Even before Matt Reeves’ The Batman hit theaters last year, the film felt in many ways like a return to form for the Dark Knight character’s onscreen persona. After a decidedly more violent version of the Caped Crusader was introduced by Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck across several DCEU films, fans were divided (to put it mildly) on the brutal interpretation of the character—as well as a fantastical one since he fought gods and bantered with Amazonians.
Reeves and Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, however, was back more or less where the character left off during the first two-thirds of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy: isolated as a vigilante on the streets, fighting gangsters and the cops in equal measure. Like Nolan’s films, the villains of The Batman were also decidedly stripped down: the Riddler became a Zodiac-inspired serial killer, the Penguin was a common thug, and Catwoman a struggling burglar. At the time, it felt a bit like the direction Nolan didn’t take after The Dark Knight; yet just beneath the surface things felt a little weirder—a heightened comic book world just waiting for the freak dam to break.
…It apparently is about to in The Batman 2.
News broke on Wednesday afternoon that the horror maestro of the big and small screen, Mike Flanagan, has pitched to Warner Bros. Discovery a Clayface TV series. By itself that is pretty cool considering Flanagan is behind some of the best limited series horror of the last decade, including The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass. Yet what really is shocking is what’s buried in Deadline’s report on the development: the trade has heard from its sources “that scripts are constantly changing, and that Clayface is a big addition to Matt Reeves’ The Batman 2.”
This is a pretty intriguing development. It also should be noted that Flanagan had pitched DC Studios heads James Gunn and Peter Safran about doing a Clayface show for the DCU, so his angle would likely not be connected with what Reeves could be dreaming up for The Batman 2, which is not connected to the main superhero movie continuity being crafted at WB. However, supposing that the anonymous sources are correct, then the inclusion of Clayface into Reeves’ sequel would signal a major opening up of Reeves’ take on Gotham City and its weirder little corners.
Clayface was originally one of Batman’s first villains in the comics. Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in Detective Comics #40, the character of Basil Karlo was conceived as a riff on then real-life Hollywood stars of horror like Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, with the fictional Karlo languishing as a B-movie actor when he discovers one of his classics from a decade ago is being remade without him. He thus assumes the persona of Clayface, a character he previously played, to become a serial killer and hunt down the new cast and crew. Really just a pulp villain, there wasn’t a lot to Clayface as originally conceived.
That changed in Detective Comics #298 when a new Clayface, aka Matt Hagen, was introduced in 1961. A treasure hunter and adventurer, Hagen is even pulpier when he falls into a mysterious radioactive pool at the bottom of a cave and sees his body transform into a malleable claylike substance that can be used to change into anything. However, the arguably definitive version of the character did not become fully formed until the first season of Batman: The Animated Series (1992), which combined both previous incarnations and turned Hagen into a washed up movie star who once had a glittering career. He pursues experimental chemical therapy to repair his damaged face after a car accident, but due to the machinations of a crime lord, he is forced to overdose on the stuff, turning him into a hideous claylike monster… who like any good actor can transform himself into anything or anyone he wishes.
It is unclear which interpretation Reeves would favor, and technically it’d be quite easy to slip the original Finger/Kane version into the world created for The Batman. However, we hope that is not the case. The previous Nolan trilogy already deeply explored a version of Gotham City where everything had to be grounded in at least the illusion of plausibility. And while The Batman is in some ways even grittier, it also doesn’t mind focusing on world-building its mythology like a comic book or featuring a climax where the villain hopes to flood all of Gotham City.
If The Batman was our introduction to the dark and dreary world of Gotham, a sequel could peer down to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. A villain capable of transforming his body via grotesque clay into the countenance of others would be a striking departure for the new Dark Knight series. The rumor is also intriguing since Deadline’s sources are unsure if Reeves might have cut Clayface. Could we be getting an even larger, more robust version of the rogues gallery? A trip to Arkham Asylum could surely open the world up.
We’ll undoubtedly know more soon since The Batman 2 is scheduled to release on Oct. 3, 2025.