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CSBG Archive

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 bcronin@comicbookresources.com 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!


I think Cowan is great, I like Tom Palmer (except when he finished John Buscema’s breakdowns on Avengers), but I couldn’t stand them together.

Also, never liked Christopher Priest’s writing. It always seemed to be too self-conscious about trying to be clever. His dialogue always seems way too pleased with itself, but in a snotty way. And the Natasha character was especially grating in this regard.

And that lady just seems to be such a poor man’s Amanda Waller.

loved priest take on steel focusing more on john henry as a character then a guy who is trying to be another superman clone. plus love Margot joking about the old bit about supporting female characters in comics getting kidnapped by some villain and cracking maybe i should get my hair done. dc needs to collect this .for steel is too good a character to be stuck in limbo again.

How are 19 issues a “short run?” That’s over a year and a half worth of stories! (unless decompression was in full force.)

Somehow I missed Steel’s series *entirely*. Too bad, because I liked the character; he was my favorite out of the whole Four New Supermen from the Death Of Superman arc. Though his Iron Man-lite powers never impressed me. He needed an angle of his own, and a hammer wasn’t it.

And how did his identity became public? That was a very bad idea.

I did catch him in “52” and his was the only storyline (beside Metal Men’s) that I liked in it. Natasha didn’t sound quite so bitchy there. (Honestly, in my book 52 is almost as bad as “Countdown”, I just think most people like it for spotlighting new or obscure heroes like Question and Batwoman, but the storylines themselves were disgusting to me, especially Black Adam’s.)

I really liked that scene with Steel and Dr. Vil-lain (hah) and the one with Superboy had great chemistry too. But Natasha and Boris almost made me jump to the next section. I guess Priest doesn’t do teenagers that well.

And I rarely like Cowan’s art unless he has a really good inker.

Still, I’d take this series before I took (no, must resist the urge to blast current DC comics *again*. At least until after September.)

And there’s Superboy sneaking in a reference or two to his “tactile-telekinesis.”

Heh, thank you for this highlight.

I’d always argued that Steel has the potential to be DC’s ‘Iron Man’ Self made superhero, businessman, etc. He’s my favourite of ‘The Supermen’ and I say this as a big Connor Kent fan.

And here we go with the entire ‘weapons-guy-wanting-to-do-more-than-weapons’ thing from Iron Man years before the movie.

I’d stil enjoy a Steel book, but am avoiding all things DCnU. *sigh*

I remember Boris, he showed up with Natasha in JLA, in the issue where the expanded team formed! They did the “I thought we were free associating” thing, too, Morrison must have been a fan of the Priest/Cowan book. That’s great. Looks like a good book, really liking the art.

I really love this run, but most other fans I know who have read it hated it. It is just SO different from the Simonson run that I’d be surprised if Priest/Cowan held on to many pre-existing Steel fans.

I’m all about 90’s Priest. Steel, The Ray, Black Panther, and Quantum & Woody. Great stuff.

I remember Boris, he showed up with Natasha in JLA, in the issue where the expanded team formed! They did the “I thought we were free associating” thing, too, Morrison must have been a fan of the Priest/Cowan book.

No, it was a JLA one-shot and it was written by Priest himself, not Morrison, and Priest incorporated his own characters and recycled some jokes.

This was a good series, with some really unconventional, creative plotting.

Interestingly, Priest mentioned on his blog that there was brief discussion about him doing a Steel Vertigo series, but he backed out when he learned that Natasha had become a superhero too, which he felt was a complete misunderstanding of her character.

I stand corrected. It was the one where they reformed the League, so it was pretty important, that must have been why I thought it was Morrison.

Even still, that issue got collected in the trade, so I imagine a lot of people got to know Boris and Natasha that way. He made an impression on me too, based solely on that issue.

“Boris and Natasha.”

Oh geez I just got it.

I *loved* the character of Crash. Utterly brilliant.

(Random trivia: The Candace Nat is always on the phone with is Priest’s real-life niece (who also inspired his take on Nat))

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