Comic Book / Vandal Savage
He is as classy and charming as he is vicious and cold-blooded.

"Send me your superheroes from past, present OR future. I'll kill all of them."
Vandal Savage, DC One Million Vol. 1, #2

Vandal Savage is a DC Comics super-villain created by writer Alfred Bester and artist Martin Nodell. He first appeared in Green Lantern Vol. 1, # 10 (Winter, 1943) as an enemy of Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of the Golden Age. Since then, he has appeared across various DC Comics titles and clashed with individual superheroes and superhero teams.

Savage's history goes back to prehistoric times. Previously known as Vandar Adg (translated as Vandar The Stone) of the Cro-Magnon Blood Tribe, in 50,000 B.C. he encountered a meteor that fell to Earth one cold night. Depending on the version of the character, he either lapsed into a coma from its radiations or willingly slept near the meteor for warmth; either way, in the process, he was bathed in its rays and ended up as an immortal being.

Since then he has appeared throughout history under different aliases and in different positions of power among different empires, all to further his own aims of eventual global conquest. Due to his immortality, he's had several lifetimes to acquire great combat, military, tactical and leadership skills, and is vastly knowledgeable in the world's history, sciences, arts and technology—adding to this, in all versions of the character, the meteor's power also gave him Super Intelligence. He possesses superior physical strength and endurance, can heal from most wounds, is versed in magic, and is able to create inter-dimensional warps.

He is the leader of the DC Universe's Illuminati and founder of the Fourth Reich and Tartarus, and has also been associated with the Secret Society of Super-Villains and the Injustice Society. He was also part of the inner circle of Libra's Society during Final Crisis.

His primary archenemy is the Immortal Man, who also hails from the Cro-Magnon period and gained the power of repeated reincarnation from the same meteor Savage got his powers from. Following The Immortal Man's death, the title of archenemy for Savage went to the Resurrection Man, an unrelated superhero with similar powers.

Savage has also fought against the Teen Titans, the Outsiders, the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America, and butted heads with individual heroes such as Superman, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, both versions of The Question, Rip Hunter and the Ray.

Savage also appeared in the DC Animated Universe's Justice League series (voiced by Phil Morris), as the Big Bad of the three-part episode "The Savage Time" and the two-part "Maid of Honor," and he also appeared in the second half of the two-part "Hereafter." He has also appeared in DC Universe Online (voiced by Brian Talbot) and more recently he has appeared in the Young Justice animated series (voiced by Miguel Ferrer) and the animated movie, Justice League: Doom (with Phil Morris reprising the role).

Savage made his first live-action appearance in the Arrowverse plated by Casper Crump in a crossover between The Flash (2014) and Arrow that set up his role as the Big Bad for Legends of Tomorrow.

He was ranked the 36th "Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time" by IGN in 2009.

Some of the comic book titles where Vandal Savage has appeared:

Tropes associated with Vandal Savage:

