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Sarge Steel (DC Comics)

Sarge Steel

(Profile #2 - the DC era (part 1))


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

“There was a man who sat in the shadows, his left hand reflecting the light from half a hundred screens.”
-Neil Gaiman


Context

This profile assumes that you already have perused the first (the Charlton era one), and in particular the section about continuity. So you should do that.

This profile’s huge History section offers a recap of many events that rocked paranormal intelligence and superhuman operations in the US post-Crisis. It thus should be a good primer for those interested in these aspects of the DC Universe.

However, only events in which Steel had a direct, on-panel involvement are covered.

This profile continues in .


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Background

  • Real Name: Sergeant “Sarge” Steel.
  • Other Aliases: Director Steel.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Former Director of Section Seven (presumably within the Central Bureau of Intelligence), former Cabinet-level czar of metahuman operations (aka the Bureau of Metahuman Affairs), Director of the Department of Metahuman Affairs within the DEO.
  • Base Of Operations: Washington, D.C.
  • Height: 6’1” Weight: 198 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Grey (occasionally portrayed as black or light grey).


Powers and Abilities

Sarge Steel is a veteran of special forces operations and intelligence/counter-intelligence work. He also has extensive experience as a private investigator and routinely deals with situations involving superhumans and/or the paranormal, space aliens, super-science, non-human sapients , etc..

At this point of his career, Steel is a senior decisions-maker. He has operated under the direct authority of the President, and has headed or overseen nearly all US governmental agencies that work on paranormal and superhuman situations. His main skills have become management, negotiation, influence, strategy, and intelligence assessment.


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In his prime Steel had an exceptional power of will, and despite the wear and tear he remains mentally very strong. He was one of the few men who could pose significant resistance to being controlled by Mister Mind, at one point summoning enough resolve to shoot himself in the head to kill himself and Mind both (his agents stopped him before he could pull the trigger).

He also has a remarkable presence and authority. But he often deals with people who also have enormous egos and presence, preventing him from just dominating the conversation with his charisma.

Physical assets

Steel can still be present in the field – he certainly doesn’t shy away from danger. But he’s no longer a field operative, and seldom finds himself in a situation to fight. His action-oriented stats in the Game Stats — DC Heroes section are thus guesses, largely based on what his stats used to be and the hypothesis that he’s still dangerous – but worn out by age and stress.

He could operate proficiently along with an elite Russian paratroopers unit, and ordinary thugs and terrorists are no match for him in one-on-one combat.

Sarge Steel, Perry White, Clark Kent, Lois Lane

Steel still trains for strength. In 1993 could still do one hundred one-handed vertical push-ups (!) or use his metallic hand to punch through sheet metal. The artificial hand can also crush what it holds with great power. Steel once easily ripped off the door of an overhead airplane luggage compartment to use as a club, and stated that he could crush somebody’s hand with his prosthesis.

It appears that Steel occasionally wears a flesh-coloured glove over his artificial hand. Either that or it’s a colouring error.

Steel also retains an amazing stamina given his age and his numerous excesses – most other people would have died a long time ago from the stress, lack of sleep, alcohol, smoking and meds.


History

Sarge Steel’s life on New Earth appears to have been very similar to the one he led on Earth-4 before the Crisis on Infinite Earths – which was covered in the .

Secondary sources mention a very similar biography. Enlistment with the Army, joining the Special Forces, promotion to Captain, being in war-torn Việt Nam in the 1960s, clashes with Ivan Chung (called Ivan Chong in post-Crisis secondary sources), and a counter-attack by Chung’s men destroying Steel’s left hand.

Like on Earth-4, Steel is reported as having set up a private detection practice with Bess Forbes as his secretary, and clashing with “spies, criminals and malcontents”. The accompanying art features Charlton villains (the Smiling Skull, Ivan Chung and Roja the co-leader of POW), hinting at Sarge Steel’s Charlton era adventures having occurred more or less similarly on New Earth.

Sarge Steel makes his return

One difference is that on New Earth, Steel apparently did not work full-time for the government until the late 1970s, when he joined the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Thus his career as a P.I. was much longer on New Earth than on Earth-4. His adventures as a government agent may have occurred 8-10 years later than on Earth-4.

Things start going weird

Secondary sources state that he provided consulting services at the Presidential level before that, though, and hint that one of his areas of expertise was combating strange and super-powered menaces.

