Killer Moth is a late Golden AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1930s to the early 1950s Batman villain. He appeared in 1951.
Though he did have an elusive je ne sais quoiSomething subtle you can’t describe using words, it was faint indeed. He never caught on.
Yet he kept returning in minor, scattered roles over the decades. During that span he was redefined as a jobberWrestling slang for a wrestler who almost always loses by his part in Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)’s origin.
There are many versions of Killer Moth in DC books. Our profiles are best read in order :
- Bob Kane’s Killer Moth on Earth-2 — start here.
- The Pre-Crisis Killer Moth on Earth-1 — this here writeup.
- 1967 live action Killer Moth in the shelved Batgirl pilot.
- The post-Crisis, New Earth Killer Moth.
- Same guy, but after he became the monstrous Charaxes.
Earth-1 Killer Moth had little continuity, being whatever the story needed him to be. As usual, we’ll make it seem more coherent than it actually was.
- Real Name: Probably Cameron van Cleer. But it wasn’t stated.
- Known Relatives: None.
- Group Affiliation: Secret Society of Super-Villains, and his own gangs.
- Base Of Operations: Gotham City. Later Washington, D.C..
- Height: 6’2” (1.88m). Weight: 210 lbs. (95 Kg.).
- Eyes: Blue. Hair: Brown.
Powers and Abilities
Killer Moth is a competent :
- Urban acrobat.
- Hand-to-hand fighter.
Nevertheless, he’s out of his depth against the likes of Batgirl.
He seems to also be a decent technologist and gadgeteerTechnnologist who builds comic book devices like those Batman uses – but will often need specialists to perfect his Gadgets. He usually kills such persons when they’re done, presumably to protect his secrets.
Is he MAN or BEAST ?!
Killer Moth might be :
- A guy in a costume with gadgets.
- A guy mutated to some extend to have some moth-like abilities and an inhuman head.
We’ll assume here that :
- He started as a normal person, with gadgets and no power of flight.
- He acquired moth powers and a mutated head in the mid-1960s.
- These eventually faded and he reverted to being a normal human with a mask and gadgets.
This matches his observed appearances, but it’s an hypothetical. No such thing is mentioned by captions or characters.
During the second phase we can observe that :
- He can fly, which is confirmed by captions and dialogue.
- That he is imprisoned with his “mask” on. Loosely implying that it’s not a mask.
- He can quickly chew through a reinforced rope, using his inhuman dentitionTeeth and their support.
Fly my pretties !
There have been multiple depictions of Moth’s ability to soar.
- The costume seems to always have minor gliding abilities. Possibly.
- 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.
This might involve a hovering, silent, remote-controlled aircraft reeling him up.
- The Killer Moth is then stated to have the power of flight. This is the span during which he seems mutated. This is what is encoded in our main game stats block.
- 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. These can only perform a few jumps before they are refuelled (Ammo: 04 in DCH terms). But they can be fired 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. He can even carry 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 nearby illusion-casting equipment is unrevealed.
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 film that inflates to form chrysalis-like structures.
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 abilities demonstrated by Killer Moth have been one-shot affairs :
- Giant, flying mechanical moth-shaped mounts.
- “Antennae-waves” projected from the helmet. These hit Batman like a score of tiny knives.
- Radio-capable antennae in the helmet. These could also listen in to nearby phone conversations when aimed at the cables.
- A Mothmobile.
He generally seemed wealthy, easily financing his gear and adventures.
Let’s have something from 1965, for a chronologically correct matching Earth 1’s Killer Moth debut.
Being a Motown sort of bloke, I’ll dodge typical markers such as Elvis or the Beatles and go with Martha and the Vandellas. It was a fairly typical Motown girl group from this era, with a solid string of hits during the mid-1960s.
The sound from this TV show performance is a bit scratchy, but “Nowhere to run” is a classic.
Earth-1 Killer Moth just appeared one day.
However, we are told that he has already clashed with Batman, presumably several times. And is an ally of the Cavalier (Mortimer Drake).
His name is apparently Cameron van Cleer. But this 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.
A curious costume caper
The Moth is first mentioned in a strange 1965 caper of the Justice League of America.
His eerie costume gets animated by the Demons Three — Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast — along with those of other JLA enemies. But this roster was odd.
- The Pied Piper (Hartley Rathaway) and Doctor Polaris (Neal Emerson) did have a track record of fighting Earth-1 Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) respectively.
- One — Dagon — had never been seen before, and never returned.
- The other two — Killer Moth and the Mask (Nina Close) — had reportedly fought Batman and Wonder Woman, respectively. But it was the first time they were seen on Earth-1, and how much they resembled their Earth-2 counterparts remains unclear.
