Real Name: Will Wheeler
Identity/Class: Human empowered by chemical means
Occupation: Research scientist
Affiliations: Knights of Justice
Enemies: Anton Black, Goliath
Known Relatives: Dr. Dexter Wheeler (father, probably deceased), Madelyn Martin (fiance)
Base of Operations: Earth-B
First Appearance: Big Bang Comics #1 (Big Bang, Spring 1994)
Powers/Abilities: Superhuman strength, speed and invulnerability temporarily induced by chemical means.
History: Earth B, circa 1939. Dr Dexter Wheeler invented three "panacea pills" which "catalyze different human abilities to near perfection". The pills are colour coded: red = strength, yellow = constitution, blue = speed. The effects of each pill can last for up to 4 hours, but can be worn out earlier if overused. A second pill of the same type can be taken on the same day, but it shortens the length and effectivness of the first pill if taken while the other is in effect. The most important restriction is that while any two pills can be combined safely, taking all three would be fatal. (At some point, the yellow pills effect was changed to "invulnerability", as Vita-Man was clearly bullet-proof).
Dr Wheeler asked his meek son and lab assistant, Will to test the pills, which he did succesfully, becoming the star player of his school football team. However, the doc's other assistant, Anton Black, had been using the pills in secret, to help him rob banks. When Black learned that Dr Wheeler was about to turn his discovery over to the government, he attacked him so as to protect his supply. (It is unclear if Dr Wheeler dies as a result). Will and Black used the pills to engage in a super-battle, which ended abruptly when Black took a third pill and died of a massive heart attack. Will vowed to use his powers to aid mankind and adopted the secret identity of Vita-Man, the colours of his costume matching the pills. Even his fiance, Madelyn Martin, did not know his secret.
At some stage in his career, Vita-Man joined the Knight of Justice. He also became a trusted ally of the police, helping them to bring down villains such as Goliath, a body-builder with a $5 word vocabulary, who was running a snake-oil scam.
Comments: Vita-Man first appeared on the back cover of BIG BANG # 1, Spring 1994 (Caliber series) in what is supposedly a reproduction of the cover of "RED HOT COMICS # 14". (this cover is also on the back of BB # 2 and appears as a full size b/w page in BB # 0). This totally fictional comic had The Badge and his rookies as the cover stars, with Vita-Man, Robo-Hood and Dr Stellar as the back up features (a 4th feature "Stars 'N' Stripes has never been seen since).
Vita-Man's origin is covered in a text feature in BB# 27 (where he is shown in one illustration as a member of the Knight of Justice), but he had to wait 8 years to get his own story, in the one shot "WORLD CLASS COMICS # 1" dated August 2002. This story is distinguished by delightful art and a hero who both looks and act like a hero. (The policeman even says "Begorra").
The source of Vita-Man's powers is (in comic book terms at least) the most "realistic" explanation for the existance of a super human. He is based on the Golden Age DC hero Hourman, who gained much the same powers by taking a "Miraclo" pill. The main difference being that while he had all the poweres at once, they would only last an hour and he had to wait an hour before another pill would take effect. Another DC hero with similar limitations is Ultra Boy of the Legion of Super Heroes, whose "ultra-energy" gives him a wide range of powers, but which he can only use one at a time.
Vita-Man also has similarities with the Marvel Comics hero, Dr Henry Pym (aka Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket) who also took pills to activate his size changing powers early in his career. (It may be no coincidence that Will Wheeler resembles Henry Pym and takes on a crook nicknamed Goliath). The problem with both Hourman and Henry Pym is that both their powers depended on taking pills, which is not a good example to set for kids in the real world. They both had to find new, harmless ways to activate their powers and this may be why Vita-Man is very much a "Golden-Age" type hero. (It is a little suprising that a hero should use his powers to achieve sporting glory in his civilian identity, when heroes such as Superman and Kid Flash would refuse to do so. However, it is a valid test of the pills effect, and Will earns a living as a research scientist, rather than a pro-footballer, so I guess we can overlook that just this once).
Thanks to Chris Adams for information and images.
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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