It is thus likely that, on New Earth, Sarge Steel’s career as a private investigator led him to clash with more exotic opponents than in his Charlton days – when the only super-villain was Mister Ize. Presumably, these encounters with exotic menaces occurred in the gap between the Charlton stories and Steel joining the CBI, and involved DC Universe villains.

From his earliest post-Crisis appearance on, Sarge Steel seemed wary of super-heroes. So it is possible that these unchronicled adventures involved contrasted encounters with super-heroes.

Sarge Steel on the phone in the darkness

One flashback featured Steel occupying some form of shadowy official function at the time when the Justice Society of America left Earth to eternally fight Ragnarok. At least one agent, Nightshade (Eve Eden) was working under him, which may indicate that Steel was at this point an officer for Task Force X. This presumably occurred in 1985 – the year given in Last Days of the JSA.

Steel and Nightshade had intelligence about Kobra’s plot to use the Spear of Destiny. This potent artefact is best-known for its depiction in the Bible’s New Testament and its use by Hitler during World War Two. The Spectre came to confront the Spear-wielding Kobra, and Nightshade stole the Spear after Kobra used it to gravely wound the spirit of vengeance.

Wisely, Steel (who handled the Spear using his artificial hand) just had the artefact stored in some anonymous government warehouse — à la Indiana Jones — where it laid undisturbed for a decade.

The man with the steel fist

By 1986, Sarge Steel was working at a very high level, his short chain of command quickly reaching the President. He seemed to be on excellent terms with Ronald Reagan . Steel was heading an organisation headquartered in the White House, called Section Seven – perhaps the section of the CBI dealing with paranormal and superhuman threats.

During the Legends crisis, when agents of Darkseid turned Earth’s population against its heroes, Steel was sent to Titans Tower to make sure that the Teen Titans stayed under house arrest. They ignored his orders, though, as they correctly assumed that he wouldn’t shoot kids in cold blood.

Sarge Steel introduced by a Neil Gaiman caption

In the aftermath of the Legends crisis, Steel was one of the three participants (with Amanda Waller and Ronald Reagan) in the Presidential briefing that led to the creation of Waller’s Suicide Squad. Steel was opposed to this, clearly stating that this was a PR disaster in the making. However, he also supervised several debatable projects of his own.

One such project was the super-soldier experiments that turned the hapless chimpanzee Titano into a King Kong-sized ape in the middle of Metropolis in 1987. Another was authorising and monitoring a Suicide Squad mission where psychotic operative Deadshot murdered a crime lord and his entourage in uncontrolled circumstances.

Fire and the press

Steel also badly botched a crisis in 1989, when he thought that the fire elemental Firestorm would destroy a satellite effectuating uncontrolled reentry over Florida. The erratic Firestorm decided to let the satellite crash after it proved oddly resistant to his powers, due to carrying the paranormal Brother Power.

Though nearly 5,000 died in the catastrophe, the true nature of the event was covered up.

Sarge Steel shows the Bronze Tiger mask to Ben Turner

During the Titano case, Steel met with fearless investigative reporter Lois Lane, of the Daily Planet. Over the years they would develop a professional relationship, with Lane being Steel’s go-to journalist when he needed to leak something to the press. She could be counted on to conduct additional investigative work rivalling what Steel’s agents could do.

Presumably, Steel’s “leaks” were all about criminal conspiracies about which he couldn’t quite get solid proof, and upon which he wished to direct some heat.

The Janus Directive, part 1

The late 1980s were dominated, in the US intelligence world, by the plot called the Janus Directive. This master plan of the nihilistic Kobra cult was devastating for US agencies.

Kobra arranged for them to war against each other, the paranoia and his manipulations resulting in a body count that crippled the warring US intelligence forces. Appalled at the mess, President Bush the elder  put Sarge Steel in charge of all agencies during the crisis, to investigate intelligence pointing at Kobra and put an end to the threat.

Aside from the CBI, agencies that fell under Steel’s temporary umbrella included Checkmate (the original, American version), Waller’s Suicide Squad, the military’s Captain Atom Project and the Force of July. Steel also benefited from the cooperation of Manhunter (Mark Shaw) and Firestorm. He further had the authorisations to hire Peacemaker, a frequent contractor of Checkmate.

