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Killer Moth of Earth-1 (Batgirl enemy) (DC Comics)

Killer Moth

(Pre-Crisis Earth-1)


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

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. — start here.
  2. The Pre-Crisis Killer Moth on Earth-1 — this here writeup.
  3. .
  4. The post-Crisis, New Earth Killer Moth.
  5. Same guy, but after he became the monstrous Charaxes.

The continuity of this version of the character is a train wreck. This article downplays these issues to make it sound more coherent than it was.


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Background

  • Real Name: Probably Cameron Van Cleer, but it wasn’t stated.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Secret Society of Super-Villains.
  • Base Of Operations: Gotham City ; later Washington, D.C..
  • Height: 6’2” Weight: 210 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Brown


Powers and Abilities

Killer Moth’s nature is unclear in the stories. In particular it’s uncertain whether he’s a guy in a costume with gadgets, or has been mutated to some extend to have some moth-like abilities and an inhuman head.

Is he MAN or BEAST ?!

The stance in this profile is that he started as a normal person and acquired some moth-type powers and a strange visage in the mid-1960s. It matches his observed appearances, but this is an hypothetical. No such thing is mentioned by captions or characters.

Early on, his “powers” are part of his costume and we’re told he doesn’t fly. Later on flight powers are mentioned, he is imprisoned with his “mask” on (loosely implying that it’s not a mask) and we see him chewing through a reinforced rope with inhuman dentition.


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Still later stories feature no such powers, the helmet again seems to be a mask rather than his head, and his soaring is again explained by technological means.

A possible explanation is that Killer Moth was somehow mutated to acquire moth-like powers, but that it only lasted for a while and he reverted to being a normal man.

Fly my pretties !

There have been multiple depictions of Moth’s ability to fly. Specifically:

  • The costume seems to always have minor gliding abilities. It’s unclear, though.
  • The costume seems to always have a swingline similar to that of the Earth-2 Killer Moth.
  • Early on the costume can launch itself in the air (Jumping: 04 in DC Heroes RPG terms). This is performed via a strong, nearly-invisible wire attached to the costume being reeled upward. From context this involves some sort of hovering, silent, remote-controlled aircraft above him whenever he soars. Possibly.
  • The Killer Moth is then stated to have the power of flight. This is what is encoded in our main game stats block. This seems to have been transitory.
  • After his power of flight disappears, Killer Moth again has a Jumping Power built into his costume – about Jumping: 03. This is done via miniature air jets, which can only perform a few jumps before they are refuelled (Ammo: 04 in DCH terms). But they can be fire whilst already in the air, like a video game “double jump”.
  • We then see Killer Moth flying through the air with the greatest of ease, even carrying Quakemaster on his back. That was about Flight: 07 in DCH terms. Whether that was a super-power, a new technology built into his costume, or even a product of his illusion-casting equipment is unknown.

Cocoon pistol

The Killer Moth’s main, signature weapon is his cocoon pistol. It can shoot several kinds of adhesive fibres. Sometimes these look like sticky, white silk fibres from a moth, sometimes it’s a weird, semi-transparent adhesive material that inflates to form chrysalis-like structures.

Killer Moth vs. Batgirl

This ensnaring effect has been powerful enough to stop and hold large cars, though at that point two henchmen were also firing their own cocoon guns at the limousine. Somehow, the Moth’s cocoon gun could fire enough chrysalis-like material to wrap up the whole USS Constitution .

Other assets

Other abilities demonstrated by Killer Moth have been one-shot affairs. These have included :

  • Henchmen.
  • Giant mechanical moths.
  • “Antennae-waves” projected from the helmet that hit Batman like a score of tiny knives.
  • Radio-capable antennae in the helmet that could also listen in to nearby phone conversations when aimed at the cables.
  • A Mothmobile.

Killer Moth is a competent athlete, urban acrobat and hand-to-hand fighter, and a fairly good shot. But he’s out of his depth against the likes of Batgirl.

He seems to also be a decent technologist and gadgeteer , but will often need help from specialists to perfect his Gadgets. He usually kills such persons when they’re done, presumably to protect his secrets.


History

Earth-1 Killer Moth just popped up. However, we are told that he has already clashed with Batman, presumably several times. His name is apparently Cameron van Cleer, but this name gets reported both as his actual name and as an alias.

From one caption, we know that he’s a millionaire who decided to become a costumed criminal. He seems to be chiefly looking for thrills and danger. Earth-1 Killer Moth is also know to be an ally of the Cavalier.

A curious costume caper

The Moth is first mentioned in a strange caper of the Justice League of America. His eerie costume gets animated by the Demons Three – Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast. The Demon Three also animated the costumes of other enemies of the JLA, but their choices were odd.

