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Quote1 It wasn't always like this. Back before I was Clayface. Back when I was Basil Karlo, I was on my way to the top. Red carpet movie premieres, million-dollar mansions, fast cars, beautiful women. And that was just the start. I had big plans. I had ambition. I also had a temper. When people pissed me off, when people insulted me, people got hurt. That ain't ever changed. I don't figure it's ever gonna. My entire career went down the drain after I hit that director. They took my life away, so I became Clayface to get revenge. Still had the big plans. Still had the ambition. And more than anything else - I still had that temper. Quote2
Clayface src

Basil Karlo is Clayface, a former criminal in Gotham City with the power to change his clay-body to become anyone or anything. He formerly acted as an enemy of Batman but now works alongside him as one of his allies.


New 52 Origin

Basil Karlo, before becoming the monster he would be famous for being, worked as a mediocre actor who was once told by his casting director that he wasn't good enough to get a substantial role. Looking for an edge, Karlo turned to the crime boss Penguin for help. The Penguin offered Basil a hunk of mystical clay, which he claimed would solve Karlo's acting problems, in exchange for the actor's services as a henchman. Basil agreed and was given unique shape-shifting powers when the clay leapt on him, entered his blood-stream, and rewrote the fabric of his body.

Basil Karlo Prime Earth 0003

Karlo before Clayface

With this shape-changing ability, Karlo was able to achieve success in his acting career. As he got better in his acting, the clay inside him evolved as well. He gained the new ability to copy the DNA of anyone he touched and file it away in his memory, to be retrieved at any time. Outside of his acting, Karlo was employed by The Penguin, keeping to their deal, and initially loathed the criminal activities he was forced to do. However, he eventually grew to embrace it overtime. The actor lost sight of who he really was until he became nothing more than a mass of violence and rage; it became harder to hold his human shape. Before long, Karlo's temper destroyed his career after he assaulted a director who berated him for ad-libbing on set. With no one willing to hire him and thus becoming a "nobody," Karlo became fully committed to a life of crime as "Clayface".[2][3]

Following the cosmic upheavals of the Rebirth period, this character's history was revised.

Current Origin

Basil Karlo was the son of Vincent Karlo, who made cosmetics and masks for movies. Vincent told Basil that the secret to his success was a strange putty known as Renu, when applied to a surface Renu would allow the sculptor to mold that material into any look they wanted. Vincent was eventually fired by his production company because they discovered that Renu was toxic to human flesh and could potentially cause illnesses.

Basil grew up and became an actor twenty years later. He quickly became incredibly successful due to his talent and good looks. On the set of his film Metamorphosis he met Glory Griffin who would be his P.A. for the film. When the film was complete, Basil received huge critical acclaim and planned to move onto a film called Second Skin, as it reminded him of his father's old job. After Metamorphosis, Glory became Basil's personal assistant for all his films. He soon had an interview with the casting director of a Second Skin, and received the main part.

When he was driving back to his apartment, Basil received a phone call informing him that his father had been found dead. The shock of this news caused Basil to crash his car, disfiguring him. In a desperate bid to salvage his career, he began abusing Renu to preserve his handsome appearance. When his supply began to run low, Karlo intended to steal a bulk supply of the chemical from the manufacturing plant in Gotham City, only to be apprehended by Batman. Brought to the hospital to recover, Karlo's grotesque appearance was subsequently revealed to the world in news reports of the incident. His career was ruined, and his girlfriend Glory dumped him. While in the hospital, Karlo was visited by Batman, who told him he had a choice to make in who he wanted to be.

Karlo chose poorly and attempted to break into the warehouse where the police were holding his stolen stash of Renu. When police opened fire on the vials, Karlo was doused in the chemical, changing his entire body and turning him into the monstrous Clayface. He then attacked the set of the film he was fired from but was stopped by Batman.[4]

The War of Jokes and Riddles

During Batman's second year as a vigilante, the Joker and the Riddler went to war with one another over the right to kill Batman in what would be known as "the War of Jokes and Riddles". Both villains recruited all the criminals they could, and Clayface decided to join the Riddler's army. For weeks the fighting raged on until Riddler's army, with the aid of Batman himself, successfully cornered Joker. Clayface and the rest of Riddler's army was then double-crossed by Batman, who had them all incapacitated and arrested.[5]

New 52

Death of the Family

While the Joker was running wild in Gotham, Batman was forced to deal with Poison Ivy and her new strong man and husband Clayface.

