Tag Archive: clayface

Originally Published: May 25, 2011, on Comicvine.com

After a brief respite for the Judgment of Gotham crossover, Gotham City Sirens comes back with a bang as Selina struggles with loyalty issues and Harley is seen helping the Joker turn Arkham into something similar to the Arkham Asylum video game, but gets resistance from an unusual suspect in the new Black Mask, Jeremiah Arkham!

The Good

This marks the beginning of a new story arc for Gotham City Sirens and as previous issues seemed to be spiraling into a valley, this issue looks to be pulling us back towards a peak again. Tons of action and chaos as Harley and Joker survey the carnage they’ve caused around them while torturing the Arkham guards unfortunate enough to cross their path. Throw in some cameos by Clayface and Mr. Zsasz and you’ll have flashback to the Arkham Asylum video game.

The key to this issue though is conflict. Catwoman versus herself as she weighs whether or not she should help Harley out over in Arkham. Ivy versus Harley as the two friends confront each other as Ivy has had it with her love sick puppy spells she goes into when she’s near the Joker. Joker versus Jeremiah Arkham as Arkham has been slowly buying or twisting many of the prison guards to his means and the Joker’s rampage is undoing the plans he put in motion months ago. And, of course, the set up for Batman (Bruce Wayne) versus them all as he lets Catwoman know that cases involving the Joker are his personal responsibility and are not to be handled by Dick. This is a great build up for a new story arc as we’ll see the effects of the previous ones finally play out here in one of Gotham’s grandest stages.

The Bad

The only real negative that seems to come from this comic is the lack of originality. Will every major arc that guides its way through Arkham Asylum and the Joker deal with a giant breakout that causes chaos and riots in the Asylum and force Batman to come inside the haunted padded walls to quell the threat? It just sounds a bit too much like this arc is already getting ready to help build up some more hype for Arkham City along with the five-issue mini-series that is being released as well.

The Verdict

What I thought of as a lack of originality aside, this comic features a lot of action between many different characters and sets the stage for what looks to be a mighty test for both Catwoman and Batman in the future issues. If you haven’t been reading this comic, you might be a little lost since even though it’s technically a new arc, you’re really jumping into a continuation of the last one, but you should be able to catch on quickly enough to still enjoy it.

4.5/5 Stars

Why So Many Clayfaces?

Originally Published: March 21, 2011, on Comicvine.com

It’s definitely not unheard of in the world of comics for a villain to be written off only to have someone else take up their mantle later on. The Flash’s rogues Trickster, Mirror Master, and Captain Boomerang are usually the first ones that come to mind for me. But while researching my last article Comics to Video Games: Batman Beyond, I was shocked to find one villain, a master of mimicry himself, who has been mimicked more than any other.

I had always known that Clayface had come in several shapes, sizes, and personas over the years, but further investigation shows that there have been eight Clayfaces over the past 70 years and that is only in the main comics continuity. Nevermind the Earth-9 Clayface or the variations and additions made through other media like the Clayfaces introduced in the mid 2000s cartoon The Batman and the short lived Birds of Prey TV series. So what reason could there be that the DC Universe would need so many clones of the same shapeshifter and does it diminish the value of any Clayface story arcs?

The most confusing thing as to why DC feels the need to have all these Clayfaces and have not killed them all off is that several of them have different powers with the same underlying shapeshifting theme, but you very rarely see those differences beyond their introductory arc.

Preston Payne (Clayface III) has some of the weakest shapeshifting powers of the bunch, but has the unique ability to melt and absorb anyone he touches into his own mass of clay. Yet the last time we see him before he is supposedly killed off in Justice League: Cry for Justice , Prometheus mutated him further so he could shapeshift better and be like all the other Clayfaces and then has him act as a distraction. Is it that no artist out there is willing to cross that line and show some really gruesome deaths at Payne’s hands and really explore his “hunger” to its fullest extent? Instead, DC made him like everyone else for a time to keep his name fresh and force him into a story.

Or how about Sondra Fuller (Clayface IV), also known as Lady Clayface? Although primarily a shapeshifter, she has the unique ability to mimic super powers as well as appearances. But ever since the Mud Pack storyline where she mimicked the powers of Looker to lure Preston Payne into the group, we’ve barely seen her at all, nevermind using her unique skill set. Could you imagine the havoc she could cause the Justice League by being able to take on different power sets?

And then of course there is the currently most often used Clayface, Basil Karlo (Clayface I). Originally just a killer in a grotesque masque, Karlo used a blood transfusion from Payne and Fuller to give him both of their combined powers. And yet, all we see from him is simple disguises and some giant mallet hands at best. Karlo was the madman behind bringing the Mud Pack together and now he is mostly hired help for other villains.

Then you have supposedly the most powerful Clayface of them all. I don’t even want to think of the insemination process, but Preston Payne and Lady Clay would have a baby who they named Cassius “Clay” Payne (Clayface V). But he is never featured in most Clayface story arcs and we’ve had three more Clayfaces after him introduced in spite of the clear exploration and development that his character needs. I would love to see him break out from S.T.A.R. Labs and try to reunite with his parents and then you could develop them all very clearly in one stellar arc.

