In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places - some that have existed or might have existed, and others that can't, couldn't, or shouldn't exist.
The measures of Superman's success aren't solely limited to his ability to sell comics and related merchandise or the fact that he is a household name. Ask anyone who Superman is, and they'll at least manage to describe his costume, tell you about his powers, or something similar.
The Superman mythos have survived (and flourished) over the years because of their universal nature. Persons of all ages, genders, and nationalities can find something they can relate to in the Superman mythos. It might be the classic Superman-Lois-Clark love triangle, it might be the desire to have a pal like Jimmy Olsen, or it might be the morals and attitudes Superman represents.
Superman may fight for truth, justice, and the American way, but he really fights for the human way. Superman fights the good fight, and people around the globe can easily relate to that.
This universality is one of the reasons so many Elseworlds stories have been written using the Superman mythos as a foundation. Clark Kent doesn't need to be a modern day reporter living in Metropolis for the story to work. He can be a grizzled prospector in the 1800's, a lost boy in the African jungles, or an inhabitant of a far flung planet in the future. Heck, he doesn't even need to be named Clark Kent.
The relationships between characters and the attitudes/morals the characters possess are the key to the Superman mythos. Lex Luthor makes such a great villain, no matter what the setting. A woman with the initials "L. L." makes for a great love interest. And so on, and so on.
And thus we come to "Superman: Last Son of Vlatava," a proposal which combines the Superman mythos with recent political issues, a dash of history, and the background of another DC character named Count Vertigo.
Nestled in the foothills and rugged topography of the Romania-Bulgaria border, the country of Vlatava emerged from World War II a shell of its former self. Once a constitutional monarchy, the country's ruling house of Vertigo had been forced into exile, and a communist, Soviet backed government installed in its place.
The varied ethnic and religious groups comprising Vlatava's population rose up, and acting in unison for the first time in recent history, a resistance movement formed. Aided by Prince Werner Vertigo, the son of their exiled king, the resistance succeeded in ousting the Soviets in 1961.
Some say they succeeded because events in a small country such as Vlatava were of minimal concern to the Soviet government. And that could be true. Russia had bigger concerns in the 1960's, dealing with Cuba, the USA, and missile crises.
Some say they succeeded because keeping peace in Vlatava was becoming an annoyance to its Russian rulers. And that could be true. The various ethnic groups always seemed a whisper away from all out civil war.
Some say they succeeded because of Prince Vertigo. And that could be true. Rumored to have super strength and powers beyond that of an ordinary man, one thing was certain: He successfully united all of Vlatava's factions against a common foe.
In 1962, Prince Vertigo became King Vertigo. His early years as king were marred with strife created by Vlatava's Muslims, who were hesitant to accept a Christian wearing the crown. For their own selfish reasons, NATO and the USA sent soldiers to maintain peace. Having an ally within the Iron Curtain was reason enough for the West to support Vertigo's government. Led by General Samuel Lane of the USA, the peacekeepers found their mission nearly impossible.
Luckily for them, love changed all that. A young Muslim girl named Lara caught the eye of King Vertigo, and soon afterwards, the king had himself a queen. With the loving guidance of a Christian king and a Muslim queen, Vlatava entered into a few years of unparalleled peace and prosperity. Oh, the American peacekeepers were still there, but only as a safeguard against a possible Russian invasion.
1976 began on a high note, but ended on a sour one. The queen gave birth to twins - a boy and a girl - early in the year, a harbinger of future generations of unity and prosperity. Alas, because of budget cuts and fallout from Vietnam, the USA withdrew many of its troops. Sensing opportunity, Russia invaded Vlatava in August.
Under the direct command of King Vertigo, the Vlatavan army fought valiantly, but the red flag of communism overpowered them. Even the king's own powers had no effect on the invaders. Rumors attributed the king's weakness to a glowing green gemstone worn by the Russian commander, Alexi Luthor.
As the invading reds destroyed the golden yellow prosperity of Vlatava, King and Queen Vertigo refused to abandon their homeland, but their children....that was a different story. Entrusting their infant twins to General Lane, they watched mournfully as the last American helicopter left Vlatava, carrying their children to safety.
"Some day, when they are ready, our son and daughter will return," prophesized King Vertigo, "They will restore truth, justice, and the Vlatavan way to our country.
And then Vlatava was no more. Swallowed up by the Soviet military, its sovereignty ceased to exist.
