Who is that masked man? That’s what millions of fans have been asking themselves since a new mystery villain appeared on the scene on The Flash Season 3. Doctor Alchemy has been a constant presence, giving citizens the powers they had in the alternate Flashpoint timeline. Alchemy’s identity, agenda, and motivation are complete mysteries, but it’s clear that beneath that disturbing plague mask is the face of a new evil that will push Barry Allen and Team Flash to their limits.
Now, with the arrival of Savitar, there are even more questions than answers surrounding TV’s Doctor Alchemy. Perhaps by examining the comic book history of Doctor Alchemy we can discover the secrets behind this mask of evil that has been plaguing DC’s TV Universe since the new season began.
A Very Different Type of Villain
While Flash’s Rogues Gallery are currently some of the most iconic baddies in comics, many started out as rather simplistic gimmick crooks. For example, a random skel would find a gimmick (cold, heat, a top, a boomerang) and commit crimes based off of their chosen obsession. Right away, Doctor Alchemy was different than the Rogues that would follow.
The first version of Doctor Alchemy first appeared in Showcase #13 (1958) and was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. Mister Element, one of the very first Flash super foes, cut a striking figure with his distinctive gas mask and his designed to within an inch of its life Infantino costume. What made Mister Element so different you ask? Well, Element was actually a man named Albert Desmond, a brilliant chemist who suffered from dissociative identity disorder. The mild mannered scientist adopted the criminal persona of Mister Element and, as one does, designed a gun that can convert any element into any other element. So if you want a super criminal that can convert argon to hydrogen, boom, Desmond’s your huckleberry.
Desmond was also one of Flash’s first science-themed foes, a trend that would follow the hero to the modern age. Element’s gun was quite the formidable weapon and he used it in a variety of deadly ways during his crime sprees. Good thing Flash is actually a scientist himself and used his lightning fast intelligence to always find a way around Desmond’s elemental terror.
But it was the multiple personality angle that made Desmond such a unique foe, particularly for 1958. Like we said, villains of that era were pretty one note, but Desmond’s Mister Element had an edge of classical tragedy to him. He was more Doctor Jekyll than Doctor Evil and when fighting his elemental foe, Flash had to keep in mind that underneath Mister Element’s creepy mask, there was an innocent man who was a prisoner of the complexities of his own madness and genius.
So what does Mister Element have to do with Doctor Alchemy? Well, this wasn’t the only personality in Desmond’s troubled mind…
Things Get Twisted
And now we come to Doctor Alchemy. When Desmond was in jail for the crimes of his Mister Element persona, he learns of the mythical Philosopher’s Stone from one of his cellmates. Desmond seeks out the stone and develops a new criminal persona: Doctor Alchemy. As Alchemy, Desmond’s third persona goes on a magically aided crime spree and this is when things get really higgledy piggledy. Desmond’s good personality reasserts itself and forces Doctor Alchemy to ease his criminal activity. As a defense, the Philosopher’s Stone creates the new identity of Alvin Desmond. How’s that for complex?
And now, on TV, somehow, Alchemy has been revealed to be somehow connected to Savitar, the God of Speed. Doctor Alchemy, the only super villain more complicated than Euclidian geometry. Anyway, Albert Desmond was able to overcome Mister Element, Doctor Alchemy, and Alvin Desmond and somehow free himself from all those criminal curses. At least for a while. But listen, in an era when most of Flash’s villains were all like, “Hey, I’m going to build weaponized tops and rob banks,” Doctor Alchemy was a pretty complex and disturbed villain with multiple layers of yikes.
The heritage of Albert Desmond continues with the Alchemist. This legacy villain began his life of crime when he stole a fragment of the Philosopher’s stone from Desmond. Desmond had secured himself a position at STAR labs and was going to use the stone to help him advance medical technology. But a dickbag named Dr. Curtis Engstrom stole Desmond’s work and adopted the identity of the villainous Alchemist.
Engstrom was defeated by Wally West and Desmond and soon disappeared from Flash’s Rogues. But Engstrom insured that the legacy of Doctor Alchemy continued…
Mister Element II
Curiously enough, the second Mister Element, Alexander Petrov, never even met Albert Desmond or any of his personalities. Petrov was a lab assistant in a Keystone City crime lab that wanted to advance his career. So instead of posting to Indeed or LinkedIn, Petrov stole Desmond’s old Mister Element gear and began committing murder. This new Mister Element had a penchant for freezing people as Petrov’s plan was to frame Captain Cold for these murders and bring him to justice, thus guaranteeing himself a promotion.
The plan proved overly convoluted and kind of stupid for Petrov as it served to not only get the attention of Wally West, it also royally pissed off Len Snart, the real deal Captain Cold. As fans of Flash comics and Flash TV will attest, it’s not a good idea to piss off Snart. Len Snart wasn’t having any of that identity theft nonsense. Snart froze the Flash and then murdered Petrov as West looked on in horror. So much for Mister Element II.
So which, if any of these versions of this bizarre character will end up solving the mystery of the Alchemy on our screens this year? Let us know what you think in the comments!