5832 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Mister Who - DC Comics - Golden Age character - Dr. Fate

Mister Who


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

“That robbery was too neatly planned for an ordinary criminal… is Mr. Who still safely behind bars ?”
– Dr. Fate


Context

Mister Who was a recurrent enemy of Doctor Fate during the Golden Age . He first appeared in 1941. Though he’s a useful, working character, he hasn’t been used much since.

The very first mention of Who is a pun (“Who sent you ?” “If you know, why ask me !”). It seems inevitable that this is a reference to the super-famous Abbott and Costello skit Who’s on first  (video). This skit began its undying, eternal reign of terror in a 1938 radio show.

Like the Monster, Mister Who could easily be recast as an important criminal mastermind of his day. 1940s comic book storytelling conventions do not allow him to win against Doctor Fate, but within these constraints he was meant to be a credible threat.


Advertisement


Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed.
  • Other Aliases: “Diabolical Die-Hard of Crime”, “Wanton Wallower in Wickedness” and others (in captions only).
  • Marital Status: Presumed single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Leader of his own criminal crew. Member of the very first Monster Society of Evil, who was also briefly called the Society of Oom. *Might* have been a Society member.
  • Base of Operations: An unspecified East Coast metropolitan centre.
  • Height: 6’2″ (baseline Z-enhanced height). Weight: 225 lbs. (baseline Z-enhanced weight).
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Brown (White in his weaker form).


Powers & Abilities

Mister Who invented a unique serum, called both Solution Z and the Z Solution. Once he drinks it he becomes markedly stronger, taller and healthier than the vast majority of men. He also gains a number of super-powers, and seems much younger.

Mister Who isn’t always under the effect of his serum. However, one gets the impression that he reverts to his weaker, smaller, older body for disguise purposes. Later on, it is more clearly stated that his serum has a time limit. This seems to be on the order of five hours.

Yet the Z Solution doesn’t fix his eyesight. Without his glasses, he’s terribly nearsighted in either form.


Advertisement


The solutions solution

At first, it seems that the Z solution is a miraculous cure-all. In particular Mister Who stated that he could recover from any wound, up to and including losing a hand.

But it soon becomes apparent that it also allows his body to adapt to threats, manifesting powers to survive. Demonstrated abilities include :

  • Willing himself to grow to superhuman size, further enhancing his strength and durability. He can grow to a height of at least five metres. For our American readers this is about 200 inches, one rod, 0.1 furlongs, one-seventh of a chain, or 2.75 fathoms.
    This is his normal approach to a fight, but he needs a few seconds to focus and increase his stature. He has been defeated several times by being hit with great force before he could embiggen.
  • Growing even bigger — at least 13 stories high — but that didn’t seem as useful in battle. However, it’s great to take on buildings, other giants and the like.
  • Shrinking to a height of a few inches.
  • Gaining chameleon-like powers, extending to his clothes. However, these seem to only work if he remains immobile against a static background.
  • Becoming invisible, but that one doesn’t affect his clothes.
  • Giving him the ability to breathe water and grow flippers if he’s drowning.
  • Becoming as flat as a sheet of paper, slipping between door and jamb.
  • Phasing  his arm through a given material, though that requires full concentration. This was used to grab money within a steel safe.
  • Transforming his body and clothing to impersonate another person. But Mister Who seemed to estimate that it wouldn’t fool Dr. Fate for long.

In later appearances, Mister Who only used his growth power.

Resources

Mister Who seems to have accumulated significant wealth. He also continues his biochemistry experiments, including improvements to his serum. For instance, keeping a buffalo-sized spider in his base is easy for him. However, after Doctor Fate arrested him, Who never had time to rebuild his power base.

He also developed a reversed form of Solution Z. This resulted in a gas that could swiftly knock out even Doctor Fate, and could have killed him.

Another variant on the Z Solution can only shrink the person who imbibes it, which lasts for hours.

Mister Who will often have a few armed gangsters with him. These are loyal toward him, and will even help him escape from prison. Unless Dr. Fate intervenes, working for Mr. Who is exceptionally lucrative. And he’ll pay even if the heist failed.


History

Mister Who was likely born during the late XIXth century, as he seemed to be in his 60s in 1941. One panel gives the impression that he was raised during an era of poverty. Given the endless banking panics, recessions and depressions during this era, this seems about right.

Mister Who - DC Comics - Golden Age character - Dr. Fate - Gloating

He stated that he was born a “useless cripple”. In the flashback all his limbs are present, but captions describe him as stooped and twisted. Mister Who might be been born with a muscular dystrophy . Though there are alas many other inheritable conditions that could fit the bill. On some panels, one also gets the impression that he has a damaged left eye.

As a child he made a trickle of money as a newsboy in a big city. His father reportedly beat him when he didn’t bring enough in.

