A, B, Cs part 1, Cs part 2



Me: so why do you like Clayface so much then?
The Boy: He’s scary
Me: But what’s scary about him
The Boy: He’s got goop
Me: But what’s scary about goop?
The Boy: Carnage and Venom have got goop, and there’s no man.
Me: No man inside Clayface, you mean?
The Boy: Yes. He hasn’t got a man.

Me: What’s good about Clayface?
Amy: I’m thinking of a story where you could have a dead body buried inside him. Maybe even in a coffin.

I struggled long and hard with this one until I realised that Clayface isn’t a character, he’s something that happens to you. I can’t imagine a Clayface story arc being up to much, the obvious and done to death route is to go all snoretragic, loss of humanity, etc… but personally I think I’d aim for a few panels where someone (perhaps the little girl in the panel above) is dragged screaming into its earthy darkness and play out the consequences. Clayface isn’t a monster that I want to understand, I don’t want a POV shot or interiority, you don’t identify with walking graves, you have people get buried alive in them, and you make sure that you make the getting buried alive sequence is suitably terrifying and distressing.

Clayface is a one or two issue, all horror bat-foe, and that’s that. He’s a horrible inevitable event like death. There is no man.


Fuck Cluemaster

Next: finally the Ds

15 Responses to “Alphabetical Villains thing: Cs part 3”

  1. Munkiman Says:

    It would be interesting to see a Clayface story where Clayface himself never speaks. But he was one of my favorite villains in the animated series – I preferred him over Mr. Freeze, actually. I think I just liked that he was an actor who gains the power to be anyone, but who always melts back into his big goopy monster form. “I’m not an actor anymore… I’m not even… a man…”

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  3. Steven Says:

    Clayface is weird because none of the half dozen or so versions in the comics have ever had a really great story. No one has ever pointed to a comic and said “That’s *the* classic Clayface story. Great stuff.” The highpoint for all of these characters was when one of them pretended to be Jason Todd for five minutes and change.

    But not only did the Clayface in Batman: The Animated Series have two really solid episodes – the second being an all-time great, even – but the first Clayface in The Batman was also a pretty damn good character. He was like Henri Ducard or Hush or certain versions of Two-Face, and it worked! Somehow!

  4. Aaron Says:

    Cluemaster doesn’t have the dignity of even a failed pop criminal – he’s the corporatized cash-in response to the emergence of pop crime. The Silverchair to the Joker’s Nirvana. Even his name sounds like a toy or a game, easily trademarked. His crimes should only exist as advertisement for the parent corporation, carefully designed not to hurt any potential customers.

    That sounds somewhat familiar, actually, maybe a plot from the animated series? I can’t quite remember. In fact, I’m surprised Cluemaster never popped up in the animated series, it seems like a natural plot for Dini & Co.: Cluemaster shows up and rips off Riddler’s bit, Riddler gets pissed and teams up with Batman to take him down, but then in the end he tries to go behind Bats to pull some ulterior scheme and ends up in a cell next to CM’s in Arkham, forever bickering about the superiority of riddles to overt clues.

  5. RetroWarbird Says:

    Clayface as walking horror seems pretty obvious. I mean … the guy’s very origin is that of “Basil Karlo”, a “man of a thousand faces” horror actor … like one of the Universal Classics. Like Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi. So he totally fits as Batman’s “Master of Disguise” villain as well. HORROR master of disguise.

    Bruce Wayne is a noted, and AVID Universal Classic Horror fan. I think that’s a strong enough basis for whatever scant form of relationship these two have. Bruce was a fan of his once … but now he’s a real monster.

    I really rather like Dennis Culver’s interpretation as well – http://www.blogcdn.com/www.comicsalliance.com/media/2010/07/dennisculverbatfoesgallery.jpg – wherein Clayface “tries” to look like his old self in a sharp suit, but can’t really hide the inner monster.

    Walking grave is so right … originally didn’t Karlo basically “fall into magical, chemical-imbued quicksand?” What a silly concept. But it is very, very much like he fell into a grave, and became the grave.

    He’s almost like a Superman enemy transplanted into Gothic Gotham. How many fucks in Metropolis have slipped and fell into nuclear waste, electrical lines, septic tanks or irradiated rat’s warrens and turned into walking hideous monsters?

