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Vandal Savage: Who is the Immortal DC Villain (And How Did He Die?)

One of the oldest, most enduring villains in the DC Universe is Vandal Savage. An immortal, mass-murdering figure who has existed since prehistoric times, the undying mastermind has fought the various heroes of the DCU for millennia across human history.

Now, CBR is taking a quick look back at the character’s triumphs and deafeats throughout his appearances in the comic books to his live-action debut as the first primary antagonist for the Legends of Tomorrow in the Arrowverse.

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First created in 1943’s Green Lantern #10 by Alfred Bester and Martin Nodell as an antagonist for Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott, Vandal Savage is revealed to originally be a caveman named Vandar Adg from a tribe of Cro-Magnon. After bathing in water heavily radiated by a mysterious meteorite, Vandal gains immortality, an accelerated healing factor, and a boosted intellect.  Retaining his savage disregard for human life, Vandal adopts various prominent alias like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar as he subtly reshapes human history.

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In addition to fighting Alan Scott, Vandal became a consistent foe of the Justice Society of America since he advised the Axis Powers during World War II. An immortal on Earth-2 as well as Earth-1, Vandal would also take on the Justice League later in 20th century and retained his vendetta with the JSA after the two worlds merge at the end of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.


Over the ages, Vandal has endured many types of lethal injuries but his healing factor has resuscitated him to continue to affect human history under a different alias. In addition to surviving the destruction of Atlantis, Vandal was apparently stabbed to death repeatedly while posing as Julius Caesar, reviving some time later and taking a new identity. After this attempted assassination, Vandal prefers to operate from behind-the-scenes, eschewing the spotlight for the greater autonomy and security from working from the shadows.

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In present day, an alternate future version of Vandal is sent back to Montevideo moments before his future self has the city destroyed with a nuclear overloading Rocket Red, providing a possible death for the character as seen in DC One Million. During Final Crisis, Vandal is possessed by the first murderer Cain after he is stabbed by the Spear of Destiny. While the spirit is eventually purged, the incident leaves Vandal suffering from continued identity issues.


Vandal Savage on Arrow

In the Arrowverse, Vandal is portrayed by Casper Crump and first debuts in a crossover between Arrow and The Flash, “Heroes Join Forces.” Setting up the premise of spinoff series Legends of Tomorrow, the story reveals that the Arrowverse’s incarnation of Vandal Savage derives his immortality from constantly killing Hawkman and Hawkwoman across time after all three are exposed to Thanagarian meteorites in Ancient Egypt. Defeated by the heroes using his own powerful Staff of Horus, Vandal’s remains are gathered by Malcolm Merlyn who revives him in exchange for a debt.

An alternate future is revealed to be ruled by Vandal in the year 2166, resulting in the deaths of Rip Hunter’s wife and daughter. Rip intends to change history by having Hawkgirl kill him for good with the dagger she was holding when first confronting Vandal in Ancient Egypt, only to be stopped by the Time Lords overseeing time travel throughout the Arrowverse.

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Eventually, it’s revealed that Vandal will prove vital in repelling a Thanagarian invasion of Earth some time after 2166 and has been working with the Time Lords because of this. In response, Captain Cold sacrifices himself to destroy the Time Lords while a temporal paradox caused by Vandal exposes him to radiation from the Thanagarian meteorites that gave him is immortality, effectively making him mortal and subsequently killed by Rip. In the Season 4 finale, Vandal is seen enjoying his time in Hell, having befriended Ray Palmer while the Legend is trapped in the underworld.

Throughout all his incarnations, Vandal Savage has played a major role in shaping human history to his own nefarious ends. However, as heroes have risen across the DC Universe, both in the comics and on television, his millennia-long rule has been thwarted time and time again. But, given the nature of Vandal’s powers and increased resilience, it is only a matter of time until the immortal villain will rise again to take his revenge.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow stars Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Tala Ashe, Matt Ryan, Jes Macallan and Courtney Ford. The series will return in midseason 2020 on The CW.

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