Real Name: Arthur Brown
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The Cluemaster is not a bad athlete and hand-to-hand combatant, and can certainly handle thugs and cops on his own - but he's hopelessly outmatched against martial arts masters. When fighting super-heroes, he thus prefers to rely on the plasti-glass pellets attached to the front of his costume to defeat his foes. These pellets variously contain a blinding incendiary flare, smothering smoke, incapacitating gas, and high explosives, among other items. These are released when hurled, making the Cluemaster, as Robin once called him, "a walking Utility Belt !".
The Cluemaster is pretty smart, and is a good criminal planner and strategist. He is also adept at commanding armed groups of hardened criminals in the field to execute complex plans - in several instances he's gone as far as to print out and bind individual syllabuses for each of his men to ensure each knew his place in the plan.
Little is known of the early life of the man called the Cluemaster - other that he was a game show host who was fired and, failing to find any worthwhile employment turned to crime. He created the Cluemaster identity for himself, then for his public debut launched a daring plan in Gotham.
Cluemaster and his men conducted a series of complex robberies in an attempt to learn the secret identities of the Dynamic Duo, Batman and Robin. Convinced the very knowledge that they were facing the Batman was a psychological handicap that gave the Masked Manhunter an edge over his foes, the Cluemaster was determined to learn the Batman's true identity so that he could sneak-attack and dispose of the Gotham Gladiator in his civilian guise.
To this end, the Cluemaster taunted the Batman with a series of topsy-turvy clues, while the Cluemaster's henchmen tracked the Dark Knight Detective around the city. And this plan would have worked too, if not for that meddling Aunt Harriet! Aunt Harriet being a pre-Crisis maid at Wayne Manor, now out of continuity, who suspected Bruce and Dick were the Dynamic Duo and attempted to prove it. While thwarting her surveillance, they discovered that Cluemaster had slipped several tracers on the Batmobile, and on a clue Batman and Robin had taken to the Batcave
Batman and Robin thus turned the tables on the Cluemaster and captured him before he could succeed in discovering the Dark Knight's true identity. They also threw in a few misleading clues of their own to throw the Cluemaster forever off the track. And things went downhill from there.
The Cluemaster attempted several other sorties, usually as a part of a conspiracy of criminals, but rarely registered above the level of a nuisance for the Batman and Robin. He was part of Mister Esper's convoluted plot to have other criminals plot against Batman so he could fight him personally, and also of a "tribunal of crime", a band of villains assembled to determine who had killed the Batman (Batman was, obviously, not dead - and this story presumably never occurred post-Crisis). He was one of the men who worked with the Monarch of Menace when the latter attempted to become crime boss for all of Gotham's costumed criminals - which also presumably never occurred post-Crisis. At that point he dropped crime for a while, and held a straight job in manufacturing. According to Stephanie, he made more in that blue collar job than he ever did as Cluemaster.
During that time, Brown's best buddy was a man named Jim Murray, who was spending a lot of time at his home. With Brown's wife stoned on pharmaceuticals, Murray was Stephanie's de facto baby sitter. He, however, had pedophiliac tendencies and Stephanie, 11, ran away from home terrified. Arthur rebuffed her when she told him why she had fled and told her to shut up, but Murray was later found dead in suspicious circumstances. It is thus possible the only good thing Brown ever did for his daughter was murder.
Cluemaster then became a member of the pathetic version of the Injustice League led by Major Disaster. They fought both the JLI and JLE as comic relief (although they did manage to boost a crashed Thanagarian spaceship for about fifteen minutes), and at one point involuntarily stopped a gang attempting to steal the Dooley Diamond. Hailed to their dismay as heroes, and being a total washout as villains, they attempted to offer their services to the JLI. Thinking it could get them out of the way, Maxwell Lord send them with G'Nort and the Scarlet Skier to found Justice League Antarctica. However, they were embroiled in a fight with killer penguins and Major Disaster razed the place in defeating them. That marked the end if their "association" with the JLI.
The very quirky collection of misfits, however, still considered the idea they could enjoy greater rewards as heroes than as villains. The problem, however, was that despite Major Disaster's grandiose rhetoric, they had no idea of how to do the hero thing, and were reduced to near starvation. They then came up with a plan to rob notoriously rich religious con man Reverend Sun by infiltrating his estate and stealing from him. But that wouldn't be a crime, see - they would be like Robin Hood, stealing from a wicked rich man to give to the poor such as, say, themselves. Their robbery attempt encountered an incredible number of strokes of bad luck and dazzling shows of quirky incompetence, but they eventually escaped with a single gold ingot. Which proved to be sufficient to pay for Cluemaster's accumulated illegal parking fines, leaving the Injustice League no better off than before. They eventually got arrested, and Cluemaster returned to prison.
