The many faces of Clayface, the new Batman 2 villain

Secret Files & Origins: The Mud Pack #1 cover art
(Image credit: DC)

New reports suggest that The Batman 2 will feature Clayface, a well-known Batman villain who many fans were introduced to through Batman: The Animated Series, and who has played a key role in other Batman media such as the Arkham video game franchise.

Even though most Bat-fans have a pretty solid idea (pardon the pun) of what Clayface looks like and what his powers are, there are actually 11 different Clayface villains in the core DC Universe, not even counting Multiverse Variants - and many of them have totally different origins and powers from the version that has become the most iconic incarnation of the villain.

There's even a lesser-known incarnation of Clayface who may just provide some clues as to how the villain could fit into Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson's second Batman movie - especially if Hush winds up as one of the film's other villains.

With nearly a dozen different incarnations of the character in core DC Universe continuity, get ready to meet the many faces of Clayface as we relay the comic book history of the classic Batman villain.

Basil Karlo (Detective Comics #40, 1940)

Basil Karlo

(Image credit: DC)

The original Golden Age Clayface was Basil Karlo, a horror movie actor who began a string of murders when his most iconic role was recast. He initially got his name from the clay mask he wore while committing his murders, but decades later the Basil Karlo version of Clayface gained his own shapeshifting mud powersgoing on to become the most often seen version of the character.

Matt Hagen (Detective Comics #298, 1961)

Matt Hagen

(Image credit: DC)

Matt Hagen was the second official Clayface and the first comic book version of Clayface to have the muddy shapeshifting powers usually associated with the name. Initially, he was a treasure hunter whose physiology was mutated by a strange pool of radioactive protoplasm while exploring a cave, with the effects wearing off about 48 hours after each exposure. Hagen was slightly merged with Basil Karlo for Batman: The Animated Series, in which Hagen was a failing actor who used an experimental anti-aging treatment that turned him into Clayface.

Preston Payne (Detective Comics #478, 1978)

Preston Payne

(Image credit: DC)

Preston Payne, the third Clayface, took the concept in yet another direction. Suffering from a rare genetic condition that caused unchecked growth and change in his body, Payne underwent an experimental treatment at STAR Labs which caused his body to become amorphous, necessitating the use of a containment suit. Rather than having shapeshifting powers, Payne's touch caused flesh and other organic materials to melt and become unstable. He went on to marry and have a child with fellow Clayface Sondra Fuller (more on her in a moment).

John Carlinger (Detective Comics #496, 1980)

John Carlinger

(Image credit: DC)

John Carlinger was a movie producer who briefly stole Basil Karlo's Clayface identity after surviving an attack by Karlo, who seemingly died in the fight. Carlinger committed a series of murders which he attempted to pin on Karlo before Batman uncovered the ruse. He's rarely counted as an official 'Clayface,' though he did embody the role for a single story.

Sondra Fuller (Outsiders #21, 1987)

Sondra Fuller

(Image credit: DC)

Sometimes known as Lady Clay, Sondra Fuller is technically the fourth official Clayface. She gained her powers after volunteering for a transformational process as part of the supervillain terrorist group Kobra. She later formed the group the Mud Pack with Basil Karlo, Matt Hagen, and Preston Payne, even falling in love with Payne and fathering a child named Cassius 'Clay' Payne.

Cassius 'Clay' Payne (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #27, 1994)

Cassius 'Clay' Payne

(Image credit: DC)

Cassius 'Clay' Payne (whose name is a reference to Cassius Clay, the birth name of boxer Muhammed Ali) is the child of Preston Payne and Sondra Fuller, who met as part of the Clayface team-up group the Mud Pack. He has both Sondra Fuller's shapeshifting powers and Preston Payne's flesh-melting abilities, as well as the power to splinter off sentient duplicates of himself which bond with humans and turn them into so-called 'Claythings'.

Peter 'Claything' Malley (Batman #550, 1998)

Peter Malley

(Image credit: DC)

One such 'Claything' took on a villainous life of its own when it bonded with a DEO scientist named Peter Malley, who gained muddy shapeshifting powers thanks to Cassius Payne's symbiotic abilities. His body was destroyed in his first outing, with his remains stored in containment in a special DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations) facility.

Todd Russell (Catwoman #1, 2002)

Todd Russell

(Image credit: DC)

Todd Russell was an enemy of Catwoman whose origins are somewhat unclear, but are likely tied to the experiments by the DEO. After Russell used his shapeshifting powers to commit a series of murders, Catwoman managed to defeat him by freezing his head and storing it at STAR Labs.

Johnny Williams (Batman: Gotham Knights #60, 2005)

Johnny Williams

(Image credit: DC)

Johnny Williams, the eighth Clayface, may wind up having a surprising connection to The Batman 2 if rumors that Hush could be another of the film's villains hold true, as they share a comic book connection. In the original Batman: Hush story, Williams is turned into Clayface after an explosion at a chemical plant. He is later manipulated by Hush and the Riddler into using his shapeshifting powers as part of their conspiracy against Batman. Later, Williams betrays Hush, aiding Batman before his own untimely death.

Clayface of Japan (Batman Inc. #6, 2011)

The Clayface of Japan

(Image credit: DC)

At one point, Batman operated an international network of heroes inspired by his own legacy called Batman, Incorporated. The Batman of Japan, Jiro Osamu, takes on a Japanese version of Clayface who has the classic shapeshifting powers most commonly associated with the villain.

Clownface (Arkham Manor #2, 2014)


(Image credit: DC)

Arguably the weirdest version of Clayface is nicknamed 'Clownface.' Clownface was created when the Joker infected a semi-sentient chunk of Clayface with his Joker Venom, turning it into a bizarre monster under his command.

One version of Clayface plays a big role in Batman: Hush, one of the best Batman stories of all time.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)