WANTED: Earth-Two's Most Dangerous Super-Villains
Name: Clifford Devoe
Residence: Usually Mobile
Occupation: Former Lawyer, Professional Criminal
First Appearance (Golden Age): All-Flash Comics #12 (Fall 1943)
First Appearance (Post-Golden Age): Flash #123 (September 1961)
Clifford Devoe was born in the first decade of the 1900's
and even as a child, was recognized for his brilliant strategic mind. Turning
his attention to law school, Devoe excelled as a trial attorney. By 1933,
the ambitious young lawyer was a district attorney in Keystone City. During
prohibition in Keystone City, mobster Hunk Norvock had established himself
as an untouchable figure in Keystone's underworld. Brought to trial for
murder in 1933, Norvock represented a prime opportunity for Devoe to establish
a name for himself at a national level. Believing himself to finally have
an unbeatable case against the crime lord, Devoe was stunned when the daughter
of a powerful political figure took the stand in Norvock's defense. Unable
to risk offending the jury with a barrage of questions at the doe-eyed
heiress, Devoe withdrew his complaint and Norvock was freed.
Norvock's acquittal left Devoe publicly humiliated.
His judgment was called into question, despite the truth of his case: Norvock's
alibi had been the victim of extortion. Devoe turned to the solace of the
bottle and one night, in a drunken stupor, paid a visit to Norvock. After
sobering up, the attorney confided in Norvock that he had given up a life
of fighting crime. By the crime lord's own example, crime did pay.
Devoe offered to be Norvock's "thinker", a planner of crime and a library
of alibis and legal defense if Norvock should ever need one. Norvock provided
Devoe a cottage on the outskirts of Keystone and a stipend to meet his
needs. Devoe moved his legal library home with him and studied the law
for loopholes and precedent.
Devoe remained in isolation for a decade, performing
small tasks for Norvock and studying, never been called upon by the crime lord himself. However, in 1943, Norvock's criminal operations were being heavily
pinched by the work of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash. When two of his
lieutenants were arrested, they signed lengthy confessions implicating
Norvock in a number of illegal activities. Needing an out, Norvock recruited
Devoe to resolve the problem. Impersonating a policeman, the "thinker"
slipped into police headquarters, recover the signed confession and murdered
the traitorous underlings.
Initially grateful, Norvock quickly turned paranoid.
Fearing further betrayal, Norvock resolved to kill Devoe. The wily "thinker",
however, tricked the elder gangster into shooting a reflection of Devoe
in a steel mirror, ricocheting the bullets back. When the gangster was
felled by his own bullets, the police were left to conclude a suicide had
occurred. Deprived of their leader, Keystone's organized crime families
rapidly fell into disarray. A delegation of senior underbosses approached
Devoe, soliciting his succession to Norvock. Devoe agreed and adopted
the nom du crime, The Thinker. The career of the Flash's most relentless
foe had begun.
The Thinker's first criminal endeavor was to establish himself as a superior force in Keystone. To do this, his goal was to discredit the Flash. Sending a note to a local inn, the Thinker challenged the Flash to stop a series of crimes, including a jewel heist and the robbery of a finance company. Despite occasional setbacks, the Flash persevered, frustrating the villain. His final tactic was to lure the Flash into a series of traps in attempt to kill him in a personal confrontation. The Thinker, however, never quite believed the Flash's speed and was astonished when the speedster caught him unawares. For the first time in his life, Clifford Devoe saw jail from the other side of the bars (All-Flash #12).
The Thinker spent several years in prison plotting his escape. By 1947, the Thinker was rarely in jail for long. Throughout the late 1940's and early 1950's, he waged a near constant war of crime against the Golden Age Flash. The Thinker's modus operandi can be categorized as two basic tactics: Technology and Organization.
