Matches Malone was the name of a criminal and a common guise adopted by Batman to infiltrate the Gotham's criminal underworld.
Matches Malone was a small time criminal who was actually a decent human being. One didn't have to be trained in the art of observation to pick him out in a crowd. The tinted glasses, the carefully groomed hair and mustache, the striped shirt and plaid suit. Dick Grayson would later describe his voice, in Nightwing # 14, as "a perfect North Jersey accent. Flat and nasal." Most significantly, there was the ubiquitous stick match clutched between his thumb and forefinger, ready to be flicked into life at a moment's notice. Matches and his brother Carver resorted to a life of crime after they were orphaned. Their specialty was insurance fraud and arson, but they never crossed the line into violence. Looking to expand their trade they made a move to Gotham City, where they ran afoul of the Batman. Nothing could be proved against the brothers, until Carver was found dead and Matches was the first suspect of both the Batman and the police. Once again he evaded prosecution, but Batman was not deterred and he watched Matches every move. For reasons of his own, the Dark Knight never made a move on Malone. Over the years, he'd seen a gang war averted, a life spared, a crime prevented ... each incident traced back to "Matches." To be sure, he was motivated purely by self-preservation but every crisis brought out the diplomat in him. More than once, Batman had seen an escalating dispute defused when the two rivals became angrier at the obnoxious Malone than they were at themselves. Even those who didn't like Malone respected him. Still, if Batman had ever found any evidence behind the Waterfront Mob leader's claims to have been a hitman, he wouldn't have hestitated to deliver him to the GCPD. With the rise of Ra's al Ghul and his global organization, The Batman was forced to go on the defensive. To that end, he "killed" his alter-ego of Bruce Wayne (rather than risk Ra's catching him unaware) and resolved to gather soldiers for the coming war. The first man on his list of draftees was "having a late dinner at his favorite cafe" Batman, impressed by Malone's nature, approached him for help tracking Ra's al Ghul.
Walking into the cafe, the Dark Knight addressed Matches Malone: "I want WORDS with you!"
"The feelin' ain't MUTUAL! I don't like my meal DISTURBED!"
Malone fled for the kitchen exit and, finding it locked, desperately pulled a gun to threaten Batman with. Batman screamed "NO!", but the pistol went off by accident and the horrified chef gasped, "HE'S ... D-DEAD!" A ricochet had brought a close to the life of Matches Malone.
Batman took this turn of events to create an undercover identity to infiltrate the criminal world. Batman buried Malone next to his brother, learned all he could about the late Matches and assumed his identity, donning a fake mustache, plaid suit, and Jersey accent so he could begin impersonating Matches to infiltrate Gotham's gangs.
In Batman # 247 (1972), Batman, as Malone was a frequent guest at the taverns of Gotham in search of clues to the whereabouts of fugitive "Chimp" Manners. A late-1976 story found Matches trailing gambling runner Sneaky Danton onto the subway. The lights dimmed during a routine switchover and, when they came back on, Malone found himself staring at The Batman. Danton had put on the costume to draw attention away from a money transfer, never dreaming that the genuine Dark Knight would be trailing him. Later, when a writer named Sergius was marked for death by the League of Assassins, Matches offered his services as a bodyguard.
In the 1980s, Batman adapted Malone's identity again in several issues of Detective Comics and in SUPER FRIENDS # 36.
Later, Eel O'Brian ran into Batman as Matches Malone while on the trail of munitions thief Rupert C. "Warhead" Nall in the Gotham underworld. Working independently of one another, Plastic Man and members of the Justice League made several attempts to capture Warhead but inevitably tripped one another up. O'Brian finally made it into Warhead's inner circle, meeting Nall's back-up man in Gotham—Malone. Matches recognized Eel as Plastic Man and Eel, in turn, concluded that, given that detail "plus the fact that SOMEONE was tipping your pals to Warhead's jobs," Malone must be Batman. Finally working in unison, Plastic Man and Batman brought Warhead to justice.