Steel’s office came to be called the Bureau of Metahuman Affairs. Agents working for him occasionally identified themselves as working for the BMA, though they would more often identify as working for their normal agency, usually the CBI or Checkmate. The BMA was sometimes called the Office of Metahuman Affairs or the Department of Metahuman Affairs, perhaps due to later reorganisations.

Sarge Steel in his Washington office

At this point of the Janus Directive crisis enough intelligence existed — largely thanks to Manhunter — to learn about the Kobra cult’s master weapon. It was an orbital firebase that was being readied to destroy the Eastern half of the US. Steel decided to make a strong effort to free the various high-value hostages held on Kobra’s satellite, included professor Megala, rather than just blow everything up.

The Janus Directive, part 2

As part of this, he tasked Captain Atom, Major Force and Firestorm with forcing Kobra’s huge spaceship to effectuate reentry. The tactic was to use space wrecks left over from the Invasion as an obstacle field, then surgically damage the ship. The spaceship eventually had to fly low enough to be boarded by high-altitude jet transports, and stormed.

The assault was successful despite some casualties, but Kobra’s enormous vessel dove into a suicide run. This forced Steel to order its interception by a low-yield nuclear missile with no time to evacuate the assault force aboard.

As it turned out, the very powerful (and increasingly inhuman) Firestorm easily stopped Steel’s missile and handled the ship with Captain Atom’s help. The Kobra spacecraft was neutralised, Kobra himself was captured by Manhunter, and the remnants of the assault force safely evacuated the ship.

Sarge Steel saying Amanda Waller's name

In the wake of the Janus Directive disaster, President Bush reorganised the intelligence agencies dealing with superhumans and other special threats. Steel was the main beneficiary of this. He became a cabinet-level official reporting directly to the President on metahuman covert activities, and the CBI (including star agent King Faraday) was handed over to him.

The main 3 non-CBI persons reporting to Steel were :

  • General Eiling (promoted into overseeing all military use of metahumans).
  • Harry Stein (heading a now-independant Checkmate, its mother agency Task Force X being dissolved).
  • Amanda Waller (still heading the Suicide Squad but having lost a lot of political capital).

Waller in particular was furious to end up under Steel’s authority, having previously enjoyed a high degree of independence.

The Force of July was disbanded, most members having died during the Kobra case and the last survivor, Major Victory, having decided to leave.

Fall of the Tiger

As covert metahuman operations czar, Steel oversaw numerous operations and crises. Examples included a successful and quite public Suicide Squad foray in Iran to recover a defector – but despite this success Steel became increasingly wary about the Suicide Squad, which had a peculiar track record.

After Ben Turner, the field leader of the Squad, disobeyed the spirit of Steel’s orders to rescue Squad operatives stranded on Apokolips, Steel started investigating him in an uncharitable manner.

Sarge Steel face closeup

Steel confronted Turner, using intelligence from his psychological profile, and clearly demonstrated that Turner wasn’t psychologically stable. Whether it was Steel’s idea is unclear. The dialogue hints that Steel followed orders and wasn’t convinced of the necessity of getting rid of Turner.

However Steel’s top CBI agent, King Faraday, saw this situation as a racist plot by Cabinet-level advisors, including Steel, to get rid of a Black man occupying a unique position within the US intelligence apparat.

Fall of the Wall

At this point, Steel was determined to shut down the Squad. He had, after all, been right all along about it being a PR disaster, and having Turner crack was the final nail. At the same time, the criminal and mystical organisation Loa leaked confidential information about the Squad. Steel had to react immediately and put an end to Waller’s organisation to retain some deniability.

Steel had misunderstood the urgency of the threat posed by the Loa, however. He did not treat intelligence that Loa was about to strike and kill thousands as being reliable enough.

Sarge Steel and Hacker

Knowing that her Loa intel was correct, Waller went rogue. Accompanied by a handful of Squad killers, she murdered the leadership of Loa before they could launch their devastating plot against the US population. Waller surrendered and a plea-bargain deal was reached with the government.

Though unsure of what had happened in the field, Steel was satisfied that nothing leaked about the Loa case.

Marshall, Harper & Shaw

It was presumably during this era that Steel met with Jack Marshall. This computer science genius and irascible anarchist who was the lead engineer for an upgrade of NORAD’s computer infrastructure. Despite their starkly different attitudes and politics, the two men worked well together and came to respect each other.

