The Character Spotlight – Issue #7: Count Vertigo (Werner Vertigo)

count vertigo

It’s time for the seventh edition of The Character Spotlight! Green Arrow as a hero doesn’t have many identifiable villains that are associated with him. Batman has his Arkham crew and Flash has the Rogues, but an enemy that you can point at and say “that’s a Green Arrow bad guy” is few and far between. Sure sometimes he faces someone new that turns into a flash in the pan and is quickly forgotten and another times he faces villains that are borrowed from his fellow heroes, but not this man, not Count Werner Vertigo. Count Vertigo is a quintessential Green Arrow villain and with his live-action debut on CW’s Arrow last Wednesday, his exposure is at an all-time high. Count Werner Vertigo, the Spotlight is yours:

DebutWorld's Finest 252Marvel Preview #4 (Cover Date: January 1976)

Biography: Werner Vertigo is the last living descendant of a royal family that once ruled the small eastern European country of Vlatava until the Soviets assumed control. Vertigo suffers from Ménière’s disease, a condition that affects both hearing and balance severely. He has a small electronic device implanted in his head that helps him compensate and after some tinkering done by him, Vertigo finds out that he can affect other individuals’ balance and give them his curse: vertigo. He eventually internalizes this power and discovers that he can not only mess with people but guidance systems on missiles, vehicles, and detection systems. His first appearance in DC Continuity was in Star City when he attempted to rob a jewelry store to recover the very jewels that his parents had sold when the family escaped to England all those years ago. His life of crime continues and he is brought into constant conflict with his biggest enemy: Green Arrow.

After being sent to prison, Vertigo accepts an offer to join the ranks of the Suicide Squad in return for a shortened prison term. During his stay on the team it is revealed that he suffers from a bipolar disorder. After the Squad breaks up and disbands for the first time (it happens a lot), Vertigo is captured by rebels from his home country of Vlatava who want to use his powers to overthrow the current ruling government. They force an assortment of drugs on him and bend him to their will by affecting his mood swings. A newly reformed Suicide Squad arrives to settle the conflict, kill the ruler of Vlatava, and Suicide Squad member Poison Ivy (acting independently) captures Vertigo from the rebels and turns him into her slave. Amanda Waller eventually frees him from her control so he can stop a group of missiles from murdering countless innocent lives. Afterwards, he checks himself into rehab to rid himself of the drugs and toxins pumped into him by the Vlatavan rebels and Poison Ivy which turns out had been fixing his bipolar disorder.

Unable to deal with this fact and plagued by the disease once again, he turns to his fellow Suicide Squad teammate Deadshot and asks him to end his life. Deadshot agrees to it but cautions him to be really sure this is what he wants. Vertigo is then approached by members of the Vlatavan government who want him to seize the throne of Vlatava but he declines the offer declaring he is not able to rule because he’s not even sure if he wants to live or die. Eventually Vertigo realizes that having Deadshot kill him would be akin to suicide and would ruin his chances for the afterlife. He decides that he will deal with his issues and pledges to live on. He continues to work for the Suicide Squad (even burying his grudge against Poison Ivy) and later on returns to Vlatava to claim the throne which causes him to enter into a war between his supporters and the government’s army. Horrified by the ongoing violence, a deranged Spectre deems the entire country full of sin and cleanses it leaving behind only two survivors: the Vlatavan President and Count Vertigo. Following this disaster he works for the American government before seeking out his arch-enemy Green Arrow. They engage in a battle and at its’ conclusion Vertigo decides to leave the vendetta in the past and focus on getting his life back on track. He bounces around from being a member of the Injustice Society, the Suicide Squad, the Secret Society of Super Villains, and the Suicide Squad yet again. He eventually becomes a member of Checkmate as the White Queen’s Knight under White Queen Amanda Waller. He serves her and Checkmate well and also takes part in Suicide Squad missions for Waller out of a sense of loyalty. Count Vertigo has yet to surface in the DCnU but it is only a matter of time before that happens.

