• Green Arrow and Batman have a history of borrowing from each other, and Green Arrow actually faced off against a shapeshifting criminal before Batman did.
  • DC wanted to capitalize on Batman's popularity without oversaturating the market, so they created more Batman stories without calling it Batman.
  • Green Arrow's first encounter with a shapeshifter was with a villain named Mr. Waxface, similar to Batman's Clayface, but Green Arrow beat Batman to it by 17 years.

Batman and Green Arrow have had a long history of borrowing from each other, and one long-forgotten Green Arrow villain is remarkably similar to a classic Batman villain — 17 years before that Batman villain gained his most famous form. After Batman's explosion of popularity, DC wanted to capitalize on it without over-saturating the market with Batman comics. The solution they came up with was to just make more Batman (without calling it Batman).

Created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp, originally Green Arrow essentially a clone of the Dark Knight: a billionaire who fights crime at night using trick arrows and other gadgets. But while Batman has long had an iconic rogues gallery, Ollie has rarely had consistently compelling villains. Instead, he fights a revolving door of criminals, and one long-forgotten foe is extremely similar to an iconic Batman villain, long before he appeared — at least as fans know him now.

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Green Arrow Tangles with the Shapeshifter "Waxface"

Green Arrow and Speedy Meet Waxface

Green Arrows' first encounter with a shapeshifter is featured in World's Finest Comics #15 in a story by Maurice Del Bourgo. Green Arrow and Speedy try to figure out who has been committing a string of crimes using the faces of other people. A museum director seemingly steals a priceless diamond, and later the head of a bank walks in and steals all the money. Both men claim they didn't commit the crimes and are baffled as to what could have happened, but Green Arrow quickly solves the case. A man named Mr. Waxface, who works at a wax museum, has been committing crimes using a wax mask to impersonate people.

While Batman had fought a version of Clayface a few years prior to the appearance of Mr. Waxface, Clayface didn't gain his iconic shapeshifting powers until two more decades later. The original Clayface, Basil Karlo, was just a serial killer without any shapeshifting powers when he debuted in 1940's Detective Comics #40 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Karlo becomes the serial killer Clayface to kill the cast and crew of a movie — using make-up, not shapeshifting, to create his monstrous visage. It wouldn't be until 1961, when Batman faces off against the Matt Hagen version of Clayface, that he'd fight an actual shapeshifter. This means that Green Arrow actually beat Batman to the punch by 17 years.

The Original Clayface Was Just a Serial Killer

The Original Clayface Basil Karlo Used Makeup

While some fans may think Green Arrow steals from Batman, the opposite has also been true. The original Clayface, Basil Karlo, would later go on to gain shapeshifting powers as well, but that's long after his original appearance. Green Arrow and his stories haven't always been unique, but — in this instance at least — there's no debating that Green Arrow fought a shapeshifting criminal long before Batman even had the chance.

Check out World's Finest Comics #15 and Detective Comics #40, available digitally from DC Comics!