Real Name: Curtis Metcalf
Identity/Class: Human technology user
Occupation: Scientist, inventor, business executive, adventurer, crimefighter, vigilante
Affiliations: Barraki Young, Edwin Alva (deceased), Deathwish, Icon and Rocket, Static, the Shadow Cabinet, Xombi, Harm, Alva Technologies, Hard Co., Edwin Alva Jr., Cheryl, Ann, Deacon ("Phreaky Deak"), Steel, Superman, Superboy
Enemies: Reprise, the System, Technique, Milton St. Cloud, the Star Chamber, Rift, Arcanna, Hangman, Volt, Guillotine, Smoke, Hypo, the Blood Syndicate, Pyre (a.k.a. Holocaust);
formerly Edwin Alva and Alva Technologies
Known Relatives: Mitchell (father), Denise (mother)
Aliases: "The Cog in the Machine"
Base of Operations: Alva Industries, Dakota City
First Appearance: Hardware #1 (Milestone, April 1993)
Powers/Abilities: Curtis Metcalf is possibly one of the most brilliant scientific minds on the planet. Although it is impossible to fully detail his creativity; he has created breakthroughs in metallurgy, computer science, nanotechnology, and plasma weapons.
His greatest invention was perhaps a suit of liquid metal armor that he called Hardware. The first version of the armor (Hardware 1.0) was built with bits and pieces that Curtis could scrounge and steal without attracting attention. "The moral equivalent of using the office copying machine for personal business," as Curtis once put it. Although impressive, the first version was crude and less than perfect. The second version (Hardware 2.0) was constructed with the full cooperation of Alva Technologies and was a vastly improved and powerful version of the armor.
The basic armor was a black plasticized alloy of his own design. It literally coated him from head to toe and provided him with impact resistance and was bulletproof to small caliber handguns. This armor was skintight and was the foundation that the other components of the armor; his helmet, weapons gauntlets, breastplate, etc. rested upon.
The second version of this armor was thicker and denser for increased protection and also included ablative capabilities for protection against electricity and laser beams. It also incorporated new liquid polymers that functioned much like a human muscle; stretching and contracting but with considerably greater force. This polymer greatly augmented his natural strength and gave Hardware the strength of over a dozen men. This polymer could "remember" movements and motions that Curtis programmed into it. He thus could execute a series of movements that the polymers automatically performed. For instance, Curtis programmed complex series of martial art maneuvers into the polymers that he could trigger as a high-speed combination of martial arts katas at a later time.
One drawback to the basic armor was that while he was wearing it, he could not eat or drink (and presumably excrete).
The helmet, weapons gauntlets and breastplate were worn over the basic armor and were forged out of a liquid metal that when polarized, became incredibly dense and provided enormous protection. Hardware used a wide variety of interchangeable modules in his 1.0 version so he could swap out damaged components or for specific missions as certain modules were specially outfitted or geared for a different combat situations.
Both Hardware 1.0 and the 2.0 versions were controlled primarily though the helmet. The armor responded not only to voice commands but also through visual input that tracked his eye movements that selected various options on the HUDS (Heads Up Display) menu that projected itself directly onto his retinas and was invisible to anyone else. The Hardware 2.0 version of his helmet contained storage pods of nanobots; microscopic machines that replicated themselves at incredible speeds into preprogrammed forms. Using nanotechnology, Hardware could construct the external components of his armor such as the breastplate and weapons gauntlets and given sufficient time, even repair damaged components. The 2.0 version also incorporated an adaptation of the inertial winder (used by Rocket). Because of its increasing bulk and weight, Hardware used an inertial winder to offset the 2.0 armor's sheer weight which made him incredibly quick and also increased his agility and ability to move quietly.
Previously, Curtis required a considerable length of time to even don the 1.0 version of the armor and extensive facilities to store the various components which he maintained in his secret laboratory. The Hardware 2.0 version was not only portable (he could store it in the trunk of his car) but if necessary, he could configure it in a matter of moments.
Hardware 1.0 could and did occasionally utilize a jet pack that had sufficient fuel to enable him to fly for several minutes but was prone to failure and usually had to be replaced on a regular basis. Hardware 2.0 had an integrated jet pack that provides perpetual incandescent thrust via turbines that would gather ambient air and expel it as superheated thrust.
