'The Flash': Who Is Rag Doll?

The Flash returns from a brief hiatus tonight, and it is set to introduce one of the series' most terrifying foes yet.

The episode sees the team cross paths with Peter Merkel / Rag Doll (Troy James), a contortionist who robs people while wearing a slightly unsettling mask. While the citizens of Central City will probably be pretty confused by Merkel's M.O., he probably struck a familiar cord with DC Comics fans, thanks to the prolific history that Rag Doll has had in the comics.

The original version of Rag Doll first appeared in 1942's Flash Comics #36, as a Midwestern man named Peter Merkel who was plagued with "triple-jointedness". A contortionist in a sideshow, Merkel encountered financial troubles, resorting him to robbing a store while hidden inside a giant rag doll. This proved to be a success for Merkel, who ultimately moved to Keystone City and got involved with an elaborate treasure hunt, which involved The Flash, amnesia, and a giant octopus.

(Comics are weird.)

Rag Doll proceeded to make a share of appearances in the Silver Age era of comics, which ranged from him being brainwashed by The Thinker to him helping form a new generation of the Secret Society of Super Villains. An older - and decidedly darker - version of Rag Doll next appeared in James Robinson's Starman series, which imagined Rag Doll as a senile cult leader.

After Peter Merkel, several other iterations of Rag Doll made their way into the pages of DC Comics, most notably Peter Merkel Jr.. Created by Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham, Peter Jr. was born a normal baby, who surgically gave himself cybernetic joints as a way to please his father. As Rag Doll, Peter Jr. served as arguably one of the most memorable members of the Secret Six, helping them on a wide array of adventures.

With the New 52 reboot, Peter Jr. was re-established as an inmate at Arkham Asylum, who was hired to kill Alysia, the roommate of Barbara Gordon. Batgirl ultimately apprehended Rag Doll, who soon realized that the hit job was a setup.

The Flash fans will get to see exactly what elements of Rag Doll's comic backstory make it onto the small screen, beyond his costume seeming to channel Eaglesham's character design. And although it's unclear exactly how big of a roll Rag Doll will play on The Flash, fans shouldn't fret, because he just might appear in CBS' in-development Secret Six TV series.

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The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.