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"You're not as smart as you think you--"
"Yes I am.
"
—Harrison Wells and Clifford DeVoe[src]

Professor Clifford DeVoe, nicknamed The Thinker by Cisco Ramon, is a former history professor of Central City University, and secretly an extremely knowledgeable enemy of the Flash. Before he lived in Central City he lived in South Africa. He works alongside Marlize DeVoe, his wife and partner-in-crime, whom he met at the University of Oxford. DeVoe eventually transferred his conciousness into Dominic Lanse and assumed his identity, leaving his original body for dead to frame Barry Allen. He sees himself as "The Fastest Mind Alive".

Biography

Studies and teaching

The investigation of Clifford DeVoe by Barry Allen

Barry Allen's investigation of the life of Clifford DeVoe and Marlize DeVoe.

Clifford DeVoe was raised in South Africa. When he grew up, he studied history and econometrics at the University of Johannesburg, Clifford first took a teaching position at the University of Oxford, specializing in the history of warfare and military strategy, focusing largely on the early Middle Ages. There he'd meet Marlize, where the two fell in love and eventually married.[1][2] Circa 2006, while at Oxford, Clifford was a member of the debating society, debating the morality of Sun Tzu and the principles of Machiavelli. At that time, he also held a number of lectures in Central City University: on Japanese political fragmentation in the 15th century on June 13th; on the Menji Restoration of 1868 in September; on the Battle of Hakusukinoe in October. He would later accept an invitation to become a professor at CCU, moving to live in Central City, United States.[2]

Birth of the Thinker

Clifford and Marlize, now living in Central City, worked on adapting to their new lives and saw progress for human development through the acceleration of mind, with Clifford thinking that his own genius was not enough to achieve their plan of "distributing knowledge" throughout society. Coincidentally, the couple followed the progresses of S.T.A.R. Labs under Dr. Harrison Wells, specifically his S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator project. Upon realizing that the particle accelerator would explode, the DeVoe family developed a machine to amplify DeVoe's intelligence by using the dark matter from the particle accelerator explosion to power his "Thinking Cap" device. While the experiment was a success, DeVoe began to suffer from degeneration in his body, slowly paralyzing him and causing him seizures and pain. With his body trying to maintain the vast intellect, the rest of his body was not receiving the energy it needs. Clifford's wife has thus built a machine that plugs into DeVoe's brain to slow down his deteriorating body.[2]

DeVoe kept watch over Becky Sharpe (and presumably a number of other meta-humans) in her day-to-day life, an individual with incredibly bad luck.[3]

In October 2017, DeVoe and Marlize had a samurai droid built to force the Flash to make his return to Central City,[4] causing dark matter to spill out and transform a busload of 12 people into meta-humans.[3] After the samurai robot was defeated, DeVoe used it to anonymously welcome the Flash back. After rebuilding another Samuroid in his hideout, DeVoe mused on how everything was going according to plan with the Flash's return and began to plan his next move.[4]

Later, DeVoe got up early in the morning, researched all of Schubert's 600+ works and used this knowledge to finish his unfinished eighth symphony, playing it on a holographic piano. Marlize approached him, musing how she enjoyed the song as a child. DeVoe proceeded to ask her for an update on the meta-humans, to which she showed him she managed to locate Ramsey Deacon locked up at Iron Heights Prison. DeVoe then decided it was time to locate the others.[5]

Shortly following, as DeVoe and his wife watched over an incarcerated Becky Sharpe, the latter remarked on how Team Flash had found her significantly quicker than they'd anticipated, suggesting they were smarter than they'd thought. DeVoe, however, was sure that he was smarter, revealing a live feed to S.T.A.R. Labs from the defect Samuroid head.[3]

Having knowledge of Mayor Anthony Bellows having an affair, DeVoe asked Ralph Dibny to investigate him.[6]

He tracked down a meta-human called "The Weeper" a week later and told him that he went through a lot of trouble in creating him and that he couldn't die until he completed the task he was created for.[7]

When Marlize came to him, saying they needed to talk, he responded that it would end the only way it could which was his victory. She seemed confused and he said that they would have to take the conversation the long way. She then alerted DeVoe to the fact that Team Flash were closer to discovering his identity earlier than they had anticipated. He assured her that everything was fine as he had calculated every possible variable as well as all possible outcomes of their conversation and how it would end. When she asked how it would end, he repeated his earlier statement that it would all end with his victory. Not long following, they were visited by Joe West and Barry Allen, who asked to speak to Clifford, who appeared in simple clothes and in an electric wheelchair, away from his mechanized hovering chair.[1]

Barry and Joe interrogating Clifford DeVoe

Clifford DeVoe being questioned by Joe West and Barry Allen

After letting Joe and Barry in their home for being questioned, he denied that he didn't know any of the meta-humans that were in the bus the day when Barry exited from the speed force except for Mina Chaytan but he explained his earlier life and about how he met his wife Marlize at the last university he thought at. After a few questions Joe and Barry decided to leave in which Barry doesn't trust DeVoe and continued his investigation on him.