Hardware carried a number of interchangeable weapons all of his own design. These included rifles and guns that discharged a wide variety of bullets or energy beams and even weighted chains with blades. However his primary weapon system (in both 1.0 and 2.0) was the Omnicannon; a forearm mounted cannon that propelled metal ammunition shells like a mini-grenade launcher.
A rotating drum held a variety of shells that Hardware could pick or chose which particular shell he might need in a given situation. He also naturally carried more ammunition shells that he could load as needed. Hardware had used stun shells that detonate in an intense flash of light and deafening sound; explosive shells that carry a shaped explosive charge; armor piercing shells that could punch through even the most sophisticated armor; fletchette shells that broke open in mid-flight to release dozens of razor sharp darts; bolo shells that released a weighted steel bolo that entangled opponents in a strong nylon cord; knock-out gas shells that released a powerful nerve gas sufficient to place unprotected individuals unconscious for several minutes; and neural net shells that released a cohesive electrical field that painfully disrupted the nervous systems of anyone touching it.
Hardware 1.0 sometimes included a retractable wrist-mounted blade. He had two different versions, an 18-inch retractable knife blade or a longer 30-inch retractable sword blade. The 2.0 model incorporated a new and stronger blade (to compensate for his increased physical strength) that had a fully adjustable length of anywhere from 18 to 30 inches.
Another weapon that Hardware frequently carried was his plasma whip. Not only did it serve as an offensive weapon, but he could also use it as an extended arm for grabbing and as a climbing tool. At command, Hardware could send a devastating charge of intense plasma energy racing through the coils of the whip from the base to its tip. The plasma whip was perhaps the only weapon that he left unaltered in both his 1.0 and 2.0 version.
The 2.0 Hardware Armor possessed a potent plasma weapon known as the PLASER (Plasma Laser). The PLASER created a magnetic bottle that entrapped a globular super-heated mass of plasma that was then propelled via a high-intensity laser beam. The PLASER could deliver an incinerating blast of over 10,000 degrees. There were several drawbacks to this weapon; it was not a close range weapon and had a considerable blast radius. Hardware had to discharge it from a distance of 60 feet or else he might get caught in the blast himself. Also the PLASER consumed a hideous amount of energy and the weapon itself was usually good for only three shots before the enormous temperatures fused its circuitry rendering it useless.
Due to the flight limitations of his Hardware 1.0 Armor, Curtis developed a one-man vehicle known as the Skylark. A VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) craft capable of attaining air speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour; the aircraft also contained stealth systems that made it virtually undetectable to radar and had noise suppression gear that made it almost silent. He used the Skylark when he needed long range transport capabilities but after the development of the Hardware 2.0 version with its improved personal jetpack rig, the Skylark fell into disuse, although Hardware did employ the aircraft and its stealthy systems infrequently.
Curtis usually armed himself even when in his civilian guise. He was known to carry firearms of his own design on his person (usually smaller and more concealable versions) and had a special watch that fired a last ditch, one shot mini-explosive shell (similar to his Omnicannon) with sufficient destructive power to destroy an entire car.
Although Curtis rarely employed his personal car in his activities as Hardware, he did have it modified to be faster than normal and equipped the windshields and windows so that they could project a holographic mask overlay that altered his appearance or that of his passengers. The car was coated in a special liquid crystal paint that could change color on command and had quick-flip license plates enabling him to change the appearance of the car (although not the model).
History: Curtis Metcalf was born in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Dakota. His father was a cop, poor but proud that he protected and served the public.
Curtis perplexed his parents growing up. His father tried to interest Curtis in sports and athletics but instead his son was more interested in taking apart a baseball and examining how it was constructed and what sort of materials it was made of rather than hitting it with a bat.
At the age of 12, his innate brilliance and intellect caught the attention of Edwin Alva, head of Alva Technologies and considered one of the most brilliant inventors of the age. Alva sponsored Curtis into one of the country's most elite private schools. He graduated high school at 14 and earned his first college degree at 15. Curtis came to idolize and admire Alva who became more like a real father to Curtis than his own.
