Name of a number of villains who adopt methods of transforming themselves or causing transformations, including the original Clayface, Basil Karlo, as well as Matt Hagen and later, Preston Payne.
Matt Hagen is a man who uses a weird protoplasm to transform his appearance after taking on a clay form (first appearance: Detective Comics No. 298, Dec 1961: "The Challenge of Clay-Face"). Traditionally an enemy of Batman, Clayface also faces Superman after morphing into his double, complete with super-powers. Superman (along with Batman and Robin) is able to defeat Clayface with Red Kryptonite, causing the mutating menace to lose control over his shape-shifting abilities (WF No. 140, Mar 1964: "The Clayface Superman!").A diabolical villain who possesses the incredible power to transform his body into any form he chooses, merely by issuing a silent mental command. In the moments between transformations, after Clayface has abandoned one bodily form but not yet assumed another, his body is a brown, earthy color and his flesh is soft and malleable, like clay. In reality, Clayface is Matt Hagen, an unscrupulous skin diver whose amazing powers are the result of his inadvertent discovery of a secret pool that â€œshimmers like a trapped rainbowâ€ and is filled with â€œa strange liquid protoplasmâ€ whose â€œfreakish properties defy analysisâ€ (Detective Comics No. 304, Jun 1962: â€œThe Return of Clay- Face!â€). It is only after Hagen commits his first spectacular robberyâ€”and engineers an astounding getaway by assuming, in rapid succession, the forms of a giant python, a buzz saw, and a huge eagleâ€”that an amazed newspaper editor bestows on him the name Clayface (Detective Comics No. 298, Dec 1961: â€œThe Challenge of Clay-Faceâ€). Clayface soon discovers that it is necessary for him to return to his secret pool to renew his incredible powers every forty-eight hours. Although Batman destroys the pool completely in February 1963 (Detective Comics No. 312: â€œThe Secret of Clayfaceâ€™s Power!â€), Clayface succeeds in synthesizing the freakish protoplasm nine months later (Batman No.159/1, Nov 1963: â€œThe Great Clayface-Joker Feud!â€)
In March 1964. Clayface escapes from prison and embarks on a series of spectacular crimes, occasionally transforming himself into the invulnerable image of Superman in order to render himself virtually undefeatable. Ultimately, however, Batman, Robin, and the real Superman defeat the Clayface Superman by exposing him to Red Kryptonite, thus causing the villain to behave erratically long enough for his Clayface powers to fade and vanish before he has had the opportunity to return to his hideout for another dose of his synthetic protoplasm (WF No. 140: â€œThe Clayface Superman!â€).
In September 1964, Matt Hagen escapes from prison again when a barrage of destructive rays unleashed over Gotham City by Brainiac accidentally smashes apart the walls of the prison where Hagen is incarcerated. Not long afterward, after Hagen has renewed his Clayface powers with a dose of his synthetic protoplasm, Clayface joins forces with Brainiac in an effort to annihilate Superman, Batman, and Robin. Both villains are ultimately defeated, however, through the heroic efforts of Superman, Batman, Robin, and Jimmy Olsen (WF No. 144: â€œThe 1,001 Tricks of Clayface and Brainiac!â€ pts. I-IIâ€”no title; â€œThe Helpless Partners!â€). (TGSB) Many years later, Superman and Batman again battle the mutating menace (WF No. 264, Aug/Sp 1980: "Vengeance of the Altered Man!").