Day 71: Steel Hand!

The villain Jack Kirby created for the first adversary to tangle with Mister Miracle? It’s Inter-Gang mob boss Steel-Hand, who lost his right hand to a machine gun fuselage and now sports a radiation-powered appendage that can destroy some of the strongest metal on the planet!

We first learn of Steel Hand when, after Thaddeus Brown has escaped the burning shed, a bunch of thugs come by for a visit. “The new arrivals emerge from a car — moving with silent, evil assurance — symbols of organized crime in the Atomic Age…” The Great Thaddeus recognizes the crew: “These men are a division of Inter-Gang!” (We know — right? — that this criminal association does Darkseid’s nefarious bidding on our planet, so their appearance is certainly a stupendous coincidence!)

The mobsters pull out their weapons and a free-for-all ensues with Scott Free and his carpetbag initiating the fray, joining Thaddeus and Oberon in fending off the villains. The good-guy trio take down the baddies and Scott, helping an exhausted Thaddeus to his feet, says, “Are you all right, sir? Perhaps it was unwise of me to start this fracas –” Thaddeus retorts, “There — was no choice! They came here for this –”

Scott: I realize that I have no right to ask — but are you involved in some way with — Inter-Gang?

Thaddeus: Not with Inter-Gang, boy! — With their division chief in this area — Steel Hand!

The scene shifts to the villain’s Metropolis headquarters, where his left hand holds a cigar and right is snugged inside of a typical Kirby contraption, and his underling is reporting the fight. “Trouble? Trouble? With an old ‘has been’ and a dwarf? All they had to do was push them around a little!” But Steel Hand hears of Scott Free — “Fast — good with his fists –” The bespectacled criminal takes his hand out of the container to reveal an apparently solid-metal hand!

Steel-Hand’s origin begins when he was a two-bit nobody. The gangster squawks (with no one in the room), “Ha ha ha — To think I was once at the end of my rope — a sniveling little loser — with his hand blasted by a Tommy-gun — then came a turn of luck — in the hospital — that surgeon — experimenting with transplants –” He approaches a huge riveted metal block, raising his metallic fist above his head, continuing, “He gave me this new hand! I didn’t know its history — but with radiation treatments, it gained power — power! My life changed after that! I smashed my way into a top job at Inter-Gang! — Just as easily as I smash this great bar of solid titanium!” With that, Steel Hand slams his… ummm… steel hand to decimate the enormous object!

Jack’s next caption reads, “But despite his arrogance, Steel Hand fears the loss of his status!! Somehow, Mister Miracle is linked with that deep-rooted fear! — And, thus, a brutal decision is made!” So the kingpin calls his henchmen into the room and plots the end of the Super Escape Artist!

Steel Hand tells his goons (who have delightful names in this tale: Stuka is his first lieutenant, plus there’s Herky and Nails), “I’m taking personal charge of the Mister Miracle job!” and Herky and Nails (who knows which is which!) reply, “We know what that means!” and “Right! We’ll get you our best sniper!

The next day, Steel Hand is near the spot of “The Big Trap” with a hired assassin. “Soon, it will be over — and I can forget Mister Miracle. Before I lose face — he’ll lose his life!” Then, as the sniper’s telescopic sight zeroes in on Thaddeus, the crime boss gloats, “Goodbye, Mister Miracle. All bets are off!

As we are tragically aware, Thaddeus Brown is killed, leaving Oberon and Scott to grieve. Sobbing, the tiny assistant finally explains the Brown-Steel Hand connection: “Poor Thaddeus! If only he hadn’t been so desperate to make a come-back — He needed money to do that — money he didn’t have — That’s why he went to Steel Hand — to remind him of a longstanding wager –”

“Go on, Oberon –” Scott gently prods, “Tell me the rest –”

The little man relents: “Thaddeus met Steel Hand in a hospital, years ago. Both men had serious injuries… to pass the time they made the wager… Steel Hand boasted he could stop Thaddeus with an escape-proof trap!” Scott surmises aloud the bet was probably $10,000 and the two bettors shook hands. Oberon continues, “Yes — it was only recently that we saw Steel Hand’s picture in the newspaper! He’d come a long way — too notorious — too powerful — to ignore or lose a wager! But Thaddeus saw him again — and now — this!

Cut to a few days later, when Steel Hand arm wrestles and beats a robot opponent, only to have the new Mister Miracle jump in a window behind the bad guy. “You! I-I don’t believe it! Y-you’re dead — dead!” They tussle while Steel Hand’s goons are notified and the Super Escape Artist is knocked unconscious, only to be placed in jeopardy by his new nemesis. “This time he gets what he asked for — an escape-proof trap!” vows Steel Hand.

