THE STEEL CLAW

 
Full Name: Louis Crandell
Series Name: The Steel Claw
Codename: Shadow 5, Talon
Nationality: British
Organization: Shadow Squad
Occupation Agent

Creator: Ken Mennell , Jack Le Grand , Sid Bicknell
Time Span: 1961 - 2012
ABOUT THE SERIES

       Louis Crandell, aka the Steel Claw, is an agent for British Intelligence.
       He will be. When we first meet him, he definitely is not, but he will be.
       The first we see of him is when he is a bitter, angry lab assistant to the brilliant Professor Barringer. The description said of him in the opening moments has him as a "hard-faced young assistant" to the scientist. Hard-faced is definitely correct as he looks very mean and as another expression goes, "rode hard and put away wet".
       But even more important than his rough countenance is the steel prosthetic he has for a right hand. We are told that he lost his hand in a laboratory accident and that it was replaced by the metal one. How exactly he lost it and how his new appendage had the ability to respond to his brain as a real one would is never explained; all we see is he has it and it looks dangerous, complete with very sharp talons at the tips. Hence the nickname of "Steel Claw".
       In those first pages we see that he is ticked off and ready to strangle his boss. His actions are interrupted when the professor throws a switch to run a test, the device, whatever it is, blow up, and in that moment, the life of Crandell will change forever.
       Again we are left not knowing how it happened but we find, as Crandell and the Professor find in the immediate aftermath, the surge of electricity that shot through Crandell's body through his steel hand had rendered the assistant invisible (clothes and all) except for that claw. The effect is only temporary but to the embittered mind of Crandell when he touches a high voltage cable while trying to stand up, another zap and again he is invisible.
       Crandell's true nature comes out and he sees a chance for great riches literally within his grasp. He stays invisible long enough to rush to a nearby bank and help himself to a nice sack full of money. Then the trouble beings to appear to him though he remains hidden; his hand is visible and when he is carrying the sack, so is it. And before too long, chased by the police in pursuit of a floating steel hand, the invisibility starts to wear off.
       Thus begins Crandell's new life as a bitter, angry crook. He will several hair-raising adventures as he strives to cash in on his ability and his fake hand but life will always find a way to foil his schemes. Even when he decides to go straight, the new scientist he finds to help him turns out to be a greedy so-and-so himself and Crandell is suddenly back in hot water.
       Eventually his bitterness and anger will leave him, possibly through the attention of the Professor's niece, Terry Grey, and he changes sides, becoming an agent for British Intelligence. The organization to which he is assigned in referred to as the Shadow Squad and though it is very hush-hush, has a lot of pull and a lot of resources as well as a lot of different types of missions. As one of its new agents, Crandell will receive the designation Shadow-Five. As a member, he will prove to be a tremendous weapon on their behalf.
       
       That weapon will be enhanced as technology advances. In the mission Versus the Magician (my name), his claw is now able to become detached from his arm and move through the air controlled by a small remote device he can carry in his pocket. Additionally, each finger is converted into "a separate deadly weapon", giving him "the striking power of a dozen agents" (?five fingers, twelve agents?).
       These abilities will become more and more important as he takes on the assignments for the Shadow Squad, many of which will pit him against their arch-enemy, F.E.A.R., or the Federation for Extortion, Assassination, and Rebellion, one of the catchier of bad-guy acronyms I heard. F.E.A.R. is all over the globe and Crandell/Steel Claw will become the most persistent irritant in their side. As bad guys go, the agents of F.E.A.R. are pretty good at it but fighting someone who can turn invisible is pretty tough and having a metal hand float around attacking you can be very intimidating.

       Time will pass and the legend of the Steel Claw will grow but with this increasing notoriety will come trouble because if you are easily recognized, as Crandell was becoming, it is impossible to slip into countries to carry out highly secret missions. Especially when your right appendage is a steel hand with claw-like fingers.
       For that reason, he would be given a costume to wear while performing his clandestine work. This change takes place in the adventure I dub Versus the Claymen. Why a costume which would, in my opinion, make a person even more noticeable, I cannot say but he got one and would wear it for quite a few missions. It was a "skin-tight suit of copper mesh, which is so light that [he could] hardly feel it" so he would always wear it under his street clothes. The suit was linked to a "conductor-cap" which he would wear only when he was working as the Steel Claw. On the side of the (goofy-looking) headdress which hid his face, were two control-discs. The right side one allowed him to control the electro-magnetic power of his claw, an ability which gave him magnetic abilities which he used to draw metal objects to him or draw him to metal objects (don't know how he controlled which). The left side one helped him regulate his invisibility. One top of this cap were two electrodes which turned him into a "human powerhouse", letting him, as he concentrates the electrical energy of his body, harness that power and feed it into the suit. All rather complicated, and odd.

