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Comic Book / Steelgrip Starkey and the All-Purpose Power Tool

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Steelgrip Starkey and the All-Purpose Power Tool is a six-issue Comic Book limited series created by Alan Weiss and published by Epic Comics in 1986. Positioning itself as a modern-day folk tale in the spirit of Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Rosie the Riveter, it chronicles the adventures of Steelgrip Starkey as he embodies the virtues of honest labor.

Patrick "Steelgrip" Starkey and his friend Flynn "Flyin'" Ryan are construction workers recruited by a mysterious Mr. Pilgrim, inventor of the All-Purpose Power Tool. Using a new technology called "technalchemy", the APPT can perform any construction job, quickly synthesizing new components as needed. Joined by the tool's programmer, Sharri Barrnett, the three spend a year traveling the world as they perform various amazing feats, demonstrating that a good man with the right tool can perform miracles.


  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Mr. Pilgrim appears to have one of these, as Star Key Enterprises effortlessly provides Steelgrip and Flynn with a New York City apartment suite, a private jet, costumes uniforms, and anything else they need without any concern for expenses. Justified because the entire effort is run by the White Brotherhood, who can apparently use magic to provide whatever funds are needed.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Sharri, the All-Purpose Power Tool's programmer, is Filipino.
  • Banana Republic: Bazililand, ruled by the dictator General Kingu.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The members of Globelock Inc.
  • Decoy Leader: Mr. Pilgrim, who — when he appears — is actually a friend of Flynn's in a latex mask.
  • Empathic Tool: The All-Purpose Power Tool will only work for those pure of heart. Steelgrip Lampshades this trope when he says it feels like the APPT is silently communicating with him.
    "I can feel it! Jolting up my arm, to my brain! It's communicating with me! Letting me know what it — what we — can accomplish together!"
  • Epic Race: Issue #5 centers on an "Around-The-World Super Construction Race" between Star Key Enterprises and Globelock Industries.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Ironarm Gantry, recruited by Globelock to operate the Worldbeater in the Super Construction Race. He's brutish, selfish, and prone to bursts of anger and pettiness.
    • The Worldbeater itself is an Evil Counterpart to the All-Purpose Power Tool; it's a massive, polluting contraption with bolted-on components, and tears up the landscape as it performs its tasks.
  • Genius Bruiser: Flynn was a former student teacher at an Ivy League college, handles the team's logistics and finances, and his hobbies include animal tracking and Eastern philosophy. Exaggerated when it's revealed that he secretly developed technalchemy and the All-Purpose Power Tool.
  • God Guise: Flynn pretends to be an angry Lion God (complete with lion suit) to frighten General Kingu into revealing his scheme to mine the Moon. The kind of mine the Ottawa Treaty forbids.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Flynn is a Vietnam War veteran with a scarred "R" in his forehead. It was done out of defiance when he and his fellow prisoners were ordered to make an anti-American propaganda video.
  • Green Aesop: Played straight, though the aesop is not "wilderness development is bad" as much as "wilderness development must be done carefully and harmoniously."
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Averted when Steelgrip is whisked away from a runaway nuclear reactor at the last second. Played straight when the All-Purpose Power Tool entombs itself with the reactor core to contain the meltdown.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Steelgrip and Flynn.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Steelgrip Starkey, who was selected because he upholds the heroic ideal. Also enforced by the All-Purpose Power Tool, as it only works for him because of his "purity of energy and intent."
  • Instant Expert: Even though Steelgrip has no idea what new form or instruments the tool will create for a job, he can control it immediately with the skill of an expert. Justified by the tool's empathic nature and its familiar, construction-oriented controls.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Steelgrip.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Steelgrip and Flynn rarely wear anything other than their usual outfits. Justified for Steelgrip, as his red shirt/blue jeans combination is a uniform. There's no excuse for Flynn's overalls, however...
  • Magic Tool: The All-Purpose Power Tool is the size of a toolbox, but can be programmed to perform any task, from raising a skyscraper to clearing a polluted gulf. It runs on no visible power source, synthesizes new components out of thin air, and is apparently indestructible.
    Starkey: Hey, Flyin' — how do you think it does this?
    Flynn: How should I know? It's magic to me!
  • Magic-Powered Pseudoscience: It's suggest the Power Tool is literally magic.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Steelgrip, perhaps inevitably as his outfit shows off his musculature very well. Justified in that one reason he was selected was because he matched the archetype of a hard-working American hero.
  • Mysterious Employer: Mr. Pilgrim, who eventually turns out to be a cover for Flynn.
  • Nature Hero: Moosehead Murphy, who lives in the Chugach Alaskan mountain range and protects it from reckless development.
  • No Conservation of Energy: Played very straight with the All-Purpose Power Tool. Possibly justified as it's implied that technalchemy is a form of magic.
  • Qurac: Kuhlavi, ruled by the "desert lord" Haroun Zamahdi.
  • Racial Face Blindness: Invoked in the first issue when foreman Arty Blasko tries to identify Sharri's ethnicity using a variety of slurs (she's Filipino).
  • The Reveal: The All-Purpose Power Tool and Technalchemy were developed by Flynn; the company's mission is an attempt by the White Brotherhood to promote the virtues of honest labor.
  • Scary Black Man: Dr. Sartorus, Mr. Pilgrim's analyist. He's usually an eloquent Gentle Giant, but has been shown (off-panel) joining with Flynn to easily fight off four attackers.
  • Secret Underground Passage: An underground tunnel near the New York Public library leads to the Star Key Enterprises apartment suites.
  • Technology Porn: Lots of it whenever the All-Purpose Power Tool is used.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Flynn invokes this trope with some of his thought balloons and dialog. While he's eventually revealed to be the tool's inventor and the mastermind behind Mr. Pilgrim, his thoughts often read like he's unaware of the big picture. Done particularly egregiously when he and Dr. Sartorus are secretly plotting against General Kingu, yet Flynn still refers to Mr. Pilgrim in the third person.
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Working-Class People Are Morons:
    • Averted with Steelgrip and Flynn, who are smart, virtuous men with numerous Hidden Depths.
    • Played straight with the Jerkass foreman Arty Blasko, a loudmouth who leers at women and abuses his authority.
  • Wrench Wench: Sharri is the digital equivalent of this trope.