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Killer Moth (Bob Kane Batman enemy) (DC Comics)

Killer Moth

(Bob Kane take)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“Remember Killer Moth, the most ingenuous rogue ever to defy the dynamic duo, Batman and Robin ? Perhaps you recall how the weird beam from the Moth Signal summoned the Gangland Guardian to the aid of desperate criminals ? And who can forget the eerie Moth Cave where new and startling implements of crime were produced by this evil genius !”

– Bob Kane


Context

Killer Moth is a late Golden Age  Batman villain, who appeared in 1951. Though he did have an elusive je ne sais quoi, it was faint indeed and he never caught on. Yet he kept returning in minor, scattered roles over the decades. Many of these appearances stem from his part in Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)’s origin.

Due to DC’s reboots and reinventions, we have articles about a surprising number of versions of Killer Moth. These are best read in order :

  1. Bob Kane’s Killer Moth on Earth-2 — this here writeup.
  2. The Pre-Crisis Killer Moth on Earth-1.
  3. 1967 live action Killer Moth in the shelved Batgirl pilot.
  4. The post-Crisis, New Earth Killer Moth.
  5. Same guy, but after he became the monstrous Charaxes.

Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed.
  • Other Aliases: Prisoner #234026, Cameron van Cleer.
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Gotham City.
  • Height: 6’2” Weight: 210 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Brown


Powers and Abilities

An intelligent man, Killer Moth has trained and equipped himself to be the anti-Batman. He’s a great athlete and a skilled hand-to-hand combatant – but he’s obviously no match for the Batman.

Killer Moth also knows everything that was published about Earth-2 Batman’s vehicles and gadgets, and has a well-stocked utility belt.

Wealth and gear

His trick car, the Mothmobile, is a powerful highway beast. Its exhaust controls can release smoke, irritant gas and anaesthetic gas. And while he doesn’t have a Robin, Killer Moth has a pair of revolvers to give him an edge over the Batman.

The Moth’s wealth was tied to his identity as Van Cleer. After Batman destroys that cover, Killer Moth no longer has access to his Wealth and most of his gear (a Subplot, in DC Heroes RPG terms). But he apparently never managed to rebuild any of those after he was gravely wounded.


History

The actual name of this Killer Moth may never be documented. As he appeared, he was only referenced as inmate #234026 in the Gotham State Prison.

An avid reader of magazine features about Batman, #234026 learned everything that was public knowledge. On Earth-1 that was quite a lot, since there Batman was a famous figure. Batman was a quasi-official member of the GCPD and something of a media darling. For instance, interviews were given in the Batcave, and #234026 attentively perused the artists’s renditions of that iconic lair.

The anti-Batman

Over the years, #234026 formed a complex plan. The goal was to become a criminal version of Earth-1’s Batman. When he got out of prison, he recovered his stashed loot – which amounted to a fortune. He then used it to buy and build up the fake identity of the respectable Cameron Van Cleer.

”Van Cleer” gradually became a noted Gotham citizen, but he was also working on far more secretive plan.

Killer Moth's Mothmobile and trophy room

Under his mansion was dug a secret underground lair much like the Batcave ; #234026 killed the workers when the project was completed so it would remain a secret. In his “Mothcave”, #234026 developed the gaudy masked identity of the Killer Moth, and top-notch equipment imitating that found in the Batcave.

The crown jewel of his hoard was the Mothmobile, an impressive roadster matching his costume.

The Moth with the most

The Killer Moth made himself known as a mercenary to the underworld. Just like the police would summon Batman with the Bat-Signal, he gave his clients special infra-red flashlights that could project the Moth-Signal on passing clouds. Equipped with special lenses in his strange helmet, Killer Moth would see the signal and swoop in to solve the problem facing his clients.

When it was pointed out that, unlike Batman, Killer Moth didn’t have a Robin at his side, the eerie criminal observed that he had a considerable advantage of his own. He packed heat.

As Killer Moth answered the Moth-signal for the first time, he routed the surprised police forces that were attempting to arrest the crooks who summoned him. Batman also responded. Though the Caped Crusader had a clear upper hand, the Moth managed to run to his motorcar.

When the Batmobile gave chase the Moth used the extensively tricked-out exhaust to gas the Gotham Gladiator and the Boy Wonder. He then escaped.

Against the Dynamic Duo

Greatly enjoying his victory, the Moth put Robin into a moth-themed death trap. ”Van Cleer” then forced Batman to take him to the Batcave to steal or copy then equipment he couldn’t come up with on his own.

Killer Moth pondering in his Moth Cave

But Robin escaped, learning of this, Killer Moth and Batman ended up duelling on a suspension bridge. Killer Moth slipped and seemingly fell to his death in the river below.

As it turned out, the Moth survived thanks to the “wings” in his costume. He then fled via a convenient storm drain. His street rep was damaged, though – especially after a carful of thugs saw him emerging from the sewers after his apparent death, looking like a drowned rat. The Moth-signal flashlights became a mere novelty in the underworld, and goons stopped using them.

Don’t call it a comeback

As Cameron van Cleer, the former #234026 was part of the board of the Gotham City Museum, along with other idle rich men such as Bruce Wayne. He was thus involved in the decision to buy an expansive collection of Incan moth statues. As Killer Moth, he used this insider information to commit a Gotham-style heist. He hoped that such a daring themed theft would redeem his reputation.

Killer Moth conducted his next theft during the emergency reunion of the boards of directors. Batman foiled him, but the Moth managed to escape. However, the incident left both men certain that they were both among the Museum’s directors in their secret identity. A cat-and-mouse game of surveillance ensued.

