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Death-Man (Batman enemy) (DC Comics) (Silver Age)

Death-Man


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

Context

As usual there is a sinister and hidden reason behind all this.

Batman #180 is the first comic book Mark Waid read, and it made him a lifelong fan of the genre. Since over the decades Waid has produced a lot of fan-favourite material in all sorts of super-hero comics, I thought I’d salute his work with a Death-Man entry.

Was Death-Man that cool and inspirational ? Well, keep in mind that Mr. Waid was aged 3.

While this profile was being written, Death-Man made his surprising return under Grant Morrison’s pen. What were the odds ? There even were further appearances after that — which also clarified stealth references to Japanese Batman stories — but that came after this profile was done.


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Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed.
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Leads his own crew of costumed henchmen.
  • Base Of Operations: Gotham City.
  • Height: 5’9” Weight: 165 lbs.
  • Eyes: Unrevealed Hair: Unrevealed.
  • Distinguishing feature: Skull mask permanently affixed to head ; costume attached to the body (though a surgeon can remove it given time).


Powers and Abilities

Originally, Death-Man is just a guy with a gun. I assumed that he was adequate at athletics and fighting since he has a costume and is a super-villain.

But that is not strongly supported by the primary material – since his main trick was to die. Death-Man has mastered a yogic technique instantly plunging him into a profound catalepsy. Barring a sceptical, skilled medical examination this is indistinguishable from death.

He heavily banks on this. Back then, people suddenly dropping dead were not autopsied but simply declared dead and buried… or at least, that’s how it worked in comic books. His gang would then unearth him days later, and break his trance.


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Mystique

Death-Man was confident that this trick allowed him to escape the law whenever he wanted. This confidence combines with manic, almost hysterical intensity to give him an overwhelming presence.

Even Batman was impressed by Death-Man’s confidence and had nightmares about him. Though admittedly it was the goofy 1960s Batman.

Death-Man’s demented laugh is particularly chilling.

Death returns

Decades later, Death-Man had become far more dangerous. His action skills are more clearly demonstrated, and he has in a sense inverted his motif. His trick is no longer to die — his trick is that he cannot be killed.

See the “Big in Japan” section in the game stats for more.


History

Death-Man is an obscure Silver Age  villain. In 1966, he met with Batman in a short series of battles. Each time Batman would arrest him, Death-Man would will himself to die. This left little recourse to the law but to bury the corpse.

Death-Man threatens Gotham socialites in his vintage appearance

But Death-Man kept mysteriously coming back. This gave literal nightmares to Batman. And arresting him was of course pointless.

Bruce Wayne later saw a yogi demonstrating a similar technique. He and Robin rushed to the graveyard to examine the seeming corpse of Death-Man, but fell into an ambush. The clash did not go terribly well for the Dynamic Duo and Batman was wounded. However, at the last moment, a lightning bolt struck the gun Death-Man was holding. It electrocuted him as if on the chair.

Presumably, something broadly similar occurred in the post-Crisis New Earth. During Death-Man’s 2000s return, Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne mentioned that they already had clashed with him.

Tōkyō drift

Death-Man not only survived. He somehow found a trick that made him impossible to kill, and presumably immortal.

From that point on, Death-Man (who eventually renamed himself Lord Death-Man) dropped off the radar. Apparently, that was because his plans were now very slow and deliberate, building up over years.

Even more insane than before, Lord Death-Man now viewed himself as an agent of murder, violence and chaos. Upon learning that Japan experienced an extremely low rate of violent, anti-social crime, he decided to “take them to school”. Death-Man apparently spent years meticulously planning an over-the-top, sadistic crime wave and terrorism campaign.

This onslaught would kill off most major Japanese crime-fighters. It would also horrify the public through such attacks as blowing up school buses used by handicapped children.

Mister Unknown

Lord Death-Man took Japanese mystery man Mister Unknown by complete surprise. Mister Unknown was actually two men :

  1. The original, who was now aged and mostly did detective work.
  2. His younger associate Jiro Osamu, who was doing the physical work.

Death-Man gives orders to his Japanese henchmen

The original was gruesomely killed by Death-Man. But Osamu-san survived and received some unexpected help. Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Catwoman (Selina Kyle) had just come to Japan to recruit him.

