"I've been running all my life, but I'm still in the same place."
Hard Times On Kiefer Square
Carl "Carlie" Donewicz was a young boy growing up in the Kiefer Square section of Astro City when he started to run with gangs. You had to in that part of town, or you ended up in a world of hurt. Carl wanted out, and studied as best he could in order to make it happen, but things got complicated. He had minor gang association with the Skullcrushers, and when it came to learning, well, he struggled.
After a fight in which he inadvertently killed a rival gang member, Carl went a little crazy, committing an assortment of violent crimes. In desperation he turned to Dr. Norton Ganss, a scientist who could chemically enhance human physiology, giving people superhuman powers. Somehow, Carl managed to arrange an appointment to discuss potential opportunities. After being told he was acceptable, Carl was immersed in a tank filled with an assortment of liquids. When he emerged, his body chemistry was altered. The most noticeable, his skin was transformed into a metallic material that provided armor protection and made him near invulnerable to harm. He took the name "Steel-Jacketed Man" and Carl entered into the world of the "black masks" (a.k.a. "super villains").
Time For a Team Up
The Jail Bird Years
Although he had some moderate solo success as a criminal, Carl ended up in and out of prison, spending over twenty years in the Biro Island Correctional Facility. When he was released in 1998 he vowed to "go straight" and never return. This proved to be difficult due to his well-known reputation and distinctive likeness. Finding work was hard, especially when the system itself had rules that made moving on very difficult.
The Tangled Trail to Redemption
Jack had a rough path and a lot of bad reputation to live down in order to make good on his vows. He bumped into a lot of friends, old and new, that wanted to exploit him for his skills, or take advantage of his situation. No one, believed him, not even Samaritan.
This distrust left him little choice but to turn to an old criminal colleague, Donnelly Ferguson, known to many as the Broker. He could cut deals, and find work for any that weren't afraid to bend the laws, even break them for money. There was a string of "Black Mask" killings going on in and near Kiefer Square. The residents were getting nervous and anxieties ran high. They needed help, but given the neighborhood, and the people involved, the official channels weren't doing much. So they cut a deal, Steeljack needed the work, Kiefer Square needed a hero, and Donnelly could make a profit.
Steeljack followed several twisted paths to find the killer. Some led nowhere, one was completely wrong, but the investigation dug up a lot of history about Astro City's past, including some juicy gossip about a couple of legendary Honor Guard members. Along the way we met a lot of new characters, some with dreams of finding Wonderland, others wanting out, desperately. Eventually the hideous motivation for the killings was unraveled. A full synopsis of Jack's Hero-quest is detailed in The Conquistador's Plot.
A Jack of All Trades
Cut to nearly twenty years later. Steeljack is pretty much making good on his desire to stay clean. He is still tending the cemetery, but that seems to be one of several side jobs. He also does heavy-lifting work for the city, which includes doing salvage operations on the bottom of the Gaines River. But his major focus, no doubt influenced by his experience solving the Kiefer Square murder mystery, is running a detective agency. His investigation skills are lacking, but he gets bail-jumper work, and other jobs requiring somebody strong and tough. His most dangerous case is on going and it involves Cutlass. She was a romantic interest, but the breakup included cutting open his chest and leaving him for dead or the police, whichever came first. Now he's trying to clear her name. It's a complex relationship.
Steel skin His DNA has been chemically altered, allowing his skin to incorporate iron into it, converting it to steel in the process. Even by super-being standards, he is highly durable. Like regular human skin, the outer layers of his steel skin decays and dies over time to be replaced by new metallic cells. It does heal when injured, but it is showing sign of rusting as he ages. So far there is no sign of a cellular return to a more normal human-like composition, but to maintain his health, he is taking iron supplements.
Supernatural creatures which are negatively affected by cold iron can be harmed by Steeljack's punches.
The metal in his skin makes using touchscreen interfaces difficult or impossible.