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There have been many Flashes, and many of those Flashes have died, but only one man can say he ever killed a Flash with a handgun. That man, is an immortal caveman named Vandar Adg, better known to the world as Vandal Savage.
Vandal Savage is one of DC’s earliest baddies, first showing up in Green Lantern #10 way back in 1944. Created by Alfred Bester and Martin Nodell (who also created the Pillsbury Dough Boy!), Savage has gone through quite a few retcons over the years, maybe even more than Lex Luthor,, and I’m going to try and keep everything streamlined, but we may end up on a tangent or two. Did Vandal Savage show up in the DC Tangent Universe? I think so. Let me check… wait.. this is a tangent! I already broke my promise!
Savage, aside from having an awesome name, has an awesome origin. Somewhere around 50,000 BC, Vandar Adg was the leader of a tribe of Cro-Magnons called Blood Tribe. One cold night, a meteorite fell from the sky and Vandar Adg decided to sleep next to it for warmth. The radiation from the meteor gave Adg powers, namely immortality and intelligence. Also, he was a cannibal. Dude loves to eat human hearts (we’ll speak about that more in a bit).
Adg was not the only one affected by the meteor though. A caveman named Klarn, the leader of the Bear Tribe, who happened to be the rivals of the Blood Tribe, also gained powers. Klarn came to call himself the Immortal Man, which really didn’t suit him, since he wasn’t immortal. He had super strength, could fly, and would be resurrected with his memories every time he died, which I guess is kind of like being immortal if you ignore the meaning of words. In the late 90s, DC would introduce a new character called Resurrection Man and they would strongly imply that he was actually Immortal Man with a new name.
Back to Adg. Being immortal, Adg started to gain some serious power vis a vis his tribe getting bigger - more peeps wanted to be part of the tribe with the undying god. He used his powers and big tribe to start messing things up for everyone. In DC history, the first mention of Vandal Savage is when Atlantis sank. Savage is the guy who sank it. Savage took the guys he liked best in the Blood Tribe and left everyone else behind. He and his buddies started a new group, a group Vandal called Illuminati. As you can guess, a lot of the bad shit that happens in the history of the world will come from the plans of Vandal Savage.
Savage is something of a bragger, and also almost certainly a liar. He has claimed, at one time or another, to be pretty much every great conqueror, from the Egyptian king Khafra, to Julius Caesar. Savage has also claimed that he killed Caesar. Either way, at some point Savage figured out that people were sure to come around trying to kill him if he kept showing up and taking over, so he started to work in the background. He walked about Victorian London killing prostitutes (and eating their organs) as Jack the Ripper. He would often set himself up as advisor to men pf power, including Napoleon and Hitler.
The first time Savage ever came across a superhero was when he ran afoul of the Golden Age Green Lantern. Savage, once more looking to be the power behind the throne, tries to get a position in the US government, but is thwarted by Alan Scott. Savage decides that the only way to deal with these superheroes who make up the Justice Society of America is to co-found the Injustice Society of the World with a meanie who called himself the Wizard. Clearly between this name and Blood Tribe, we know that Savage chooses the names of his gangs based on what a seven year old boy would think sounds cool.
With the Injustice Society, Savage would take on the JSA a few times. The first time the ISW took on the JSA, their plan was to create armies by breaking convicts out of prisons, then use those armies to destroy five different government facilities in the US at once, then capture whichever members of the JSA showed up. This plan, in my opinion had one serious flaw - they told the JSA about it before they started. Shows what I know about being a dastardly bastard, because the plan pretty much worked. The ISW captured every member of the JSA except for Green Lantern, who they killed.
Obviously, GL wasn't dead, only faking his death. He disguised himself as a member of the ISW and infiltrated their base, freeing his homies and taking down the rest of the bad guys. I imagine the rest of the JSA never lived it down. I know if I was GL, I would bring it up all the time.