    Cluemaster? Fuck Cluemaster. (He’s served best as a relic … although the deadbeat dad thing isn’t terrible. He was a fair enough villain to choose on the random selection of failed popcriminals and assign a daughter to. Let the Tim Drakes and the Stephanie Browns of the world deal with him. Batman giving him attention would just elevate him above being a pathetic has-been.)

  6. Steven Says:

    In a world where The Riddler never went straight, Cluemaster would pretty decently fill in for him as the pop criminal turned blustery, self-absorbed PI.

  7. Tucker Stone Says:

    It’s not a great story, but the Alcatena drawings of Clayface in that Batman: Monsters collection from last year are great. Matt Hagen is always drawn with half-lidded junkie eyes and the girl looks like she came from an EC comic complete with EC clothing. It looks like something that Matt Fox would’ve done.

  8. Brimstone Says:

    the Clayface episodes of Batman: The Animated Series SCARED THE SHIT out of me as a kid

    Bruce Wayne ‘became a monster’, but not really – he put on a costume
    Clayface is a man who literally became a monster

    but there isn’t any humanity there, and you just get sucked in deeper…

  9. jacob munford Says:

    Clayface is fascinating. Although that first animated series episode is the only good Clayface story, it has always been my favorite Batman story.

    Zom’s horror take is totally on point, but I think the character design masks the real strength of the character. The whole well of identity-based stories have been mined a million times in Batman, but Clayface is the best thematic match for those stories. He could be everything that works about zom’s No-Face take.

    Both Bruce and Dick are method actors when they put that Batman suit on, but taking the suit off is not always easy. They sometimes fall into the role too hard, due to the dedication required to play it. Morrison has been really nailing this.

    Clayface, on the other hand, is a method actor with a pathological need of a role to fall into. Without another person to be, he literally has nothing to him. He consumes identities and then throws them away. He has zeroed himself. He exists only to be something other than he is and in effect, ruins the lives he forces himself into. Zom’s right, he is not a person, but something that happens to you. He is a walking grave of identities, including his own. Looking over Wikipedia, Clayface literally has pieces of other Clayfaces as a part of his body. That means that although he is a walking grave of bodies and identities, with no plausible motivation other than a nihilistic desire to be something else.

    I think that the character really hasn’t been explored outside of his truly excellent look (I’d kill to see Mignola draw a something) and lazy bait-and-switch potential. Where are the stories where Clayface has become a police detective that is ruining cases or one of Dick’s ex-lovers that can’t remember the details or incorrectly executing some other Bat rogue’s gimmick?

    Let me throw a quick example out there: Batman comes back to Wayne Manor after a rough night with broken ribs and a broken elbow. He wakes up two hours too early to his mother on his doorstep. Batman knows it can’t be his mother and instantly assumes Clayface, but also knows that he can’t fight Clayface in his current condition. Clayface, on the other hand, is taking every opportunity to slowly eat away at Bruce’s identity by exploring the manor, stealing personal effects and observing him for ticks. Batman can’t fight Clayface away, so he has to outthink him. Hitchcock horror and Universal horror. Sounds good to me.

  10. Dan K Says:

    Great analysis.

    You’ve probably read the rather good Alan Moore Clayface story. He manages to make him funny, horrific, and absurd at the same time (exactly what you want from a bat-villian, really). However, that was one of his more human incarnations.

    I agree that the tragic monster thing does get a bit tedious after a while but the problem with getting rid of his search to regain his humanity is that it is the only trait that gives Clayface any kind of motive. I think so long as he goes about it in a perversly inhuman way, it works. So swallowing victims just in order to feel the warmth of real human flesh once more, before they go limp and cold as the clay – yeah, that sounds about right.

    Or perhaps he could decide that he’s a golem, and go in search of his Jewish heritage….Okay, maybe not.

  11. Papa Pop-Guru Says:

    Clayface is pretty interesting actually. You have an amorphous, shapeless creature that haunts you and inflicts titanic amounts of parnoia at you? Remind you of anyone?
    You also have something that’s shape is only limited by his imagination, so you can have these great battles with Batman, where he has to out-think a thing that is nothing but a terrible form…

    Also: Yup, Cluemaster is officially the worst. Which is a pitty, because the concept of Spoiler as a sort of Anti-Robin is a good one. The child who refuses to follow in the path of the parent, and actively goes out of the way to foil them. Legacy goes both ways.

  12. Zom Says:

    The shape changing sounds great and I’m sure there’s all sorts of good stuff to be done, but let’s face it every fucker writes Clayface that way…zzzzzz



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