Obscure DC Characters: V

Vartox

Prologue

As he watched the spacecraft hurtle into the atmosphere, the scientist pulled his wife a little closer to him and a rush of optimism washed over him. Their world was coming to an end but, for their only son, a new world awaited. Through him, Atlantis would live on.

The rocket had been aimed at the asteroid Juno, where our telescopes detected civilization identical to the human race and was equipped with a suspended animation chamber to protect the infant during the long journey. The unit proved to be an unexpected blessing when it arrived in a remote section of Juno and was soon buried in the worlds dense jungle. An incredible 10,000 years passed before an archeologist named Vorne found the vessel and triggered its escape hatch. The fresh air instantly revived the baby boy and the explorer looked on him as the child he and his wife had prayed for.

Ma and Pa Vorne soon realized that young Zarl was an unusual child, one given to balancing heavy furniture in the palm of his hand when he was still in the crawling stage. The gravitational difference between Earth and Juno (presumably in tandem with other unknown factors) had clearly had an effect on the toddler. At the encouragement of his parents, Zarl took the persona of Power-Boy, protecting his home of Midville and defending Juno against its greatest threat, the insidious Creeping Jungle. The ecological nightmare virtually choked half the planet, transforming everything in its path. Even the stones sprout jungle vegetation. After a variety of options (fire, acid, bombs) failed, Zarl successfully used atomic rays to check its advance.

The people of Juno wore an Arabic style of clothing with loose-fitting shirts and pants, vests and turbans partially covered by hoods and short capes. Power-Boy differed from the majority by wearing a more skin-tight green tunic (with a red triangle icon on his chest containing the English letter P) and red tights along with green boots and the obligatory turban (yellow —with a jewel) and hood/cape (red). As Zarl, he wore the tradional Juno garb and disguised himself further with eyeglasses. Thanks to an accelerated educational program, Zarl was already part of Junos workforce as an inventor.

Some fifteen years into Zarls revival (as time is measured on Earth), the planetoid was chanced upon by Superboy as he returned from a brief mission in outer space. Almost immediately, he witnessed the worlds resident hero destroy an incoming meteor and, after a crash course in Junos language and history at a library, the Boy of Steel decided to pay a visit to the hero hed now identified as Power-Boy.

Deducing that his counterpart would also have a secret identity, Superboy isolated him with his x-ray vision and strolled up to Zarl Vorne, addressing him as Power-Boy. Once the Boy of Steel demonstrated his good intentions, he and Power-Boy became fast friends, comparing their parallel origins and going into action together.

The joy of having a super-companion was soon diminished when Power-Boy inexplicably fell ill. Superboy graciously offered to fill in for him but Junos protector felt compelled to accompany him when the Creeping Jungle made a resurgence. Leaving Power-Boy at the edge of the vined threat, the Boy of Steel conceived a radical cure for the planets ills. Fashioning an enormous saw blade, he literally cut the planet in half and sent the infested portion hurtling into Junos sun. Before the surviving portion of Juno could be devastated by the loss of half its mass, Superboy sliced another uninhabited planet in half. Im now joining a new half to Juno. Ill seal the edges together with super pressure later.

Unknown to Superboy, his companion had been snared by the Creeping Jungle and was plunging towards a fiery doom, as well. Miraculously, Power-Boys vitality returned to him as the Creeping Jungle reached the rim of the sun. Witnessing the narrow escape with his telescopic vision, the Boy of Steel finally deduced the cause of his friends strange weakness and made a quick departure. A skywritten message explained everything:

Junos magnetic field reacted to my body from Krypton, producing invisible rays which weakened you. Thus, I was responsible for your weakness. Farewell forever.

Return

The events of 1956s SUPERBOY #52 (by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Creig Flessel) were echoed months later when Superboy visited the world of Zumoor (1960s SUPERBOY #85, by Binder and George Papp). A seemingly innocuous capsule of artifacts from that worlds Boy Radio Club had landed on Earth and Superboy, fearing that Zumoor may really be a warlike planet scheming to get spy information, decided to pay a cautionary visit in the guise of a native.

As hed done on Juno, Superboy studied the planets culture at a Zumoor library, assisted by a blonde, bespectacled teenager named Zarl Kazzan. Here, Clark learned that a small planet with Zumoors low gravity would be unable to keep its air from evaporating into space. But fortunately, pressure rays from our golden moon FORCE the atmosphere down. Fashion on Zumoor was subject to volatile changes, with the worlds current Victorian mode of dress preceded by designs evocative of Junos Arabic designs and ancient Greeces togas.

An impending monorail crash caught Superboys attention but, before he could react, a blonde flying teenager had arrived at the scene, accompanied by an orange dog he called Rovo. Mighty Boy wore a yellow shirt (with a red and black chest symbol) and boots with a lavender cape, tights and wrist bands. He proved himself to be Superboys equal, demonstrating the powers of flight, strength and heat vision as he resolved the crisis.

As hed done with Zarl Vorne, Superboy toyed with Zarl Kazzan by referring to him as Mighty Boy. The Boy of Steel was stunned to learn that Mighty Boy, like Power-Boy had originated on Earth! In roughly the same time period that Krypton had exploded, a rocket scientist named Charles Keith had moved to a tiny tropical island to prevent any spying on his scientific research. When an unexpected tidal wave destroyed their motorboat and threatened to engulf the island, Mr. and Mrs. Keith desperately put their son Tom into their experimental rocket and fired towards the United States coast.

Toms puppy had leaped into the craft, throwing the aiming mechanism out of kilter and sending the rocket soaring into outer space. Arriving on tiny Zumoor, Tom was found and adopted by Chad and Vela Kazzan. The combination of the worlds lower gravity and the golden energy rays of Zumoors moon transformed the rechristened Zarl Kazzan into a super-being.

Assured that there really is a Boy Radio Club on this world and that Zarl was a member, Superboy shook hands with his new friend and prepared to make his departure when a new crisis struck. As a woman fell from a building, Mighty Boy discovered that hed been overcome by paralysis and the Boy of Steel was forced to act in his stead. Convinced that the temporary disorder was a sign of problems to come, Superboy decided to extend his visit.

Superboy found a number of similarities with his own life, including a trophy room/workshop equipped with robotic duplicates and Zarls snoopy red-haired girl friend Charise Kaan. Just as the Boy of Steel had observed an LL motif among his friends and enemies, Mighty Boy had accumulated a number of CKs, including his birth and adoptive fathers, his girl friend and now Clark Kent.

Zumoor had a number of exotic details that were unique to the planet, though. A living jewel from the desert displayed previously unheard-of properties when it temporarily evolved Zarl into a Future Boy. A race of fire people and ice creatures also coexisted with the human inhabitants of Zumoor. And war had been eliminated in Mighty Boys lifetime, with all of the planets weapons buried deep in the ocean.

