The Steel Claw
Real Name: Louis Crandell
Identity/Class: Mutated human cyborg
Occupation: Lab assistant, then crook, then secret agent
Affiliations: Cursitor Doom; The Shadow Squad
Enemies: The Builder, FEAR, the Boulderman
Known Relatives: None
Aliases: Lewis Randall (called this in the Quality reprints), La Griffe d'Acier (French name), Teräsnyrkki (Finnish name, literally "Steel Fist"); Maayavi (Tamil name)
Base of Operations: England
First Appearance: Valiant (I.P.C., 6 October 1962-68); Vulcan (1975-76); Kobra (Germany)
Powers/Abilities: Louis is able to turn invisible if he channels electricity through his steel hand. Only the Claw itself remains visible. This ability is uncontrolled - Louis becomes invisible on receiving a charge of electricity whether he wants to or not. While operating as a secret agent, his hand was equipped with a variety of devices - he could deliver electric shocks with it, and each finger had a different weapon or tool built into it - a pistol, nerve gas dispenser, blade, skeleton key, and a two way radio in the palm with the aerial in the little finger.
History: The assistant to the brilliant Professor Barringer, Louis Crandell sported an artificial right hand, made of steel, following a laboratory accident. When an experiment went wrong and sent "ultra-high voltage" through the prosthetic, it had an unexpected result - Crandell was rendered invisible except for his metal hand. Now whenever Crandell received an electric shock through the hand, it triggered his ability to turn invisible. At first he used this power for criminal activities, but later he reformed and became a secret agent and (briefly) a superhero, working for the Shadow Squad of the British Secret Service, who outfitted his mechanical hand with a variety of hidden weapons. Crandell encountered a number of bizarre menaces, including genius children possessed by electrical aliens, and a mad man who was shrinking entire towns and holding the populations hostage. He also faced The Builder, leader of F.E.A.R., the Federation for Extortion, Assassination and Rebellion, while working for the Squad.
After he retired from the Shadow Squad he tried becoming first a detective and then a bounty hunter. Public distrust of his past eventually led him to emigrate to South America, where he would continue to fight crime.
Originally, the claw was little more than a fist shaped prosthetic, but later it was upgraded to a fully functional bionic hand. Later still, the device was fitted with a remote control unit, and an unspecified propulsion device that allowed Crandell to levitate it as if he were still wearing it.
(Untitled, Valiant Annual 1966). Crooks using a kidnapped scientist's greatest invention plunge London into darkness when they deprive the city of its electricity. Crandell, working for the Home Office, tracks them down, captures them and destroys the machine, returning power to the city.
Comments: The Steel Claw was written by Tom Tully and illustrated by Spanish artist Jesus Blasco.
Shaqui Le Vesconte provided the following from an 1970 overview of comics "In 1962, Fleetway Publications launched Valiant, having decided that they could no longer go on with straight stories. The world was getting too small a place to depict tales of three people stranded on a remote island, pitting their wits against various hostile forces. And so the gimmick stories were introduced.
One of the first of these was 'The Steel Claw', a story about a villainous laboratory assistant whose experiments left him invisible for varying periods. For the purposes of strip, he was given an artificial steel hand which was visible at all times.
The strip was intended as a 15-week story complete in itself but its great reception led to a prolonged run of eight years; the wicked Louis Crandell, laboratory assistant, became, at various subtle stages, the good hero."
Contributor Alberto Becattini notes that "After Jesus Blasco left the strip, it was taken over by Italian artists working for the Giolitti Studio: Giorgio Cambiotti (pencils), Di Maio (first name unknown, pencils), Massimo Belardinelli (backgrounds and inks), Sergio Rosi (inks). Also, Spanish artist Carlos Cruz worked on the series."
During his time as a secret agent he was briefly given a superhero costume to wear - thankfully Crandell eventually regained his dress sense and dropped the hideous costume.
Quality comics did a reprint of the Claw in a colourised American format during the 1980's. It had new covers and linking artwork showing an older Crandell, both done by Gary Leach, who also drew the new version of Marvelman and 2000 A.D's The VCs. (Thanks to Jim Croasdale for reminding me of this).
During Zenith Phase Three, the Steel Claw turned up among the army of heroes fighting the Lliogor. One of them killed him by ripping his right arm off at the shoulder. Likewise, his counterpart the Iron Tallon was killed by the Fury on Captain U.K.'s world.
After his Zenith appearance 2000 A.D. briefly revived him for their one-off Action Special, portraying him as a worn down government assassin. It also featured a number of other old British characters. If you find a copy of this special, please burn it for the atrocities it carried out on the Spider and Mytek the Mighty in particular.
The Steel Claw had a single reprint volume released to tie in with the character's return in the "Albion" mini-series; sadly, low sales saw plans for further collected reprints dropped.
In Germany in the seventies the magazine Vulcan was published under the title "Kobra" showcasing Mytek The Mighty, Tim Kelly, Steel Claw, The Spider and Robot Archie. Unfortunately, the stories which were published in Kobra were partially incomplete, apparently switching stories unpredictably. Finally, the magazine was discontinued, leaving German fans hanging as to the fate of their favourite characters. Thanks to Sven Feyerabend for this information.
N.Suresh pointed me to site which mentions his appearances in India, where Lion Comics publish him in the Tamil language. Ravi notes that prior to Lion publishing him, he was translated into "Tamil in the early 70's and the original drawings retained and published by Muthu Comics (in fact the publisher having lost his collection recently advertised on the web for a set). Lion did publish them but at a later date." Haja Ismail adds to this with the following note: "In 1971, Mr. Soundara Pandian of Sivakasi, Tamilnadu, started a publication named Muthu Comics in Sivakasi. Muthu Comics was published under Mullai Thangarasans editorship. They translated several stories into Tamil and published them in Muthu Comics, one of which was the Steel Claw under the name Irumbukkai Maayavi.
After several years Mr. Soundara Pandiyan started Lion Comics and appointed his own son Mr. Vijayan as a Editor. Later the same company started Classic Comics and republished these translated stories. Now Mr. Vijayan is the sole Editor of Muthu Comics, Lion Comics and Classic Comics."
Vesa Lehtinen informs me that "Steel Claw was published in Finland in the early 1970's with the name "Teräsnyrkki " (lit. "Steel Fist"), first as its own pocket books and then part of the "Sarjakuvalehti" that had 3-4 different stories each month. Those were primarily about his stint in the British Secret Service."
Many thanks to Chris "Doc TOC" Halliday for additional information on this character. Thanks to Joseph Altairac for providing his name in the French reprints.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
Steel Fist, a Golden Age American character
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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