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|As a result of the New 52 in 2011, the entire line of DC characters was relaunched, incorporating properties belonging to the company's imprints: Wildstorm, Milestone, and Vertigo. As such, elements of this character's history have been altered in some way from the previous incarnation. For a complete list of all versions of this character, see our disambiguation page.|
Doctor Death was an enemy of Batman early in his career.
A member of a family of soldiers since at least World War II, Doctor Karl Helfern was a scientist working for Wayne Enterprises. Hired by Lucius Fox, along with fellow doctors Bill Kelver and Del Paji, he was known as the smartest among the group, working with nano-medicine to try and create a serum to make human bones harden upon impact to prevent breakage. The experiments were a failure and, presumably, led to his decreasing mental stability.
A variety of factors pushed Helfern over the edge. The first was the death of his son in the Middle East, which left him to believe that there was no sentimental force that could save people. The second was the loss of his job at Wayne Enterprises. Struggling to continue his research, he was approached by a pattern recognition expert, Edward Nygma, who agreed to fund the rest of the work, and inadvertently inspired the breakthrough which got the process working. Helfern, taking the name "Doctor Death", killed the other members of his research group by injecting them with his failed formula, causing their bones to grow uncontrollably and rip them apart from the inside.
Helfern faced the vigilante Batman on top of a weather balloon that the Riddler had placed above Gotham that, when the city power turned on, would give him full control of the city. The vigilante incapacitated Helfern by breaking his bones so they would regrow in an irregular fashion. Trapped by his own malfunctioning biology, Helfern admitted that he admired the reinvention narrative he had heard espoused recently by Bruce Wayne, before his struggle against his own skeleton cause his skull to crush his own brain, presumably killing him.
Powers and Abilities
- Superhuman Strength
- Regeneration: Because of the experiments, Dr. Helfern is able to recover from bone-breaking injuries, although with a disgusting wound.
- Chemistry: Helfern was a genius scientist who took his work too far and had no respect for life. His experiments, using himself as a specimen occasionally, only worked partially. Even years after his death, he was widely known for creating a regenerative formula for hard tissue, specifically bones.
- Doctor Death was created by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane, first appearing in Detective Comics #29. However, in the Prime Earth continuity, Doctor Death first appeared as part of the New 52 DC Universe in Batman (Volume 2) #25 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.
- 7 Appearances of Karl Helfern (Prime Earth)
- 10 Images featuring Karl Helfern (Prime Earth)
- Quotations by or about Karl Helfern (Prime Earth)
- Character Gallery: Karl Helfern (Prime Earth)