In a new conversation with The Film Rescue Podcast, veteran DC artist Jon Bogdanove confirmed what fans have long suspected -- that he and writer Louise Simonson, who created the character of Steel (John Henry Irons), had nothing to do with the movie based on their stories. The movie Steel, which came out in 1997 and starred Shaquille O'Neal in the title role, was a critical and commercial flop, and the "thud" it made when it hit theaters might have been loud enough to actually hurt the character of Steel, who was a fan-favorite but also less than five years old at the time.
Created by Simonson and Bogdanove as part of DC's "Reign of the Supermen" storyline, Steel was conceived as a street-level Iron Man, using his smarts and cobbling together a non-lethal armor and taking to the streets of Metropolis's worst neighborhoods in tribute to Superman, who at that point was dead. The Film Rescue Podcast is more or less what it sounds like: they take a movie that didn't work, and let either the hosts or a guest pitch a way to "rescue" the movie.
"One of my suggestions for how to rescue this film would have been to involve in any way the two creators who invented the character," Bogdanove said on the show. "The most ironic moment of my career was drawing the comic book adaptation of the film adaptation of a character I created, after having no input into the film at all."
Bogdanove and Simonson actually got a "created by" credit in the opening credits of Steel, a rarity for comics creators aside from those who, like the creators of Superman and Batman, came to contractual settlements with the owners of DC or Marvel. Bogdanove credits that to Jenette Kahn, then DC's president, who he says championed the idea of giving creators credit, since it cost no money but built goodwill between creators and the company.
"Of course it hurt" to be left out of the filmmaking process, Bogdanove admitted. "I think Weezie and I would have loved to at least been consulted and then if they went and did the same crap, at least we'd have been consulted. On the other hand, that's sort of the nature of the business, certainly in those days, to just ignore the contribution of the creators. And by not having had anything to do with the movie, I can come on this show and speak critically about it."
Bogdanove, Simonson, and numerous other creators involved in the "Death and Return of Superman" mega-arc did get onscreen credit for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which loosely adapted Superman's deadly fight with Doomsday.
Steel is currently not streaming for free, but you can buy or rent it on all the major digital retailers. A print-on-demand DVD is available through the Warner Archive.