Greetings from the Odinson,
Lex Luthor is the Man of Steel’s undisputed arch nemesis. Villains like Metallo and the Kryptonite Man challenge his, albeit few, weaknesses. Femme fatales like Star Sapphire, Maxima, and the Silver Banshee challenge the Man of Tomorrow’s sense of chivalry. Mr. Mxyzptlk challenges his patience. From Brainiac to Toyman, General Zod to Bizarro, Mongul to Darkseid, the Last Son of Krypton has many super villains and space despots to challenge him on many different levels. Many of these diabolical names have become legends in the DC Universe. But once upon a time, there was another “superman” that challenged the Man of Steel in a different way. He challenged Superman for the love of a woman.
Who is Superman’s Forgotten Rival?
His is name is Vartox. He, like Superman, has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Vartox possesses super human strength, invulnerability, super speed, flight, super human mental powers like telekinesis and telepathy, and on and on…. Like Superman, his powers are many. Like Superman, Vartox’s homeworld, Valeron, has been destroyed. And, like Superman before him, Vartox has fallen in love with the Man of Steel’s high school sweetheart, Lana Lang.
Like many rivals, Vartox and Superman are friends, but sometimes circumstances can pit them against each other. In Superman #281, the Man of Steel is confronted by Vartox for the first time. Vartox has come to Earth to punish the criminal responsible for the death of his wife’s twin whose death psychically caused the demise of Vartox’s spouse. It is a difficult task, even for the Man of Steel, to stymie the efforts of a man seeking revenge, especially when that man’s powers and abilities are just as super as Superman’s.
In Action Comics #476, Vartox has decided that he would make a better protector for mankind than Superman and he aims to prove it. After the destruction of his own homeworld, in Action Comics #498-499, Vartox decides to take up residence on Earth once again that is until he finally finds a new adoptive world. In Superman #356-357, even a hero as powerful as Vartox learns he has limitations and he must swallow his pride and ask the Last Son of Krypton for his help in defeating a cosmic menace whose power dwarfs them both. In a 3-part tale from Superman #373-375, the love triangle between Superman, Lana Lang, and Vartox takes a more complicated and serious turn when Vartox’s ex-lover, Syreena, executes a diabolical scheme to murder Lana and frame Vartox for the crime.
The reason why the Odinson brings up Vartox is because I remember as a child reading Superman adventures and the fact that there was another “superman” in the DCU that could do everything Superman could do and also challenge the Man of Steel for the affections of Lana Lang just captured my imagination. All these Vartox appearances I’ve mentioned were Pre-Crisis appearances. Vartox didn’t make his Post-Crisis debut until many years later in Superman #148, but his powers were greatly diminished as was his role in the life of Superman and the greater DC Universe. His most recent appearance that I know of occurred in the tale from Power Girl #7. In this storyline, Vartox has come to Earth to court the affections of Power Girl. It seems the women of Vartox’s homeworld have become sterile and he wants Power Girl to help him repopulate his world.
It has not gone unnoticed by the Odinson that this larger than life hero who once upon a time was an actual rival for the greatest super hero of them all has been reduced to little more than a throwaway joke. His homeworld has been destroyed; he’s a powerful man without a purpose; he is in love with a mortal woman but cannot be with her because she cannot survive on his new world – Vartox has all the classic Shakespearian roots to be an outstanding source for dramatic yarns. Whether it be in The New 52 or the aftermath of Convergence, the Odinson would love to see the glorious return of Vartox to the fold of the DCU. Think about it. Just how delicious would be for Vartox to show up now and challenge Superman for the affections of his current girlfriend – Wonder Woman?
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell