This article contains spoilers for DC Comics' "Steel" one-shot, in stores today.
DC Comics' crossover event "Reign of Doomsday" kicked off today in grand fashion with what appeared to be the death of John Henry Irons, A.K.A. Steel. While we won't know for sure what to make of the final page of the "Steel" one-shot, which features Doomsday flying up, up and away with a presumed dead Steel draped over his arms, when the story picks up in February's "The Outsiders" #37, we do know that the issue's story is certainly not what many expected.
And that's Steve Lyons' fault. Sort of.
When CBR News spoke with the acclaimed British sci-fi writer about "Steel" #1 last November, he gave us details on an entirely different Steel-starring story. But when we checked in with him again to discuss today's release, he promised it wasn't his fault. Well, not really. When he was originally offered the gig, it truly was intended to be a one-shot featuring Steel up against long-time Superman foe Metallo. That all changed when DC brass decided to supersize the story by making it a part of "Reign of Doomsday," and Lyons went along for the ride.
Doomsday is, of course, no stranger to killing off men of steel as he was famously responsible for the "Death of Superman' in the 1992 storyline spearheaded by editor Mike Carlin and fan favorite writer Dan Jurgens.
A friend of "Action Comics" and DC exclusive writer Paul Cornell and an accomplished novelist himself, Lyons told CBR News that he thoroughly enjoyed his albeit short time with John Henry and was more than happy to unleash Doomsday with all his might.
CBR News: We will of course slap big spoilers on this, but wow, your first shot out of the gate at DCU and it looks you've gone and killed Steel, a superhero that readers have enjoyed since the bestselling "Death of Superman" in the early 1990s. Now, this isn't what you originally signed on for, correct?
Steve Lyons: No, it certainly isn't. "Steel" #1 was originally a self-contained one-shot intended to give some exposure to a slightly neglected character. Then, everything changed, and suddenly I was working on something much bigger.
How far along in the process were you when you were told where this story was heading? Or was this your idea? Because when we spoke after the "Steel" one-shot was announced, you told us about a very different storyline. Well, let's face it, you pretty much lied to me.
Yeah, sorry about that! What I told you was true at the time, though. I'd delivered a script featuring Metallo, it had been accepted and Sean Chen had begun to draw it. It had even been solicited. It was very late in the day that "Steel" #1 became a part of "Reign of Doomsday," which meant we had to scrap the issue we were working on and start over.
To be fair to the Powers That Decide These Things, I guess "Reign" was conceived as a summer event until someone realized that the "Steel" special, a few months earlier, was the perfect book to launch it in. And it meant I got my second DC commission, which was great for me, even if I might never get to see the first one in print, now.
Doomsday is about as bad as it gets in the DCU -- heck, he killed Superman -- but he never had much of personality like Lex Luthor, Zod or even Darkseid. But he appears in your story to be evolving both physically and mentally. What can you tell us about Doomsday 2.0 as he compares to the original incarnation?
I think the appeal of Doomsday is that he doesn't have much in the way of personality. You can't appeal to him, or trick him. He's just this massive, great engine of destruction. And yeah, he's as bad as it gets, which is something I hope comes across in the special.
Inevitably, I think Doomsday has been diminished lately, just because we've seen him beaten a few times. I was keen to reestablish him as the major threat he ought to be -- without diminishing Steel himself -- and the fact that Doomsday has a few new tricks up his sleeve really helped me to do that. As for the hows and whys of those new tricks, that's for other writers to reveal.
It appeared that Doomsday may have "died' during the recent "Superman: New Krypton" arc, but he/it has obviously been re-animated by Lex and General Lane. Is it safe to say that there is more to Doomsday's return than simply an enraged, forcibly-evolved Kryptonian?
Well, bear in mind that, although I kicked off this story, my involvement in it is now done. I don't know a lot about what's happening down the line, because I didn't need to know. But, basically, yeah, I think that's safe to say.
One thought that did run true from when we last spoke was your admiration for Steel as a superhero and a self-made man. While you only had one issue to write him, did you feel you were able to properly explore the heart of the character? It certainly seemed like you did.
Oh, thanks for that. It was certainly something that was important to me -- and to Matt [Idelson] and Wil [Moss], my editors -- and something we tried hard to keep at the center of the book even while we were serving the larger Doomsday story.
A line running through the story was, "We can't all be Superman." This may seem like a dumb question, but as far as you're concerned, why can't we?
I think Steel proves that we can -- even when he loses. And that everyone else is wrong for doubting him.
Natasha -- John Henry's niece and also the superhero Vaporlock -- is one of the characters who expressed this prophetic phrase. How important was Natasha to you in telling the story?
There is so much more I wanted to do with Natasha, but there just wasn't room this time. I think she serves as John Henry's anchor, because I think he needs that sometimes.
We know Doomsday next appears in "Outsiders" #37, but can you tell us where the story goes from here? And I guess I should have asked this earlier, but can we say for certain that John Henry is dead?
I think this is already clear from the solicits for the next few months, but Steel isn't the only Reign-era Superman in Doomsday's sights. As for John Henry, well, that depends on Doomsday, I suppose.
Originally solicited with Sean Chen as the penciler, the book was actually drawn by Ed Benes. What did you think of the superstar artist's illustration of your first DCU story?
I loved it. I was worried sometimes, writing this script, that a lot of it was just two strong guys beating on each other -- but, when your brief is Steel versus Doomsday, what can you do? As the pages came in, I saw how Ed brought those sequences to life and made them so incredibly powerful. And then they were colored by Blond and they looked even more amazing.
Really, as a lifelong comic book fan, it's been a dream come true to watch this thing come together.
Speaking of collaboration, is this the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Steve Lyons and the DCU? If so, when will we hear about your next assignment?
I would really, really love to do more for DC, and I've been told it will happen. I'm working on other projects at the moment and just waiting and hoping for that next contact.
You're a busy man outside of comics, too. What else are you working on these days?
I have a new novel out called "Dead Men Walking," which is set in the "Warhammer" universe. I've also just finished a "Doctor Who" novel for younger readers, which should be out by Easter. And I have "Doctor Who," "Warhammer" and "Stargate" audio plays on the way, too.
"Steel" #1, written by Steve Lyons and featuring art by Ed Benes, is in stores now. "Reign of Doomsday" continues on February 16 in "The Outsiders" #37.