- “The Lord forgives everything. But I'm just a prophet… so I don't have to. Amen.”
- ― Father Comstock[src]
Zachary Hale Comstock is the leader of The Founders, the ultra-nationalist/nativist political party that founded the floating city of Columbia, and the main antagonist of BioShock Infinite. Within Columbia, Comstock has earned the titles of "Prophet" and "Father Comstock." He claims to have the ability to predict the future of Columbia, attacks from his enemies, and the actions of the False Shepherd.
- 1 History
- 2 BioShock Infinite
- 3 Alternate Comstocks
- 4 Voxophones
- 5 Gallery
- 6 Behind the Scenes
- 7 References
Zachary Comstock was born as Booker DeWitt. He served as a soldier in the 7th Cavalry in the United States Army and was a participant in the Wounded Knee Massacre. Afterward, DeWitt felt regret for his actions and sought redemption through baptism. DeWitt was baptized by Preacher Witting, found a new cause in Christianity, and changed his name to Zachary Hale Comstock.
Little was known of Comstock prior to the baptism, and he rarely spoke of anything that happened before that event. After the baptism, Comstock became a deeply religious man and used his newfound faith to reshape his identity, becoming an influential preacher. His following would allow him to attain prominence within the United States government.
Creation of Columbia
Sometime after his baptism, Comstock met Rosalind Lutece, a genius physicist who was experimenting with manipulating the actions of atoms — through the use of her 'Lutece Field', being able to lock atoms at fixed positions in space. Comstock took great interest in her research, which would allow the creation of the floating city he claimed to have seen in a vision. Receiving support from the United States government, Comstock oversaw the construction of that city, which he named Columbia. It was launched in 1893 with much fanfare. Comstock became its leader, later creating a political party of its white inhabitants called The Founders.
Comstock began to see the idea of America as "the New Eden," and the Founding Fathers as prophets of God's Great Plan. He also saw Caucasians as the only truly free race and viewed "minority" races with total contempt. He declared Abraham Lincoln "the Great Apostate" who brought nothing but war and death upon the country. He also saw Columbia as the key to usher the world into righteousness and became determined to make it a reality.
At some point, Comstock would marry one of his devotees, Lady Annabelle Comstock.
Discovery of Inter-dimensional Tears
Between 1892 and 1893, while conducting further studies into the Lutece Field, Rosalind found that she was able to induce communication into an alternate universe. She made contact with Robert Lutece, an alternate version of herself, who was performing the same exact experiment. Determined to find a way to see Robert face-to-face, Rosalind reported her findings to Comstock. Comstock provided Rosalind with additional funding to further her research, believing her discovery was a window into the future, despite her insistence otherwise. In 1893, Rosalind and Robert were able to create a machine to open Tears into alternate universes; on October 8 of that year, they successfully opened their first Tear, allowing Robert to cross into Rosalind's universe.
Comstock used this device extensively, utilizing Tears to look into other realities, and even see future happenings. When he showed these visions to inventor and businessman Jeremiah Fink, the latter was able to greatly advance technology in Columbia through various inventions such as the Sky-Hook and mass-produced Vigors. (He would also eventually create the Songbird for Comstock, based on a 'wonder' he saw through the Tears.) Due to Comstock's use of the tears, the people of Columbia saw him as a true messiah and began to worship him.
The Presentation and Secession of Columbia
Presented as a floating symbol of American ideals at a time when the United States was becoming a world power, Columbia was sent to all corners of the globe on a goodwill tour. In 1901, during the Boxer Rebellion in Peking, China, Comstock learned that the Boxers were holding American citizens hostage and ordered Columbia to open fire upon the Chinese populace. This act revealed to the world that Columbia was, in fact, a giant warship. The United States government disavowed Columbia and ordered Comstock to stand down. Seeing this as a betrayal, Comstock led Columbia in seceding from the Union the following year, and the city vanished into the skies. Comstock thereafter declared Columbia the true America, believing the United States to be a shell of its former self, and condemning it along with the rest of the world.
The Lamb of Columbia
Through Rosalind and Robert's device, Comstock saw that Columbia would only prosper as long as his bloodline continued to rule the city. However, overuse of the Tear device took its toll on Comstock; he aged rapidly and soon discovered that he had been rendered sterile. Desperate to have a blood successor, he conferred with the Luteces, and the three deduced that an heir could be procured from another universe.
In October 1893, Robert was able to find Booker DeWitt. After rejecting Preacher Witting's baptism, Booker, still-regretful, had spiraled deep into alcoholism and gambling debt. Comstock had Robert offer to wipe away those debts in exchange for Booker's infant daughter, Anna DeWitt. Booker haltingly agreed, and Robert brought Anna to Comstock.
Almost immediately regretting his decision, Booker pursued Robert to retrieve Anna. He found them in an alleyway preparing to pass through a Tear back to Comstock's reality. Although Booker tried to stop him from taking Anna through the Tear, Comstock managed to escape with her. The Tear severed Anna's pinky finger, the resulting scar she hid with a thimble.
