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Original Airdate: May 7, 2005
Writer: Greg Weisman
Director: Seung Eun Kim
And now, I suppose, it’s time to talk about these guys.
Despite my fondness for (most of) Batman’s rogues gallery and my obsession with nitpicky little details, the name Clayface has always left me kinda cold. Part of it probably has to do with how I usually don’t like Batman’s villains to be genuinely superpowered, but mostly it’s because the character gives off the feel of that one “meh” movie that just kept on pumping out sequels even when no one was asking for any.
I mean, shit – even I couldn’t bring myself to care any more after the fifth one popped up, and if my ten-second glance at the Wikipedia page is right, twice that many people have now worn the name. If you’re really curious, here’s a quick overview of the first five.*
- One was Basil Karlo, an old-timey horror actor gone cuckoo and one of the earliest Batman villains. Just a standard knife-wielding maniac until he conned some sweet, sweet shapeshifter blood out of Three and Four. If Clayface pops up in any Batman story published after the ’90s, you can usually bet it’s this guy.
- Two was Matt Hagen, all-around generic thug and the first one to have actual shapeshifting powers. Lent his name to That Other Show’s Clayface and his powers to Three, but not really remarkable beyond that, unless you want to talk about how he was one of the few villains to get adapted into Jiro Kuwata’s ’60s Bat-manga.
- Three was Preston Payne, generally thought of as the most (potentially) interesting of the bunch. In a nutshell: genius scientist born with facial disorder, tried to make himself pretty by getting a blood transfusion from Two, it went horribly wrong and turned him into a monster whose touch melts flesh into protoplasmic goo. Kind of a precursor to the modern version of Mr. Freeze, super-strong exoskeleton and all. Also, he had a story written by Alan goddamn Moore, so check that out quick if you haven’t already.
- Four was Shondra Fuller, who… I don’t really know much about, since I’ve yet to start reading Mike W. Barr’s Outsiders run (though one quote – whose source I can’t place right now – claims that Barr went out of his way to give familiar villain names to totally new characters). Generally has the same power-set as Two, eventually got together with Three.
- Five was Cassius Payne, the kid of Three and Four (I don’t quite remember how they did it, and I’m not sure I want to revisit it). The
most heroicleast evil of the bunch (I think) and got experimented on a bunch by the men in black (I think).
Mind you, none of the above is really essential to understanding this Clayface, since most people (including, I reckon, The Batman‘s showrunners) are chiefly familiar with the version from That Other Show. That fellow boasted a dramatic two-part origin featuring some of the most gorgeous animation in the history of Batman, though I don’t really know anyone who considers him That Other Show’s most interesting villain. Or even its most interesting villain whose name ends in “-face”.
Still, he was almost certainly the most interesting take on Clayface circa 1992. Now, however, we’re in the wonderful world of 2005 – and I figure it’s time that the younger, upstart challenger got a second look…