5755 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Sarge Steel (DC Comics) with smoked glasses

Sarge Steel

(Profile #3 - the DC era (part 2))


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

This is the last of our three-part Sarge Steel character profile. So yes, you should absolutely read the previous parts first. These go :

  1. Sarge Steel (the Charlton Comics era).
  2. .

Advertisement


History

(This starts *right* where the previous half of the profile stopped.)

Enters the red cheese

A more tractable operative was found when a NASA shuttle on a mission to Venus sent a distress message requesting Captain Marvel’s assistance. Steel took over the operation and summoned the big red cheese, who readily agreed to help.

Not having a spaceship handy, Steel had his scientists dig out a Mother Box that had been found in an abandoned Intergang hideout. While the damaged Box had remained inert when analysed by Steel’s specialists, it immediately came alive in Marvel’s hand.

Sarge Steel and Justine Ramagas

The Box proved invaluable in creating Boom Tubes to and from Venus, but also in repelling millions of mind-controlling worms living there. Marvel returned with the shuttle, all surviving astronauts and his nemesis Dr. Sivana, who had been captured by the worms. The damaged shuttle reappeared close to the Washington Monument, and Steel had the entire area locked down.

Though the damaged Mother Box had been destroyed on Venus, Marvel had neutralised the entire worm colony there, and also took out the one worm scout on Earth, locking it in an ice cream truck’s freezer where the creature went inert. The diminutive alien, whom Sivana had dubbed “Mister Mind”, was handed over to Steel’s staff for safekeeping.


Advertisement


More Captain Marvel

After Steel once again worked in the field with Faraday — foiling an attempt to take VIP hostages by hijacking their airplane — he continued to associate with Captain Marvel whenever possible, finding his crushing power and juvenile naiveté to be an ideal mix.

Steel’s men recovered the experimental “Mister Atom” robot, and Steel later cleared a situation after Marvel mistakenly intervened in two missions of Major Deanna Barr piloting the Windshear aircraft prototype.

Sarge Steel and Sasha Bordeaux arguing

Steel was also involved in handling a Nazi attempt to smear the name of WWII American hero Bulletman (James Barr). Director Steel’s concern was that Barr might reveal old military secrets while defending his reputation, since his alibi was that he was on a top-secret mission on the day when he had been reportedly working with Nazis.

As it turned out, the highly patriotic Barr and his allies (particularly fellow WWII veteran Ted Knight, aka Starman) proved that Bulletman had never collaborated with the Nazis without exposing old war secrets.

Steel shouldn’t have worried, though. As it turned both Barr and Knight had been hypnotised into being unable to remember the details of their secret mission, and only Steel knew the truth about what they had discovered that day.

DEO

It was also during the late 1990s that the Department of Extranormal Operation (DEO) sprang up, as established by the Bureau of Metahuman Affairs, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Internal Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The DEO, headed by Director Bones (formerly known as Mister Bones of the dysfunctional superhuman clan Helix), monitored superhuman activity throughout the US.

How the DEO was created (and how Bones came to head it) was never clear. It presumably involved considerable political infighting and Steel being on the losing end of it. Bones noted with some sarcasm that Steel rarely visited the DEO headquarters, and seemed to be rubbing his nose in the DEO’s existence.

Mister Mind

Mister Mind escaped and possessed Sarge Steel and one of his scientists, with tragic consequences. The confiscated Mister Atom robot was launched at Fairfield with a nuclear payload and detonated, killing thousands.

Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel had their allies determine how the warhead had been delivered, but soon guessed what had happened to Steel. However, Mr. Mind outwitted them the first time around. Instead of controlling Steel from his ear canal as his species does, he devised equipment giving him a short range, and hid within Steel’s artificial hand instead.

Sarge Steel on the phone at night talking about Ivy Town

Mister Mind worked on his plan of nuclear armageddon using the enormous resources at Steel’s disposal. But Steel kept resisting him and that gave time to the Marvels to intervene.

However, Mind discovered an old exoskeleton of his in Steel’s warehouses. It was an alien artefact recovered by American intelligence services during WWII. Mind went on to fight the Marvels and two Green Lanterns after leaving Steel’s body to enter his armour suit.

Professor Bibbowski, an ally of the Marvels, perfected his anti-Mister-Mind weaponry, and Steel and his men used those guns to kill the worms who had come to reinforce Mister Mind. Steel shot his former possessor, seemingly killing him.

