"Feat of Clay" is the two-part fourth and fifth episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. It originally aired on September 8 & 9, 1992. It marks the transformation of a disfigured actor into the villain known as Clayface.
A strange meeting takes place in an abandoned tramway station in Gotham at three o' clock in the morning, between Lucius Fox and Bruce Wayne. Fox gives a suitcase full of evidence to Bruce, which incriminates Roland Daggett in an illegal scheme to take over Wayne Enterprises through insider trading. Bruce, with a surprisngly rather sinister smile, says he plans to destroy them... and a group of armed henchmen appear from the upper levels of the tramway and try to kill Fox.
Batman springs from the ceiling and stops one of the three thugs, but is stopped short of detaining the remaining two. Wayne, obviously an impostor, escapes, leaving behind a near-fatally wounded Fox, who identifies Bruce as his attacker when he is found by the police, before passing out.
It is revealed that Bruce's impostor is actually Matt Hagen, a former famous movie actor. Hagen has developed a serious addiction to "Renuyu", a dangerous experimental chemical developed by Daggett's laboratories, which allows him to reform his facial features into any appearance he wants. The chemical is necessary to cover the disfigurement he suffered in a car accident years before, and which he has kept secret from the public.
After learning of the failed attempt on Fox's life due to Batman's interference, Daggett orders his henchmen Raymond Bell and "Germs" (a severe mysophobe) to dispose of Hagen, whom Daggett decides is no longer of any need for them (and who will likely testify against Daggett if his Renuyu supply is cut off and his disfigurement revealed). When asked how they will find Hagen, who was apparently a master of disguise even before his addiction to Renuyu, Daggett says that Hagen can be expected to come to them as soon as his supply of Renuyu runs out.
True enough, Hagen breaks into Daggett Laboratories and immediately slathers the chemical on his face. When Bell and Germs catch him, Hagen fails to pass himself off as Bruce Wayne. A fight ensues until Bell and Germs subdue Hagen and pour an entire vat of Renuyu down his throat before placing him inside his car and leaving him for dead. Once they leave, however, Hagen lets out a dull groan as his body begins to mutate.
Turning up Bell's name as one of Daggett's henchman and a likely lead, Batman pursues him in the Batwing and lures him away from the city by hacking into Bell's stolen police radio and fooling him into thinking the police are searching for him. Outside the motorway, Batman forces him off the road, dumping his car to the river and dangling him high up in the sky by a mechanical arm from the Batwing. Batman demands to know who Fox was meeting. Though Bell acknowledges that it wasn't Bruce Wayne, he faints before he can reveal who it was. Police helicopters arrive and demand that Batman hand Bell over. Batman drops Bell into a swimming pool, which awakens him, and the police arrest him.
Meanwhile, Bruce sneaks into Fox's room in the hospital through the window to clear his name, but Fox, visibly frightened, summons the police guarding his door and Bruce is arrested.
Teddy Lupus, Hagen's stunt double and best friend (also the only other man who knows about his condition), finds Hagen's car in an alley. Approaching, he puts his hand on Hagen's shoulder, only to realize it has a consistency like that of clay. Hagen rises and looks into the rear-view mirror. Seeing that he has become a living golem of clay, he screams in horror.
In his trailer, Hagen remembers how he became addicted to Renuyu in the first place: he was horribly disfigured in a car crash years ago, and Daggett approached him, offering to let him be a test subject for Renuyu. Hagen eagerly accepted, knowing that the substance could change his face in seconds, while plastic surgery would take years to correct his disfigurement. But after he became addicted, he became Daggett's henchman, often impersonating people illegally, just to keep his supply constant.
Now an animated mound of clay, he also remembers his past movies and successes, and Teddy is surprised to see his face changing to a normal human's as he walks past his various movie posters. Hagen stops and practices, realizing that now he can imitate any face, any garment, any voice, any shape. Teddy is exultant, believing that Hagen can make another comeback, but Hagen bellows that the shape shifting takes too much effort, and he can't keep it up for long before breaking down in tears that his career is truly over this time.
With revenge on his mind, Hagen reasons that Daggett will send someone else to finish off Lucius Fox, and that person will lead Hagen back to Daggett. He infiltrates the hospital disguised as a male nurse, intent on killing Daggett's assassin, impersonating him and killing Daggett in the disguise.
Meanwhile, Bruce is released from prison on bail, thanks to some phone calls by Alfred. Batman also infiltrates the hospital and catches Germs in the act of trying to smother Fox. Germs flees, but is cornered, to his horror, in a storage closet holding a vast collection of bacteriological and virological samples. Batman places one of these vials, supposedly containing crimson fever (but actually mere seawater), above Germs' head, and demands to know who impersonated Bruce Wayne for Daggett. Germs breaks down and gives Hagen's name, but before he can reveal how Hagen impersonated Bruce, a police officer enters and demands Batman hand Germs over. Batman asks for a second longer but the officer attacks him with a massive clay arm, revealing himself to be Hagen, and abducts Germs.
