Kadaver was a tall, gaunt man who typically dressed in a Gothic style, with a top hat and high-collared cape. He often carried a sword-cane.
Kadaver wore a mask that gives his face a gruesome aspect (similar to actor Lon Chaney's appearance as the Phantom of the Opera).
Kadaver's TV show had aired in the city approximately "30 years ago". He was eventually replaced by a 19-year-old fan of his named Charles Addams, who performed as the character Baron Clovis. Kadaver was able to use his celebrity status to start a business (called "Kadaverwerks") providing props and special effects services to haunted houses and other attractions. This business allowed to travel often, thus concealing his work as a professional hit-man.
Encountering Dick Tracy
Kadaver was operating a haunted house in Dick Tracy's city, and he took on a contract to kill Tracy himself. To that end, he hired Vera Alldid (an artist with a connection to the Tracy family) for a freelance graphic design job.
By coincidence (apparently), Tracy's granddaughter Honeymoon discovered that one of the "corpse" dummies at Kadaver's haunted house contained a real dead body. Tracy investigated and discovered that the body was that of "Sizzler" Sitzes, a known organized crime figure. Tracy's investigation also revealed that Charles Addams (who had been working as a TV weather man in another city) had been killed by being struck by Sitzes' car.
While Tracy's investigation was taking place, Alldid confronted his ex-wife Sparkle Plenty at her home. He was charged with disturbing the peace, and Tracy agreed to escort Alldid back to Kadaver's warehouse, where Alldid was staying. Kadaver took Tracy by surprise and knocked him unconscious. He also bound and gagged Alldid.
Tracy awoke in a death-trap of Kadaver's, a replica of the Pendulum trap from Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Pit and the Pendulum". Kadaver confessed to Tracy that he had hired Sitzes to kill Addams, then killed Sitzes himself. He also stated that he had killed many other people during his career, and that he had been hired to kill Tracy (though he didn't reveal his client's identity).
Kadaver then left Tracy to his fate and escaped. Tracy was freed by Junior, who had followed him to Kadaver's warehouse.
Working for Mr. Crime
It was later revealed that Kadaver had been working for the new Mr. Crime, and had been recruited by Mr. Crime's subordinate Panda. Kadaver aided the gang further by planting the car bomb that killed the members of the Mumbles Quartet, deliberately leaving evidence that would implicate himself (to throw suspicion away from Mumbles).
Kadaver was present when Mr. Crime's base of operations at the Panda Talent Agency was raided by the combined forces of the Major Crimes Unit and the Tracy Agency. Kadaver employed smoke pellets to reduce visibility and sow confusion. He stabbed Lizz in the arm with his sword cane, and was subsequently shot by Lee Ebony. Like the other members of the gang, Kadaver had been wearing a bullet-proof vest which allowed him to survive the gun shots. He was hospitalized and arrested along with his cohorts.
While the other members of the gang were released on bail, the charges against Kadaver were too severe and he remained in jail. The FBI was preparing a case against Kadaver for his multiple murders in several states when Kadaver seemingly died of a heart attack. His body was taken from the morgue by Rikki Mortis, an old associate of Kadaver's who had disguised herself as an employee of the crematorium.
Mortis transported Kadaver to his secluded home known as The Murder Mansion, where he revived. She informed him that his escape had been orchestrated by The Black Hearts, a new criminal organization that was challenging the Apparatus. Kadaver and Mortis were visited by Méliès, a representative of the Black Hearts, who recruited Kadaver to join the new group. Méliès then presented Kadaver with a list of people in the Apparatus to kill, including Kadaver's former associate B-B Eyes.
Rather than kill B-B Eyes, Kadaver successfully convinced Eyes to defect to the Black Hearts. Kadaver was then hired by Stiletta Jones to kill Dick Tracy. Kadaver set an elaborate trap for Tracy that involved kidnapping his daughter Bonnie and his uncle Ray Tracy. Kadaver contacted Dick and agreed to release his family if Dick would submit to facing Kadaver's test of survival. Tracy agreed.
The Murder Mansion
Kadaver placed Tracy in a death-trap consisting of three connected rooms. Each room contained a deadly challenge for Tracy, which he would have to survive. The first room contained alligators (which Tracy was able to shoot), the second had collapsing spiked walls (which Tracy was able to prop open with his police baton), and the third room contained a floor made of wet cement deep enough for Tracy to fall in and suffocate. Tracy was able to swim through (the key to survival being to move slowly rather than quickly) and faced Kadaver at the end of the challenge.
Kadaver, seeing that Tracy's gun was jammed with cement, lunged at the detective with his sword cane. The cane was shot out of Kadaver's hands by an unseen interloper (December 30th, 2013). Kadaver and Tracy grappled, and Kadaver fell into the cement. He did not emerge, though Tracy expressed doubt that he had seen the last of Abner Kadaver.
It was later revealed that the fugitive Blackjack had been following Tracy's movements. Blackjack had been the one who shot Kadaver's cane out his hand. He had also freed Ray and Bonnie Tracy and notified police of their whereabouts. Rikki Mortis escaped.
It was later revealed that Kadaver had survived and gone into hiding, though the Black Hearts had monitored his escape and knew where he could be found. Kadaver had returned to a hideout on the edge of the city, where he was reunited with Rikki.
Abner and Rikki aided the fugitive Gruesome and his accomplice Dr. Einstein after Gruesome set off an explosive device at the Patterson Playhouse. Abner and Rikki transported the two men from a monster movie convention (held at Locher Auditorium) to a secret hideout at an abandoned theme park/miniature golf course. Kadaver and Mortis expressed admiration for Gruesome and Einstein, then left them to hide from police.
