With comic book adaptations on almost every channel and streaming service, fans will meet many new characters with extensive backstories. We’re here to introduce these characters to help lessen the learning curve.
Arrow and The Flash are crossing over again to do some heavy lifting for Legends of Tomorrow, but that could be said about both shows’ earliest episodes this season. Not only will “Legends of Today” and “Legends of Yesterday” give everyone a look at Hawkman and Hawkgirl, they’ll also introduce the spinoff’s villain: Vandal Savage.
Vandal is one DC’s most enduring and formidable villains, appearing as an antagonist since 1944 when he was created by Alfred Bester and Martin Nodell. The character is an immortal who’s terrorized civilizations throughout history, claiming to have either been or collaborated with figures like Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan.
After being exposed to a meteorite as a caveman, Vandal gained his immortality and keen intellect; his brutality was already a part of his nature. During the Golden Age, he expanded his attention to fighting heroes instead of just crippling society. The members of the Justice Society, including Jay Garrick, were his most frequent targets. This rivalry eventually led Vandal to found the Injustice Society, a group he was affiliated with off and on throughout its history. At times, his own plans prevented him from sticking with his villainous peers, such as when he left Lex Luthor’s Society in a roundabout scheme to acquire an heir.
Vandal’s endgames usually come in two varieties: become a world leader or simply end his boredom. In either case, he’s continually working on creating large-scale destruction and attacking anyone would who’d oppose him. During his time, he’s tangled most frequently with the JSA and its associated heroes, but he’s also branched out to fight the Teen Titans, the Flash (Wally West), and the Justice League of America. Beyond the Injustice Society, Vandal’s allied himself with the Religion of Crime, at least one doomsday cult, and founded several ill-fated villain groups.
The one element that separates Vandal from his cohorts is the imminent, personal tragedy that his success would bring. In the animated Justice League, the immortal managed to eradicate all life from Earth, except for himself. He was trapped alone on the planet until Superman was hurled into the future in “Hereafter.” Lamenting his success and loneliness, Vandal works with the Man of Steel to stop himself from succeeding and possibly finding some kind of redemption. (That said, Future Vandal ceased to exist thanks to Superman so the unsuccessful Vandal would still yearn to conquer the world.)
That’s the danger and conundrum of Vandal Savage: He’s lived forever and will survive long after he’s killed everyone else. Some day he may regret his actions and find a way to stop himself, but then his past self will redouble his efforts towards global domination and annihilation. Now it’ll be up to the Legends of Tomorrow to save the world, history, and Vandal from himself.