Posts tagged ‘Matt Hagen’

Detective 526 – Jason Todd dons the costume

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Celebrating Batman’s 500th appearance, Detective 526 (May 1983) is a forgotten, but worthy, anniversary issue.  Crisis on Infinite Earths would remove this story from continuity, and the origin of Jason Todd radically changed, but this work by Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala stands on its own merit.

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The Joker calls together a mass assembly of Batman’s enemies.  Croc is out to kill Batman, but he’s a newbie, and not worthy of the honour, the Joker insists.  So he lays out a plan that will give them all chances of killing Batman that night.

The line-up includes the regulars: Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, and Scarecrow.  Cat-Man, Killer Moth, Mr. Freeze, the Mad Hatter, and Matt Hagen as Clayface had all appeared within the last few years.  The Cavalier had not been seen since an issue of Batman Family in the late 70s.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee had not been seen since the 1940s!  Technically, this is the first appearance of the Earth-1 versions of the characters, but with Crisis looming that scarcely matters.

Some of the newer villains are included as well: Black Spider, Captain Stingaree and the Spook.  Talia is there, without her father being involved in the story, which is rare.

The Gentleman Ghost is a Hawkman villain, but had fought Batman twice in his own book.  This is the only time he appears in a line-up of Batman villains.

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Catwoman watches, but takes no part in the meeting.  Talia also has no interest in killing Batman, but has to fight her way out.

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Both Catwoman and Talia head to the Batcave to warn Batman of the plans against him, but get involved in a cat fight of their own.

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Meanwhile, things aren’t going so well for Dick Grayson.  His great plan to use the Todds against Croc simply put them into his hands, and he has Jason driven to Wayne Manor to keep him safe.

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Barbara accompanies her father as Commissioner Gordon checks out the abandoned theatre where the villains met, and finds evidence pointing to a gathering of their enemies.

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Barbara goes to find Dick, and they suit up as Batgirl and Robin and head out to fight the villains, as Batman does the same, with Talia and Catwoman as back-up.  No one is at home, so Jason is left to explore Wayne Manor, and guess where he winds up?

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The Spook manages to get the drop on Talia, if only for a moment.  But with so many fighting against them, the two women and Batman get taken.

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Robin is the one to find the remains of the Todds, fed to his namesakes by Croc.

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Jason, unawares, has found an alternate Robin costume in the cave, and suited up.  He heads out to join the rest of the heroes.

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Batgirl and Robin fight well together. There is no hint of romance, as there had been in their Batman Family team-ups.  Robin is in a budding romance with Starfire in the pages of New Teen Titans, but their ease with each other reminds one of the bond between them, the best duo of Batman’s supporting cast.

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Jason happens upon  a group of the villains, which gives him the information he needs to find out where everyone else is.

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Finally the big climax, as the Joker gloats over his captured foes.

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Croc had been working behind the scenes with the Joker, using all the other villains to wear Batman down.  He makes his move, but Batman manages to duck at the right time, and Croc takes down the Joker.

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Jason Todd arrives just as Batman has beaten Croc into submission, and delivers the final blow.  Only afterwards does he discover his parents bodies.

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The epilogue sees Bruce sending Catwoman and Talia off together in a car.  Where is he sending them?  Why did he stick these two women in the same car together?  How far did they get before their fight forced the car off the road and into a ditch?

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The issue ends with Bruce and Jason Todd, who is looking relatively ok for a boy whose parents were horribly murdered the night before.  But he is to be the new Robin, and there is a sense of hope.

Which is all kind of weird now, because Jason Todd was given such a different origin, and made such a different character, in the post-Crisis reality.

But for a couple of years, this was the origin of Jason Todd, Robin.

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Detective 478 – a new and deadly Clayface

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Englehart, Rogers and Austin reach the end of their run on Detective with this 2-part story that introduces Preston Payne, the third Clayface.

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Batman is not coping well with Silver’s departure, and is taking it out on Gotham’s criminals.

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Meanwhile, Gotham is being plagues by a series of robberies and unusual murders, which leave the bodies a pile of goo.  We see the new Clayface long before Batman does, and it’s not a pretty sight.

