Real Name: Doctor Henry Edward Clerk
Identity/Class: Extra-dimensional (Shadowline) Human mad scientist
Occupation: Nuclear Physicist; formerly
employed by Department of Defense;
former assistant night manager of Stop n' Stuff
Group Membership: None
former member of the MERCHANTS
Affiliations: employed Frederick
Gramon (the Grey Man) and a group of loyal agents;
former ally of General Retler, Dirk Ravenscore
Enemies: Dr. Burnich, Dr. Zero, Gordon Castle, Michael Devlin, Donald Gaffney, Gregor Gerasimov, MERCHANTS, Murray, John Nighthunter, Order of St. George, Powerline, Dirk Ravenscore, Franklin Retler, Snowball, el Vattivo, Ripley Weaver, Sheila Willis
Known Relatives: unnamed father
Aliases: "Hank" (while at Stop n' Stuff)
Base of Operations: formerly the Toy Factory, and Arctic Weapons Research Facility; Earth-Shadowline
First Appearance: Dr. Zero#2 (June, 1988)
Powers/Abilities: No superhuman powers. However, Clerk is extremely intelligent, able to develop and complete theories and operations in nuclear physics significantly in advance of any other mind on Earth. His demented mind, combined with an obsessive thirst for knowledge, makes his knowledge an extremely dangerous weapon. He is willing to sacrifice or destroy all life on Earth to test his theories.
In addition, he is able to analyze the abilities of powerful superhumans, deduce their underlying nature/power structure, and thus neutralize their abilities. His scheming mind allows him to dupe his opponents and stay a few steps ahead of and beyond them.
His mind was further destabilized by being reduced to near idiocy by Zero, and then having his intellect restored by an agent of Dirk Ravenscore.
He also really, really, really, really, really likes chili.
(Dr. Zero#3 (fb)) - As a child, Henry Clerk demonstrated an incredible aptitude for science, but he also demonstrated destructive behavior and a total lack of regard for life of any kind. He launched his family pet, a cat named Snowball, up in a miniature rocket, which he then blew up, just to see if it would happen as he thought it would. This was also his payback for Snowball having scratched him on the leg.
(Critical Mass#5 (fb)) - As a young student, Henry attended Catholic School, where he did not fit in because he questioned, ridiculed, and even religious faith due to its lack of hard evidence. In mid-rant, he mentioned that his dad was a scientist and could explain everything. However, it was later shown that his father was actually a delivery man.
(Critical Mass#5 (fb)) - As a student at an
unidentified university, Clerk got himself into trouble with a
jock, who shoved him to the ground and belittled him when he
asked him to keep the noise down at his party. Clerk quickly
conceived revenge, and used some material, presumably, magnesium,
to blind the jock while he was taking a leak outside. Clerk then
used a nerve pinch he had learned (that good ole comic book nerve
pinch) to temporarily paralyze the jock. Finally, Clerk used a
crude catapult he had fashioned from a board and a car, and
launched the jock through a window at that same party. Point
He found the noise from the police sirens (or ambulance) equally annoying.
(Dr. Zero#3 (fb)) - Clerk was fired from research at an unidentified University for his unethical experimentation
BTS - Henry ascended to a position of power, respect, and authority in the United States Department of Defense. In addition, he also helped establish the covert government agency known as the MERCHANTS.
(Dr. Zero#2) - Henry Clerk spoke out on the advantages and potentials of nuclear energy. Later, stationed at an Arctic Weapons Research Facility, Clerk began his plan:
Forty-four years ago, they detonated the
world's first atomic device at the trinity site...The scientists
held a pool then, on whether or not the device would set off a
chain reaction which would ignite the atmosphere and burn the
planet to a cinder...
The fact that we are here today attests to the fact that that did not happen. Needless to say, I've improved on their designs...and corrected their mistakes. Would anyone care to place their bets for this time around?"