I’m useless, but not for long

The lad was convinced that his path to healing and revenge laid in science. He saved enough to go to college (those were different times), where he apparently studied biochemistry. His goal was a sort of miracle cure that would make him strong, healthy, tall and at least as capable as other men.

The researcher used extracts from “crawfish and insect creatures” capable of regrowing lost limbs. It worked. His serum (“Solution Z”) could turn him into a much stronger, younger, far healthier man. He called this new identity “Mister Who”.

*Naturally*, Mister Who decided to become a crime boss, and steal beautiful objects and works of art for his personal collection.

One gets the impression that he had been at it for but a few years in 1941. But he already had a big mansion full of stuff, and solid underworld contacts to hire criminals.

The future, is coming on

In 1941, Mister Who hired a gang to steal a painting. As the gangsters feared, they were intercepted by Doctor Fate (Dr. Kent Nelson). But as they were beaten back, Mister Who sneaked in and stole the painting anyway.

Doctor Fate shadowed the thugs to locate Mister Who, but was taken down. Mister Who handed Fate over to a not-wholly-friendly giant spider before leaving, but Fate easily survived.

Dr. Fate intercepted Mr. Who right after he stole a huge diamond. Before Who could engage his growth power, Fate grabbed him and slammed him through the hull of his speedboat. Mr. Who appeared to sink to his death whilst unconscious.

It’s coming on

However, Who reflexively grew gills and flippers. Easily surviving, he launched a new scheme to impersonate the Mayor. But Doctor Fate saw this with his crystal ball. After a series of clashes he did stop Who. The mastermind was imprisoned after Solution Z’s effects had run out.

Mister Who - DC Comics - Golden Age character - Dr. Fate - Fight !

(This story ends with a curious blurb that gives the impression that Fate will now fight Who in every story. But this is not what actually happens, though he does return a few issues later.)

Mister Who promptly escaped – there was a water-soluble tablet of Solution Z hidden up his sleeve. He then attacked and nearly killed multi-millionaire “P.J. Moggan” (groan) , stealing a large sum of cash to rebuild his power base. Dr. Fate intercepted Mr. Who, but was soundly beaten back.

However, Who’s plan was later ruined by an involuntary reaction. Seeing Doctor Fate made him feel threatened and grow three metres tall, spoiling his disguise. He was again defeated by Fate.

Wanton wallower in wickedness

Mister Who received letters in prison – but the paper had been soaked with a variant Solution Z. He dissolved them in water to get a dose. He also had tamed a pigeon by feeding it. Thus, he could shrink to action figure size then hang onto the pigeon as it flew away.

Using his magic ring, Fate intercepted Who before he could drive to his hideout. But Who tricked Fate into drinking a dose of the Z variant. This shrunk the hero to the size of a canary, making him powerless. But Fate escaped from his cage by provoking a cat into attacking.

Still miniaturised, Dr. Fate nevertheless ruined the next heist by Who and his gang. After Who shrunk to avoid police attention, Fate punched him out – since they were now equally small. Who escaped anyway, but hours later the shrinking effect on Fate stopped. Kent Nelson could thus arrest the dastardly criminals.

Against the aggravating All-Stars

(During the 1970s and 1980s, senior writer and editor Roy Thomas  brought back many Golden Age characters, both at Marvel and at DC. In 1985, he added a little twist. Traditional Captain Marvel enemy Mister Mind was now depicted as having been active on 1940s Earth-2 as well as Earth-S. See our “Ages of DC” article for more about Earths, and Fawcett Comics.)

In 1942, Mister Who was recruited by Mr. Mind to join the first version of his Monster Society of Evil. This was meant as an antithesis to the Justice Society of America. They even took over the JSA’s old headquarters for a few hours. Beyond Who and Mind, the members were :

  • Oom the Mighty, from the dark side of the Moon. An enemy of the Spectre.
  • Ramulus (formerly Nightshade). A plant-controlling enemy of the Sandman.
  • Nyola, high priestess of Tlāloc. An enemy of Hawkman & Hawkgirl.

They captured Hourman, Hawkgirl and Doctor Fate. However, Sandy the Golden Boy intervened in time for the heroes to escape.

The Society of Oom

The MSE then broke the Dummy out of prison, despite the Earth-2 Superman’s intervention. However, the members disliked Mind’s alien logic. They mutinied to focus on more grounded and lucrative plans.

Mister Who - DC Comics - Golden Age character - Dr. Fate - Murderer and thief

But Oom immediately took over as leader, being far mightier than even Who.

Oom insisted upon storming the Perisphere – the All-Star Squadron’s base. Mr. Who grew to King Kong size and ripped the Perisphere from its moorings.

However, he was soon taken down by Green Lantern (Alan Scott), the Flash (Jay Garrick) and the Amazing Man (Will Everett). Yet he likely escaped, as the Crisis on Infinite Earths reached Earth-2 just at that point.

The Society ?

In 2005, Alexander Luthor, Jr. founded a new version of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. It had over 500 members, and was simply called the Society. As part of Luthor’s plan, the entire Society invaded Metropolis. This resulted in a gigantic super-battle.