Recon

As he recovered, Steel left for Canada, where he wanted to investigate leads about a project in genetic research backed by the Agenda conspiracy. He came there alone – presumably because it was easier for a single VIP to be there than for an American spook team.

Steel finished investigating. He determined that a base beyond the polar circle was, under benign pretences, conducting research to create a man-bear genetic hybrid soldier.

Steel called Lois Lane to meet him on site (perhaps because he suspected that the Agenda had allies among Canadian agencies), but was captured. Lane sneaked into the base, discovered what was going on and freed Steel, but was captured outside.

While the guards thought that they had shot Steel dead, he was still alive. He freed the polar bears held at the facility ; angered at the torture they had been subjected to, the bears attacked the Agenda guards. Steel, Lane and their allies safely got out, even saving a number of local kids who had been kidnapped as part of the Agenda experiments.

Sarge Steel briefing agents

Another solo reconnaissance mission — presumably, Steel was having one of his phases where he resented being a desk jockey — took place in Bialya. This is the minuscule nation ruled by the original Queen Bee. Steel was highly suspicious of the supposedly rehabilitated Bee.

Though he did not find anything concrete he helped disrupt a suspicious terrorist attack on Bee’s palace which was intended to damage Captain Atom’s reputation.

The Avatar crisis, part 1

(These sections covers the L.A.W. miniseries, whose continuity status has always seemed dubious to me. Still, it’s credible that something along the general lines of the L.A.W. story occurred in the DC universe as it existed back then.)

Sarge Steel, Diana Prince, Thomas Tresser

Meanwhile a villain named Avatar made his play. He swiftly built an organisation of followers, shunted the JLA’s watchtower into another dimension with the whole team inside, and destroyed numerous military installations worldwide.

President Clinton requested that Steel intervene without engaging any American forces, and Steel soon flew to Switzerland to hire operatives from Project Peacemaker. Even there he was attacked by a small horde of Ravanan demons serving Avatar, and Steel’s artificial hand was destroyed when he punched one.

Project Peacemaker insisted to replace his prothesis with a much more sophisticated one – lifelike and capable of providing full tactile sensations. Steel would soon get an opportunity to test the latter feature as the very attractive and far younger Peacemaker communication network director Justine Ramagas embarked on a fling with him.

The Avatar crisis, part 2

After a few hours spent with the Project Peacemaker heads, Steel convinced them to essentially put their enormous resources under his command. He hired Mitchell Black (the new Peacemaker), and with the help of Project Peacemaker assets recovered Nightshade, who had recently been altered to exorcise the literal demons within her.

Steel called some markers, and when the Blue Beetle came he was accompanied by the Question and the original Judomaster, both of whom the Beetle had met whilst investigating the threat of Avatar. The martial arts instructor of Project Peacemaker, Salt, joined this ad hoc field team, which the directors of Project Peacemaker named L.A.W. (Living Assault Weapons).

Sarge Steel and Tom Tresser

The first operation of Steel’s new team turned out to be a trap, since there was an Avatar mole within the Project. Avatar announced that in three days an army of demons would storm Earth and kill anybody who resisted.

Judomaster ended up encountering and defeating Avatar, but discovered that the villain was his former sidekick Tiger. Judomaster let him go to honour a promise he had made when Tiger was young, during the war.

The Avatar crisis, part 3

Steel, furious about Judomaster’s choice, came up with a new plan. Using security tapes, he discovered that the enemy mole was Project Peacemaker’s chief scientist. Using intelligence gathered during the first mission, Steel also sent Nightshade to another dimension to recover the exiled and frozen JLA.

Meanwhile, the first demonic incursions started engaging the Earth militaries.

Steel’s assets were successful. Nightshade brought the full roster of the JLA back to Earth, Judomaster contacted Avatar to negotiate the release of children held hostage, and the rest of the L.A.W. shut down an orbital fortress that was about to scramble electronics worldwide and thus cripple the armed forces fighting the demons.

Steel also had his new prosthesis taken off, realising that it was actually a mind-control device.

To top these triumphs, Judomaster recovered Captain Atom, who has been captured by Avatar to serve as a power battery.

Sarge Steel smoking and pointing his finger

Steel allowed himself to take his first vacations in years if not decades, and left to ski with Justine Ramagas, who appreciated his old-fashioned style.

After he came back from his vacation, Sarge Steel had Captain Atom investigate an apparent world take-over by the JLA. Steel did not react strongly, assuming that it was all some sort of deception to turn the world’s militaries against the JLA.

