The Claw

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Silver Streak Comics vol. 1 #6 © 1940 Lev Gleason. COVER ART BY JACK COLE.

The Claw

(pop culture)
From the fecund imagination of cartoonist Jack Cole—the comics genius who gave the world Plastic Man, eye-puncturing EC horror tales, and voluptuous Playboy vixens—snaked his most appalling concoction, the Claw, the “Oriental demon” described by Cole's biographer (and Maus writer/artist) Art Spiegelman as making “Ming the Merciless look like Mother Teresa” (Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits!, 2001). This adversary of the Golden Age (1938–1954) Daredevil (not to be confused with Marvel Comics' blind superhero of the same name), the Claw first terrorized humankind in Silver Streak Comics #1 (1939), from publisher Lev Gleason. Born in the Tibetan village ominously named Death's Head, this offspring of an Asian tyrant and a deformed (with tusk-like fangs) Caucasian murderess is orphaned during infancy and raised by villagers, who regret their decision as the boy ages. A misshapen devil with yellow skin, a reptilian-like head, gargantuan fangs, and clawed fingers, throughout his youth the Claw persecutes classmates and teachers—anyone who crosses him— “graduating” from reform school to prison, and then into the world as a warlord. Operating from a skull-shaped castle atop a Tibetan mountain, this “god of hate” sets out to “dominate the universe.” One of the few Golden Age supervillains with actual superpowers, the flame-breathing Claw cast lightning from his fingertips and grew to skyscraper height when enraged. The Claw invaded America by drilling under the Atlantic Ocean in his boring machine, attacking New York City, where he fought Daredevil for the first time in Silver Streak #7 (1941); in this initial battle, the gigantic Claw actually consumed Daredevil, but a throat full of dynamite forced him to cough up the hero. They waged an ongoing war for several years, the Claw assaulting Daredevil with a barrage of deathtraps, jeering “Die, swine!” with each deadly strike. The Claw joined forces with the Führer in the landmark Daredevil #1 (1941), aka Daredevil Battles Hitler. Continuing his villainy in a solo feature beginning in Daredevil #2, the Claw battled a different superhero, the Ghost, for several episodes. After appearing in seven issues of Silver Streak and enjoying an unprecedented (for a supervillain strip) four-year run in Daredevil, the Claw met his demise at the hands of Daredevil in Daredevil #31 (1945). A brief revival attempt (Boy Comics #89, 1953) failed, and the Claw has remained dormant since.