The next time Savage and the Injustice Society showed up, it was after WWII, and I can only imagine that the JSA members were really tired or hungover to have fallen for this plan. Each member of the Injustice Society stole an American monument, with the plan being that the citizens of the USA would then vote on who was the best thief - whoever won the vote would then become leader of the United States. Clearly the ISW didn’t really understand how voting works in the US, but whatever.
The JSA showed up to stop the ISW and were once more captured. The ISW wiped their minds, making the heroes useless zombies. Lucky for our heroes, one of the ISW members, the original Harlequin, had a thing for Green Lantern and felt bad about wiping his mind, so she restored the brains of the JSA. The JSA then fought the ISW and were once again captured! The ISW again wiped their brains, and Harlequin, surely questioning how it is that these heroes could keep beating her and her friends if they are this easy to capture, restored their minds for the second time, with the help of Black Canary. Finally, the JSA beats up Savage and the ISW.
Savage would show from time to time, and was retconned into a lot of events in the DC Universe, including a reveal that Savage knew about the infinite Earths before anyone else, having their existence shown to him when a sorcerer showed Savage his own future.
When Crisis on Infinite Earths happened in 1986, and DC collapsed their infinite Earths into a single Earth, not much was changed about Vandal Savage. He was still immortal, he still battled the JSA and the JLA, and he was still a big jerk.
His first major post-Crisis appearance would be in Flash volume 2 #1. Vandal Savage would take it on himself to kill the new Flash, Wally West because he really didn’t like Flashes. Savage had also learned, or to be more exact, relearned a new trick - magic. Flash and Savage fought, and sure enough, Flash beat Savage. Still, Vandal wasn’t about to just walk away from trying to kill Flash. No, what the immortal dickhead was planning would lead to years of trouble for Wally West, and even his death.
Something weird started happening in New York (at this time, Flash was living in NY), petty criminals suddenly had super speed. No one knew how they were getting these powers, but one thing was sure - the criminals with super speed would burn out after a few days, wasting away to nothing. Flash had to figure it out, but he had no idea where to start. Since this is an article about Vandal Savage, you can bet he’s involved!
Savage had created a new drug called Velocity 9, which gave people super speed. It was also highly addictive and very deadly, as in 100% of people who used it died. Some died because they couldn’t control their speed and they would run into walls or cars at mach 1, others died because of the strain on their systems. The only way to stay alive after getting addicted to V9 was to get regular doses of the drug. Sadly, that wasn’t an option.
Flash chased down some leads, which brought him to Savage. Savage got the upper hand on Wally and injected him with V-9, causing Wally to lose control of his powers. Wally went on a run rage, racing down the streets of Manhattan so fast that windows exploded behind him. Finally, the V-9 wore off, and left Wally powerless. His speed was gone.
Savage showed up again and beat the crap out of a powerless Flash. Figuring that if he could get Flash addicted to V-9, he would have Wally under his thumb, Savage told one of his junkie flunkies to give Wally a shot.. In a moment of clarity, the V-9 junkie injected Savage instead. Lucky for the junkie, Wally’s powers came back before Savage could eat him. Flash beat Savage, who ran off, swearing to get his revenge.
It didn’t take long for Savage to start getting revenge. Wally’s speed was coming to him in spurts, more often he was powerless than powerful. Savage sent V-9 junkies after him, including one in a Flash costume just to be a real dick about it. Wally was beaten nearly to death. Savage then sent the V-9 junkie Flash out to just beat the crap out of random people in order to destroy the legacy of Flash. When that wasn’t working, he set up a Hurt Locker situation for Wally, covering a friend of Flash with bombs. The moment called for heroics, and Wally delivered. He dug in deep, found his confidence and regained his speed. Wally saved his buddy, so Savage kidnapped a baby and buried her alive in Barry Allen’s grave, forcing Wally to desecrate the resting place of his mentor and uncle.
Wally did it, and Vandal Savage went away for a while. Wally regained his speed, and became faster than ever before thanks to an experiment by Tina and Jerry McGee. Things were, as far as a life as a superhero goes, pretty good for Wally.