He was right, and the mighty League soon contained the situation, though the pawns of time-traveller Xotar the Weapons Master did have time to destroy several cities and kill thousands.

Downsizing

During the early 2000s, Steel was less active. It is possible that he resumed some sort of private life with Ramagas and cut back his working hours to something more humanly tolerable. The Department of Metahuman Affairs seemed to shrink in scope and manpower during that time. It is possible that with Steel being less present, other agencies managed to politics away some of his assets and missions.

One may imagine that the creation of the Department of Homeland Security was what opened unprecedented possibilities to pillage Steel’s administrative turf and responsibilities.

Sarge Steel and Nemesis (Tom Tresser)

When a Kryptonian boy crashed into Metropolis, Steel and the DMA handled the case, but the Pentagon arranged to have the kid moved to another base without warning Superman. Though Superman originally thought that Steel had lied, the man with the metallic hand was actually out of the loop, further hinting at a diminished influence. Superman ended up kidnapping the kid back from the military.

When Lex Luthor became President, Steel was replaced by Waller. His Department of Metahuman Affairs was gobbled up by the DEO. While smaller and lower on the totem pole, the DMA retained significant independence and influence, presumably thanks to Steel’s experience and contacts.

Sarge Steel planning against the Society

Still, most of the star agents Steel had previously worked with were whisked elsewhere. Nevertheless, Steel managed to recruit the one-time Federal agent Thomas Tresser, formerly the vigilante Nemesis.

In the mid-2000s, two more top agents joined his agency. But as it turned out, both were plants. Lt.-Col. Etta Candy-Trevor, formerly with Air Force Intelligence, was secretly an agent of the powerful U.N. agency Checkmate, with whom Steel had a workable but rocky relationship. Diana Prince, formerly of the Wayne Corporation, was secretly Princess Diana of Themyscira, taking a sabbatical from her obligations as Wonder Woman thanks to documents expertly forged by Batman.

Prince’s recruitment was ’coincidentally‘ followed by a large donation of high-tech vehicles to the DMA by WayneTech, including one or more redoubtable stealth jet airplanes.

My God. Bees.

Though Steel no longer was the lynchpin of the US’s metahuman operations, he still provided some key coordination work. This was still the case when the Amazons, manipulated by Circe, attacked Washington, D.C.. However, part of Circe’s plan was to replace Sarge Steel with an impersonator, the shapechanger Everyman.

As Steel, Everyman sabotaged the attempts at having super-heroes repel the powerful Amazon military. In particular he had Wonder Woman arrested on charges of murder, for killing Max Lord months before.

Wonder Woman decided to go along to clear her name. However she was imprisoned and isolated much more thoroughly than she had planned since the goal was to keep her unaware that her fellow Amazons were attacking the US.

Sarge Steel in his office with his photos

Tresser realised that something was rotten and freed Wonder Woman. Together they discovered the truth about Steel, stopped the impostor and freed the genuine Sarge Steel, who had been imprisoned under the Unknown Soldier’s grave.

They also were instrumental in stopping the Amazon attack and freeing Queen Hippolyte from Circe’s mystical influence. Meanwhile various super-heroes, no longer tricked by the fake Steel’s orders, were able to more efficiently stop the Amazon military.

Psyche!

However, the DMA’s defences against magic and psychic influence were no longer state-of-the-art. Perhaps this was a result of the best specialists having been tapped to work with either Waller’s agencies or Checkmate.

Thus, not long after the war against the Amazons in Washington, Dr. Psycho touched and enhanced Steel’s paranoid and misogynistic tendencies, particularly as they related to the Amazons.

Sarge Steel and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman)

Steel gradually became certain that Amazon agents were still around, and soon grew convinced that Prince was one such infiltrator, though he couldn’t obtain proof. In part to keep Prince under close watch, he promoted her to a senior agent rank, reporting directly to him and commanding a field squad.

Seeing that Candy-Trevor was hiding things about Prince, he quickly came to distrust all women as possible Amazon agents. Steel asked Tresser to investigate Prince and Trevor. Steel then saw photos of Tresser holding hands with Wonder Woman, greatly feeding his paranoia and reinforcing Dr. Psycho’s hold over him.

Displaced consciousness, part 1

Steel had agent Tresser arrested as a traitor, but Tresser escaped. Hours later, the monstrously powerful creature Genocide, who had just defeated Wonder Woman, stormed the headquarters of the DMA. Genocide wrecked the building and killed the majority of agents there despite their resistance and the arrival of several super-heroes.