The Thinker believed that the key to successful crime
was to out power his super-powered adversaries. Many of his criminal ventures
centered on with the use of or acquisition of novel technology. In 1947,
he staged an escape from prison using a novel anesthetizer. He then staged
a wide array of crimes based on a variety of novel gas combinations (tear
gas, sneeze gas) to which only he and his subordinates were protected (All-Flash
#27). A similar approach was used when the Thinker obtained an
anesthetizer to sedate the population of Keystone City and rob it blind (Comic Cavalcade
In 1947, the Thinker corresponded with Professor Albert Cornier, a geophysicist
studying the movement of glaciers in the Canadian north. Cornier had inadvertently
device was not only monitoring the glaciers but actually accelerated them,
threatening Keystone with a new ice age. Seizing the opportunity, the Thinker
attempted to further his criminal career by "assisting" Cornier until thwarted
by the Flash (Comic Cavalcade #22). In 1949, the Thinker learned
of renown scientist Earl Hoffrith's invention of a machine that could see
into time. Determined to the use the machine to predict opportunities for
crime, the Thinker stole it, unaware that Hoffrith himself had foreseen
this. Contacting the Flash, Hoffrith assisted in the Thinker's defeat and
then destroyed his machine (Flash #214).
The Thinker also was a master organizer of criminal
talent. He founded the first organization of criminals in 1947 under the
name Crime Incorporated. Employing a safe cracker, an arsonist, a second-story
man and other criminal "experts", the Thinker staged a series of crimes
based on specialty. After some considerable success, his group was defeated
by the intervention of the Flash (All-Flash #32). The Thinker was
also a charter member of the original Injustice Society and likely had
a significant role in it's organization. As part of their first foray against
the Justice Society, the Thinker managed to capture the Flash. He was unfortunately
waylaid by the Golden Age Green Lantern and replaced in the Injustice Society
meeting place, freeing the JSA.
The Thinker was returned to prison and
the Injustice Society disbanded (All-Star Comics #37). In addition
to his own organizations, the Thinker also maintained active collaborations
with other Flash foes, including the Fiddler, the Rag Doll and the Shade.
Sometime around 1950, the Thinker went from ganglord
to super-villain. Through means that have never been revealed, Clifford
Devoe acquired The Thinking Cap. The Thinking Cap is the invention of Dr.
Hartford Jackson, a 1940's cyberneticist. Jackson designed a cap that allowed
a great amplification of brain power but was abandoned after it fell into
criminal hands and started a crime wave in 1945 (Flash Comics #65).
At some point after mid-1949, the Thinker acquired the cap and added it
to his personal arsenal of crime. The cap gave Devoe a level of personal
power that he had never experienced prior to this point.
The Thinker's activities between 1950 and current
times are not well-described. When he resurfaced, he had mastered the Thinking
Cap and joined forces with the Fiddler and the Shade in a plan to sedate
Keystone City and rob it blind.
The three criminals were initially successful before their
ploy was stumbled upon by the Silver Age Flash. Reviving his Golden Age
predecessor, Allen quickly help Garrick round up the three criminals.
As a result of their actions, Keystone was freed and re-appeared as the
twin city of Central City (Flash #123).
With the proliferation of new super-heroes, the Thinker
recognized the need to upgrade his own technology. Given the expertise
needed whenever he wore the helmet, the Thinker designed a new costume
that incorporated the original Thinking Cap design coupled with a wider
array of offensive weapons. In his first foray, he staged a series of robberies
in Ivy Town, attracting the attention of both the Golden Age and Silver
Age Atoms. While initially successful against either hero, the Thinker
was defeated by the combined might of the two heroes. The Thinker schemes
were also thwarted by Hourman (alluded to in Starman #37) and the
combined forces of Power Girl and the Huntress (Wonder Woman # 274-276).
In addition to this new strategy, he also renewed old acquaintances, working
with the Rag Doll (Flash #229) and the Injustice Society (All-Star
Comics #63-66). The Thinker was still at least semi-active when
the red skies of Crisis appear over Earth-Two but his ultimate fate remains
Powers and Abilities
The Thinker was an incredibly skilled strategist and tactician. He has vast knowledge of the law and his understanding of many other disciplines was formidable. After he acquired the Thinking Cap, his intellectual capacity was vastly upgraded. The cap not only allowed the much more rapid thought processes associated with the Thinker's later career, but also allowed offensive assault via bolts of mental energy or the mental manipulation of other forms of energy.