The Shadow known as Dr. Zero learned of Clerk's plans to try to destroy the planet and tracked him down. However, having anticipated Zero's interference and had time to analyze some of his previous victims, Clerk correctly determined that Zero's powers were based on a combination of electrical and chemical properties. Deducing the precise nature of these energies, Clerk set a trap for Zero. Using a chemical fire and a taser-like weapon, Clerk neutralized the superhuman abilities of the most powerful Shadow on the planet, and incapacitated him in the process. Clerk examined Zero for pulse, heartbeat, and respiration, and having found none, and having noticed a rapid decrease in Zero's body temperature, pronounced him dead. He dumped his body into the frigid waters below the outside ice.
However, Zero didn't play by the rules, and wasn't quite dead yet.
(Dr. Zero#3) - Clerk had Dr. Burnich, who had led the decision to terminate his research ten years before, abducted and tied to a missile, which he then launched and detonated. He was well aware of, and even amused by, the parallels between this and his treatment of Snowball.
Clerk continued with his mission, fully hoping to destroy all life on Earth to prove his theorem, that his bomb would ignite the nitrogen in the atmosphere. Zero, however, recovered and returned to the Toy Factory again. Clerk managed to ambush him with a lead pipe. Zero quickly retaliated, battering Clerk mercilessly, but not before the madman could activate the timer on his bomb. Clerk had made the timer so that any attempt to destroy it would instantly detonate the device. However, Clerk underestimated the power of Zero, who allowed the bomb to detonate, but surrounded it with a vacuum, so it had no atmosphere to work on. He then channeled the massive energies in a unidirectional fashion into space, which, although it nearly killed Zero, saved the world from the bomb.
Zero thought of taking Clerk in and letting him relive his failure over and over again, or of killing him and ending his threat forever, but then thought better of it. He used his powers on Clerk's mind, stripping away his memories and almost all of his intellect, and sent him to work as a waiter at a truck stop, specializing in chili.
(Dr. Zero#4 - BTS) - A popular publication reported Clerk's sudden and unexpected disappearance (the world never learned what he had been up to).
The Stop n' Stuff Employee Newsletter announced the their employee of the month, Assistant Night Manager at Store#23, who had let his store to outstrip all other branches in the sale of various types of chili, especially the Atomic-Chile-Dogs™. Way to go, Hank!
(St. George#6) - Patty Richardson stopped into Stop n' Stuff to use the phone, and Hank tried to sell her a chili dog. While he failed in that endeavor, he was able to look on the bright side: 'Valuation: No chilee for lady--therefoo, all chilee for me!
(Critical Mass#1) - Seeking someone with the ability to stop his foes, the Powerline, Dirk Ravenscore took the advice of his aid, the Orb, in recruiting the man who had once stopped the most powerful Shadow on the planet. Ravenscore found Clerk and used his power to amplify the abilities of others to restore Clerk's intellect, and possibly even push it beyond its own previous level. Clerk was most gracious and was happy to assist Ravenscore by any means he could, although he did retain an unnatural taste for chili.
Clerk's first mission sent him to punish el Vattivo, one of his drug dealers who had not been paying him. Clerk poisoned el Vattivo with Caesium-127 in his (or her? this was a weird one) chili, and offered a solution from the slow death that the radiation would cause. El Vattivo paid Clerk everything that was owed and more, and Clerk offered the solution: You could shoot yourself dead right now. one-two!
Clerk shared with Ravenscore his revised plan for mankind: What's the point of an experiment that leaves nothing left to study? His new plan would involve the meltdown of all of the nuclear plants on Earth and leave humanity to die and mutate slowly, over a period he could study.
(Critical Mass#1/2) - When Powerline stormed Ravenscores manor, Dirk and Clerk parted company as the monstrous Ravenscore fled from his enemies. Clerk was thankful the opportunity to leave his service and fully pursue his own agenda.
(Critical Mass#2) - Clerk returned to his former laboratory in Washington, D.C., which had been kept sealed as it was accessible only via his fingerprints. He contacted General Retler, his former ally in the MERCHANTS, to inform him that he was still alive.
(Critical Mass#2/2) - Clerk met with Retler and
other US officials and discussed his plans to link all of the
United States nuclear power sites via a grid that would enable
the achievement of a safe, inexpensive, and virtually unlimited
power source. In reality, the grid was to be a system of
interlocking detonators waiting to be triggered by a massive
discharge of radiation.
