Who the Clix? Rag Doll

Posted December 8th, 2023 by Joe Pangrazio

Who the Clix? is a series of articles featuring information on comic book characters that have been made into figures for the popular tabletop game Heroclix. These articles are meant to help Heroclix players learn more about the characters behind their favorite pieces.

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Appearances in Heroclix:  Flash
First Appearance: Flash Comics #36 (December 1942) 
Team Affiliations: Injustice Society, Secret Society of Super Villains, Suicide Squad
Powers/Abilities: Master contortionist; Expert thief and marksman; Skilled hypnotist
Created by:  Gardner Fox - Lou Ferstadt 

Artwork and character is copyright/trademark DC; used under Fair Use

Peter Merkel is born in the Midwest of the United States with a unique condition known as “triple-jointed.” In layman's terms, this simply means that he is flexible to an almost super human extent. As the son of a side-show talker, Merkel easily finds work in a small carnival. In the early 1940s, the carnival falls on hard times and leaves Merkel out of work. He is inspired to a life of crime by watching boxes of toys being loaded into a department store. He quickly comes up with the idea of using one of the large rag dolls as a costume, stuffing himself into one of the boxes, and robbing the store after closing time.

His slapdash plan is a success as the legend of the Rag Doll grows. He is sought out by petty crooks who hope to help and learn from him. He eventually travels to Keystone City and plans to rob a massive socialite event. Unfortunately for Rag Doll, the Flash (Jay Garrick) is there and is able to foil the villain's scheme, literally tying the criminal in knots before delivering him to jail.

Rag Doll and Flash have several more encounters until a notable one in the 70s. The Thinker brainwashes Rag Doll into committing crimes based on dolls and attempts to undermine the Flash's confidence. The arrival and quick thinking of Barry Allen results in the scheme being undone and both the Thinker and Rag Doll being returned to prison.

In the 80s, a motley crew of young and elder villains from Earth Two come together as the Secret Society of Super Villains under the leadership of the Ultra-Humanite. Humanite develops a machine that can use ten heroes, five from the Justice Society and five from the Justice League, to erase all heroes from the planet. Rag Doll, for his part, is sent to dispose of the Flash. Just as the plan seemed to be working, a wrinkle arose. The Earth-One villains had been promised an Earth free of heroes as well. Instead, those villains were trapped in Limbo along with all the heroes. Betrayed, the villains conspire to help free the heroes and lead to the Secret Society of Super Villains being trapped in Limbo.

The villains are temporarily able to escape Limbo and travel back to the 1940s of Earth-Two, only to be defeated and returned to their prison dimension. Rag Doll eventually returns to Earth and ages into his sixties. At this point, his joints have become arthritic and he can no longer rely on his physical ability to commit crimes. However, his years in the carnivals taught him how to coerce large groups of people. With this skill, his builds a cult of crime that unleashes a crime wave on Opal City. Starman is unable to stop the villain and asks for the help of the Justice Society.

While the heroes are able to restrain Rag Doll, the villain threatens the lives of the heroes and their loved ones. He promises to continue orchestrating crime from behind bars and that there is nothing the heroes can do to stop him. Rag Doll is able to slip from his restraints and while attempting to escape, is seemingly killed. However, his body vanishes from the morgue the next morning.

It turns out that Rag Doll is actually alive and he continues to run his cult in secret. Years later, the demon Neron approaches Rag Doll and offers a bargain: Neron will restore Rag Doll's youth and vitality in exchange for his soul. Rag Doll accepts and is told to wait for the arrival of a man named Simon Culp. Culp arrives years later as the Shade and enlists Rag Doll in a scheme to trap Opal City in a shadow-dome. The plan seems to be going well, with the villains even disarming Starman. However, as Culp emerges from Shade to take vengeance on Starman, Adam Strange and Black Condor arrive to help. The heroes escape with Rag Doll and other villains in pursuit. Rag Doll attempts to help Dr. Phosphorus defeat Starman. When Starman kills Phosphorus, however, Rag Doll simply turns and escapes.

Rag Doll goes on to join a new Injustice Society and face the JSA. He then forms a new Secret Society of Super Villains and even faces his son, who is a member of the Secret Six under the Rag Doll name. Rag Doll is then killed by the resurrection of Johnny Sorrow, seemingly planned by his teammates to avoid the eventual betrayal by Rag Doll.

Rag Doll is later resurrected as a Black Lantern and is defeated when Nekron is.

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