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When I was a kid, I used to have this parakeet. And sometimes, when I'd open up his cage to clean it... he'd escape. The little bird would see the backyard and make his move. Invariably, he'd head straight for the window, fast as he could. And inevitably, crack his head on the windowpane... a barrier of glass, unseen and incomprehensible to him. So he'd try again, over and over... until, spent and defeated, he couldn't try any longer. My bird made a common error. He mistook being out of his cage... for being free. The parakeet died a long time ago, without ever enjoying the freedom of the yard. The boy grew into a man, who spent many years bumping his head against a similar barrier: a ceiling of glass, unseen and incomprehensible to him. The lesson is clear: escape is impossible until one perceives all of the barriers. My name is Curtis Metcalf. But you can call me Hardware.—Curtis Metcalf
Hardware is a Milestone Comics character who debuted in 1993 as one of their flagship heroes. He first appeared in "Hardware" #1 (April, 1993), created by Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan. The character is an Angry Black Man in Powered Armor, also a Gadgeteer Genius. Curtis Metcalf, an inner-city Child Prodigy, is discovered by famous inventor Edwin Alva who sees potential in him and pays his way through the top schools in the country, on condition that he work for him when his education is completed. His creations make millions of dollars for the company, leading him to ask his boss for a simple raise. After many years of viewing his mentor as a surrogate father, he is shocked to find that Alva has absolutely no respect for him, and views their relationship as little more than master and dog.
In an attempt to blackmail his boss to get out of the lifetime contract, Curtis digs up some dirt on Alva and discovers he is actually a criminal mastermind at the center of a vast evil organization, with illegal operations spanning across the country. Realizing the man he's been working for is evil and that he must be stopped, Curtis gathers enough evidence to put him away for multiple lifetimes and sends them to every possible authority. To no avail. Edwin Alva is too big, his levels of corruption and influence make him completely above the law. But not necessarily out of reach. Taking advantage of the vast resources completely at his disposal, Curtis designs an advanced powered suit and develops the identity of Hardware, launching a one-man vendetta against his former mentor.
his original series lasted for 50 issues, from April, 1993 to April, 1997. The series was cancelled when Milestone shut down its comic book division. In 2008, the character was brought into the DC Universe after the events of Final Crisis. After guest-starring in a storyline in Justice League of America and an issue of The Brave and the Bold (where he teamed up with Blue Beetle), Hardware was made into a supporting character in the 2011 Static Shock comic book series, where he acts as a mentor to the title character.
This Milestone Comics volume contains examples of:
- Angry Black Man: Aside from being a very defining characteristic, this is actually the title of the first Hardware story.
- He becomes less angry when he finds out Alva was right all along.
- Anti-Hero: Hardware, very much so. On the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes he starts out as a Type IV, but eventually mellows out into more of a Type III.
- Anti-Villain: Alva is arguably one of these.
- Arch Enemy: Edwin Alva.
- Better the Devil You Know: Alva is definitely evil, but he's probably less evil than the people who might take his place if he were killed.
- His son, Alva Jr., becomes part of Hardware's Scoobies.
- Black and Nerdy: Deacon "Phreaky Deak" Stuart.
- The Blacksmith: Curtis Metcalf of course.
- Child Prodigy: Curtis was one of these.
- DC Universe: As of DC's most recent Crisis Crossover, all of Milestone Comics' characters are now part of the DCU.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Distaff Counterpart: Technique.
- Expy: Steel
- Fully-Absorbed Finale: Over 15 years after the original Hardware series was cancelled, the story was finished in Milestone Forever.
- Gadgeteer Genius
- Good Is Not Nice
- Grand Finale: Hardware's story was eventually finished in Milestone Forever, where Curtis passed on the Hardware Identity to his protoge, Tiffany, and finally got married.
- Ho Yay: Noticeably with Icon.
- Insufferable Genius
- It's Personal: Hardware's vendetta against Edwin Alva.
- I Work Alone: Blue Beetle practically has to beg him for a team-up.
- Jerkass: Hardware is quite aware that he is one.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Blue Beetle acknowledges that while Curtis is an asshole, he still fights for a noble cause and wants to do the right thing.
- Meaningful Name: Edwin Alva is clearly an allusion to Thomas Alva Edison. Thomas Edison was seen as progressive in his time for hiring foreign-born and black engineers to work for him - and reviled today for ripping them off and taking all the profits for their ideas.
- Of course, Edison did that to everyone - just ask Auguste and Louis Lumière.
- Mecha-Mooks: S.Y.S.T.E.M.
- Mini-Mecha: Hardware 3.0.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Hardware's suit pretty much seems to run on Phlebotinum.
- Nineties Anti-Hero
- Powered Armor
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Compared to Steel, he's a cynic. Started out as an idealist, but when Alva cheated him, he went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and slid all the way to the other site.
- Swiss Army Weapon: The amount of gadgets in Hardware's arsenal practically make Batman look unprepared.
- The Syndicate: S.Y.S.T.E.M. which would probably even count as a Nebulous Evil Organisation.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Alva is a beloved public figure.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Barraki Young pulls one on Curtis very early on, when discovering how many people he's killed in the name of his vendetta.
- Will They or Won't They?: Barraki Young references this trope by name.
- Xanatos Gambit: Recently S.Y.S.T.E.M. has sold some of its robotic exo-skeletons to Intergang, making Hardware fight against them. If he loses against them, they've defeated their greatest enemy, and if he wins, they've gained valuable intelligence on his equipment at no cost to their own forces, while eliminating some of their competition.