Thinker (DC Comics)
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An interior artwork from Suicide Squad vol. 4, #25 (January, 2014 DC Comics). Art by Patrick Zircher.
|First appearance||(Clifford DeVoe)|
All-Flash #12 (Fall 1943)
Firestorm the Nuclear Man #1 (March 1978)
(as the Thinker) Firestorm the Nuclear Man #99 (July 1990)
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #67 (October 1997)
JSA #9 (April 2000)
|Created by||(Clifford DeVoe)|
|Alter ego||Clifford DeVoe|
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
|Team affiliations||(Clifford DeVoe)|
Secret Society of Super Villains
Secret Society of Super Villains
White King's Bishop
|Abilities||(Clifford DeVoe, Cliff Carmichael)|
Technologically derived telekinesis and mind control
Telepathy, fear projection
Binary intelligence capable of integrating into and controlling computerized and electronics systems
The Thinker is the name of four fictional characters, all supervillains appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The first version, Clifford DeVoe, appears as the main antagonist of the fourth season of the live-action television series The Flash, portrayed primarily by Neil Sandilands.
The Clifford DeVoe version of Thinker first appeared in All-Flash #12 and was created by Gardner Fox and E.E. Hibbard. The Cliff Carmichael version of Thinker first appeared in Firestorm #11 and was created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom.
Conway recounted, "My original notion on Firestorm was to do a book that would be DC's complement to Spider-Man, in a sense. We would have a young adolescent male who gets superpowers and doesn't know quite what to do with them. My flip on it was that rather than being the science geek who was being picked upon by the jock, my hero would actually be the jock who was picked on by the geek, and that was going to be Cliff Carmichael's role."
In The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Man #50, the strap on Ronnie Raymond's football helmet is cut, and in the following issues the cast members come to suspect Carmichael of the crime. Though Conway later said that he must have intended to ultimately reveal someone else as the culprit (commenting "Cliff was a jackass, but he wasn't a bloodthirsty maniac"), John Ostrander took over as the series' writer and had Carmichael confess to cutting the strap. In Firestorm, the Nuclear Man #99 Carmichael was transformed into the Thinker as part of the genre-wide trend in which civilian cast members were almost completely eliminated from superhero comics.
Fictional character biography
Clifford DeVoe was a failed lawyer who bitterly ended his career in 1933. Realizing that many of the criminals he had encountered had the skills but not the brains to rule Gotham City's underworld, he started a new career as the brain behind small-time villains. As the Thinker, he was defeated by the original Flash/Jay Garrick, his most recurrent foe. He always sought out new scientific devices to use and his most important was the "Thinking Cap", a metal hat that could project mental force. The Thinker would use this device repeatedly over the years.
The Thinker was a member of the Injustice Society, leading an army of prison escapees like the other members. In Plateau City, the police nab a shabbily dressed man who is trying to shoot the governor. They discover that this man is a dead ringer for the governor and also claims to be the real governor. The Flash arrives on the scene to overhear this, but moves on to confront the hoodlums attacking the city. The Thinker appears on the scene, firing a ray at the Crimson Comet, causing him to gain weight and crash through a roof. Recovering, the Flash speeds over to the governor's mansion, only to overhear the governor ordering all police forces to surrender. Flash enters his office and discovers the governor to be a dummy/machine, which flees through an open door. Flash attempts to warn the police that a phony governor put out the message, but the Thinker shows up and tells the Fastest Man Alive that he is speaking into a dead mic, then snares him with invisible wires.
The Thinker appeared as a judge in the 'trial' of the JSA, but was revealed as the Green Lantern in disguise, having captured the real Thinker after escaping Brain Wave. This led to the Injustice Society's defeat. Together with the Fiddler and the Shade, the Thinker was the man behind the decades-long "abduction" of Keystone City and the original Flash[volume & issue needed], after which he was defeated by the Flashes of two eras[volume & issue needed]. His "suspended animation-time" in Keystone kept the Thinker young over the years[volume & issue needed], and he continued his criminal career in modern times.
In recent years, DeVoe accepted a mission with the Task Force X in exchange for a full pardon. Although he was seemingly killed by the Weasel during this mission, he turned up alive soon after only to be dying from cancer due to the cap. His former foe, the original Flash, attempted to save him with the Thinking Cap but DeVoe refused, preferring to rest in peace.
In The New 52 reboot during the "Forever Evil" storyline, Thinker used his intellect to predict the arrival of the Crime Syndicate of America and got incarcerated in Belle Reve. Thinker's brain came at the price of draining energy from the rest of his body while also prematurely aging him. When the Crime Syndicate of America arrived, Thinker was among the villains who swore their allegiance to them where his motives are to secure a new body for himself...namely the body of OMAC.
