Created by Carmine Infantino & Gardner Fox
NAME + ALIASES:
Arthur Brown, aka Aaron Black
Agnes Brown (ex-wife), Crystal Brown, (ex-wife), Stephanie Brown (Spoiler, Robin IV, daughter, deceased), unnamed grandchild
Injustice League, "Justice League Antarctica," Suicide Squad
Detective Comics #351 (May 1966)
Arthur Brown was once the host of a popular daytime game show, but his career came to an end when his show was pre-empted by old cartoon reruns. He blamed people with trivial minds for his failure and entered a new criminal career as the Cluemaster. Cluemaster's first public appearance was in Gotham City, committing a series of crimes to attract the attention of the Batman. The Cluemaster's plan was to distract Batman while his hired thugs sought clues to Batman's true identity. Cluemaster reasoned that striking at Batman as a civilian would be more successful than fighting him on his own turf. Batman quickly caught on to Cluemaster's plot, and used a series of red herrings to catch the evildoer. (Detective #351)
He later joined forces with an army of criminals in an attempt to smother Gotham City in a record-breaking crimewave, but was once again defeated and returned to jail. (Batman #400)
His life changed dramatically when he joined up with a group of other second-string villains to form the second Injustice League. (Justice League International v.1 #23) This band suffered several misadventures before briefly reforming. The Justice League's adminstrator, Maxwell Lord tried to place them "out of the way" by dubbing them an unofficial branch of Justice League International — Justice League Antarctica. They disbanded after their headquarters were destroyed by rampaging mutant penguins. (Justice League America Annual #4)
After this, Brown slipped back into a life of crime. Back in prison, he was treated by a psychiatrist at Blackgate who cured the Cluemaster of his compulsion to leave behind clues at crime scenes. Instead he became the brains behind Wiley Cutter's gang, arranging heists in exchange for ten percent of the take. After the gang's first job he usurped command by killing Wiley. Around this time, his daughter, Stephanie began working against her father. As the Spoiler, she sent the police clues about the Cluemaster's future crimes. (Detective #647)
Cluemaster put Wiley's body in his apartment and rigged it with explosives, hoping to make the death look accidental. But Batman deduced the truth with the help of Spoiler. Cluemaster then hit the Castleland Mall, which was hosting the Gotham Charities Telethon. Batman stopped the robbery, and Spoiler nearly strangled her father with a chain before Batman talked her out of it. (Detective #648)
Cluemaster was put back in Blackgate, where he attempted to orchestrate a jailbreak. (Batman: Blackgate #1) Soon thereafter, an earthquake allowed Cluemaster and numerous other prisoners to escape from Blackgate for real. (Batman: Blackgate: Isle of Men #1) He made a few more appearances (Birds of Prey #39-40, Robin #??) before taking on a fateful assignment with the Suicide Squad...
This villain appeared to meet his end when he rejoined with his former Injustice League teammates for a mision in the Suicide Squad. He took this hopeless mission in order to impress his daughter with an act of heroism. But in their first and only mission, they attempted to rescue Preston Paddington Bayer from Eve, a cloned metahuman. Cluemaster and several others apparently died during the course of the mission. Cluemaster had asked before the mission that if he died his daughter would be informed that her father died a hero, but his request was denied. (Suicide Squad v.2 #1) Brown survived (#12) but was badly burned and spent a year recovering from extensive plastic surgery.
Spoiler investigated his death, but turned up nothing. (Robin #111-113) Stephanie eventually took the guise of Robin IV when Tim Drake gave up the role. Before she could be reunited with her father, Stephanie was fatally injured. (Detective #809) It was later revealed that she sought help from Batman's old friend Dr. Leslie Thompkins. But Thompkins had had a change of priorities. She was fed up of seeing the destructive effects of crime fighting and decided it was better to withhold treatment from Stephanie and let the girl die than continue as an adventurer. (Detective #810) Thompkins hid her actions but Aaron returned to Gotham under the name Aaron Black and began waging a public relations war to find his daughter's killer.
The guise of Aaron Black was aided by the fact that Arthur now had burn scars over his entire body. On television, he revealed Stephanie's identity and history and claimed that when she arrived at Leslie Thompkins' clinic, she was in stable condition. He challenged public officials to find thos responsible for her death, going so far as to indict Batman as well. Indeed, Batman took up the challenge and visited Thompson's clinic only to find she had left. Thompson's assistant, Vera Cesares, was also found dead in her home. Stephanie's file was empty, as was Thompson's home.
Arthur drew fire from all corners, bringing the Black Mask and the Joker into the fray as well. Meanwhile, TV personality Arturo Rodriguez convinced Stephanie's mother Crystal to appear on air. After discovering from clinic inventory that medicine was withheld from Stephanie, Batman finally confronted "Aaron Black" himself. Brown explained that he had accepted the Suicide Squad mission for Stephanie, to make her proud. He'd spent a year in the hospital undergoing numerous surgeries.
The Black Mask tried to murder Crystal Brown on live television and revealed to Batman that he held Stephanie's medical records, which he burnt. The Mask was arrersted and charged with Stephanie's murder but killed an officer to escape. Batman ultimately confronted Stephanie's real killer, Leslie Thompkins, at an African outpost of Doctors without Borders. She confessed to withholding treatment and claimed to have set up a trust fund for Stephanie's daughter. Instead of taking her, Batman set Gotham authorities on her trail. (Batman #643-644, Detective Comics #809-810)
Whether the Cluemaster sticks to the straight-and-narrow and/or returns to costumed adventuring remains to be seen.
Thanks to Tom Tomorrow
Cluemaster has a number of plasti-glass pellets attached to the front of his costume that he can hurl as weapons. These pellets variously contain a blinding incendiary flare, smoke bombs, paralyzing gas and high explosives. The Cluemaster is a competent detective and schemer.
#201, 293, 294, 336, 400
Crisis on Infinite Earths #9
Detective Comics #351, 647-649
Justice League America Annual #4
Justice League Europe #6
Justice League International vol. 1 #23
Justice League Quarterly #4
Robin vol. 2 #1-5
Underworld Unleashed #1-3
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