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 the Animated Series

See: Clayface (DCAU)

While being named Matt Hagen, the DCAU Clayface takes several elements from Karlo's incarnation of the character, even resembling him most in terms of character.


See: Basil Karlo (Brian McManamon)

The Batman

See: Clayface II (The Batman)


The Lego Batman Movie

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

Video games

LEGO Batman: The Videogame

See: Clayface (LEGO Video Games)

Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City

See: Clayface (Arkhamverse)

See Also

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