Kadaver indicated that he still intended to complete Stiletta Jones' contract and kill Dick Tracy when the time was right.
The End of Abner?
After Dick Tracy captured Notta Fallar, he arranged to take a vacation to Europe. Abner trailed Tracy from London to Paris to Switzerland. In Switzerland, Abner abducted Tess and left a note for Tracy to meet him at "The Fearful Place". Tracy realized that Abner meant Reichenbach Falls (the site of the final confrontation between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty).
Tracy and Abner met at a high rocky outcropping above the Falls. Abner revealed his unmasked face to Tracy, and the two men grappled. Tracy and Abner both fell over the Falls, in front of several witnesses who believed that they were watching a re-enactment.
Tracy was briefly believed to have been killed, but he was soon found and his injuries were treated. Abner's body was not found, but his mask and hat were. Tess Tracy was also freed. Abner was presumed deceased, and Rikki Mortis (who had taken several murder contracts on Abner's behalf during his absence) swore revenge.
The Return of Abner
During the case of Professor Stokes, it was implied that Abner may have survived. This was confirmed later when Abner appeared in America (wearing his usual costume) and freed Rikki Mortis from jail. He took her to a hideout where he had prepared duplicates of her traditional costume. He remained committed to the idea of killing Dick Tracy, but admitted that the project was no longer his top priority.
Abner took a job from the Apparatus to kill the accountant Charlie 21, who was being guarded by Dick Tracy and Sam Catchem. Abner attempted to shoot Charlie with a poison dart, but the projectile was blocked by Catchem's hat. Abner escaped capture with Rikki's help, but Dick Tracy began to suspect that his old foe had returned.
With Rikki's help, Kadaver learned that Charlie 21 was attending the final dress rehearsal of Vitamin Flintheart's production of Shakespeare's The Tempest at the Patterson Playhouse. Kadaver attempted to kill Charlie with a miniature bow and arrow, but Dick Tracy was able to deflect the shot and safe Charlie's life. As they were attempting to escape, Abner and Rikki were confronted by Ten of Spades, who believed that Abner had been trying to kill Dick Tracy in defiance of the Apparatus' instructions. Ten of Spades shot Kadaver and was then subdued by Dick Tracy.
Kadaver was seriously injured and Rikki Mortis insisted on removing his mask and remaining by his side. As Rikki was being taken into police custody, Dick Tracy offered his condolences, indicating that Abner had died.
On October 24th, 2014, it was revealed that Abner Kadaver wears a mask with hair attached to it. Presumably, this means that readers have not yet seen Abner Kadaver's real face.
Regarding the mask:
- In his initial appearance, Kadaver's head was bald on the sides. After his first return from "death", he was depicted with shaggy brown hair that stuck out from under his hat.
- Kadaver's skin tone was inconsistently depicted in daily strips, ranging from standard Caucasian flesh-tone to grey to green. In Sunday strips (colored by the official creative team), he was always shown to have a pallid green complexion.
- Similarly, Kadaver's mask has been drawn with wrinkled puckered lips (creating a shriveled cadaverous appearance), and with no lips at all- merely exposed teeth and gums that connect directly to the face of the mask.
- When he confronted Dick Tracy at Reichenbach Falls, Abner revealed his face to Tracy. He had apparently had some sort of cosmetic surgery to make his face as gruesome as his mask. His real face was extremely alarming to Tracy, but readers were not shown it (it was only depicted in silhouette with a bulging eye and crooked teeth).
- After his return from Europe, Abner was shown taking a shower, with no indication that he was wearing a mask. He had both eyes (which seemed to be of normal size and coloration) and straight brown hair.
- In the first Abner Kadaver storyline, he stated that he had had his name legally changed to "Abner Kadaver". His birth name has not been revealed.
- Abner Kadaver's name is derived from the word "cadaver", which is medical and legal terminology for a corpse, usually when the corpse is intended for dissection. The name is also a play on "abracadabra", a traditional phrase used in stage magic.
- There is no apparent connection between Abner Kadaver and Abra Cadaver, a Frankenstein's Monster-type character from the comic strip The Wizard of Id.
- Abner Kadaver was a collector of rare films (specifically horror), a hobby he shared with Silver Nitrate. Kadaver would kill other collectors to get prints of films in which he was especially interested.
- During the raid on the Panda Agency, B-B Eyes offered Kadaver a gun with which to defend himself. Kadaver claimed to have never used one. However, in the first Abner Kadaver story, Kadaver's victim "Sizzler" Sitzes was said to have suffered a gunshot wound.
- Prior to faking his death to escape prison, Kadaver's criminal history was being investigated by the FBI. Agent Fritz Ann Dietrich claimed that he was suspected in at least 30 murders (most of them at the behest of the Apparatus), with more potentially being uncovered.
- Kadaver's Murder Mansion death-trap bears some similarity to the Marvel Comics villain Arcade and his Murderworld death-traps. Both are seemingly inescapable death-traps that the victims are placed in with the understanding that in the (unlikely) event that the victim survives, they will be set free. Both Kadaver and Arcade were prepared to rig the traps to ensure that their targets were killed.
- Kadaver's tactics with Tracy at the Murder Mansion are puzzling. For some reason, Tracy was allowed to keep his pistol and his police baton, both of which helped him to survive the traps. It is not clear why these items weren't taken from Tracy as soon as he arrived at the location.
- Likewise, Tracy's reaction at the conclusion of the Murder Mansion story is also puzzling. Tracy dismisses the idea that Kadaver is really dead, yet allows himself to get caught up in a new adventure without CONFIRMING that Kadaver and his accomplice are either dead or back in police custody. This is especially out of character in light of the fact that Kadaver had kidnapped Tracy's daughter.