You may have figured this out by now, but Comics on the Brain has a real special place in its heart for second banana comic-book characters. Even better, we enjoy second banana comic book companies that have been swallowed up by larger comic book companies. Such a move makes those second banana characters even more obscure.
Somewhere along the way, we took on Son of Vulcan as one of our pet projects. Good old SoV was one of the characters acquired by DC Comics when it gave a big old present to editor Dick Giordano.
So who is Son of Vulcan? Well the basic story from his 1960s debut is this: News reporter Johnny Mann is selected by the Roman gods to be their champion on Earth. To fight the good fight, they give him some powers, a variety of magic weapons and send him out to right wrongs. To be honest, he was essentially Charlton’s effort to recreate Thor, right down to the alter ego with a limp.
Even though he was part of DC’s Charlton Comics purchase, Son of Vulcan went relatively unused by the compay until the “War of the Gods” build up in George Perez’s “Wonder Woman.” In that, he played a pivotal, but ultimately forgettable role as the champion of the Roman gods (once Captain Marvel bows out). If you ever read that series, be prepared for an intensely unpleasant experience as you try to sort out the plot, the variety of characters and its muddy ramifications on the DC Universe.
In fact, I’ll go ahead and spoil you on the fact that SoV dies in the story — somewhere. It’s so convoluted and SoV is dressed so much like all the other characters in the book, that CotB can’t even sort it out — and we’ve tried reading it several different times.
Anyway, with SoV dead, the character (understandably) languished for more than a decade until he was rebooted in the pre-Infinite Crisis DC Universe.
That version of Son of Vulcan was remarkably divergent from the previous versions. His origin was now tied to the planet Mars, White Martians and Martian Manhunter. The look of the previous Son of Vulcan character was incorporated into the legacy and backstory of the new version, but they weren’t exactly the same character. In fact, knowledge of any previous Son of Vulcan character was pretty much struck out of the DC Universe.
In SoV’s place was an alternate hero who existed decades before the 2000s version of the character. In a sort of passing of the torch legacy, the mantle of “Vulcan the White Martian hunter” was passed along at least three generations: The one who looked a lot like SoV (who’s been dead a long time), the one known as Vulcan (who dies in the first issue, and we’ll call him V2 from here on out) and the new Vulcan,who we now dub Teen Vulcan. (At least we think that’s how it all went. Please let us know if we’re flubbing up on any of these recaps. It’s mighty confusing.)
Anyway, we here at Cotb really do dig SoV in whatever incarnation he appears.
SON OF VULCAN’S POWERS
As we understand Son of Vulcan, the version we prefer, he has the following abilities: instant magical creation of archaic weapons and armor, super strength, flight, invulnerability to fire, ability to magically cause his weapons to blaze, invulnerability (probably provided by his armor) and instant transformation from his civilian garb to SoV.
That’s a pretty standard set of tools, and good enough to hang a few stories on, if you ask us.
REBUIDING SON OF VULCAN
But the problem is, what the heck do you do with Son of Vulcan? He seems remarkably redundant to Wonder Woman (then and in the DC New 52). His powers aren’t terribly interesting. Even worse, his costume is awfully dull — he literally looks like a Roman centurion in the modern world.
If Comics on the Brain got a shot at rebuilding the Son of Vulcan, here’s what we would do, and trust us. Read to the end:
- Step 1: First off, I wouldn’t eliminate the 2000s version of the character by Scott Beatty. That guy is actually pretty cool. I wouldn’t even change his backstory. I don’t think I would continue to call him Vulcan though. He would be renamed Vault or the previously mentioned Teen Vulcan, and we would learn that he was powered by the god Vulcan through magical means that were masked as technology. Beyond that, his origin and purpose would remain almost exactly the same.
- Step 2: We would rewrite Son of Vulcan’s origin story just a tad. I mean barely noticeable at all. The big change? Johnny Mann, the ace news reporter wouldn’t be from boring old America. Instead, Johnny Mann would be Italian and his name is would have an Italian flavor. For now, we’ll say his new name Giovanni Maniscalco. (That actually translates into John Blacksmith, which works with his old name and honors his “father” too).