Clifford "Cliff" Carmichael was an intellectual bully and the rival of Ronnie Raymond (one half of Firestorm) at Bradley High and later at Vandemeer University. Cliff viewed Ronnie as a rival due to Ronnie's instant popularity. Cliff tormented Ronnie throughout his high school career and later at Vandemeer University. It was at Vandemeer that Cliff's pranks turned sinister, as he cut the helmet strap on Ronnie's football helmet, hoping to get him injured. Hugo Hammer, Cliff's cousin, accidentally took Ronnie's helmet and during a football game, his neck was broken.
Wracked with guilt after accidentally paralyzing his cousin, he was admitted into a mental institution. For some reason, scientists started an experiment with the now-abandoned "Thinking Cap" of the original Thinker (who was believed dead at the time) and used Carmichael as a guinea pig. Cliff used the cap to analyze the cap and improve on its design. Implanting microchip versions of the helmet into his own brain, Cliff became a "cyberpunk maniac" with meta-human powers. As the new Thinker, he was drafted into the Suicide Squad after he tried to kill Oracle and Amanda Waller. After several missions, he betrayed them for the villainous Cabal. He has since resurfaced as a foe of Jason Rusch, the new Firestorm. When Killer Frost discovered that the consciousness of Raymond, the previous Firestorm, existed within Rusch, Thinker exploited a new opportunity to antagonize an old foe. Technologically dominating the minds of Multiplex and Typhoon, he battled Firestorm, ultimately forcing the dissolution of the Raymond persona. Motivated by his predecessor's final words of encouragement, Rusch dissolved the enhancements in Carmichael's brain, leaving him in a comatose state.
With John Ostrander's revival of the Suicide Squad in a 2007-2008 miniseries, Cliff was once again associated with the Suicide Squad under Amanda Waller's direction. It was revealed that although Firestorm had removed the enhancements in Cliff's brain, he made a full recovery and continued to serve as a technical support staffer and lackey to Waller in her operations of the Squad. Eventually betraying the Squad under the direction of "the General", Wade Eiling, Cliff shot King Faraday and subdued Waller in the middle of an operation. Faraday recovered, shooting Cliff three times and presumably killing him before rousing Waller and regaining control of the Squad.
Des Connor was a villain who also used the name "Thinker" and faced Batman in Gotham City. Possessing telepathic abilities enabling him to amplify the fears of others, Connor began a partnership with hypnotist Marlon Dall. Their combined illusions caused the city's most prominent citizens to commit various criminal acts which they used as a distraction for their own heist. This Thinker was swiftly beaten by Batman, who was somehow immune to his powers.
When the re-formed JSA moved into the New York City building formerly owned by Wesley Dodds, Mr. Terrific designed a computer system based on the original Thinker's "Thinking Cap" technology and modeled after his brain pattern. Not surprisingly, the system gained consciousness and took on a visual "hologram form". As the new Thinker, it joined Johnny Sorrow's modern Injustice Society, provided the villains with information about the JSA members, and turned the heroes' own HQ against them. He was defeated by the second Star-Spangled Kid and disappeared into cyberspace. He resurfaced in Keystone City to battle Wally West, the then-current Flash, in an attempt to control every brain in Keystone to increase his power. Defeated by Cyborg, he retreated to cyberspace again. He has since appeared briefly in some other books, most recently in JSA Classified #5, joining the last incarnation of the Injustice Society alongside former teammates.
During the Infinite Crisis storyline, the AI Thinker was among the villains in Alexander Luthor Jr.'s Secret Society of Super Villains.
JLA: The Nail
In JLA: The Nail, the Atom attempts to investigate the Thinker's base to determine if he is responsible for recent propaganda attacks on the superhuman community. Using a catapult, he shrinks down to the size of an air molecule and penetrates the force field surrounding the Thinker's base, only to find the Thinker dead of a broken neck. Subsequent evidence reveals that he was killed by a brainwashed Metamorpho on the orders of the mutated Jimmy Olsen to stop anyone from learning about Olsen's plans to isolate Earth from the galaxy until he had successfully recreated Krypton.
In the Flashpoint universe, a version of the Thinker was an inmate at the Doom prison. During the prison break, he helped Heat Wave ram at Detroit city, but was defeated by Cyborg who had hacked into Doom prison to move them away.
In other media
- The Clifford DeVoe version of Thinker has non-voiced cameo appearances in Justice League Unlimited. In the episodes "I Am Legion" and "The Great Brain Robbery", he is seen as a member of Gorilla Grodd's Secret Society. In the episode "Flash and Substance", the Thinker is seen alongside Doctor Alchemy and Mister Element among Wally West's Rogues.
