Beginning in issue #604 of Detective Comics and running through to issue #607, The Mud Pack is a four-part Batman story, focusing on a group of villains each known as Clayface. The story – written by Alan Grant and illustrated by Norm Breyfogle – was first published in 1989, and sees Basil Karlo (Clayface I), Matt Hagen (Clayface II), Preston Payne (Clayface III) and Sondra Fuller (Lady Clayface) all involved in a creepy plot to defeat the Dark Knight.
The Mud Pack is not a story which is often listed as one of the ‘must-read’ Batman tales, like Batman: Year One or The Dark Knight Returns, yet it is a great adventure in its own right. It mixes action and horror, to place the Caped Crusader in the path of some deadly foes.
What happens in Batman: The Mud Pack?
Part One: Men of Clay
Preston Payne, the villain known as Clayface III, escapes from Arkham Asylum after experiencing a seemingly psychotic episode. But unbeknown to Payne, his escape was part of a cleverly orchestrated plan by Basil Karlo – the original Clayface.
Karlo wants to kill Batman and feels he can achieve this goal by uniting all of the Clayfaces. Working with Sondra Fuller (Lady Clayface/Lady Clay), he captures Preston Payne, and obtains the remains of Matt Hagen (Clayface II), to form his Mud Pack.
Part Two: Heart of Steel; Feet of Clay?
Karlo and Fuller manipulate Payne as they set a plan into motion, which includes impersonating Batman. But the Caped Crusader becomes wise to the situation, suspecting that Lady Clayface is involved.
Batman tracks Payne and Fuller, and engages in combat. But the Dark Knight is quickly taken aback by the appearance of an unexpected face.
Part Three: Killer Clay!
Batman is captured by Lady Clayface and taken to an old movie theatre, where he is tied up. Lady Clayface mentally manipulates Batman, so that he relives traumatic experiences from his past.
With Batman incapacitated, Karlo uses the opportunity to double cross Fuller. After drugging his former accomplice, Karlo extracts blood samples from his Mud Pack.
Part Four: The China Clay Syndrome
Karlo combines the blood samples of Fuller and Payne with his own blood, to transform himself into the ultimate Clayface. Mixed with his own murderous tendencies, this makes Karlo a powerful, disturbing villain.
Batman takes on this new Clayface, but how can he defeat a foe this deadly? Maybe he can’t.
Is Batman: The Mud Pack a good read?
I first read The Mud Pack during the early 1990s, a few years after it was initially published. At the time, I was massively into Batman: The Animated Series and one of my favourite characters was Clayface.
The only information I knew about the character came from watching the show – I knew very little about him prior to this. So picking up The Mud Pack and seeing a story with multiple Clayfaces blew my mind, and I instantly fell in love with it.
I read all four issues in one sitting and was bowled over by the different iterations of Clayface. These were all interesting characters; from a cold blooded killer to a psychologically disturbed individual with a touch that could kill, the Clayface mythology became fascinating to my young mind.
But does the story still stand up?
Over the years I have re-read The Mud Pack multiple times, and while the story isn’t as sophisticated as some of the iconic Batman tales, it is still a very memorable one. The combination of Alan Grant’s characterisation and Norm Breyfogle’s visuals ensure it still holds up, with sinister scenes and eye-popping artwork.
For me, The Mud Pack is a great tale, with some truly stunning illustrations. It is a story from an era of Batman comics where the Caped Crusader was really knocking it out of the park (the 1980s), and in the Clayfaces, DC Comics serves up arguably the most gruesome villains in the Dark Knight’s rogues’ gallery.
Has The Mud Pack been adapted into film?
To date, The Mud Pack has not been adapted for film. Clayface has appeared in various Batman cartoons and animated features, including appearances in Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman, and The Lego Batman Movie (2017).
I hope this information on The Mud Pack has proved useful. Should you want to read more posts about Batman, please take a look through I’ll Get Drive-Thru, or alternatively check out one of the recommended reads below.