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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 versions of the character reimagined him as being transformed into a behemoth of shapeshifting, clay-like flesh.

History

Golden Age (Earth Two)

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.

New Earth

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.

Prime Earth

Following DC's Flashpoint event, Karlo is changed to be the sole Clayface. His origin is also altered to take influence from Batman: The Animated Series's version of Matt Hagen.

Origins

During the New 52, Basil Karlo was an actor who purchased the illegal substance "Renuyu" from the Penguin to augment his appearance. In return, Basil had to use his shapeshifting to act as the Penguin's agent. However, the substance wore away at Basil's sanity and resulted in an outbreak on set which had him black-listed from the industry. Because of this, Basil became, "Clayface" and embraced a life of crime while being a regular inmate of Arkham Asylum.

After DC Rebirth, Karlo's origin was changed to bring him more inline with both his original origin and the DC Animated Universe. In it, he was the son of horror makeup/SFX artist Vincent Karlo who illegally used an industrial chemical Renu to create his effects, the substance causing flesh to become malleable like clay. When found out, Vincent was fired due to the chemical being banned from use on human skin. Basil would grow up to be a celebrated actor in the film industry who landed the film of a lifetime, only to learn of his father's death over the phone while driving. Upon this discovery, the shocked Basil got in a car-accident which left him horrifically disfigured.

Needing to maintain his career, Basil sought after his late-father's stash of Renu and became using it to recreate his old appearance, albeit with the side-effects leaving him in effective addiction to the material. After this, Basil began using his shapeshifting and acting abilities to break into Daggett Industries in search of more Renu. In one incident of trying to steal Renu, Basil was confronted by the GCPD on Roland Daggett's payroll. The police opened fire on the actor, shattering a wall of Renu bottles which flooded onto Basil's body. This incident transformed Basil into the shapeshifting monster "Clayface", who became a major enemy to Batman and inmate of Arkham Asylum.

Incidents

In Batman's second year of vigilantism, Clayface worked with the Riddler to fight a gang-war against the Joker. When Joker took over Arkham Asylum to kidnap Batman, he had Clayface pretend to be Jim Gordon before attacking Batman as his, "Royal Player". Batman was able to defeat him via using Mr. Freeze's freeze ray.

On a later scheme, Clayface impersonated billionaire Bruce Wayne whom he framed for bank-robbery. While arriving at Wayne Enterprises to kill Wayne, he was instead met by Batman who used a specialized suit to defeat the former-actor and lock him in a tank made so he could only escape in Basil Karlo form. Clayface was later arrested by the GCPD.

When the Joker released his psychopath-creating virus on Gotham City, Clayface was amongst the super-criminals able to survive. Clayface and the other rogues were assembled by Batman via an upside-down Bat-signal to join forces against the Joker. At some point after helping to save the city, Clayface was once again arrested and sent to Arkham Asylum.

Bat Family

Basil broke out of Arkham to see the re-release of his last film "The Metamorphosis". Clayface was confronted by Batman and Batwoman who didn't fight him, but rather invited him to join the Gotham Knights. Basil used his powers for vigilante justice and became particularly close with Cassandra Cain whom he taught acting tricks to. Basil also became close with Batman's scientist ally Dr. Victoria October whom worked to cure Clayface of the condition which caused him pain, madness and dysphoria.

When Hugo Strange infected a Gotham neighborhood with a monster serum, Clayface gathered samples from the neighborhood for October to experiment on and formulate a cure. Clayface was however exposed to this formula himself, causing him to go on a rampage and be shot dead by Batwoman using a specialized bullet. Thanks to October's cure delivered by Cassandra, Clayface regained his humanity in his final moments before dying next to Cassandra Cain.

Through unknown means, Clayface was healed by Dr. Leslie Thompkins at her clinic. Basil chose to leave Gotham but not before having Cassandra deliver a letter to Doctor October.

Powers and Abilities

Powers

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.

Abilities

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

Paraphernalia

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

In Other Media

Live-Action

Batman (1960s series)

According to interviews, 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.

Gotham

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.

Animation

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 appears 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.

Notes and trivia

  • The name Basil Karlo comes from Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, two famous horror-movie actors of the 1930s.
  • Basil's father in Prime Earth is named, "Vincent Karlo", likely a reference to horror-actor Vincent Price (who incidentally portrayed Egghead).
  • Of Batman's, "Bureau of Missing Villains", Basil returned the most prominently.
  • In Prime Earth continuity, Basil used the name, "Matt Hagen" as an alias. This is a reference to the second Clayface Matt Hagen who was also attributed to a Clayface predominately based on Basil's character in Batman: The Animated Series.

See Also

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