Devoe was teaching at a classroom at the University when he saw Barry again. When the students were dismissed, Barry posed several questions to Devoe on his whereabouts on January 7th, 2014 (the date of particle accelerator explosion at STAR Labs). Clifford denied claimed that he had no clue where he was that night. Barry asked him if he took any public transportation and DeVoe said he only got car rides from people he knew were "wheel-chair friendly.” Devoe also asked Barry why he was inquiring such information. Barry told him he wasn’t at liberty to disclose why and handed Devoe his contact card while secretly super-quickly swiping Clifford’s mug into his possession to conduct DNA test determining if DeVoe is meta-human.

Hours later, Devoe filed a complaint against Barry to David Singh. He lied, claiming that Barry was harassing him and his wife, prompting Singh to force Barry into apologizing to Clifford and Marlize for prying them.

The day after Barry broke into Devoe’s house and found that Clifford was spying on Team Flash, Marlize went to Singh again to deal with Barry’s behavior. Barry was suspended from his work for two weeks and the Devoe’s acquired a restraining order against Allen from coming into further contact with them.

Later, Barry defied the order and sought out Clifford one more time, asking him who he really was. Clifford revealed to Barry that he knows his superhero identity, how the Flash was “born”, and that he, Clifford Devoe is smarter than Allen and his friends combined. Devoe specifically told Barry that while he may be the fastest man alive, heis the fastest mind alive. Devoe promised to think about Barry as he left to begin a class.

Clifford told Marlize about his encounter with Barry and talk about his friends until his seizures started again due to not connected to his hover-chair for a long period of time. Marlize takes off his wig that reveals his brain and connects him to his hover-chair and watched a live footage of Barry and Iris sitting in an sofa together while Marlize asked Clifford if he's going to let them get married in which he replied that; "What is knowledge without love?".

Evolution of the Thinker

Some time after Barry and Iris's wedding, DeVoe attacks Barry using his hoverchair, he is able to capture Barry and takes him to his lair, where he put Barry in a speedster trap. He confronted Barry and told him that he is here to teach him and that the lesson was there are no such things as Happy Endings. When Joe West and Harrison Wells arrived to DeVoe's house, DeVoe met them, but showed no real hostility to them and allowed them to look through his house. He returned back to Barry, but found him gone, shocked that Barry could have escaped, he put down the trap, only to discover that Barry had not moved at all, but had stood still really fast that the eye couldn't see. DeVoe tried to launch the trap back up, but was too slow and Barry escaped. Barry confronted DeVoe and DeVoe teleported the pair of them over the city, in the air, DeVoe attempted to use his mechanical arms to capture Barry but accidentally damaged his chair which sent him into the water. DeVoe though survived and when Dominic Lanse was brought to him by Marlize, he transferred his mind into Dominic's fully taking over his body. In Domnic's body, DeVoe attended Joe West's Christmas Party, in which he planted his previous body in Barry and Iris's apartment and stabbed him with a knife that Barry had held prior. He had the alarm go off in the apartment so that Barry would go there and contacted him and told him that he has taken over Dominic's body. He said his goodbye to the rest of Team Flash before being reunited with Marlize, they kissed and she put his ring on his finger. DeVoe then told her that the age of enlightment is to begin and the pair leave in their car while Barry is arrested for DeVoe's murder.

Possible futures

At some point, Barry used a device called a cerebral inhibitor against DeVoe.[8]

Legacy

According to Abra Kadabra's future, Clifford is regarded as one of the Flash's greatest enemies alongside the Reverse-Flash and Zoom, however, none were as bad as Savitar.[9] At some point in the future, both Kadabra and Thawne, while studying Barry's past, became aware of DeVoe's role as one of the Flash's enemies[9], the latter claiming to be a fan of his "work".[2]

Personality

Clifford DeVoe

Clifford in his civilian persona.

Prior to his transformation, Clifford was a fairly ordinary but socially awkward man who genuinely craved knowledge and wanted to reach people so he could pass on his love of knowledge to others, becoming frustrated with how so few of his students seemed to actually respect or listen to what he was trying to teach them. Feeling that their minds had become too small whilst his own ability to convey information effectively was lacking, Clifford began his efforts to construct the "Thinking Cap" with his lover in the name of bringing forth an "age of enlightenment".

The Thinker

Clifford as the Thinker.