As the carnage started, Steel’s considerable willpower finally gave. Psycho gained enough of a foothold to have Steel murder one of his own agents. Unhinged, Steel decided to go murder Psycho, who was held captive in a special DMA cell. Psycho’s control was too strong, however, and Steel ended up just freeing the diminutive villain, who then swapped their consciousnesses.

Steel’s stuporous mind was trapped within Psycho’s body whereas Psycho enjoyed the tall, strong, remarkably robust body of Steel. The Vice-Secretary of Defence, Steve Trevor, came to take control of the ravaged DMA and dismissed “Steel” as Psycho feigned complete stupidity before leaving.

However, one of the scientists who had helped create Genocide — T.O. Morrow — cracked. He told Tresser and Wonder Woman how Cheetah, Psycho and Ares had engineered Genocide using the resources of the Society. Morrow also revealed the Psycho/Steel substitution, and that Psycho in Steel’s body and Steel in Psycho’s body were now in Japan. He was managing an illegal metahuman arena circuit reporting to Roulette.

Realising that Steel’s constant hostility toward her had been Psycho’s creation, Wonder Woman mounted a rescue operation. She enlisted her colleague Black Canary as an expert about the legal and illegal mixed-martial-arts and superhuman fighting scene.

Displaced consciousness, part 2

The two women swiftly infiltrated the circuit as the fighting duo the Orphan Sisters. They discovered that the drugged, bewitched and shocked Steel was kept around, dressed like a medieval jester and acting as a servant and MC.

Sarge Steel eyes closeup

After interacting with the mesmerised Steel in Psycho’s body, Wonder Woman realised that Steel’s willpower would allow him to survive the direct approach. She touched him with the Lasso of Truth. Though recovering his true personality and memories was particularly painful, Diana was correct. Director Steel recovered his full clarity of mind within minutes.

Steel in Psycho’s body, Wonder Woman and Black Canary then went to confront Psycho in Steel’s body before he could flee.

Steel hasn’t been seen since, though one presumes that the consciousness switch was undone, either by a coerced Psycho or the psychic and mystic specialists of the JLA.

While Steel was recuperating, what remained of the DMA suffered additional losses as they resisted the invasion of the alien Silver Serpent forces in Washington, D.C.. At the conclusion of this crisis the DMA, already ravaged by Genocide, had about a dozen agents left and its headquarters, vehicles, labs and the like had all been destroyed.


Description

Even in modern comic books Steel is a chain smoker. He occasionally lights up by scratching a match along his steel fist, which is very manly and everything.

As with most aged characters, his apparent age (and even how grey his hair gets) varies considerably from artist to artist. Some artists have even depicted Steel as if he were roughly the same age as Roy Harper.

Steel usually wears a suit, but during those occasions where he’s in uniform (usually to present an official report) he wears an Army one – presumably with Green Beret insignia and an imposing salad bar.

In more recent years he wore less formal clothing — usually an old-fashioned military pull-over — presumably because he was no longer operating at the Cabinet level.


Personality

Steel is a tough, direct man with a strong sense of duty and little love for pomp and stuffy protocol. However he also occupies positions of high responsibility, and has to take cautious and careful decisions. He may not believe in pussyfooting, but he’s certainly not a loose cannon.

In particular, Steel is not the figure of the hard man who makes his own rules. He dutifully follow orders, even those he disagrees with, and particularly respects the Presidential office. His loyalty toward the President is samurai-like.

Sarge Steel and Tom Tresser at the shooting range

This loyalty means that Steel is particularly concerned by avoiding scandals and PR disasters. It sometimes seems that his primary objective is to avoid embarrassing the government. Since Steel deals in things that tend to go wrong and blow up in all sorts of interesting ways, he spends a fair bit of time doing damage control, suppression of information, mop-ups, spin doctoring and the like.

He also seems to spend a fair bit of time trying to convince politicians not to launch projects that are obviously an incredibly bad idea, though as a civil servant he’s usually ignored by the wealthy and influential.

Stress

Steel does an incredibly stressful job in a toxic, back-stabbing environment. He also has been through a number of reversals of fortune, major crises and grave mistakes. That he still can function is remarkable, especially at his age, but it has an obvious cost.

Steel smokes and drinks an awful lot to cope with the stress. He also takes prodigious amounts of antacids and anxiety drugs to keep functioning and to serve despite the frequent failures and disasters he has to handle.