Scott is tied to a rocket (as it seems Steel Hand does have some pull as criminal mastermind, as he can reserve use of the “secret Inter-Gang missile site” simply by calling ahead!) and, of course, our hero appears to die as the missile explodes in mid-air. A henchman says, “Chief — if Mister Miracle come back from that — he won’t even be in shape to haunt a house!” Steel Hand offers, “He was a weird one, all right! But he was human! And humans don’t have nine lives! Steel Hand is still top man! Remember that, you birds!”

Steel Hand returns to his “lavish office” only to find Scott Free sitting at his desk. Steel Hand goes berserk and trashes the room. “The Steel Hand is no myth!” thinks Mister Miracle. “It’s the deadliest of weapons!” Then our hero turns the tables on the Inter-Gang division chief and captures him to be delivered at the feet of arriving policemen. “Thanks, Mister Miracle,” says one officer. “His conviction will wreck Inter-Gang’s Eastern operation!”

We never again see this peculiar villain in the series and he’s not much missed, hardly one of the top echelon in Jack’s Rogues Gallery, but Steel Hand getting his comeuppance is a hoot (I’ll describe it in full in the issue round-up and/or story synopsis)…

5 thoughts on “Day 71: Steel Hand!

  1. John S.

    Hi, Jon,

    I have a quick suggestion for you, which you may or may not like; but if you’ll consider it, I think it may help you with your blog.

    I notice that some days, as here, you have trouble getting an entry posted; but on other days (as with the Mister Miracle posting), you’re able to write a huge entry or sometimes even multiple individual entries.

    My suggestion is this: On the days when you have a really long entry to post, break it down into two or more parts, and just post one part per day, saving the remainder for the following day(s). Same thing if you have multiple entries; just post one, and save the other(s) for later.

    That way you’ll always have something new to post, even on those days when you’re just too busy or too tired to write something. It’ll also have the added benefit of making each day’s entry more easily digestible for us readers, and give everyone a chance to focus more tightly on whatever aspect of the series you’re discussing.

    Anyway, that’s my idea. Hope it makes sense.

    Ciao for now.

    1. JonBCooke Post author

      Astute suggestion, my friend! I think the “heavy-lifting” items are just about done now, with Scott Free being the biggest entry of them all (quite natural considering he had the longest run of any of the Fourth World titles). Sorry for being a little bit haphazard in the postings — regular day job, as well as the obligations of the holidays, have been intruding — but I appreciate all of your patience, amigos!

      Great ideas, John. Only it would take some planning, something I’m not necessarily good at, at times! I’m more a spontaneous (and long-winded) guy, but I will certainly take your most welcome suggestions under advisement and take them if very fine spirits indeed, as it indicates you’re enjoying all this stuff!

      Now, let’s see if I can finally start to catch up!

  2. John S.

    Hi, Jon,

    Glad you’re catching up!

    Steel Hand is a really great villain, in spite of (or maybe because of) his goofiness. He reminds me of Romita’s Hammerhead character, who was similarly gangsterish and fun. With the metal hand, the goggles and the cigar, he would have made a great action figure!

  3. Richard Bensam

    You know, I never questioned it before… but as I think about it, your suggestion of a few days ago that Scott didn’t merely happen to show up by chance, but instead deliberately arrived when he did is almost certainly correct. But here’s a further thought: let’s say he didn’t go there to meet Thaddeus Brown. What if he went there to investigate Inter-Gang? Think about it — he sees something that tips him off these human gangsters are working for Apokolips. He has to investigate, but doesn’t want to be conspicuous. So he tails a car of Inter-Gang thugs and arranges to be at their destination when they show up, to find out what they’re up to. When he arrives, what does he discover but a human entertainer who reminds him of Himon’s constant escapes? And he’s hooked. Makes sense, right?

    (Also, I expect everyone realizes the surgeon experimenting with transplants was nothing of the sort, but an Apokoliptian doctor put in place to offer a likely Earth prospect a Faustian bargain: “We’ll give you a hand, and you’ll… give us a hand!”)

  4. J.A. Fludd

    I like Richard Bensam’s ideas on the origin of Steel Hand very much. They enhance the story and the logic behind it without detracting from Jack’s intent. The next time I read the origin of Mister Miracle, I’ll do it remembering Richard’s suggestions.

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