Then, like we discussed in the last piece, Gorilla Grodd showed up and messed things up for Wally pretty good. After Wally saved Central City from Grodd, he noticed that mom was missing. It was while searching for his mom that Wally came across an old enemy. Literally, old.
Vandal Savage, it turned out, was dying. The Velocity 9 that he was injected with was causing him to age. He would die in a few months, but before he did, he wanted one last fight with Flash. One last chance to kill his enemy. Savage had Wally’s friends and family taken to a compound. They were safe, for the time being. If Flash did not show up at the compound at a specific date and time, Savage would kill them all. Show up early, Tina, Mason, Linda, all of them would be dead. Show up late? Say goodbye to mama West. With no other option, Wally agreed.
Meanwhile, teenager Steffi Jones was in class when she had a vision. A movie really. Steffi, it turns out, was the latest version of the Immortal Man. I guess Immortal Girl would be a fitting name now. Either way, Steffi knew that Savage was about to do something terrible, something that would change the course of world events, and only she could stop him.
When he arrived at the designated spot, Wally found his family all tied up and placed on pressure plates. If one person was taken off a pressure plate, the others would explode. Bad times.
Savage instructed Flash to stand on the open pressure plate. He explained that the plate would, with science stuff, take away Flash’s powers for as long as he stood on it. The contest was simple. Flash would have to run 30 or so feet and stop Savage before Savage could pull out a gun and shoot Flash. How did it go?
This cover isn’t a lie...
I won’t go into details (until next week when we finally get to really talk about Wally!!!!!) but needless to say, Flash ends up beating Vandal Savage with the help of the Immortal Man/Girl and someone else we’ve talked about in the past, but I won’t say who just yet! Can’t wait for next week!!!!!
Vandal Savage would show up from time to time, messing with the Titans for a bit, joining Luthor’s Secret Society, and playing a part in Final Crisis. In the DC event series DC One Million, it is revealed that Vandal Savage would die in the year 85,271 AD, when he is sent back in time to the moment of a nuclear explosion in Uruguay in the 20th century. The nuclear explosion, by the by, was originally caused by Vandal Savage, so justice and all that, I guess.
In the New 52 universe, Vandal Savage has appeared a few times, but has yet to be the focus of any stories. He is shown as a serial killer who is sacrificing people to the gods of old, and appears to be unkillable.
I really dig the idea of Vandal Savage. An immortal maniac running around forming the events of history and eating people is a great concept. There’s a really good episode of the Justice League cartoon where Superman travels to a future where the Earth is destroyed and Vandal Savage is the only thing left living. Savage explains that he won - he killed everyone and everything on Earth, and as it turns out, that was a bad idea. Savage and Supes work together to send Superman back to his time so he can stop Savage from messing everything up.
There’s also the two parter where the League travels to WWII and Vandal Savage is leading the Nazis. That one is awesome too.
On The Flash, Savage is being introduced so that the new series Legends of Tomorrow can use him as, apparently, the big bad for season one. Savage is a great choice for a team of time traveling heroes to have to deal with, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the story they do is similar to the Vandal Savage/Superman story Superman of Two Earths which I skipped over in fear of possibly spoiling events of Legends of Tomorrow. If you’re interested in what that story is, Google is your friend.
I liked Casper Crump’s take on Vandal Savage, but I’m not big on Savage being connected to Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The evil guy who is always killed the Hawks is Hath-Set, an Egyptian priest who lead a rebellion against Prince Khufu and Chay-Ara. Hath-Set killed the lovers with a cursed dagger, damning all three of them to be reincarnated throughout time.
I am very interested to see where the show will go with Velocity-6. Will they ever reach V-9? Will Jay be addicted to the drug now? So many questions! This can also open up a very interesting story for the series; Barry having to deal with speed junkies could be great. If I’m right, this next sentence will be a spoiler, so be warned……
I have a feeling that Wally West will be getting his powers from the Velocity drug. It’ll be easier to explain than going through how he got his powers in the comics (be here next week for that!)