Fight to Survive: Serpentor vs Vandal Savage by Jerry Whitworth
In the expansive landscape of fiction, one truth always holds true: if there’s two characters remotely similar to each other, fans will argue which character would win in a fight. Son Goku and Superman. Batman and Captain America. Dr. Doom and Darth Vader. It doesn’t matter if it’s comic book, cartoon, novel, film, game, or television series. In today’s arena, we have G.I. Joe’s Serpentor and DC Comics’ Vandal Savage.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Real Name: None
Career: Cobra Emperor
Race: Genetically-Altered Artificial Human
First Appearance: Comic Book: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #49 (July 1986); Animated: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, “Arise, Serpentor, Arise!, Part 4” (September 18, 1986)
Base of Operations: Terror Drome
History: Prior to the Ice Age, a race of serpentine humanoids ruled the Earth only to be forced into subterranean hiding due to the incoming cold climate and formed the secret civilization of Cobra-La. However, upon emerging from their self-imposed exile, they discovered the world came to be ruled by humanity in their absence. An emissary was chosen to reclaim the Earth in the serpent-man known today as Cobra Commander who formed the terrorist organization Cobra in a bid toward world domination. However, this emissary was not up to the task so Cobra-La implanted a suggestion in the mind of Cobra’s primary scientist Dr. Mindbender to create a supreme leader from the genetic material of humanity’s greatest conquerors and manipulators. Combining DNA from dozens of subjects including Napoléon Bonaparte, Xanuth Amon-Toth, Vlad Țepeș, Genghis Khan, Montezuma, Alexander the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Julius Caesar, Hannibal, Attila the Hun, Philip II of Macedon, Grigori Rasputin, Geronimo, Erik the Red, Ulrik the Batterer, and Takshaka, Mindbender created the Cobra Emperor Serpentor (however, his creation would be incomplete when the genetic material of Sun Tzu was compromised by G.I. Joe’s Sgt. Slaughter). Serpentor would prove to be an extremely dangerous opponent for G.I. Joe but his impulsive nature (attributed to the loss of Sun Tzu’s DNA) coupled with the inherent cowardice and greed of his militant forces (exasperated by the treachery of Cobra Commander) consistently became his undoing.
Powers and Abilities: Made from the greatest military minds and leaders of Earth’s history, Serpentor has all of the qualities of a supreme commander combining charisma, intelligence, determination, confidence, and guile. As something of an enhanced human, Serpentor appears to have physical capabilities of someone in peak athletic condition (if not bordering upon superhuman) in areas like strength, speed, and endurance. Due to his DNA, Serpentor has innate skills and abilities in combat able to fight unarmed or with a weapon such as a firearm or more archaic fare like daggers and javelins with high proficiency. Serpentor wears a suit of hide armor which offers protection from blades and small arms fire that is equipped with two living snakes emerging from around his neck that he can stretch and throw like javelins (these snakes pierce flesh as if they were made of metal and carry a deadly poison should they penetrate its target); these snakes seemingly regenerate instantaneously. Serpentor generally travels by way of his air chariot (of which he is virtually always in close proximity toward) which is capable of vertical takeoff with forward jet propulsion and is equipped with two laser cannons. The Cobra Emperor is also known to always conceal on his person a small handgun and dagger.
Real Name: Vandar Adg
Career: Founder/Leader of the Illuminati
Race: Genetically-Altered Cro-Magnon
First Appearance: Green Lantern #10 (December 1944)
Base of Operations: Mobile
History: Born Vandar Adg of the Blood Tribe, Vandal Savage was a Cro-Magnon transformed by the radiation of a meteor which crashed near his village. Following this change, Savage had intellect beyond that of his own species and was seemingly immortal. With a desire to rule, Savage has lived for over fifty millennia trying to conquer the world. He would adopt various identities over this time such as Cain, Khafra, Philip II of Macedon, Scipio Africanus, Julius Caesar, Licinius, Hassan-i Sabbah, Genghis Khan, Vlad Țepeș, Blackbeard, John Wilkes Booth, Jack the Ripper, and Hieromonk Iliodor and coordinate with the likes of Garn Daanuth, Moses, Grendel, Erik the Red, William the Conqueror, Napoléon Bonaparte, Ra’s al Ghul, Otto Von Bismarck, and Adolf Hitler. Savage came to realize the benefit of working in the shadows towards his goals founding the Illuminati circa 45,000 BC in Atlantis with the purpose of usurping governments by proxy. However, seemingly whenever Savage would be within reach of his goal, champions like the Justice Society of America, Justice League of America, Legion of Super-Heroes, and Justice Legion Alpha would emerge to thwart his plans.
Powers and Abilities: Due to the radiation of the meteor Vandal Savage bathed within, his genetic make-up was altered such that he developed a brilliant, highly evolved brain and was imparted with immortality. Being a healthy, active Cro-Magnon, Savage has physical attributes slightly above that of modern man (making him in some slight manner superhuman). Having lived for over fifty thousand years, Savage has a vast knowledge base gleaned from the history of mankind with an intent focus on the acquisition of power (culminating in the Illuminati). Having fought innumerable battles, Savage is a hardened warrior with great skill and a remarkable threshold for pain. Despite vast wealth and resources, Savage prefers to fight employing archaic weapons such as a sword and dagger.
While Serpentor would often leave the Terror Drome to lead his troops directly in the field, the Cobra Emperor generally can be found inside his throne room which would be the most likely location of the battle. Further, considering the mercenary nature of much of his army, it’s also likely Savage’s forces within the Illuminati would be able to secure means of bringing the evolved Cro-Magnon directly before Cobra’s liege (while an internal struggle between the terrorist organization and shadow government would play out in the background). This would free up the pair to battle each other man to man (in a manner of speaking) as Serpentor would ascend his air chariot and Savage draw his sword and dagger. This maneuver would both give Serpentor the high ground as well as heavy arms fire he could lay down from a distance. Undoubtedly, Savage would be aware of this turn of events prior to the battle based on the assumption he would buy loyalties within Cobra to come to this point. As such, he would also know the limitations and weaknesses in the air chariot as well as the layout of the throne room that likely would involve disabling the central turbine within Serpentor’s vehicle (a common tactic from the series), perhaps sacrificing his dagger for such a maneuver. Grounded, the pair of would-be world conquerors would duel each other on even footing as each others’ enhanced capabilities would make them evenly matched where Serpentor would be able to take advantage of his armor for protection from Savage’s blade while using his firearm to deal damage to the millennia old opponent. However, Savage has spent lifetimes adapting to absorbing damage and taking it in stride. Left with few options, Serpentor would draw one of his serpents and strike down his foe, confident that even if the blow didn’t kill Savage, its poison would. However, turning his back on Savage would prove his undoing as the immortal conqueror would rise, draw Serpentor’s own dagger behind his back and fatally wound the Cobra Emperor with a knowledge of the weaknesses within his opponent’s armor. Simply put, where Serpentor was created by using the DNA of history’s greatest leaders, Savage either was those leaders or knew them personally trumping that pedigree. Further, Serpentor’s impatient nature and confidence he was innately born with everything he needed to rule, it wouldn’t be surprising for someone like Savage to pass under his radar putting the Cobra Emperor at a significant tactical disadvantage.