Since becoming "the Thinker", Clifford's personality has changed; though still craving knowledge, he is now more ruthless and brutal in his willingness to hurt innocents to get what he wants. Clifford is a calculating and patient man, very much focused on his current objective all the time, not having much emotional reaction while doing so. He is very confident in his abilities and does not hesitate to emphasize just how thoroughly he has accounted for every possibility, and every outcome, even to his own wife.

Clifford's also possessed an ambitious nature even before his transformation, wishing to advance the human consciousness to instill change in humanity. Whether as a façade or not, he can be a nice person towards people, especially to his students, but he also takes advantage of this trait when he lied to David Singh about Barry harassing him and his wife in which the latter was actually investigating him.

However, even at his worst, Clifford is not without a romantic side; he feels the need to be the great man his wife needs despite his condition and noted that he would be nothing without her. He also allows Barry Allen and Iris West their wedding out of understanding of their love.

Clifford's superhuman intelligence has made him quite arrogant, this is evidenced by the fact that after Barry confronted him, as he wanted to know who he really is, he not only revealed to the latter that he knows he is the Flash, but Clifford also boasted that he has nothing to fear from Barry.

Powers and abilities

Powers

"There is not a decimal, a fraction, an infinitesimal variable beyond my thought... beyond my mind!"
—Clifford DeVoe[src]
  • Meta-human physiology: After being struck by the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator while wearing his "Thinking Cap", Clifford's already high mental capacities were enhanced to superhuman levels. The Thinking Cap also shielded DeVoe from being directly exposed to the gene-altering energy, which allowed Clifford to retain his normal human DNA despite his superhuman physiology. [2]
    • Superhuman intelligence: Clifford's powers greatly accelerate his brain activity, allowing him to absorb and process information for faster and more efficiently than normal human levels, even faster than Barry Allen. He is even able to condition his thought patterns and general brain activity to mimic others, enabling him to perform feats like completing Schubert's unfinished eighth symphony by extrapolating the remaining movements after he familiarized himself with the body of his other 600 works in a single morning. With his vastly augmented mental processing and cognitive capabilities, Clifford's intelligence is easily ranked as the greatest in the multiverse, his intellect is so great, in comparison to his intellects of those likes Barry Allen, Harrison Wells, Cisco Ramon and even Eobard Thawne seems pathetic. With his enhanced intelligence, Clifford feels that he can calculate and deduce the answer to almost any question and anticipate any potential outcome. To his point he solved many mysteries with his intelligence including Riemann's hypothesis, one of Hilbert's problems, and Jack the Ripper's true identity.[2]
    • Telepathy: When taking the body of Dominic Lanse, Clifford has taken his ability to read minds.

Abilities

  • Expert historian: Even before gaining his augmented intellect, Clifford was an accomplished and well-known professor of history in all its forms. The feudal era of Japan being a particular favorite of his.[2]
  • Master tactician: Clifford's intelligence makes him a near-flawless planner, able to assess and account for the numerous variables, both natural events and people's instinctual reaction, and from this effectively manipulate the situation to unfold as he sees fit.[4][6] Clifford's frightening calculations allowed him to predict various scenarios of potential future problems borders on clairvoyance, as shown from anticipating when Team Flash would discover his identity, an argument with his wife, and more.[1][2] Clifford is also a masterful chess player, as he regularly plays on his hover chair.[3]
  • Master of deception: Clifford can be very deceptive, effectively convincing David Singh that Barry Allen was harassing him and his wife; resulting in the latter being (unfairly/wrongfully) suspended from the CCPD. His ability to fake evidence led to Barry being convicted for his murder.
  • Multilingual: Clifford is capable of fluently speaking English, Japanese, French, Italian, Mandarin and several other languages.[2]
  • Musical ability: By conditioning his brain activity to replicate Schubert's, Clifford is a skilled pianist.[5]
  • Polymath: In addition to history, Clifford has demonstrated to be expert in various other subjects such as mathematics and engineering; this has become even notable since attaining his superhuman intellect. As an engineer, Clifford was able to create the schematics of the designs of the samurai robots and the "Thinking Cap".[4]

Weaknesses

  • Cerebral inhibitor: According to Savitar, Barry will use a version of the device to defeat Clifford at some point in the future.[8]
  • Field of vision: After taking over Dominic's body, thereby also aquiiring Dominic's mind reading ability, Clifford also presumably gained Dominic's weakness of only being able to read the minds of people he can see.[10]

Former weaknesses

The Thinker with his brain exposed

The Thinker with his brain exposed.

  • Body degeneration: While Clifford's intellect was boosted to levels surpassing groups of geniuses, his body began to deteriorate due to all the energy in it being directed to his brain, leaving his body without enough to properly function. This illness is an advanced form of ALS, causing his nerves and muscles to start deteriorating, which resulted in Clifford's paralysis and can eventually be fatal. His hovering chair is designed to stall this fatal deterioration, though it too will eventually fail to keep Clifford from dying.[2] He no longer has this weakness as he took Dominic's body.
  • Exposed brain: For his cybernetics to work, Clifford's brain has to be exposed, with the upper half of his skull removed.[2] This is no longer a weakness inside Dominic's body.

