The Psychology Of Supervillians Club..March 2020 - Vandal Savage

His advice to Napoleon was correct. The French are out numbered (as usual) but the combined forces under the British are joining the field piecemeal under forced march. Meanwhile, the Prussians have to deal with another French force and cross a river before they can engage the main French force. Attacking immediately is absolutely the right call. But, the Brits hold long enough to fortify their position and the Prussians engage the French wing, capture the bridge and continue to move quickly eventually smashing into Napoleon’s flank (at least that’s how I remember it). Similarly, the Spanish Armada wins but for weather and superior British seamanship.
From this a couple of thoughts. One, Savage knows that some factors are beyond anyone’s control. He must have learned patience to play the long game. Two, if you want something done right, do it yourself.

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As an immortal, the odds would be in Savage’s favor. Eventually, he should be able to win.

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To that point, just read DC 1 Million for the first time and spoiler Savage is willing to wait until the end of time to get his way

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If there was ever any doubt that V. S. is willing to play “the long game”, DC 1 Million certainly demonstrates that element of his personality.

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I think this is one of the things we see in his origin(s). That he has often won, as Julius Caesar, Ghengis Kahn, Cheops & Alexander.

One of things noted earlier was his desire and ability to work behind the scenes.

I have often wondered if Vandal is more interested and happier in the quest for power than actually attaining it. It does seem once he has it, he is often bored by it. Which as an immortal, kind of makes sense. He knows civilizations will ebb and flow and over time eventually crumble. So it is the quest for power that is truly interesting, truly worthy of his intellect. Once the goal is achieved, the thought becomes, what is the next goal.

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Hey folks; first time posting here. I like the format of this club, since the reading assignments are not mandatory to the discussion (I have a hard time keeping up with my ongoings and side projects as is). Where appropriate, I’ll be drawing on my previous knowledge of chosen characters.

So Vandal Savage. I know I’ve read comics with him as the villain, but apparently none memorable enough for me to draw anything from. So my take will be based on the CW. Based on that show, he strikes me as an individual with an insatiable thirst for power that overshadows him being an obsessive lover. Shayera was the object of his affection; yet he killed her when he found out about her relationship with Khufu (who would later reincarnate as Hawkman). That’s typical evil maniacal lover stuff. So the meteor shower happens and he becomes immortal. He discovers that to keep his immortality he’s got to kill the reincarnated versions of Shayera and Khufu over and over again throughout millennia. Is he getting his “revenge” against Shayera for snubbing him time & again, or has maintaining immortality become a mission he must maintain at any cost? Given how he was portrayed on that series, I think both. As if immortality wasn’t enough, his quest for power comes into play. As Springsteen says in “Badlands”:
Poor man wanna be rich
Rich man wanna be king
And a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything
Vandal savage was willing to play a very long game to get to the “everything” part. Manipulating history throughout thousands of years to finally achieve his ultimate rule in 2147. On that show he was basically a murderous, manipulative power hungry guy who had a lot of time on his hands.

Sorry… after reading what I wrote… my psychoanalysis skills suck. But I gave it a try :slightly_smiling_face:

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Just realized I didn’t answer most of the discussion questions, other than “what drives him?”. Will circle back later.

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The next thing I’ve thought about with Vandal Savage is that at times he can be very analytical, deep thinking, drawing on all those years. But, he can (to put it in technical terms) loose his ■■■■ at times. His reaction to Roy in DC Million is off the charts. Not sure where this fits in his profile, but it certainly is a weakness.

Actually a good breakdown of him relative to the CW show. So a :+1: on that analysis. He was immortal regardless of killing one or both, but he draw energy from killing them (increase in strength and/or intellect they never made clear) it was his followers that could increase their longevity with the blood of with Shiera or Carter. I think that was a reason for his long cult following. Both as they worshipped him as a god and why he felt he was a god. We did see him operate as more of a puppet master, working behind the scenes in CW, so it makes sense that he would eventually develop the view that his best course of action was to conquer the world.

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@msgtv
I think you have touched on something critical here. He is so willing to play the long game and strategize every move his opponent will make, that when some random element is thrown in, like Roy in DC 1 Million, he does loose it and gets laser focused on getting rid of that random variable. So in theory the rest of his strategy will play out. However, the random variable usually creates a slight need to adjust strategy, which he often doesn’t do. That becomes the weakness. So wrapped up in making things work to his strategy and taking out the random variable to get that particular strategy back on track, without making adjustments for it. He is so convinced if his brilliance and ability to have crafted a “perfect” strategy, that to be forced to modify it is a firm of failure on his part to have not thought that this random element would have been there and therefore not be random.

