March 2, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #369: Killer Moth

Despite having a ridiculous name, Batman foe Killer Moth had a very unique premise when he first appeared.

Batman has a lot of enemies, but most of them tend to start off at least as eccentric criminals with a gimmick of some kind that they use to commit various crimes.  Many of them are mentally ill, but they all exist to cause trouble for Batman.

Killer Moth may be one of the sillier-looking ones, but he actually had a really cool origin story that got forgotten about pretty quickly.

Let’s face it:  if you’ve heard of Killer Moth at all, unless you are referring to the character by the same name in the animated Teen Titans series where he’s some sort of human/moth hybrid or something, he probably hasn’t made much of an impression.  Heck, the first time I saw him, he joined up with the likes of Catman and Calendar Man in some sort of “Batman’s loser enemies” coalition.  He’s often depicted as something of a Batgirl enemy, the implication being he is among the first villains that Barbara Gordon took down on her own, to the point where I am actually somewhat surprised the villain in the upcoming live action Batgirl movie is supposedly Firefly and not him.  He’s a guy in a goofy costume even by the standards of goofy costumes.

So, what was his original deal?

He was a distraction.

Seriously, as created by Batman co-creator Bill Finger and artist Dick Sprang in the pages of Batman #63 way back in February of 1951, Killer Moth was a nameless criminal who, upon release from prison, read a newspaper article about Batman.  This was back in the day when Batman was a lot more public, and the future Killer Moth had an idea:  he would be the anti-Batman.  Batman had a Batcave?  He’d have a Mothcave.  Batman had a Batmobile?  He’d have a Mothmobile.  He set up shop as a wealthy philanthropist named Cameron van Cleer, actually befriended Bruce Wayne, and then advertised himself to the underworld as someone who would do what he could to keep Batman and Robin busy while various crooks pulled off jobs that Batman would have otherwise stopped.  All Killer Moth asked for was a cut of the profits.  He’d rescue crooks from cops, and he even managed to capture Batman and Robin at least once, learned Batman’s secret identity only to forget after getting shot gave him amnesia, and generally was a highly competent criminal with a unique premise.  For whatever reason, he gradually appeared less and less, and when he did, it would show him taking on Batgirl, Robin, and even an out-of-retirement Batwoman at one point.

So, what happened to this guy?  He sounds kinda cool.

Basically, he became for all intents and purposes a new character.  Now he was one Drury Walker, and someone must have realized that “Killer Moth” wasn’t that intimidating a name, to say nothing about how garish his costume is.  He’s become, well, a loser character who pops up just to be some D-level bad guy that can be taken out without too much trouble.  It wasn’t that surprising that he was among the first villains to take Neron up on his offer to trade his soul for something more during Underworld Unleashed.  That had Killer Moth transformed into a moth-human monster thing called Charaxes.

This thing.

If you’re thinking that seems like an unlikely thing to hang around Gotham City, I’d like to point out this is a city where Killer Croc, the Man-Bat, Orca, and even people like Clayface still roam the streets.  A man-sized moth monster is not that big a deal.  Sure, Charaxes was one of the characters brutally killed by Superboy-Prime when that big babyman went on a rampage in the middle of a larger supervillain rampage, but he wasn’t that much of an outlier in Gotham City.

For what it is worth, various Killer Moths have appeared since in various comics, but who he is almost doesn’t matter.  He may even come across as competent and cool like he did in a Green Arrow storyline where he just went by “Moth”.  But really, Killer Moth had a great origin story, and then that got chucked aside, and it doesn’t much matter who he is.  He’s a starter-level villain that made his best recent impression on a Teen Titans cartoon that didn’t even seem to remotely be the same character.

So, whoever this guy is.