While the Pied Piper and Doctor Polaris did have a track record of fighting Earth-1 Flash and Green Lantern respectively, the other three — Killer Moth, Dagon and the Mask — appear to have just been retconned  in on Earth-1.

This Killer Moth was not similar to Earth-2 Killer Moth. The cases that reportedly pitted him against Batman before the costumes caper are not documented.

It’s all about the Batgirl

In practice, Earth-1 Killer Moth mostly was a Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) opponent. He played a key role in her origin sequence.

Killer Moth and his moth mob had planned to capture and ransom Bruce Wayne. Gordon stumbled upon them as she was driving to a costume ball in a home-made “Batgirl” costume. She fought the crooks off until Batman intervened. The Moth then fled and his men were arrested.

The Wayne kidnapping plot was part of Killer Moth’s abduction and extortion plan against a number of Gotham City millionaires. Barbara Gordon reacted by actually becoming a vigilante Batgirl, hounding Killer Moth. She eventually arrested her foe with Batman and Robin’s help.

Batgirl later arrested the Cavalier during a jewellery heist. Killer Moth having gotten out of prison, he busted his ally the Cavalier out of jail, using illusions. These were created by machines used either by Killer Moth or by the Cavalier – it’s unclear.

The pair attempted to steal no less than the USS Constitution but were stopped by Batgirl and the otherwise retired Batwoman (Kathy Kane).

Killer Moth goes to Washington

Killer Moth and the Cavalier soon came back with a plan to trick Robin or Batgirl into revealing the location of the Batcave. To attract Batgirl’s attention, Killer Moth went on a spree of minor heists in Washington, D.C., where the Dominoed Daredoll was then based.

(Yes, Batgirl was occasionally called that in captions. Super-duper.)

Van Cleer then set up a number of traps from which she could easily escape. These setup fed Batgirl information about a master plan to kill Batman, so she would contact him. However Batgirl immediately understood that she was being manipulated, and handily turned the tables against Killer Moth.

The anti-Batman motif resurfaces

At this point, Killer Moth had a schtick similar to that of Earth-2 Killer Moth. He was a sort of anti-Batman whom criminals could summon to their aid at the price of half the revenue from their crime. The dialogue is unclear as to whether it has been a recurring modus operandi of his, or a new development.

Killer Moth vs. cops

As part of his plan to be a gangland protector, Killer Moth built radio emitters that could be worked into specially prepared shoes. These bugs were undetectable, but the wearer could use them to broadcast a distress signal and summon Killer Moth.

Moth hired an electronics expert and a shoemaker to help him perfect his technology, and murdered them both once they were done. Tricked-out shoes were then offered to prospective clients as part of the protection package.

Scattered Silver Age action

Such clients of the Killer Moth included the Bolton gang, who twice summoned him to defend them against Batgirl. Batgirl’s skills had been growing quickly, and Killer Moth was increasingly out of his depth.

She defeated him at the Jefferson Memorial , but he escaped. During their next confrontation he stunned her and started fleeing with two Bolton gang members Batgirl had captured. But she recovered in time to lasso both men out of the Mothmobile as it was driving away. After the son of the murdered shoemaker contacted her, Batgirl deduced what was going on and captured Killer Moth.

The Silver Ghost hired a number of C-List villains — the Killer Moth, Quakemaster, Sizematic and Chronos, plus Copperhead and the Mirror Master — from Earth-1’s Secret Society of Super-Villains. The job was to harass the Freedom Fighters.

The Moth and Quakemaster shot the Ray out of the air, and mistakenly thought that they had killed him. They then accompanied the Silver Ghost to take on the Human Bomb, succeeding since Killer Moth used a special adhesive for his cocoon gun that neutralised the Bomb’s power. What happened next during this plot is unrevealed to my knowledge.

Wisdom of the crowds

Killer Moth stopped operating alone, perhaps because of the threat Batgirl posed. For the rest of his career was only seen among crowds of criminals.

For instance, the Joker once assembled a score of Batman opponents (including Killer Moth and the Cavalier) to kill Batman. This task force operated in smaller groups. For instance Killer Moth, along with Clayface and Two-Face, was put under the command of the Gentleman Ghost. They were defeated by Batgirl and Robin, though.

Not long after this incident, Ra’s al Ghul organised simultaneous mass breakouts at the State Penitentiary and at Arkham Asylum. A dozen criminals, including Killer Moth, were led by the Joker in another revenge plan against Batman. Killer Moth’s contribution was limited to :

  • standing guard on the roof as the Joker kidnapped a building (!)
  • being knocked out by Batman

Killer Moth was a very minor member of the villainous crowd during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. And then reality was remade.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

One gets the impression he’s in for the thrill and the respect. The Moth is always trying to set himself up as an important, feared master criminal but actually achieves very little.

