Thinker (DC Comics)

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Thinker (DC Comics character - The New 52 version).jpg
The unidentified Thinker as seen in the interior artwork from Suicide Squad vol. 4 #25 (January, 2014 DC Comics).
Art by Patrick Zircher.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearance(Clifford DeVoe)
All-Flash #12 (Fall 1943)
(Cliff Carmichael)
Firestorm the Nuclear Man #1 (March 1978)
(as the Thinker) Firestorm the Nuclear Man #99 (July 1990)
(Desmond Connor)
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #67 (October 1997)
JSA #9 (April 2000)
(Unidentified Thinker)
Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #25 (January 2014)
Created by(Clifford DeVoe)
Gardner Fox
E.E. Hibbard
(Cliff Carmichael)
Gerry Conway
Al Milgrom
(Des Connor)
Alan Grant
Norm Breyfogle
David S. Goyer
Geoff Johns
In-story information
Alter egoClifford DeVoe
Cliff Carmichael
Desmond Connor
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Team affiliations(Clifford DeVoe)
Injustice Society
Suicide Squad
(Cliff Carmichael)
Suicide Squad
Secret Society of Super Villains
Injustice Society
Secret Society of Super Villains
Legion of Zoom
Notable aliases(AI)
White King's Bishop
Abilities(Clifford DeVoe, Cliff Carmichael)
Technologically derived telekinesis and mind control
(Desmond Connor)
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 comic books published by DC Comics.

The first version, Clifford DeVoe, appeared as the main antagonist of the fourth season of the live-action television series The Flash, portrayed primarily by Neil Sandilands. The Thinker will also appear in the DC Extended Universe film The Suicide Squad, portrayed by Peter Capaldi.

Publication history[edit]

The Clifford DeVoe version of Thinker first appeared in All-Flash #12 (Fall 1943) and was created by Gardner Fox and E.E. Hibbard.[1]

In October 1947, the Thinker was one of the six original members of the Injustice Society, who began battling the Justice Society of America in All Star Comics #37 (Oct 1947).[2]

The Cliff Carmichael version of Thinker first appeared in Firestorm #11 and was created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom.[3]

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."[3]

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.[3] 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.[3]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Clifford DeVoe[edit]

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.[4] 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 Task Force X in exchange for a full pardon.[5] 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.[6] His former foe, the original Flash, attempted to save him with the Thinking Cap but DeVoe refused, preferring to rest in peace.[6]

In "DC Rebirth," Thinker is depicted as a former district attorney of Keystone City back in the 1940s and fought Jay Garrick. After being briefly told by Eobard Thawne that everyone will forget him, Jay throws his helmet towards Thinker to knock him out and then takes down Thinker's henchmen.[7]

Cliff Carmichael[edit]

Clifford 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.[8] 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 device and improve on its design. Implanting microchip versions of the helmet into his own brain, Cliff became a "cyberpunk maniac" with metahuman powers. As the new Thinker, he was drafted into the Suicide Squad after he tried to kill Oracle and Amanda Waller.[9] After several missions, he betrayed them for the villainous Cabal.[10] 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,[11] 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.

During the Infinite Crisis storyline, Cliff popped up as a member of Alexander Luthor, Jr.'s Secret Society of Super Villains.

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.[12] 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. [13]

Des Connor[edit]

Des Connor was a villain who also used the name "the 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. [14]

Artificial intelligence[edit]

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 patterns. Not surprisingly, the system gained consciousness and took on a visual "hologram form."[15] 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 in order to increase his power. Defeated by Cyborg, he retreated to cyberspace again. [16] He has since appeared briefly in some other books, such as JSA Classified #5, joining the last incarnation of the Injustice Society alongside former teammates. [17]

During the Infinite Crisis storyline, the AI Thinker was among the villains in Alexander Luthor Jr.'s Secret Society of Super Villains.

This version of the Thinker has been brought in as the Checkmate White King/Mr. Terrific's Bishop.[18][19]

In "DC Universe," the continuation of "DC Rebirth," the AI Thinker appears as a member of the Legion of Zoom. He is seen when they confront the Flash family moments after Barry Allen expelled Eobard Thawne from him.[20]

Unnamed Thinker[edit]

In "The New 52" reboot during the "Forever Evil" storyline, an unidentified 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.[21]

Other versions[edit]

JLA: The Nail[edit]

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.[22]


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.[23]

In other media[edit]