Comstock saw Anna as the key to his dream of remaking the world a reality. However, the child was rejected by Lady Comstock, who believed her to be Rosalind and Comstock's "bastard" child. At Lady Comstock's insistence the child not live under their roof, Comstock created Monument Island Tower to house her. When the child began to develop Tear-making powers, Comstock saw to the creation of the Siphons to keep them in check. Renaming her Elizabeth, Comstock began to call her the "Lamb of Columbia," and the Founders would come to worship her as their savior.
Overuse of the Luteces' tear machine continued to deteriorate Comstock's body, giving him cancer and causing him to have the appearance of an elderly man at thirty-eight years of age. The Tears gave him the knowledge that Booker would eventually find a way to take Elizabeth from him. He began to forewarn the populace that a "False Shepherd" would appear and began formulating a plan to make Elizabeth servile to him.
Murder of Lady Comstock and the Luteces
Lady Comstock had been growing frustrated and angry with keeping the truth about Elizabeth from the populace. Comstock, knowing that she was going to reveal the truth, in 1895, had Lady Comstock killed and framed her servant, Daisy Fitzroy, for the murder. This act set in motion the chain of events that would lead to Fitzroy creating the revolutionary group known as the Vox Populi.
Meanwhile, Rosalind and Robert saw the future of Columbia, and what Elizabeth would become, through their machine. In an effort to prevent such a future, they plotted to take Elizabeth from Comstock and return her to her original universe. Comstock soon discovered what they were doing, and ordered Jeremiah Fink to sabotage their contraption, which seemingly killed the two as they were using it. The effects of the sabotage, in fact, caused the Luteces to exist across all space and time, giving them the ability to appear wherever and whenever they wanted. Still determined to stop Comstock, they devised a plan to send Booker to Columbia to retrieve his long-lost daughter.
- Main article: BioShock Infinite
Comstock becomes aware of Booker's presence after a commotion at Columbia's annual raffle and sends his forces after the man, determined to stop him from retrieving Elizabeth. At one point he confronts Booker directly, mocking the man's personal failures, and tries to trap him inside a burning airship. Comstock's efforts are for naught, as Booker reaches Monument Island and Elizabeth willingly leaves with him. Comstock's tactics soon become more aggressive; he uses Siphons to hijack Elizabeth's powers and resurrect Lady Comstock as the Siren to stop them from proceeding.
When Comstock is finally able to recover Elizabeth with the help of Songbird, he takes drastic measures to keep her servile: barricading her in Comstock House, instructing his scientists to operate to decrease her access to her powers, and has her fitted with an electric mechanism that delivers an intensely painful shock when she is disobedient. The scientists then use this device for mental conditioning, to turn her to Comstock's way of thinking and to squash her hope that Booker will come for her.
In the reality where this occurs, Comstock successfully turns Elizabeth into a brutal and murderous dictator who wages war on the world below. Feeling regret for allowing herself to become Comstock's heir, Elizabeth brings Booker to her universe. She gives him instructions to give to her other self on how to avoid this fate. She then sends him back to the other timeline, where Booker is able to rescue Elizabeth, and the two resolve to murder Comstock.
- “It… is… finished.”
- ― Zachary Hale Comstock's last words[src]
After boarding and navigating Comstock's ship, the Hand of the Prophet, Booker and Elizabeth confront the Prophet in his cabin. Here, Comstock tries to regain Elizabeth's trust by weakening her faith in Booker, grabbing her and demanding that Booker tell her the truth about her lost finger. In a fit of rage, Booker grabs Comstock by the throat and smashes his head against a stone baptismal font multiple times before drowning him in it.
After destroying the Siphon at Monument Island, Elizabeth is able to unlock the full extent of her powers and discovers Comstock's true origins. Comstock is an alternate version of Booker DeWitt. After the Battle of Wounded Knee, Booker was overcome with guilt for the atrocities he committed and sought a way to absolve himself of his sins. He turned to Preacher Witting for baptism, so that he may be reborn as a different man and start anew, free of his past atrocities. In one reality, Booker was unable to go through with the baptism, while in another he accepted it, and took on the name Zachary Hale Comstock. She and Booker travel to the place of Booker's baptism, where he was "reborn" as Comstock. Elizabeth reveals that to truly destroy Comstock, in the set of realities where he accepts the baptism, Booker must die. With this revelation, Booker allows multiple Elizabeths from different universes to drown him. In doing so, Comstock and all of the events he put in motion — including the creation of Columbia — are erased from existence.
- Main article: Booker DeWitt
While Comstock accepted baptism and changed his name in some realities, in others he rejected it and retained the name, Booker DeWitt. Unable to find succor in religion, Booker turned to the vices of gambling and drinking to deal with his lingering guilt over his actions at Wounded Knee. At some point, he met Annabelle Watson whom he married and she became the mother of his child. Unfortunately, Annabelle died in childbirth, sending him further into his downward spiral of gambling debts and alcoholism. One day, Robert Lutece arrived and made an offer to erase Booker's debts in exchange for the infant Anna, an exchange he made but immediately regretted. Booker attempted to retrieve his daughter but failed and she was taken through a Tear.