Equipment

  • Hovering chair: Clifford uses a mechanical chair, connected with wires to his hideout's computer system. The chair is also able to hover in mid-air and has offensive capabilities in form of blasters.[7] The chair also has teleportation capabilities, which explains how Clifford captured the Weeper without attracting a lot of attention. It also has extendable robotic tentacles capable of grabbing and stunning any victim without any difficulties as implied when Barry Allen tried to attack Clifford before getting grabbed and stunned by them. In addition, the chair has the ability to transfer the essence of Clifford into that of another body. This is how he transferred his essence into Dominic Lanse.

Former equipment

  • Thinking Cap: In 2013, just before the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator explosion Clifford designed the thinking cap to boost his own intelligence. He had his wife build it and he put it on his head during the explosion and it was struck by lightning, it is unknown what happened to the cap after that.
  • Wheelchair: Due to his severe ALS, Clifford used a wheelchair when he was required to appear as a civilian in public.[1] After taking control of Dominic's body and faking his own murder, he no longer has a need for the wheelchair, as Dominic does not suffer from the same condition.

Appearances

The Flash

Season 3

Season 4


Gallery

Promotional images

The Flash

Season 4


Trivia

  • The Thinker is the first main antagonist of The Flash who is not a speedster.
  • Like Damien Darhk, Clifford was mentioned twice, on the third season of his show, and became the main antagonist in the following season.
  • Clifford admits to his wife that in his many predicted future scenarios, one of Cisco's supervillain names for him would have been the Teacher.[2]
  • Unlike the previous main antagonists of The Flash, Clifford's identity as a villain was revealed to the audience very early in the season since his first appearance in the first episode of the fourth season and to Team Flash (in the seventh episode of the fourth season, "Therefore I Am"). The identities of the other villains were revealed only at the near end of the seasons;
    • Reverse-Flash's identity was revealed to the audience in the episode "Fallout" but on the twentieth episode of the first season, "The Trap" his identity was revealed truthfully to Team Flash (however, Team Flash suspected that he was Harrison Wells a few episodes before; he also revealed his identity to Cisco Ramon in an aborted timeline in the fifteenth episode "Out of Time").
    • Zoom's identity was revealed to the audience on the fifteenth episode of the second season, "King Shark" but it was officially revealed to Team Flash in the following episode, "Trajectory" and confirmed to the audience in the episode "Versus Zoom".
    • Savitar's identity was revealed to Barry and the audience on the twentieth episode of the third season, "I Know Who You Are" (However, he told the rest of the team only in the following episode, "Cause and Effect").
  • Savitar's prediction that Clifford will be defeated through the use of a cerebral inhibitor essentially means in Clifford's current state, his consciousness may be wiped completely from Dominic's mind, or it may give Dominic's consciousness the chance to fight back. Had Clifford preserved his original body, it would have been possible that he'd be able to recover from the cerebral inhibitor.

Behind the scenes

  • In the DC comics Clifford DeVoe was the first villain known as the Thinker, a genius inventor corrupted by Hunk Norvok and enemy of Jay Garrick, whose brain-boosting "Thinking Cap" invention went on to gain artificial intelligence and become an enemy of the Wally West Flash, using DeVoe's name after his demise, which was caused by the Cap's detrimental effects on his body over the years. Similarly, Devoe on the show struggles to keep his body healthy with his overclocked mind slowly killing him.
    • While in the comics that he was a failed lawyer, in the series he is a history professor.
  • In the series, Clifford DeVoe takes over the body of Dominic Lanse, a.k.a. Brainstorm. The DC Comics versions of the Thinker and Brainstorm, specifically the Axel Storm and Fred Storm versions had costume designs very similar with one of DeVoe's costumes, the purple suit with cauldrons and massive headgear used for amplifying their powers.
  • DeVoe's transfer of his consciousness to Dominic's body and then killing his original body is very similar to the arc of Superior Spider-Man, where Otto Octavius takes over Spider-Man's body and then kills his old, decaying body.
  • The functions of DeVoe's hover chair is reminiscent of the one used by Lex Luthor of the Justice League: Gods and Monsters continuity. Both have an assortment of gadgets and a teleportation like device. However the key feature was to aid both geniuses in movement due to both of them having a form of ALS.
    • The chair is also similar to the one used by Metron.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "When Harry Met Harry..."
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 "Therefore I Am"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Luck Be a Lady"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "The Flash Reborn"
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Mixed Signals"
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Elongated Journey Into Night"
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Girls Night Out"
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Finish Line"
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Abra Kadabra"
  10. "Don't Run"