(Version #3 - Dixon take)
This profile is part of a chronological sequence, which should be read *in order*. The series goes :
- Cluemaster (pre-Crisis Earth-1) – 1966-1986 – start there.
- Cluemaster (the Giffen years) – 1989-1993.
- Cluemaster (the Dixon years) – 1992-2011.
In 1992, writer Chuck Dixon redevelops the Cluemaster as a more interesting character. This version of Cluemaster then gains exposure in his Robin comics.
The Dixon take is the most established version of Cluemaster, and the one with the most material by far. It also draws elements from the sundry previous takes.
This profile stops with the Flashpoint event. Many things do.
- Real Name: Arthur Brown.
- Other Aliases: John Doe, Aaron Black the Reformer.
- Marital Status: Married.
- Known Relatives: Agnes Bellinger-Brown (wife), Stephanie Brown (aka Spoiler, daughter).
- Group Affiliation: Briefly a member of the Suicide Squad. Associate of numerous costumed criminals over time.
- Base of Operations: Gotham City area.
- Height: 5’11” Weight: 169 lbs.
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Blond
Powers & Abilities
His stay at Blackgate did wonders for Cluemaster.
- It cured his depressive, apathetic behaviour.
- It allowed him to forego his compulsion to send clues to the police, which dogged him for part of his career.
- It restored the level of acumen, deviousness and clear thinking from his first appearance (1966 in publication time ).
- The constant violence among prisoners at Blackgate made him a far more dangerous hand-to-hand fighter, and a markedly meaner criminal. He also worked out and became markedly stronger.
Cluemaster is not a bad athlete and hand-to-hand combatant. He can certainly handle thugs and cops on his own. But he’s hopelessly outmatched against martial arts masters, including Robin (Tim Drake).
Brown is pretty smart, and is a good criminal planner and strategist. He has a smattering of solid technical skills for use in heists – how to blind cameras, how to intelligently cut the power, safe-cracking, demolitions…
He is also adept at commanding armed groups of hardened criminals in the field to execute complex plans. In several instances he’s gone as far as to print out and bind individual syllabuses for his crew.
Cluemaster remains armed with throwable, breakable pellets loaded with speciality charges. Demonstrated payloads are :
- Expanding epoxy glue (can render guns useless with a deft throw).
- Expanding waterproofed resin.
- Blinding incendiary flare.
- Smothering smoke.
- Incapacitating gas.
- High explosives.
However, they’re not so much his main weapon as tools he brings to accomplish his heist. If he’s not working on a specific plan, he’ll prefer to just grab a handgun.
During his Suicide Squad mission, he also carried two large (but still throwable) knives.
Continuity, schmontinuity !
This version of Cluemaster is a “soft reboot ”. Furthermore, we can’t know how his pre-Crisis adventures happened on the post-Crisis New Earth.
Still, we can make a few educated guesses :
- He likely was a game show host, but perhaps not as successful as the Giffen take implies. Maybe he was on a local Gotham City channel that went under.
- He likely had one adequate encounter with Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Robin (Dick Grayson), where he almost found the Bat-Cave. Robin: Year One has a press clipping mentioning Cluemaster, though there’s a continuity goof (Brown’s real name is listed on the paper).
- He likely had minor encounters with Batman where he was less than a speed bump. During this time, he did have a compulsion about sending clues to the police.
- He and the other Injustice League blokes likely had some sort of collaboration with Max Lord. But that was off the record. And it probably was less extensive than what is portrayed during the Giffen era.
Perhaps they were deployed as a diversion for a few hours whilst the Justice League was facing difficulties. And later helped guard Lord’s hospital room.
Ne’er-do-well Arthur Brown married a young nurse, Agnes Bellinger. They had a daughter, Stephanie.
Arthur Brown’s criminal career likely followed the path sketched out above. You’re familiar with that stuff after having read the previous profiles.
Remarkably, Cluemaster was never identified as Arthur Brown by the authorities during that span. He always was jailed as a John Doe.
For a time before he joined the Injustice League, he held a normal job in manufacturing. According to Stephanie, Arthur made more during that time as a blue collar worker than he ever did as Cluemaster.
As this era came to a close, Arthur forced Agnes into rehab. He wanted her to kick the pills habit that had been wrecking her. True to form, he threatened to murder Agnes in her sleep if she didn’t check herself in. While this early attempt wasn’t a complete success, Mrs. Brown eventually managed to overcome her addictions.
(Our character profile for Stephanie Brown has additional data about these years. And yes, “circa 1987” is publication time ).
