Day 16 of 28 Days of Black Super Heroes, today’s hero is the DC Comics’ character Hardware.
First it was about vengeance; now it’s about justice.
Hardware was one of the “Big Three” of Milestone Media. At least to me, anyway. Although he was probably my least favorite of the three when the whole Milestone line debuted, that’s still saying he was the worst of the very best, which is pretty damn good.
WHO IS HARDWARE?
Hardware is Curtis Metcalf, a genius-level engineer and inventor working for a powerful technology baron named Edwin Alva (think a much older, much meaner Bill Gates).
Curtis had been found by Alva as a young boy. Alva saw how intelligent the young child was, so he bankrolled his education with the promise that Curtis would come work for Alva when he was finished with school.
Curtis did indeed go work for Alva, and Curtis made millions of dollars for the company.
The trouble started when Curtis asked for a piece of the pie.
Alva shut him down. HARD. He let Curtis know he was just an employee and that besides his agreed upon salary, the only thing he was entitled to were Jack, and sh*t -and Jack left town (anyone know what movie that’s from? No Googling, y’all). Oh yeah, Curtis couldn’t go work for anyone else because his contract precluded that.
Damn Damn DAMN.
Time for some angry-negro-style revenge.
HARDWARE IS BORN
When Curtis tries to dig up dirt on Alva to use a leverage in his business negotiations, he instead uncovers evidence that Alva is the head of massive criminal enterprises.
First Curtis tried to out his boss, but Alva had too much money and was able to bury any story that popped up. Instead he was forced to take matters into his own hands.
He began cannibalizing equipment and supplies from Alva’s own company to create his Hardware battlesuit. Hardware’s main mission was to bring down Alva’s criminal operations and cause the man as much trouble as possible. The end goal was to bring him down entirely.
So there’s the lesson: Any employers that are reading this, just cough up a couple of million or cut your employees in on their work, otherwise some of them may just create a hi-tech battlesuit and start dishing out violent retribution in the streets at night.
WHAT DOES HE DO
Hardware has a whole bunch of hi-tech tools at his disposal, but honestly nothing beats the giant hook on a chain.
Yeah you read that right. The brotha moves around with a giant metal hook that he swings from a chain to decapitate people and sever their limbs and such. BRUTAL.
I mean he had a sword and an on-board computer to help him out, but the HOOK was crazy!
I don’t think he used that hook too much later in the series. There came a point when Alva discovered who Hardware was, and instead of trying to destroy him, he made Hardware a company man.
After all, that’s what he wanted anyway, right? So Curtis got carte blanche to do whatever he wanted for the new Hardware suit.
Remember, Curtis was stealing all the equipment from Alva, so the suit wasn’t exactly what he’d wanted. He had to make due with what materials and equipment he could safely rip off without attracting attention.
Now that he had access to all the stuff he wanted, it was time for Hardware 2.0.
If I recall correctly, there was something in the suit that belonged to Icon, maybe another inertia belt similar to the one that Rocket used. Hardware needed it to carry around all his bulky equipment.
Stuff like that was a great way to ground some “realism” into the character, something I didn’t appreciate at first.
The thing about Hardware was that he was kind of an arrogant S.O.B. That’s part of the reason I didn’t like him quite as much as Icon and Static from the start.
Looking back, a huge part of the reason was that Hardware was a little too adult for me at that point in time. I was in college, still clowning around and acting a fool.
I hadn’t really started my working life yet and the concepts put forth in Hardware were just not something I could identify with at that young age and level of maturity.
To contrast, Static was about an unpopular high-school kid who gains powers and Icon was an alien from outer-space who uses his powers to help people. Extremely well done comics, but they were putting a very interesting spin on some very old concepts.
Now jump forward about 20 years. I can see exactly where Curtis is coming from. When I think about the millions my work has made for my company over the years, man…
Ok, when I think about the thousands my work has made…Ok, hundreds…
Anyway, after a few years of thankless work under your belt, you can very easily put yourself in Hardware’s shoes. I haven’t quite got my battlesuit finished yet, but when I get it done, I’m going on a spree. Check the news, people…
Well, as I mentioned before, Hardware is kind of a jerk. That’s putting it nicely. He’s kind of an asshole most of the time.
Curtis is one of those people that’s arrogant and has a right to be. Unfortunately he was usually a bit of a bastard to the other heroes in the Dakotaverse. I mean, the things he said about poor Kobalt…
The bad guy –Rift, was getting out of control, threatening the survival of both the DC and the Milestone universes. Hardware and Steel, both scientific geniuses, were put to the task of coming up with a way to stop Rift.
They were building a device and Hardware kind of kept dumping on the usually friendly Steel. Steel even tacitly admitted that Hardware was a better scientist than him. Hardware still just insulted him and made up some reason for Steel to leave the lab.
Turns out Hardware, being a lot more ruthless than Steel, had come up with way to stop Rift -a decidedly fatal way. He knew the straight-laced Steel would never go for it, so he was trying to get rid of him so he could install the necessary components unobserved.
Of course, it didn’t work. Steel came back and quickly realized what was happening. A Titanic battle ensued which resulted in Hardware using nano-machines to completely destroy Steel’s armor
Although physically beaten, Steel never gave up, and he told Hardware he would keep coming until he found a way to stop him from crossing the line.
Hardware actually took another look at Steel and realized “yeah this guy really will keep on coming, even though he’s beaten!” That level of determination affected Hardware and he decided that he was wrong, he’d do things Steel’s way.
I hate to say it, but I was pretty proud of Hardware at that moment. He was usually so damn ruthless and he didn’t care about just offing people, so this was another great moment in a truly great crossover.
Again, as mentioned in Icon write-up, the Milestone heroes are now folded right into the DC Universe proper, and as far as anyone knows (Except Icon, Superman and Dharma) they’ve always been there.
Honestly, I’ve missed most of the appearances since the consolidation but it is good to know that Hardware’s still out there in print, and he’s just another fan surge away from having his own book again.
Depending on who’s writing it I’d love to see that happen, especially if they got some of the original creators on board.
THE WRAP UP
Hardware is another one of those characters I feel like I can be proud of as a black person.
He has some real depth to him and a lot of traits that I don’t necessarily agree with, but find very interesting. And again, some of the things I didn’t like I now see very differently with age.
I almost always like the smart heroes, the ones really good at science and engineering (Except that douchebag Reed Richards). That’s probably because I’m pretty bad at those things, so it’s something for me to aspire to.
And with that said here’s the pencil art I drew up for Hardware to close out this article. See you tomorrow for our next hero!