Just when Superboy began to think that hed overreacted, Mighty Boy and Zarl Kazzan spontaneously split into separate — and powerless — entities. Rovo underwent his own transformation, momentarily becoming a giant dog. The Boy of Steel had finally accumulated enough evidence to diagnose the problem — it was him! Each time he touched Zarl, beginning with the handshake, he unwittingly triggered a different effect in his friends body. Dont you see, Mighty Boy ? IM your HUMAN RED KRYPTONITE!

My theory is that your moons golden rays react peculiarly on my Kryptonian skin. This charges me with an invisible force that has the same effect on you as Red Kryptonite radiations have on me. Instead of a trophy or a mineral, IM the thing thats dangerous to you. Once I leave, your troubles will be over. And I can never come back, Mighty Boy. Once more, Superboy was forced to grieve the separation of a super-companion.

With Superman

As time went on, of course, Superboy formed enduring friendships with the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes and, as an adult, with the Justice League of America. The phenomenon that hed experienced with his boyhood friends was destined to recur again, this time with a potential lover.

In the spring of 1962, Supergirls thoughts had turned to love and she was determined to find a mate for her cousin Superman (ACTION COMICS #289, by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney). Informed by Kal-El that if I ever DID marry, it would be to someone super and lovable like ... YOU! Inspired, the Girl of Steel used the Fortress of Solitudes computer. Screening all possibility-factors, she explained. It indicates a Superwoman duplicate of ME exists on the planet Staryl. I beg you to go there, Superman. You owe it to yourself to discover if shes the mate for you.

The Man of Steel travelled to the world in orbit around a blue sun and, defying the odds, he fell in love with Luma Lynai, the planetary heroine of Staryl. As predicted, she had the blonde hair and features of an adult Supergirl and wore a one-piece white costume broken up by a black belt. Her gloves, boots and cape were green and her chest shield featured an S-like symbol.

The whirlwind romance ended with a marriage proposal from Superman and an invitation to accompany him to his own world. As they entered Earths solar system, Luma was wracked with pain and felt her strength fade away. Bitter experience left no doubt in the Man of Steels mind as to the cause of the problem. Noting that Luma Lynai derived her powers from Staryls blue sun, Superman explained that Earths yellow sun had an alternately toxic effect on her. You can never ... live on Earth,he choked. Ill stay HERE!

Fighting back tears, Luma refused to permit it. No! Earth needs you. Go! — forget me! Even as he complied she silently sobbed that Ill always love you.

Kal-Els lost friends are lovers werent quite forgotten. Luma Lynai was glimpsed one more time in SUPERMAN #157 (five months after her debut) and was remembered as an image in LOIS LANE #97 and the more recent THE KINGDOM: PLANET KRYPTON one-shot. Her debut, which included an early appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes, has been reprinted three times as of this writing. The Power-Boy and Mighty Boy episodes were each reprinted once, in SUPERBOY ANNUAL #1 (1964) and SUPERMAN ANNUAL #6 (1962) respectively.

The Power-Boy and Mighty Boy stories are AWFULLY similar, just one example of Mort Weisingers penchant for recycling old plots for new stories. Weisinger acknowledged the similarities in a thought balloon at the end of the 1964 Power-Boy reprint. Superboy thinks, This is the second time Ive lost a super-pal from Earth, while a footnote identifies Mighty Boy, last seen in the 1962 reprint.

Power-Boy has since made an unidentified cameo in the crowd scene at the opening of SUPERBOY & THE RAVERS #5. And one cant help but be struck by the contrast of his origin with the post-Crisis history of another DC character. Like Zarl Vorne, she was an Atlantean refugee placed in suspended animation for millennia and revived with super-powers (SECRET ORIGINS #11). Her name is Power Girl.

Vartox: Profile #2

Valeron was a relatively advanced world situated in the Sombrero Hat Galaxy, with technology that one might anticipate on Earth in another few centuries. But it was not Earth, despite the presence of a dominant humanoid race. A glance into the sky revealed two orbs, a pair of suns and a pair of lunar satellites, possibly known as the Dadra Moons. The atmosphere was composed of 60 % oxygen (versus 20 % on Earth). Open flames were discouraged on Valeron.

Valeron also had a planetary champion in the form of Vartox, a hirsute man who wore a brown vest, black and yellow bikini briefs and long boots ... and nothing else. Although his origins are unknown, Vartox seems to gained his enhanced abilities as a young adult.

His so-called hyper-powers were psychic in nature and mostly directed through his hands. Aside from the powers of super-strength, flight, super-sight, intangibility, teleportation and telekinesis, he was capable of generating blasts of heat and cold and could place his adversaries in suspended animation. His hyper-charge amounted to a virtual death-bolt. He could also manipulate his hyper-energy into forming nets, ropes, force bubbles or other basic objects. With hyper-hypnosis, he could manipulate crowds into seeing whatever he wished. At one point, he even defied all the laws of physics and turned a three-dimensional object into a two-dimensional one. His ultimate exploitation of his abilities temporarily converted (his) molecular structure into pure hyper-energy, generating a staggering burst of destructive force.

His celebrity soon attracted the attention of a beautiful blonde named Syreena and the young Vartox was thrown for a loop. She was like no other woman I had ever encountered, Vartox recalled. For the first time in my life, I knew what it was to love with a passion ... and be passionately loved back in return. As our romance flourished, she gave me a dazzling pendant to wear close to my heart — as she put it, a glowing testament to our everlasting love.

The same time frame saw Valeron wracked by wanton, cold-blooded attacks directed against public utilities and services owned and operated by the planetary government. Many lives were lost — snuffed out by an anonymous extortionist cold-blooded enough to commit multiple murder to insure his payment demands were met. Inevitably, Vartox captured the super-powered terrorist and was horrified to learn that it was Syreena, whod used the pendant to siphon surpluses of hyper-energy from (his) body to hers.

Syreena insisted that, whatever her motives had originally been, shed truly fallen in love with Vartox and begged him to release her. Crushing the pendant, he delivered her to Valerons Punishment Bureau and she was given the maximum sentence. Typically, a lawbreaker was sentenced, accelerated in age by the worlds futuristic technology and released instantly. Syreena would be given a life sentence, however, and would be forced to live the rest of her days in confinement (SUPERMAN #374).

In the years to come, Vartox continued to be haunted by the betrayal of the great love of his life and threw himself into the role of hero, not just on Valeron but throughout his galaxy. Now approaching middle-age and with sideburns and a receding hairline, Vartox finally found a new love, a reddish-blonde named Elyra. Within weeks of his marriage, the hero of Valeron would find his new bride dead in their bedchamber. The death of their planetary champions lover sent all of Valeron into a state of mourning and its medical authorities vowed to determine the cause of death.