Notable Series/Key Issues:

World’s Finest Comics #252, #270, #272-#273
Green Arrow Vol. 1 (#2-#4)
Suicide Squad Vol. 1 (#24-#25, #27-#28, #31-#37, #40-#43, #46-#48, #51, #54-#59, #61-#67)
Green Arrow Vol. 3 (#22)
Checkmate Vol. 2 (#1-#5, #11, #13-#15, #18, #20)
Suicide Squad: Raise The Flag #4-#8
Green Arrow/Black Canary #18
Secret Six Vol. 3 (#17-#18)

Appearances In Other Media:

Batman: The Animated Series (TV)
The Batman (TV)
Young Justice (TV)
Arrow (TV)
DC Showcase: Green Arrow (MOVIE SHORT)

My Take: Count Vertigo is a complex character that has had to deal with many psychological issues over his career. He constantly straddles the line of being a villain and sometimes being almost heroic. The majority of my experience with the character has been his various appearances in television shows which is a real shame since he’s not featured much in the comic book world. What better villain for Green Arrow, a hero that relies on his aim, to face then one that disrupts his sense of balance? Like I said, he’s yet to debut in the New 52 DC Universe which is a big mistake on their part. Here’s a character that is poised for a recurring role on the show Arrow and he hasn’t been seen or mentioned anywhere in the comic world? Maybe DC is waiting to see people’s reactions to his portrayal on Arrow and then base his comic counterpart off of that? Regardless, with a new writer taking over the Green Arrow comic I can only hope that he fixes Count Vertigo’s omission pronto. With a slight tweak here and there a truly epic storyline could take place and possibly elevate his status as a more twisted, sinister force with a brilliant, albeit broken mind. I await his eventual debut with bated breath. Thus ends Issue #7 of Character Spotlight. Any thoughts/opinions on this character? Comment below!


5 thoughts on “The Character Spotlight – Issue #7: Count Vertigo (Werner Vertigo)

  1. Shame on me: despite being a huge fan of Green Arrow, I didn’t know this character. I think it depends on the fact that I love Oliver, but I read a very small part of his comics: Kevin Smith’s run, Longbow Hunters and some issues published in the 00s. All of them were fantastic.
    I also read some Green Arrow issues written by Mike Grell in the 80s and in the 90s, and they were awesome too. Despite their awesomeness, I didn’t read many of them, because they had never been reprinted (something quite strange and rare here in Italy), so buying all of them in their 1st print edition would have been too expensive. And then, last month, I leafed through Mega (an italian version of the Diamond Preview), and I couldn’t believe my eyes: an omnibus of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow is about to be released! Of course I instantly ordered that reprint, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    • “Shame on me: despite being a huge fan of Green Arrow, I didn’t know this character.”
      That’s why I’m glad the New 52 might be able to tweak his character a bit and he can be featured more prominently. He’s up there with Merlyn but never seems to get any respect. Change his costume, tone it down, and you’ll have a winner. At least Arrow brought a renewed attention to this character. Come on Lemire, bring us Vertigo!

      “I leafed through Mega (an italian version of the Diamond Preview), and I couldn’t believe my eyes: an omnibus of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow is about to be released! Of course I instantly ordered that reprint, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.”
      Excellent news! I never personally read any of the older Green Arrow books, only started in the 2000s. I’ll have to check them out one of these days.

  2. Vertigo sounds like a tortured soul. The story about being one of the two survivors from his country is pretty epic. I’m surprised to learn he’s not used more. Many villains are compelling because they might have been heroic, have they not experienced something tragic or painful in their early life.

    • “I’m surprised to learn he’s not used more.”
      I was too. Here I was bracing myself for the onslaught of issues he appeared in and I was shocked. For a “Green Arrow Villain” I at least expected him to appear a lot more in Green Arrow at least. I was surprised the majority of his time was spent on Suicide Squad.

      “Many villains are compelling because they might have been heroic, have they not experienced something tragic or painful in their early life.”
      True. Not only did him and his parents have to flee their country, not only did he lose them growing up, but he also suffered from not only the constant vertigo but a bipolar disorder. Real tough luck for him… No wonder he turned to a life a crime. It’s even more impressive that he came back from that and helped people later on.

  3. Pingback: Arrow: Season 1 Episode 12 – ‘Vertigo’ Review « Sidekick Reviews

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