Steel kept Marshall’s phone number handy, particularly for major computer security issues. He considered that his corporate contractors were not worth a damn and preferred to rely on underground security legend Jack “Hacker” Marshall for major crises.

Sarge Steel doing one-armed push-ups

This era is also likely the one during which Roy Harper — formerly Speedy of the Teen Titans — joined Checkmate. Harper was a rookie agent on the team Steel commanded in the field to stop a campus sniper. Steel, knowing that Harper was an extraordinary marksman, handed him the squad’s precision rifle, but Harper was too hesitant to shoot to kill.

Furious, Steel and his men tried more risky tactics, forcing Harper’s hand and leading him to gun down the sniper. Perhaps because of this, the working relationship between Steel and Harper would remain execrable.

Steel was more successful when working with Mark Shaw, the former Manhunter, who had been invaluable during the Janus Directive disaster. Shaw killed the psychotic assassin Dumas, which triggered a crisis of conscience leading Shaw to pretend that he was Dumas. Steel worked out a deal with Shaw, who became one of his undercover agents infiltrating the underworld under deep cover.

As certain parties wondered where Shaw had gone, Steel decided to reinforce the Dumas cover since it was working so well. He had another agent wear Shaw’s Manhunter costume so nobody would wonder why Shaw had vanished.

The fist and the wall

A year later, Steel resumed contact with Waller, who was still imprisoned. A revolution in Eastern Europe — in Vlatava — was backed by a private American conspiracy. The US government needed unconventional, deniable elements outside the normal chain of command to prevent a disaster.

Waller was the only person with the experience to lead this, and Steel was the one who agreed to eat crow and negotiate with her. Waller had Steel parlay to obtain Batman’s collaboration, since the Dark Knight had also discovered the Vlatavan-American conspiracy.

Waller made aggressive demands — with the Suicide Squad becoming a mercenary force rather than an agency — but Steel saw the long-term interest of her approach and eventually agreed to it.

Sarge Steel and Valentina Vostok

In particular, Steel gave intelligence to Waller to locate her star operative, Ben Turner, whom Steel had psychologically broken more than a year before. Waller assembled a team of Suicide Squad veterans, including Turner, and successfully handled the Vlatavan situation.

Fall of Checkmate

Meanwhile, the situation at the previously reliable Checkmate agency went south. Director Harry Stein was forced to go rogue when his family was taken hostage. Furious, Steel ordered the rest of Checkmate to capture Stein – especially after he realised that Stein had lost custody of an important prisoner, renegade Checkmate agent Jacques Reynard, to save his family.

One Senator McRaven, of the congressional intelligence committee, started applying pressure to have Checkmate closed. He argued that Stein’s actions showed that a repeat of the Janus Directive events was quite possible. Steel defended Stein, but Stein’s patience ran out and he got into a heated and public argument with McRaven.

Sarge Steel, Roy Harper and an assistant

Steel smelled a rat and quickly determined that McRaven was working for Cypher International, a particularly shady international corporation that was trying to destroy Checkmate. Though he couldn’t prove anything, Steel convinced President Bush the elder to back him and Stein. He had Stein returned to active duty despite being investigated by Congress at McRaven’s behest.

A war erupted between Cypher International and Checkmate, both at Cypher’s New York City headquarters and in Europe, where CEO Victor Cypher was launching his megalomaniacal plan.

Steel dug up enough dirt to have McRaven arrested, but when his CBI men came McRaven had already been eliminated by Cypher hitmen. Checkmate nearly managed to bring Cypher down, but Cypher narrowly outmanoeuvred them and the US forces had to retreat. Despite this failure, President Bush kept supporting Steel and Stein, knowing that nobody could win every single battle.

Conspiracies, part 1

During the early 1990s, Steel determined that there existed a conspiracy that was a sort of shadow version of his role, and included CIA agents and senior military leaders, including Gen. Eiling. The goal of this cabal was to allow the US to take direct control of major superheroes by learning of their identity and extensively blackmailing them, rather than rely on allies and criminals.

The cabal was conspiring with Quraci authorities, whose Jihad program they saw as an excellent example of what they wanted to achieve. They used the Jihad as a test run, being behind some the enhancements used on the super-terrorists to test those technologies in the field. This drew the attention of Israeli intelligence assets, and from there Sarge Steel.

