Vartox' first appearance in Superman #281
art by Nick Cardy
|First appearance||Superman vol. 1 #281, (November 1974)|
|Created by||Cary Bates (writer)
Curt Swan (artist)
|Place of origin||Valeron|
|Notable aliases||Vernon O'Valeron|
|Abilities||Flight, invulnerability, superhuman strength and senses, telekinesis, telepathy, energy projection, astral projection, ability to transfer these powers to others|
Vartox is a fictional superhero published by DC Comics. Vartox bears a striking resemblance to Scottish actor Sean Connery and his name and appearance are regarded as an allusion to the movie Zardoz in which Connery starred.
Fictional character biography
Vartox is from Valeron, in the "Sombrero Hat" Galaxy. Vartox is a friend and equal to Superman and the two have shared many adventures together. In a later storyline Vartox, like Superman, loses his homeworld and adopts a new world which he is sworn to protect. He is older than Superman who described him as "a force for good in the universe when I was still a super-tot" (Superman #375, September 1982: "The Stoning of Lana Lang"). Vartox described himself as "far more experienced" than Superman (Superman #281, November 1974: "Mystery Mission to Metropolis"). Vartox is in love with Lana Lang and has shared a rivalry with Superman for her affections.
In November 1974, the "psychic twin" of Vartox' wife is killed after her "twin" on Earth is murdered. Since the two women are "biologically linked", Vartox' wife also dies at the same moment. After discovering that forcibly arresting her killer would lead to the loss of innocent life, Vartox still plans to bring his wife's proxy killer to justice. Vartox journeys to Earth in order to lure the man responsible, Frank "Killer" Sykes, to Valeron. Vartox tricks Sykes into accompanying him voluntarily (so that his trial will have the proper legal standing), and although Superman pursues the pair, he figures out Vartox's mission and allows Sykes to be extradited and tried on Valeron, where he is found guilty of murder. Instead of being imprisoned, Sykes is subjected to a treatment that ages him sixty years, the penalty for murder on Valeron.
Valeron is later destroyed and Vartox temporarily assumes the secret identity of "Vernon O'Valeron", taking a job as a temporary security officer at television and media company Galaxy Communications (where, pre-Crisis, Superman worked as co-host of the evening newscast, in his own secret identity of Clark Kent). While at Galaxy, Vartox meets and falls in love with Lana Lang, once Superman's childhood sweetheart and modern-day rival (with Lois Lane) for his affections. By the time Lana and Vartox meet, however, she has abandoned her pursuit of Superman as hopeless, because she has accepted the reality that any true relationship with a man who literally took the responsibility of the world on his shoulders is all but impossible. Thus, Lana is struck hard by the bitter irony that "Vernon O'Valeron" turns out to be another such man, compounded by the fact that the world that Vartox is committed to was an entirely different planet—and one whose atmosphere is poisonous to Earthlings.
During another of Vartox' stays on Earth, Lana is caught up in a complex revenge plot orchestrated by a former lover of Vartox' from Valeron. Syreena wants payback for what she sees as Vartox' betrayal of her; in truth, his "betrayal" was arresting her for criminal acts committed with a siphoned portion of Vartox' powers, stolen from him through a device disguised as an amulet Syreena had given him as a "gift of love".
Syreena first gives Vartox and Lana false hope by transforming Lana (in the guise of an "energy phantom") so that she can breathe in Tynola's atmosphere; she then makes it appear that an accidental ricochet of Vartox' "hyper-energy" beams has turned Lana to stone. All the while, she mentally manipulates Vartox from afar, appearing as her own "ghost" to render him irrational and unable to guess the truth.
In the end, two things ruin Syreena's plan: one, she accidentally leaves pieces of the amulet she had once given Vartox (which he had crushed upon learning its secret) behind at one of her "ghostly" appearances, giving him tangible proof of her survival, and two, deep down, she still loves Vartox, and finds herself unable to deny him happiness. Syreena restores Lana, at a terrible cost; the effect can not be dispelled, only transferred, dooming Syreena to "life" as a stone statue. However, Vartox and Lana are forced to part once again—the effect that would have let her live on Tynola was apparently linked to the pertrification effect, and both are transferred away when Lana was "cured". After saying good-bye to Lana, Vartox departs Earth, taking Syreena with him.
In 1999 a post-Crisis version of Vartox was introduced by Dan Jurgens and Steve Epting. He makes his debut in Superman vol. 2 #148, alongside two other aliens named Vestion and Paz. This version has significantly reduced powers, apparently slightly less than the post-Crisis Superman, and a revised costume. A brief mention of Vartox' homeworld Valeron is mentioned in Team Superman #1, at that time it had a super-champion called Ontor who claimed he was "the only sentient wearing a cape for thirty-eight light years in every direction." Ontor dies in the story; Vartox claims to be Valeron's protector in the later storyline[volume & issue needed].
In 2006, Kurt Busiek wrote on the Comic Bloc Forum that Vartox would reappear in an upcoming Superman arc. However, Busiek left Superman before using the character.
Vartox returns in the Power Girl ongoing series. All the women of Valeron have recently been made sterile by a "contraceptive bomb", prompting Vartox to search for the best female specimen in the universe, so that they may mate and repopulate Valeron. Selecting Power Girl as the prime candidate, Vartox comes to Earth, staging a fight with an Ix Negaspike, a creature that is indestructible, in an attempt to woo her. However, Power Girl accidentally breaks Vartox' containment device, making it impossible to send the Negaspike back. She attempts to stop the Negaspike by freezing and shattering it, only for the pieces to reform into a swarm of Negaspikes. Realizing that the Negaspike's intelligence is split between its parts, Power Girl and Vartox freeze and shatter all the individual Negaspikes, reducing their copies to "indestructible space-cows", before freezing them again and throwing them into space. Vartox then invites Power Girl to dinner, and she accepts. After Vartox describes his people's predicament, he has Power Girl enter a "fertility chamber", which combines their life-forces to send out a "pregno-ray" to Valeron, making all the females and males pregnant. His mission complete, Vartox departs.
