Hardware is a Milestone Comics character who debuted in 1993 as one of their flagship heroes, and the first comic ever released by the company. He first appeared in "Hardware" #1 (April, 1993), created by Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan. The character is an Angry Black Man in Powered Armor, also a Gadgeteer Genius. Curtis Metcalf, an inner-city Child Prodigy, is discovered by famous inventor Edwin Alva who sees potential in him and pays his way through the top schools in the country, on condition that he work for him when his education is completed. His creations make millions of dollars for the company, leading him to ask his boss for a simple raise. After many years of viewing his mentor as a surrogate father, he is shocked to find that Alva has absolutely no respect for him, and views their relationship as little more than master and dog.
In an attempt to blackmail his boss to get out of the lifetime contract, Curtis digs up some dirt on Alva and discovers he is actually a criminal mastermind at the center of a vast evil organization, with illegal operations spanning across the country. Realizing the man he's been working for is evil and that he must be stopped, Curtis gathers enough evidence to put him away for multiple lifetimes and sends them to every possible authority. To no avail. Edwin Alva is too big, his levels of corruption and influence make him completely above the law. But not necessarily out of reach. Taking advantage of the vast resources completely at his disposal, Curtis designs an advanced powered suit and develops the identity of Hardware, launching a one-man vendetta against his former mentor.
His original series lasted for 50 issues, from April, 1993 to April, 1997. The series was cancelled when Milestone shut down its comic book division. In 2008, the character was brought into the DC Universe after the events of Final Crisis. After guest-starring in a storyline in Justice League and an issue of The Brave and the Bold (where he teamed up with Blue Beetle), Hardware was made into a supporting character in the 2011 Static Shock comic book series, where he acted as a mentor to the title character.
Hardware provides examples of:
- Angry Black Man: Aside from being a very defining characteristic, this is actually the title of the first Hardware story. He becomes less angry when he finds out Alva was right all along.
- Anti-Villain: Alva is arguably one of these.
- Arch-Enemy: Edwin Alva.
- Better the Devil You Know: Alva is definitely evil, but he's probably less evil than the people who might take his place if he were killed. His son, Alva Jr., becomes part of Hardware's Scoobies.
- Black and Nerdy: Deacon "Phreaky Deak" Stuart.
- The Blacksmith: Curtis Metcalf of course.
- Child Prodigy: Curtis was one of these. He has six degrees and finished college as a teenager.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Distaff Counterpart: Technique.
- Fully Absorbed Finale: Over 15 years after the original Hardware series was cancelled, the story was finished in Milestone Forever.
- Gadgeteer Genius
- Good Is Not Nice: Curtis has a chip on his shoulder and he knows he. Pretty much everyone else knows it, too.
- Grand Finale: Hardware's story was eventually finished in Milestone Forever, where Curtis passed on the Hardware Identity to his protoge, Tiffany, and finally got married.
- Insufferable Genius
- It's Personal: Hardware's vendetta against Edwin Alva.
- I Work Alone: Blue Beetle practically has to beg him for a team-up.
- Jerkass: Hardware is quite aware that he is one.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Blue Beetle acknowledges that while Curtis is an asshole, he still fights for a noble cause and wants to do the right thing.
- Meaningful Name: Edwin Alva is clearly an allusion to Thomas Alva Edison. Thomas Edison was seen as progressive in his time for hiring foreign-born and black engineers to work for him — and reviled today for ripping them off and taking all the profits for their ideas. Of course, Edison did that to everyone — just ask Auguste and Louis Lumière. (Nikola Tesla was The Rival.)
- Mecha-Mooks: S.Y.S.T.E.M.'s "S.Y.S.T.E.M.atics".
- Mini-Mecha: Hardware 3.0.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Hardware's suit pretty much seems to run on phlebotinum.
- '90s Anti-Hero
- Powered Armor
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Compared to Steel, he's a cynic. Started out as an idealist, but when Alva cheated him, he went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and slid all the way to the other side.
- Swiss Army Weapon: The amount of gadgets in Hardware's arsenal practically make Batman look unprepared.
- The Syndicate: S.Y.S.T.E.M. which would probably even count as a Nebulous Evil Organisation.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Alva is a beloved public figure and his act fooled Curtis as well for years before he revealed his true self.
- We Can Rule Together: When Alva discovers that Curtis is Hardware, he offers Curtis a Vice-presidency and unlimited access to company resources if Curtis agrees to be Alva's own super-enforcer. Alva also promises to curb his extra-legal activities since he won't need them with Curtis/Hardware at his side. Notably, this is one of the few times the hero actually accepts the offer.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Barraki Young pulls one on Curtis very early on, when discovering how many people he's killed in the name of his vendetta.
- Will They or Won't They?: Barraki Young references this trope by name.
- Xanatos Gambit: Recently S.Y.S.T.E.M. has sold some of its robotic exo-skeletons to Intergang, making Hardware fight against them. If he loses against them, they've defeated their greatest enemy, and if he wins, they've gained valuable intelligence on his equipment at no cost to their own forces, while eliminating some of their competition.