Though Steel couldn’t determine to which extent his own forces were compromised with the Cabal, his previous deal with Amanda Waller allowed him to just hire the Suicide Squad, who was out of anybody’s chain of command.

Sarge Steel, Amanda Waller, Major Victory

Successfully capturing President Marlo of Qurac, the Squad learned of several key cabal operatives, and made sense of a longstanding conflict between the Atom (Ray Palmer) and the CIA. They determined that pro-cabal CIA assets had been the ones who had tried to force the Atom to serve them, as they saw him as their best way to bring the JLA under their control.

Though some of the operations didn’t go well, Steel and Waller collaborated efficiently and acquired enough intelligence to present a for-your-eyes-only report to the President (the recently-elected Bill Clinton , presumably) detailing the deeds of the Cabal.

While there wasn’t enough hard evidence for a court or the media, it is likely that Steel then arranged for purges. From one oblique remark Waller made to the President, it is possible that Clinton had some knowledge of — or even some involvement with — the conspiracy.

Conspiracies, part 2

After reporting to the President, Steel and Waller shook hands and mended fences. Some weeks later, Waller decided to put the Squad on hold as she became the President of the minor island-state of Diabloverde.

Mere weeks later, critical military computer infrastructures were hit by a vicious virus, blinding the nuclear response system and various other strategic systems. Steel had Jack “Hacker” Marshall summoned on the double, expelling the official contractors when they and Marshall started yelling at each other.

This proved the correct choice. After various adventures with Steel’s support, Marshall cleaned up the strategic systems without any nuclear launch. The dogged Hacker would later expose the conspiracy that had built the virus — see his writeups.org profile.

Sarge Steel and Iron Munroe

As he finished dealing with the aftershocks of the crises Marshall had handled, Steel reactivated Checkmate as a small structure. He needed their expertise to deal with international assassin Cheshire’s organisation, which had just stolen the body of Deathstroke the Terminator.

The Checkmate strike against Cheshire’s organisation did significant damage. Nevertheless, she and other key operatives (including a resurrected Deathstroke and Checkmate mole Roy Harper aka Arsenal) managed to escape after killing off much of the Checkmate strike team.

Checkmate and Steel cooperated with their Russian equivalents in a last-ditch effort to prevent Cheshire from stealing Russian nukes, but that too narrowly failed and Cheshire blew up Qurac. Within days, American and Russian forces conducted a joint strike that wiped out Cheshire’s forces — with the help of Deathstroke, who had been working for Steel all along.

Steel soon determined that his request to have the Russian nuclear warheads neutralised before Cheshire could steal them had been intercepted by a renegade American agent. It was one Agent Smith (no relation), who hated the Quraci and harboured genocidal plans ever since some terrorist operations against the US sanctioned by the Quraci government.

Though Smith’s sabotage had led to the death of thousands, which Steel had never intended, the international standing of Qurac was so execrable that this had next to no diplomatic consequences.

Nihilists, part 1

One case Steel could handle more directly was the disappearance of a series of nuclear physicists, which greatly concerned him. As soon as the CBI managed to scare up a lead, he had another veteran of the US intelligence apparat — star CBI agent King Faraday — determine what was going on.

While Faraday was discovering that it was another plot from the Kobra cult, Steel continued another investigation to obtain evidence about a corrupt Congressman.

Sarge Steel in his office

As Faraday ran into increasingly ferocious resistance to bring an informer to safety in the US, Steel met with him in Paris. The joint French/American intelligence and covert action group operated by the DGSE and the CBI soon located the Kobra base near Chernobyl.

At this point, Sarge Steel was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the thought that he was going to die a desk jockey. From the dialogue it is possible that he recently had some minor cardiac troubles that led him to fear that he was going to die of a coronary rather than in the field. He thus decided to accompany Faraday in the field to storm Kobra’s current base.

The two American operatives liaised with the Russian government, who agreed to let them join a Russian airborne commando team tasked with destroying the base. Though the Russian paratroopers were sceptical at first, they took a liking to the two Americans and their military skills, and the operation was a complete success.

Nihilists, part 2

Meanwhile, the dark god of vengeance Eclipso took control of the minor island-state of Parador, turning it into a miniature Hell on Earth. Scientist Bruce Gordon, Eclipso’s sworn enemy, attempted to obtain some help from the government. But Sarge Steel couldn’t act, as the US government invading Parador would have catastrophic political consequences.