This Killer Moth was not similar to Earth-2 Killer Moth. And the previous cases that pitted him against Batman weren’t documented.
It’s all about the Batgirl
Earth-1 Killer Moth’s key story was his role in the 1967 debut of Batgirl (Barbara Gordon).
Killer Moth and his moth mob were about to kidnap Bruce Wayne. Ms. 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.
Mr. Wayne was but one of the Gotham City millionaires whom Moth and his gang were stalking. This prompted Gordon to become a vigilante as Batgirl. She eventually captured Moth with the help of Batman and Robin (Richard Grayson).
Stop the cavalry
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 mirages 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 they were stopped by Batgirl and the otherwise retired Batwoman (Kathy Kane).
Killer Moth goes to Washington
Killer Moth and the Cavalier soon returned. They had 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.. That was 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 setups fed Batgirl information about a master plan to kill Batman, so she would warn him.
However Batgirl immediately understood that she was being manipulated. She handily turned the tables against Killer Moth.
The “Moth as the anti-Batman” motif resurfaces
During the late 1970s, Earth-1 Killer Moth ran a scheme similar to that of the Earth-2 Killer Moth.
He was a sort of anti-Batman. Criminals could call him in to fight costumed vigilantes – costing them half the revenue from their crime. It’s not clear whether it was a new development, or something he’d always done off-panelNot directly shown in the comic. Off-screen..
As a gangland protector, Killer Moth built radio emitters that could be worked into specially prepared shoes. These bugs were undetectable, but the wearer could broadcast a distress signal to summon Killer Moth.
Moth hired an electronics expert and a shoemaker to help him perfect his technology. He murdered them both once they were done.
Tricked-out shoes were then offered to prospective clients as part of the protection package.
The Bolton gang affair
Clients included the Bolton gang. They twice summoned Moth to defend them against Batgirl. But 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, then escaped with the 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. She captured Killer Moth.
Silver Age cancel culture
The Silver Ghost (Raphael van Zandt) hired a number of C-List villains to harass the Freedom Fighters. These all were from Earth-1’s Secret Society of Super-Villains :
- Quakemaster (Robert Coleman).
- The Sizematic twins.
- Chronos (David Clinton).
- Mirror Master (Samuel Scudder).
- And Killer Moth.
The Moth and Quakemaster shot the Ray (“Happy” Terrill) out of the air. They mistakenly thought that they had killed him.
They then accompanied the Silver Ghost to take on the Human Bomb (Roy Lincoln). Killer Moth used a special adhesive for his cocoon gun, that neutralised the Bomb’s power. They took Lincoln down.
What happened next is unrevealed to my knowledge. This inventory story only was published in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.
Which also means we don’t know *when* it happened. Mid-1970s, perhaps ?
Wisdom of the crowds
Killer Moth stopped operating alone, perhaps because of the threat Batgirl posed. For the rest of his career, he 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. Moth, along with Clayface (Preston Payne) and Two-Face (Harvey Dent), was put under the command of the Gentleman Ghost (James Craddock). But they were defeated by Batgirl and Robin.
Not long after this incident, Ra’s al Ghul organised simultaneous mass breakouts at the State Penitentiary and at Arkham Asylum.
A dozen freed 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 an obscure member of the villainous crowd during the Crisis on Infinite Earths… and then reality was remade.
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.
Then he gets defeated.
“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 grand 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 !”
DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
Killer Moth (Earth-1)
|Dex: 05||Str: 03||Bod: 04|
|Int: 04||Wil: 04||Min: 04|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 03||Spi: 04|
|Init: 015||HP: 020|
Claws: 05, Flight: 05
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Both Powers only appear during a short phase of his career. See the Powers & Abilities section, particularly for his alternate soaring abilities.
- Claws represents his teeth. It can only he used to chew through inert fibres like a moth does (for instance to cut a rope).
Acrobatics*: 05, Artist (Actor): 03, Gadgetry: 05, Martial Artist*: 05, Vehicles (Land): 05, Weaponry (Firearms, Exotic)*: 05
Headquarters (Expansive, equipped with traps and security measures).
Underworld (Low), Cavalier (Low).
Strange Appearance (only whilst mutated).
- 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 cocoon guns whose permanent adhesive also inhibited the 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.
Killer Moth 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.
Illusions projector (?)
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 highest, earliest value.
In early appearances, Killer Moth was accompanied by a few henchmen (the “moth mob”).
In true Silver Age style they wore full costumes patterned after Killer Moth’s, and at least two 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|
|Int: 02||Wil: 02||Min: 02|
|Inf: 02||Aur: 02||Spi: 02|
|Init: 007||HP: 002|
Vehicles (Land): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 03
- .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..
Source of Character: Pre-Crisis DC Universe.
Writeup completed on the 23rd of April, 2010.