Dr. Phosphorus was created by Detective Comics writer Steve Englehart in issue #469 dated May 1977.
Dr. Alex Sartorius was invited by Gotham's General Dr. Bell to join the Tobacconist's Club, an influential institution in Gotham. After becoming a member, Sartorius was asked to invest and run a proposed nuclear power plant that was being constructed outside of Gotham City. Sartorius invested his life savings without realizing that the plant was being built with cheap substandard safety systems. It turns out the power plant was a tax evasion scam set up by City Councilman Rupert Thorne and Dr. Church, a rival nuclear technician.
Alex visited the construction site of the power plant when all of a sudden, the nuclear core went unstable. Alex went for cover by hiding behind a pile of sandbags in order to survive the explosion. The radiation from the explosion altered Alex's body and irradiated the sand to the elemental scale of phosphorus. His body transformed into living Phosphorous and his exposed skin would burn anything on contact with air.
Every breath he took emitted deadly fumes and he glowed bright white with a coruscating nuclear flame. Sartorious was then captured and placed in a suspended animation tank at Cadmus Laboratories. Dr. Church was permitted by Cadmus to analyze Alex's newly transformed body. Dr. Church discovered that the fusion reaction from the explosion sublimated Alex's central nervous system into a gaseous form and it created functional facsimiles of his lungs, heart and kidneys. His body wasnow capable of creating a near endless supply of energy.
Dr. Church intends to make billions by unlocking the secrets behind Alex's altered physiology and patent any technology he can conceive from his research on Alex. However, Alex can hear Dr. Church's ambitions for glory and the success he would he achieve from Alex's degradation. Unfortunately for Dr. Church, the Cadmus facility where Alex is being held is being powered by the energy siphoned from his body. In a fit of rage, Alex disarms the safe guards put in place to keep him suspended and escapes. Alex lays waste to the facility and reduces Church to ash.
When he comes to, Alex realizes what he has become. This transformation drives Alex to the brink of insanity. Alex decides to call himself Phosphorus and undergoes a vengeful rampage through Gotham. Phosphorus hunts down every crooked investor and politician responsible for the cut-rate power plant. The only two people left on Phosphorus' hit list is Dr. Bell and Rupert Thorne.
Commissioner Gordon is investigating the latest crime scene and finds foot prints scorched right into the tile floor then he notices a ball of ash but its glowing. Just as Gordon was about to touch it, Batman grabs Gordon in the nick of time. The ash ball explodes and Gordon suffers only minor burns. Batman figured the ash ball was phosphorus pentoxide on account of the garlic smell. The ash ball was created by an oxidation reaction to white phosphorus when it was exposed to the air. Gordon's close proximity of the ash ball along with his body heat is what caused the ash ball to explode.
With Gordon out of commission for a brief time, Councilman Thorne puts Peter Pauling in charge of Gotham PD. Pauling's first order as acting commissioner is to ban the Batman's involvement with the police. This turn of events started to raise Batman's suspicions. He then starts putting things together and establishes the connection between the Phosphorus' victims and Councilman Throne.
Batman heads to the Gotham Medical Plaza where Dr. Bell is examining the third degree burns on Dr. Dwight, the only victim to survive Phosphorus' fiery revenge. Dr. Dwight can't stop screaming from the burns but he does manage to tell Dr. Bell who was responsible for the attack. Dr. Bell tries to escape the hospital but he is stopped by Batman. As Batman interrogates Dr. Bell on the hospital roof, they come under attack by Phosphorus. Batman tries to immobilize Phosphorus by causing a water tanker on the roof to fall on Phosphorus. Phosphorus brushes off the flood of water by turning it into steam and throws Batman off the roof.
Phosphorus then proceeds by burning Dr. Bell to a charred crisp. Phosphorus' only remaining target is the Rupert Thorne. By this time, Thorne has been driven mad by Dr. Strange's hallucinations because Thorne tortured and nearly killed Strange when the infamous doctor learned of Batman's secret identity. Thorne became so paranoid that he thought his own puppets Mayor Hamilton Hill and Commissioner Peter Pauling were conspiring against him. Thorne killed Pauling and Thorne's insanity plea was debunked in court.