       Another major change in his life would be the addition of a sidekick. 'Blackie' Morris makes his appearance in the same issue that Crandell is given the power suit. Morris is a former paperboy who is virtually kidnapped by Crandell to take him to where some nasty guys are cooking up nasty plans and Morris likes the excitement that he would hang around the Steel Claw for a number of adventures.

       One last interesting detail about Crandell, the Steel Claw, is that in many of the adventures, especially the serialized ones, the transition from visible to invisible and back again takes a tremendous toll on his body and he is frequently seen at the end of a mission in desperate need of a vacation. Either that or he just liked to take time off from getting shot at and beaten up.

MOVIES

Number of Movies:1
First Appearance:1961
Last Appearance:1961

Please NOTE: The movie listed here is NOT, repeat NOT, about Louis Crandell, aka the Steel Claw. It is something totally different. I add it here only because the movie came out in 1961 and the next year the comicbook series started. Same name. The urge to confuse them is there. So to help alleviate the possible confusion, I mention it. And thus probably cause confusion on my own.

The similarity, though, is that the main character loses his hand in an accident and then gets a prosthetic one made of steel which he uses to help get the job done. The Marine in the movies does not also get the ability to turn invisible, though I am sure he would have appreciated it a time or two.

1 The Steel Claw The Steel Claw
Director: George Montgomery
Writers: Malvin Wald, Ferde Grofé Jr., George Montgomery
Actors: George Montgomery as John Larsen, Charito Luna as Lolita Smith
Released: 1961

Losing a hand in an accident, Captain John Larsen of the US Marines, is discharged. He is then reactivated to help a detachment of soldiers head to the Philippines where Filipino rebels are holding a general and where Japanese forces are advancing. He attaches a metal prosthetic and leads the action.

COMIC BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Number of Stories:47
First Appearance:1962
Last Appearance:1973

       When the weekly British anthology magazine, Valiant, came out in 1962, it had a wide range of stories from war adventures to zany comedies. Leading the pack and holding the cover spot was Captain Hurricane who fought both Germans and Japanese during WWII with some outrageous exploits. Some of the items were complete stories in each issue and some, like the Steel Claw, were presented in serial format, a couple of pages per issue with a complete story take many weeks to complete.
       The three men who are credited with creating the Steel Claw (who actually did it if any is unknown) passed the work to Kenneth Bulmer, an incredibly prolific author (check out Wikipedia's entry on him to be stunned). He wrote the first three sets of stories before the writing was passed to Tom Tully who would write all the remaining ones published in Valiant.
       Five years after the introduction of the character, the publisher launched another line of comics, called the Fleetway Super Library. It consisted of several sub-lines of adventures, one of which was the Stupendous Series (the first issue was the Fanstastic Series but then the name changed). This title printed in digest form would come out with two issues per month for a year before going away. Each issue dealt with one of two now very popular characters from the publisher's other magazines. The Spider was one, the Steel Claw was the other, resulting in 12 stories for each. These adventures were fully contained in one issue and ran 100+ pages long. The black and white artwork was extremely impressive and the stories were very full and developed.
       Interestingly, since the demand for the Stupendous stories was so intense, schedule-wise, the work on these were given to other writers and artists resulting in quite different styles and storylines completely apart from the serialized run but quality was maintained and the general feel of spy-fi meets sci-fi mixed with horror remained. In both the Valiant and the Stupendous stories, the Steel Claw would go up against all sorts of exotic and varied opponents.

       Wikipedia has a terrific write-up on this series and goes far deeper into the foreign aspects of this character. I highly recommend reading it.

       https://britishcomics.wordpress.com is the incredible site where I found all the great magazines published back in the day. I would highly recommend visiting it for a fantastic selection from the past.

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COLLECTIBLES

Number of Collectibles:1
First Appearance:2012
Last Appearance:2012

1 Valiant & The Steel Claw Valiant & The Steel Claw
Postage Stamp
Royal Mail
Copyright: 2012

The 8th in the Comics Series of 10 Commemorative Stamps to celebrate 75 years of British Comics. It show a cover of the comic book Valiant and an image of Louis Crandell (aka The Steel Claw).

MY COMMENTS

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GRADE

My Grade: B

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