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Steel Claw

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The Steel Claw (இரும்புக்கை மாயாவி) was one of the most popular comic book heroes of British weekly adventure comics of the 1960s and 1970s. The character was revived in 2005 for Albion, a six issue mini-series published by the Wildstorm imprint of DC Comics.

Publishing history

The Steel Claw first appeared in an edition of Valiant dated 6 October 1962. The strip was created by Tom Tully and Jesús Blasco and appeared throughout Valiant for much of the 1960s and was one of the most popular in the comic. Tully wrote the series for much of its run but after Blasco left the art was handled by various Italian artists, most notably future 2000 AD artist Massimo Belardinelli.

However when Valiant merged with Battle Picture Weekly, the strip transferred to Vulcan from 1975 in a series of reprints. The strip by now had found popularity worldwide, including countries such as Germany, India and Sweden and remained in print in these countries long after the characters last strips in the UK.

The Steel Claw remained fondly remembered by its fans and future comic creators and during the Alan Moore and Alan Davis run of Captain Britain, The Steel Claw was renamed The Iron Tallon for a brief cameo appearance. This was followed by a four issue series published by Quality Comics in 1986 (in this he was called 'Louis Randell') which reprinted material from Valiant, with new framing material drawn by Garry Leach.

The character remained in limbo for a number of years until Grant Morrison revived The Steel Claw (as well as a number of British heroes from the 1960s) in his Zenith strip in 2000AD. This was followed by a one-off special featuring The Steel Claw among other 1960s characters, this was created by various 2000AD creators of the time. However this failed to spawn any continuing series and the character again entered limbo.

This was until it was announced in 2005 that DC Comics would be using the character along with a number of other IPC characters, in a six issue mini-series called Albion. This would be plotted by Alan Moore, and written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, with art by Shane Oakley and George Freeman. The series is complimented by a graphic novel reprinting material drawn by Jesus Blasco from Valiant published by Titan Books.

Character biography

The cover to the Titan Books reprint collection.
The cover to the Titan Books reprint collection.

Louis Crandell was the assistant to the scientist Professor Barringer, until a laboratory accident in which he lost his right hand inches below the wrist. He then used a prosthetic metal hand to substitute his lost limb. In another laboratory accident with a new ray, if he received an electric shock he would become invisible for a limited period of time with the exception of his artificial hand.

Crandell used his new found gift initially to steal and become a psychotic criminal. So much so that in early strips he was clearly a villain, or anti-hero, but later decided to use it to crime fighting. (it was explained that the laboratory accident that made it possible for him to become invisible had temporary made him insane). He joined a British secret service and espionage agency known as the Shadow Squad. Armed with his steel claw, which by now was equipped with a variety of weapons and tools in each finger as well as his power of invisibility, Louis Crandell battled various criminal geniuses, aliens and the organisation known as F.E.A.R. (the Federation for Extortion, Assassination and Rebellion).

Louis Crandell briefly donned a superhero outfit for a time during his adventures, this was not to last long though and Crandell returned to his secret agent roots. By now his Claw was remote controlled and stacked full of gadgets. After retiring from the Shadow Squad, Louis Crandell became a detective and then a bounty hunter before distrust of his past eventually led him to go to South America, where he would continue to fight crime.

When The Steel Claw was reprinted by Quality Comics, a framing sequence featured Crandell (called Randell in this version) as an aging secret agent reflecting on his early criminal career. His appearance in Zenith saw him disabled during battle. This was followed by his appearance in 2000AD Action where Crandell was portrayed as a burnt out government assassin.

In Paul Grist's comic Jack Staff, a character called Ben Kulmer appears as The Claw. This character is a thief who tries to steal the claw from a museum, only to have it attach itself to his left hand and then receive the same invisibility powers, as well as added strength and shock powers in the claw. He is now working as part of a group called "Q".

Steel Claw around the world

The cover of 2000AD Action. Art by Brendan McCarthy.
Enlarge
The cover of 2000AD Action. Art by Brendan McCarthy.

The Steel Claw enjoyed wide popularity in Europe and Asia, the adventures featuring the Shadow Squad is the most popular of the series

Steel Claw in France

Steel Claw is known as Main d’Acier in France, which literally means “Hand of Steel”. In France, several series of The Steel Claw appeared published by Gémini editions and MCL in France. The early Steel Claw series appeared with the Gémini editions which were published between 1962 and 1980. .

Steel Claw in Germany

In Germany in the 1970s the magazine Vulcan was published under the title Kobra which used most of IPC's adventure strips such as The Steel Claw, as well as Mytek the Mighty, Kelly's Eye, The Spider and Robot Archie. However, the stories which were published in Kobra were partly incomplete, apparently switching stories unpredictably. Finally, the magazine was discontinued leaving German fans in dismay.

Steel Claw in Finland

Steel Claw was published in Finland in the early 1970s first in a series of digest sized pocket books, and then part of the "Sarjakuvalehti" that had three or four different stories each month. The series were mostly about The Steel Claw's adventures as a Shadow Squad agent. The Steel Claw stories also appeared occasionally in "Mustanaamio" during the early 1980s.

Steel Claw in Sweden

Steel Claw was published in Sweden from the 1970s in the magazine Seriemagasinet and later in its spin-off SM Special. Steel Claw episodes appeared sporadically in Seriemagasinet until the late 1990s.

Steel Claw in South India

Steel Claw achieved cult status in India becoming one of India's most popular adventure heroes. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Irumbukkai Maayavi and Urukkukai Maayavi is still a popular character for many millions of fans even today. In Tamil Nadu, The Steel Claw was published by Muthu Comics in 1971 under the license of Fleetway Publications. Later Lion Comics, published the adventures of Steel Claw in South India. The series was brought to Kerala by Regal Comics and published from Kottayam in 1970s and 1980s.

In Kerala the tremendous popularity of the series triggered many rip-offs of Steel Claw. CID Michael, CID Moosa and CID Mahesh were the Kerala equivalents of Steel Claw, though their abilities differ. In some comics these characters would make themselves invisible with a wrist watch switch, supposedly an ultra modern device. There are comics where Mahesh is invisible except his iron helmet.

Steel Claw Names

Country Name Meaning
France Main d'Acier Steel Hand
Spain Zarpa de Acero Steel Claw
Finland Teräsnyrkki Steel Fist
Sweden Stĺlhanden Steel Hand
Tamil Nadu (India) Irumbukai Maayavi Iron hand invisible man
Kerala (India) Urukkukai Maayavi Steel hand invisible man
Yugoslavia (Former) Čelična Kandža Steel Claw