  • Above Good and Evil: Often claims to be this. In the Christopher Priest (comics) penned stories, he even believes it, and behaves according to it.
  • Abusive Parents: He essentially threatened his daughter Scandal with the death of her teammates in the Secret Six if she didn't produce an heir for him. She did not take it well.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the New 52, even in the present day, he's less an Evil Overlord as he once was, and more a guy with a lot of time on his hands who doesn't see any reason not to occasionally conquer places when he gets bored. He's still evil, but he's much more personable.
    • Same rules apply to the Justice League version, which might be the predecessor to this.
    • Thoroughly subverted in the New 52 Superman arc Savage Dawn, where he's at his absolute worst.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: When he was manufacturing and distributing Velocity 9, a drug that granted super-speed at the cost of burning out the user's body.
  • Ambiguously Brown: He's generally been portrayed as Caucasian, but his skin tone has changed shades across various media, with Justice League: Doom and Young Justice portraying him with something akin to a Scary Black Man appearance.note  It helps that he's of Cro-Magnon origin, and that Genghis Khan (who was of Mongoloid ancestry) was said to be one of his conquering aliases in history.
  • Apocalypse How: Achieves it off-screen in the Justice League episode "Hereafter."
  • Arch-Enemy: Primarily to the Immortal Man and later to the Resurrection Man, as explained above, but also arguably to Alan Scott, Wally West, the Justice League, the Justice Society, and the Titans.
  • Archnemesis Dad: To his daughter Scandal.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil
  • Artifact of Doom: He's wielded a few, including The Spear of Destiny.
  • The Atoner: In the Justice League episode "Hereafter," he sincerely regrets his past actions.
    Vandal Savage: (about Superman's "death" in the past) Your funeral was lovely. It was on all the networks. I used to have the DVD.
    Superman: I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    Vandal Savage: As a matter of fact, I did. But I've had 30,000 years to reconsider.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking
  • Autocannibalism: Having lost his immortality in one story, he restores it by eating a disfigured clone of himself.
  • Awesome McCool Name: Vandar Adg, his true name. Of course, Vandal Savage isn't a wimpy name either.
  • Ax-Crazy: But he's cultured and intelligent enough that it's not obvious on the surface.
  • Bad Boss
  • Badass Beard/Beard of Evil/Beard of Barbarism
  • Badass Boast: See the page quote for just one example.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit
  • Badass Longcoat: He's capable of being stylish if he's in the mood...
  • Bible Punk: One of Savage's previous aliases was the murderer Cain.
  • Big Bad: In most of the stories he appears in, most recently and prominently in Justice League: Doom. One exception is the Fernus storyline in JLA (see Enemy Mine below).
  • BFG: In the Justice League episode "Maid of Honor," he used a meteorite-shooting rail gun mounted on a space station to terrorize the planet, and even gave an ocean-targeted demonstration to show he wasn't afraid to use it.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Demon Knights Vandal is a wandering, violence-loving immortal who hasn't reached "world domination" stage yet. The result is basically BRIAN BLESSED.
  • Break Them by Talking: He's able to influence people just by words alone.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: He regenerates his powers, whenever they start showing signs of failing, by drinking his enemies' blood.
  • The Casanova: By his own admission, he's bedded countless women throughout the ages for the sole purpose of having numerous descendants from whom he can harvest organs for himself when needed.
  • The Chessmaster
  • Classic Villain: He hails from as far back as the Golden Age of Comic Books!
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: He's not afraid to indulge in this.
  • Combat Pragmatist: He's not above using anything within reach as a weapon.
  • Contemplative Boss
  • Contemporary Caveman: It's easy to forget he's from the Cro-Magnon period.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: One Justice League Task Force storyline portrays him this way.
  • Crazy-Prepared
  • Daddy's Little Villain: He wants his daughter Scandal to be this, but she's not about to comply.
  • Dark Messiah: To the Religion of Crime, who worship him as Cain.
  • Deadly Doctor: By his own declaration, he conducted syphilis experiments on France's royal family while posing as their court physician.
    • His Smallville counterpart, Curtis Knox, proves to be this as well.
  • Deadpan Snarker: And very gifted at it, too. For example, in the Justice League episode "Maid of Honor," when Wonder Woman's trying to crash his wedding to Princess Audrey:
    Wonder Woman: Audrey, stop! I won't let you marry him! He's...
    (Savage shoots her with an energy bolt)
    Savage: (calmly re-holstering his gun) Does anyone else have any objection?
    • Another example drawn from the episode "Hereafter," after Superman's arrived in the desolated future Earth and has met the future Savage:
      Superman: You're insane.
      Vandal Savage: True, but that doesn't mean I'm not good company. Say, you want to come over to my house?
      Superman: (gives him a look)