Circa 1987 – the Murray incident
Back then, Brown’s best mate was one Jim Murray. Since Agnes Bellinger-Brown was often stoned on pharmaceuticals, Murray would drop in at the Brown home, essentially baby-sitting little Stephanie.
Being a sharp cookie even at age 11, Stephanie realised that Murray was sexually interested in her. She ran away in terror. Later on she tried to tell her father, but he ordered her to shut up.
Murray was later found dead in unexplained circumstances. Arthur Brown likely forced Jim to overdose on Agnes’ pills while she was in rehab.
As a No-Prize Hypothesis , perhaps Brown then joined the Injustice League to dodge police heat in Gotham after the Murray murder.
It is also faintly possible that Brown left to join the Injustice League as he felt guilty for contributing to his wife’s addiction and having endangered his kid daughter. Though he displays little apparent concern for his family, there’s a recurrent theme that Brown does care. Deep down.
Better living through psychiatry
Circa 1992 (publication time again), Cluemaster was again arrested. He was sent to Blackgate for psychiatric care. The shrinks were quite successful, and thought that he was now rehabilitated.
But the devious Brown covertly remained an anti-social criminal. As soon as he was free, he resumed being the Cluemaster. He approached the brutal criminal Wiley Cutter, as he needed a crew to work with. Cluemaster offered to plan a sophisticated heist, and assist on the scene, for a paltry percentage. The robbery was flawless, earning a quarter mil.
Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Robin (Tim Drake) did locate Cluemaster, finally determining his real name. That didn’t help much, but the paranoid Cutter thought that Cluemaster was betraying them. Cluemaster beat the gang and killed Cutter, fatally choking him with a resin pellet to the face.
Brown then took over the ex-Cutter crew.
Spoiler warning !
At this point, Cluemaster had learned that *someone* was sending clues to the police about his planned crimes. What he did not know was that this someone was his daughter. Now in her mid-teens, Stephanie had created the identity of the Spoiler to sabotage her father’s criminal career.
The Cluemaster’s next crime — stealing a large sum gathered by a telethon — would likely have worked. But thanks to Spoiler, Batman and Robin stopped him. In a last ditch gambit, Cluemaster took Spoiler hostage to escape. Arthur was so surprised to discover Spoiler’s identity that Stephanie clobbered him.
Though foiled, it was a good example of a major Cluemaster heist :
- The traffic on major nearby road had been stopped to slow down police response. On one highway a sniper blew passing cars’ tyres to cause a big pile-up. On a major bridge, another accomplice jackknifed a large semi.
- The alarm cables had been cut, and a reinforced crew (about a half-dozen men) had infiltrated the telethon’s set disguised as extras.
- The immense skylight over the telethon’s stage had been rigged with explosives. Then Cluemaster’s men set chains on the large cash receptacle – full of untraceable bills.
- Then a Chinook flew in to crane the cash away through the blown skylight.
In the death armoured car
Cluemaster later escaped Blackgate, along with the Electrocutioner (Lester Buchinsky), Cypher (Avery Twombey) and Czonk. Brown then gunned down Cypher, having correctly predicted he would attempt to double-cross them.
He and his accomplices launched a well-planned heist. They hijacked a money transport truck and cunningly hid it in a pit they filled with cement. The crew would then come recover the cash a few days later.
But Robin, Spoiler, Sheriff “Shotgun” Smith and Czonk’s stupidity foiled the plan. Cluemaster and Robin nearly died when they were accidentally buried along with the truck, but got out alive.
Cluemaster and Czonk almost escaped later on, during a prisoners transfer. But they were recaptured by Batman (Dick Grayson) almost immediately.
Cluemaster allied with a thug named Gully Carson. From his prison cell, Brown planned Carson’s crimes for a cut. Cluemaster suggested that Carson take Stephanie Brown hostage as a collateral to ensure his loyalty. Arthur Brown saw this as a cheap way to do business with Carson, as he didn’t really care about what happened to his daughter.
However, when Carson stole Brown’s cut, the Cluemaster contacted Batman and Robin. He claimed to have been blackmailed into collaborating with Carson all along. He stated that he only planned Carson’s crimes so Stephanie wouldn’t be killed.
Robin rescued Ms. Brown. Incensed, Stephanie then made several visits to Blackgate where she beat up her father. The guards turned a blind eye to that.
Later on Cluemaster was sent a magic candle by Neron. But he apparently didn’t make any deal with the Hell-lord.
