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)…