Vartox recalled that for years she suffered from mysterious pains and ailmentsand the autopsiscan confirmed that there was a connection. The hero was stunned to learn that Elyra had been biologically linked to a woman from Earth. When her bionic twin died, Elyra had perished, as well. Using a time-scanscope of his own invention, Vartox discovered that his wifes twin had been ruthlessly gunned down by an armed robber on Earth named Frank Sykes. Even more ghastly was that, thanks to a legal loophole, Sykes would not even be punished for the crime.

Vartox vowed to bring Sykes to Valeron for punishment but concluded that a direct approach was not an option. By hyper-powers, (he) mentally projected what would most likely happen if (he) carried out such a battle-plan — a clash between Superman and (himself) ... ending in the death of the woman he loves. Instead, Vartox met Sykes in the guise of a fellow criminal, manipulated him into stealing a jewel and convinced him to return to Valeron for more riches. Despite the hero of Valerons best precautions, Superman spotted Sykes snatching the gem and attempted to intervene. Still hoping to avoid a potentially distrastrous confrontation with the Man of Steel, Vartox funnelled some of his power into Sykes, who sent Superman spinning away like a human corkscrew.

Superman raced after the duo, now travelling 7 & 1/2 light years back to Valeron via a teleport-beam, and literally outraced the ray to destroy a fragment of a white dwarf star in its path. On his home planet, Vartox placed the killer under arrest and explained that not a law was broken, Sykes. I carefully worked out my plan so youd come of your own free will. And thanks to your greed, you did. He confirmed to Superman that I planted the gem (in the jewelry store) myself. I could not let Sykes steal one of the store-jewels — that would be breaking a law.

Though the Man of Steel was sympathetic, he was concerned about the confinement of an Earthman on another world for the sixty years that Valerons law dictated. The hyper-man was accomodating, noting that he has already served his time. As you can see, Sykes age has been accelerated by 60 years. Now that our laws have dealt with him, I can accept my wifes death in peace. Heading home with the 90-year-old Sykes, Superman noted that the scales of justice have balanced out. Frank Sykes got away with murder on one world ... only to pay the penalty for it on another (1974s SUPERMAN #281, by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Bob Oksner).

Vartox had his origins in a 1974 film called Zardoz, a critically-blasted science fiction adventure that featured Sean Connery as the lead character (named Zed)in a costume disturbingly close to the one worn by Vartox. Connery had made a few other appearances in DC comics of the past (in the James Bond/Dr.No. issue of SHOWCASE #43 in 1963 and in a Gil Kane-designed character in the futuristic Jan Vern strip from 1965s MYSTERY IN SPACE #100 and 102) but it would be Cary Bates nod to one of the actors most unusual film roles that was destined to leave him immortalized in the Superman mythology.

Vartox wasnt getting any younger and, after enduring a particularly rough hit by a criminals z-charge gun, the hero had to acknowledge that the specter of age is finally taking its toll on my hyper-powers. For the sake of his world, he felt compelled to find a solution. Via his transcope, he sought ideas from watching Superman on Earth and believed he had found one in the form of Karb-Brak, an alien being whod fled to Earth after developing an allergy to the super-powers that all of his own planets people possessed. Superman had found a partial cure for Karb-Brak that enabled him to live on Earth in the guise of a human (as documented in 1976s ACTION COMICS #460-463).

Vartox realized that the energy toxins which caused Karb-Braks dread super-hero allergy contained the vital elements (that he) needed to revitalize himself. The hyper-man travelled to Earth, secretly reactivated his allergy and, while Karb-Brak fought Superman in his fever-rage, Vartoxabsorb(ed) those vital elements. Intoxicated by the energies in his system and suffering enormous guilt for endangering Karb-Braks life, Vartox convinced himself that it was Superman who had been losing his powers, not himself.

In a one-on-one battle, the Man of Steel soon realized he was no match for the addled hyper-man. His only option was a psychological tactic. Disguised as Elyra, Lois Lane called on Superman to abandon the fight and return home to her. Tears streaming down his cheeks, Vartox insisted that she is NOT your wife — she is MINE!The plan had worked and a contrite Vartox told Superman to consider yourself fortunate, old friend, to know the love of Lois Lane. NEVER take her for granted. In the company of Karb-Brak, whom hed inadvertantly cured as he recharged his powers, Vartox headed homeward (1977s ACTION COMICS #475-476, by Bates, Kurt Schaffenberger and Frank Chiaramonte & Vince Colletta).

For all the tragedy that his life had seen to date, Vartox could scarcely have imagined what lie ahead. Returning to Valeron from a routine patrol of the galaxy, he was soaking in the sights and sounds of his beloved world when his hyper-senses detect(ed) a violent vibratory flux spreading rapidly across the planet. In a matter of moments, the world had detonated like a bomb!

With nowhere else to turn, the inconsolable hyper-man travelled to Earth, where he choked out the details of the tragedy to Superman. Though the Man of Steel still endures the scars of immeasurable grief from losing his own home world when he was a mere infant, he cannot begin to comprehend the weight of the pain and agony that must now weigh upon his comrades mighty shoulders. Deep in the grasp of survivors guilt, Vartox found himself suffering visions of his people blaming him for their deaths.

Regaining his composure, the hero displayed several radioactive fragments of Valeron and asked Superman if he might use the equipment of his Fortress of Solitude to analyze the rocks for clues to his worlds destruction. The Man of Steel was agreeable to the proposal but insisted that his friend set up roots in Metropolis and mingle with other human beings rather than pull away from society in his grief.

WGBS sportscaster and eternal jerk Steve Lombard got a first-hand taste of the legendary Vartox style when Galaxy Broadcasting security officer Vernon OValeron responded to one of his perioidic pranks on Clark Kent by shoving his face in the garbage disposal. Clark Kents co-anchor (and childhood girl friend) Lana Lang took an immediate liking to the masculine security officer and Vartox responded in kind. Hed originally taken the guise of OValeron only to satisfy Superman but, thanks to Lana, it was rapidly growing more and more appealing.

Vartoxs love-life abruptly took a backseat when his investigation of the radioactive rocks yielded a heart-sickening conclusion. Hed unwittingly picked up an undetectable space-element while hed been on galactic patrol, an element with a violent reaction to oxygen. Thanks to Valerons oxygen-rich atmosphere, the world exploded within minutes of Vartoxs return. Earth now seemed destined for the same end, a fate that many on Earth suddenly seemed to share. The hyper-man belatedly realized that, given the psychic base of his powers, he was subconsciously broadcasting my dread of Earths impending doom at a telepathic level so intense, Earth people are being overwhelmed by my fears.

From within the Fortress, Superman insisted that his friends fears were unfounded, noting that his microscopic assessment of the oxygen atoms around him displayed no disintegration. Vartox would not be deterred, even reenacting Jor-Els futile warnings to Kryptons Science Council about his own worlds impending doom. Momentarily shaken, the Man of Steel burst out of the Fortress and was stunned to realize that he could now see the atoms of oxygen being destroyed.

