REVIEW: Detective Comics Annual #1 The Origin of Clayface

Basil Karlo the Second Clayface, and a retelling of his origin story. The tragic nature of the man from famous actor to Clay-faced criminal.


Detective Comics # 973
Writer:  James Tynion IV
Artist:  Eddy Barrows
Inker:  Eber Ferreira
Colorist:  Adriano Lucas
Letterer:  Sal Cipriano
Cover Artist:  Eddy Barrows & Adriano Lucas
Editors:  Chris Conroy, David Wielgoz & Jamie S. Rich
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:
Basil Karlo is a boy that idolized his father. The creature effects that he made for movies seemed to come to life when he would gaze at the empty masks in his Father’s study. His Father teaches young Basil a thing or two about his secret. It’s a special chemical from The Dagget Corporation called Renu. It was meant to reshape Plastics without heating them, but his Father found that by adding this to a bit of wax and puty, a face can be completely reshaped to anything.

Vincent Karlo was the creator of many of the Monsters of the Golden age of film, and after his secret was discovered he was blacklisted into financial ruin. He became a Pariah, who was never permitted to work in the Industry again. Leaving him a Bitter and tired old man, who tells his son that it was because of this Chemical that they both loved his creations, and hated him. Young Basil Learns a valuable lesson that day.

What You’ll Find Out:
Present day and Basil Karlo is the toast of Hollywood. Coming off of a recent successful string of pictures, Basil’s star is on the rise. He tells his agent and his Girlfriend Glory that he wants this one role most of all. A role in a film called “Second Skin”, a period piece Drama about a silent Film Actor who murders the actor who will be replacing him in a remake in a talkie picture. Basil sees this a redemption for him and his Father, in this deeply personal role. His Agent disagrees, but Glory is supportive, but after landing the role he will have to relocate to Gotham. basil, is on top of the world, what could possibly go wrong?

As he takes the call to find out he has the Part, a second call comes in. A stranger tells him that his father Vincent has died. Basil Careens out of control and crashes his car at full speed!


What Just Happened?

Waking up in the Hospital, Basil is in shock and asks for the Mirror.

Basil’s Career is over, as with the chances of the role of a lifetime in Second Skin. He leaves the hospital otherwise unscathed to settle his Father’s affairs. While going through his Father’s things he comes across some Renu, and it gives him an idea.

Using his Father’s trick, Basil Re-sculpts his face. He shows up at the Director’s office in pristine shape. His Manager and Glory are astounded! Glory confronts him, and he tells her to mind her own business.

Fast Forward to a conversation between Batman and Commissioner Gordon. They are talking about a string of Thefts at Dagget Industries, that seem to have been committed by doppelgangers of the Guard staff. They seemed to have the same face, but the Guards themselves had “Iron-Clad” Alibies at the time of the crimes. They know that the crimes are all about the Chemical called Renu, that was removed from the market and banned after it melted the hands of some workers that used it. batman has a lead on what the next target will be, and confronts Basil.


The confrontation leaves Basil’s face severely damaged and him in the hospital. Batman asks Basil to testify against Dagget, as they will not be pressing charges, and he gives him a choice to aid them in putting Dagget away.


After Batman leaves, the Director of “Second Skin” Veronica St. Clair pays him a visit. She explains that her original intent was to tell Basil that she hired him for the look in his eyes, not his face, and that he had the part regardless of his accident. She can no longer stomach this based on his current criminal history, and the film will have to proceed without him.

Basil, apparently has made his choice. He attempts to break into the Courthouse and steal the Remaining Renu for himself. The Police Officers are aware of a reward that Rolland Dagget posted to keep Basil from testifying and they shoot him next to the supply of Renu. It completely engulfs him and he melts to a puddle of protoplasm beneath their feet. Thus Clayface was born!

As time goes By we see a new actor on the set of “Second Skin”, which is just about to begin the shooting in Gotham. Batman abruptly interrupts them and states” You all need to Run, Now!”

As Clayface invades the Set, hell-bent on his revenge.


Basil fights Batman, and steals the new actor. He is confronted by his old Flame Glory, and he tells her the speech his Father said to him, “Don’t you get it Glory? Ther’s a Monster inside of Everybody. Don’t Believe me? Here let me show you.”


The story ends with Basil holding the last jar of Renu, which he douses on Glory.

Rating:  9 / 10

Final Thought: 

This story immediately made me think of the old episode of Batman the Animated Series titled “Feats of Clay”. That was a story very similar about the first Clayface Matt Hagen, but strikingly similar to Basil’s story. This was a deep tale about the choices we make and the mistakes that we sometimes repeat. I think that this story is a must for any Clayface fans, especially if you have been reading the current run of Detective Comics. I love a good origin story, and Basil was due for his. The scenes with his Father are heart wrenching, and we can see a deeper motivation for acceptance in the character as a result. I think the best part of this book, is that it will have future influence on how we see the character of Clayface as a character. A Great Read!

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