      Vandal Savage: Like you've got something better to do.
    • And later in the same episode:
      Superman: Self-help books? You don't seem the type.
      Vandal Savage: I read whatever I can find. Anyway, I've got issues, what with my destroying the Earth and all.
  • Death by Irony: In DC One Million, it's posited that after having lived to the 853rd century, Savage goes back in time to the 20th-century Montevideo, Uruguay just in time to get smacked with a nuclear payload that obliterates the city... the irony is, that attack is ordered by 20th-century Savage.
  • Death Is Cheap: Being immortal does have its perks.
  • Determinator: He just will not stay defeated or dead.
  • Diabolical Mastermind
  • Doomsday Device: He loves these. In the Justice League episode "Hereafter," for example, he used a gravity-manipulating device that upset the balance of the solar system and wiped out the entire human race as a result.
  • Enemy Mine: On at least two occasions.
  • The Emperor: Became Emperor of the Imperial Planets, a very powerful version of The Terran Empire from Star Trek, after somehow trapping Q.
  • Evil Chancellor: He's served as an adviser to Erik the Red, Napoleon Bonaparte, Otto von Bismark, Adolf Hitler, and Ra's al Ghul.
  • Evil Counterpart: To the Immortal Man, and later to the Resurrection Man.
  • Evil Genius
  • Evil Plan: Take over the world and stay immortal.
  • Evil Sorcerer: He'll dabble in magic if it'll suit his purposes.
  • Evil vs. Evil: With Lex Luthor in The Black Ring.
  • Exposition of Immortality: In addition to his origin as Cro-Magnon caveman, Vandal's maintained a variety of identities in concert with several historical figures; advising William of Normandy during his invasion of England, Napoleon Bonaparte as Marshall Savage, and Otto von Bismarck as the Baron von Savage. He claims that he was Alexander The Great, Genghis Khan and Jack the Ripper - though he's also claimed to have participated in Caesar's murder and to have BEEN Caesar.
    • If he was Caesar and history records Caesar as dead, he could have had a hand in Caesar's "death".
  • Expy: The character of Dr. Curtis Knox in Smallville is likely based on Savage. See here and here.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Savage (who, having been alive since caveman days, is a little bit more than Really 700 Years Old) has often acted quite genteel towards Earth's heroes. He also had an unsatisfactory minion for dinner with some of his colleagues and other subordinates. Sorry, he had the minion as dinner. He's a sociopath who is surprisingly persuasive. Not actually likable, but still fairly persuasive, if only through the controversial "agree or I burn your parents alive" technique.
  • For the Evulz: Savage's reason for joining Libra's Society in Final Crisis? He was bored.
  • For Want of a Nail: If Rip Hunter hadn't mistaken Savage's father for Savage himself...
  • From a Single Cell: He can be physically injured and could conceivably be killed, but his Healing Factor takes care of whatever injury he might sustain (though how quickly it does depends on the severity of the injury). He is also susceptible to infections and disease (he suffers a brain tumor at one point, but he gets better).
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Once upon a time, Vandal Savage was Vandar Adg, who in turn was just one of many Cro-Magnon cavemen trying to survive.
  • Gadgeteer Genius
  • Genius Bruiser: The genius part is obvious, but he's also a very dangerous hand-to-hand combatant.
  • Genre Savvy: Well, he's had thousands upon thousands of years' worth of experience, so...
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the Justice League episode "Maid of Honor", he marries the Crown Princess of Kaznia, Audrey. After their wedding, she's shown waking up in bed wearing nothing but a skimpy nightgown, and is confused when she looks to the other side of the bed and sees Vandal isn't there, making it entirely clear that he consummated his union with her.
  • A Glass of Chianti: Observe the page image.
  • Gloved Fist of Doom
  • A God Am I: He declares it to Green Lantern in the Justice League episode "The Savage Time":
    Green Lantern: Say your prayers, Savage!
    Vandal Savage: A god doesn't grovel.
  • Godwin's Law of Time Travel: In the Justice League series, Savage sends informations to his past self (including plans for superweapons) specifically so he could usurp the power of Nazi Germany from Hitler, and conqur the world using the Axis forces, making it an Invoked Trope.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: He has three scars across his face in Young Justice. Wordof God mentions that he gained these during a fight with a cave bear.
  • Guinea Pig Family: He uses his own descendants for spare parts to heal himself and maintain his immortality.
  • Healing Factor: A side-effect of his powers.
  • Hero Killer: He once set up Wally West to fall into a Death Trap that resulted in Wally getting shot through the heart (he got better).
  • I Want Grandkids: He has pressured his daughter Scandal to provide him with grandchildren. She refuses because (a) he likely wants them simply as a Guinea Pig Family, and (b) she's a lesbian anyway.
  • The Illuminati: He's the leader of the DC Comics version.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: He's described by Lex Luthor as quite possibly being the first cannibal on record.
  • Immortality Hurts: He often drinks alcohol or takes drugs like opium to dull the pain of his intestinal cancer, which he had at the time he gained his immortality. His Healing Factor keeps it from killing him, but makes it impossible to remove.