Thinking quickly, Superman realized that the radioactive fragments of Valeron had somehow negated the oxygen effect within the Fortress. At super-speed, the heroes gathered every chunk of Valeron that they could locate, proceeding to pulverize the world-saving fragments into streams of microscopic particles to be spread throughout the atmosphere until the crisis passes — and Earths oxygen is stable again.

That night, Vartox kissed Lana Lang goodbye. Shed been stunned by the fact that shed fallen for another super-hero, sighing, You know, its funny — deep down, I guess I always suspected you were too good to be true, Mr. Vernon OValeron.

Deep down, one also suspects that Vartox may have wanted him to deny himself happiness in penance for his unwitting destruction of Valeron. Officially, though, he felt that his powers would be wasted on a world like Earth that was full of super-heroes and vowed to find another planet, a struggling civilization in desperate need of a champion. Such is my destiny, Lana — but it cannot diminish the love I will always feel for you. Perhaps, if all goes well ... and if you are willing to wait ... I could even come back some day.

Choking back tears, Lana sniffled, that might just be the best offer Ive had in a lifetime (1979s ACTION #498-499, by Bates, Swan and Chiaramonte & Colletta).

A year and a half later, Vartox returned to Lana just long enough to let her know that hed finally found the world hed been seeking — a planet of orange-skinned humanoid beings known as Tynola. Indeed, Tynola seemed to be struck by catastrophes on such a regular basis that hed begun to wonder how its people had ever survived without him. The answer, which hed concealed from Lana, was a disturbing one. The hyper-man chanced upon a secret Tynolan ritual of chants and invocations that they were using to create each and every menace (hed) saved them from since (he) arrived. Under the pretense of saying goodbye to his friends, Vartox had made a quick journey to Earth and, fearing that the aliens were monitoring him, covertly asked Superman to follow him back.

The Tynolans watched with interest as their newfound champion fought and defeated a genuine menace called Superman. Ostensibly a prisoner of the Tynolans, the Man of Steel was now free to eavesdrop with his super-vision and hearing. He quickly learned that a godlike entity known as Moxumbra was looming just beyond the planet. The gaseous being was composed of green and yellow clouds prone to almost non-stop electrical discharges and resembled nothing so much as a huge, gaping serpentine mouth.

In exchange for periodic sacrifices of super-beings, Moxumbra, from the aliens viewpoint at least, bestowed its divine radiation on them and gave them the Power of the Chant. The Tynolans had been secretly bathing Vartox in mosmic additives to make him palatable to their god. Superman, they were disappointed to learn, had powers of an entirely different nature from Vartoxs hyper-powers and was judged incompatible for Moxumbra.

The Man of Steel would, however, make good bait to lure Vartox into the jaws of the god and, claiming to be executing the notorious villain, they fired Supermans body into space on a direct course with Moxumbra. As anticipated, Vartox attempted to rescue Superman and was caught fast by the creature before the Man of Steel could warn him otherwise. Vartox began to dissolve and, realizing that he couldnt be pulled free, Superman begged him to use his hyper-energy to transfer the mosmic energy to his body. Moxumbra discovered that the new sacrifice was inedible and bolted from the planetary system with the most colossal stomach-ache in the universe.

Superman was understandly thunderstruck when he learned that Vartox intended to remain on Tynola. The hyper-man was adamant, though, observing that with Moxumbra gone, the Tynolans have LOST the chanting powers which warped their moral judgment. Ironically, NOW they truly DO need a super-champion to guide them, to help them back on the path of self-reliance(1980s SUPERMAN #356-357, by Bates, Swan and Chiaramonte).

The post-Moxumbra era on Tynola was considerably less perilous, though, and Vartox now felt comfortable in taking extended vacations to Earth to visit Lana. Although she was frustrated by the pattern that was emerging (A few precious days of bliss, and then well say our goodbyes), Lana was genuinely touched by his insistence that she not abandon her life and friends on his behalf. In spite of all your awesome powers, she told him, Youve always treated me as nothing less than an equal. You dont know what a RARE quality that is in the men I meet. The ones who arent trying to dominate me feel threatened by my successful career as a TV journalist.

Admittedly, as Vartox confided in his Kryptonian friend, it would have been difficult for Lana to join him on Tynola, anyway. Its atmosphere would soon prove fatal to her or anyone else with an Earth-based physiology. That suddenly became a moot point when a ghostly being bestowed a protective aura on Lana and erased her memory of the encounter. Vartox and Superman were astonished when they found her apartment filled with a poisonous gas, something that the hyper-man recognized instantly as the Tynolan atmosphere. Having discovered that the blue glow around her body had somehow immunized her, Lana realized that there were no longer any barriers to prevent her from joining the man she loved on his adoptive world.

Superman and Jimmy Olsen were more troubled by the entire situation. Doesnt that weird protective aura and the alien atmosphere test seem more than a little suspicious to you? Jimmy wondered aloud. Vartox had rationalized it away, noting that Ive long been aware of an ethereal hyper-body which dwells within my physical essence. On occasion, this phantom self has been dispatched into action without my knowledge — directed by my own own subconscious wishes. It was, he felt, the only theory conceivable.

In fact, a far more sinister entity was behind the blue aura, a person who was secretly whipping Vartox into jealous attacks on Superman as his wedding day approached. In a murderous rage, the hyper-man burst into Lanas going-away party — determined to kill the man he was convinced was trying to steal his fiancee. Firing a lethal hyper-charge at the Man of Steels chest, Vartox watched helplessly as it ricocheted toward Lana and, reacting with the aura, transformed her into a stone statue.

In a state of shock, Vartox surrendered to authorities. Head in hand, he told Superman from his cell that I have ceased functioning as a rational super-being. Let us be candid, Superman — there were warning signs of mental instability. Citing the mental blackouts in which he supposedly endowed Lana with her aura and went into his rages, Vartox insisted that what happened today is no ones fault but my own — and whatever penalty your Earth-justice decrees for me will not be severe enough.

Privately, Superman felt otherwise. Vartox is somewhat older than I am ... and his hyper-powers and vast experience have made him a force for good in the universe ever since I was a super-tot. I dont buy a champion of his caliber suddenly losing his mind over the woman he loves — not unless an outside force was at work. Microscopically examining photographs that Jimmy Olsen had taken at the reception, the Man of Steel spotted a secondary beam directed at Lana at the moment of her transformation.

Elsewhere, Vartox was being haunted by a ghostly image that he finally identified as Syreena when he noticed that the remains of her crushed pendant (which he still carried after all those years) had begun to glow. Using those fragments, he escaped from prison and trailed Syreena back to her base. Shed anticipated his arrival and activated a long-dormant failsafe that unleashed poison in his lungs. The deathtrap was dealt with immediately by Superman, who told his friend that hed uncovered evidence implicating Syreena in Lanas death.