But I guess DC feels why explore these characters when you can just make more of them? The potential for Clayface is constantly being watered down and molded into lackeys and pawns in greater villains’ master plans, but why can’t they be great again and given prominence once more? Or at the very least, kill them all off because it’s becoming nearly impossible to keep track of them. I can just imagine in an upcoming issue of Batman you’ll have Dick Grayson taking on a Clayface and ask, “Which one are you again?” or “Are you someone new or have we danced this dance before?”

The real reason why I think we have so many Clayfaces is that it has become the DC Universe’s deus ex machina. You have these personality types, although only mildly explored, set in stone and so when you need to further a certain plot or bridge a gap to the next big story arc, why not throw in a Clayface one-shot where you can make them more willing stooges or write them out like they did with Clayface VI, VII, and VIII. I’m sure that most of these roles could have conformed to an already established Clayface though.

Peter Malley or “Claything” (Clayface VI) was a scientist in the Department of Extranormal Operations who experiments on Cassius and becomes bonded to a skin sample he takes from the boy and becomes the sixth Clayface. But we can’t have more than four running around at once so he was quickly killed off and his remains are in the DEO Headquarters. Just waiting to be revived by DC when they paint themselves into a corner, I’m sure.

Then came Clayface VII, Todd Russell, an army veteran who was severely wounded and it is insinuated that the Department of Extranormal Operations experimented on him, although this was never clearly stated. Russell can’t handle the mental stress caused by his new form and becomes a serial killer who preys upon prostitutes in Gotham’s East End and actually never faces Batman. Russell is another unique Clayface in that he can change not only his shape, but his size as well, and was done in by Catwoman when she protected those parts, capturing Clayface VII in a giant freezer and then handing him off to Bats. This was necessary because Basil Karlo was so busy I’m sure and couldn’t be bothered to murder prostitutes.

And then there is Clayface VIII who is also currently deceased. Johnny Williams was a firefighter who was caught in a chemical plant explosion and doused in chemicals that, you guessed it, turned him into a Clayface. His claim to fame is that he was the one that Hush and the Riddler manipulated to act like Jason Todd and also don Tommy Elliot’s guise when Hush captured Alfred in order to throw Batman off his trail. Of course, he was just doing this because Hush promised him a cure and this was not the case and after some time Williams could no longer hold his form and just broke down into nothing. You mean to tell me that if Prometheus could manipulate Preston Payne, that Hush couldn’t? Hush nearly got Batman’s entire rogues gallery to work for him in his coming out party, but he needed his own Clayface instead of using any of the others who had been established already?

There is one time though that I feel DC had it right and had some real consistency with the character. This character is what really set the standard for a Clayface. One of the most popular, likely due to his name being used for the Batman: The Animated Series Clayface, and the only Clayface who has seemingly stayed dead (although I’m sure he’ll come back too at some point) is Matt Hagan (Clayface II). He was the first true shapeshifter of the bunch and lasted for more than two decades as a nuisance for the Dark Knight.

Hagan was a treasure hunter who discovered some radioactive protoplasm and found he could change his form at will for two days straight after bathing in the goo. Although a much more tame character than many of the others (it was during Batman’s campy era that he came along) Hagan was the first true shapeshifter and the DC Universe was fine with having just one man made of mud running around.

It just seems like a shame to see a character with such great potential and a rather strong fan base being used like a common thug and not getting the respect that even characters like Killer Croc have gotten in recent years. I mean one more Clayface and we’d have a baseball team.

-Ray Carsillo

Originally Published: March 15, 2011, on Comicvine.com

With there being an absolute whirlwind of activity around recent announcements for Batman: Arkham City, it made me start to think that maybe our current Dark Knight is overshadowing the future one, who is just trying to grab his little corner of the limelight after nearly a decade of flying under the radar. And so I thought that maybe Terry McGinnis needs his own video game after he just got his own monthly comic again to solidify his spot in the eyes of fans of the DC Universe. It seems there is enough of an interest in The Tomorrow Knight that I’m sure we could figure out a better representation in the digital realm for him than the awful 2000 side-scrolling beat ‘em up for the N64/PS1 game based on Return of the Joker. So how would a Batman Beyond video game work?

One of the key focuses of a Batman Beyond game would be differentiating it from the more recent Batman games. Although it should still be true to the character and be dark overall, the atmosphere of this game might need to take a page out of the book of the 2099 Spider-Man levels from Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Bright lights set against a dark background with Terry (voiced again by Will Friedle) constantly quipping at his foes or answering to Bruce (voiced again by Kevin Conroy) who is always talking about “the old days” and how he did things while he was Batman. All the while utilizing the Batsuit’s flying abilities to both get around and to complete missions. Terry’s Gotham should also be a sandbox that could allow for a lot of exploration of some of the seedier sections of town and so this doesn’t become just a button mashing brawler and allow for some mission variety.

