Val Kaliban is one of the world's greatest escape-artists, and uses his extraordinary abilities together with special effects to commit spectacular crimes and make people believe he was a real ghost. After several battles with Batman, he is defeated and beheaded by Damian Wayne.
Val Kaliban was an architectural draftsman for a legal engineering firm involved in city planning for Gotham City. Kaliban tampered with the plans for its maximum security prison, to permit the construction of a network of secret passages throughout the prison. After the prison was built, Kaliban intended to use the secret passages to release convicts for a high price.
Kaliban murdered his superior at the engineering firm, because he had learned of Kaliban's plan. Sentenced to die in the electric chair, Kaliban found a look-alike and somehow substituted the look-alike for himself. The double was executed, while Kaliban, believed dead, remained at large. Kaliban then made certain that the Gotham maximum security prison was built the way he desired.
Ten years after his supposed execution, Kaliban, in the costumed guise of The Spook, offered "escape insurance" policies to criminals for a price. The Spook guaranteed that he would free any of his policy holders who were imprisoned. The shrouded rogue first reappeared in a puff of smoke inside the jail cell of "Big Turk" Ramis, "four-time loser and one-time syndicate boss". Despite being imprisoned in an escape-proof new maximum security penitentiary, Ramis was assured by the Spook that he could be freed easily. Because Big Turk had refused to accept the hood's "introductory offer," his "'escape-insurance' policy will cost you double!". Within minutes, Ramis' cell was empty, save for a Spook doll atop his bunk.
Taking part in the subsequent manhunt for Big Turk, Batman began to wonder if the Spook might be the bigger threat. Stopping to arrest two small-time hoods, the Dark Knight found them surprisingly cocky, confident that they would be freed with ease. En route to the police station, Batman was forced to bring the Batmobile to a screeching halt when the Spook himself sprang up in his path. Leaving the vehicle to investigate, Batman quickly realized he'd been duped "by the simplest fool-the-eye 'illusion' stunt in the magic books! An inflatable 'Spook' figure ... blown up by underground city-steam" from a man-hole. Alerted by the abrupt absence of his car lights, Batman turned to find "my Batmobile -- my prisoners -- the whole works -- gone!". The vehicle eventually turned up -- minus the prisoners -- in the police department impounding lot, complete with a Spook mannequin cuffed to the steering wheel. It was soon revealed that the villain had an elaborate surveillance system in place, one that tracked beepers on multiple "clients" throughout Gotham, alerting the Spook when one of them was taken into custody. Discovering such a device on the recaptured Big Turk's glasses, Batman took his place and returned to prison, anticipating a face-to-face encounter with the spectral racketeer. The Spook had anticipated Batman, who was unaware that there was a back-up beeper on Ramis, and he sent a hypnotized surrogate in his place.
After the Spook succeeded in breaking a number of criminals out of prison, Batman discovered the secret passages, eventually tracking the villain to his nerve center, based in an abandoned section of the Gotham Subway tunnel. Defiant to the end, the unmasked villain vowed to Batman that "neither you nor all the bars in creation will ever hold the Spook!". A fingerprint check came back with positive identification on the mastermind's identity -- and a stunning fact: "Ten years ago -- Val Kaliban was executed in the electric-chair!"
Always a man of logic, Batman was confident that all of the rogue's seemingly unearthly escapes had a simple explanation. "Make no mistake, we're dealing with a man -- not a 'spook' who can cheat even the electric chair!". With Alfred Pennyworth and investigator Jason Bard recruited to draw the Spook into the open, Batman trailed him to the site of the now-abandoned original Gotham prison and ended up in a seeming deathtrap. Even strapped to the same electric chair that "killed" Val Kaliban, Batman beat the odds and brought the Spook to justice.
Discussing methods of keeping Kaliban in custody with Commisioner Gordon and the warden, Batman produced "the product of Kaliban's supreme ego ... a blueprint I found while searching his hideout." The warden continued, "He couldn't resist the challenge to design an escape-proof cell not even the Spook could break out of." The case had an impact on Batman's life in other ways. Framed for the murders of Ra's al Ghul and Talia only months later, Batman was able to escape prison only thanks to one of the Spook's as-yet-unsealed secret passageways. In later years, Batman had transformed a portion of the abandoned subway tunnel into a secondary Batcave that was situated near the Wayne Foundation building.
Later, the Spook resurfaced briefly in Detective Comics #526. He, along with Mr. Freeze, Black Spider, and Signalman ambushed Batman, Catwoman, and Talia Al Ghul. Talia fired into the Spook's chest, only to have the real Spook seize her from behind. "You can't kill a spook,....but he can kill you!" Talia, however, easily defeated the Spook, using a judo move to flip the Spook over her back and allowing for Batman to capture him once again.
When last seen, Kaliban had been driven insane by his failures, and was placed in Arkham Asylum under the supervision of the Asylum's new director, Jeremiah Arkham.
However, no prison has yet been able to hold the Spook for long, as he is apparently a master escape artist.
The Spook loved green, whether it was the neon glow of his shroud or the glorious color of money. It should come as no surprise, then, that his primary goal in most of his clashes with Batman was the accumulation of vast sums of cash.
Powers and Abilities
The Spook was a master escape artist second only to Mister Miracle (Scott Free) and Batman. He was also trained in the art of hypnosis, and could easily manipulate the weak-minded. His aptitude in this arena was so strong that he once convinced a death row convict to take his place in the electric chair. The Spook utilized a wide array of gadgets and devices in order to simulate various supernatural effects. Some of these devices include inflatable effigies of himself that can float through the air, finger-tip and boot suction cups for scaling buildings, and smoke machines for obscuring the perceptions of others.