It’s very binary thinking on his part, their is perfection or garbage, and no where in between.

Vandal doesn’t see shades of gray, only black and white. Is this because he has lived so long, perhaps to long and has seen shades of gray are “messy” so the answer is to eliminate them. This action supports his desire for binary thinking.

(On a personal note, I think Morrison “whimped out” on dealing with Vandel. We don’t see the trap sprung on his teleportation, only his landing right before what happens, happens. The fact that it ignores the potential time paradox it creates never impacts the story. It is thus deus ex machina Morrison uses to get him out of the picture with no regard for the time paradox. It cheapened the story and Vandel’s arch as well. At least for me.)

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So, I’m very much struck by the mention of variables. I’ve not doubt as the French collapse at Waterloo, Savage changes into monk’s robes and slowly rides away thinking about what worked, what what wrong and most importantly what variables hadn’t been accounted for and how to factor them in next time. But, it would be an intellectual exercise, like he just lost a chess game. If he is the actor though, it’s completely different. He cannot maintain that emotional distance, so he focuses on physically eliminating those variables being killing the superhero in his way.

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I concur. He is most often taken down because he gets to emotionally attached to taking away the anomaly. Because he doesn’t modify his strategy that leaves himself vulnerable as he is focused on the anomaly.

I can actually see where being an immortal gives him this blind spot, worst case the plan fails, they kill him or the like and he just starts working on a new plan. Fundamentally he has less risk of having to get it right this time, because as an immortal there will always be a next time.

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Time to answer the questions.

What drives him?
Hunger for power. I see no “higher” purpose in his mission, and he has all the time in the world to see it through

Are some his plans justified? If so, which one(s) and why?
I don’t think so. Knowledge is power and he may have immense power because of what he has learned through his immortal life. One could argue that using said power to unite the planet, and effectively rule it, may not be an unnatural desire. Don’t believe unity/peace is his intention though. It’s all about him wanting even more power. He helped start wars where countless thousands were killed. I can’t ever justify that.

Is he right and justified in his actions and the heroes just don’t “get it” because their knowledge and experience are, relatively speaking, miniscule compared to his?
He’s probably right in that no one can “get it” as much he does, given the time he’s had to live. His actions are not justified though. His only moral code is him, and that’s the problem right there. Snyder’s Justice League actually implies that his knowledge of the Totality (the evil macguffin) lead him to turn against mankind and seek power, vs trying to protect mankind from it.

Does he actually have a more accurate view of humankind and how best to lead the planet into long term prosperity?
Possibly yes on the first count, but again it’s what he chose to do with said knowledge that leads me to answer in the negative on the second.

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I wasn’t sure if i would be able to keep up in order to contribute, but i want to give it a go because this topic is very intriguing. And it was a good excuse to read DC 1,000,000 :stuck_out_tongue:

The CWverse Vandal is a little different since presumably he became immortal later in man’s development than Vandal as caveman. His pursuit of the Hawks is twofold since it maintains his own immortality as well as keeping his followers following him. He was definitely more bloodthirsty about his conquest(s). Also, making it like a love triangle made for good superhero television.

Caveman Vandal is a different perspective, also his experience is somewhat different. His pursuit of conquest probably comes from early lessons in those prehistoric days. And it wasn’t so much conquest as it was survival: identify the alpha, eliminate, replace, repeat. I keep thinking his advanced brain came before language, and if i knew where to google, i’d do so in an attempt to seem really clever…

But as civilizations rose, that tactic worked. To invoke what has been said about anomalies to his grand plan(s), it is only now, in this age of the superhero, that Vandal can be distracted and eventually thwarted. I am hoping to see more of the schemes and machinations of YJ Vandal.

I don’t think it’s on the service at the moment, but Justice League: Doom is another Vandal Savage video resource (including but not limited to the comic book arc(s) it was based on).

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I really wish JL: Doom was on the service at the moment. It is a great Vandal story. It shows his power in developing a plan. It also shows never send Bane to kill Batman, he sucks at it. Breaking the Bat, sure, killing him, not so much. Had Bane done his job, Vandel’s plan would have worked and taken out the entire JL.

Vandal sometimes seems like he is a puppeteer. The power behind the crown, emperor, despot…etc. I agree that I think he like the quest for power or even just enjoys a bit of chaos. He has similarities to Aries in the fact that he loves conquering or war in general.

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I think those times where he wins he may find the demands of holding power to be more bother than they are worth. The pursuit of power is more interesting than actually holding it and dealing with the responsibility of it.

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So, during lunch today read The Flash 13 & 14 with Wally. A nice Velocity 9 story with Savage. This is the panel that I really loved. Savage thinks of people as little more than lab rats. Want to do a study, give the little Dauphin an STD and see what happens.


