Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for the latest episode of Superman & Lois.
There’s another Man of Steel on the CW.
The latest episode of Superman & Lois pulled the rug out from under fans as Superman finally faced the mysterious Captain Luthor.
In the battle, the viewers discovered the true identity of this man is none other than one of the biggest supporting characters of the Superman comics.
The Captain Luthor reveal
Debuting in the premiere episode, the Stranger (Wole Parks) was an armored figure attacking Superman (Tyler Hoechlin). During the battle, the Stranger claimed that Superman was responsible for his world being destroyed.
Returning to his ship, the figure was identified by his computer as “Captain Luthor.”
Flashbacks establish this Luthor hails from another Earth, one where Superman became a monstrous figure attacking the world. He was also married to that Earth’s Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch).
In this week’s episode “Man of Steel,” more flashbacks revealed that Superman was an evil figure leading an army of supersoldiers alongside magnate Morgan Edge on Luthor’s Earth. Luthor and Lois, along with daughter Natalie, watched as they caused havoc in Metropolis.
When this alternate Lois revealed to the world that Kryptonite could destroy this Superman, he brutally murdered her on live television with Luthor and Natalie watching in horror.
They developed a suit of armor intended for that world’s Lex Luthor, but he was killed before it could happen. This figure donned it and was flying to face Superman when the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths sent him to this new world.
In the present, Luthor tricked Superman into coming to a warehouse, speaking to him in Kryptonian as “Kal-El” and proclaiming, “You’re not the Man of Steel. I am.” He then waved a hand as a massive hammer flew into it.
Meanwhile, Lois had managed to get Luthor’s fingerprints and got a message from the Department of Defense on how they matched a man who, in this world, had been dead for six years.
A man named…John Henry Irons.
With that stunning turn, fans discovered “Captain Luthor” was actually Steel.
Who is Steel?
In 1992, DC Comics had the epic “Death of Superman” storyline where Superman actually fell in battle with Doomsday.
“Reign of the Supermen” then had four characters, each claiming to be a reborn Superman. Among them was John Henry Irons, who debuted in The Adventures of Superman #500.
Created by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanvoe, Irons had been a weapons designer but became disillusioned when he discovered his work was being used to attack innocent people. Faking his death, he settled into life as a construction worker.
Superman had saved Irons’ life when he fell from a tower. After Superman’s death, Irons was inspired to craft a suit of armor with a special hammer to fight crime in his name.
After Superman returned to life, he and Irons became good friends and allies. Steel would use the armor to fight crime and even join the Justice League.
Irons briefly retired but returned and currently aids girlfriend Lana Lang as Superwoman protecting Metropolis.
The character was featured in a 1997 movie starring Shaquille O’Neal that didn’t use the Superman connection and was an infamous flop.
What does John Henry Irons mean for Superman & Lois?
The conflict between Irons and Superman took off as Irons used red sun radiation to take away Superman’s powers. This leaves him easily beaten down by Irons and his hammer.
In the fight, Irons made it clear he is convinced Superman was only pretending to be a hero to “soften up the masses” before turning on them just as he did on Irons’ Earth.
Luckily, Jordan and Jonathan were able to track their father down, literally running their truck over Irons to knock him out.
The episode ended with Irons locked up by the D.O.D., but with Superman and Lois knowing there was more to his story. A final flashback had Irons remembering his promise to his daughter to one day return to her.
The twist completely transforms the series as what appeared to be a new villain is actually one of the most iconic heroes of the Superman mythos.
It appears Irons is keeping quiet about who he truly is and why he hates Superman while still wanting to destroy the Man of Steel. It’s also likely Irons has it in for this world’s Morgan Edge and doesn’t believe how Superman is also after him.
The fallout of the twist is happening, but it’s amazing how the series unexpectedly brought in a beloved character without anyone knowing it.
Superman & Lois airing Tuesdays at 9 pm EST on the CW.