Almost Hidden – Priest and Cowan’s Steel
Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So every day this month I will spotlight a different cool comic book that is only available as a back issue. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.
I want you folks to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions for comics that I should feature this month. I’d like to see what you all would like to see get more attention.
Reader Stan wanted to see Christopher Priest and Denys Cowan’s Steel run get a spotlight, so here ya go!
Christopher Priest and Denys Cowan’s sadly short-lived run on Steel began with issue #34 and ended with the book’s cancellation at #52.
But there was a lot of fun in those 19 issues!
The book opened with a dramatic status quo shift for the title (which guest-writer Peter Tomasi so nicely wrote so Priest did not have to deal with explaining away so many characters in his first issue).
The status quo shift was that the title, which was about John Henry Irons (Steel) being a superhero in Washington D.C. while helping to take care of his extended family (his sister, his parents and his sister’s kids) became a book about Steel in Jersey City with his most interesting family member – his niece, Natasha. Irons was now going to work in research and development at a medical group – developing medical equipment instead of weapons (and, of course, in signing him, Jersey City acquired its own resident superhero).
That first issue, #34, introduced a bunch of new characters, including Steel’s new contact at the police department…
plus Irons’ new boss, Dr. Villain (in one of the major recurring gags of the comic, it’s pronounced Will-hane)…
plus, perhaps most importantly, Natasha’s engaging new friend, who she dubs “Boris”…
when you add in Dr. Amanda Quick (an old friend of John’s who convinced him to take the job – they begin to date) and another doctor on staff, Dennis Ellis, who is secretly a supervillain called Skorpio, then you got quite an intriguing supporting cast.
Issue #46 has a good sequence that I think highlights a lot of the great character interactions in the title. In the issue, Superboy shows up to woo Natasha. Steel takes him off on a mission to give him a hard time about his courtship of Natasha. Meanwhile, Amanda has slept with Dennis and he is trying to convince her that John is never going to have the time to treat her the way she deserves to be treated.
When you mix all of this together with some awesome action, courtesy of the great Denys Cowan (and the legendary Tom Palmer on inks), then you have quite a sequence…
Cowan, by the way, is stellar on this title. Not just great, moody artwork, but TIMELY great, moody artwork! Tom Palmer is definitely a great help in both regards (the moodiness of the art as well as getting it out timely, as Palmer is a fast worker).
This was a fun, offbeat but also often dark and serious book. Few comic book titles run the gamut of emotions like Steel did when Priest was writing it.
Sadly, the book ended at #52, but if there’s ANY silver lining, it’s that Priest’s particular take on John Henry and Natasha has BASICALLY been the prevailing take on both of the characters, no matter what other situation they might be placed into (like when Natasha became a superhero on two separate occasions). So that’s something!