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[The Thinker]
Real Name: Clifford Devoe
Occupation: Criminal
Past Occupation: District Attorney
Group Affiliations: Injustice Society, Suicide Squad, Checkmate
Base of Operations: Keystone City, Kansas
First Appearance: All-Flash #12 (Fall 1943)

[The Original Thinker] Cliff Devoe, Keystone City’s district attorney, became frustrated with his inability to stop crime. After he lost a high-profile case against mob boss Hunk Norvock, Devoe decided he was on the wrong side. He offered Norvock a deal: in exchange for room and board, he would apply his mind to any task Norvock wanted.

Devoe spent the next ten years doing nothing but researching and planning crimes, earning the nickname, the Thinker. Norvock finally called in the favor, then tried to kill Devoe as a potential rival. Devoe was prepared for every contingency, and Norvock ended up killing himself. The gang chose the Thinker as their new leader. (All-Flash #12,1943)

The Thinker tangled repeatedly with the original Flash. His crimes were always meticulously researched and planned, often technologically advanced, and he would sometimes taunt the city’s protector ahead of time with a clue.

The Thinking Cap

[The Thinker with his Thinking Cap] Devoe obtained a “thinking cap”* which would boost his intellect even further, enabling him to plan even more elaborate schemes, eventually modifying it to give him telekinesis, mind control, and other psionic abilities.

The Thinker’s greatest scheme was carried out with the aid of the Fiddler and the Shade. Together, they managed to shift Keystone City out of phase with the rest of the world for thirty years while the population slept. No one inside could put up any resistance, and no one outside could remember the city even existed. The three of them were able to plunder the city at their leisure. About ten years ago the second Flash discovered and crossed into the hidden city, then tracked down the original Flash, waking him up and joining him to stop the trio and restore the city.**

Digital Afterlife

Eventually Cliff Devoe developed cancer. During his time in the hospital, he became friends with Jay Garrick. When the doctors told Devoe he only had a few days left, Garrick went on a hunt for the thinking cap, hoping that with it Devoe might devise a way to cure his brain tumor. He found it, but Devoe declined its help, and passed away. (Flash v.2 #134, 1998)

When the new Justice Society formed, Mr. Terrific used the Thinker’s thinking cap as a basis for the artificial intelligence in their new headquarters’ computer systems. Somehow the Thinker’s essence was transferred into the JSA HQ. Unfortunately, his friendship with Jay Garrick did not come through. Approached by Johnny Sorrow, the Thinker aided in an attack by the Injustice Gang until his system was shut down.

The Thinker’s electronic form was not destroyed, however, and took up residence in the data networks of Keystone City. He lurked there for months, gathering his strength until he took control, transforming the city into a giant supercomputer with its residents as the ultimate CPU cluster. The Flash overaccelerated his program and—apparently—erased it. (“Crossfire,” Flash v.2 #184–187, 2002)

The Thinker AI has since resurfaced as the White King’s Bishop operative for the covert-ops agency Checkmate, answering to Mr. Terrific. (Checkmate v.2 #9, 2007)

Text by Kelson Vibber. Do not copy without permission.

Top of Page Primary Sources

  • “Tumble Inn to Trouble” - All-Flash #12 (Fall 1943)
  • “Flash of Two Worlds” - Secret Origins #50 (August 1990), Grant Morrison (retelling of the original story by Gardner Fox)
  • “Injustice Be Done” parts 1–2 - JSA #16–17 (November–December 2000), David Goyer and Geoff Johns (Thanks to Troy Desrosiers for providing some background to these)

Art

  • Digital Version: Flash Secret Files #3 (November 1961) - Scott Kollins and José Marzan, Jr.
  • Original: All-Flash #12 (Fall 1943) - E.E. Hibbard
  • With Thinking Cap: Flash (first series) #123 (September 1961) - Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella

Profiles

  • Who’s Who in the DC Universe #23 (January 1987)