In 1997, Brown set up a complex escape plan from Blackgate. He used the talents of multiple minor criminals such as the Ratcatcher, Gunhawk, Czonk, Actuary, Firefly, the Trigger twins, Cassidy of the Speedboyz, etc.. He even procured an old plan of Blackgate.
Brown succeeded in triggering a lockout, then an evacuation. He and his closest allies then got out to be evacuated by boat by Cap’n Fear. But the modern-day pirate betrayed them all. Most escapees ran aground on a Gotham beach, where they were easily recaptured by the GCPD. Brown was among them.
Mere days later, Riddler (Edward Nigma) sent his henchwomen Query and Echo who busted Brown out of a tribunal.
The Riddler had always resented Cluemaster for having used his schtick back in the days. Thus, he saddled Brown with an explosive vest. Nigma then forced Batman and Robin to solve a long series of riddles lest Brown explode. That left the coast clear for the Riddler’s actual heist.
With his life on the line, Cluemaster helped solve some of the riddles. He even fought to defend Batman after the Caped Crusader was stunned by a gunshot.
In 1998, an earthquake hit Gotham. The Blackgate prison was badly damaged, and numerous prisoners escaped. Albeit dazed, Cluemaster was among them as his buddy Czonk helped him out. Beyond his usual allies, Cluemaster had Monsoon as major muscle.
The band invaded a mall to get clothing, money and supplies. As it happened Spoiler and Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) were already inside, helping wounded and trapped patrons. They arrested most of the gang. However, Stephanie was scared that the brutal Huntress would kill her father. Thus, she let him escape.
Brown returned to his wife’s home in the suburbs. The neighborhood had been evacuated, but he could recover a stashed costume, weapons and some supplies. Robin intercepted him, forcing Cluemaster to drop a stolen Spoiler costume.
Cluemaster then had to run, as the National Guard who was protecting the area from looters had spotted him.
Brown remained in the area, but not within Gotham proper. He again associated with Dragoncat, and they set up a new “crime academy” for random thugs. Brown added his own variant over this plan. The “education” was largely free, but the “students” gave their instructors a cut. It was essentially multilevel marketing in the making.
However, their first batch weren’t exactly Rhodes scholars. They were easily intercepted by “Shotgun” Smith and Deputy Chambers. Seeing that the “students” would squeal, a visiting Dragoncat murdered them while they were in police custody. The county cops nevertheless found the instructors. Cluemaster escaped, but not Dragoncat.
However, Brown was captured later on.
Home sweet home
In 2001, Arthur Brown was released from prison due to severe overpopulation. Agnes Brown agreed to let him stay at her house, though Stephanie was furious. But Arthur’s name was on the mortgage, and Agnes couldn’t afford the legal fees to have him evicted.
Brown had somehow mended bridges with the Riddler. Nigma, Query and Echo thus came crashing at the Brown house. This lasted for months and the place became a pigsty, but there was little the Brown women could go about it. And at this point, both Batman and Robin were incommunicado.
Spoiler started vaguely working with Oracle (Barbara Gordon). Barbara agreed to detail Black Canary (Dinah Lance) to have a look at the Brown household. Upon seeing the situation, the Canary easily thrashed the four criminals. She then threw them all out manu militari.
The Riddler and the Cluemaster nevertheless launched their counterfeiting scheme. It involved encrypted messages in the bills’ serial numbers. But the FBI got wise, and arrested Cluemaster. The Riddler escaped – he may have intended Brown to take the fall all along.
Suicide is painful
In prison, the authorities offered Brown a Suicide Squad deal. He could take part in a covert operation along with his former Injustice League buddies, all of whom were imprisoned at the time.
The risks seemed to far outweigh the rewards, but Cluemaster just couldn’t let his inept friends go to their death. He had also been thinking, and oddly came to the conclusion he wanted to do something his daughter would be proud of.
Now a part of the third Suicide Squad, the ex-ILers attempted to rescue an American scientist in a military base off the Icelandic coast. The mission went fubar, and Big Sir, Multi-Man and the Clock King were apparently killed.
Cluemaster managed to save Major Disaster’s life twice against an onslaught of bio-constructs before dying. Major Disaster only survived thanks to this sacrifice.
Major Disaster came to an agreement with his mission leader. An agent anonymously met with Stephanie Brown to tell her her father had died heroically on a secret government mission. A military officer then gave her papers with the official version of the events, where Arthur had died in a trucking accident.
2005 supposedly saw a Cluemaster appearance. A man supposedly called Aaron “the Reformer” Black, heavily burned and disfigured, claimed that he was Arthur Brown. He supposedly had narrowly survived the Suicide Squad mission.
