Tuesday, 22 February 2011

How Zardoz begat Vartox, the Hyper Man

I should admit this up front -- it was my desire to draw semi-obscure Superman supporting character Vartox the Hyper Man that lead to "Zardoz" being the topic for today.

I have a great love for the silliness that is silver and bronze age Superman. I first encountered Vartox when I was a pretty young kid-- and despite being somewhat unsettled by his body hair, disco boots and speedo, I took an immediate liking to this character who was a rival for Superman-- heck, he was referred to multiple times in the story as being more powerful than the Man of Steel himself, hence, I suppose, his designation as a Hyper-Man instead of a Super-man. Hyper trumps super, I guess.

Vartox (real name: Vernon O'Valeron, hailing from the Sombrero Hat Galaxy, and no, I'm not making any of this up) hung around for awhile in the Superman comics, even cameoing in possibly the greatest Superman story of all time, Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" (that's him cradling the dead Lana Lang), before being swept away with all the corny (ie coolest) elements of Superman's story, like Krypto, the Legion of Superheroes and Supergirl,  in the relaunched Man of Steel continuity in the mid 80's.

During his period in limbo, I first came across John Boorman's supremely odd sci-fi epic Zardoz and realized, hey, Sean Connery's disturbing outfit reminds me of another disturbing outfit I could recall from my childhood. Of course, in an epic instance of "huh buh whu?" the creators of Vartox, Cary Bates and Curt Swan, must have gone to the movies, saw that little slice of crazy that is "Zardoz" and decided, let's make a character based on Sean Connery's lack of pants in this film.

Recently Vartox made his long overdue return to comics in the series Powergirl, about Superman's kinda-sorta cousin. His cheesy side was fully embraced,a s he was cast as an interstellar lothario searching for a worthy mate, and had settled on the Kryptonian Power Girl. In a new twist to the character, he now flies around in a spaceship that looks like his own head, mustache and all, ala Zardoz, and it was easily one of the best comics ever. It was this incarnation of the Hyper Man I chose to draw. Long live Vartox!


  1. Next week George will explain another one of his significant life choices...boxers or briefs

    We can still do Vartox one day and WOW, hasn't the Byrne revamp of Superman dated worse than all the stuff it supposedly annihilated? That must burn Byrne.

    ...nice Vartox. Power Girl is also awesome...for some reason.

  2. Nice essay George.
    Drawing too.

    Strange days...

  3. I remember Vartox! I was thinking about doing a Vartox vs. Zardoz drawing, but I read this post first. You saved me from drawing a fight scene! Yay!

    Simon- Yeah, and Byrne's Superman changes really messed up the Legion for a good 20 or so years...