Grasping at any possibility, Vartox asked his former lover if she could resuscitate Lana. Y-yes, she responded. There IS one way. I can SAVE her for you, Var ... so you and she can have the happiness you and I were never meant to share. Working over Lanas stone form, she realized, Perhaps I DO still LOVE you, Var ... far more than I ever knew ... until NOW! Just PROMISE me you will never FORGET me.

Vartox began to understand what she was getting at when Lana returned to life. The restoration had only been possible by Syreena transferring the petrification field from Lanas atoms to her own. The spell had also erased Lanas aura, a small price to pay for her restoration. The hyper-man spent another several days on Earth before returning to Tynola with Syreenas immobile form. Only a cruel twist of fate could make my wish come true this way, he cursed as he left the planets atmosphere. I was hoping to go back to Tynola holding in my arms — the woman I loved (1982s SUPERMAN #373-375, by Bates, Swan and Dave Hunt & Dan Adkins).

Superman was understandly concerned when Vartox returned to Earth a year later, once again suffering blackouts and partial amnesia. He couldnt remember Tynolas location — or even its name — and headed to the only location in his mind: Earth. With a bit of hesitation, the Man of Steel gave his friend another bit of potentially bad news. As Clark Kent, hed begun dating Lana Lang.

It seems, Superman old friend, he grinned, that Ive checked out of my life for longer than might have been prudent.

Dont talk like that, Vartox ... and especially dont give that to ME. I KNOW what kind of problems you can have when you make a career in OUR line of work.

No, no, my friend. I am all right, just a little disappointed ... in MYSELF for letting the best things in my life sift through my fingers. I should have married Lana when I had the chance. Besides that ... your alter-ego Clark Kent is a good man in his own right.

Im glad youre a friend, Vartox — and Im glad youre taking this news well. You have no IDEA how much Ive agonized over this.

You knew the woman long before I did, Superman, and ... and ... and now — I will KILL you!

The Man of Steel hadnt seen the hyper-powered slap coming and was helpless as Vartox incinerated him with a blast of hyper-energy. Blinking, Vartox realized that the entire conflict had been in his mind. As Superman left him alone in the Fortress, the hyper-man silently wondered what he had done to deserve such never-ending torment.

Both he and the Man of Steel would have been far more concerned if theyd checked into the welfare of Tynola. The FORMER planet Tynola. An otherworldly dybbuk, an entity capable of occupying someones body, had been on a systematic quest for power that led it to inhabit and drain the powers of one alien super-champion after another. Srakka, as the parasite was called, was captured only once while in one of his alien hosts and he vowed to have that champions body as his next conquest — Vartox. Aware that it could only enter a super-beings body if its prospective host was suffering the pain and anger of a great loss, Srakka decided that a logical course of action would be the destruction of Tynola!

The plot was all too successful. In a state of fury at losing a second world, Vartox seemed to slay the super-champion, realizing only afterwards that never before have I deliberately killed a conscious being. I cannot live with that! Srakka found that his new body was in not only rage, but self-doubt. Because he thought that he, not I, had killed my previous host, he went wandering confused for a time ... until eventually he himself led me to the home of my NEXT prey.

Having successfully expelled Vartoxs spirit from his body, Srakka abducted Lana Lang in the hope of gaining access to Supermans Kryptonian form. When Vartox killed Lana, Superman reacted exactly as hed hoped and went into a frenzy. The parasite emerged from Vartoxs body with the intent of taking over the Kryptonian but found himself blocked. The rage had been faked! Holding the now-tangible dybbuk in his hand, Superman flew it deep into space for a deep freeze on Pluto.

Srakka had reckoned without the psychic aspect of Vartoxs abilities, which allowed him to take possession of a willing body and use his hyper-powers through them. That body, ironically, was yet another would-be lover of Lana Lang, an obsessed fan named Wally Gurkheim whod stalked the TV personality in the past. In Wallys guise, Vartox had alerted Superman to the plot and rescued Lana from seeming death. Speaking from Wallys body, Vartox assured Lana thatwere it not for his essential goodness and generosity, I would not have been able to inhabit his body to save you and Supermans sense of loss at your death would not have been faked for the parasite.

Returning to Earth, Superman found Vartox and Wally back in control of their respective bodies and Lana assured him that young Mister Gurkheim would have a job at WGBS before the days out.

Thrusting his hand towards the hyper-man, Superman asked, Friends again?

Grabbing the hand, Vartox responded, Friends FOREVER! (1983s SUPERMAN #389-392, by Bates, Swan and Hunt)

No one is quite certain what happened to Vartox after that. One account claims that the former champion of Valeron made a final trip to Earth, arriving in the wake of the murder of Lana Lang and the disappearance (1986s ACTION #583). It might also be argued that the hyper-man eventually remarried and started a family, one that extended several centuries into the future when a clean-shaven lookalike named Damos worked with Jan Vern as an agent of Interplanetary Investigations (1965s MYSTERY IN SPACE #100 & 102).

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Yet another story suggests that Vartox didnt meet Superman until 1999, shortly after the murder of Valerons green-skinned previous planetary champion, Ontor, at the hands of an otherworldly serial killer known as the Anti-Hero (TEAM SUPERMAN #1, by Mark Millar, georges Jeanty and Doug Hazelwood).

This incarnation of Vartox, who wore a less-revealing brown body suit with a yellow stripe on the torso, was forced along with other alien heroes to do the bidding of Brainiac or their respective homeworlds would be destroyed. Having developed a deep respect for Superman in the short time that theyd known each other, Vartox used his invisible hyper-shield to protect the Man of Steel from a lethal blast from Brainiac. On Earth, Vartox and fellow heroes Paz and Vestion drew a line in the sand and sent the villain into space as they pursued him. Remain here and take care of your home and your loved ones, Superman, the hyper-man shouted as they teleported away, for the day may come when you might LOSE them(1999s SUPERMAN #148 & 150, by Dan Jurgens, Steve Epting and Joe Rubinstein).

The Vatmen

The Vatmen were apparently one of the first groups of corporate super-heroes (much like Hero Hotline, the Conglomerate, or the Power Company). I believe the "Vat" referred to how the team was created/grown, rather than any Value Added Tax. All of the group either died or went crazy.

The only surviving Vatman we have seen was the man known as Synth, who was a shape-shifter. Synth's brain was also in a state of constant mutation, becoming super-smart one day and not recognizing his own reflection the next. Synth was working with a criminal organization and was guarding Mindy Falconer, the daughter of the man who used to be a super-villain known as The Piper. The Piper was being forced to rob a bank in the city of Vanity, otherwise his daughter would be killed. This brought Piper into conflict with the murdering hero known as Bloodtype and with Aztek the Ultimate Man. Synth and Mindy were actually working together, in order to take over the crime business in Vanity, but their plan backfired and Synth ended up killing Mindy when his IQ changed during the caper.

Appearances:

  • Aztek The Ultimate Man #1 (mention and appearance of Synth) and #2

Venom

First (and only) appearance: Fury of Firestorm Annual #4

A Los Angeles based medical student and user of Venom-X, Todd Walton, a hallucenogenic drug with side effects, who transformed into a snake-like man. Todd infected Felicity Smoak with Venom-X and went on a killing spree in Los Angeles, killing Mr. Shark, the drug lord responsible for getting him hooked on the drug. Stopped by Firestorm (whom he also sprayed with the drug through his wrist-shooter...but did he die facing Firestorm, or was his death an hallucination?). No known links to Eddie Slick, who had introduced a mutigenic drug to wrestler King Crusher, or to Kobra, who had been based in Califonia and later had agents who were transformed into snake-men, but one never knows...

Vext

Written by Rich Meyer

The man known as Vext is a god. Not a New God, but a god in the sense of Thor, Odin, Apollo, and Ares. Vext was a member of the "Jejeune Realm" (also known as the Borough of Mawkish Indifference) in the Pan-Dimensional Pantheons. Vext was, in fact, the "patron deity of mishap and misfortune." He was the embodiment of the principle of "Murphy's Law" - whatever can go wrong will.

The problem was that the Jejeune Realm was being phased out (read: obliterated from all existence) because they were no longer being actively worshipped by mortal beings. Vext and his fellow Gods were being evicted from their plane of existence, and unfortunately, Vext did get the paperwork in the mail to choose his new home. After a lot of confusion and waiting, Vext was sent to Earth, where he was to have access to the whole planet and to live among human society, so long as he didn't try to deliberately influence the course of human affairs, or attempt to take over the planet, or become a super-hero. So the series was basically about Vext's adventures as he tried to understand humans and try to fit in to the routine in Delta City.

Vext took up residence in Apartment 4-A of Mr. Danforth's building in Delta City. He is right next door to Colleen McBride, aspiring writer and temp. Colleen became Vext's friend and does her best to help him adapt to the ways of the world.

Mr. Danford, the landlord, is very hard of hearing and introduced Vext to his archenemy: The Murphy Bed. It has a mind of its own and is trying to kill him. Really. Vext's other arch-enemy is the toilet, which never stops running. You're just supposed to jiggle it, but we all know that never works.

Vext did manage to grab a couple of high-class guest stars in his first issue. Superman and Zauriel of the JLA came by to warn Vext against attempting to wrest control of the planet from Mankind. Not that that was something that had really crossed Vext's mind.

Meanwhile, in a plot thread across town, the series' also followed the adventures of rogue archaeologist Aaron Caldwell in his attempts to collect icons and statues of "minor deities" - the ones that were worshipped or idolized in peoples' homes rather than temples - in various cultures, and gain power from them. His two lovely assistants are Samantha and Louisa, and they don't necessarily share Aaron's enthusiasm for his quest...but they are very good at shooting people. In the first story, the trio went to the Amazon River basin and secured an icon of Qrttglbrnglrtch, the nigh unpronounceable Patron Diety of Inadvertant Armageddon (and as such, the fact that Sam and Louisa massacred the tribe came as no surprise to the victims).

Vext met his first and only "super-villain" in his second issue. Well, he wasn't really a super-villain...just a stressed-out driver in a car who may or may not have had his metagene activated by the fact that Vext, during his driver's test, turned on the same empty stretch of road that the driver wanted to use. The driver became one with his car, which changed into a really cool looking machine and off they went..CRASH! In similar fashion, Vext also had trouble buying furnishings for his new apartment (at "Not Too Shabby Discount Furniture").

VEXT #3 features the delivery of Vext's furniture. What a stir that solicitiation must have caused in the comic book world! Naturally, the furniture came unassembled. Colleen attempted to help Vext, but ended up taking him to the emergency room when the furniture came alive and attacked! No...not really. Vext did manage to trip and fall on a drawer handle in such a way that he was used as an object lesson and was berated by a puppet for being careless during a skit in the kiddie ward.

Across town, the folks at GeneTech discovered that their smart germs had taken a powder and scarpered away. They had escaped all the way to Burger Biz and were well on their way to complete control of the planet when they all ended up on Vext's burger. They couldn't handle Vext's digestive system, and the world was saved.

Soon after Vext's arrival, most of Aaron's collection of minor icons destroyed themselves, and Aaron (somehow correctly) deduced that this meant that their plane of existence had ceased to exist. He also figured out that the four remaining icons were intact because the Gods they represented had physically manifested themselves on Earth (three of these would obviously be Vext, Paramour and Rypta Gud'n. The fourth was never mentioned).

Paramour, the Patron Deity of Relationships Gone Hellishly Wrong showed up on Vext's door step in the next issue. She is Vext's sister...or maybe his fiancée...or his ex-wife. We're not really sure. She was there to stay with Vext, as her last romantic dalliance had ended with his wife throwing her out. She got the bed and she snores.

Aaron and Louisa went on expedition to the M'Tanga Plateau in Zaire, Africa. They had already been to Madagascar, Tasmania, Iraq, Turkey and Timbuktu and not found what Aaron was looking for, which was Rypta Gud'n (the Patron Deity of Ill-Timed Flatulence). Louisa got to the heart of the matter with the local tribe (blowing away the chief and all the witnesses) and went into the methane-filled temple (which had been sublet to Rypta from Ch'mbalamba, the Serpent God). After a rather Indiana Jones-esque exit from said temple, Aaron and Louisa met Rypta outside the temple, where they convinced him (and each other) to go back with them for observation and tests to figure out how to siphon off his godly abilities. Naturally, they didn't tell him that last part.

Paramour caused considerable confusion in issue #5, when trying to explain her relationship with Vext to Colleen. Vext admonished Paramour to tell Colleen the truth, and she did. Unfortunately, it was the truth about her and Vext being gods exiled on Earth. Luckily, Colleen took it pretty much in stride, since in the world of super-heroes and super-villains, "demonic and angelic visitations have become so commonplace these days".

In another plot thread across town, Aaron and the girls had Rypta in their now rather smelly penthouse and were setting up the "testing equipment", which was actually a device that Aaron hoped would channel Rypta's Godly abilities into himself, making him immortal. The girls fled the building to wait, and bet that Aaron would forget to ground the machine. The top of the building exploded. Rypta was dead, but Aaron was unharmed, and apparently had succeeded in his quest...but he had ALL of Rypta's abilities, including the flatulence bit.

While all of this was going on, the Pan-Dimensional Zone Monitor Surveillance center had watched the situation unfold with Colleen, Paramour and Vext, and we're going to take a hand in things. Vext told Colleen that it really wouldn't be a good idea for her to write about the God-thing, as just her knowing as much as she did was usually grounds for immediate termination by the Zone Monitors. She didn't take that news nearly as well as she did the Vext-God stuff.

While Vext and Colleen talked, Paramour prepared herself for a trip to the "Better Than Nothing" dating service. She picked a very hapless case for her first date: Aaron.