Sarge Steel, the Spear of Destiny and Nightshade

However, he advised Gordon off-the-record as to how he could prepare a private assault of Parador. Steel also called Waller to have her listen to Gordon’s projects. Waller agreed to help, and continued to keep Steel informed of what was going on.

As the Eclipso situation became increasingly hard to handle, Steel — who was furious that his hands were tied given the atrocious crimes taking place in Parador — procured help for Waller. The original Major Victory (who had been one of Steel’s men years before) agreed to help, though he would become one of the numerous casualties of the raid in Parador. Steel’s agent wearing Mark Shaw’s Manhunter costume was also killed.

Aftermath of Parador

Though the raid was more or less successful, the numerous deaths and high-profile violence forced Steel to arrest Waller, Gordon and the others as American citizens having committed acts of war against a sovereign nation. Disgusted with the situation, Steel decided to take the fall along with Waller. He revealed that he had had knowledge of the impending operation and did not prevent it.

Sarge Steel looking very determined

Steel, Waller, Gordon and Gordon’s fiancée Mona Bennet were tried by the UN, with some of the less salubrious aspects of the operation’s financing coming to light. However, Eclipso (possessing the Paradorian ambassador) rushed the trial and demanded the immediate execution of Steel and the others under threat of nuclear reprisals.

The surviving members of Waller’s task force intervened and chased Eclipso. The incident convinced the UN to clear the four suspects of all charges, back the effort against Eclipso and vote a resolution for armed intervention in Parador. The UN requested Steel’s expertise in coordinating the military operation, which Steel immediately agreed to do.

Waller and Wonder Woman assembled a powerful team of heroes. Steel had Gordon’s solar-based weaponry, which could prevent Eclipso from possessing victims, produced in quantities sufficient to arm an air force (presumably a US Marines Corps Aviation squadron) and several infantry units, including one which was put under Waller’s command.

Steel oversaw the force which took the Paradorian capital, Port-au-Fina, and Eclipso was soon dispersed by the Spectre and the Phantom Stranger.

Titans together

A short time later, the marriage of Nightwing and Starfire of the Teen Titans turned into a disaster. The Trigon-possessed Raven attacked, slaying various guests – including some VIPs. This led to considerable political and media backlash against the Titans, centring on a New York City Councilwoman who had been running a campaign against the Titans and was left in a coma after the battle.

The Attorney General decided to prosecute. To control the damage, Steel ordered Checkmate agent and long-time Titan Roy Harper — aka Arsenal — to assume command of the Titans. This gambit was successful. With the Titans under Steel’s indirect command, a lot of the pressure to pass laws regulating superhuman activity was defanged.

Sarge Steel working with Checkmate

Steel had his PR staff work overtime, and the public was convinced that the Titans had turned over a new leaf and now were neither threat nor menace.

Steel then tried to better integrate the Titans among the agencies he oversaw. He even had Harper suspend ties with Dayton Industries, who had been equipping the Titans, to enter a relationship with government contractor Lex Luthor II, CEO of Lexcorp and supposedly the son of Lex Luthor.

Titans not so together

Though the Titans were very reluctant to work for the government, Steel had a few ways to apply pressure. Especially after he indicated that his legal staff would defend them from a threatened lawsuit from the City of New York. At this point the team was Arsenal, Changeling, Pantha, Red Star and “Baby”, a childlike Wildebeest construct adopted by Pantha.

Steel had them run an operation under his direct command, though it was a case where he knew that their altruism and heroism would lead them to intervene anyway. The so-called Terrarizer had been threatening various governments with orbital bombardment lest they accept his demands, and the Titans (with the help of the amnesiac Starfire) stopped him.

Sarge Steel working at his desk

The Titans were particularly wary of Steel’s agenda. They also knew that the relationship between the JLA and the government had been degrading, leaving Steel without much superhuman manpower. Arsenal petulantly leveraged the situation to impose his terms to Steel, having the government support the Titans without being able to rely on much in return.

While President Clinton was favourable to this very loose deal, Steel assumed that sooner or later it would leave the US powerless against some threat. He started manoeuvring to gain some degree of control — Arsenal had simply asked for too much for the deal to be viable.

Steel also had several attractive female agents start vamping selected Titans while they were having a night out, presumably to gather intelligence and ’negotiation material‘.

