environment around him, Nathan wears a uniform made of industrial steel which has the tensile strength of over 280,000 pounds per square inch. The uniform restricts his movements and cuts his strength by half. Nathan's organic steel apprently allows him to regenerate body parts, and has also infused his skin, giving it a sheen. The steel also coats his nerves, deadening his sense of touch (and pain).

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

  • All-Star Squadron 8-25, 27, 31, 32, 38, 50, Annual #2
  • Eclipso #11-13
  • Infinity, Inc. #19
  • Justice League of America #207-209, 235, 237, 243-246, 255, 260, 261, Annual #2

» SERIES:

  • Steel the Indestructible Man, 5 issues (1978)
  • Justice League of America #233-260 + Annual #2 (1984-87)
  • Justice Society of America v.3 (2007-2011)
  • JSA All-Stars, 18 issues (2010–11)

» SEE ALSO: