The Spider

The Steel Claw


Crandell juices upOf all the characters featured in Vulcan, 'The Steel Claw' was possibly the most long-lived. He was certainly the most adaptable. The strip was the brainchild of Ken Bulmer, one of those responsible for the birth of Valiant, and drawn by Jesus Belasco. The premise was that laboratory assistant Louis Crandell received an electric shock that rendered him temporarily invisible, aside from his artificial metallic claw. Any further shock would return him to this state.

Initially the bitter Crandell planned to use this power to hold New York to ransom, but by the second serial he came over to being one of the good guys, and would go on to land a job with the secret service due to his unique ability.

The invisible Crandell observes the LactiansAfter the first three serials, Bulmer withdrew from scripting, with Tom Tully taking over. The strip generally defied classification, swinging from noir thriller to superhero cheese to light horror to spy story. The Claw itself would be modified with all sorts of James Bond style gadgets, while Crandell was even briefly given a superhero costume. Thankfully, sanity prevailed and that didn't last long.

The Steel Claw trie to escape the attnetions of Dr. StepaniukThe Vulcan reprints ran through the first four serials in the Scottish title (with the fourth, "The Brain", edited so the national would start with a new story - the serials were 'named' after the villain by fans, though they were untitled in the comics). Then "The Lactians" was reprinted, followed by "Dr. Stepaniuk" from the 1966 Valiant Summer Special, followed by the sixth serial, "Dr. Magno", which just managed to finish before Vulcan was cancelled. Two complete (albeit edited) shorter stories from later years were also used - "Boulderman" for the Vulcan Holiday Special, and "Mr. No-Face" for the Vulcan Annual.

Crandell makes a break for freedomThe Steel Claw's longevity is shown by the sheer number of resurrections over the years. Just a year after the original serial was dropped from Valiant, Crandell came back in 'Return of the Claw', a more-of-the-same serial penned by Tully until 1973. New stories appeared in the 1981 Valiant Annual, the 1990 Classic Action Holiday Special and the 1992 2000AD Action Special (one of the few good ones), while in 1986 Quality Comics briefly loaned the rights to make a Steel Claw mini-series. This was made with an eye on the American market, where a cult market was forming around the work of British writers. It took an American format, and reprinted the first two serials, and arbitrary 'Return of the Claw' story "Doctor Zoodoo", repackaged in full colour across four issues. The mini-series had a new framing sequence featuring Randell (as Crandell was bizarrely renamed) and Cursitor Doom, drawn by Garry Leach. Crandell also had a decent role in Albion. All this aside from frequent reprints and the hardcover collection The Steel Claw - The Vanishing Man.