Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Commander Steel

Go To

Commander Steel (also known as Captain Steel, Citizen Steel, Sergeant Steel, or Steel) is the name of three comic book superheroes appearing in publications by the American publisher DC Comics, all members of the same family. The first Steel appeared in Steel, The Indestructible Man #1 (1978), and was created by Gerry Conway and Don Heck. His stories were set in World War II. The two later characters called Steel are his grandsons. For the unrelated DC character see Steel.


Henry "Hank" Heywood
The first Steel debuted in the series Steel, The Indestructible Man in the 1970s (though it was set in World War II.) Henry "Hank" Heywood was an American soldier who, after being badly hurt, was remade as a cyborg with "indestructible" skin. Still having a human appearance, he developed a secret identity as a superhero wearing a costume based on the American flag. He first appeared in Steel, The Indestructible Man #1 (March, 1978), created by Gerry Conway and Don Heck.

The original Steel series only lasted 5 issues, ending in November, 1978. The cancellation was part of the so-called DC Implosion, the abrupt end to over 24 series. The character was not forgotten. He became a regular in the All-Star Squadron, a series devoted to Golden Age heroes. Using the alternative codename Commander Steel. In the "present" day, Hank turned very much alive in 1980s tales of the Justice League of America. He went on to become one of several heroes fighting against Eclipso, in a series spotlighting this villain. He was finally killed in Eclipso #13 (November, 1993).

  • Captain Patriotic: A flag-wearing patriot. He started off as an embodiment of this trope, but became a subversion when his grandson took up the mantle as a member of the JLA. The original Steel is now shown to be quite an ultra-conservative and a bit of a bigot (although he did get better eventually), and his fierce patriotism is played as a negative character trait.
  • Advertisement:
  • Cyborg: He was a heavily wounded biology student under the tutelage of Doctor Gilbert Giles, and his former professor performed extensive surgery on him, enhancing his damaged body with mechanized steel devices that gave him superhuman strength, speed, and durability.
  • Expy: Of Captain America. A World War II Super Soldier, with a uniform based on the American flag.
  • Killed Off for Real: He was a member of the Shadow Fighters in 1993 and was killed fighting their Arch-Enemy, Eclipso.
  • Remember the New Guy?: He was created in the 1970s, but was established as having been active during the 1940s and was established as having fought alongside the members of the JSA.
  • Super Soldier: A cybernetically enhanced World War II soldier.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: The original Steel Uniform displayed the colors red, white, and blue. Along with a prominent white star on his chest. Rather clearly based on the flag of the United States.
  • Advertisement:
  • We Can Rebuild Him: He was supposed to die but was rebuilt as a Cyborg.

Henry "Hank" Heywood III
The second Steel was Henry "Hank" Heywood III, a grandson of the original. He debuted in Justice League of America Annual #2 (October, 1984), created by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton. He was part of the Justice League of America during the series' infamous "Detroit" period.

The original Commander Steel, obsessed with carrying on his legacy, subjected his grandson Hank Heywood III to the same procedure that gave him his powers after he suffered an accident. Encouraged by his grandfather join the newly restructured Justice League, even lending them a bunker for use as their base of operations, Hank struggled to adapt to life as a cyborg and clashed with the older JLAers. In the last days of the League's Detroit era, Steel was mortally wounded by one of Professor Ivo's robots and placed on life support by his grandfather; Despero, seeking revenge against the League, tracked him down in this state and ripped him limb from limb.

In the New 52 continuity reboot, Hank Heywood Jr/Captain Steel is an Earth 2 hero, who is something of a Composite Character of all three Heywoods (a soldier like the first Steel, a descendent of Hank Henshaw Sr given his implants by his slightly insane [grand]father like the second, and bonded to a weird metal like Nathan).