Meanwhile, the theft did restore some confidence in the Killer Moth. Thus, the Moth-signal was shone again – but Killer Moth fled the confrontation with Batman, now knowing he was no match for Caped Crusader. Soon after that, Batman determined that Cameron Van Cleer was Killer Moth and stopped him. Captured, #234026 returned to prison.

Moth wanted, part 1

The Moth eventually escaped. But he had no civilian identity to fall back on, and his funds were too depleted to set a new one up.

He decided to take over an existing identity instead, capturing a wealthy man and taking his place. After some research, the Moth decided to take over the identity of Bruce Wayne, and had plastic surgery to become his double. The Moth then bushwhacked Wayne and took his place, locking the billionaire in an abandoned bank vault.

The Moth soon found out who Wayne really was, and even started taking his place as Batman. He used this incredible stroke of luck to persuade criminals that Batman was fleeing from confrontations with Killer Moth, by rapidly alternating between costumes. With this trick he started rebuilding his clientele.

Moth wanted, part 2

The real Batman soon freed himself, and Robin realised what had been going on. The Moth’s whole plan backfired. #234026 was repeatedly shot by a customer, who thought the Moth had led him into a trap.

Killer Moth shooting Gotham cops

Rushed to the hospital by Batman and Robin, the Moth narrowly survived. However, he had suffered extensive gunshot wounds to the head. This resulted in his disfigured face having to be rebuilt, and a loss of memory – luckily protecting Batman’s secret identity.

The Earth-1 Killer Moth was never seen again. It is possible that he never recovered from his grievous wounds.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

At first, Killer Moth was a smooth criminal. He was building up a power base, giving speeches to the underworld, planning, using the element of surprise against his foes, taking Robin hostage – the usual stuff. He also cleverly concealed his identity and attempted to discover Batman’s, while often relying on deceptive tactics.

Killer Moth soon discovered that he was no match for Batman. Thus, he had to switch his tactics to running away to lead Batman into traps and/or escape. He seemed more courageous when it came to facing cops, though, swinging in with a blazing .38 in each hand. If faced with a powerful opponent, he’d try to topple something big and heavy on his opponent (perhaps with a trick shot using his handguns), then run.

Killer Moth enjoyed having his traps, thefts, etc. have a “moth” motif. But this was just a little joke and he didn’t go out of his way to establish this theme. He occasionally left a calling card as a moth sketch on a wall, apparently done with glow-in-the-dark ink. The sketch included a “KM” logo on its thorax, just in case somebody missed the point.


Quotes

“Now to switch from respectable Cameron van Cleer to Killer Moth — and rush to the aid of criminals in my Mothmobile !”

“The first product of the Moth Cave… the Mothmobile ! Complete to these moth-like antennae which warn of approaching danger on the dashboard radar screen.”

“Now to answer the first call for Killer Moth ! Ha, ha ! The crooks who signaled me don’t yet know that my price is two-thirds of their loot !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Killer Moth (Earth-2, 1951)

Dex: 05 Str: 04 Bod: 04 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Criminal
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 009
Init: 017 HP: 025

Skills:
Acrobatics: 04, Charisma: 05, Detective: 05, Gadgetry: 05, Martial artist*: 05, Scientist: 04, Thief: 06, Weaponry (Firearms): 06

Advantages:
Connoisseur, Expertise (published material on the Batman), H.Q. (Expansive – the Mothcave)

Connections:
Street (Low), Underworld (Low), High society (Low, as Cameron Van Cleer only)

Drawbacks:
Secret Identity (his current fake identity)

Equipment:

  • COSTUME [BODY 05, Gliding: 00, Radio coms: 06, Misc: Has special lenses which allow him to see otherwise invisible infra-red beams such as the Moth-signal ; Bonus: Radio coms include a police band scanner ; Limitation: Gliding is only useful to slow falls to a less-than-lethal velocity]
  • Smith & Wesson Military & Police model 10 revolvers (x2) [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 06, R#03]. The workhorse of .38 revolvers for most of the XXth century and beyond likely is what the Killer Moth was using.
  • Steel strand [BODY 05]. This is a swingline, used with the usual comic-book Acrobatics Skill. The strand can also be attached on a discreet hardpoint between the shoulder blades, allowing the Killer Moth to swing into action from a nearby rooftop with both guns blazing.
  • Omni-Gadget (ABC 6 APs). Those represent the content of his utility belt. These are not usually very advanced Gadgets (the known example is simply a small breakable cannister of slippery grease), but it does its job of being useful for the situation at hand.
  • MOTHMOBILE [STR 06 BODY 08, Running: 07, Chemical attack: 08, Fog: 06, Knockout gas: 08, Radar sense: 06, R#03]
  • As “van Cleer”, he wears a special pair of horn-rimmed glasses that allow him to see the infra-red Moth Signal shone on passing clouds, even in his civilian identity.
  • The Crime Lab in the Moth-Cave is dedicated to the researching and prototyping technologies that defeat the Detective (Clue Analysis) Subskill. The one known example was dispensable gun barrel liners which are discarded after every shot and make it impossible to match bullets to the gun.

Design Notes

This version of the Moth appears but three times in short stories, and there is little material to benchmark his abilities. The stats given here are thus speculative. They tend to be more conservative than the Mayfair ones to reflect the fact that the Moth is facing an early Batman, not a 10-05-06 Batman.


By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Batman books in 1951 (DC universe)

Helper(s): dcindexes.com  for a list of appearances ; John Colagioia, Roy Cowan, Dan, Darci ; the Mayfair stats by Mike Stackpole were the starting points for the stats below.

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