A short time later in the United States, Sam Lane and his wife formally adopted the children, renaming them Lois and Clark. The Lanes raised Lois and Clark as if they were their own children, but they knew that one day, the last children of Vlatava would learn of their true heritage.
Their true heritage, their destiny, and their father's prophesy.
Twenty-five years later, the present day
Following the Soviet Union's collapse in the early 1990's, Vlatava was thrown into civil war. Hostilities bubbled to the surface, complicated by a long history of mistrust, hatred, and ignorance. The golden age of King Vertigo's benevolent role seemed more and more like an aberration, a blemish on a perfect history of hostility.
Five different governments have held power over the past six years, but on the brink of the first free elections in Vlatava's history, hope dares show it's face. In fact, hope has a rather pretty face. A pretty face with brown eyes, black hair, and a tan complexion. A face that's the spitting image of her mother.
Lois Lane-Vertigo has returned to the country of her birth. Returned to fulfill her father's dream of a Vlatava where persons of all beliefs and nationalities can work hand-in-hand towards a better future.
But Lois can't do it alone. She inherited her father's natural leadership abilities and her mother's charisma, but her brother inherited their father's powers. And her brother, Clark Lane, is reluctant to help. Content in the small town life he's found after moving to the hometown of his girlfriend Lana Lang, Clark would rather repair broken tractors than repair broken countries.
But Lois needs him. Not only must she win the support of Vlatava's citizens (not all Vlatavans will be able to accept these Americanized orphans), but she must overcome the schemes of her political foes. The Vlatavan Socialist Party, led by Alexi Luthor, the military officer turned Soviet installed dictator who ruled Vlatava in the 1980's, would like nothing more than to win a legitimate election. And Luthor's willing to lie, kill, scheme, and do anything it takes to return to power.
Other foes include Vinslow Schottzche, a former toy maker turned labor leader who heads the Union of Democratic Forces party. There's also Lord Blaze Satanus, a mysterious rabble-rouser who advocates splitting Vlatava into many smaller countries, one for each minority group.
Poised on a precipice of change, Vlatava needs more than just a Superwoman. It needs a Superman, too.
But even if both children of Vertigo heed their deceased father's call, will that be enough? Or will Alexi Luthor and his allies prevail?
Can Vlatava be preserved? Or will it balkanize like many of its neighbors have?
And no matter which side wins the election, somebody is going to be angry!
King Vertigo - The Jor-El figure of the story. His powers (and origins) are left vague on purpose. Did he come from Krypton? Probably. Does he have the traditional Superman powers? Maybe. Or does he only have the traditional powers of the Vlatavan nobility, such as Count Vertigo in the regular DCU? Or does he have a combination of both? One thing is certain: His combination of brains and brawn allowed him to lead his people to victory over the Soviets, and later, bring about peace.
Clark Lane-Vertigo - The son of King Vertigo, Clark is biologically half-Kryptonian and half-human, ethnically half Christian and half Muslim, and to top it off, he was raised in America! He feels no allegiance to his Vlatavan (or Kryptonian) heritage, and he's content to enjoy a quiet and inconspicuous life in America's heartland. However, he inherited his father's powers, and his sister Lois wants him to use them to aid her cause.
Lois Lane-Vertigo - Despite having the same genetic and ethnic background as her brother, Lois didn't inherit any of her father's superpowers. However, she did inherit his charisma and his natural ability to bring people together. Proud of her heritage, Lois sees it as her destiny to unite Vlatava once again and drive out all those who would seek to destroy it. Strong willed and intelligent, her plan to unite Vlatava will only work if her brains are combined with her brother's brawn. And even then, nothing is guaranteed.
Alexi Luthor - A former Russian miltary officer, Luthor ruled Vlatava during the 1980's. He seeks to maintain his stranglehold on power, and he has many loyal followers in the Vlatavan Socialist Party willing to help him. A champion of the common working man (as any well read socialist would be), Luthor has cautioned that electing Lois equals a victory for the aristocratic elite. Sure, Lois claims she's a staunch supporter of democracy, but perhaps, warns Luthor, she has other plans.
Superman - More of an ideal/concept than an actual person. Among the various factions competing for power, there must be a common ground. A mediator who can understand the points of view and goals of the various groups makes the ideal candidate for Vlatava's presidency. Can such a person ever exist in a country as troubled as Vlatava?
Superman: Last Son of Vlatava is a 64 page one shot shipping in June from DC Comics, where legends live!
David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2001 by David R. Black.
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Count Vertigo created by Gerry Conway and Trevor von Eeden.
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