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Basil Karlo, the original Clayface, was an actor who was driven mad when he heard of a remake of the classic horror film he had starred in, Dread Castle, and that he wouldn't be in the leading role. Adopting the persona of "Clayface", the villain of one of his old films, he became a serial killer targeting the cast and crew. He was eventually stopped by Batman and Robin. Later, Karlo would be imbued with the powers of Clayfaces Preston Payne and Sondra Fuller. The name of the character comes from Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.


Clayface as depicted on the cover of his debut appearance

Basil Karlo was an actor until he was driven mad by learning that a new actor would lead the role of a remake of the classic horror film that he had originally starred in. Adopting the alias of the villain of one of his old movies, "Clayface," he fatally wounded several members of the cast and crew of the remake before eventually being defeated by Batman and Robin. He reappears in Detective Comics #49 (March 1941) after the prison ambulance he is riding in plunges off a cliff. He once again dons the mask of Clayface and targets Bruce Wayne's fiancee. Once again, the Dynamic Duo foil the evil Karlo. Much later, Clayface languishes in a prison hospital, where Lady Clay (Sondra Fuller) visits him out of curiosity. Clayface then forms an alliance (consisting of Lady Clay, Clayface II, and Clayface III) dubbed "the Mudpack" to defeat Batman. Though the Mud Pack is defeated, Karlo tricks his allies and manages to imbue himself with abilities similar to those of Preston Payne and Sondra Fuller. He was defeated by the combined efforts of Batman, Looker, and The Outsiders by overloading his abilities and making him melt into the ground. While literally sinking into the earth's crust when he loses control of his power, he manages to survive, and now his body sports crystals similar to quartz that endow him with greater powers. Karlo was able to escape his underground prison when Gotham City was struck by the great Cataclysm. He was able to capture Batman and was about to kill him, but he got into a feud with Mr. Freeze over who has the right to kill the Caped Crusader. With that distraction, Batman soundly defeated both of them.

Karlo's pre-transformation Clayface

During the "No Man's Land" storyline, Basil Karlo holds Poison Ivy, who is in charge of producing fresh vegetables for the remaining people in the city, prisoner in Robinson Park. Poison Ivy eventually battles and defeats Karlo, sinking him deep into the ground. It appears that the Ultimate Clayface is destroyed in this battle, but has resurfaced as a member of the Secret Society of Super-Villains II. Later, he seeks to increase his already formidable powers by absorbing Wonder Woman (a clay construct similar to him), making him near invulnerable. While he was successful in absorbing the heroine, he is ultimately forced to release her. Clayface was a member of the Injustice League and was among the villains seen in Salvation Run. He can be seen as a member of Libra's Secret Society of Super Villains. In the second issue of Final Crisis, he triggers an explosion at the Daily Planet in Metropolis, the home town of Superman.

Powers and Abilities


Clayface molding his arms to form weapons.

  • Malleable Clay-like Body: Being chemically altered gave him the ability to regenerate body mass, change shape, size, density and shapeshift into any form he could think of.
  • Superhuman Strength
  • Superhuman Agility
  • Superhuman Stamina
  • Superhuman Durability
  • Poisonous Touch: Kill with a poisonous touch capable of reducing flesh to protoplasm.


  • Almost Untraceable Skilled Actor
  • can copy anyone by a single bit of DNA


Clayface Mask: Mask used to terrify victims of his crimes. Clayface no longer uses his mask after gaining superhuman abilities

In Other Media


Batman (1960s series)

According to interviews, Karlo's Clayface was intended to appear in the 1960s Batman series as a villain. However, technical limitations led to the character being substituted for False Face, another villain known for utilizing disguises. In the later Batman '66 comic series, False Face's identity is revealed to be Basil Karlo and the character changes to the Clayface identity.


Main article: Basil Karlo (Gotham)

Karlo appears in the TV series Gotham from the second season onwards, played by Brian McManamon. Depicted as a former test subject at Hugo Strange's Indian Hill, Karlo was revived with octopus DNA, allowing him to stretch and contort his face into any form. Karlo is used to impersonate Jim Gordon after he is captured investigating the facility and later Elijah Van Dahl in Riddler's revenge schemes against Penguin.


DC Animated Universe

Although Matt Hagen is used as the DC Animated Universe's Clayface, the character take elements from Karlo, mainly his background as an actor. Similarly, elements of the character's origin were integrated into the DC Rebirth version of Karlo.

The Batman (2004 series)

Though not the first Clayface in the show's continuity, Basil Karlo features in The Batman from the fourth season onwards. Depicted as a terrible actor, Karlo steals and ingests the mutagen that transformed Ethan Bennett into the first version, using it in his schemes. Unlike his predecessor, Karlo is more powerful and honed with his abilities, with an attempted cure failing to remove his powers.

The Lego Batman Movie

Main article: Clayface (Lego Movie)

A brick-built version of the Basil Karlo Clayface makes an appearance in the film alongside other Batman villains helping the Joker. He is voiced by Kate Micucci.

Harley Quinn

Main article: Clayface (Quinnverse)

Clayface features as a main character in the Harley Quinn animated series, voiced by Alan Tudyk. He serves as a member of Harley Quinn's crew, alongside Poison Ivy, Doctor Psycho and King Shark. Though depicted with the same abilities as his comic counterpart, Karlo is depicted as being able to survive underwater. Like the DCAU's version of Hagen, detaching parts of his body can develop their own sentience, as demonstrated by his hand in "You're a Damn Good Cop, Jim Gordon".

Video Games

LEGO Video Games

Basil Karlo serves as Clayface in all DC Comics related video games, including the LEGO Batman series. The character is voiced by Ogie Banks in LEGO Batman: The Videogame, and Fred Tatasciore in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes and LEGO DC Super-Villains.

Batman: Arkham series

Main article: Clayface (Arkhamverse)

Karlo appears in Batman: Arkham Asylum, where his can be found within the Penitentiary. Karlo will attempt to trick the player into releasing him by impersonating either Arkham Staff or Commissioner Gordon. Clayface later appears in the sequel Batman: Arkham City, voiced by Rick D. Wasserman.

Other Games

  • Karlo appears in the MMORPG DC Universe Online, voiced by Benjamin Jansen. He serves as a boss for both heroes and villains, though briefly serves as an ally to the latter faction during a mission.

See Also