Alva paid for Curtis' next six degrees; in return all he asked was that Curtis come to work for him. Curtis was given his own lab, his own private staff, a practically unlimited budget, and a mandate to indulge whatever struck his fancy. In truth whatever Alva spent was a bargain. Curtis' inventions would earn him millions.
After several years, Curtis approached Alva feeling that he should get a share of the profits from his inventions. To his dismay, Alva brutally corrected Curtis' misconceptions that he in any way deserved anything. He wasn't family. He was an employee. He wasn't respected. He was useful. He was a cog in the machine. A machine that belonged to Alva. And that was all. Alva cruelly concluded with, "This was an interesting experience. Rather like having one's dog suddenly announce he's displeased with his living arrangements."
Curtis was enraged and humiliated. He thought about quitting his job but found that his contract specifically forbade him from ever working for any rival or any other company other than Alva's. Alva owned all of his inventions. Even his future ones.
Curtis dug into Alva's personal records, hoping to find something he could leverage against him. He soon discovered that his esteemed mentor, philanthropist, industrial giant, the pillar of the community was a crook. One of the biggest ones there was. He laundered drug money, he had connections to organized crime, he secretly manufactured illegal weapons and sold them to foreign governments. Most of the local politicians were bought and paid for.
Curtis secretly mailed his discoveries to various law enforcement agencies and even a few news media outlets. Then he sat back and waited for the shocking story to be revealed, the scandalous revelations, the arrest warrants to be handed down. He waited a long time. And it never came. Curtis realized that Alva was so powerful that he was beyond the law.
But not beyond his reach.
Cobbling together an impressive array of ordnance and a protective metal armored shell, Curtis fashioned himself as a mysterious and unstoppable high-tech armored warrior known as Hardware. He quickly became Alva's number one nemesis, destroying his illegal facilities and demolishing his warehouses filled with illegal goods and drugs and weapons, mercilessly slaughtering Alva's goons and security thugs by the dozens.
Ironically, Hardware's remarkable suit of armor and weaponry was facilitated by Alva's own resources which Curtis secretly appropriated. As Curtis put it, "it's the moral equivalent of using the office copying machine for personal business,".
It is believed that shortly before his initial appearance as Hardware, Curtis was contacted by Augustus Freeman IV (who would later assume the identity of Icon).
Freeman is merely the alias utilized by an alien who had been stranded on the planet Earth since the 1800's. Freeman believed that Earth's technology had finally caught up enough to attempt to fix his lifepod with it's interstellar communicator.
Although Curtis was unable to repair the lifepod, he was able to recreate and repair several pieces of technology from the pod including the inertial winder (a high-tech airbag) that would become the belt buckle, later used by Raquel Ervin a.k.a Rocket (Icon's partner/sidekick) and appropriated several of the designs he gleaned from the inner workings of the lifepod for his personal use as Hardware.
Curtis' double life as Hardware was eventually discovered by Barraki Young, his friend and sometime lover. She was dismayed by his actions and castigated his ruthless campaign against Alva as shameful and selfish. Curtis slowly came to realize that his actions, although he perceived them as justified, were far from noble. He was in his own words, "throwing a temper tantrum". His level of violence greatly diminished and he began focusing on using his technologies productively instead for destroying and killing.
Although he continued to fight Alva on various fronts, battling the hitman Reprise and the System, a shadowy and secretive criminal organization that Alva was a part of; he also slowly began working on helping and protecting Dakota and its citizens. As Curtis stated, "first it was about vengeance, now it's got to be about justice."
Alva however was far from finished with Hardware and even co-opted Curtis to help Tiffany Evans' pet project, a suit of armor to defeat Hardware. Despite his best attempts to secretly sabotage his own work, Alva saw through it and had Evans outfitted as Technique. She battled Hardware, who narrowly managed to defeat her.
Hardware soon found himself in the midst of "Shadow War", a battle between the Shadow Cabinet and a splinter faction known as the Star Chamber. Allying himself with the Shadow Cabinet, Hardware found himself battling alongside a number of Dakota's heroes including Static, Icon and Rocket, Xombi, and Harm. Hardware was instrumental in the final conflict by disarming a missile that would have killed millions had it exploded.