Terry’s Batsuit has a lot of awesome features to it though beyond the flying. The camouflage feature on the suit could allow Terry to walk right up to a villain without him knowing and he could knock him out without having to worry about going all Sam Fisher in a level and sticking to the shadows. The camouflage could also be used to infiltrate certain areas to listen in on villain conversations or even hack a terminal without interference. This feature would need an overheat meter of some kind though, otherwise the game would be too easy as you could just turn invisible and walk through most of the game, similar to many people’s complaint about feeling a need to always have Detective Mode from Batman: Arkham Asylum on. You could also set up mini-games with the frequency monitors and lock picks that are featured in the gloves of Terry’s Batsuit.

To get the most out of these features you would need to put a bit more of an emphasis on information gathering and item collection though and that brings us to our plot of the game. It would need to have several layers to it that could put Terry and Bruce’s detective skills to the test. Maybe have Terry go back to the Batcave after finding new clues or defeating each villain and have it so that Terry could interact with a lot of the items in the cave, giving all Batman fans a bit of a cheap thrill as Terry explores the cave or uses the Batcomputer.

But one of the big problems that Terry has always faced is he has a rather paltry rogues gallery. So much so that he constantly has to resort to Bruce’s villains or variations thereof. The Joker and Mr. Freeze are the first two that come to mind in that category, but also Spellbinder and False-Face, although re-imagined and made much cooler than the late 1950s-60s versions Bruce fought, were originally his rogues. Even three issues into his new comic, the only villain Terry has fought was a new Matter Master, a Hawkman villain!

Well, if Terry is going to rely on some of Bruce’s villains, especially since a lot of Terry’s have been killed off it seems (Shriek, Blight, Stalker), then this new game should center around one who has never really been explored, and it would be interesting to introduce him into Terry’s universe in a video game. Clayface V or Cassius “Clay” Payne. Assuming that Basil Karlo and the other Clayfaces still age normally (although unlikely), one who would still be alive and most definitely be a threat in Terry’s time would be Cassius.

Since currently Cassius is really nothing more than a kid in current times and has never been explored very thoroughly, you could make him the diabolical mastermind that the other Clayfaces never really aspired to. With his shape-shifting ability, he could manipulate key events all around Gotham and hire other villains in various guises to throw off Bruce and Terry with it all culminating in one of the most epic boss battles ever. Hiring several of Terry’s more infamous (and still living) villains to keep him busy, Clayface could be lurking in the shadows, posing as or pulling the strings of politicians, the GCPD, and many others around Gotham as he forwards his agenda of eliminating the Batman from Gotham once and for all!

So there is your main villain and definitely a twist that a lot of Batman fans would probably appreciate. But you’d need more villains than that of course to really make a decent comic book game. Before Clayface, Terry should have to face Inque, one of his most difficult opponents ever, but really just a hired gun who will provide the final piece of the puzzle when she reveals she attacked Batman for someone who she felt was a kindred spirit, as in both Inque and Clayface are shape-shifters who are more in tune with their villainous personas than their human sides.

Before he faces Inque though, Terry would have to take down Spellbinder, who is causing trouble because Clayface threw a lot of money his way. Really he should be nothing more than a diversion for Clayface’s master scheme, but he wouldn’t be Batman if he just let Spellbinder hypnotize people and suggest them to walk off rooftops or whatnot.

It seems a lot of Terry’s villains aren’t nearly as tragic or deep as many of the original Dark Knight’s though as the villains that lead up to Spellbinder are none other than the Royal Flush Gang, again because they were promised big pay days. Having five villains at once could lend itself to a variety of tasks and levels as you could have an epic end battle against all five at once, or the more likely scenario, of separating them and taking them down one at a time culminating in a still difficult boss battle with the android Ace, who could have several “modes” to him and take new forms as the battle progresses and he takes damage.

Also, if you do face the Royal Flush Gang separately, and if the game was done in a sandbox, you could have one level where you have to chase down Jack or Ten on those hovercards they had in the cartoon and that would give a reason for something I wish you could use in more Batman games, the Batmobile. A Batman Beyond video game’s biggest difference to most other super hero video games is that Terry would have to use the Batmobile for certain levels like that one with the Royal Flush Gang, and it would be an option for him to get from point A to point B in Gotham if you didn’t want to explore on foot and with the Batsuit.

The opening of the game would be more of a tutorial mission as it’ll all start out with Terry chasing some Jokerz, who would then serve the rest of the game as your primary henchman for the other bosses due to their numbers and could even have more well known ones like Dee Dee, Woof, or J-Man serve as mini-bosses.

So there’s my take on a possible Batman Beyond video game. What would you do for a Batman Beyond video game? Would you try to add some more villains or levels? Should the game be a bit more linear and not a sandbox? Let us know by commenting below!

-Ray Carsillo

Originally Published: March 1, 2011, on youtube.com/RCars4885

I come to you once again with your weekly geek fix from my mother’s basement! To kick off Volume 2 this week and shake off the rust, I review Gotham City Sirens #20 from DC Comics and Bulletstorm for the Xbox 360. My hot chick pick of the week is Leeann Tweeden.