  • Immortality Immorality
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: He makes a Victorian-era outfit look good in the 20th century.
  • Jerkass: Quite possibly the kindest thing anyone can ever say about this man.
  • Joker Immunity: As if being immortal wasn't bad enough...
  • Julius Beethoven da Vinci: Alexander the Great, Gaius Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Blackbeard, Vlad the Impaler, Jack the Ripper, Cain the first murderer, and countless more.
  • Karma Houdini: Thanks to his immortality. The Spectre finds this outrageous and just wants Vandal to be mortal once so he can unleash some Cool and Unusual Punishment on him.
  • Kick the Dog: Oh, where to start...
  • Knife Nut: He's fond of bladed weapons. In fact, he's said to have terrorized London as Jack the Ripper.
  • Large Ham: His DCAU incarnation has traces of this.
  • Light Is Not Good: His doomsday cult in the "Finish Line" story arc in The Flash. And the aptly-named "The Light" in Young Justice.
  • Lightning Bruiser
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: He certainly enjoys being immortal, and takes steps to ensure he stays that way. Which makes his moods of weariness all the more hypocritical.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Roy Harper, a.k.a. Arsenal, is one of his blood descendants.
    • Means less than it might for a shorter-lived villain. Even putting aside the time-spans involved and his tendency to have several sexual partners at any given time, one of his more confirmed personas is Genghis Khan, making him a blood ancestor of most of Eurasia's population.
  • Mad Scientist: He's dabbled in cloning and has created an addictive super-speed-granting drug, for starters.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: His daughter Scandal.
  • Man Behind the Man: When he's not being the Big Bad openly, he's working behind the scenes to achieve his ends. Also see the Visionary Villain quote below.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste
  • Manipulative Bastard
  • Master Poisoner: Did this to the king of Kasnia in the Justice League episode "Maid of Honor."
  • Meaningful Name: Self-explanatory.
  • Morality Pet: The Ray served as one for him for a while. Savage came to view Ray almost like a son, and would fight off other super villains to protect him. He even offered his soul to the Devil in place of Ray's in what's probably his biggest Pet the Dog moment to date.
  • My Grandson Myself: In the Justice League episode "Maid of Honor," he claims to be Vandal Savage III—the grandson of the Vandal Savage the Justice League met in "The Savage Time." Of course, Wonder Woman doesn't buy it.
  • Name of Cain: The Religion of Crime worship him as the reincarnation of the Biblical first murderer, and Lex Luthor says there is evidence that Vandal was the first cannibal.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Well, with a name like Vandal Savage, what else would you expect?
    • Non-Indicative Name: On the other hand, he's a lot more cool, calculating, and decisive than the brutish implications his name suggests.
  • Never Found the Body: Throughout history, he would periodically fake his death and assume a new identity and/or role whenever he saw that his then-current plans were about to fail.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Thanks to his Healing Factor, to the point that not even dropping a meteor on him will keep him down.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Most iterations of the character outside of the comics are much more schemers than fighters. Comics Savage, on the other hand, is always up for a brawl.
  • Obviously Evil
  • Oh Crap!: Gives a very impressive one right before his jet crashes into the ocean in the Justice League episode "The Savage Time." He later inspires this reaction in Kasnia's Princess Audrey in "Maid of Honor," by demonstrating his Healing Factor right after she slaps him and leaves a nasty scratch on his face in the process.
  • Omnicidal Maniac
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: "The Light" in Young Justice, of which he may be the leader or at least the Primus Inter Pares of the group.
  • Pet the Dog: Genuinely cares for the Ray, going so far as to offer his own soul in exchange for Neron leaving Ray alone. It's not an isolated incident, either; he's an almost entirely positive influence in Ray's life, encouraging and enabling him to live up to his potential, up to and including giving Ray a high-paying (and ethically ok) job in the field he's most qualified for. Part of the irony of the book is that Savage is actually a better father figure than Ray's true father, an actual superhero.
  • The Plan
  • The Purge: Once organised one to get rid of all the living relatives of superheroes. It did manage to kill some of them, including Mister America, and most of Captain Steel's family, but it also created the new Citizen Steel in the process.
  • Putting on the Reich: Several times throughout history in whichever medium he appears, including usurping Adolf Hitler to take command of the Axis powers in the Justice League episode "The Savage Time."
  • Religion of Evil: During the "Finish Line" storyline in The Flash Vol. 2, he creates a cult dedicated to the re-summoning of the meteor that gave him his powers in the first place.
