The first week in December is fast becoming my favorite week of the fall television schedule. This week we are being treated to the second Flash/Arrow crossover which also happens to be the launching pad for the CW’s next super hero installment Legends of Tomorrow scheduled to start in the new year. With it, viewers will be introduced to a couple of new characters notably Vandal Savage and Hawkman. Who are these characters? Where do they come from in the DC comic book universe and what issues should find their way into you long boxes if you are a collector?
I’ve got everything you need to know about Vandal Savage right here.
Who Is Vandal Savage?
Vandal Savage is a very old character in the DC Universe. He made his first appearance in the first volume of Green Lantern in issue 10 which was published in 1943. For the most part the elements of the character that are most important were established with his creation by Alfred Bester and Martin Nodell. Fifty thousand years ago Vandal Savage, then known as Vandar Adg, was the chieftain of the Blood tribe of Cro-Magnons in Europe. Adg was exposed to the radiation from a meteor that advanced his intellect and gave him his prized immortality. The ruthless Adg would spend his thousands of years roaming the Earth to amass unimaginable wealth and power.
Savage has held an iron grip as leader of a group known as the Illuminati, a secret society that aims to control the world. He has been a pharaoh in Egypt, a Caesar in Rome; he’s led the Mongol hordes as Genghis Khan; he’s led the Spanish Armada; advised Napoleon; and was even the terrible Jack the Ripper.
During the Second World War Savage fought against the Justice Society of America as a member of the Injustice Society. He was responsible for engineering the Congressional hearings that would result in the disbandment of the Justice Society in 1951. These events took place on DC’s pre-Crisis Earth-2. We don’t know if that’s where the CW’s Savage will hail from but its not out of the question given how many Earth-2 villains are making appearances on the show, not to mention Jay Garrick.
Savage is best described as a roaming villain in the DCU, and while his main enemies are those that take up the banner of the Justice Society and the Teen Titans he’s had run ins with all of DC heroes and many of its villains. Savage was no fan of Lex Luthor’s Secret Society of Super villains that he amassed in 2004’s Villain’s United. He’s a wild card and his immortality means that he bends to know man or woman regardless of how powerful they may be.
Where Does Vandal Savage Come From?
Despite his long history in the DCU the character hasn’t been used extensively for someone of his vintage. As such he is one of those characters that pops up from time to time in stories through the years as a villain in established titles and as such his fictional history has been added to and changed over the past six and a half decades. Of course this means that his continuity is always being updated with new aspects shoehorned in to his fictional history by various writers, so its difficult to give a issue by issue chronology. However, if you’re itching to get your hands on some issues featuring the immortal villain here’s a couple to look for in your local comic shop’s back issue bins.
Obviously Green Lantern 10, Vol. 1 would be the key issue to have as its the issue Savage makes his first appearance, but given that this issue was published in 1943 its not going to be easy or cheap to obtain. Prices for this issue of Green Lantern can run you anywhere from a couple of hundred bucks for a well worn issue all the way to nearly $4000.00 for a near mint edition. However, if you’re a serious collector with that kind of money to spend its age, limited print run, the fact that there can’t be many of these issues floating around today, and its importance as a historical artifact in the history of the character make the high price it will run you justifiable.
Action Comics 516 is another great book that features Savage planting “time bombs” throughout history the effects of which will render the time stream destroyed allowing him to achieve his goal of becoming master of the Earth. Its in this story in which we see the extent to which Vandal has influenced history; while in this issue we see him advising Hitler directly, it’s Lex Luthor who expounds upon the ways in which Savage has presented himself as an advisor to history’s most influential leaders. With the help of Lex Luthor Superman is forced to travel back in time to diffuse the bombs thus maintaining the integrity of the time stream. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide pegs this issue at $5.00 for a near mint edition.
Vandal Savage plays prominently in the eight part series Time Masters published between February and
September 1990 in which Rip Hunter (also about to be featured in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow) attempts to go back in time to prevent Savage from ever becoming the head of his nefarious organizations, the Illuminati. What begins as a mysterious conspiracy which has upset the time stream and brought humanity to the brink unravels as Hunter and a series of guest appearances from the likes of Booster Gold, the Metal Men, Animal Man, Jonah Hex, Dr. Fate, and the Justice League International to name just a few come to realize that it is the immortal Savage and his Illuminati that are behind the schemes. This is pure 1990’s comic art and story telling but it’s one of the few series which features Vandal Savage as the main antagonist. Not for nothing Rip Hunter’s presence in the book is important in light of the upcoming television show as well.
From what we’ve seen and read of the premise behind the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow this series may have played a role in its inception. Its worth noting that in 2008 DC released a trade paperback collecting Time Masters and Geoff Johns penned an introduction to the book. Johns is also one of the executive producers behind Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow, so these issues which have been relegated to quarter bins since October 1990 could see their values increase, but only if speculators know their comic book history. Right now the Overstreet Price Guide pegs each issue at $3.00. Regardless, Time Masters is about to become an important piece of primary source history for what could be one of the newest and biggest television shows in 2016. Do what you will with that kernel of knowledge.
Finally, if you’re still looking for more Vandal Savage story’s where he plays the role of lead or sole antagonist you’ve got your work cut out for you. He makes himself an enemy of the Teen Titans in the first twelve issues of the 1999 series Titans, but for the first nine issues he’s more of a shadowy background figure who is thrust to the forefront through issues nine to twelve. Each of these shouldn’t run you more then $3.00 to $4.00.
The biggest story line that Savage appears in and plays a role as one of the central protagonists is within Grant Morrison’s DC One Million, a major cross-over event published in 1998 and which spans a four issue self-titled series along with at least forty-two tie in issues (give or take a couple). DC One Million has its adoring fans but I’ve never been a huge fan of Morrison’s work in general and I normally cite this story as an example of why. It takes place in the 853rd century, a time when DC would have published it’s one millionth issue of Action Comics. Its a complicated story line that involves a lot of time line surfing and in my opinion not really worth going into great deal about. That being said if you’re interested in Vandal Savage and want to read his exploits you should definitely give it a shot, you should be able to get the core series and probably most, if not all, of the tie in issues for anywhere from $3.00-$5.00. A LOT of people like DC One Million and you may too, so don’t take my negative impression as a reason to avoid it.
That’s you have it folks …
… pretty much everything you need to know about Vandal Savage to understand his place in the DCU’s fictional history. If you’re a collector or someone who is considering starting a collection I hope this article was helpful in giving you a few books to add to your long boxes. The “Who Is” articles will become a regular feature I’ll be doing here at ComicBooked.com. Make sure you check back each week to check get up to speed on the new heroes and villains being introduced on your favorite CW super heroes shows.
If you’re looking for the run down on who Hawkman is be sure to check out my “Who Is Hawkman?” article.