Taking him to the roof of the hospital, Hagen is about to throw him off the edge, but Germs is rescued by Batman. While Hagen tries to imitate Batman, he is unable to do it fully, and instead attacks him with an array of assorted weapons, from a fork to a massive block of solid clay. Batman, horrified at first at the extent of Hagen's powers, nevertheless realizes his true identity. He barely saves Germs as Hagen escapes by throwing himself off the building and slithering away through the sewers when the police approach.
Hagen, while hiding out at Teddy's house, makes his final plans to kill Daggett, much to Teddy's objections. Hagen finally snaps, lashes out at Teddy and leaves.
On Summer Gleeson's talk show, Daggett is giving an interview about the wondrous properties of Renuyu, as an instant and over-the-counter alternative to cosmetic surgery. An obese woman stands up in the audience, asking Daggett about rumors she's heard that Renuyu is actually highly addictive and has harmful side effects. Daggett, sweating slightly, denies any such thing, but then the woman asks him to demonstrate what an overdose of the stuff will do — and reveals herself as Hagen, much to the audience's horror.
Batman sneaks into the studio's control room. Hagen strikes and nearly kills Daggett, but Batman arrives to stop him. Daggett tries a run for it, but Batman subdues him and begins battling Hagen, who now calls himself, "Clayface".
The fight carries up into the control room. Batman is no match for Clayface's powers, but then he plugs a tape in and turns on all the monitors. Clayface is deluged with images of himself from his acting days, and he loses control as his body reflexively starts to imitate all of them at once. During his spastic transformations, his Bruce Wayne face appears long enough for arriving police officers to see it. Crashing into a panel, he screams as electricity surges through his body and finally collapses. Hagen's face briefly assumes its real — disfigured — appearance, and he laments to Batman that he has just had a spectacular death scene, but won't be able to read the reviews.
Later, with Daggett in custody, Lucius Fox recovers and is relieved to know that the Bruce Wayne who attacked him was an impostor, while the charges against Wayne are dropped. Later on, Batman conducts test on a small piece of clay left behind after Hagen's body was taken away. He finds that electricity, while causing it to randomly morph, has no lethal effect on it, and, alongside Clayface's cryptic description of his death as a "scene," comes to the terrible conclusion that Clayface is still alive.
In the morgue, Clayface's strangely-hollow corpse crumbles into dust. Teddy, in front of the hospital, grieves for Hagen's death, while a young woman laughs in dark glee as her voice deepens into that of Clayface and her eyes glow yellow, revealing herself as Clayface in disguise.
- Clayface does not appear again until "Mudslide", when his body's cellular integrity is found to be decaying.
- Although Batman notes that electricity does not damage or injure Clayface's body, it does seem to be capable of incapacitating him. He is defeated that way in The New Batman Adventures, "Holiday Knights", the video game Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, and Justice League, "Secret Society".
Home video releases
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume One (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- Batman: Kids TV Favourites (DVD)
- Many fans and critics have praised the episode for its dark tone. Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were reportedly so pleased with the episode that they preferred to have it stand alone, and so did not bring Clayface back as a character for a very long time. Similarly, "Heart of Ice" stood alone as the only episode featuring Mr. Freeze for a full season, until "Deep Freeze".
- When Bell is first shown at the "meeting" of Fox and "Wayne", he isn't wearing his headphones, but in the first close-up of him right after Fox is pinned down and knocked unconscious, he suddenly has them on.
- When Bell pours the vat of Renuyu down Hagen's throat, Hagen is still able to yell, "No! Don't!" clearly, even though he should be gagging. Also, when Bell makes it clear that he intends to force-feed him the canister, Hagen does not close his mouth, and instead appears to swallow it willingly.
- It is stated that Hagen's disfigurement from the car accident was a secret from the public thanks to the Renuyu formula, yet in his trailer, newspaper cuttings mentioning Hagen's disfigurement are seen hanging from his mirror. If this news made it to the papers, it seems unlikely Hagen would have been able to explain how his face was repaired so quickly, as he later claims that plastic surgery would have taken a good few years to cure him.
- Upon Germs and Bell's discovery of Hagen in the laboratory, they are both armed with pistols, but afterwards, Bell's gun vanishes, and Germs' weapon changes from a pistol to a rifle.
- After using up the Renuyu cream, Hagen declares the jar is empty and flings it at the window. However, after he leaves, Teddy looks at the floor, and it is clearly seen that there is still some cream left in it, although it is possible that it is too little and could be considered as good as none left.
- Daggett orders Bell and Germs to kill Hagen, yet they do this by force-feeding an entire canister of the Renuyu formula down Hagen's throat and leaving Hagen's dying body in full open view. This would very likely lead to Daggett's arrest and conviction if the police found Hagen's body and performed an autopsy, leaving it unclear why Germs and Bell did this rather than kill Hagen outright or take his body to a safer place.
- When Daggett asks Bell about the man he hired, Germs takes off his headphones when he doesn't respond. Daggett says, "Now then...", and Bell answers him, even though he obviously didn't hear the question (although it is possible that Bell was deliberately ignoring him).