Our final issue opened with Vext dying on the battlefields of Asgard, Colleen being "modified" by the Zone Monitors, and Aaron sneaking off to avoid Samantha and Louisa (who kept one step ahead of him where ever he went in the world). Well actually everyone was just having bad dreams. Vext was invited in for a cup of cocoa with Colleen. The End.

NOTE: Vext is the second "super-hero" to set up shop in Delta City, the first being, of course, The Heckler.

APPEARANCES:

  • DC Universe Secret Files And Origins 1999
  • Vext #1-6

The Vigilante of Earth-One

Greg Sanders, the Vigilante, apparently had a fairly long career as a hero, including helping out with the formation of the original Justice League of America, before taking a job as a night watchman at a factory. That's where we first see him, as he helped the Justice League of America battle the "Doomsters", a race trying to invade Earth because of its pollutants (which they could breath normally) who were striving to pollute the entire planet more quickly to facilitate a take-over.

The JLA gave the Vigilante a new motorcycle and he proceeded to have a number of fairly mundane adventures over the next few years. He also helped Superman battle a real werewolf. When the Vigilante went to visit his old partner Stuff, however, things took a much more serious turn, as his partner had been murdered by his arch-enemy, the Dummy. The gunslinger avenged his friend's murder, and it looked like he was taking on Stuff's son as his new sidekick. This, of course, established that there was also an Earth-One version of both Stuff and the Dummy.

The Earth-One Vigilante's existence is also corroborated by the appearance of Michael Carter, the hero known as The Swashbuckler. The Batman worked with the Houston-based hero, who told the Caped Crusader that his uncle was the famed Vigilante, whom Batman recalled as "a good man" from the adventure with the "Doomsters".

The only thing about the Earth-One Vigilante that remains a real mystery is his apparent youth.

Appearances:

  • Justice League Of America #78-79, 144
  • World's Finest Comics #214
  • Adventure Comics #417, 422, 426, 427
  • World's Finest Comics #244-248
  • Detective Comics #493 (semi-cameo - mentioned by nephew)
  • Wrath Of The Spectre #4 (new stories that were to have appeared during the Adventure Comics run)
  • Ghosts #97-99

Viking Commando

Appearances: ALL-OUT WAR #1-6

The Viking Commando appeared in ALL-OUT WAR #1-6, plus a left-over episode in UNKNOWN SOLDIER #266 and 267 and the entry in WHO'S WHO '87 #25.

Virago

Only appearance: Green Arrow #12

Created by Kevin Smith, Virago was a female superhero operating out of Philadelphia. An apparent rookie, she had about a dozen arrests to her credit, mostly muggings, breaking and enterings, etc. While out on patrol on the rooftops of the city, she was lured into a trap by a tape recorded cry for help. The mysterious villain, Onomatopeia, wounded her with a rifle and then, as she lay kneeling helpless and wounded on the ground, he put a pistol to her head and shot her dead.

Instant obscurity.

Her origins and identity were unknown. She had no apparent powers although she did the usual swinging on the rooftops with a rope. If she had any powers, they didn't come in handy against a guy with a gun.

Her name was supposed to be ironic because she was actually quite a good-looking lady. I assume she was created mainly to show what a dangerous fellow Onomatopeia is.

Volar

Real name: Ren Uoxon
First (and only) appearance: "The Heroine Haters," Adventure Comics #384 (Sept. 1969), by Cary Bates, Win Mortimer and Jack Abel.
Known relatives: Danon (father), Mara (mother)
Base of operations: Torma ("second planet of Star-Sun 447B")
Powers: Magna-vision, magna-strength and possibly other powers analogous to Supergirl's. Volar gained these powers from exposure to the "magna-beam" invented by Danon.

After her roommates at Stanhope College get computer dates, Linda "Supergirl" Danvers bemoans her fate - "They're perfectly happy with the guys the computer chose for them! But even with fellows I like, I still have the uncomfortable realization that I'm SUPER... and they're NOT! No boy on Earth could meet my standards..."

This gives Supergirl an idea. Superman keeps records on thousands of champions on other worlds, so she flies to the Fortress of Solitude and uses his computer for "Operation Super-Match." Superman arrives and begins to protest just as the computer selects a super-being named Volar (an anagram for Valor, perhaps?), who fights crime on the planet Torma. "What a handsome hunk of hero!" the Maid of Might cheers.

Superman reminds Supergirl that his computer is only a machine and that appearances can be deceiving, but she refuses to listen and goes to Torma to meet Volar.

The two become friends and fight crime together. Supergirl realizes she "could really go for Volar." But she senses something strange about the Magna Marvel and is confused when he shows no romantic interest in her. Meanwhile, Volar's father frets that "X-Day" is approaching.

Supergirl is also surprised to learn that she is a pariah on Torma. Troman men consider all women inferior thanks to the teachings of the Visitor, a philosopher who visited the planet long ago.

The Visitor (who was apparently stood up for the junior-high Harvest Moon Dance) traveled space, spreading the message that women were worthless and weak and backing it up with a "suppressor-beam," an energy beam that brainwashed women into submission. Over the following centuries, each generation was indoctrinated into believing the Visitor's teachings.

After overhearing Volar and his father discussing X-Day, Supergirl confronts him. Volar tries to send her away, but, believing him to be terminally ill, she refuses. When X-Day arrives, Supergirl learns Volar's shocking secret and flees Torma thinking, "I'm heading back to Earth — where I BELONG! I found out VOLAR was no HIT... but a REAL MISS!"

A miss, indeed. Volar is actually a woman masquerading as a male to avoid sexual discrimination. Danon had created a "living mask" to hid his daughter's true gender. On X-Day, however, he ran out of the last of the "vitalizing serum" that made the mask so life-like and which made Volar's voice sound deeper.

"You saw how our men treated SUPERGIRL! The same thing will happen to you if TORMA finds out its mighty hero is a GIRL!" Danon says. "...You must give up your career!"

"No, dad!" Volar responds. "SUPERGIRL never let those sneers and jeers stop her... and I won't either! I'll teach people that a girl can be as good as ANY man... and BETTER than SOME!" Volar is last seen on patrol as a woman.

Curiously, on the cover (by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson) Volar bears a passing resemblance to Pete Ross. He has redish-blonde (orange) hair and wears a brown top and boots, a white utility belt, black trunks with yellow highlights and green tights. Inside, he has brown hair and wears a baggy purple top with white sleeves, a yellow utility belt, black trunks, white tights and purple boots and cape. About the only things the two versions of Volar have in common are their "mod" sideburns. After Volar "outs" herself, she sports a mostly black uniform with purple trunks and boots and a large white "V" on her torso.

Vox, the Bionic Bandit

Profile by <erdmann>

His sole comic book appearance was inauspicious, campy and an issue late. Yet, somehow, he managed to earn a guest shot on TV's "Justice League," something even Hal Jordan and Captain Marvel can't swing. To whom do I refer? Why, none other than Vox, the Bionic Bandit!