Significant Golden-Age Appearances

  • All-Flash #12 (Fall 1943): “Tumble Inn to Trouble,” Gardner Fox
  • All-Flash #14 (Spring 1944): “The Man Who Unleashed the Past,” Gardner Fox
  • All-Flash #27 (February–March 1947): “The Thinker Cooks with Gas”
  • Comic Cavalcade #22 (August–September 1947): “Beware the Ice Age”
  • Comic Cavalcade #23 (October–November 1947): “The Sleeping City”
  • All Star Comics #37 (October–November 1947): “The Injustice Society of the World,” Robert Kanigher
  • All-Flash #32 (December–January 1948): “Crime Incorporated,” Robert Kanigher or John Broome
  • Flash #214 (April 1972): “The Tale of the Three Tokens!” Robert Kanigher (unpublished GA story)

Unlike the Silver and Modern Age lists, I have only a partial index of Golden-Age appearances. This list may be incomplete.

Significant Silver-Age Flash Appearances

  • Flash #123 (September 1961): “Flash of Two Worlds!” Gardner Fox
  • Flash #214 (April 1972): “The Tale of the Three Tokens!” Robert Kanigher (unpublished GA story)
  • Flash #229 (October 1974): “The Rag Doll Runs Wild!” Cary Bates

Significant Legacy-Era Flash Appearances

  • Secret Origins #50 (August 1990): “Flash of Two Worlds” (revised), Grant Morrison
  • The Life Story of the Flash (1997): “Stolen Thunder,” Mark Waid
  • Flash #134 (February 1998): “Still Life In The Fast Lane,” Grant Morrison and Mark Millar
  • Flash #161 (June 2000): “Honeymoon in Vegas,” Pat McGreal (flashback story)
  • Flash #165–167 (October–December 2000): “Wonderland parts 2–4,” Geoff Johns (alternate universe)
  • Flash Secret Files #3 (November 2001): “Rogues,” Geoff Johns (cameo)
  • Flash #184–187 (May–August 2002): “Crossfire” Parts 1–4, Geoff Johns

Notes

*The Thinking Cap did not appear during any of the Thinker’s Golden-Age appearances, including the story that eventually appeared in Flash v.1 #214 (1972). It looks like the first time he used it may be in “Flash of Two Worlds” (Flash #123, 1961), though the first chronological appearance would be the flashback story “Honeymoon in Vegas,” from Flash v.2 #161 (2000).

There is an earlier appearance of a ”thinking cap” in Flash Comics #65 (1945), “The Adventure of the Thinking Cap.” The Comics Archives suggests that this is the same device, and indicates that it was invented by Dr. Hartford Jackson.

**“Flash of Two Worlds,” originally presented in The Flash #123 (1961) and now available in The World’s Greatest Team-Up Stories and The Flash Archives Volume 3, was the first meeting of the pre-Crisis Earth-1 and Earth-2. In it, Barry Allen crossed over to Earth-2 and convinced Jay Garrick to come out of retirement to help solve a string of robberies carried out by the Thinker, Fiddler, and Shade. The aftermath of the Crisis placed Keystone and Central Cities on the same Earth, across the river from each other. Grant Morrison, in Secret Origins #50 (1990) updated the tale to fit with post-Crisis continuity. As far as how long it was out of phase, that’s less clear. Morrison’s story implies that it was under 10 years (“There were a couple of orphans there that day who suddenly weren’t orphans anymore”), but Brian Augustyn’s “Riddle of the Retro Robberies” (Flash 80-page Giant #2, 1999) states that it was thirty.

Continuity Alert! According to the Suicide Squad/Doom Patrol Special, the Thinker’s throat was slashed during a mission with the Suicide Squad (a program in which super-villains could work off their sentences carrying out dangerous missions for the U.S. government) and he was left for dead. This story or the Thinker’s role in it may have been retconned out of existence by Flash #134, or the Squad may simply have assumed too quickly that he was dead.

A second Thinker, Cliff Carmichael, implanted microchips based on the Thinking Cap into his own brain. This “New Thinker” worked with the Suicide Squad, then dropped out of sight, eventually reappearing to battle Firestorm. Firestorm liquefied the implants (at great cost to himself), and Carmichael was captured (Firestorm v.2 #11–13, 2005).

(Thanks to Netglider5 and Troy Desrosiers for the Suicide Squad info. Thanks also to Liquidcross for news of the second Thinker’s fate. And thanks to Jacob Kosmicki for the tip on the Checkmate connection.)

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