Basil Jamal Karlo (Clayface)

clayfacefilmPromotional pic for Gotham‘s upcoming episode Legion of Horribles gave us a look to a popular villain coming to the show: Clayface, portrayed by Brian McManamon. In the show, Basil Karlo will be another one of Hugo Strange‘s gruesome experiments in Indian Hill, and judging from the picture he’ll retain at least part of his original powers from the comics. This marks the third live action appearance of the character: the first one was in the original Batman tv series, where Basil Karlo appeared as a professional criminal with the ability to change his face and to become anyone; he was merged with another similar villain, False Face, retaining his nickname. Another version of Clayface appeared in Birds of Prey, portrayed by Kirk Baltz: this time, he was a man named Cassius, a sculptor suffering from Schadenfreude (taking pleasure, or artistic inspiration as in this case, from other people’s pain), transformed by a scientist in a shapeshifter thanks with a weird formula. When his son follows his footsteps, Clayface is questioned in jail by Huntress and the others. Now, let’s take a look at the original shapeshifting monster.

Not much is known about Basil Karlo’s early life: he lived in Gotham City, and during his youth he became famous for being a horror movie star. Albeit acting in B-list movies only, Karlo landed a number of cult roles that assured to him fame and a following, to the point that he defined himself by the very roles he had brought to life. Growing old, he was hired less and less often, but he still thought of himself as he was a universal star, building himself a heaven of memories and old glories he stubbornly lived in. This house of cards crumbled with Karlo found out the studios were making a remake of The Terror, a classic horror film he starred in, and that they wanted him on set just as part of the advising staff, rather than in the role of the protagonist. This broke something in the man’s mind, and he completely lost control. He donned the costume of Clayface, the monstrous killer from the movie, and he started murdering the cast of the remake, in the order and the way their characters were killed in the movie (he also had clayfacecomics1some bonus, taking out people who from time to time discovered his real identity). His last target was, obviously, the actor replacing him in the role of Clayface, but just before he was about to complete his scheme, Karlo was stopped by Gotham’s two new masked stars, the vigilantes Batman and Robin, who identified him, tracked him down and defeated him, bringing him to jail. The movie star wasn’t obviously resigned to spend the rest of his life in prison, and when the prison ambulance transferring him had an accident, he quickly escaped, feigning his death. His mudering spree didn’t wear off in jail, and he started targeting other actors, guilty to his eyes of shadowing his fame. This time, Karlo got unlucky, as his first target was Julie Madison, the actress who was at the time dating Bruce Wayne: Batman intervened in no time to protect the woman, and Basil Karlo was sent to prison a second time. Old and sick, Basil Karlo was apparently doomed to spend his remaining years (or months) in the prison hospital.

Luckily enough, one of the other inmates was Sondra Fuller, the shapeshifting criminal known as Clayface, who happened to be a fan of Karlo’s; Sondra visited the old actor, who manipulated her by convincing her of the necessity of uniting all the living Clayfaces to form an alliance and finally defeat Batman. The plan succeeded, and Karlo was helped into breaking out of prison by Fuller and two other Clayfaces, Preston Payne and Matt Hagen: together with them, he founded the Mud Pack, a team of shapeshifters bent on a vengeful crusade. However, defeating the Dynamic Duo with the power of his allies had never been the plan: Karlo took advantage of his proximity to the three shapeshifters to take samples of their mutated tissue, and when the Mud Pack was eventually defeated, he imbued himself with the combined samples. The result was astonishing: Basil Karlo was transformed into a hulkling monster made of organic clay, with the ability to shapeshift and to manipulate his own mass, assuming any identity or form he wished. He had become the “ultimate” Clayface, with powers that finally gave justice to his unborn talent as an actor. This time, Batman faced a foe not even him was able to defeat alone, but he was backed up by Looker, a superheroine from the Outsiders: together, they managed to overload Clayface’s new powers, and he melted to the ground, sinking to the planet’s crust. The monster managed to survive, and he absorbed the characteristics of some of the minerals that kept him alive in the underground, becoming even more powerful. Only when a massive earthquake shook Gotham City Karlo was able to escape his prison and to come back clayfacecomics2to the surface, resuming his vengeful hunt for the Dark Knight. When he found him, however, the hero was already battling Mr. Freeze, and Clayface and the frosty scientist started battling each other over the right to kill Batman…who had all the time to figure out a strategy and to defeat them both. Clayface was arrested and brough to Arkham Asylum, but he was finally free from his underground prison, and it would have been only a matter of time before he could escape once again and finally kill the masked celebrity who had stolen his fame: Batman.

Basil Karlo is a narcissistic man, inhebriated by his past of success and glory and constantly seeking to restore his fame and popularity. Obsessed by acting, he believes himself to be a star, and he lives also his criminal activity as the greatest role ever assigned to him. As Clayface, his body is entirely composed of an organic matter similar to clay, which he can manipulate at will, even varying his own size and density; he can shape his limbs as any kind of object or weapon he can think of, but he can also assume the looks and voice of anyone, with Karlo’s natural acting abilities doing the rest to assure a perfect mimicry. He possesses virtual invulnerability and a remarkable super strength, and his touch can be poisonous as well. With the powers of a shapeshifter, now Basil Karlo is the ultimate actor, truly capable of becoming the character he’s playing.

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5 Comments

  1. […] Basil Jamal Karlo (Clayface) […]

  2. […] Basil Jamal Karlo (Clayface) […]

  3. Hmm he looks a little odd to me. Hopefully it gets better. I’d love to see a really brutal but tactful Clayface. Great article. Have you posted this on any other sites at all?

    • Well, he surely looks better than in “Birds of Prey” 😉
      …and I like the reimagining they’re doing of classic characters in “Gotham”, with the introduction of so many iconic villains I think it’ll get even better.
      Thanks! …and yes, this kind of articles are published exclusively here 😉

      • Cool! I actually work for Movie Pilot.com – If you like, I can help you out with getting featured there too if you’re interested? Shoot me an email: mike.fleck@moviepilot.com


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