Cluemaster was eventually rehabilitated by the Blackgate psychiatric staff, and released. However, what had actually been cured was his obsession with sending clues, as well as the odd depressive state he experienced while with the Injustice League - not his choice of a criminal life. He joined forces with a man calling Cutter and his gang, doing the planning for bank heists that turned out to be quite successful, against a modest cut. Cutter eventually turned against him when he suspected he was somehow working with the Batman, and Cluemaster killed him with an epoxy pellet in the face, choking him.
Cluemaster then started preparing a cunning plan to appropriate the money gathered by a telethon event. This meticulous plan might very well have succeeded - but for the Spoiler. Arthur's Brown teenage daughter Stephanie hated her father, and when she saw he was preparing a crime in her home decided to thwart him. Her means to do so had poetic justice - she started leaving clues as to the Cluemaster's crime in his stead, mostly by painting them on tall buildings and by sending puzzle pieces to the police. To conduct this campaign of sabotage, she took the name and costume of Spoiler; once Batman and Robin (Tim Drake) zeroed in on Cluemaster with the help of her clues, Spoiler joined them. In a last ditch gambit, Cluemaster took the inexperienced Spoiler hostage to escape. The Batman then told him it was his daughter, and he was so surprised on unmasking her she clobbered him.
Cluemaster escaped Blackgate, along with the Electrocutioner (03), Cypher (01) and Czonk - then gunned down Cypher (01), having correctly predicted he would attempt to double-cross them. He and his accomplices then launched a well-planned heist, capturing a money transport truck and hiding it on a construction site in a pit they filled with cement. This crime was derailed by Robin III, Spoiler and sheriff "Shotgun" Smith - with the unwitting help of Czonk, who had tried to be a costume super-villain named "the Baffler" and using Cluemaster's old gimmick of sending clues to the police.
Even from prison, Cluemaster was plotting. He allied himself with a thug named Gully Carson, planning Carson's crimes in his stead in exchange for a cut of the take. Carson took Stephanie Brown hostage to ensure the obedience of Cluemaster, who didn't care much; however when Carson betrayed Cluemaster and didn't give him his cut, Cluemaster contacted Batman and Robin and told them he had been "forced" to cooperate and his daughter was held hostage. Robin rescued Stephanie, indirectly avenging Cluemaster from Carson's betrayal. However, Stephanie then made several visits to Blackgate where she beat up her father, with the guards turning a blind eye.
Cluemaster was later used by the Riddler as a bomb-hostage - the Riddler didn't appreciate Cluemaster having used what he considered his schtick. The Riddler slapped a vest full of explosive on Cluemaster and sent him to Batman with a radio, from which the Riddler could give the Batman riddles and lead him in a merry chase across Gotham while he was conducting his real crime. With his life on the line, Cluemaster even helped solve some of the riddles and briefly fought along with the Batman.
During the quake, a large number of prisoner escaped Blackgate prison. A small band was lead by Cluemaster into looting a mall (he took charge since he was the only one with a gun) - but they were opposed by Spoiler and the Huntress. The two women eventually beat them all, several of the criminals almost getting killed by the Huntress. Brown only managed to escape because Spoiler grew scared that the Huntress would kill or seriously injure him, and covered his escape.
Cluemaster even tried to loot his own home, but the only valuable thing left there was Spoiler's costume and Robin's intervention prevented him from running away with it. Cluemaster also associated with Dragoncat to run a "crime school" for a number of young adult thugs they wanted to federate as a large gang, but it didn't go very far and was busted by the police.
In prison, Cluemaster and the Riddler, surprisingly enough, seemed to patch their differences and became buddies. Both were released at the same time due to prison overpopulation, and came to crash (along with the Riddler's henchwomen, Echo and Query) at Arthur Brown's home, to the furor of Agnes and Stephanie Brown - who couldn't afford the legal fees of having them thrown out. The situation was eventually solved when Black Canary barged in and expelled the criminal crowd manu militari. Some time later, the police got wise to the Riddler's and Cluemaster plan and managed to arrest Cluemaster (it is possible the Riddler had intended him to be the fall guy all along).
In prison, the authorities offered Brown a deal - to be part of a crucial mission along with his former Injustice League buddies, all of whom were imprisoned at the time. The risks seemed to far outweigh the rewards, but Cluemaster just couldn't let his inept buddies go to their death, since he by that point had the clearest head of the bunch by far. He had also been thinking a bit, and had oddly come to the conclusion he wanted to do something his daughter would be proud of.
Now a part of the third Suicide Squad, the ex ILers attempted to rescue an American scientist in a military based off the Icelandic coast. The mission went fugazi, and Big Sir, Multi-Man and the Clock king were apparently killed. Cluemaster managed to save Major Disaster's life twice against an onslaught of bio-constructs before dying, but Major Disaster survived the disaster thanks to his sacrifice.
