“The Man of Steel” (THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #500, 1993)
When Superman died in battle with Doomsday, Metropolis needed a new hero to continue his legacy. Although his identity was originally shrouded in secrecy, John Henry Irons quickly emerged as the new Man of Steel, covered in armor that approximated Superman’s super-strength and power of flight.
He also wielded a giant hammer against his enemies. Although there were three other heroes who claimed Superman’s title, Irons was the one who most exhibited the original Man of Steel’s empathy and compassion, earning him the trust of Superman’s friends Lois Lane and Perry White.
“The Reign of the Supermen” (THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #500-504, SUPERMAN #78-82, ACTION COMICS #687-691, SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #22-26, 1993)
John Henry Irons wasn’t the only hero take on the mantle of Superman after his death. Metropolis also saw the alien-like “Last Son of Krypton,” a youthful new Superboy, and the cybernetic “Man of Tomorrow.” But Cyborg Superman wound up destroying an entire city to show off his power. The three other Supermen teamed up to defeat the cyborg, and were aided by the original Superman when he returned from death. Afterwards, Irons decided to continue his career as Steel.
“Wrought Iron” (STEEL #1, 1994)
After Superman returned to the land of the living and again became Metropolis’s primary protector, John Henry Irons decided to move back home to Washington, D.C. Believing his old company AmerTek had perhaps forgotten about him in the five years since he’d faked his death and left town, he soon learned how wrong he was.
During this time, John Henry reconnected with his family, including his grandparents Butter and Bess, his sister-in-law Blondell, her second son Paco, and her foster kids Tyke and Darlene. Most importantly, he reconnected with his young niece Natasha Irons, whose scientific genius equaled his own.
But life did not go smoothly in his hometown. After many fights with AmerTek and other criminal groups like Black Ops, John Henry’s life was turned upside down when his true identity was revealed to the public. Moreover, his grandmother Bess was killed while caught in the crossfire of a battle. With his life in shambles, John Henry Irons decided to leave Washington D.C. for good. After he returned to Metropolis, Natasha Irons eventually took up the mantle of Steel.
New 52 (2012-2016)
In the post-Flashpoint DC universe, John Henry Irons had a very different introduction to the world of being a DC Super Hero, and to Superman himself. This John Henry Irons was introduced as a scientist under the employ of General Sam Lane for the government’s Metal-0 Project, which sought to create an armored super-soldier who could go toe-to-toe with Superman (who’d just debuted in Metropolis).
John Henry, however, was so disgusted when he saw how the project’s newly hired scientist Lex Luthor tortured the recently captured Superman, that he quit. Not long after, the alien intelligence known as Brainiac attacked Metropolis. In response, John Henry Irons decided to don the prototype Metal-0 suit, and managed to stop him with a computer virus of his own making. Thus began his career as the New 52’s Steel.
After the events of 2016’s DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1, much of Steel’s original history appears to have been restored. In the Rebirth universe, he wore a variation of his original armor, and dated Clark Kent’s childhood best friend Lana Lang – who acquired powers of her own, and became the adventurer known as Superwoman.
When Lana lost these powers, John Henry and his niece Natasha created a power suit that replicated her previous abilities, allowing her to continue in her role as super hero.