On November 18, 1992 in Superman #75, the big himself -- the Man of Steel -- actually died.
Yes, yes, and yes. You read that right. Superman died.
Now, of course, it didn't last, and Superman got better. (Monty Python fans should appreciate that little barb.) And -- in fairness to those of us who were there on that fateful date way back then -- I don't think any of us expected that it was real. You can't keep an icon like Superman down, but the storytelling stewards at DC Comics did intend to keep Big Blue out of the limelight for a while. After his massive throwdown with Doomsday, Supes needed time to recover; and while none of us truly knew what happened to him and/or his body after the fight, one thing was for sure ... his absence was going to be a boon for the criminals of Metropolis, and that's nearly what happened.
But out of the ashes of that devastation, an all-new Superman emerged ... well, not one ... not two ... not three ... but an incredible four different versions of Superman took up residence in Metropolis, and they began cleaning up the streets while Big Blue was absent from the scene.
One of these new characters introduced in the books was John Henry Irons ... and, in 1997, Warner Bros. brought this particular incarnation to the silver screen. His superhero name was Steel, and -- for his inaugural and only outing to this date -- he was played by none other than basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal.
Written (in part) and directed for the screen by Kenneth Johnson -- the creative genius behind TV's original V property -- Steel starred O'Neal, Judd Nelson, Richard Roundtree, Charles Napier, and 'God's gift to men everywhere' the lovely and talented Annabeth Gish. Here's the plot summary as provided by our friends at IMDB.com:
"A scientist for the military turns himself into a cartoon-like superhero when a version of one of his own weapons is being used against enemies."
Whatever the case was, history hasn't been kind to Steel. The picture has largely been forgotten, and the character -- despite some strong prospects -- has been relegated to the trash heap. That's a shame because anyone who's read the books knows well enough that John Henry Irons deserved a real opportunity to step out of Superman's shadows and seize his own day in the sun. It could've been something grand ... and maybe it will be if Hollywood decides to go back to the drawing board.