2023 started off small for DC Comics in terms of their publishing line-up. But as we’ve gotten deeper into 2023 DC Comics has been unveiling more information on their comic book publishing plans. Specifically, when it comes to the comic books that are under the Dawn of DC direction for the company. With the most recent announcement we finally got information on John Henry Irons and Natasha Irons led series, Steelworks.
The announcement for Steelworks was alongside the reveal of the new direction for Wonder Woman and The Flash. Whereas the new Wonder Woman and The Flash series are relaunches for a franchise Steelworks is an addition to the current Superman franchise direction. It is a direct spinoff of what we saw established in Action Comics #1051 with the Superman Family showing unity in their support of Steelworks that John Henry Irons and Natasha Irons are leading.
With the official announcement of Steelworks, we learned the creative team is famed actor Michael Dorn as the writer and artwork by Sami Basri. Michael Dorn has a long history as an actor including playing Worf in Star Trek and the voice of John Henry Irons and Kalibak in Superman: The Animated Series. In terms of comic book work, Dorn has no credit to his name. While it is cool that Dorn is getting to write a character he voiced in the past it is concerning that this will be the first comic book work he’s done.
The press release reminded me that Dorn voiced Steel in Superman: The Animated Series. Though personally when I think of the DCAU version of the character it’s Phil LaMarr’s version that comes to mind. That is because Dorn only voiced Steel in two episodes of Superman while LaMarr voiced Steel in the twelve episodes the character appeared in Justice League Unlimited. Not having grown up a Star Trek fan I’m not familiar with Dorn’s acting work so the star power isn’t a selling point for the series.
More importantly, the fact that Steelworks is the first comic book Dorn is writing lessens the excitement for this new series. Dorn writing Steelworks would be exciting if he had a history of writing comic books in the past, but he hasn’t. I would be more confident if DC Comics would’ve paired Dorn with experienced comic book writers like Paul Dini or David Walker for at least the start of the series.
There’s also the DC Comics Milestone Initiative where they have been training the next generation of creators. We already saw that with Milestone Initiative alum Morgan Hampton writing the new Cyborg series. Knowing that made the Cyborg series announcement even more exciting. Promoting from within would’ve been a great showcase of how DC Comics’ investment in the next generation of creators is paying off.
That said, this does not diminish the importance of Steelworks for DC Comics. Steelworks can show the early results of fan interest in the greater Superman Family direction. How Steelworks sells can give DC Comics a better idea of how to continue to introduce more titles for other characters in the franchise.
What also makes Steelworks important for the Superman franchise is that it’s the first series without the “Super” name in the title. We’ve seen how titles like Nightwing, Birds of Prey, and Outsiders have done well in the past and present to build on the Batman brand without relying on the Bat name in the title. Steelworks can do that for the Superman franchise to show it does not always need Superman or Superboy’s name in the title to sell copies.
This gets into the actual solicitation for Steelworks #1 which states:
“While John’s professional life is firing on all cylinders, his personal life is even better, as his on-again, off-again relationship with Lana Lang might be back on, permanently. Now he must decide whether it’s time to give up being Steel once and for all. But does John even know who he would be without his superhero identity? How does the other Steel—John’s niece, Natasha Irons—feel about his momentous decision? And does any of that matter if Steelworks crumbles around him when he lacks the superpowers to fight back?”
Based on the information, and Dorn’s own history voicing the character, John is going to be the lead character for Steelworks. The question is what type of role he will serve. Because there is the question created that with all the responsibilities he has as Steelworks CEO John is wrestling with not being Steel full-time. With his genius-level business and engineering mind John can use Steelworks resources to improve the world, something Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor have failed to do with their own resources and wealth.
With Natasha by his side there is also a way for John not to feel he needs to be Steel full-time. Natasha has more than proven herself as Steel in her own right. It would be unique within the Superman franchise to see a mentor-protégé relationship between John and Natasha be a focus for this title. All this would help balance both characters still operating as Steel while making Steelworks a success.
With that in mind, the concept behind Steelworks has a lot of potential. It is a concern that the series is written by someone with no comic book writing experience. Hopefully, DC Comics help Dorn be as successful as possible. Because with proper editorial and help from his Superman writing peers Dorn can quickly catch on as he has done a lot of creative work in other fields. All we can do is wait and see how the series turns out when Steelworks #1 releases as part of the Dawn Of DC direction.