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The depths of Batman’s emotional state are made very clear in this powerful scene, in which he curses the portrait of his parents, and then realizes what he is doing.

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Jumping back to Clayface, we get the sad origin of Preston Payne.  Born with a deformed head, and ostracized both as a child and an adult, he became fascinated with Clayface’s body altering abilities.

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Payne visited Matt Hagen in prison, and though Hagen refused to divulge the secret of his powers, he did allow Payne to draw a simple of his blood.  Payne isolated the agent in Hagen’s blood that allowed the transformations, and injects himself. At first it works perfectly, and he creates his idealized body.

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But the process was unstable, and as his form began to melt, he discovered the other ability he now possessed – to spread this melting to others through touch.

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Driven completely insane, Payne now lives encased in an exoskeleton, in a wax museum with a dummy he treats as a girlfriend.

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The hero and villain, both in a state of heartbreak, face each other as the issue ends.

The story concludes next issue.

Detective 312 – The Clayface Batman, and the Martian Manhunter gets a sidekick

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Clayface is back again for his third round with Batman and Robin in Detective 312 (Feb. 63).  Matt Hagen once again escapes from prison and recharges his powers from his secret pool in this Bill Finger/Sheldon Moldoff story.

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At first, Hagen uses his powers to impersonate Batman, entering banks and warning people to leave immediately, and then looting.  But Batman catches him at this, and Hagen flees.

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Batman stops another scheme, in which he makes himself appear to be a work of art to gain access to a vault, but manages to follow him back to his pool when he goes to recharge.

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In their fight, Batman falls in, and becomes a Clayface creature himself, leading to the big climactic, shape-changing battle.

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Which ends when Batman, as a tree, punches Clayface in the head.  A bit of a let down.

Clayface returns in a few months in the pages of Batman.

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Zook is much more in focus in this Martian Manhunter story.  J’onn keeps the creature in a cave, from which he keeps escaping, wanting to get in on the action.

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Zook, who can turn red and radiate heat when stressed, messes up one of J’onn’s plans, barging in when he mistakenly thinks J’onn is in danger.

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When he escapes a second time, he runs into Diane Meade, who brings him to the station, where he encounters J’onn in his John Jones identity.

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But in the end, Zook winds up using his heat powers to melt a cube J’onn is trapped in by some bad guys, which convinces him the creature could be his sidekick, and doesn’t need to spend the rest of it’s life alone in a cave.

Detective 304 – Clayface returns

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Matt Hagen escapes from prison, returning to his secret pool and re-powering himself for another go as Clayface, in Detective 304 (June 1962), in a story by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.

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His first encounter with Batman on this new crime spree ends well, as he steals millions and turn himself into a giant muddy top, flinging Batman away.

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Clayface then tries a new tack, kidnapping and impersonating people.  He has the bad luck to choose men known to Bruce Wayne, and messes up on little details, like claiming a toothache while impersonating a man with dentures.

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Once again it comes down to a matter of outlasting Clayface.  Hagen attempts to flee as a giant bat when his time limit approaches, but Batman freezes him, and he is stuck there until he turns back to Hagen.

But you can’t keep this guy down, and he returns for his third try in a few months.

Detective 298 – Batman vs Clayface

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Matt Hagen, the second Batman villain to use the name Clayface, debuts in Detective 298 (Dec. 61), in a story by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.

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Aside from his name, Hagen has nothing in common with the earlier Clayface.  Hagen looks like a man made of mud, but is able to change his shape at will.

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In flashback, we learn how he stumbled across the vials containing the potion that transforms him, while deep sea diving for treasure.

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This Clayface was far more powerful than any villain Batman had faced to date, and would quickly become one of his major foes in the early 60s.  He was able to change his form into anything he could think of, and often that included the attributes of what he changed into (e.g. – if he changed into a bird, he could fly).

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He recruits a gang, who have no idea what he truly looks like, as Hagen keeps replenishing the fluid that gives him his powers.

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Ultimately, Batman and Robin are only able to defeat him because they delay him long enough in battle that he cannot restore his powers.

Matt Hagen returns as Clayface a few months down the road in this book.  He was also the fourth, and last, of the villains to be re-created as part of Strikeforce Kobra.

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