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Nowhere Man

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Batman vs. "Bruce Wayne"

In wake of Damian Wayne's death, Clayface imitated Bruce Wayne, having mutated to the point that, with a single fiber of DNA, the criminal could impersonate anyone down to their genetic code.[6] Wanting to exploit Wayne's connection to Batman Incorporated, Clayface framed Wayne for robbing a bank and then, later, made an attempt on his life at Wayne Enterprises, only to be subdued by Batman in a specifically anti-Clayface batsuit. Trapping the impostor in a glass container that would only open to the DNA code of the one person he couldn't be anymore - Basil Karlo, Batman left Clayface to the police.[7]

Arkham War

On the night that the Crime Syndicate arrived to Earth and announced that the Justice League was dead, Clayface was about to rob a bank with a group of ordinary thugs but lashed out and killed them all because they wouldn't listen to him.

Discovering that the Syndicate's Secret Society was recruiting, Clayface destroyed what he thought was a rebel camp in order to get the Society's attention. To his surprise, the rebel camp was organized by the Society in order to trap would-be heroes; Clayface ruined their plan. Calling him an idiot, Karlo lashed out and blew up the remaining portion of the camp.[3]

With no Batman to stop them, the freaks of Arkham Asylum carved up Gotham City and agreed to split it amongst themselves. Clayface was given a portion of the city that he marked as his own by drowning in clay. However, the peace between the villains was not kept very long when Bane recruited the prisoners of Blackgate Penitentiary to challenge the Arkhamites, under Scarecrow's leadership, for control of Gotham, in what would later be called the "Arkham War".[8]

During the course of the war, Clayface and Mister Freeze attempted to recruit the Rogues, who had been misplaced in Gotham in their rebellion against the Syndicate. However, the Rogues denied their invitation, spurring a three-way battle between the Arkhamites, the Rogues, and Black Mask's False Face Society.[9]

In the end, the Arkhamites were defeated by Bane, who declared himself the winner of the Arkham War.[10]

The Unknowns

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Clayface, hero

After the Justice League's return and the fall of the Crime Syndicate, Clayface attempted to escape Gotham as repairs began underway. As he tried to leave, Karlo was abducted by a group of cultists, freezing him and then using a portion of his magical clay body as part of their ritual to revive Morgaine le Fey.[11] Succeeding in bringing back the witch from the dead, Clayface was left partially destroyed and without his memory. Luckily, he was rescued by Ragman, being brought back to the hero's apartment and plopped into his bathtub.[12] After learning of his criminal past, a still amnesia-stricken Clayface joined Batwoman and her ragtag team of Unknowns in their fight against Morgaine Le Fey.

Despite their efforts though, their mission failed, since Le Fey had successfully used a satellite to project her magic into turning Gotham into a medieval version of itself called New Camelot. Not giving up, Clayface and the Unknowns made one final move against the enchantress, successfully trapping her inside a magic stone and breaking the spell, returning Gotham to its normal twenty-first century version.

Wanting to avoid going back to crime, Clayface, accompanied by his new friend Ragman, tried to set Karlo up with a new civilian identity.[13]


Batman Villains 0020

Clayface during Joker's endgame

However, his work as a hero was short lived. His memory returned, and Clayface was returned to his cell at the new Arkham Manor. When Joker returned to Gotham with an endgame for Batman in mind, every criminal in the asylum was freed and poisoned with Joker Venom. Only Clayface and a handful of other criminals who had already gained an immunity to chemicals escaped the asylum un-Jokerized, having realized the clown had gone too far with this latest plan.[14] Escaping into the city, having plunged into chaos, Clayface and the other Arkhamites met up with Batman and agreed to help him take down the Joker.[15]

DC Rebirth

Gotham Academy

With Batman and the Joker apparently killed in their last battle with one another, life went on, and Clayface continued his criminal ambitions. Karlo sent his daughter Katherine to Gotham Academy to spy on his old acting-rival-now-teacher Simon Trent so he could get his revenge on him for stealing his roles and his wife.[16] Before Clayface could make his final move on Trent, he was stopped by the students of Gotham Academy, forcing Karlo to flee.