    • He's also been associated with the Religion of Crime, who used The Spear of Destiny in a ritual to have him receive the Mark of Cain.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: One story has Savage seemingly losing his immortality due to a unidentified enemy secretly tracking down and murdering his every single descendant. Considering Ghenghis Khan alone, one of his old identities, is thought to have descendants numbering in the hundreds of thousands, that's an impressive feat.
    • Writers Cannot Do Math: With as old as Savage is, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that every human alive has him in their family tree if you dig back far enough. It's estimated that a sixth of all people alive are descended from Ghengs Khan, and not just because he slept around a lot. Every generation back you double the number of ancestors you have (excluding incest, but that's rare enough to be insignificant, noble families included). Twenty generations ago there were over a million people who are your ancestors. Given the average length of a generation and Vandal Savage's age... If you live in The DCU, it's quite probable that Vandal Savage is in your family tree more than once.
  • Seen It All: Having lived as long as he has, in a universe as bizarre as the DC universe can get, this does tend to happen. His Demon Knights iteration was overjoyed to see a pirate sea serpent, something he'd never seen before, nor exclaimed about.
  • Social Darwinist: Several times.
  • Society Marches On: In his first appearance, Savage abruptly learns that he will need a birth certificate to pass a background check for a government position, something he has never needed before and has no idea how to get. He resorts to stealing Doiby Dickles' certificate, attracting the attention of Alan Scott.
  • The Sociopath
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: He ends up a sole surviving scientist in the episode "Hereafter" from Justice League.
  • Supreme Chef: Demonstrated in the Justice League episode "Hereafter."
  • Take Over the World: His ultimate goal. Aside from his New 52 and alternate-future self in the Justice League episode "Hereafter," where he's The Atoner instead.
    • And the partial exception of his Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes 'main Star Trek timeline' incarnation (Flint), which did a heel-face turn at some point in ancient Mesopotamia. He was still Alexander the Great, but otherwise Flint appears to have focused much more on art and science than Vandal Savage (culminating in quitting Earth and setting up shop on a remote planetoid to live in peace).
    • In Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes, he takes care of that around 100 BC, using the power of the captive Q. And since one planet is never enough, he goes on to expand.
  • Time Abyss: Although he appears to be in his late 30s to mid-40s.
  • Too Kinky to Torture
  • Top One Hundred Comic Book Villains: Number 36, as stated above.
  • Übermensch: To borrow a quote from the Justice League episode "The Savage Time":
    Vandal Savage: Who would have thought the ubermensch would be green?
    Martian Manhunter: Ubermensch?
    Vandal Savage: The superior man.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: His daughter, Scandal Savage, who is a member of the Secret Six.
  • The Unfettered: His philosophy boils down to the idea that because he's been around longer than pretty much everyone else, he gets a free pass to do whatever the hell he wants.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Had one that lasted for a few issues when he discovered he was dying of a brain tumor that his Healing Factor couldn't fix. During his breakdown, he suddenly understood why normal people are so desperate to stave off death. He got better after he ate his own disfigured clone to fix the problem.
    • Has another when Kirk gives him a piece of his mind.
  • Villain Teleportation
  • Villain with Good Publicity: He'll play this card if it will suit his purposes; in such a case, only superheroes and the reading/viewing audience are completely aware of what sort of individual he actually is.
    • The Justice League episode "Maid of Honor" is an immediate example of him milking the trope.
    • In the early 1980s, Savage emigrated from his original Earth-Two to Earth-One so that he could take advantage of this. It worked until he decided to make Superman a Hero with Bad Publicity and the Man of Steel tricked him into an Engineered Public Confession.
  • Visionary Villain: As he says in volume 3, issue 3 of Justice Society of America:
    I am not a caveman. I am a visionary. A veteran and orchestrator of every significant war mankind has ever had. And I will continue to shape the world for the war of tomorrow. My tomorrow.
  • We Are Everywhere: Savage has operatives everywhere, especially through the Illuminati.
  • Who Names Their Daughter Scandal?
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: There are hints at times that he's rather world-weary. In the Justice League episode "Hereafter," he's had 30,000 years to be The Atoner, indicating this trope's spirit when he appears in person in the episode.
  • Wicked Cultured
  • Worthy Opponent: Has quite a few. When he finally kills Resurrection Man for good in DC One Million, he says, "Goodbye, old friend."
  • Would Hit a Girl: And he has.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Yes, he would, whether to upgrade his own immortality or to murder a superhero.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness
  • You Killed My Father: Rip Hunter did, in an attempt to kill Savage before he became immortal.