In another storyline, Robin had served as spokesman for a fundraiser only to have the organizers claim that all the money was stolen. Learning that the men both had long criminal records, Batman decided that a sting was in order. Claiming to need quick cash, Matches Malone presented himself to the thieves. In exchange for the con artists' $50,000, he offered stolen bearer's bonds that would be worth $100,000 in six months. Unaware of his partner's actions, Robin had made plans of his own to recapture the stolen money and, rather than face the men in the persona they'd duped, confronted the duo as The Batman. Leaping to the forefront, Malone offered to "take care'a ol' pointy-ears myself!" Astonished to find himself facing Malone and hampered by a padded costume, Robin was no match for his mentor and was knocked to the ground in front of the pair of thieves. Taking flight, the con men had crossed the state line before they realized that their $100,000 worth of bonds were nothing more than sheets of paper with the bat-emblem on them.
In BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS # 10, Malone was granted an audience with Gotham gang boss Morgan Jones. Professing to represent a coalition of mobsters from Metropolis, Matches offered a sizeable sum of money if Jones could arrange for him to witness the murder of former Metropolis hero Black Lightning. A deal was struck and Malone arrived in time to free Lightning alongside the Outsiders. Ensuring that Malone's reputation not be tarnished, Batman told all present not to "blame Matches ... he's still sleeping off a sedative back in Gotham -- minus his suit!"
Malone was absent from Gotham's underworld for a period of time, Batman only reusing the identity in the aftermath of "Knightfall". He put on the tinted glasses of Matches Malone once more. Though he still had an inordinate fondness for striped shirts and plaid suits, Malone no longer seemed content to merely visit the haunts of Gotham's shadier characters. Instead, continuing in the vein of the Warhead and Morgan Jones affairs, he began to actually worm his way into one Gotham gang after another. The one-time leader of the Waterfront Mob now had ties to the Whiskey Road Gang, Mickey Diamond and others.
He began with Jimmy Navarone's mob, shadowing the gangster as Navarone's chauffeur. Navarone and most of his men were killed in a gun battle between Jigsaw, the Joker and the Punisher. As the only survivor of the Navarone massacre, Matches embellished his place in the organization while seeking information on the False Facers' next target for arson. Unfortunately for The Batman, Matches Malone's uncanny survival instincts had a downside.
With mobster Vanya "Hunky" Triplet a potential target of the vigilante known as Lock-Up, Batman as Matches tried to infiltrate the gang but found himself at the end of a gun. Triplet was convinced that Malone was a police informant "'cause you're BAD LUCK, Matches. Everybody you get next to gets burned. Now you're pallin' up t' ME." Triplet found no evidence of wires but decided to kill him anyway. Malone kicked the driver in the head while the other gunmen fired wildly within the car. Inevitably, a crash occurred but Malone escaped with minor injuries while the other mobsters were taken to the hospital.
The mob brought more trouble down on Malone later in 1996 when he was manhandled by police lieutenant Stan Kitch while the officer was seeking hoods with ties to gangster Jimmy Foran. The name of Mickey Cortese was eventually relayed to Commissioner Gordon—along with the manner in which the information was requested. Providing the lieutenant with the identity of the suspect, Gordon asked, "Why don't you try your sucker punch on HIM, Kitch ?"
Resuming the role of solo player, Matches sought out the Penguin, while fishing for details on illegal boxing matches involving metahuman villains. Moments later, Wildcat burst on the scene seeking the same thing. Malone backed off from the snarling Justice Society member: "No problem here. Just visiting."
Later, Matches renewed his ties with Eel O'Brian in a New York City bar, hoping to recruit Plastic Man for a Justice League mission.
Batman continued to use Malone's identity over the years, most notably in the War Games storyline. Batman had developed a plan in an emergency to take over Gotham's underworld by uniting the crime families under Matches. Stephanie Brown, the 4th Robin, was desperate to make a good impression on Batman, found the plan and set it in motion without telling Batman. But when Matches Malone failed to show, it ignited a massive gang war that nearly destroyed Gotham.