Though he’s forceful and intimidating, Steel doesn’t really seems to mind when he’s given lip by irreverent allies such as King Faraday or Jack Marshall. He’s not a susceptible man. This may be in part because he has a soft spot for those men and women who are out there making a difference, wishing he could join them despite his responsibilities.

He also doesn’t mind being roughed up by a potential ally if he’s trying to convince them to work for them. This strong pragmatism goes both way, though. If Sarge Steel has to lie and manipulate, he will do it with gusto.

Villain ?

The imperatives of the raison d‘État can result in Steel occupying an almost villainous role in some stories.

Still, he seems to be a generally moral man often dealing with no-win choices and making enough realpolitik decisions to erode his moral compass to a degree. Most of the amoral decisions he took stemmed from being manipulated, not having the right information or having little choice.

Of course, in a less in-universe way, what happens generally is that Steel’s characterisation reflects the writer’s view of the government, rather than a characterisation. Steel can be cast in the rule of the Stupid Chief (who hampers the Maverick Hero as per the American tradition) in one issue and as the Grizzled Patriotic Spy (who saves America in a complicated world) in the next.

Sometimes he sacrifices innocents not to make the government look bad, sometimes he goes to great lengths to save lives and bring crises under control though it might end his career.


Quotes

“The Commander-in-Chief has issued an edict — and Sarge Steel is here to make sure it gets obeyed !”

“Thank you, Mr. President. All right, people, I didn’t ask for this job, but it’s been handed to me and I’m going to see it through. So if anybody’s got any complaints… I don’t want to hear them ! We’ve got a lot of ground to cover in the next hour, so let’s get to it.”

“You’re out of this, Batman. Or we’ll find out just how secret your ‘secret identity’ is when the government really puts its mind to finding out.”

“Well, well, Mister Senator – picking up a little extra change in dark garages now, are we ?”

Deathstroke: “All right, Steel. I’ll take the job.”
Sarge Steel: “Just like that ? No complaints ? No threats ? You’re not letting me have any fun.”

“With the Titans disbanded, I imagine you’re having a bit of a cash flow problem. But me, I’ve got a big sack o’ cash for the man who brings me Sing Lu.”

Justine Ramagas: “Do you own any ties that were made in this decade ?”
Sarge Steel: “Come to think of it… I don’t.”

“Don’t mind me. Spooks don’t get older. Just more suspicious.”


Sharing

These open a new page on Facebook, Twitter or G+. This is because we don't let social networks track you on writeups.org.



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Sarge Steel

Dex: 05 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 06 Occupation: Intelligence director
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 017 HP: 025

Powers:
Systemic antidote: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:
Systemic antidote is a Skilled Power.

Skills:
Artist (Actor): 04, Charisma: 06, Detective (Counterfeit recognition, Legwork, Police procedure): 06, Martial Artist: 05, Military science: 05, Thief: 04, Vehicles (Air, Land, Water): 05, Weaponry (Firearms): 05

Advantages:
Credentials (US Intelligence, High ; US Military, Low ; Suicide Squad, Medium ; White House, Medium), Expertise (Covert metahuman operatives and operations, Intelligence operations, US Intelligence agencies and allies, Security, Federal politics, Metahuman and paranormal threats), Iron Nerves, Rich Friend (Expenses account).

Connections:
CIA (Low), Amanda Waller (Low), Jack “Hacker” Marshall (Low), King Faraday (Low), Sandra Knight (formerly the Phantom Lady and now headmistress of the Université Notre-Dame-des-Ombres, Low), Lois Lane (Low), Nightshade (Eve Eden, Low), Justine Ramagas (Low), plus others from Credentials.

Drawbacks:
Age (Old). Sarge Steel slowly develops a MIA toward alcohol, nicotine and various anxiety drugs.

Equipment:

  • STEEL HAND [BODY (Hardened defences) 10, STR 07, Flame project (No Range): 00]. This is a fully functional, albeit obviously artificial and metallic, prothesis. It can punch or crush with superhuman strength. The new model he started using in 2000 or 2001 includes a cigarette lighter within the thumb.
  • Rechambered .45 P08 “Luger” pistol [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 08, R#02]. It is not clear how often Steel carries, or which type of pistol he packs, but it seems that it is still his old workhorse Lüger.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Post-Crisis DC Universe.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 4th of April, 2011.

Writeups.org is a non-commercial, community site

We chat and work at the DC Heroes Yahoo! group .