Next to nothing is known about his origin, civilian life, etc.. He’s but a gaudy costume with a general villainous role and whatever assets might be handy for the story to advance, until he’s inevitably defeated.


Quotes

“You better stick to my knitting on that cocoon while my moth-mob rounds up Bruce Wayne !”

“How about putting your money where your mouth is ? I’ll bet you 10 grands that Batgirl holds the key that will unlock Batman’s secrets for us — and another 10 thousands that I get the info before you find out anything from Robin !”

(As he’s ordered to stop) “Ugh ! A moth-eaten command like that deserves a shot of my cocoon-gun ! Hee hee hee !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Killer Moth (Earth-1)

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Thrill
Int: 04 Wil: 04 Min: 04 Occupation: Criminal
Inf: 04 Aur: 03 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 010
Init: 015 HP: 020

Powers:
Claws: 05, Flight: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Both Powers only appear during a short phase of his career. See the Powers & Abilities section.
  • Claws represents his teeth. It can only he used to chew through inert fibres like a moth does (for instance to cut a rope).

Skills:
Acrobatics*: 05, Artist (Actor): 03, Gadgetry: 05, Martial Artist*: 05, Vehicles (Land): 05, Weaponry (Firearms, Exotic)*: 05

Advantages:
Headquarters (Expansive, equipped with traps and security measures).

Connections:
Underworld (Low), Cavalier (Low).

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance (see the Powers & Abilities section).

Equipment:

  • KILLER MOTH COSTUME [BODY 06, Gliding: 01, Radio communications: 05, Bonus: Radio Communications can, somehow, also pick up on phone conversations if aimed at the cables (+1), Note – the costume can have Jumping or Flying, see the Powers & Abilities section]. The COSTUME includes a swingline, which can be attached in the back if needed. There’s also a minor utility belt, with useful ordinary items such as a compact flashlight.
  • Cocoon Gun [BODY 04, Snare: 07, R#03]. Killer Moth once wielded a pair of coccon guns whose permanent adhesive also inhibited that Human Bomb’s ability to detonate.
  • .45 semi-automatic pistol [BODY 03, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 07, R#02]. Sometimes Killer Moth carries both this and the cocoon gun in belt holsters. Sometimes he only appears to carry the .45.

One-off equipment:
Killer Moth has used a number of technological tricks once, so they can’t quite be considered a basic part of the character. Those included :

  • ANTENNAE-WAVES [BODY 02, Accuracy (Vibe): 12, Vibe: 06, Note : Vibe has an Area of Effect (2 APs long cone in front of Killer Moth, Diminishing)]. This was mounted in the helmet’s antennae.
  • GIANT MECHANICAL MOTH [STR 03 BODY 05, Flight (Winged): 06]. Those were one-man flying themed mounts. Killer Moth had at least two. From a distance and to the untrained eye, they look like actual giant moths.
  • MOTHMOBILE [STR 06 BODY 08, Running: 07, Snare: 08, R#02]. This large, powerful custom roadster has paired cocoon guns installed next to the headlights, which can be fired from the dashboard. It was used in Washington, D.C., when Killer Moth was a protector-for-hire of gangsters.
  • Killer Moth may or may not have occasional access to super-advanced illusion projectors [BODY 02, Illusion: 08]. The illusions seem fully real and interact with the real world (damaging walls, lifting people and putting them on a roof, snapping trees, etc.) until the projector is cut off – at which point everything snaps back to normal.
    Despite the great power of this equipment it is seldom used. Heh, it’s not clear whether it even exists in the first place since it was once stated to be a power the Cavalier acquired. It also seemed to degrade in quality as years went by, likely due to maintenance or power issues. The APs noted above are the high, early value.

Wingmen

In early appearances, Killer Moth was accompanied by two henchmen (the “moth mob”). In true Silver Age style they wore full costumes patterned after Killer Moth’s, and had themed code names – Larva and Pupa.

There were at least two such pairs of goons, though no code names were given for this second duo. Stock stats :

Dex: 03 Str: 03 Bod: 03 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 02 Wil: 02 Min: 02 Occupation: Mercenary
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 02 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 007 HP: 002

Skills:
Vehicles (Land): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 03

Connections:
Underworld (Low).

Equipment:

  • .45 semi-automatic pistol [BODY 03, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 07, R#02].
  • Cocoon gun [BODY 03, Snare: 06, R#04].
  • Mission specific equipment such as binoculars, walkie-talkie, etc..

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Pre-Crisis DC Universe.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 23rd of April, 2010.

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