Doctor Death (DC)

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Doctor Death in Batman: Streets of Gotham v1 #20.

Doctor Death is a male comic supervillain that features in DC Comics.




Batman confronts Doctor Death in Detective Comics v1 #29.

Karl Hellfern was a male villainous scientist who had adopted the name of Doctor Death.

Years earlier, he was working at Elliot Pharmaceuticals whilst secretly cutting heroin for the Guzzo crime mob. (Batman: Streets of Gotham v1 #18) He was hired by Salvatore Guzzo and Judson Pierce to create a poison to kill the people at Leslie Thompkins Clinic. Hellfern injected the plague into a rat and had it bite an orphan from the clinic that was spying on them with the aim of spreading it whilst the child was getting treatment. However, Thomas Wayne along with staff at Wayne Medical managed to quickly combat the disease thus stopping it from spreading. (Batman: Streets of Gotham v1 #20) It was his confession and Thomas Wayne testimony that were responsible for sending Judson Pierce to Blackgate Penitentiary. (Batman: Streets of Gotham v1 #19)

As Doctor Death, he began developing a deadly pollen extract that he intended to use to blackmail the wealthy in Gotham City. However, he was concerned that his activities would have attracted the attention of the masked vigilante known as the Batman. As a result, he dispatched his men in order to kill him. Batman ended up discovering Doctor Death's hideout where he battled his servant Jabah who he managed to defeat. During the struggle, they alongside Doctor Death accidently set the laboratory on fire. It was believed that the mad scientist had died with Jabah in the fire. (Detective Comics v1 #29) Despite the inferno, he managed to survive but had lost most of his face as a result of the fire. He returned to Gotham continue his schemes of blackmail only to be opposed once more by Batman who battled the villain alongside his new servant a Cossack named Mikhail. The vigilante managed to defeat Doctor Death once more and handed him over to the Gotham City Police Department. (Detective Comics v1 #30)


Black Mask had Professor Hugo Strange, Doctor Death and Fright as part of his Ministry of Science that were working for the False Face Society. (Batman v1 #692) Around this time, the Society was involved in a gang war against the Falcone crime family that was headed by Mario Falcone. (Batman v1 #693)

Hush along with the recently released criminal Judson Pierce along with his men approached Doctor Death for a job where they managed to evade his deadly gas. (Batman: Streets of Gotham v1 #19)

The New 52

Following the Flashpoint, a new reality and history of events were created with different backstories for the various characters.

Philip Kane set up a bio-initiative that sought to create a powerful restorative with this consisting of three scientists named Dr. Karl Helfern, Dr. Paul Dekker and Dr. Hugo Strange. Each were working on different aspects of this project that included bone, soft tissue and regenerating neural tissue respectively with the trio being called the Doctors Three. (Batman v2 #38) Helfern had a son who went into the military with Helfern worrying about his safety. It was during this time that Phillip Kane offered to put Karl's son on an assignment that was a search and rescue. Helfern agreed thinking it was simple mission into the desert to find Kane's lost nephew Bruce Wayne. However, the nomadic tribes made use of booby-traps with these responsible for killing Karl's son. (Batman v2 #29)

After being fired from Wayne Enterprises, Helfern continued his research with this being funded by Edward Nygma who kept Karl's work at his black box running. (Batman v2 #29)


Personality and attributes

It was claimed that the Batman was an obsession for Doctor Death despite him being defeated by the vigilante numerous times. (Batman: Streets of Gotham v1 #18)

Powers and abilities

Pre-Flashpoint: Such was his knowledge of chemistry and biology that he was able to create new designer drugs such as Soul that was a by-product of experiments on human cadavers. Those dosed with Soul went into a psychopathic rage and attacked anyone near them including allies. (Batgirl v1 #45) For a time, he was assisted by a number of female lab assistants that were a gang called the Lost Girls. (Batgirl v1 #46)

A trademark of his was the use of deadly gas that he deployed against his enemies. (Batman: Streets of Gotham v1 #18)

Post-Flashpoint: The serum caused his body to regenerate but left awful scars behind and led to the growth of further bones. (Batman v2 #29)


  • Doctor Death was created by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane where he made his first appearance in Detective Comics v1 #29 (July, 1939).

In other media


  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Doctor Death did not appear but a possible reference to him was made in the episode "Beware the Gray Ghost". One of the television adventures of the Gray Ghost included him fighting a villain by the name of Dr. Death.


  • Detective Comics v1
  • Batman:

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