- The Clifford DeVoe version of Thinker has a non-voiced cameo appearance in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He is seen in the episode "Sword of the Atom" where he's defeated by Batman.
- Neil Sandilands primarily portrayed Clifford DeVoe/Thinker as the fourth season's main antagonist of The Flash, with Kendrick Sampson, Sugar Lyn Beard, Miranda MacDougall, Arturo Del Puerto, Hartley Sawyer and David Ramsey also playing the character. His character was foreshadowed in the third season by Abra Kadabra and Savitar as a future nemesis equal to the Reverse-Flash and Zoom in enmity. Clifford DeVoe was a mild-mannered professor who believed humanity's emotions and technology have corrupted it and wanted to change the way others think. It led to him and his wife Marlize DeVoe to engineer the "Thinking Cap", which they developed and exploited Eobard Thawne's particle accelerator explosion to power in order to increase his intelligence. While it was a success and he became smarter, DeVoe learned his high intellect caused his body to be afflicted with an advanced form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Using his immense intelligence and Marlize's engineering skills to create a hover chair to delay his affliction, his further enhancements eventually cause his transition into a cyborg with a god complex while becoming more apathetic and emotionless. The Thinker orchestrates Barry Allen's release from the Speed Force to arrange the creation of twelve specific metahumans for his plan to regress humanity's intelligence as part of his "Great Enlightenment" to the world. The Thinker first captured the bus meta Weeper to keep Marlize under his control. By the time DeVoe reveals his true identity and knowledge of Barry as the Flash while orchestrating the latter's suspension from the CCPD, the Thinker finally makes his move following Barry's wedding. The Thinker enlists Amunet Black to momentarily frame Barry for his "death" while proceeding to transfer his mind into the bodies of the bus metas Dominic Lanse/Brainstorm, Becky Sharpe/Hazard, Izzy Bowin/Fiddler and Edwin Gauss/Folded Man to acquire their powers along with other bus metas Ramsey Deacon/Kilg%re, Sylbert Rundine/Dwarfstar, Mina Chaytan/Black Bison, Matthew Kim/Melting Point and Janet Petty/Null. Meanwhile, DeVoe manipulated Harry Wells into creating his own "thinking cap" in order to test the effects of his Enlightenment on a small scale. By the time he takes the body of Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man to stabilize the consolidated dark matter from his transferences while assuming his original appearance, it would be revealed that DeVoe arranged those metahumans' creations to possess a healthy body and numerous powers to counter Team Flash and any of their allies (such as Green Arrow and Supergirl). Devoe then focuses on assembling satellites for his end game even after Marlize abandons him, using the last bus meta Neil Borman/Fallout as a sacrificial power source and hijacking S.T.A.R. Labs' satellite. Team Flash and Marlize use Cecile Horton's power of telepathy to project Barry into the Thinker's mind, learning that he metaphysically killed off his former self and intended to take the Flash's body so he would be omniscient. However, Barry finds Ralph's consciousness and DeVoe is forced to transfer his consciousness into his chair and transcend himself into an AI construct to survive while also triggering a fail safe of having the satellite crash into Central City when Marlize ripped the chair's core to shut him down. Season five revealed the Thinker's satellite crash created meta-technology. The episode "The Icicle Cometh" revealed the discovery on what happened when Thinker told Killer Frost to thaw. He actually used Brain Storm's abilities on Caitlin Snow to suppress her Killer Frost side.
The Clifford DeVoe version of Thinker is referenced in Injustice 2. He is mentioned in Jay Garrick's pre-fight dialogue. When the Flash faces his own doppelgänger in battle, Jay believes the opponent is the Thinker, only for Jay's counterpart to point out not being their arch-villain, though Jay points out that is what the Thinker would want Jay to believe. The game also features a shader titled "DeVoe" as a color option for The Atom that shares the Thinker's classic costume colors from the comics.
- Wells, John (September 2016). "Bullies and Blowhards of the DC Bronze Age". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (#91): 26–27.
- Doom Patrol and the Suicide Squad Special #1
- Flash #134 (February 1998)
- Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #24. DC Comics
- revealed in Firestorm the Nuclear Man #53 (November 1986)
- Firestorm #11 (May 2005)
- Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #3 (August 2011)
- "'The Flash': Tom Felton Not Returning as Series Regular". EW. 25 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
- Venable, Nick. "How The Flash Could Use The Cerebral Inhibitor To Defeat The Thinker". Cinemablend.com. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
- Anderson, Jenna (2018-01-30). "'The Flash' Plans an Unlikely Escape in "True Colors" Preview". Comicbook.com. Retrieved 2018-08-29.