Being familiar with Death-Man, Batman deduced what the next step of his plan would be. Thus, the three heroes reacted in time to prevent the murder of the popular but not terribly competent Shiny Happy Aquazon, of the Super Young Team.

Given Lord Death-Man’s murder mania, Batman arranged for the madman to be crammed into a small capsule. It was then put in orbit by either the Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency or a local Waynetech firm.


Description

See illustration.


Personality

Originally, Death-Man was a murderous weirdo criminal. He talked in that terrible faux-hip 1960s lingo and kept making schlocky, weak puns.

Death-Man had a morbid motif and liked delivering obviously rehearsed (oh oh oh) lines. Alternating between the corny, dated puns and the morbidly poetic statements made for strange dialogue.

Death-Man and his Japanese henchmen

His Yogic trick made him very, very confident that he would always escape from the law. Since, well, it worked.

Decades later, he had become a demented agent of death, chaos and suffering. In several ways, Lord Death-Man’s modus operandi is reminiscent of the movie version of the Joker (the 2008 Heath Ledger interpretation), though he’s not quite as brilliant.

He just wants to terrorise, kill and maim through complex plans that rely on surprise, time tables and shock. His manic, nearly hysterical intensity has heightened. And the puns are completely gone and are replaced by a emphatic fixation on death and mortality.


Quotes

1966 quotes

“If any of you are rash enough to try to stop me — my henchmen will see that you reach a dead end ! Ha ha ha ha !”

“Ha ha ha ! Do you really think you’ve captured me ? You’ve nothing but the black shadow of death in your hands ! I can drift right between your fingers like smoke — anytime I wish !”

Death-Man vs. Batman (Bruce Wayne)

(As a judge sentences him to death) “Ha ha ha ! Do you really think you have the power to sentence me to death ? I — and I alone possess the power over life and death ! I am beyond your feeble laws ! You can no more jail a shadow — or punish it – than m-m-m-…” (makes himself seemingly die)

2011 quotes

(Addressing his henchmen) “I’m back, men of death. Like I promised. No graves deep enough to hold mighty Lord Death-Man, didn’t say I ? Playtime for the reaper !”

“Did you ever wonder what it’s like to be dead ? Let me tell you, it’s soul-black dark on the far shore and there’s this smell… but grim oblivion’s time out for me, that’s all. And we have a timetable to keep.”

“Heeheehee ! I found a way to resist death itself, but you’ll never know my secret ! You think I value life ? I wear the grin beneath the skin, the future seen in every smile.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Death-Man (vintage stats)

Dex: 04 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Power ! Ha ha ha ha !
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 05 Occupation: Criminal ! Ha ha ha ha !
Inf: 06 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 015 HP: 020

Powers:
Suspension: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:
Suspension is practically indistinguishable from death (OV/RV 06/06 Medicine (Medical Treatment) roll to detect it).

Skills:
Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Firearms): 04

Advantages:
Familiarity (Yogic techniques), Iron Nerves.

Connections:
Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance (his uniform is grafted onto him and cannot be removed).

Equipment:

  • Colt M1911A1 .45 [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 04, Ammo: 07, R#02] plus two extra magazines.
  • BLACK FUNERAL COACH [STR 05 BODY (Hardened Defences) 08, Running: 06, R#02]. This hearse is bulletproof.

In the death car

Back in the days, Death-Man usually operates with a crew of six costumed gunsels. They have standard connected thug stats, and a .45 plus two clips like their boss. After he “resurrects” himself, he’ll hire a new crew as the previous one will almost certainly still be in prison.

Death-Man’s immense confidence and manic intensity bolstered his gunsels. They would usually share the contagious recklessness and blood thirst of their boss despite lacking similar means to escape their punishment.