Titans out, part 1

Despite all these antics, the Titans angle turned out to be a dud. Days after Arsenal signed the contract, the existing team disintegrated, leaving but Arsenal and Changeling. Furthermore, the latter turned out to be possessed by the Trigon essence within Raven.

Still, Harper recruited Terra, Mirage, Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Impulse and Darkstar (Donna Troy) to form a new version of the Titans.

Furthermore, Steel contacted the judge overseeing the trial of the young hero Damage, who had accidentally blown up part of Atlanta. Steel arranged for Damage to be able to join Arsenal’s team, and convinced the youth to give the team a try, but the immature Damage left within weeks. Supergirl would later join for a while.

Sarge Steel smoking and talking

Arsenal strong-armed Steel into agreeing to bankroll a full base for the Titans as part of the lopsided agreement. Still, Director Steel openly considered that it was a mistake and that the taxpayer-paid multi-million dollars gear would get thrashed well before it was amortised.

Steel also started conferring with Nightwing in secret, without Arsenal’s knowledge. Though Nightwing was also wary about Steel’s agenda, he provided some good advice. It was further hinted that Steel had altered the contract before Harper carelessly signed it, to have much more authority over the Titans than Harper intended.

Titans out, part 2

The Titans were rarely available for government work as they struggled against old opponents such as Psimon or the Trigon-possessed Raven. The latter put several former Titans and allies out of commission by infecting them with Trigon seeds, further restricting the pool of potential agents and allies for Sarge Steel. This wobbling version of the Titans would peter out after a few chaotic months.

Sarge Steel rips open an overhead luggage compartment

Thankfully, Steel concurrently managed to briefly reactivate a veteran O.S.S. agent. It was Arnold “Iron” Munro, a former All-Star Squadron member who had later served as a special agent during the Cold War under the call-sign “Gladiator-One”.

Munro had retired on bitter terms after the loss of his son and his wife, and wanted nothing to do with the government anymore. Steel had not come empty-handed, though – he was specifically looking for Munro since he had learned that Gladiator-One’s longtime opponent Baron Blitzkrieg was back.

While Munro had rejected Steel’s previous offers, his hatred for the Baron led to him to return to the field for a while. However he still requested his fee as a private troubleshooter to point out that he wasn’t back in government service.

Munro proved invaluable in controlling troubles in Atlanta. He also helped curb the doings of the Symbolix corporation, about which Steel had repeatedly advised caution to officials.

The Crimelord, part 1

While the Titans were disintegrating and Munro was working, the feared mercenary Deathstroke the Terminator was caught on TV murdering a US Senator. It was assumed to have been an attempt on the President’s life. Steel and his Checkmate assets reacted swiftly and located Deathstroke before any other agency could.

Deathstroke escaped from the first attempt to stop him, but Steel convinced the Bronze Tiger to work with him despite the bad blood between them from the Suicide Squad days. Steel then managed to hire Deadshot to provide backup for the Tiger. The uncontrollable Deadshot killed the Terminator, who soon revived.

At this point a witness went to press to state the truth – the man Deathstroke had killed was a body double equipped with a bomb intended for President Clinton.

Sarge Steel and Salt with weapons drawn

Deathstroke and Steel independently discovered that this attempt on the President’s life, along with several other recent major criminal campaigns, had been orchestrated by the mysterious Crimelord. The Crimelord was secretly Steve Dayton suffering from yet another mental breakdown.

The Crimelord also plotted attacks against the Titans, further keeping the unravelling team off-balance, and had other officials assassinated as part of his plan to create war and chaos within the US.

The Crimelord, part 2

Meanwhile, Steel backed Deathstroke as his best chance to put an end of the considerable threat the Crimelord posed. He arranged to recover the corpse of Deathstroke after he was killed again by the Ravager and Adeline Kane-Wilson, before the cops could identify him and before the immortal Deathstroke would return to life.

Steel also took care of Deathstroke’s daughter Rose after the Ravager killed her mother. He placed the dangerous teen with the Titans until the courts could arrange for some sort of guardianship and psychiatric healthcare for her.

After sending the Titans to capture the out-of-control Deathstroke, Steel offered the Terminator a deal to work with Checkmate to help prove his innocence.

Steel further stacked the deck by having Deathstroke tortured, then announcing that the torture had been ordered by irate officials who wanted to have Deathstroke executed off the record no matter what. This left Steel looking like he was Desthstroke’s best chance at survival and vindication.