With Gordon healed, he heads to Blackgate and orders a round the clock security detail within Throne's cell block. Phosphorus makes an explosive entrance by busting down the door to Thorne's cell and killing one of Gordon's men. Fortunately, Batman arrives and douses Phosphorus with wave after wave of exploding pellets that contain baking soda. Phosphorus lays on the prison floor catatonic and Gordon is baffled. Batman explains that the sodium bicarbonate from baking soda can suppress the oxidizing of white phosphorus. Dr. Phosphorous is then sent to Arkham so he can be treated and hopefully a cure can be found for his condition.
Phosphorus is now holding a grudge against Batman for preventing him from carrying out his revenge on Thorne. With the help of Ra's al Ghul, Phosphorus manages to escape from Arkham and starts some trouble in order to lure out the Batman. Phosphorus starts pumping out noxious fumes through the Sprang Stadium's ventilation system during a rock concert. Bruce and Alfred were attending the event because the concert was meant as a charity run. Several audience members died from inhaling the fumes and four dozen others were severely burned by Phosphorus when Batman tried to shut off the ventilation system.
Alfred was poisoned by the fumes but was rushed to Gotham General while Batman tracked down Phosphorus to the Gotham reservoir. Phosphorus intended to poison the water supply and kill seven million of Gotham's citizens. Batman got burned during his latest bout with Phosphorus but he managed to prevent Phosphorus from poisoning the reservoir. Phosphorus escaped while Batman took time to recuperate. Within a short while, Batman develops a new bat suit that can withstand Phosphorus and a tracer that can track Phosphorus' unique radiation signature.
Batman tracked Phosphorus to an abandoned offshore nuclear plant. During the confrontation, Batman defeats Phosphorus and Phosphorus falls into the reactor core and seemingly dies. Phosphorus did survive his fall and again attempted to threaten Gotham in order to draw out the Batman. This time he attempted to poison the populace by using an aircraft that would allow him to seed rain clouds with his own irradiated material. Batman uses his bat wing to clear out the irradiated rain clouds and takes down Phosphorus' aircraft.
Major Story Arcs
Underworld Unleashed/ Gran Guignol
During Underworld Unleashed, Phosphorus has been transferred to Belle Reve and the demon Neron offers him greater power than his current state. Phosphorus agrees to sell his soul and gains greater control over his power. Phosphorus could now control his body's burning emissions to the point that he could wear clothes and enjoy some of his past indulgences like chain smoking. Phosphorus became a carefree villain and abandoned his ambition to exact his revenge on the Batman. He eventually took on jobs that appealed to him.
On one such occasion, Phosphorus decided to work for the daughter of Mist , an arch enemy of Starman. Phosphorus was hired to kill the original Starman: Ted Knight. Ted was able to defeat to Phosphorus but Phosphorus irradiated Ted with enough energy that Ted's body succumbed to radiation poisoning in his blood. Phosphorus was placed in Opal City's Cray Prison but he eventually made a daring escape after killing seventeen guards. Despite his terminal cancer, Ted was able to put an end to Phosphorus by using his cosmic rod to destroy the pavement that Phosphorous was standing on and the collapsing pavement drove him into the ground which apparently killed him.
Return to Batman's Rogues gallery
Phosphorus survived Ted's retribution and returned to Gotham when he learned that the Batman had been supposedly killed. During the Battle for the Cowl: Man-Bat series, Phosphorus captured Man-Bat and his wife Francine. He was defeated by Man-Bat who submerged him in a river.
New 52: Post-Flashpoint
Dr. Phosphorus is set to appear in the Catwoman title.
Dr. Phosphorus appeared as a member of the Creature Commandos during the Flashpoint crossover.
Doctor Phosphorus' appearance was used as inspiration for the character Derek Powers, who later becomes Blight. His skin is burned off due to the high levels of radiation his body emits and all that is left is the glowing, radioactive skeleton associated with Doctor Phosphorus.
After numerous defeats by Batman, Firefly (Garfield Lynns) asks his girlfriend, Dr. Jane Blazedale to help him steal a phosphorous isotope. She helps him steal it and Garfield uses it to upgrade his arsenal. However, an accident occurs and Garfield is transformed into Doctor Phosphorus. He becomes insane and whatever he touches burns. He was defeated by Batman when he uses Liquid Nitrogen on him. This version of Phosphorus resembles molten lava and burns orange flames.