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Karl Hellfern (New Earth)

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Doctor Death is a scientist and super-villain who uses his expertise to develop chemical weapons. He uses these weapons purely for financial gain, and has no problem harming innocents. This has made him an enemy of Batman.

Golden Age

Doctor Death develops a deadly pollen extract and uses it to blackmail the wealthy of Gotham City. He worries that this will attract the attention of Batman, and sends men to kill the vigilante. Batman finds Doctor Death's hideout and defeats his servant Jabah. They struggle, and Doctor Death accidentally sets his own laboratory on fire. It was believed that Doctor Death perished with Jabah in this inferno.[1] Doctor Death returns and continues his blackmailing scheme. The Batman defeats his new servant, a Cossack named Mikhail. It is revealed that Doctor Death lost most of his face in the fire. Batman hands him over to the police.[2]

The Fatal Prescription of Doctor Death

Hellfern later returned to Gotham as a high-priced fad doctor. He developed a poisonous super-allergen and dusted the city by helicopter, holding the entire population hostage. His servant Togo defeated Batman and Robin.[3] Doctor Death demanded one billion dollars for the antidote, but Mayor Hamilton Hill refused to negotiate. Doctor Death decided that Gotham City would serve as an example, and tried to flee by helicopter. Batman caught up to him and destroyed the helicopter, forcing Death to reveal his antidote or die from his own poison.[4]

Death in a Bottle

Doctor Death reappears in Gotham selling a new biological weapon to the highest bidder. He is now a spindly bald man with a gas mask, and he uses impersonators to avoid appearing in public. Batgirl and Batman are unable to shut down his auction in time.[5] They follow him to Tarakstan, where he is selling this weapon to the government for use on their own people.[6] This poison simulates millennia of decay and converts living human beings into usable oil almost instantly. Batgirl and Batman take down the operation. Doctor Death releases his poison into Tarakstan, and the young hero Black Wind sacrifices himself to contain it.[7]

Batgirl investigates a new designer drug called Soul.[8] This leads her to a female street gang called the Lost Girls.[9] It's revealed that the Lost Girls are Doctor Death's lab assistants. Soul is a byproduct of his experiments on human cadavers.[10] Doctor Death doses Batgirl and Batman with Soul, driving them both into a homicidal rage where they fight to the death. Robin punches Death out and arrests him, then interrogates him to get the antidote.[11] Doctor Death later works with Black Mask during the great gang war of Gotham. Black Mask poses as Orpheus in an auditorium of gang members. Doctor Death begins to flood the arena with poison so they can kill Black Mask's competition. Batman kicks him in the face and stops him.[12]

Science Squad

Main article: 52

Doctor Death is one of many mad scientists gone missing in the aftermath of Infinite Crisis.[13] It is later revealed that he was abducted by Intergang to become part of their Science Squad on Oolong Island. Intergang provide these scientists with unlimited funds to develop evil creations.[14] When Oolong is attacked by Black Adam, Doctor Death contributes to their defense with an acid rainstorm. They subdue Adam, and Doctor Death helps by pouring deadly chemicals on top of him.[15] He is present when Doctor Sivana tortures Black Adam.[16] This operation crumbles when the Great Ten and the Justice Society release Black Adam. Doctor Death is seen declaring "every super-villain for themselves."[17]

Life After Death

Doctor Death returns to Gotham and works with the new Black Mask during Life After Death.[18]

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  • Doctor Death has had several minor appearances throughout the years, which take place in different continuities. There may be some discrepancies in his history for this reason. His original appearance in 1939 written by Gardner Fox was a two-part story during the Golden Age.[1][2] This era would later be established as part of Earth-Two.[19] 43 years later in 1982, Gerry Conway brought him back for another two-part story during the Bronze Age on Earth-One. In this appearance he is no longer a burn victim, and seems to be meeting Batman for the first time.[3][4] Doctor Death was not seen for another 21 years until 2003, when Dylan Horrocks revived him as part of New Earth continuity in the pages of Batgirl. This version is redesigned as a bald old man with a gas mask, and barely resembles the original. Batman does not mention encountering him in the past, but Doctor Death alludes to them having met.[7] Grant Morrison has established that the original Doctor Death story is still in continuity, at least following Infinite Crisis.[20]
  • Doctor Death is an amateur banjo player.[7]


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This character, team or organization, is or was primarily an enemy of the Batman, or the Batman Family as a whole. This template will categorize articles that include it into the category "Batman Villains."

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