Doctor Death (comics)

Doctor Death is a mad scientist and supervillain appearing in publications by DC Comics. The character was created officially by Bob Kane as an enemy of the superhero Batman, and first appeared in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939). He is notable as the first traditional supervillain to be encountered by the Batman, as well as his first recurring foe.

Doctor Death
Doctor Death in "The New 52."
Art by Greg Capullo.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceDetective Comics #29
(July 1939)
Created byBob Kane
In-story information
Alter egoDoctor Karl Hellfern
Team affiliationsScience Squad

Fictional character biography

Golden Age

In his first appearance in Detective Comics #29, Doctor Death develops a lethal chemical agent from pollen extract and enacts a plan to use the poison to extort money from wealthy Gotham City citizens. He is assisted by a large East Indian manservant, Jabah. He decides to eliminate Batman, and threatens to kill someone unless Batman stops him. Batman defeats his two henchmen, but is wounded when Jabah shoots him, though he escapes using a gas pellet. He then gets to Doctor Death's base, meeting him in his lab, and chases him around the building. In order to evade capture, Doctor Death ignites chemicals in his laboratory, presumably killing Jabah and himself in the resulting explosion.[1] Doctor Death next appears the following month in Detective Comics #30. With a new accomplice, a Cossack named Mikhail, Doctor Death is this time successful in claiming a victim in his extortion scheme, but discovers from the widow that the poisoned man lost his fortune in the Great Depression. Batman intervenes in the plot, following Mikhail back to Doctor Death's base, and upon apprehending the doctor, discovers that his face had been horribly disfigured from the lab explosion, resulting in a brown, skeletal appearance.[2]

The scriptwriter for Detective Comics #29 and #30 is an issue of dispute, leaving the creator of Doctor Death uncertain. Batman creator Bob Kane is officially credited as scriptwriter of these issues, though later Gardner Fox, the scriptwriter of Detective Comics #31 and #32, claimed authorship.[3]

Bronze Age revival

After several decades' absence, Doctor Death was reintroduced by writer Gerry Conway in Batman #345 and Detective Comics #512 (1982). Conway's story is an update of the original 1939 tale. In this version, Doctor Death is depicted as a paraplegic, but his deadly gas gimmick remains the same. He is assisted this time by a manservant named Togo.

Modern Age

Doctor Death was revived once again in Batgirl #42-44 and #50 (2003–2004) by writer Dylan Horrocks. The modern Doctor Death is a producer of biological weapons, often selling them on the black market to terrorists and other criminals. He is now depicted as a bald, gnome-like man wearing a lab coat and an oxygen mask. This incarnation of Doctor Death plays a minor role in Batman: War Games Act Three where he is seen working with the crime lord Black Mask, releasing a gas into a crowd of panicking gangsters. Batman suspects that he and Black Mask are attempting to wipe out their competition.

Doctor Death remains active in the DC Universe following the events of Infinite Crisis. In the second issue of 52, he is mentioned as one of many mad scientists who have gone missing. He is depicted later in the series among other captured scientists and mad geniuses on Oolong Island that make up the Science Squad.

He was seen joining forces with Black Mask again in Batman #692, in his Ministry of Science.

In Batman: Streets of Gotham #17 and #18, the reader comes to know of his backstory involving an altercation with Thomas and Martha Wayne.

The New 52

In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, a new version of Doctor Death makes an appearance in Batman #25 as part of the story arc Batman: Zero Year. He is once again established as one of the first supervillains encountered by Batman early in his career. A disgruntled former Wayne Enterprises scientist, Doctor Death murders several people with a serum that causes uncontrolled bone growth. He is depicted with a skeletal appearance, a result of testing his serum on himself. Doctor Death joins forces with the Riddler to try to seize control of Gotham City during a super-storm.

In Batman #29 (2014), it is revealed that Hellfern created his bone serum in an attempt to eliminate human weakness. This was motivated by the death of his son, a soldier who had been sent to locate the missing Bruce Wayne overseas. Doctor Death battles Batman aboard a blimp in the midst of the storm. He is struck by shrapnel from an explosion, which causes his mutated bones to begin growing again, seemingly killing him.

Other versions

A different character named Doctor Death appears in Doom Patrol (vol. 1) #107 (November 1966). In Sandman Mystery Theatre #21 (December 1994) Wesley Dodds encounters a serial killer named "Dr. Death." This Dr. Death is responsible for euthanizing his elderly patients (in a reference to Jack Kevorkian).