Inevitably, Gotham was restored and, with it, a new wave of mobsters moved in. Seeking assistance in stopping the Calendar Man's reign of terror, Batman made a rather forceful appeal to the head of one of the gangs about a temporary alliance during this newest period of chaos in Gotham City.
When he consulted with his gang (Which predictably included Matches Malone), the boss argued that regardless of the Batman's request, "this creep shut down the POWER. He screwed up the PHONES. I say we find the Calendar Man for us. It's a PRACTICAL matter. Whatta YOU think, Matches?"
The response came in a familiar North Jersey inflection: "I say we FLUSH the psycho."
Powers and Abilities
Malone possessed the abilities of an arsonist and thief, and though not a very skillful fighter, always carried a revolver for protection, whether worn on a holster or concealed in his suit. As Malone, Batman never actually carried a firearm.
In other media
- In the DCAU comic Batman Adventures, Matches Malone was a mid-level enforcer for Rupert Thorne's mob, and he had a deal with Batman. Once a week, he would keep him informed of Thorne's criminal activities and that kept Malone out of jail. The arrangement was condoned by Commissioner Gordon, as long as Malone kept talking. But Malone began to skim money from Thorne's scores—and one week, on the way to his meeting with Batman, Malone was shot by two hit men. Batman found Malone two hours later, right before he died. Batman removed Malone's sunglasses and, for the first time, saw the haunting resemblance between him and Malone. Malone's last words were "The Imperial Room," a classy restaurant. Going in these clues, Batman assumed the persona of Matches Malone and went into the Imperial Room and waited until someone acted like they had seen a ghost. Once they had rushed out, they were easily taken down and thrown into police custody. Assuming Match's identity for his own underground uses, Bruce Wayne used the Malone guise when attempting to join The False Face Society. Once he got in, he was able to learn of Black Mask's moves before they were made. Black Mask trusted Malone till the very end, until Batman appeared and took down Black Mask. While under the persona of Malone, Bruce met a woman named Charlotte Reade whom he had pulled from a burning club Firefly torched after it's owner, the infamous mobster and gambler Boxy Bennett, failed to pay Black Mask protection money. Though they went on a few "dates," once Reade found out that Malone was working for Black Mask, she couldn't be with him anymore.
- Batman uses the persona of Matches Malone to infiltrate Two-Face's gang in two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. The fake disguise is rendered useless after Two-Face deduces Malone's true identity. In The New Batman Adventures, Batman again takes up the persona of Malone, in the episode "Never Fear". Using this identity, he infiltrates The Scarecrow's hideout, only to be discovered. Originally, Batman as Malone professes to be a common thief, but the Scarecrow gasses him and has the hero hurl himself into a pond of hungry crocodiles. Luckily, Batman fought his way past the beasts and returned to the Batcave, although he remained affected by the gas.
- An interpretation of Matches Malone appeared in The Batman Strikes #3, infiltrating Joker's gang. This version is given a blonde streak, soul patch with a faint mustache and an updated wardrobe of a leather jacket, blue t-shirt/tank top. This interpretation was used for a brief time, but never scene on the show itself.
- Batman uses the persona of Matches Malone while trying to close a sting operation with the Metal Men on Kanjar Ro and several of his space pirates in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "The Super-Batman of Planet X!" Later, in "The Mask of Matches Malone," an amnesiac Batman believes he is truly Matches Malone and takes over Gotham's underworld. In "The Chill of the Night", when meeting his parents in an illusion, Bruce claims his name is "Matthew Malone".
- Silver names the man who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne "M. Malone" in the TV series Gotham. His full name is Patrick Malone. Bruce ultimately confronts him with the intent to kill him. He learns that Malone was hired by someone to kill Bruce's parents, and he doesn't reveal who. Seeing how remorseful and suicidal Malone has become due to life as a hired killer, Bruce refuses to kill him. But he ends up shooting himself with Bruce's gun. This prompts Bruce's decision to understand Gotham by living in the streets for awhile. It is later revealed that he was hired by Hugo Strange, who was once a friend of Thomas.