He went on a chaotic media crusade to establish the truth about Stephanie Brown’s death. He chiefly did so by appearing on sordid muck-racking TV shows. It… errr… it didn’t make a lick of sense. Sorry. The “War Games” era and its follow-up were abysmal.
“Aaron Black” later let himself be arrested, to escape from the 2007 government-mandated mass kidnappings of super-villains . He was still in prison in 2011, having found ways to run a high-tech criminal organisation from his cell. The worst of his disfigurement had been healing, and he launched a plot against Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) using a cult armed with power armours .
Unfortunately, the most excellent Batgirl was at that point rushing to wrap up loose ends before cancellation. There were essentially no explanations about the Cluemaster as the book had but a handful of pages left to say goodbye.
Brown puts less emphasis in his hair than before. But he’ll still wear them long (in a long queue) or at least shoulder-length.
Though he is more muscular than before, the doesn’t look bulky either.
During his Suicide Squad, he and the rest had different (and stealthier) costumes.
After his therapy, Cluemaster was a competent criminal and heist expert. He enjoyed using a large vocabulary, being a sophisticated planner and showing off his smarts. He also had a manipulative, underhanded streak.
He further had ambitions to become one of the Gotham big bads – a costumed mastermind with his own deadly gang, his own henchmen and everything. He was aiming for a high level of fear and underworld respect.
As time went on, he was slowly ground down by lack of success. He was still proficient at heists, but it was clear that any run-in with a seasoned vigilante would end badly. His manner became less sophisticated over time, and he became more prone to anger and fear. His ambition also peeled away.
But while he was noticeably less collected and suave, he still came across as a decent planner and thinker. And his prison break plan to get out of Blackgate in ’97 was good. It would have worked fine if not for this meddling Batman.
The Cluemaster can be ruthless, and murder people without batting an eye. His lack of apparent concern for his daughter is chilling. He has a slightly sociopathic vibe, but nothing major.
At the same time, he’s in control of these aspects. He only kills when it is necessary, and seems to be a decent friend to his long-term allies. He’s wary about excessive police heat. He doesn’t overestimate his or his allies’ capabilities, though he tends to underestimate Robin.
Stephanie theorised that her father had a compulsion to commit crimes, and that the span when he left clues was some sort of bargaining mechanism to assuage his moral side. But she admitted that she was looking for ways to excuse his behaviour after a fashion.
“That’s it, ladies, gentlemen and kids of all ages… let’s have a good old-fashioned panic.”
“Listen up, class. Most banks are a pushover. So long as you don’t panic, and you don’t get greedy. First, seize control. Get customers and tellers to listen to you.”
“Look. The cams’ rotating arms are frosted at the pivot joints. Their security system has been down for a while.”
“Motion detectors. It makes no sense planting them here. Unless…”
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
Cluemaster (Dixon version)
|Dex: 04||Str: 03||Bod: 04||Motivation: Riches.|
|Int: 05||Wil: 05||Min: 04||Occupation: Professional criminal|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 03||Spi: 04||Wealth: 004|
|Init: 015||HP: 005|
Acrobatics: 03, Artist (Actor): 03, Martial Artist: 05, Military science (Demolitions): 04, Thief: 05, Vehicles (Land): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 05, Weaponry (Thrown missiles): 06
Expertise (Technical aspects of a heist, particularly having to do with construction), Familiarity (Psychiatric jargon), Schtick (Disarmer (Weaponry (Thrown missiles), Night-fighting (actually applicable to fog and smoke, not darkness)).
Injustice League (Low), Street (Low).
Misc.: Cluemaster cannot spend Hero Points against his daughter.
If Cluemaster is on a planned operation, he will use the pellets below. If not, he’ll also have a handgun and that’ll be his main weapon.
During his Suicide Squad mission, he had two large knives [BODY 05, EV 03 (04 w/STR, 06 w/Martial Artist), Note: can be thrown].
- Epoxy pellet (x2) [BODY 01, Snare: 07, Grenade Drawback, Note – this epoxy is water-soluble. Sometimes, the payload is instead an impermeable resin].
- Smoke pellets (x4) [BODY 01, Fog: 06, Grenade Drawback].
- Acid (x2) [BODY 01, Acid: 06, Grenade Drawback].
- The pellets present in the previous writeups are *probably* still around, but weren’t clearly demonstrated.
A pellet can also have its top replaced by an aerosol sprayer. It presumably no longer can be thrown in this configuration.
Source of Character: Chiefly Robin comics.
Writeup completed on the 3rd of August, 2017.