The problem with that viewpoint is you can underestimate the rats. And when one of them bites you’re shocked and loose control of your emotions. Sometimes seeing everything with the long-view means you miss the more immediate threat.

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So a fuller breakdown of the psychology of Vandal Savage.

What drives him?

Vandal is a perfectionist in search of creating a global utopian society. He has seen the flaws in every type of society. He knows that eventually any society will fall, if for no other reason than those who initially created it will die and those that follow will at some point be weaker leaders, likely because they did not have to go through the trials and tribulations of their ancestors. A utopian society could exist, if those that are in power and perhaps the general population were immortal. The problem is he is the only immortal human.

In theory, the Olympian gods could be capable of thus, but they are to obsessed with power their own court, and, let’s face it, Zues can’t “keep it in his pants”. Having your most powerful god being a “horn dog” just ain’t gonna work. He’s seen them try and fail.

So to get to and maintain a utopian society there is only one immortal even capable of doing that…Vandal Savage.

Are some his plans justified? If so, which one(s) and why?

Since we are talking fictional characters in a fictional world, I’ll say yes. His fundamental precepts in JL:Doom are sound. The planet is overpopulated and we are damaging the global ecosystem to be possibly beyond repair. (Whether that’s 20 or 200 years I won’t get into, but the reality is, it’s happening.)

If you happen to be in one of the areas most effected, well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

I have my doubts about how well his “lieutenants” would be at holding the areas they are given.

He would certainly get bored after a couple hundred years & let the world plunge into its various degrees of anarchy, but it would certainly resolve a portion of the population crisis and give the planet time to heel itself.

Is he right and justified in his actions and the heroes just don’t “get it” because their knowledge and experience are, relatively speaking, miniscule compared to his?

As I’ve stated above, in one particular case, he probably is right and the heroes just don’t get it. But, their raison d’etre is protecting humanity and the loss of such a large portion of the population they can’t wrap their heads around. One would think Wonder Woman would be able to get it. She comes from a place that has neither population growth or technological implications for the environment. It a warrior culture with a monarch. She should be able to see the long term advantages, but even she, coming from a place of virtual immortality, can’t see the inevitable, even though her people live in a world not unlike Vandal wants to create.

Does he actually have a more accurate view of humankind and how best to lead the planet into long term prosperity?

If there is one thing history has proven, humankind hasn’t really fundamentally changed in thousands of years. Just look at the plays we have from over 2000 years ago. The same issues that people had then and they grapple with are really no different than what people grapple with today. Vandal is someone who has all that life experience and who knows that civilizations don’t really advance without somebody(s) in power giving them a shove.

While it may not be a side of humanity people generally want to see, it exists none the less.

In the end, sure he’s a sociopathic narcissist with a perfectionist streak, but that may not be a bad thing. When it comes down to it, he may be the sociopathic narcissist with a perfectionist streak the planet needs.

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Prior to this event, my knowledge of Savage was limited strictly to the animated universe. What’s presented in the comics is a more layered character. (I’m not going to touch on his CW appearances, since I’ll never get to them in time). Since I’m still getting a grasp of his character, please be patient with me if I ask a lot of questions.

Anyhoo, I just finished the 3 issues of DC Universe Presents. As a fan of Silence of the Lambs, I dug the vibe of the story, but it got me wondering and I wanted to ask everyone’s thoughts. (I’ll tackle the full set of questions later, once I’ve finished all the recommended reads.)

So, in this particular story, the only motivation provided for this specific set of Vandal’s (past) crimes is ritualistic sacrifice to honor “the gods.”

I found this very interesting.

I don’t want to get into the sticky territory of anyone’s personal beliefs, but from an outside/atheistic perspective, why are religions established?

  • To help man cope with his own mortality, and the limitations thereof

  • To justify his actions (political, moral, or whatever have you) and/or place in the world

  • A source of comfort

Vandal, as an incredibly powerful immortal (with a huge ego), is in no need of the above.

In the story, he says that he’s been practicing these same ceremonies since his caveman days. This might simply be a matter of me missing parts of the story from other issues, but what makes an immortal have need of gods? Or, after seeing everything he’s seen, why does Vandal believe they exist, or even care, about the actions of humankind?

Whatever the reason, his belief in higher powers, in a way, suggests a limit to his narcissism. He might think he’s the best that mankind’s got, but he’s apparently not beyond submission.

PS: The mothers in this story have questionable methods of breaking bad news to their children. :flushed:

“Hi, Mommy, I’m home!”
“YOUR FATHER IS A MASS MURDERER AND/OR HAS BEEN SLAUGHTERED.”

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