“Arrow” fans are gearing up for the debut of Count Vertigo on the January 30 episode of the series, but some may be wondering: just who is Count Vertigo anyway?
While the show’s incarnation of the character promises to be very different from his comic book roots, we still thought it might be instructive to take a look back at the original conception of the character, to learn just why the folks behind the show saw him as a worthy adversary to bring into the Arrowverse.
Count Vertigo made his debut in 1978’s “World’s Finest Comics” #251, in a story by writer Gerry Conway and artist Trevor Von Eeden. In it, Vertigo attempts a series of jewel heists, only to be thwarted by the costumed adventurer known as the Black Canary, when she discovers his secret; he is the heir to the royal family of the small European nation of Vlatava, who is afflicted with a congenital inner ear condition affecting his sense of balance. Having developed a device to correct his infirmity, he finds that he can also use the device to disrupt other people’s sense of balance, creating a vertigo effect. Sussing this out, she uses her patented “Canary Cry” to disable the device, and take Vertigo out. However, Vertigo would return to plague Black Canary as well as her partner Green Arrow time and again, eventually becoming a mainstay of Oliver Queen’s rogue’s gallery.
Count Vertigo later became an integral part of John Ostrander’s “Suicide Squad” series, joining the team in 1989’s issue #24. During the series, Vertigo’s struggles with his heritage as well as bipolar disorder were explored in depth. He fell under the control of rebels from his home country of Vlatava, who used drugs to manipulate his mood swings in service to their cause. Even after being freed from their control, his own teammate, Poison Ivy, continued the exploitation for her own ends. Ultimately, Vertigo had to come to grips with his psychological issues, at one point contemplating suicide at the hands of fellow Squad member (and fellow “Arrow” villain) Deadshot, before concluding that his religious beliefs would not allow him to pursue such a course.
The Count’s tortured existence was not to be abated however, as Ostrander would revisit the character in 1993’s “Spectre” #13, wherein the Count, once again embroiled in Vlatava’s wars, attracts the attention of the Spectre, the incarnation of God’s wrath. The Spectre, already unstable from wrestling with the parameters of his mission to eradicate evil, is incensed by the ongoing slaughter in Vlatava. He judges the entire population to be irredeemable, and annihilates every living person in the country, with the exception of Vertigo and the opposing general. He leaves them alive so that they may contemplate what their blood feud has ultimately wrought.
Vertigo eventually returned to the Suicide Squad under the auspices of Amanda Waller’s reconstituted Checkmate organization, and continued to carry out missions at her behest. However, since the DC Universe was rebooted in 2011 as part of the “New 52”, Count Vertigo has not as of yet been seen in the pages of the comics—he did make an appearance on the cover of “Resurrection Man” #9, which guest-starred the Suicide Squad, but not inside the book, and no other hint has been given that he is a part of this incarnation of the Squad. For now, fans will have to be content with his small-screen debut, bringing Count Vertigo back to his roots as a premier Green Arrow villain.
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