Sarge Steel with his Luger

The Crimelord escalated to a worldwide plot of nuclear blackmail. But one of his recent thefts had angered the Syndicate – the main criminal organisation in Earth’s space sector, which has some assets active on Earth to steal and smuggle antiques.

The Syndicate hit the Crimelord’s bases and anonymously informed Checkmate of the location of several nukes planted in major cities by the Crimelord. In return the Crimelord also manipulated Steel into having Deathstroke, the Titans and some Checkmate assets destroy a Syndicate spaceship.

The Crimelord, part 3

The situation escalated into a war in Dallas between the Crimelord’s superhuman enforcers and the Syndicate – with Checkmate, the Titans and Deathstroke caught in the middle. Steel’s forces were reinforced in the nick of time by a contingent of Darkstars and were thus victorious.

In the scramble to disarm the nuclear bombs, Steel took command of all heroic forces he could get – the Outsiders, Hawkman, the Titans (with Supergirl and Green Lantern splitting off to cover more ground), Steel (John Henry Irons), the Blood Pack, Extreme Justice, Deathstroke the Terminator and Aquaman. All bombs were safely disposed of, and Deathstroke and Steel established that the Crimelord was Dayton.

Deathstroke also determined that the bombs were just a decoy, to allow for the replacement of several world leaders by artificial body doubles. Steel and his Checkmate operatives imprisoned Datyon, who had turned himself into a cyberspace intelligence, by cutting communications to his computer core. They also presumably eliminated the body doubles worldwide.

Sarge Steel and several L.A.W. members

While the clean-up was going on, Steel had the Titans leave for Jupiter to investigate a strange gravity well that had destroyed a NASA probe. This would be the last mission he would be able to send the Titans on, as they disappeared into deep space and finally disbanded when they came back.

More aliens

The loss of the Titans weakened Steel’s roster – though Donna Troy continued to make use of the base intended for the Titans, allowing Steel to require her expertise in exchange.

When an unconventional power source was detected in Antarctica, Steel was too short on manpower and sent in a mercenary team, but they went missing in action. Steel convinced Troy to go check and she in turn invited the Flash (Wally West) to join her.

The mercenaries were all dead when the two ex-Titans arrived, but the heroes stopped a gang of Laxorian criminals who had been accidentally awakened from suspension.

More Deathstroke

Nevertheless, Steel had to make do for most of the late 1990s with less powerful agents, and his workhorse was Deathstroke the Terminator. Such missions included killing a psychotic immortal in Milwaukee, and defeating another attempt at killing the President. Led by Baron Blitzkrieg’s Shadowspire network, this attempt failed but did blow up the Capitol Building, killing and wounding hundreds.

Deathstroke was one of those caught under the rubble, and when he was dug out he was physically much younger, and partially amnesiac.

Sarge Steel amidst a sea of guards

The rejuvenated Deathstroke continued to work for Steel, who had him medically monitored and re-equipped. This lasted until the renegade Checkmate agent Karrion intervened. Karrion told Deathstroke that rather than save the Terminator from torture and execution by irate government officials during the Crimelord crisis, Steel had been the one ordering the torture to manipulate him.

Karrion also explained that he was the result of an experiment using Deathstroke’s blood to create a superhuman biological warfare agent with a healing factor . Deathstroke neutralised Karrion, but left Checkmate after threatening to kill Steel.

Less Arsenal

Steel also ended up burning bridges for a while with Roy Harper aka Arsenal, in somewhat similar circumstances. As part of some political horse-trading with two Senators, Steel sent Harper after Sing Lu, a former crimelord who had retired a decade before. The Senators wanted to put Lu on a show trial as part of the War on Drugs propaganda, though he hadn’t committed any crime for years.

This led to Steel lying to Harper — telling him that Lu was now dealing in weapons of mass destruction — and to Lu — leaking information that an American assassin was coming to kill his beloved daughters. Lu hired an army of criminals to stop Harper, and was nearly successful. But Harper eventually prevailed and he and Lu discovered that they had been manipulated.

Having gone through a lot of suffering during this mission — including a new bout of withdrawal from heroin — Harper threatened Steel with death before leaving.

This entry is continued in the third part of our Sarge Steel character profile !


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By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Post-Crisis DC Universe.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 4th of April, 2011.

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