- When Batman goes to Hagen's trailer for clues, he finds the empty jar of Renuyu that Hagen threw at the window. The jar is much smaller and of a different design than what was used by Hagen earlier.
- Upon his release from prison on bail, Bruce tells Alfred that Bell claimed to have known nothing about who impersonated him, but in Part I, Bell passed out before he could tell Batman anything.
- In Part I, Germs appears to be a rather good fighter holding his own against Batman, yet when Batman confronts him in Part II, Germs runs away, terrified of him.
- In Part I, Bruce is forced to sneak into Fox's hospital room through the window in order to confront him and is arrested by security guards watching the door when Fox summons them, yet in Part II, Germs, a man of much less social fame than Bruce, easily enters Fox's room through the door, and when he runs away from Batman, there are no guards present.
- Clayface plans to kill Germs and impersonate him in order to get close to Daggett and kill him, but upon capturing Germs, he prepares to throw him off the hospital roof in full public view rather than hide his body to ensure Daggett won't be suspicious.
- During the Gotham Insider interview, Daggett's armchair is clearly next to a large table where Summer Gleeson is sitting, but in a wider shot of Daggett, Gleeson's table has vanished.
- Batman requests certain of Hagen's films for his encounter with Clayface, yet when he places the cassettes in the recorders in the camera room, the screens merely show an image of Hagen staring at the camera in his film costume as opposed to scenes from the films themselves.
- First Appearances: Clayface, Lucius Fox, and Roland Daggett.
- According to Batman's all points bulletin while on the lookout for him, Raymond Bell is 5'10, 170 lbs, and about 35 years old.
- This episode has some similarities to the two-parter episode "Two-Face":
- An origin story centered around a public figure with a troubling secret (Matt Hagen with his facial condition and Harvey Dent with his "Big Bad Harv" persona).
- Before his transformation, the main villain's secret is kept by a powerful criminal who could easily destroy him (Roland Daggett supplies Hagen with Renuyu to restore his face, while Rupert Thorne keeps the file with the incriminating information against Dent).
- Part I ends with the main villain looking into a mirror and screaming in horror upon seeing what he has become.
- In Part II, the main villain seeks revenge against the one who turned him into a monstrous being.
- The main villain adopts a new name with the word "Face" at the end of it.
- Out of compassion, Batman offers to help the main villain find a cure for his condition.
- Batman is able to defeat the main villain in a psychological manner (overwhelming Clayface by showing him his past roles, and agitating Two-Face by mixing up his coin with others).
- The title is a pun on the biblical phrase feet of clay from The Book of Daniel, 2:33-45, used to indicate a weakness or a hidden flaw in the character of a respected person:
|“||Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image ... his feet part of iron and part of clay. ... And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.||”|
— Daniel, 2:33-45
- The episode shares its title with an episode of the short-lived Birds of Prey TV series, which also featured Clayface.
- The Imperial Pictures lot bears a striking resemblance to the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank, California.
- Over the years, there was a rumor that Max Shreck, the tertiary (later secondary) antagonist of Tim Burton's 1992 movie Batman Returns was originally meant to be featured in the episode along his company Shreck's, but he was ultimately replaced by Roland Daggett and Daggett Industries in the series. However, Bruce Timm has debunked the rumor.
- This episode has a similar subplot to the feature film Catwoman, as both stories feature a rejuvenating cream with harmful side effects, addictive properties, and some superhuman enhancement.
- This episode also has a similar subplot to Christopher Nolan's 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises, as both stories feature Daggett, in the latter renamed John Daggett, joining forces with supervillains to take over Wayne Enterprises by unethical and illegal means, though the supervillains are Bane and Catwoman instead of Clayface. Daggett betrays Catwoman early on in the film, making him her target for revenge like in "Batgirl Returns", but he is later betrayed and killed by Bane.
- Part II was nominated for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition; it lost to Tiny Toon Adventures. "Cat Scratch Fever" was also nominated the same year for the same award.
|Kevin Conroy||Bruce Wayne/Batman|
|Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.||Alfred|
|Ed Asner||Roland Daggett|
|Ed Begley, Jr.||Germs|
|Mari Devon||Summer Gleeson|
Fat Woman (uncredited)
Young Woman (uncredited)
|Ron Perlman||Matt Hagen/Clayface|
|Brock Peters||Lucius Fox|
|Scott Valentine||Raymond Bell|
|Dick Gautier||Teddy Lupus|
Wayne's Lawyer (uncredited)
Batman: (Intimidating Germs) Hmm, crimson fever. Lousy way to go. No cure, you know.
Batman: (trying to identify Bell) I know my fist has landed on that jaw once before.
Clayface: What are you doing? Stop it!
Clayface: You know what I'd have given for a death scene like this? (Transforms to his disfigured face) Too bad I won't get to... read the notices.
Batman: I wouldn't be surprised if the body they took to the morgue was just a shell. Don't forget, Hagen was once an actor. He said so himself. He called it a "scene", maybe the greatest scene of his career. A death scene so real, he fooled us all.