  1. ^ "The Batman Meets Doctor Death" (Detective Comics #29 (July 1939)). The Batman Archives Volume 1. New York: DC Comics, 1990. 22-31.
  2. ^ Detective Comics #30 (August 1939). The Batman Archives Volume 1. New York: DC Comics, 1990. 32-42.
  3. ^ Daniels, Les. Batman: The Complete History. Chronicle Books, 1999. ISBN 0-8118-4232-0, pg. 18.
1939 in comics

Notable events of 1939 in comics. See also List of years in comics.

Death (comics)

Death, in comics, may refer to:

Comic book death, the deaths of characters in comic books and the related entry:

The personification of death:

Death (DC Comics)

Death (Marvel Comics)

Death, a member of the Horsemen of ApocalypseOther characters:

Death Adder (comics), a Marvel supervillain

Death's Head, a Marvel UK character

Death's-Head (comics), a Marvel character and enemy of Daredevil

Death Metal (comics), a Marvel UK character

Death Squad (comics), a Marvel Comics team of supervillains

Death-Stalker, a Marvel character

Death Wreck, a Marvel character

Doctor Death (comics), a DC supervillain

Black Death (comics), a Marvel supervillain

Lady Death

Lady DeathstrikeStorylines:

The Death of Superman

Death of Buffy (Buffy comic)

Doctor (comics)

Doctor, in comics, may refer to the following:

The Doctor (Wildstorm), a name given to several characters in the WildStorm universe

Doctor (Doctor Who), the main character in a number of comic adventures chiefly in Doctor Who MagazineIt may also refer to:

Doctor Alchemy, a DC Comics supervillain and Flash rogue

Doctor Angst, a Marvel Comics character and leader of the Band of the Bland

Doctor Bedlam, a DC Comics supervillain and part of Jack Kirby's Fourth World

Doctor Cyber, a DC Comics supervillain

Doctor Death (comics), a DC Comics supervillain and enemy of Batman

Doctor Decibel, a Marvel Comics character

Doctor Destiny, a DC Comics villain

Doctor Doom, a Marvel Comics supervillain

Doctor Doomsday, an Amalgam Comics character

Doctor Druid, a Marvel Comics hero

Doctor Eclipse, a Valiant Comics character

Doctor Fang, a DC Comics character

Doctor Faustus (comics), a Marvel Comics supervillain associated with Captain America

Doctor Fate, a DC Comics sorcerer

Doctor Gorpon, a Malibu Comics character

Doctor Impossible, a DC Comics supervillain

Doctor Light, a number of comics characters of a similar name

Doctor McNinja from The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

Doctor Manhattan, a DC Comics character from Watchmen

Doctor Mid-Nite, a DC Comics hero

Doctor John Miers PHD, an all-round Comics hero

Doctor Mirage, a Valiant Comics character

Doctor Mist, a DC Comics superhero

Doctor Moon, a DC Comics supervillain

Doctor Nemesis, two Marvel Comics characters: Dr. James Bradley, a scientist and co-inventor of the original Human Torch and Michael Stockton, a scientist who used Pym particles

Doctor Occult, a DC Comics character

Doctor Octopus, a Marvel Comics supervillain, known as an enemy of Spider-Man

Doctor Phosphorus, a DC Comics supervillain

Doctor Polaris, a DC Comics supervillain and enemy of Green Lantern

Doctor Psycho, a DC Comics supervillain and enemy of Wonder Woman who went on to become a core member of the Secret Society of Supervillains

Doctor Shocker, a DC Comics supervillain and member of the 1000

Doctor Sivana, a Fawcett and DC comics supervillain

Doctor Spectro, a Charlton and DC comics supervillain

Doctor Spectrum, a number of different Marvel Comics characters

Doctor Strange, a Marvel Comics hero

Doctor Sun, a Marvel Comics supervillain

Doctor Thirteen, a DC Comics character

Doctor Tomorrow, an Acclaim Comics series and a character in the game Freedom City

Doctor Vault, a Marvel Comics character

Doctor X (comics), a Nedor Comics character who returned in Terra Obscura

Doctor Zodiac, a DC Comics character from World's Finest ComicsDoc in comics may refer to:

Doc (comics), a member of the Omega Men

Doc (G.I. Joe), a G.I. Joe character who has appeared in the comic book spin-offs

Doc Samson, a Marvel Comics character

Doc Savage, a character who has appeared in a number of comics

Doc Strange, a Nedor Comics character who reappeared in Terra Obscura

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