Then Alva finally deduced Curtis' secret identity and confronted him in his own secret lab. Curtis contemplated bringing forward his ageda and killing Alva once and for all, but then Alva professed that he had made a mistake. He had allowed himself to believe that Curtis had achieved his potential. Instead Curtis had exceeded them as Hardware.
Alva proclaimed that he was not a good man but he wasn't evil either. He did simply what had to be done. And although his illegal enterprises did harm and caused a great deal of suffering, those same enterprises helped shield him and his corporation from other predators and gave him increased influence and assistance. If not him, there would be others who would replace him and some were far more ruthless and monstrous than Alva. On the whole, he believed that he did more good than harm and that if "the ends justify the means", how could a vigilante like Curtis possibly judge him?
Alva then tendered an offer that promoted Curtis to vice president. He would give him more power, more responsibility, more respect, and more money and would be Alva's second in command. Everything that Curtis had asked for earlier. In addition, Alva would shut down his various illegal activities if Hardware was available to protect his legitimate business interests.
Curtis was deeply afraid that he had once more become Alva's creature, only this time he would be a willing one. Although he didn't fully trust Alva, the offer was simply too good to resist and after much soul searching, Curtis accepted the offer.
With Alva's full backing, Curtis redesigned and rebuilt his Hardware Armor. His original armor was fashioned in secret, cobbled from discarded bits and pieces that Curtis could steal or borrow. It was powerful but crude. Curtis finished his new armor (known as Hardware 2.0) just in time to battle the god like being known as Rift who attempted to trigger an interdimensional collapse (Milestone's crossover event with DC). Working together with such beings such as Superman, Steel, Superboy and other Dakota heroes, Hardware designed and built a machine that was used to successfully end the disaster.
Curtis was deeply shocked and felt betrayed when several of his oldest and closest friends, Deacon "Phreaky Deak", Cheryl and Ann turned on him, accusing him of "selling out" to Alva. They too had been used by Alva and had been secretly fighting him for years. But none of them had ever been able to touch him, much less hurt him. But Hardware could. They had secretly backed him, supporting his activities and leaking him information.
But Curtis' greatest shocks were still to come, when Alva announced his intention to retire. He intended to become a beloved public figure, doling away his money to charities and accepting various public awards. As he stated, "I can use all of the good publicity I can muster at this late date. My press clips may serve to help my case to whatever gods there be."
Curtis was sure it was nothing but a con. But to his amazement, Alva's intentions were genuine. He literally gave his life to save dozens of bystanders from being crushed to death. Even in death, Alva continued to surprise Curtis by leaving his entire fortune and company to him.
Alva's children however angrily blocked Curtis by challenging the will. Curtis was taken aback by this but even more so by their sheer hatred of him save for his deceased mentor's namesake, Edwin Alva Jr.
According to Alva Jr., his siblings didn't hate Curtis because he got the money or the company. "My father had a lot of kids. None of us could ever live up to his standards. But on those rare occasions when he deigned to speak to us, he told us you could. Other than the company, you were the only thing he ever cared about. That's why they hate you; because my father loved you." and left Curtis even more confused about his relationship with Alva.
Although barred from taking control of Alva Technologies, Curtis formed Hard Co. A partnership composing of Phreaky Deak, Cheryl, Ann, and Alva Jr. that was dedicated to the development of technologies that would be used to serve mankind.
Sometime later, Curtis became immobilised, so he built Hardware robots which he controlled remotely (these appeared in the four-part Static Shock, Milestone's "last hurrah").
Comments:Written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Denys Cowan and inks by Jimmy Palmiotti. Hardware was the first comic printed by Milestone. While some critics dismissed Hardware as "an angry black man lashing out at the corporate world," Curtis Metcalf and Hardware was much more complex that that. The series, according to the creator and writer of Hardware Dwayne McDuffie, "is about fathers and sons" and revolved primarily around Curtis' relationship with Edwin Alva.
Thanks to Robert Thompson for additional information about Hardware's history. Thanks to Michael Higuchi for provided an extensive expansion in the history and powers section, as well as other profile information.
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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