In 1992, the “Death of Superman” storyline led to four new heroes taking on the mantle of Kal-El, one of whom was an armored hero named John Henry Irons, a.k.a. the Man of Steel, later simplified to Steel. He remained a staunch ally of Superman’s after his resurrection.
In 1992, several high-profile Marvel artists formed Image Comics, and one of their flagship titles was Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.
In 1997, both Steel and Spawn starred in live-action movies, thus taking two of the highest-profile comics events of 1992 and turning them into REALLY REALLY REALLY bad movies five years later. The great superhero movie rewatch looks at Steel and Spawn.
I watched Steel and thought, “Wow, is this embarrassing,” and then I watched Spawn and didn’t realize when I had it so good. Steel is terrible, but at least it’s harmless—and its heart is in the right place, as ultimately it’s about a hero who does the right thing. (Although the ease with which Steel uses stolen equipment and fights the cops is a bit off-putting.) Spawn, though doesn’t even have heart. It’s just a dank, dark, ugly story about dank, dark, ugly people. John Henry Irons became Steel to keep people from being hurt. Al Simmons became Spawn because he’s good at killing people. While there’s a level of tragedy to Simmons, it’s a pretty shallow level, all told, and he’s mostly an awful person whose notion of a conscience is half-assed and half-hearted.