Little is known about Merkel's early life. Born with the exceptional power of triple-jointedness somewhere in the midwestern United States, he at some point in his early life attached himself to a travelling circus where he performed as a contortionist. It went bankrupt some time after his joining, and he turned to crime in order to support himself. Disguising himself as a rag doll, he pulled off his first successful heist in a department store. He soon developed a reputation as the Rag Doll, an accomplished thief.
Rag Doll was created by Gardner Fox. He was re-imagined by James Robinson
Rag Doll's origin has gone largely unchanged from his original Golden Age appearances, though his physical appearance has been altered significantly throughout the eras. He has aged more or less consistently through the eras, proceeding from a young man in the Golden Age to an elderly man in the Modern Age. In the Modern Age he was re-imagined as a darker and more serious character, and his hypnotism skills were introduced.
Major Story Arcs
Having made a name for himself as a criminal, Rag Doll relocates to Keystone City where he soon comes into conflict with the Flash during an attempt to rob heiress Geralda Cummins. He is soon defeated and sent to jail. He and Flash continue to clash over the years.
Rag Doll is brainwashed by the Thinker, who uses to the criminal to commit a series of crimes centred around dolls. He is apprehended by the Flash, who accepts his explanation that his mind has been tampered with and he has no recollection of the crimes. He is used as bait by the Flash to apprehend the Thinker. Following the Thinker's arrest, he is also returned to prison.
Secret Society of Super Villains
Rag Doll becomes a founding member of the second incarnation of the Secret Society of Super Villains at the request of the Ultra-Humanite. He is assigned to attack the Flash, and manages to lure the hero to his defeat. He and the other Society members drop their various heroes into Limbo, allowing them to go on an unchallenged crime spree for some time, until the heroes manage to escape. Following the heroes' return from Limbo, Rag Doll and his cohorts are themselves trapped in Limbo. He remains there for a brief period of time, until Ultra-Humanite is able to orchestrate their escape to the past. He and the other villains wreak havoc in the past before they are defeated and consigned once again to Limbo.
Having emerged from Limbo at some point, the increasingly senile Rag Doll, in extreme pain due to the deterioration of his body, begins ranting and wandering the streets. He soon finds himself the leader of a cult of the disenfranchised. He leads this ragtag army to Opal City where they rampage through the streets unchecked despite the attempted interventions of Starman. He is ultimately captured by members of the Justice Society, and is apparently killed in custody after threatening the families of the heroes. His body vanishes from the morgue, however, and he is later revealed to have survived by unknown means.
In hiding, Rag Doll is approached by Neron. In exchange for his soul, Rag Doll receives renewed youth, with the condition that he await the arrival of Simon Culp, and assist the man when he approaches him. Some years later Culp arrives. Trapped in the Shade's body, Culp requests Rag Doll's help to destroy the Shade's much-loved Opal City. He helps to subdue Mikaal Tomas, takes part in the attack on Opal City, and leads the assault on Jack Knight following the failure of the hero's powers. He is sent to recapture the various heroes who have escaped their clutches, rescuing Doctor Phosphorus from Ted Knight and joining the other villain in attacking the hero. The three fight until Knight manages to kill Phosphorus, and Rag Doll declines to kill Knight in turn, choosing to leave him to his fate of slow death by radiation poisoning.
Rag Doll joins the Injustice Society and is involved in rescuing Icicle and attacking several members of the Justice Society. He later briefly returns to the Secret Society with whom he battles the Secret Six, bringing him in direct conflict with his son, the anti-villainous Ragdoll.
Again joining the Injustice Society, he accompanies the team in their attempts to acquire the Cosmic Key. He attempts to flee with the key and betray the team, but is killed when the Wizard activates the key, sacrificing Rag Doll to enable the return of Johnny Sorrow.
Rag Doll is resurrected along with numerous other villains during the Blackest Night. He joins in the undead assault on the living heroes; he and the other reanimated characters are eventually defeated, and he returns to death.
Following the events of Flashpoint, Rag Doll is alive once more. He is incarcerated at Arkham Asylum, where he and several other inmates are injected with a type of fear toxin that induces superhuman strength. He and the others attempt to break out of the prison, but are stopped by Batman. When the toxin eventually wears off, Rag Doll and the other inmates are placed in critical care.
Powers and Abilities
Rag Doll is naturally triple-jointed, which allows him extreme flexibility, as well as durability and some elasticity. He is a skilled thief, and a capable fighter, though he usually relies on stealth and surprise when it come to facing opponents. As he aged he became a competent hypnotist through his powerful speaking skills; he is also a gifted leader.
He appears in several episodes The Batman as a wise-cracking thief; he battled both Batman and Catwoman, and later joined Penguin, Firefly, Killer Croc and Killer Moth in a short-lived team-up. In the series he is shown to be exceptionally flexible, almost to the point of ridiculousness. He has been able, on various occasions, to hide himself inside of a top hat and a knapsack, and to fit between the cogs of a large clock with no apparent ill effects. He was portrayed as a skilled fighter. He is presumably this incarnation, as his flexibility seems to be natural, but without his mask he bears more than a passing resemblance to the second Ragdoll. He also references Villains United in the team-up episode, which was the series in which the second Ragdoll first appeared. He was voiced in the series by Jeff Bennett.