Gotham Knights

After breaking out of Arkham to see the re-release of the last film he appeared in before his transformation into Clayface, "The Metamorphosis", Karlo was come upon by Batman and Batwoman. Batman offered Clayface the opportunity to join a team he was assembling, as Batman believed that Karlo could truly make a change in his life if only given the opportunity. Tired of his life as a criminal, Clayface took Batman's offer and joined the team, along with several other vigilantes.

Night of the Monster Men

Clayface, along with the rest of the team, were called in by Batman to evacuate neighborhoods at risk of flooding during an intense hurricane. Clayface split himself into the form of hundreds of police officers to front the evacuation.

During Hugo Strange's attack on Batman and Gotham City, Karlo split himself even further in order to evacuate not just the at risk neighborhoods, but the entire city.

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Dark Nights: Metal

While the Justice League was attempting to apprehend Batman after it was revealed he was meant to be the catalyst for Barbatos' invasion on the Prime Earth dimension, Clayface masqueraded as Batman to act as a decoy to lure Justice League members into the Parliament of Trees to force them into a confrontation with Swamp Thing. However, Superman quickly saw through Clayface's disguise and apprehended him along with Damian Wayne, but not before Swamp Thing had been coaxed into fighting Aquaman and Green Lantern.[17]

Fall of the Batman

After being captured and tortured by the Victim Syndicate, Karlo turned into a raging monster and destroyed Gotham City. As the Gotham Knights tried to subdue him, Colonel Kane gave his daughter Batwoman a bullet containing a chemical capable of dissolving Clayface once and for all. When their attempts to stop him were in vain, Kate takes the kill-shot and apparently kills Clayface. This action leads to a rift in the team and they eventually disbands. However, it is later revealed that he actually survived, and is now powerless. Wanting to be left alone he keeps this a secret and goes into hiding. The only person aware that he survived is Dr. October who figured out that it would cure him.[18]

Infinite Frontier

Fear State

Much later after regaining his powers, Karlo convinced multiple super-criminals to rally in defence of Alleytown against Simon Saint's Peacekeeper drones by promising them the chance to atone for their past actions. With the assistance of Killer Croc, Knockout, Cheshire and Firefly, Karlo attacked a large convoy of Peacekeepers led by Wight Witch.[19] During the confrontation, Karlo rescues Fireflly and Cheshire from an inbound bazooka shot from one of the Peacemaker's and is almost presured to retreat from the onslaugh of drones before Harley Quinn and the Gardener ambush and incapacitate remaining Peacekeeper's. Basil and his crew later accompany Catwoman, Harley and Gardener in rescuing a fractured variant of Poison Ivy from multiple Wight Witch clones and more Peacekeeper's.[20] Karlo covers Poison Ivy's escape as she attempts to make it to the Alleytown docks and incapacitates Oswald Cobblepot and his gang-members when they attempt to interfere.[21]


  • Malleable Clay-Like Body: Clayface's body is made of of thick, mud-like material. He can change shape at will into a variety of forms.[22] He can even take the shape of animals.[9]
    • Size Alteration: Clayface can change his size to fill any need. He's expanded large enough to engulf rooms or thin enough to slip into sewers.[22]
    • Elasticity
    • Density Control: Clayface can make his body as hard as rock in order to smash through cars or doors, but can also maintain a liquid form to suffocate opponents.[22]
    • Superhuman Strength: When Clayface's mass is increased so is his strength. The bigger he gets, the more dangerous he becomes.[22]
    • Superhuman Durability: When shifting the density of his body Clayface can withstand bullets and heavy impacts.
    • Power Replication: Clayface can mimic someone's body right down to their DNA, copying their abilities.[9]
    • Corrosive Touch: Aside from mimicking someone, Clayface's touch can kill and absorb people the moment he gets them in his grip


  • The last film Basil starred in before his accident was the critically acclaimed Metamorphosis.
  • Clayface's father Vincent Karlo, by name and appearance, is an homage to actor Vincent Price who collaborated with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff (inspirations for Clayface's identity) in film works.
  • Clayface's origin story is adapted from his origin in Batman: The Animated Series two part episode, “Feat of Clay”.



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