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Here’s why Clayface should be the main villain in The Batman Part II

While acclaimed horror filmmaker Mike Flanagan (Doctor SleepThe Haunting of Hill House) brushed aside Deadline‘s report of him helming a solo Clayface movie on Twitter, that same piece also slipped in that the villain might play a significant role in Matt Reeves’ The Batman Part II. That news comes across as exciting and curious, as Reeves typically has a passion for presenting fantastical elements through a more realistic lens.

And since the most famous renditions of the classic supervillain are essentially colossal mud monsters, that might be tough to pull off with the current iteration of the Dark Knight. Reeves and Robert Pattinson’s take on Batman and his budding cinematic universe are steeped in gritty crime-noir, but Clayface’s inherently tragic origins and presence he brings shouldn’t disqualify him either. Basil Karlo’s acting background and Phantom of the Opera influences could easily make him a foreboding presence in The Batman Part II without feeling out of place.

Modernizing the “Golden Age”

Split image of the Golden Age and modern versions of Clayface, respectively.

Many fans likely assumed after the rumors and reports began circulating that Reeves would likely use the “Golden Age” version of Clayface, should he use such a villain at all. This iteration of the Batman antagonist was a vengeful, spiteful actor-turned-serial-killer who became furious that they were remaking the horror film he originally starred in, leading him to adopt the moniker of the villain he played to hunt down the cast.

It makes sense for something like The Batman universe, as it’s still hard to imagine Pattinson’s Dark Detective fighting a 20-foot-tall clay monster, but that might also feel derivative of what last year’s movie tackled. But even in the modern era of DC Comics, the comic book source material has made Basil Karlo the most well-known version of Clayface, even blending his acting origins with the monstrous depiction of later versions that are more popular.

And as grounded as The Batman is, Part II arguably doesn’t need to strip all of the fantastical elements from the villain to make him work. As TV shows like Batman: The Animated Series and even comics as recent as the Clayface-centric one-shot Batman One Bad Day: Clayface has shown, there’s plenty of exciting room for a humanized sense of tragedy and macabre body horror to work in Reeves’ character-driven stories.

Finding common ground between realism and fantasy

Xermanico's art of Clayface facing off against Batman in One Bad Day.

While taking away all of the clay-like shapeshifting elements of the villain would make him feel like just another serial killer and going full-blown “movie monster” would feel jarring to Reeves’ grounded approach, a combination of influences from the source material and other horror movies could help Clayface find a healthy common ground.

As depicted in the episode Feat of Clay from Batman: The Animated Series, connecting the Basil Karlo iteration of the villain, his self-obsession with performing, and the chemical substance that transforms him into the grotesque Clayface could be connected to the organized crime element of The Batman Part II. Colin Farrell’s Oswald Cobblepot is set to make waves in Gotham City’s underworld in HBO Max’s The Penguin, and he could be the one keeping Karlo on a string through drug addiction, blackmail, or both.

And even though The Batman Part II is unlikely to venture into outright horror, movies like The Phantom of the OperaThe Thing, and perhaps even The Invisible Man provide templates to build tension around Clayface’s role in the story. The motive would certainly need to be different from Paul Dano’s Riddler, but this villain could give off an enticing “who can you trust?” angle to a new detective thriller.

Split image of Basil Karlo as Clayface in One Bad Day.

The threat wouldn’t revolve around the identity of the culprit, rather, it would be about how the culprit could be anywhere and almost anyone. In terms of the physical horror aspect, the latter two horror films could also provide some inspiration, but the recent One Bad Day: Clayface one-shot by Collin Kelley, Jackson Lanzing, and Xermanico shows how unsettling Clayface can be even when human-sized.

Xermanico’s art style and character design for Karlo’s more grotesque forms and shapeshifting abilities are a solid blueprint, but so is Kelley and Lanzing’s dialogue for the villain. Reeves is no stranger to delving into the realm of emotion and the psyche, and some increasingly unhinged internal monologuing while impersonating various identities would absolutely fit the director’s noir style.

Paving the way for more fantastical villains

Split image of Mr. Freeze in Batman Annual, Robert Pattinson in The Batman, and Clayface in One Bad Day.

In the first movie, the street-level scope and grimy crime-noir atmosphere perfectly emphasized Batman’s detective traits, but should these reports pan out and Clayface becomes a prominent part of The Batman Part II, the door might be creaking open for more bizarre villains. Even if Reeves’ take is relatively grounded, the director has managed just fine in showcasing alien invasions and talking apes that feel “real.”

Between the creative liberties that could take Basil Karlo’s acting origins and the body horror of later incarnations and make something believable, there’s even room for some clever meta-commentary on the ruthlessness of show business to give the villain a unique drive.

James Gunn and Peter Safran’s Batman in The Brave and the Bold will surely aim to differentiate itself in the mainline DCU with more fantastical elements. But considering Caesar in the Planet of the Apes movies somehow made an inherently campy concept both serious and intimate, it shouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility that Mr. Freeze can get his theatrical redemption in Reeve’s Bat-verse.

The Batman played it fairly safe when it comes to the fantasy of the superhero genre, but Clayface in The Batman Part II can begin to dip this universe’s toes further into the bizarre without giving fans a case of tonal whiplash. More importantly, unlike Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, and the Riddler, audiences still haven’t seen a live-action, big-screen version of Clayface. With The Batman Part II, the time is right for the villain to make his debut and give Batman a formidable nemesis to battle.

DC Studios and Matt Reeves’ The Batman Part II releases in theaters on October 3rd, 2025, and The Batman is available to stream now on HBO Max.

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Guillermo Kurten
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