- "Your allies have been slaughtered. Your city is burning to the ground. I have taken everything from you, piece by piece. Watch, Bruce… Watch as you lose everything"
Arthur Brown or the Cluemaster is a criminal mastermind enemy of Batman and the estranged father of Stephanie Brown.
Cluemaster was once a failed gameshow host who turned to crime and used game-show inspired clues and puzzles as his criminal calling cards. Arthur started his criminal campaign by a daring but unsuccessful attempt to learn the secret identity of the Batman, in order to gain a fighting edge but his plan failed and he was defeated by Batman.
Cluemaster made his grand reappearance in Detective Comics #647 by Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle. In this three issue story, Cluemaster has reformed and been released from Blackgate. Cured of his tendency to leave clues, Cluemaster originally joins a gang and plans their heists in exchange for 10% of their winnings. Later he kills the leader by suffocating him by putting a strong polymer over his mouth and nose, the bonds could only be broken by one substance which Cluemaster withheld from the gang leader. Cluemaster then begins to plan a master heist. During this time it is revealed Arthur Brown has a daughter named Stephanie, but rarely spends any time with her due to long periods of incarceration. When he returns to Gotham, "rehabilitated," Stephanie becomes furious when she discovers that he has returned to crime without his need to leave clues behind. Making a costume for herself, she calls herself the Spoiler, finds out her father's plans, and leaves clues so that the police and Batman can stop him. Robin spots Spoiler on the rooftops during a police bust of Cluemaster's apartment and unmasks her, though she incapacitates Robin by hitting him in the face with a brick. Robin tracks her down and Batman, Robin and Spoiler set up plan in motion to take down Cluemaster, forbidding Spoiler from going to the bust because she was only motivated by revenge. Catching Cluemaster at his mall heist whilst he hauls a giant glass canister of money away by air, Stephanie is then held hostage by Cluemaster atop the canister, holding a vial of Acid to her face as Batman tries to stop him. Batman tells Cluemaster to stop and Cluemaster, thinking Batman will only lecture him about how it is morally wrong to disfigure a child, is taken aback when Batman simply reveals Spoiler is his daughter. Spoiler uses the shock of the revelation to gain the upper hand and attempts to use one of the chains attached to the Gunship lifting the canister to strangle Cluemaster, but Batman prevents this. Cluemaster is taken back to Blackgate.
Each time the Cluemaster escapes or start some new plan, Stephanie dons her costume again in order to foil him. Eventually, she realizes she enjoys being a hero, and begins regular patrols as Spoiler. For a brief period of time she even replaces Tim Drake, as Robin, although her reckless and rebellious take on crimefighting has made her largely unfit for the role.
With several other villains, Cluemaster becomes a member of the Injustice League, then later the Justice League Antarctica, attempting to reform. Cluemaster and his teammates volunteer to join the second Suicide Squad, a group sanctioned by the US government, in return for a full pardon of his crimes. The Cluemaster also hopes to make Stephanie proud of him.
During the mission, which involves dealing with terrorists and a lovesick genetic experiment, Cluemaster sees his friends, Big Sir, Clock King and Multi-Man die. Only the first two are tragedies in his view, as Multi-Man has died many times before. In the resulting chaotic battle, Cluemaster seemingly saves Major Disaster's life twice, though the Major admits the situation was confusing. Cluemaster is seen shot many times through the chest. He survives this incident, with a year's recuperation in the hospital and many, many scars. He is encouraged by thoughts of his daughter.
When he got out and discovers that his daughter has been killed, he takes on the secret identity Aaron Black and creates the "Campaign for Culpability", blaming Batman for his involvement in Stephanie's death, saying that she was not the first child working with Batman to die (which is indeed true), and that Batman should be brought to justice.
The War of Jokes and Riddles
In the Rebirth story the War of Jokes and Riddles, Cluemaster is one of the Gotham super-criminals who sides with the Joker during a citywide gang-war between Joker and Riddler. Cluemaster is put on a team with Kite-Man, Man-Bat, the Ventriloquist, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. When Joker loses the advantage during the war, Cluemaster persuades his team into intentionally getting caught by Batman, explaining how if they stay with Joker the Riddler will kill them, if they try to run Joker would kill them and if they switch-sides that either of the villains could kill them.
In the New 52, during the events of Batman Eternal, Cluemaster teamed up with Owlman to create a scheme that would destroy Gotham City through having larger villains like Mad Hatter and Hush to distract and exhaust the Bat-Family while he and a team of lesser super criminals including Lock-Up, Ratcatcher, Firefly, Prankster and Signalman performed the actual tasks to bring down Gotham. By the end of the plan, Cluemaster having had worked Batman to exhaustion managed to set Gotham aflame, learned Bruce Wayne's secret-identity, and strapped a beaten Batman to the shattered Bat-Signal atop the GCPD building. Cluemaster mocked the vigilante and nearly murdered him with a pistol to the head only to be shot himself by Owlman as part of the greater plan.
In Other Media
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Arthur Brown as the Cluemaster made a cameo appearance in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "A Bat Divided!", playing billiards with Tiger Shark, Catman, and the Spinner at the "8 Bar", a known haunt for third-rate costumed villains. The bar was soon crashed by three atomic counterparts of Batman, each seeking action. One of the Batmen warned Cluemaster and the other villains that "I know what you did!..and I'm here for you. So we can do this the easy way....or the hard way!" In response, the villains charged the doppelganger Batman. Cluemaster vaulted onto the billiard table to seize the Batman counterpart, and was badly beaten, staying down for the rest of the fight.
In the video game Batman: Arkham Knight, Cluemaster is referenced in the Panama Studios area of Gotham City in the form of a game-show billboard reading "Arthur Brown's Price Change". Thug's can also be overheard talking about how as Cluemaster he never gained much traction in the criminal-underworld due to seeming to be a blatant rip-off of the Riddler.