Steel Sterling is a character from Archie Comics and has been intermitently published by several imprints since his creation in 1940. In each publication his history has been revamped or altereed, being the last, under the Dark Circle imprint.
When his father was killed by gangsters, young John Sterling decided to become a crime-fighter. Studying chemistry, he searched for something to give him an edge in his battle. He discovered a formula that, theoretically, would give his body the properties of steel. Coating himself with the formula, he hesistated before taking the last step...diving into a cauldron of molten steel. Mustering up the courage, he jumped in and emerged with tissue as mighty and impervious as metal, with magnetic properties to boot.
Rather than adopt a secret identity per se, John decided to be Steel Sterling around-the-clock.
In a 1983 retelling of his origin story, Sterling is hypnotized by a star, which compels him walk through the flames at an iron foundry that gives him his powers. The star thereafter leads him to a garbage pail where his costume has mysteriously been planted.
DC comics made use of the character two times: In the Impact line from the 90s and in the Red Circle line of comics from the 2000.
In Impact, Steel Sterling made an appearance in the Crucible mini-series, as a construction worker named Josh Sterling who saved a scientist life and became his bodyguard. An aborted series would explain than later Sterling gained the power of become into living steel.
In the DC Red Circle of the series Steel Sterling was a retired War Veteran and highly distinguished member of the army. Owning many Purple Hearts for his courage and valor in the face of enemies he was named "Steel" Sterling due to him suffering many combat wounds but persisting in fighting. It is revealed that he was a widow and that his wife was refused medication money from their insurance and blames the company for his wife's death.
He assists The Shield and the Justice Society of America in defending his home town of Happy Harbor from a splinter group of H.I.V.E operatives working for Dragonfly and Baron Gestapo.
In the last iteration of Archie's Red Circle comics (rebranded Black Circle) the character returned to his old origin, with small changes. Now he was throw into a cauldron of molten steel by gangsters when he tried to help a friend indebted to the mob. He survived and gained his superpowers.
For years he lived a life of adventure and eventualy he retired from action to serve as major for the town of Red Circle. However, the Brain Emperor, an old adversary attacked him and sent him, along with other older heroes to a pocket dimension. He was believed dead for a time and replaced by his son, Johnny Steerling, who along with the New Crusaders rescued the old heroes and defeated the Brain Emperor. However Johnny died. Without a town or family left, but his old job as hero, Steel Sterling joined the new Mighty Crusaders, being the veteran hero among the newbies champions. However he is also suffering from a progressive paralisis,as his powers had become now unreliable.
Although John can be affected by magic or dazed by a blow to the head, his greatest weakness are solar flares, which cause his powers to ebb. Otherwise, not even an artillery shell fired point-blank can penetrate his skin. His other powers include muscles of steel and the ability to rub his "electrolized" tongue against his teeth to tap telephone wires, the sound then coming from his mouth. Steel Sterling's costume is made of a metallic fiber that is impervious to gunfire.