Steel: The Official Movie Adaptation
DC Comics (1997)
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Kenneth Johnson
ADAPTATION: Louise Simonson (character co-creator)
ARTISTS: Jon Bogdanove (character co-creator) & Dick Giordano
COLORIST: John Kalisz
SEPARATIONS: Graphic Color Words
LETTERER: Janice Chiang
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Maureen McTigue
EDITOR: Michael McAvennie
Based on the movie with Shaquille O’Neil, this version of John Irons is still a weapons maker but one of the team messes with a new weapon during a test and it backfires. John’s partner Sparks (she’s the tech genius while John in this version is a metallurgist) is paralyzed and John turns in Burke, the guy who “improved” the weapon. While Burke is discharged from the military the general likes the idea of these weapons, but John decides to quit and goes home to LA, where he stays with his brother and grandmother. Burke not only seeks revenge on John but to push his weapons to create a gunrunning empire, testing them on the LA streets. John figures this out and with the help of Sparks and his Uncle Joe, who works at a junkyard and finds all kinds of stuff, John creates a suit of armor and high-tech hammer, becoming the hero Steel. However, Burke still wants that revenge, putting Sparks and John’s brother Martin in danger. With the help of all his friends Steel stops Burke hopefully for good and retires from the superhero life.
What they got right: A nice bonus is having Steel’s co-creators work on the movie adaptation, even if the movie barely resembles the character in the comics. Adaptation errors aside, and there are many, the story itself isn’t all that bad. (Put a pin on that one.) The armor design for the budget (and the bigwigs insisting we need to see the face of the star, which is why the director has to get them out of the masks as much as possible because screw secret identities) it okay enough and the art replicates it well. As a condensed version of the movie it hits most of the major beats and isn’t too bad over all. At least we’re spared Shaq’s acting.
What they got wrong: Some day I want to go over all those adaptation errors. I’m not sure how well they could have matched Steel’s comic faceplate but the rest of the armor is kind of plain compared to the armor in the comics and no flight abilities. The scene where John opens the windows and all the glass explodes for no reason doesn’t look as cool in comic form. And when I say the story isn’t bad, it isn’t bad for a TV movie. However, this was a theatrical movie that Shaq, as a big Superman fan (the tattoo on his arm isn’t just an Easter egg; he actually has that tattoo), wanted to be a part of it, but Superman doesn’t factor into John’s story here like he does in the comics, or at all.
Recommendation: Steel has a bad reputation and while I can’t say it doesn’t deserve some of it, especially from an adaptation perspective, I still rather enjoy the film for what it is. It’s worth looking into but the comic isn’t the best way to experience it. It’s not a horrible way but the movie was better.