Powers and abilities
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Vartox is described as a Hyper-man, possessing Hyper-powers. The origin of these powers is never revealed but Vartox did state he "acquired" his Hyper-powers as a young man (Superman #374, August 1982: "Love is deadlier...the second time around"), so he was not born with them like Superman himself. Vartox stated that his powers were "psychic by nature" (Action Comics #499, September 1979: "As the World Turns...for the Last Time."). The majority of Vartox' powers are manifest as beams from his hands or eyes and range in color from pink to orange to white to blue in color, though they principally seem to be yellow/gold. The powers described below are ascribed to the original pre-Crisis Vartox.
- Invulnerability roughly analogous to the Silver Age Superman. Vartox survives the explosion of a planet at ground zero, can survive without breathing in deep space and is stated as having no weakness to magic. His only shown vulnerability is when his hyper-power is siphoned away by an outside source.
- Hyper-Strength, described as greater than Superman's.
- Hyper-Speed, described as greater than Superman's.
- Flight. Vartox is capable of unaided intergalactic flight.
- Hyper-senses. These take at least two forms, though there are possibly more. Hyper-Vision, evidenced as analogous to telescopic vision, microscopic vision (at least to a molecular level) and the ability to see through any substance (unlike Superman's own X-ray vision which cannot see through lead). Hyper-Vision also boosted a time-viewing machine to enable it to view the past of another planet rather than the one it was situated on. Vartox also has some form of super-hearing as he was able to hear Jimmy Olsen's ultra-sonic signal watch and listen to a conversation taking place thousands of miles away.
- Vartox has a Hyper-body which he has described as "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 subconscious wishes" (S No. 373, Jul 1982: "Lana Lang's Farewell to Earth"). This hyper-body is capable of possessing another person, taking control of them and imbuing that body with Vartox' own powers. Alternatively, Vartox can also temporarily boost another person with a portion of his hyper-power, giving them abilities that rival his own.
- Vartox has demonstrated some mind control abilities, even across a great distance and over as many people as a whole town. Despite this, he has never directly demonstrated any skills at reading others' thoughts or feelings. Vartox has also demonstrated the ability to project sounds and images directly into another person's mind.
- Vartox once used his hyper-power to predict the outcome of a battle between himself and Superman.
- Vartox has hyper-hypnotic powers which he has used on several occasions to take on the appearance of another person.
- On one occasion Vartox demonstrated super-breath.
- Vartox can transform himself into pure hyper-energy, creating a power surge great enough to render Superman unconscious.
- Vartox has demonstrated the ability to teleport both himself and others over large distances.
- Vartox can make himself immaterial at will and can also make other objects, such as walls, immaterial to allow others to pass through them unhindered.
- Energy Powers: Vartox can emit a range of energy powers from his hands, eyes and in one case his foot. These have taken the forms of hyper-charges, which are capable of killing or rendering a target unconscious, the extremely powerful hyper-obliteration charge, as well as hyper-disintegration beams.
- Telekinesis: Vartox possesses a very powerful form of telekinesis which he has used in many ways, to manipulate his environment, to rain "remote-control blows" on an enemy from a distance, to shape water into tidal waves, to choke Superman with his own cape and to repair a shredded parachute, amongst others.
- Frost Powers: Vartox can generate hyper-frost to freeze a target. He can use this to freeze a person solid; this condition wears off within the hour leaving the subject unharmed.
- Vartox has a form of heat vision.
- Techno-empathy: Vartox has demonstrated the ability to interface directly with even super-sophisticated computers.
- Magnetic powers.
- His hyper-energy can also be shaped to make objects, such as nets, barriers and forcefield bubbles.
- Vartox has also demonstrated a host of other, less quantifiable powers such as being able to transform a 3-dimensional object into a 2-dimensional one, drastically increase the weight of objects and in some cases seemingly transform matter at a molecular, and possibly atomic, level.
- Vartox carries devices on his thighboots capable of emitting some kind of gas which Superman speculated was probably paralysis-causing.
- Vartox is also an accomplished inventor and scientific genius.
The Post-Crisis Vartox seems to be of a much lower power level. He possesses powers of flight, some degree of invulnerability and super-strength and hyperspeed a little below the Post-Crisis Superman. He has also demonstrated that he can shoot destructive hypercharges from his hands and generate forcefields.
The latest incarnation of Vartox from the Power Girl series described his powers as "...freeze breath, the ability of flight, invulnerability, super strength and senses, telekinesis, telepathy and energy projection, astral projection, and the ability to transfer these powers to others."
In other media
Vartox made his first live action appearance in the pilot of the TV series Supergirl portrayed by Owain Yeoman. Vartox is shown to have speed, strength, and invulnerability on par with or surpassing that of Supergirl. In the series, Vartox is an escapee from an ancient Kryptonian prison within the Phantom Zone prison Fort Rozz that had crashed on Earth. After the first appearance of Kara Zor-El, Vartox is ordered to kill her. Supergirl defeats him in their skirmish, and, to avoid capture, Vartox kills himself with his own weapon.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
Fans of John Boorman's 1974 sci-fi film Zardoz, starring Sean Connery in revealing red spandex, could appreciate writer Cary Bates and artist Curt Swan's inspiration for Vartox of Valeron.
- Power Girl (vol. 2) #7
- Power Girl (vol. 2) #8
- Whitbrook, James (March 17, 2015). "Major Scoops For Supergirl, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Flash And Arrow". io9.