Contributed by Ronald Byrd
Born in the American South early in the twentieth century, Stephen Lee’s mutant ability manifested itself in childhood when his facial features collapsed into a putty-like form. In adulthood he learned to reshape his face into that of anyone else but was unable to reconstruct what his own adult face should have been. Taking the name Dumas after the author of “The Man in the Iron Mask,” he became a deadly US intelligence agent in the Far East and later a freelance assassin in Japan, developing a reputation as an operative who would never back off from an assignment once he had accepted it.
Early in his adult life Dumas’s power developed to the point that he could reshape his entire body and, feeling that he could never find a woman to love, he assumed female form himself to become Olivia Vancroft, a socialite of the late 1930swhom he came to regard as a separate individual with “her own life, her own soul,” leading him to wonder “who is real and who is the mask.” Many of his missions were carried out, as far as the rest of the world knew, on behalf of the interests of the beautiful and reclusive Vancroft, whose appearance he did not allow to age over the decades; in fact, as Vancroft “she” went through the motions of formally hiring Dumas through other parties. In both personalities, Dumas was fascinated by masks; as Dumas he pursued a passion for kabuki masks, and Olivia Vancroft owned a large collection of those worn by super-heroes and super-villains.
When Vancroft decided to acquire the mask of Mark Shaw, a.k.a. Manhunter, Dumas clashed with the heroic mercenary a few times before Manhunter learned his secret and was finally forced to kill him in battle. After his death, Dumas’s body was used to develop a serum to duplicate his powers, and a Japanese gangster took on the identity until he too was defeated by Manhunter.
Dumas had the ability to reshape his face and body into that of any person he can visualize; however, he was unable to disguise his heartbeat ratio or voiceprint, and his facial features ran like putty if he did not maintain concentration on a given appearance. Dumas was a master at hand-to-hand combat and the martial arts; he also used a variety of weapons, including guns, knives, and throwing darts, which he wielded with precision. His costume was insulated to protect him from electrical shock.
Dumas’ birth name is Stephen Powell Lee. Olivia Vancroft was first seen in Manhunter #1 and as Dumas in #2. Dumas’ operated out of Tokyo while Vancroft was located at Cliff House in southwest Wisconsin. Dumas’ bifurcated sexuality was revealed in Manhunter #4. It remains unclear if Dumas’ orientation is bisexual, straight, or possibly even “all of the above”.
Dumas created by Kim Yale, Jon Ostrander, and Grant Miehm. Art by Miehm, John Statema, and Carl Gafford from Manhunter #22 (1988).
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