He explained his encounter with Zero and his resultant absence, although he arranged the details to make himself appear the loyal and innocent victim. He then met with his most loyal agent, Sergeant Gramon, and inducted him into his secret plan. Gramon assured his own loyalty and secrecy by cutting off his own tongue and sewing his lips together. Gramon began the process of murdering the other most intelligent nuclear physicists on the planet, who might discover Clerk's true plans.
(Critical Mass#3) - Clerk called an emergency meeting of the MERCHANTS at a "Celebration of Chili" festival. He used his previous lies regarding Zero to convince the group that Zero was the greatest threat on the face of the planet. He convinced them to distract and otherwise occupy Zero to prevent Zero from discovering his recovery.
(Critical Mass#4) - Clerk initiated the process of secretly disabling the sensors that would otherwise alert the staff of the elevating levels of radiation leakage he would need to institute his plan.
(Critical Mass#4/2) - Clerk learned that the Powerline had learned of his plans from Ravenscore, and thought to inform Retler of these plans. Clerk sent Gramon to kill the members of Powerline. They narrowly escaped with their lives, but they realized they would need to recruit some heavy hitters against Clerk.
(Critical Mass#5) - Clerk spoke to a group of
schoolchildren touring a nuclear power plant.
He later spoke at a meeting of America' nuclear industry leaders.
(Critical Mass#5/2) - Clerk chose reactor SL-1, which had already had a number of minor leakages and failures as the site from which to initiate his plan. Clerk brainwashed one of the night staff, and led him to slay his co-workers and pull the control rods from the reactor.
Later still, he and Gramon ambushed Sheila Willis, the girlfriend of Dr. Zero, presumably planning to kidnap her to prevent Zero's interference. However, she fought back furiously and pushed Clerk over the limit, and he beat her to death.
Zero found Clerk's Stop n' Stuff button beside Sheila's dead body.
(Critical Mass#6/2) - Clerk, Gramon, and his other agents performed a complete takeover of Colorado's Ft. Vrean nuclear plant, which they then pushed aggressively towards meltdown.
(Critical Mass#7 // [7/2] // 7/3) - A group of Shadows and a few humans, including Dr. Zero, Powerline, Michael Devlin, and Gordon Castle, and others, with the forced aid of Dirk Ravenscore, united to stop Clerk's plan. Zero located Donald Gaffney and convinced him to give him Clerk's location, and the specifics of his plan. Zero assaulted Clerk at the Ft. Vrean reactor, where he had already begun his plans to initiate the worldwide meltdown chain reaction. Zero foolishly squandered his energy stores, blasting apart the facility as he searched for Clerk. Upon being discovered, Clerk pretended to poison himself with cyanide to rob Zero of his vengeance. Zero was unprepared when Clerk suddenly leapt up and emptied a machine gun into his chest and abdomen. However, Zero's dense body structure and his energy stores kept him alive, although down to the power level of a normal man. Nonetheless, he attacked Clerk, intending to beat him to death, regardless of the imminent meltdown. Devlin interrupted, knocking them both out with his staff and flew them out of the facility to the escape helicopter. As Zero revived, his rage was undiminished, and he hurled Clerk out of the helicopter and back into the reactor, just as Gordon Castle (his powers amplified by both Ravenscore and the Powerline kids) teleported the reactor--and the ground underneath it--out into space.
Comments: Created by Archie Goodwin, D. G. Chichester, Margaret Clark, and Denys Cowan.
Clerk is a brilliant character--he and Shreck
are the highpoints of the Shadowline. His theories and monologues
are interesting to read, and they make you glad it's just a comic
book. His discussion of the effects of a nuclear explosion (or a
series of them) are real attention getters. I'm not going to make
much of an effort to describe his mind, as you have to read the
stories to truly appreciate them.
I bet if you found the right shop, you could probably obtain all 31 Shadowline comics for $20 or less.
images: (without ads)
Dr. Zero#3-4 (August-October, 1988)
St. George#6 (April, 1989)
Critical Mass#1-7 (January-July, 1990)
Last updated: 02/19/03
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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