Savage is immortal, and has plagued the earth with crime and violence since before the beginning of recorded time. He is a brilliant tactician with immense technological prowess. He is one of DC's most persistent villains and has fought many different heroes throughout history.
In the pre-Crisis universe, Savage was native to Earth-2, but as seen in Action Comics#516, thousands of years in the past a sorcerer revealed to him both the future existence of the Justice Society (even showing him a battle he would have with them, with Hourman in their ranks), and the existence of Earth-1.
Savage's first mark in the "history" of the DC Universe came when he and a select group of people successfully undermined and destroyed the lost city of Atlantis. That group of people became known as the Illuminati, with Savage serving as its leader, then and ever since.
He claims to have ruled hundreds of civilizations under hundreds of names: Khafre, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar (though he has also claimed to have participated in the murder of Julius Caesar), Genghis Khan, Blackbeard, and Vlad the Impaler, to name a few. He has also worked as close friends and advisers to the likes of Erik the Red, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ra's al Ghul, Otto von Bismarck, and Adolf Hitler.
During the Golden Age, Savage battled the Justice Society of America. He attempted to capture the members of the Justice Society out of revenge, but was thwarted by the Golden and Silver Age Flashes (Jay Garrick and Barry Allen). Savage would continue to make various attacks on the Justice Society in later stories. He was also one of the founding members of The Injustice Society, and briefly formed a group of villains called Tartarus. He is one of the main villains in the JLA: Year One storyline, working against the recently-formed JLA, and harboring a deep hatred towards superheroes and the invading alien Appelaxians. During one confrontation with the aliens, Savage claims to have designed Stonehenge itself, which the aliens have just partially demolished. Savage also mentions that he shut down the Justice Society with "a few well-placed senators."
In this series, it is learned Savage has a base deep inside the Egyptian Sphinx. A confrontation with Martian Manhunter leaves him with a burnt out eye, which seemingly afflicts him far into the future.
Savage will possibly meet his end in the year 85,271 A.D. (as seen in the DC One Million storyline), when he is unwillingly sent back in time to 20th century Montevideo, Uruguay, seconds before it is obliterated by a nuclear weapon, an action that was, ironically, ordered by Savage himself. At this point, the time jumping hero Chronos is seen in the background. This is, however, only one possible future for Savage. These events may change due to the tampering with the forces of the universe by Alexander Luthor, Jr. and Superboy-Prime during the Infinite Crisis.
Savage returns in the first story arc of the new Justice Society of America, the mastermind behind a group of Neonazi superpowered villains targeting the heirs of several Golden Age superhero bloodlines. In issue #4, after a battle with Wildcat & his son, Savage is defeated when hit by a fire truck. He later reappears in Atlantis where he's revealed to have been behind the atrocities in Sub Diego and Black Manta's occupation of the city.
Another Elseworld story, Flashpoint, had Savage running a space-exploration corporation with the help of the crippled Barry Allen. He tried to use technology stolen from J'onn J'onzz to kill humanity (he wanted to commit suicide in the grandest manner possible), but was killed by Barry Allen, who sacrificed his life to stop the alien device.
In the limited series Kingdom Come, Vandal Savage is a member of Lex Luthor's Mankind Liberation Front, but is captured by Batman and his allies when he gets mauled by that timeline's version of Wildcat.
Vandal Savage has enhanced strength and endurance. He can create inter-dimensional warps and often uses advanced technology to further his efforts to obtain power. He sometimes manipulates magic to further his schemes.
The League first encounters Savage in the three-part episode "The Savage Time", when he manages to alter history and cause Nazi Germany to win World War II. The League (minus Batman, who was in the Watchtower at the time) is unaffected by the temporal change, as they are protected by Green Lantern's energy while he guides their space ship in for docking (this would still be considered a plot hole, since if Savage had won before the Justice League was formed, then the Watchtower would not have existed in the first place. But it is seen that the watchtower disappears instantly after the time-altering energy wave, which would mean that all aspects of the timeline are affected except those protected by Green Lantern's ring). They arrive back on Earth to find it ruled by Savage's fascist dictatorship. With the aid of this timeline's version of Batman, the League travels back in time to learn that Savage sent to his younger self a laptop containing schematics for advanced weapons technology, as well as information on the future plans of the Allies. This allowed Savage to catapult himself to the top of the Axis authority, deposing Adolf Hitler and assuming the title of Führer. When Savage mounts a jet-powered aerial invasion of America, the League manages to stop his invasion force with the aid of the American Navy and the Blackhawks, and causes Savage's plane to crash into the Atlantic Ocean. Hitler is restored to power in time for D-Day to succeed. Savage is not explicitly stated to be immortal in these episodes, but it is implied on two occasions. When Martian Manhunter sees a recording of the future Savage, he comments to the identical younger version that he ages gracefully; Savage replies that he has "no idea." Later, when Green Lantern has Savage cornered on his flagship, Savage dares the hero to try to kill him without any traces of fear.
Savage's second appearance was in "Maid of Honor", masquerading as his own grandson, Vandall Savage III, and acting as administrator of Kasnia's space program. He became affianced to Princess Audrey, the heir to the throne. After marrying Audrey, he used Kasnia's involvement with an international space station to set up a rail gun that shoots meteors with pinpoint accuracy. With this, he hoped to threaten the world into bowing to his authority. The League (in particular, Wonder Woman, who had become a good friend of Audrey's) dismantles Savage's plot yet again. It is in this episode that Savage explains his origins, and the secret of his immortality. At his plot's thwarting, Princess Audrey arrests him and when he brags how executing him will be impossible, she quietly hints that he will be effectively tortured instead in the ensuing attempts to kill him.
His final appearance was in the episode "Hereafter". Superman, having been thrown forward to a time, about 30,000 years according to Savage, when the Earth's sun is red (leaving him powerless) by a weapon built by Toyman, meets Savage, the sole surviving human. Savage was responsible for the destruction of the human race, having stolen some dwarf star matter from the scientist Ray Palmer (who would later join the Justice League as Atom), and using it to build a machine that would allow him to control the force of gravity. In Superman's absence he slaughtered the Justice League, but the side effects of his gravity manipulation shifted the balance of the entire solar system, killing all human life. The centuries of loneliness and isolation have caused him to regret his mad pursuit of power. He has built a time machine similar to the one he used in "The Savage Time", but explains to Superman that he cannot go back to any time where he already exists. When Superman points out that he, Superman, can return because of his involuntary time-shift, he and Savage work together to retrieve a zero-point energy generator from a nearby hive of giant insects to power the machine. The radiation from the power source also has the effect of restoring Superman to his full abilities (like a miniature yellow sun). Savage sends Superman back, giving him information to stop his earlier self's plan. Superman returns to the present and reunites with the Justice League.
In the episode's last scene in the future, Savage is sitting among the ruins of Metropolis. Much to his surprise, a futuristic city and people begin to materialize as the timeline is rewritten. As he sees himself slowly fade from existence, in which may be possible he died in the past, his last words are "Thank you, my friend...", then fades away....