Monday, 12 October 2015

Worthless Comics: Steel the Indestructible Man

Here's another one of those comics that our gang found utterly worthless when it came to swapping sessions, but that we all had a copy of.
It isn't that Steel #1 was necessarily a bad comic, just a breathtakingly average one. A patriotic superhero in World War Two? You've lost us already, Messrs. Conway & Heck.

I wish I knew why Bronze Age writers were so fascinated by WW2 superheroes. Maybe it was nostalgia for the comics of their youth, I don't know, but us groovy kids of the '70's couldn't've cared less. We wanted NOW! We wanted COOL! We wanted HIP! We didn't want the stinky old 1940's, thanks.
That was a world we simply had no interest in, which is not to invalidate Sgt. Rock or Fury, or The Unknown Soldier for instance, just that whole 'Homefront Hero' thing? Blah.

Then there was Don Heck. Sad to say, our gang hated Don Heck back then.
These days, I've seen Don's '50's Atlas work, and it's great. He had real style and verve. But by the '70's something had happened, and although there's ostensibly wrong with his art, there's nothing exciting about it either. I'm sure he sweated blood over Steel #1, in fact I know he did. By all accounts, Don Heck was a real grafter. But to us, he was Hacky McHack, the Hackiest Hack in Hacksville.

In an age where I've come to appreciate many artists I once hated as a kid ( Robbins, Thorne, even Infantino in his early years ) I still can't get past Don Heck. I still groan inwardly when I pick up a 'new' back issue of something, and find his work in there. And I still find Steel The Indestructible Man the dullest, most by-the-numbers concept ever.
But then, writing this, I find myself getting all nostalgic for this series. It's really not that bad, certainly not on a par with stinkers like Modred The Mystic or Phoenix. And some of the covers are really good. And it's a pretty cool costume.
And finally, ( and here's where I hoist myself on my own petard ), I own every isssue bar the 5th and last one. We really would buy anything wouldn't we?


  1. The art may have been Heck, but the story was Hell. Surely some of the most derivative, cynical writers seemed to materialize in the midst of a pretty innovative generation. I think the insanely original work as well as the hideous hackwork was made possible by a sudden expansion in titles in the seventies. which famously imploded within a few years. Pages needed to be filled and a lot of young writers were brought in.

    I always liked World War Two comics that were actually produced in the forties because they were so intense and fanatical. Joe Simon referred to Captain America as a "horror comic". Once the Comics Code kicked in, the Big War lost a lot of its bite.

  2. I'd like to give Gerry the benefit of the doubt, and say he meant Steel The Indestructible Man as a homage to the comics of his childhood, but when you compare it his Spidey stuff, man, it's lame. Still, a jobs a job..

  3. I never liked to read a superhero comic to find him/her stuck in WW2 but the Americans seemed to be into these type of comics back then (I only really ever liked Marvels Invaders with Robbins art) and off course (as Russ notes ) comics created in the 40s themselves (JSA etc). Don Heck was in many ways a strange artist in the 50s he was one of the very best and I really enjoyed most of his early “Avengers” art ditto his Iron Man issues ( although he did some really awful issues of both of those) . When he first went to DC he did produce some nice work again on Batgirl , Flash and Wonder Woman, Steel however was just boring (not relay Hecks fault it was such a bland character and dull costume). I do really like Don Hecks art but I agree there are time when you pick up a back issue and it contains some of his lesser art (Ka-Zar issue 5 behind a stunning Gil Kane cover is just awful).

  4. Ah, the classic Marvel bait and switch: Yay, Gil Kane cover! Boo, Frank Springer inside!