- Step 3: Son of Vulcan wouldn’t really be his name. It’s just the rough English translation of “Figlio del Dio Forgia” and “Figlio del Forgia,” which literally translates n”Son of the Forge God” and “Son of the Forge.” Anyway, instead of people in other countries calling him “Forgia” (rhymes with Georgia) or “Forge,” he asks Batman and Superman to call him “Son of Vulcan.”
- Step 4: Since the Son of Vulcan is from Italy, the heart of the old Roman Empire, he makes that his home and his protected turf. In fact, he takes his “father’s” direction and expands his entire zone of protection to include any country that borders the Mediterranean Sea. So that includes Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. Plus you can add any additional countries that might be tucked in there as DC Universe countries.Why move him from America to Italy in the first place? Well, really, why would a Roman god pick a random American to be his champion? Wouldn’t he look on his own doorstep, in the shadow of Mount Olympus? Yes, he would.
- Step 5: Despite him claiming all this turf, Son of Vulcan finds he isn’t necessarily liked in all these countries, most notably those in North Africa. He also isn’t exactly welcome in France and Spain, who are well-populated with their own super-heroes. In these countries, SoV has to operate as covertly as he can, facing arrest in some and an immediate execution order in others.
- Step 6: Give Son of Vulcan a slightly new costume (see the design at left). Make it a superheroey version of a Roman Centurion’s uniform and garb. Make his colors are red, blue and golden. His multiple “Vees” shimmer with energy. The Teen Vulcan and V2 costumes are OK, but lack the Roman connection Son of Vulcan needs. Plus, unlike the Teen Vulcan miniseries, we absolutely must have a few clear, head-to-toe shots of this uniform. I honestly couldn’t tell you how to draw Teen Vulcan’s costume because he has yet to appear completely in one panel.
- Step 7: In some fairly recent superhero mega-crossover battle, this slightly adjusted SoV dies heroically. It doesn’t matter when or where. Just somewhere in DC’s New 52 timeline.
- Step 8: As mentioned above, the guy known simply as V2 and Teen Vulcan are now connected back to their namesake. With SoV dead, both were tasked by the Roman God Vulcan to battle a deadly threat he felt no others were addressing: the secret invasion of Earth by the vile White Martians. Disguising his wondrous magics as new-fangled technology he first enlists V2 to do the job — he does okay for a while until he’s killed. He passes the “tech” over to Teen Vulcan who does his best. He nearly dies in the processes as well.
- Step 9: Roman God Vulcan is quite disheartened by all this. He’s 0-3 with his champions. That’s when Pluto steps up. “Hey, old buddy,” Pluto says. “I know you’re feeling rotten and all, but I can help you. Why don’t I let you pull Giovanni Maniscalco out of Hades, in exchange, you promise to make me a set of seven weapons. Weapons that will kill the first person they strike.” Roman God Vulcan thinks about this for a while. Pluto wants to kill a dozen people? No biggie, really. There’s lots of people on the Earth? What harm can killing a dozen of them do? The deal is made. Seven weapons are turned over to Pluto and SoV is back in the land of the living.
- Step 10: Pluto makes descreet visits to people like Lex Luthor, the Joker, Sinestro, Sivana, Merlin, Doctor Psycho and Gorilla Grodd. People start dying. Son of Vulcan has a real mess on his hands.
SON OF VULCAN LINKS
Over the years, thanks to Son of Vulcan’s status as one of the Charlton Comics heroes, Comics on the Brain has done a lot of articles on him.
- Son of Vulcan basics
- Son of Vulcan’s powers and weapons
- Son of Vulcan’s secret identity
- Son of Vulcan vs. Dr. Kong
- Son of Vulcan vs. Mars
- Son of Vulcan vs. Lex Luthor (kinda)
- Son of Vulcan vs. King Midas
- Son of Vulcan vs. Robots
- Review of the 2000s “Son of Vulcan” mini series (primary)
- Review of the 2000s “Son of Vulcan” mini series (1st issue review & speculation)
- Son of Vulcan in “Titans East”
- Why I love Charlton Comics
- Matchup: Charlton Comics heroes Vs. DC Comics heroes
- Son of Vulcan in the New 52 (briefly mentioned)
- Why wasn’t Son of Vulcan a ‘Watchmen’ character?
- Off site: A series of great reviews of the original SoV comics (along with many of my scans)
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