Steve Lyons: Man of "Steel"

British sci-fi writer Steve Lyons is bringing his gift of telling out-of-this-world stories to the DC Universe in January with "Steel." The one-shot, featuring John Henry Irons, is Lyons' first foray into American comics.

A friend of "Action Comics" and DC exclusive writer Paul Cornell, Lyons has written a number of "Doctor Who," "Red Dwarf," Blackadder" and "Warhammer" spinoff novels and audio dramas over the past decade, as well as contributed a comic strip to the pages of "Doctor Who Adventures." In "Steel," Lyons gives his leading man a chance to prove his true worth as he goes up against one of Superman's oldest foes, Metallo. And if that's not enough, the fate of Metropolis is at stake.

Steel was created by writer Louise Simonson and artist Jon Bogdanove and first appeared in "Adventures of Superman"#500 in June 1993. While lacking superhuman abilities, Steel is a gifted inventor and engineer and fabricated a suit of powered armor that enables flight, super strength and endurance.

Lyons told CBR News that what ranks John Henry Irons amongst the DCU's greatest superheroes is the fact that he is a self-made man. He also shared plot details about the one-shot, which other superheroes he'd love to write and teased a few other upcoming projects.

CBR News: First of all, congratulations and welcome to the DC Universe. How did this assignment come about? Had you been pitching DC Comics or did they seek you out? Or maybe Paul Cornell put in a good word?

Steve Lyons: Yes, I have Paul to thank for this one. [Editors] Matt Idelson and Wil Moss were looking for a writer, and Paul knew I'd be interested - to say the least - so he mentioned my name.

Did you grow up reading American comics, and were you more of a DC or a Marvel Comics guy?

As a kid, I was indeed a Marvel zombie, but I have the excuse of being British. American comics were hard to come by over here. At least they were in my local news agents. I was reading British reprint packages of American Marvel comics, but sadly there was no real DC equivalent. I picked up the odd issue of "Batman" or "JLA" when I could, but I only started collecting DC Comics seriously when I was sixteen, after specialist comic shops came along.

Were you familiar with John Henry Irons before you landed the "Steel" gig?

I never read his old series, but I was there for the "Reign of the Supermen" story and I've kept in touch with Steel via his other appearances around the DCU since then. So, I wouldn't say I knew him very well, but I was certainly familiar with him.

Have you gone back and read or re-read any of his previous appearances in preparation for this project, like "Reign of the Supermen" or "Worlds Collide?" Or maybe you watched the movie starring Shaq?

Oddly enough, I just saw that movie for the first time a few months ago. I didn't think it was quite as bad as everyone says. And yes, I dug out "Reign of the Supermen" and Steel's run in "JLA," and in particular I re-read his segments of "52," which is one of the few recent books that has really given him a sizeable role to play.

While not an A-level superhero, as the solicitation teases, John is a hero whom Superman considers a peer and colleague. What makes Steel worthy of such lofty praise?

The most important thing about John Henry Irons - the first thing Matt, Wil and I agreed on when we started talking about the character - is that he's a self-made man. He wasn't born with any special powers. Everything he has, he has worked for. That's what's so special about him - not just that he can stand alongside Superman, but that he dragged himself up to that level through sheer ingenuity and grit.

Your story features Metallo as the supervillain du jour. Metallo is one of Superman's original rogues - although not his current version. What's he up to that puts Metropolis in such peril?

Oh, he's just having a bad day, really. I wanted to put Steel up against a big Superman villain, in part to show that he can and does play in that arena, but also to show how Steel and Superman do actually differ.

OK, with those differences in mind, what's the tale of the tape for Steel vs. Metallo? Steel's got Metallo in smarts, right? But what about strength?

Yes, that's one of those differences. Steel is not nearly as strong as Superman. He's going to need those smarts because, physically, Metallo wipes the floor with him.

While this project is a one-shot, are you setting things in motion for Steel to play a larger role in DCU in 2011 or is this a classic 'done-in-one' story?

We'd all love to do more with Steel, but it'll depend on the reaction to this one-shot. This is a self-contained story intended to introduce new readers to the character and remind old ones what's so cool about him. At the same time, it should give you my take on the character and some idea of where I'd like to go with him.

Have you had a chance to see any pages from artist Sean Chen?

We're a little bit close to the deadline on this one, as in I only delivered the script a few days ago. So, no, I haven't seen any pages yet. I am a fan of Sean Chen's work, though. I'm re-reading "Salvation Run" at the moment, just so I can look at some of Sean's artwork while I'm waiting to see what he does with my script.

Do you have any other projects cooking at DC Comics? Are there any superheroes you'd love to tackle but haven't had the chance yet?

No other projects cooking as yet, but I would love to do more. Anything really, but especially more Steel. I'm really getting to like that guy. Otherwise, I'm a big fan of Booster Gold - and I'd love to bring back Titans West, although I don't suppose that's too likely to happen.

What about outside of comics? What else are you working for "Doctor Who" or otherwise?

At the moment, I'm co-writing a series of kids' science-fiction novels called "Interface." I do have some more "Doctor Who" work in the pipeline: a new novel out next year, and an audio drama. My third "Warhammer" novel comes out in December, and I also have audio dramas for "Warhammer" and "Stargate: SG-1" on the way.

"Steel," written by Steve Lyons and featuring art by Sean Chen, goes on sale January 5, 2011.

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