Superman #392 (February, 1984)
“If a Body Meets a Body…”
Writers – Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin
Pencils – Curt Swan
Inks – Dave Hunt
Letters – Milt Snapinn
Colors – Tony Tollin
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.75
Today is going to be bittersweet… for this is (for our purposes) Vartox’s final pre-Crisis appearance! This really is the end of an era for our Mustachioed Lothario.
Down below our synopsis, I’ll include some more bits and bobs that’ll thrust us right into the post-Crisis DC Universe.
Hope you’re all enjoying this never-ending Vartox Week as much as I am!
We open with Clark delivering another solo news report., and the top story is… his missing co-anchor! Following the broadcast, Clark slinks off to “supe up” and continue his search… only to find the holo-head of Vartox watched him change his duds! Var even goes so far as to vaporize Superman’s civvies! It’s clear at this point that Superman is getting close to his wits end… even threatening to splatter Vartox’s addled head all over the countryside!
Elsewhere, the creepy stalker rents a boat… for a one-way trip. Without the woman of his dreams within reach, poor weirdo sees no reason to go on. He rows out a ways before dropping a message in a bottle. We also learn that his name is Wallace Gurkheim… which doesn’t appear to be an anagram for anything.
Meanwhile in an ancient Incan temple, Vartox holds Lana Lang hostage. He gets all creepy with her, stroking her hair and whatnot. It’s here that Lana notices Vartox’s shadow… instead of being, well, Vartox-shaped… it’s shaped like a blob!
Finally… we get the secret origin of Srakka! What follows is several pages of a blob taking over various humanoid life-forms. It usually goes something like… Srakka wrecks a bunch of havoc on a planet… until that planet’s champion arrives… then Srakka takes possession of that champion. Lather, rinse, repeat… he’s currently possessing Vartox, and is looking to finally possess Superman. Oh, also… Srakka might’ve destroyed Tynola.
Back on Earth, the creepy stalker’s tiny rowboat floats into the path of a large cruise liner. The liner makes short work of the dingy, crushing and capsizing it without missing a beat. Then… then… uh, then… the creepy stalker’s glowing body flies out of the drink? Say what now?
We shift scenes over to the Fortress of Solitude, where Superman is tinkering with a means to track Vartox via his vibrational frequency. He’s interrupted by the arrival of… the creepy stalker?! A creepy stalker who promises that Superman knows him better than he realizes!
Just then, Vartox transmits a challenge to Superman via satellite. Either they meet in battle, or Superman forfeits the Earth to him.
And so, Superman heads down Incan way… and arrives to the temple just as Lana Lang is about to be dipped in boiling acid!
Before he can make the rescue, Vartox attacks! The super-hyper duo duke it out for a bit… while, the creepy stalker phases through the temple wall to save Ms. Lang… or to grab a peek at her drawers, as they’re totally visible right now.
Superman and Vartox continue scrappin’, with the latter finally firing a hyper-blast into the temple… which, if not for the creepy stalker, would have definitely killed Lana! Superman ain’t diggin’ this one bit… and even goes so far as to threaten to kill Vartox! Man, don’t they know that Mark Waid might’ve been reading this? What would he say?
Just then… Srakka the blob vacates Vartox’s body, and attempts to plunge into Superman’s chest. Ahh, not so fast kemoblobby… Superman grabs the crud… and zips out to Pluto to drop it into a deep-freeze.
Back on Earth it’s revealed that, the creepy stalker is… actually Vartox? That, uh, kinda makes it worse, doesn’t it? Now we know that Vartox has a Lana Lang love doll? Or… did he not inhabit the body until after Wallace Gurkheim was already slippin’ through Stalkertown? So many questions… which will go unanswered.
We wrap up with Superman returning… and he and his pal promising to not only be friends… but Friends Forever! Since this is, for all intents and purposes, Vartox’s final pre-Crisis appearance… I suppose we can say they both held up their ends of the bargain there!
Okay… that was weird, right?
I’m having one helluva time wrapping my head around how and when Vartox entered the body of creepy stalker Wallace Whatshisface. Any way you look at it… it’s kinda disturbing!
Let’s say Vartox inhabited the body of an already stalkeriffic Wally… Wouldn’t Vartox think it a bit odd (and troubling) that this fella is walking the same streets as his beloved Lana? I mean, dude’s got a Lana Love Doll. He really shouldn’t be allowed within 100 yards of Ms. Lang (or any human, honestly)… and now Lana’s going to get him a gig with WGBS? Like in the same building as her? Same elevators? Same bathrooms? Eeeesh.
Let’s flip that coin, and suggest that Wallace wasn’t already a stalker-creep until Vartox took over. What does that say about Var? I mean, dude was making out with his television set! Also… c’mon… he’s got a Lana Love Doll for cryin’ out loud! I feel like that can’t be stressed enough here!
Let’s say everything goes back to normal… I mean, that doll is still in Wally’s house! Those clippings are still up on the wall of Wally’s house! Unless he disposed of everything before his sorta-suicide attempt? I dunno… I’m definitely thinking too hard about this… but, just can’t shake the creepiness!
That’s really the story of this issue… I mean, the Srakka stuff kinda took care of itself. Superman dropped the blob into a deep-freeze on Pluto… which is as good (and final) result as we need.
Speaking of final… that kinda does it for Vartox’s pre-Crisis exploits! Technically, he does appear in Action Comics #583 (September, 1986), “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, Part Two”. He shows up in two panels… and doesn’t even get a line. In the spirit of completionism, here are those two panels:
|From Action Comics #583 (September, 1986)
Alan Moore (w) / Curt Swan (a)
Worth noting, he’s cradling Lana in his absolute-final pre-Crisis appearance. Which works for me! For the purposes of Vartox Week… I don’t think we need to cover that story. Also, I’m planning on taking a look at “Whatever Happened to…” in depth as we draw closer to our 1000th post.
Also, once more in the spirit of completionism… Vartox’s Who’s Who entry (Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe XXV – March, 1987):
|Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe XXV (March, 1987)
Curt Swan / Brett Breeding (a)
Worth noting, Vartox’s history only goes as far as Superman #375 (1982)… and ends with him leaving Earth never to be seen again. So… did this most recent three-parter not happen?! Well, that’s a bummer! Maybe, like me, they couldn’t reconcile the creepy stalker aspects of the story either!
Overall… even though (according to Who’s Who) this never happened, I’d still recommend checking it out! It’s silly… and totally weird, but a lot of fun. This ends the pre-Crisis portion of Vartox Week… come back tomorrow when we’ll enter a whole new world!
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