Nathaniel "Nathan" Heywood
Nathaniel "Nathan" Heywood is the cousin of Hank Heywood III. He had lost his lower right leg after a football injury. During a reunion, Nathan's family was attacked by the aryan group known as the Fourth Reich. During this time, he stabbed the villain Reichsmark in the throat, causing the villain to cough up his molten metal blood on him. The blood was absorbed into Nathan's skin, turning it and his bones into metal (even regrowing his lost leg). It also gave him uncontrollable Super Strength, requiring him to wear a specially-forged metal "skin-suit" to restrain it. He later went on to join the reformed Justice Society of America, but as Citizen Steel, to distinguish him from John Henry Irons.

Nathan, renamed Nate, is a main character in the second season of Legends of Tomorrow, played by Nick Zano, with his grandfather Hank appearing in the opening two-parter.

  • Adaptive Armor: Citizen Steel's skin-suit armor adapts to the curvature of his body and acts as the Restraining Bolt he needs to keep himself from breaking everything he touches. Unfortunately, it's terribly difficult to don, requiring an invasive smelting process to be bonded to his body and making readers wonder exactly how he does his business.
  • Blessed with Suck: The organic steel covers Heywood's nervous system disabling his sense of touch to an extreme degree.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Despite having a promising American Football career, he was forced to retire early due to an injury to his knee which completely shattered the bone. Tragically, he could have recovered, but when he reported an incredible pain in the leg the doctors just gave him pain killers and didn't bother to check-the pain was actually an infection eating away at his leg until it had to be amputated. Adding further insult, the amputation was botched, leaving him still in intense pain after.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: He literally punches out a Cthulhu in the form of Gog, who he knocked to the ground with a super-strong punch to his heel.
  • Friend to All Children: He's "Uncle Nate" to all the children who survived the attack on the Heywood family reunion by the Fourth Reich.
  • Heel–Face Turn: During the "Thy Kingdom Come" story Steel sided with the followers of Gog in the hope that Gog would bless him with his own miracle by curing his Power Incontinence. But because Nate did not truly believe in him, Gog never acknowledged him. This turned out to be a mistake on Gog's part, as Steel got a chance at The Dog Bites Back in the final battle and gladly took it.
  • Legacy Character: Of his grandfather (the original Commander Steel) and of his cousin (the previous Steel) Henry Heywood III.
  • Made of Iron: His body's physical composition was altered by his exposure to Reichsmark's blood, though it's not immediately obvious by looking at him.
  • Mighty Glacier: His suit, which allows him to control his Super Strength, also really slows him down.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Nate Heywood's skin, bone and muscle tissue has been transmuted into organic steel, which provides him with enhanced strength and durability. According to Doctor Mid-Nite's prognosis, it would take nothing less than an AIM-9 Sidewinder to even knock him down.
  • Power Incontinence: He has trouble gauging the amount of pressure that he exerts and cannot feel varying extremes of temperature.
  • Put on a Bus: He was last seen in the final issue of JSA vol 3 in 2011, and with two Continuity Reboots since then it's unclear if he even exists at this point. Don't feel too bad for him, though, as unlike the other JSA bus riders on this page Nate's character lives on via The CW show Legends of Tomorrow.
  • Recovered Addict: Prior to acquiring his powers, Nate was addicted to painkillers.
  • Restraining Bolt: His suit. Whenever he moves, he has to bend the metal around him, which cuts his strength in half. During the battle against Gog, Nate ripped his suit off, and threw a punch which toppled the giant.
  • Star-Spangled Spandex: Not actually spandex (it's actually just a solid metal casing used to provide counter pressure to reduce his uncontrollable strength), but still patriotic themed. He has to tell people he's not a part of the US military as people kept assuming that, like his grandfather, he was Commander Steel.
  • Stepford Smiler: Like Cyclone, Nate puts on a happy facade for his friends and loved ones, but he actually suffers from serious depression because his powers prevent him from feeling any physical contact (think the X-Men's Rogue, just with uncontrollable Super Strength instead of a Power Parasite threat).
  • Super Strength: The exact limit of his strength is as yet unknown.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Not literally, but his costume does have a general flag/patriotic theme to it as a Shout-Out to the Steels that came before him.
  • The Worf Effect: During the Blackest Night he was effortlessly swatted aside by the Came Back Wrong version of Superman, who mockingly dismissed him as a "paperweight".