In the fray, a man who *may* have been Mister Who gets blasted by Lady Quark. However, this identification is, at best, a long shot. He’s only seen from the back, though it generally fits and he’s bespectacled.


Description

Mister Who is a tall, broad-shouldered, grim-yet-handsome, bearded man. He’s usually clad in an Edwardian era green sack suit, not unlike Marvel’s Mister Hyde.

For some reason he prefers wearing white gloves (which oddly became violet in a 1973 reprint). Perhaps he thinks they make him look upper class. When outdoors he’ll have a broad-brimmed hat and a short cloak.

Woo’s on first, Watt’s on second…

In Who’s very first appearance, one gets the impression that he has a missing or damage left eye. Or perhaps a collapsed eyelid or somesuch. In subsequent appearances, this is not the case.

One can imagine that Who has a muscular condition, that the earliest version of Solution Z weren’t thorough enough to restore damaged muscles around one eye, and that subsequent formulations fixed even that.

Likewise, some versions of the Z Solution make his hair brown again, whereas others leave it white.


Personality

Mister Who is an overbearing, overconfident man secure in his power and intelligence. He makes a big show of appearing super-confident, which might easily make his enemies hesitate.

However, one gets the impression that he’s actually overcompensating. And as Dr. Fate keeps defeating him, Who visibly starts fearing him.

He is undeniably smart and good planner. Yet his overconfidence perpetually undoes him. In particular, he never checks his kills.


Quotes

“Why shouldn’t I be cool ? Nothing can happen to me !”

“That’s the trouble with you boys – all you think of is rough stuff ! There’s more money in doing things cleverly, and that’s just what I am !”

“By Gadfrey, Superman is even more indestructible than Dr. Fate !”



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Mister Who

Dex: 06 Str: 05 Bod: 06 Motivation: Own All The Nice Things
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 06 Occupation: Criminal Scientist
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 06 Wealth: 007
Init: 018 HP: 035

Powers:
Chameleon: 04, Dispersal: 12, Growth: 12, Invisibility: 02, Regeneration: 04, Shrinking (Only to squeeze thru): 12, Water freedom: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Mister Who can only use one Power at a time, with the possible exception of Regeneration.
  • Activating a Power takes a Dice Action. However, they’ll self-activate (even if Who’s unconscious) to save his life.
  • Dispersal can be Partial. But it requires full concentration (including immobility) and only works against one type of material (chosen as the Power is activated).
  • Invisibility will only affect his clothes if he remains immobile, and is seen again a set background (e.g., no moving objects or lighting). Otherwise, his clothes are fully visible.
  • Regeneration can regrow even entirely missing tissue.
  • Shrinking can shed the Only To Squeeze Thru Limitation, but then it cannot engage more than 8 APs.

Skills:
Gadgetry: 07, Medicine: 07, Scientist: 07, Thief (Stealth): 03, Vehicles (Sea, Land): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 03

Advantages:
Stroke of Genius (Solution Z).

Connections:
Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
Alter-Ego (His older, weaker form), SIA toward Overconfidence, MPR (might involuntarily engage some APs of Growth if he feels threatened whilst his serum is active – roll MIN/MIN against an AV/OV of 05/05), MPR (very nearsighted).

Equipment:

  • Medium Calibre Semi-Auto [BODY 03, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 08, R#03]. This is often carried so he’s not defenceless if confronted before he can take Solution Z.
  • His glasses have BODY 01, but this score increases as he uses Growth and they get embiggened.

A big big love

Mister Who usually uses 7 APs of Growth, assuming a sufficiently large room (like a ballroom).

More APs can be used outdoors, but come with problems to see small objects, to manoeuvre, etc.


Tout l’matos dans l’coffre de la R16

Mister Who only ever uses these assets once, but here are quick notes :

  • The giant spider like was DEX 05 STR 06 BODY 05. See our Sheeda Forces article for other predatory spider stats, but it was completely outmatched by Doctor Fate. Poor spider. So unfair. Much angst.
  • The poison gas had about Poison touch: 15. We’ll assume that Who pumped Hero Points into this attack and Fate didn’t, based on the depiction.
    The gas is presented as “weakening the will” to explain why it works against Fate. But in game terms it’s just high APs. And later depictions have gasses, vacuum, etc. depicted as a good way to attack 1940s Dr. Fate.
  • The “limited” version of Solution Z only conferred Shrinking: 12. The full APs of Shrinking are maintained until the effect ends, the imbiber having no control over ’em.

Design Notes

For benchmarking purposes, I’m using the Dr. Fate stats in Mayfair’s World at War . Which, incidentally, were clarified in Magic  with an important note about the Telekinesis APs.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Ye olde DC Comics.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 28th of May, 2018.

Writeups.org is a non-commercial, community site

We chat and work at the DC Heroes Yahoo! group .