Big in Japan

35 year after his original appearance, Death-Man returned. He now called himself Lord Death-Man. There were important evolutions while he was off-panel , namely:

  • The main difference is that he acquires Regeneration: 05. Furthermore, one remark strongly implies that he also has the Immortal Advantage. This Regeneration works even after death (unless the corpse is atomised). The tissues keep fixing themselves until Lord Death-Man is in good enough shape to recover consciousness.
  • He now has a SIA toward causing death, suffering and chaos. His Motivation has become Psychopath.
  • His Wealth seems to be higher. But he states that he builds his death-traps and other resources-consuming assets over several years and plans long-term. So it might be just a 005 and good budgeting.
  • The hearse was replaced by a loud muscle car, and his henchmen drove sports convertibles following Lord Death-Man’s car.
  • Lord Death-Man’s was often armed with a 1928 Thompson submachinegun with the distinctive drum magazine. It uses badass tommygun stats [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 10, R#03, Advantage : Autofire, Edge (Projectile weapons)].
  • He tends to theme his traps, the equipment of his henchmen, and the like to his current crime – or the country he’s currently in. Lord Death-Man is deliberately cheap and clichés-happy with it. For instance in Japan his henchmen had katanas, and his death-traps relied on grabbing women with giant tentacles.
    However, this silly local colour stuff hides a pattern of leaving thematic clues like in Silver Age Batman stories. For instance all the murders in Japan had a hidden theme of water, which allowed Batman to deduce who the next target was going to be. Just like in the old stories of Death-Man’s time.


Game Stats — DC Adventures RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Death-Man — Averaged PL 5

STR STA AGL DEX FGT INT AWE PRE
001 004 001 002 002 002 001 002

Powers

Whatcha Doin’, Yogi? • 002 points • Descriptor: Skilled, Yogic Techniques
Dead End — Enhanced Advantage (Trance), Insidious (Treatment DC 20 to detect he is alive).

Combat Advantages

Fearless, Move-by Attack, Takedown.

Other Advantages

Equipment 5, Minions (various, typically about six thugs).

Skills

Athletics 2 (+3), Close Combat: Unarmed 3 (+5), Deception 3 (+5), Expertise: Criminal 4 (+6), Expertise: Mysticism 2 (+4), Insight 4 (+5), Intimidation 3 (+5), Perception 4 (+5), Persuasion 2 (+4), Ranged Combat: Guns 3 (+5), Vehicles (Limited 2, land only) 4 (+6).

Equipment

Colt M1911A1 .45 Ranged Damage 3 • 006 points
Black Funeral Coach Size L, STR 5, Speed 5, Defense 8, Toughness 10, Impervious Toughness 10 • 018 points

Offense

Initiative +1
Unarmed +5, Close, Damage 1
Colt M1911A1 +5, Ranged, Damage 3
Unarmed +5, Close, Damage 1

Defence

Dodge 005 Fortitude 006
Parry 005 Toughness 004
Will 006

* Without Defensive Roll.

Complications

  • Psychopathic Evil Initially satisfied with performing crimes with impunity, in later appearances, he has escalated to causing as much mayhem, chaos, and suffering as possible.
  • Face of Death Death-Man has his weird costume surgically grafted to his body.

Powers Levels

  • Trade-off areas. Attack/Effect PL 004, Dodge/Toughness PL 005, Parry/Toughness PL 005, Fort/Will PL 006.
  • Points total 070 Abilities 030, Defences 014, Skills 016, Powers 002, Devices 000, Advantages 008. Equiv. PL 005.

Big in Japan

35 year after his original appearance, Death-Man returned. He now called himself Lord Death-Man. There were important evolutions while he was off-panel, namely:

The main difference is that he demonstrates supernatural immunity to harm, represented by a rank of Regeneration. Furthermore, one remark strongly implies that he also has either the Diehard advantage or possibly Immortality (approximately 5 ranks) and maybe Immunity 1 (aging).

The hearse was replaced by a loud muscle car, and his henchmen drove sports convertibles following Lord Death-Man’s car. These cars probably have the stats of stock sports cars.

Lord Death-Man was often armed with a 1928 Thompson submachinegun with the distinctive drum magazine (Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 4).

These changes raise his averaged PL to 5.4.

He tends to theme his traps, the equipment of his henchmen, and the like to his current crime – or the country he’s currently in. Lord Death-Man is deliberately cheap and clichés-happy with it, though. For instance in Japan his henchmen had katanas, and his death-traps relied on grabbing women with giant tentacles.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Batman #180 (1966)… and, 35 years later, early Batman Inc. issues.

Helper(s): Darci, Peter Piispanen. M&M stats by Pawsplay.

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