Major Disaster came to an agreement with his mission leader, and was authorized to anonymously contact Stephanie Brown to tell her her father had died heroically on a secret government mission. Some months later, Stephanie was killed while attempting, as the new Robin, to implement a special plan devised by the Batman.
It was later revealed that Brown had actually survived, albeit hideously scarred, to launch a campaign of vengeance against Batman, whom he blamed for the death of his daughter.
Created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino
First Appearance: Detective Comics (1937) #351
View a chronological listing of this character's appearances
#4 Batgirl (2009)
- 'The Brave...and the Bold'
#201 Batman: Arkham Asylum Special (2009)
- 'Batman's Gangland Guardians!'#293
- 'The Testimony of Luthor!'#294
- 'Testimony of the Joker'#336
- 'While The Bat's Away...'#336 (Newsstand Edition)
- 'While The Bat's Away...'#400
- 'Resurrection Night!'#643
- 'War Crimes, Part 2: Minor Discrepancies'
Batman: Blackgate (1997)
Batman: Blackgate - Isle of Men (1998)
#1 Batman: Bruce Wayne - Murderer? (2002)
- 'Cataclysm, Part Eight: Isle of Men'
Batman: Cataclysm (1999)
Batman: Prodigal (1997)
Batman: Spoiler/Huntress: Blunt Trauma (1998)
#1 Batman: The Strange Deaths Of Batman (2009)
- 'Cataclysm, Part Thirteen: Blunt Trauma'
TPB Batman: War Crimes (2006)
- 'Batman: The Strange Deaths Of Batman'
Birds of Prey (1999)
#40 Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985)
- 'Bruce Wayne: Murderer?, Part Twelve: Switchback'
DC Comics Presents: Young Justice (2010)
DC Comics: the Sequential Art of Amanda Conner (2012)
HC DC Retroactive: JLA - The '90s (2011)
- 'DC Comics: the Sequential Art of Amanda Conner'
Detective Comics (1937)
#351 Flashpoint: The Legion of Doom (2011)
- 'The Cluemaster's Topsy-Turvy Crimes!'#607
- 'The Mud Pack, Part Four: The China Clay Syndrome'#647
- 'Inquiring Minds'#648
- 'Let the Puzzlement Fit the Crime'#649
- 'Prodigal, Part Seven: A Twice Told Tale'#705
- 'Badd Girls'#706
- 'Lethal Pursuits'#707
Justice League America (1989)
Annual 04 Justice League Europe (1989)
- 'What's Black and White and Black and White and Bl...'#53
- 'Blown Away'#57
- 'The Descent of... Despero!'#58
#6 Justice League International (1987)
- 'No More Teachers' Dirty Looks...?!'#33
- 'Breakdowns, Part 10: Mere Anarchy'#49
- 'Red Winter, Part 5: Hard Ground'#50
- 'Red Winter, Part 6: The Ice Breaks'
Justice League Quarterly (1990)
Justice League Sourcebook (1990)
TPB Robin: Year One (2000)
- 'Flying Solo'#0
- 'Brothers in Arms'#1 (Direct Sales Collector's Edition)
- 'Last Gasps'#14
- 'Troika, Part Four: Big City Bomber'#14 (Regular cover.)
- 'Troika, Part Four: Big City Bomber'#15
- 'Looking for Clues'#16
- 'All Fall Down'#54
- 'Aftershock: Repercussions'#56
- 'Love Stinks'#57
- 'Date Night'#65
- 'A Blessed Event'#85
- 'Fool's Errand'#92
- 'A Leap of Faith'#93
- 'Close to Home'#94
- 'A Question of Timing'#101
- 'World Without Young Justice, Part Three: Redone by the Vandal(s) of Time'#102
- 'Stage Presence'#111
- 'Dating for the Clueless'
Secret Origins 80-Page Giant (1998)
Suicide Squad (2001)
#1 Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino (2014)
- 'Almost a Good Idea'
The Batman Chronicles Gallery (1997)
The Batman Family (1975)
The DC Comics Encyclopedia (2004)
HC Underworld Unleashed (1995)
- 'The DC Comics Encyclopedia: Updated And Expanded'HC
- 'The DC Comics Encyclopedia'
#1 Who's Who in the DC Universe (1990)
- 'Underworld Unleashed'
#14 Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe (1985)
- 'Anarky to Wildebeest'
- 'Chronos to Cyclotron'
Injustice League (DC)(02 - JLI Villains/Members)
Justice League Antarctica (DC)
Suicide Squad (DC)(04 - Gen. Rock's Squad)
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