Weaknesses and Limitations
Without the cap, the Thinker was a normal human and could be arrested as such. In Earth-0 timelines it was revealed that the chronic use of the cap was carcinogenic and that the AI in the cap may have affected Devoe's personality and he became less criminal once he abandoned it's use. Whether this holds true of the Earth-2 Thinker has never been revealed.
On the new timeline most observed
since Crisis, the Thinker's history appears largely similar to his
Earth-Two counterpart. Toward the end of his life and repeatedly defeated,
the Thinker began to question the point of his criminal career. Over 80 years
old and preserved primarily by the cap, the Thinker decided to retire. Using
his newer technology, he agreed to a field mission with the government task
force colloquially referred to as the Suicide Squad. Pending a successful
operation in Central America, Devoe would receive a presidential pardon and
could retire in peace. While the mission was relatively straight-forward, an
unstable element was added with the included of the Weasel, a psychotic foe of
Firestorm. The Thinker and the Weasel clashed and in an instant when Devoe was
unaware, the Weasel slashed the elder man's throat. Squad leader Rick Flagg
took possession of the Thinker's helmet and left Devoe to die. The Weasel did
not escape, however. The artificial intelligence in the cap avenged the man
with whom it had been bonded for nearly 50 years and slew the unstable criminal
(Suicide Squad/Doom Patrol Special #1).
The Squad had been hasty to abandon the Thinker however. Weakened by the loss of blood, the Thinker survived and eventually made his way home, to Keystone City. No longer in possession of his cap, the Thinker reformed and became a model citizen of Keystone. He devoted his time to good works and befriended Jay Garrick, his former adversary. In 1998, Clifford Devoe was diagnosed with brain cancer, a parting gift of the Thinking Cap. By 1999, the former villain was terminal. Contacting Garrick in his last days, Devoe sought once last celebration of his life with his former enemy. Garrick, however, had other plans. Believing that the Thinking Cap could give Devoe the ability to think of a cure, the Flash scoured the globe for the Thinker's former headgear. By the time he found it, the Thinker had expired. Garrick was not deterred and placed the cap on Devoe's head. Activating it revived the villain but to Flash's dismay, Devoe was uninterested in being revived. After lecturing Garrick on the need for the graceful exit, Devoe removed the cap. One of the greatest criminal minds of the 20th century died on his own terms (Flash Vol. 2, #134)
Following Devoe's death, the cap technology fell into the hands other criminals, notably Clifford Carmichael who became the new Thinker of Earth-0. It was later revealed that the cap possessed a level of artificial intelligence (AI) that became more active when the cap was further manipulated. The last Thinker on record on Earth-0 was an AI version of the cap.
|All-Flash #12||First Appearance, vs. The Flash of Earth-2|
|All-Flash #27||vs. The Flash of Earth-2|
|Comic Cavalcade #22||vs. The Flash of Earth-2|
|Comic Cavalcade #23||vs. The Flash of Earth-2|
|All-Star Comics #37||Joins inaugural Injustice Society, vs. the JSA||All-Star Comics Archives #8,Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told, DC 100-Page Spectacular #DC-17, Justice Society of America: A Celebration of 75 Years|
|All-Flash Comics #32||forms Crime Incorporated, vs. the Flash of Earth-2||Flash #214|
|Flash #105 (unpublished)||vs. The Flash of Earth-2||Flash Vol .1 #214|
|Flash #123||with the Thinker and the Fiddler, vs. The Flashes of Earths-1 and 2||80-Page Giant #9, Flash Archives #3, Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told (1989/1990), Millenium Edition Flash #123, Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups Vol. 1, Showcase Presents The Flash #2, Flash: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, The Flash Chronicles #4. The Flash: The Silver Age Omnibus #1, The Flash: The Silver Age TPB #2, DC Classics Library, The Flash of Two Worlds|
|Atom #29||vs. the Atoms of Earth-1 and Earth-2|
|Flash #229||with the Rag Doll, vs. The Flashes of Earths-1 and 2|
|All-Star Comics #66||with the Injustice Society, vs. the JSA||Justice Society TPB Vol. 1, Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1, All-Star Comics: Only Legends Live Forever|
|Wonder Woman #274-276||Vs. Power Girl and the Huntress||Huntress: Dark Knight's Daughter TPB, The Huntress: Origins TPB|