  • The Clifford DeVoe version of Thinker makes a non-vocal cameo appearance in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series episode, "Sword of the Atom!", wherein he is defeated by Batman.
Neil Sandilands as Clifford DeVoe / The Thinker in The Flash.
  • The Clifford DeVoe version of the Thinker appears in the The Flash season four, portrayed primarily by Neil Sandilands,[24][25] with Kendrick Sampson,[26] Sugar Lyn Beard,[27] Miranda MacDougall, Hartley Sawyer, Arturo Del Puerto, and David Ramsey also portraying the character in different forms. His character was foreshadowed by Abra Kadabra in season three as a future nemesis of Team Flash's equal to the Reverse-Flash and Zoom in enmity. Clifford DeVoe was a mild-mannered professor who believed humanity's emotions and technology had corrupted it and sought to change the way others think. This 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, they created a hover chair and cybernetically enhanced him to delay his affliction, which led to him developing a god complex and becoming apathetic and emotionless. DeVoe orchestrates Barry Allen's release from the Speed Force to create 12 specific metahumans for his plan to regress humanity's intelligence as part of his "Great Enlightenment" to the world. For the first phase of his plans, he captured the meta Weeper to keep Marlize under his control, orchestrates Barry's suspension from the CCPD, and reveals his knowledge of his secret identity to him, after which he takes the name "Thinker". Following Barry's wedding, DeVoe enlists Amunet Black to frame Barry for his "death" and transfer his mind into the bodies of the metas Brainstorm, Hazard, Fiddler and Folded Man to acquire their powers, as well as those of Kilg%re, Dwarfstar, Black Bison, Melting Point, and Null. Along the way, he also manipulated Harry Wells into creating his own "thinking cap" in order to test his Enlightenment's effects on a small scale, with Wells's cap temporarily augmenting his intellect before eventually reducing him to below-average intelligence. By the time he takes Elongated Man's body to stabilize the consolidated dark matter from his transferences, Team Flash discover DeVoe arranged the 12 metahumans' creations to possess a healthy body and numerous powers to counter them and their allies. Even in spite of Marlize discovering what he had done to her and leaving him, DeVoe moved forward with his endgame by focusing on hijacking five satellites, including that of S.T.A.R. Labs, and using the last meta, Fallout, as a sacrificial power source. After Team Flash and Marlize use Cecile Horton's prenatal telepathic powers to project Barry into the Thinker's mind, they discover 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 gave him control of his body back, forcing DeVoe to transfer his consciousness into his chair and become a virtual construct to survive. Though Marlize rips out his chair's core to defeat him, she inadvertently triggered a fail-safe which shut down S.T.A.R. Labs' satellite and sent it on a collision course with Central City. Barry was able to destroy it, but in season five, Team Flash discover the debris created new metahumans such as Rag Doll as well as meta-technology that empowered individuals such as Cicada, Weather Witch, and Silver Ghost.


A hybridization of the Clifford DeVoe and New 52 versions of the Thinker will make his live-action film debut in The Suicide Squad, portrayed by Peter Capaldi.[28]


The AI version of the Thinker was featured in issue #2 of the comic adaption of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.


  1. ^ Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Korte, Steve; Manning, Matt; Wiacek, Win; Wilson, Sven (2016). The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe. DK Publishing. p. 308. ISBN 978-1-4654-5357-0.
  2. ^ Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Manning, Matthew K.; McAvennie, Michael; Wallace, Daniel (2019). DC Comics Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle. DK Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4654-8578-6.
  3. ^ a b c d Wells, John (September 2016). "Bullies and Blowhards of the DC Bronze Age". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (#91): 26–27.
  4. ^ Rovin, Jeff (1987). The Encyclopedia of Supervillains. New York: Facts on File. p. 343. ISBN 0-8160-1356-X.
  5. ^ Doom Patrol and the Suicide Squad Special #1. DC Comics.
  6. ^ a b Flash #134 (February 1998). DC Comics.
  7. ^ Flash #750. DC Comics.
  8. ^ revealed in Firestorm the Nuclear Man #53 (November 1986). DC Comics.
  9. ^ Suicide Squad #48. DC Comics.
  10. ^ Suicide Squad #61. DC Comics.
  11. ^ Firestorm #11 (May 2005). DC Comics.
  12. ^ Suicide Squad vol. 3 #1. DC Comics.
  13. ^ Suicide Squad vol. 3 #7. DC Comics.
  14. ^ Batman: Shadow of the Bat #66. DC Comics.
  15. ^ JSA #17. DC Comics.
  16. ^ The Flash #187. DC Comics.
  17. ^ JSA Classified #5. DC Comics.
  18. ^ Checkmate vol. 2 #9. DC Comics.
  19. ^ Checkmate vol. 2 #13. DC Comics.
  20. ^ Flash #760. DC Comics.
  21. ^ Suicide Squad vol. 4 #24. DC Comics.
  22. ^ Justice League: the Nail #2. DC Comics.
  23. ^ Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #3 (August 2011). DC Comics.
  24. ^ "'The Flash': Tom Felton Not Returning as Series Regular". EW. 25 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  25. ^ "'The Flash' premiere recap: Team Flash is back, baby!".
  26. ^ Venable, Nick. "How The Flash Could Use The Cerebral Inhibitor To Defeat The Thinker". Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  27. ^ Anderson, Jenna (2018-01-30). "'The Flash' Plans an Unlikely Escape in "True Colors" Preview". Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  28. ^ Vary, Adam B (August 22, 2020). "'The Suicide Squad' First Look, Full Cast Revealed by Director James Gunn at DC FanDome". Variety.

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