Vox, who was actually a mad scientist cyborg, not a bandit, was the creation of writers Jack C. Harris and Martin Pasko and artist Joe Staton. Originally slated to appear in the 50th issue of DC's revived METAL MEN series, Vox's tale "Killing Me Softly with his Scream", fell prey to the Dreaded Deadline Doom and was bumped back to issue #51 (April-May 1977). Issue #50 was a partial reprint of METAL MEN #6 (featuring the Gas Gang), with a new framing sequence. The issue ended with the Metal Band and Doc Magnus taken into custody by U.S. soldiers assigned to Project Automation under the orders of Col. S.M. "Whip" Craven.

In issue #51, it was revealed that Craven wanted Doc to turn over the secret of the Metal Men's shape-shifting abilities so the government could use it to create superior robot troops. While they talked, the storage room in which the Metal Men were held was attacked by a group of silent para-military types whose uniforms bore a large white "V" on the front. The robot captured them and when Craven attempted to interrogate one, the soldier "willed himself to die" rather than speak.

Vox, who spoke through a mechanical larynx, had an aversion to the human voice because it reminded him of the kind of voice he would never have again. When one of him men attempted to inform him about the capture of the troops, Vox screamed, unleashing a sonic blast that killed the man.

The creator of a breed of cyborg soldiers called "Cyboriginals", Vox also wanted the Metal Men's secret so he could make the troops he provided Communist Block counties invincible. Leading a second attack himself, Vox captured Doc, Craven and Iron.

Back at his HQ, Vox failed to extract the secret from Magnus, so he decided to cut off the stubborn inventor's head. Craven offered to tell all if Vox would spare Doc and replace his faulty pacemaker with a cyborg heart. Vox agreed and Craven told him of the responsometers, the mini-computers inside each Metal Man's head. Realizing he could reverse engineer them from studying the one inside Iron, Vox promptly went back to trying to kill Doc. Enraged at the betrayal, Craven suffered a fatal heart attack.

Meanwhile, Gold, Lead, Tina, Tin and Mercury took the forms of Cyboriginals and tricked the survivors of the first attack into leading them to Vox's base. There they merged to form a single giant robot (the first appearance of Alloy from "Kingdom Come," perhaps?) and attacked. Vox ordered the polarity reversed on the giant electro-magnet holding Iron, sending the robot crashing into his fellows. It didn't slow Mercury, however. He decked Vox, smashing his mechanical voice box. Unfortunately, the giant buzzsaw about to decapitate Doc was programmed to only respond to Vox's voice commands. Fortunately, the Metals were able to fling Lead into the saw, destroying it at the last minute.

And so, with the creator saved, Craven dead and Vox and his troops defeated, the Metal Men were ready to call it a night.

And that was the end of Vox... until a couple weeks ago when Cartoon Network aired an episode of "Justice League" in which a character named Vox appeared as a flunky to Vandal Savage.

This Vox could also unleash sonic blasts from his mechanical larynx to devastating and deadly effect. In many ways, he was similar to the henchmen James Bond's enemies always keep around — ruthless, single-minded and loyal — fitting for an episode that had a Bond-style plot. Another difference was appearance. While the TV Vox wore military garb, the comic book version dressed in a tight, pale green jumpsuit that sported a large white V that framed his bare chest. He also wore a purple cape, light blue hip boots and a skull cap (which may have been attached). His lower jaw was metal, whereas the TV version appeared to have a relatively normal face.

Vox actually could be used to go effect. He was a homicidal insane genius who though nothing of harvesting body parts from his fallen men to use on new cyborgs. With a better wardrobe and less campy dialogue, he could be a really creepy contender against many DC characters.

The Vultures

Written by Richard Meyer

Blackie Stover was an ace pilot with a big problem - he was an alcoholic. He was able to ride along on his piloting skill, until one day when he was grounded because he was inebriated before he was scheduled to fly a passenger flight out of the Metropolitan Flying Field. Stover didn't take kindly to this and forced himself on the plane, knocking out Charles Collins, the substitute pilot, and taking it up. Collins woke up as Stover was just trying to take off and the resultant scuffle caused the plane to crash. No one was injured, but Stover's career as a pilot was over.

Two years later, Charles Collins was killed by English spies as he tried to save the life of Deborah Wallace. Collins body was brought back to life by the ghost of Keith Everet, who had dwelt for many years in Castle Connaught, so that he could be near Deborah, who was the namesake and near-doppelganger for his own dead love. Everet was known at times by the sobriquet the Grim Ghost (originally the Gay Ghost).

Soon after the new Collins returned to America, he and Deborah ran into Stover in a bar. Unfortunately, Everet-as-Collins did not have the memories of the original man, and when Deborah asked him to say hello to Stover, he was very awkward and told the disgraced pilot that they should call off their differences. Stover asked if Collins would like to work for him as a pilot, and Collins agreed to talk to him the next day (Stover believed that he must be in some kind of trouble to even come and talk to him).

The next day, Stover admitted that his "wings" had never been clipped, as it were, and he had organized other grounded flyers like himself into an outlaw organization known as the Vultures, complete with costumes. Their activities were apparently very profitable, and Stover took Collins along on the next raid because then the pilot would be in "as deep as the rest of us - simple, isn't it?". Unfortunately, as Stover was about to force Collins aboard a plane at gunpoint, Deborah happened by in her car. Collins moved in front of the woman and refused Stover's invitation to join the Vultures, and was rewarded with a gunshot wound that looked to have killed him. Stover then kidnapped Deborah aboard the plane, with the invisible spirit of the Grim Ghost close behind.

The Grim Ghost first disabled the weapons of the other planes in the Vultures' squadron, as they closed in on a gold plane flying in from the coast. As Stover led the planes in their attack run, the Ghost materialized in Stover's plane and freed Deborah, handing her a large wrench and telling her not to use it until they got "the goods on this Vulture crowd". The Ghost then appeared in front of Stover's plane, whose machine gun bullets passed harmlessly through him. The Ghost gave the word and Deborah clubbed Stover with the wrench, while wave after wave of the Vultures' planes made totally ineffective runs against the gold plane. The confused pilots of the gold plane contacted the Army air field as the other planes continued their useless foray.

The controls of Stover's plane were different than any other Deborah had ever flown before, and she lost control. The plane went into a terrifying tailspin. The Ghost streaked back and took control of the plane, and Deborah thanked him, but wished that he could do something for Collins, whom she thought was dead. The Ghost told her that the man was still alive and would be all right when they got back (and when the Ghost could reanimate him). The Ghost kept the pilots captive at their hidden landing area, until the Army Air Force planes arrived to take them into custody.

Appearances:

  • Sensation Comics #8

Original text copyright DC Comics unless otherwise noted. Used without permission.