Nearly two decades later, the Luteces had a change of heart and sent different versions of Booker repeatedly to Comstock's universes to retrieve Anna. These alternate Bookers failed 122 times before the 123rd finally succeeded.
In one of these universes where Booker failed, he became a prominent leader of the Vox Populi, and after his death was held up as a martyr to their revolution, which, in an ironic way, was a revolution being waged against a version of himself.
- Main article: Burial at Sea
In an alternate reality, Comstock's path shifted course when rather than Anna's pinkie, her head was severed by the closing of the Lutece Tear. Overwhelmed by horror and guilt, Comstock had the initials 'AD' tattooed on his hand and had the Luteces help him escape to a new time and place where he could start a new life and forget his guilt. The Luteces opened a tear to Rapture, where Comstock lost his memories of his prior life and began using his original name once more, Booker DeWitt while working as a private detective.
At some point in his years in Rapture, he took in a young orphan girl named Sally, who disappeared one day while he was gambling at Sir Prize. His search for her leads him to interrogate Dr. Yi Suchong but this yielded no leads. Sometime after, a police friend of his, Sullivan, told him they had found her body at the docks. A woman named Elizabeth comes to his office on New Year's Eve 1958 and hires him to find Sally, claiming that she is not dead. Though skeptical, Comstock follows her and eventually finds Sally in the sunken Fontaine's Department Store.
His struggle to pull Sally out of a vent triggers the memory of his identity as Comstock and Anna's death. The Luteces then appear and remark that Comstock always ran away from his problems by stealing the lives of others. Comstock, once again guilt-stricken and horrified, tells Elizabeth he is sorry. Elizabeth, however, tells him he isn't, but he would be. Comstock is then impaled through the chest by the drill of a Bouncer.
In Burial at Sea - Episode 2, Elizabeth sees Comstock's dead body being looted by Atlas' men. Also revealed are his previously unseen white hair and aged face, showing Comstock was still afflicted by his overuse of the Luteces' transdimensional device. Despite her apparent hatred for this particular Comstock, Elizabeth acknowledges the fact that he had tried to save Sally, something which she is trying to do in Episode 2. When later questioned by her mental hallucination of Booker DeWitt on whether Comstock truly deserved to die, Elizabeth solemnly answers that everyone deserves to, one way or another.
- Town Center
- Comstock Center Rooftops
- Monument Island
- Battleship Bay
- Soldier's Field
- Finkton Proper
- Downtown Emporia
- Hand of the Prophet
Concept art, Model Renders and Pre-Release Images
Behind the Scenes
- Comstock's name is potentially an allusion to Anthony Comstock, a 19th-century American politician responsible for the "Comstock Laws", which labeled anything remotely sexual in nature as pornographic and banned their publication. He referred to himself as the "weeder in God's garden" and was known for his religious fanaticism and extreme surveillance methods.
- Additionally, Comstock's social philosophies resemble that of Ernst Rüdin, a Swiss-German eugenicist who promoted the systematic sterilization of select races he considered genetically inferior.
- They also share the same birth date and year.
- In early gameplay footage, Comstock appeared on political banners as middle-aged, with darker hair and clean-shaven. These political banners can be seen on the miniature Soldier's Field diorama when Booker and Elizabeth visit the Soldier's Field Welcome Center.
- Comstock's dying words in-game are the same as the last words traditionally attributed to Jesus Christ, in the Gospel according to John, in the Christian faith.
- In his quarters on the Hand of the Prophet is a uniform that has the U.S. Army variant of the Medal of Honor pinned on it. However, the Medal of Honor shown (a blue ribbon with 13 stars) was first awarded in 1904, while the Wounded Knee massacre occurred in 1890. His medal should have had a ribbon colored like the American flag (a blue canton with red and white stripes.)
- During the Hall of Heroes, Cornelius Slate vehemently condemns Comstock for lying about being at the Battle of Wounded Knee and others. In actuality, he was present at the massacre, only as Booker DeWitt. Slate simply did not recognize Comstock had previously been DeWitt.
- From the struggle to pulling Sally out of a vent to being impaled by a Big Daddy's drill through his back, Comstock's death at the end of Burial at Sea - Episode 1 is very similar to the death of the Splicer in one of the early BioShock trailers. Ken Levine stated that this was intentional.
- During development, a highly religious member of the development team threatened to quit over the portrayal of Christianity in the game. Ken Levine ended up having a long conversation with this developer as he didn’t want the individual to leave. During the conversation, Levine made the connection of the power of forgiveness, and how it could be used in the character of Comstock. The developer in question did not leave Irrational Games.
- Booker DeWitt's Pinkerton's National Detective Agency Contract
- Based on Burial at Sea - Episode 1's ending and the following exchange in the elevator to the Pavilion:
Elizabeth: "When did you come to Rapture?"
Booker DeWitt: "Oh, it was… jeez… I guess around '51. No… '48?"
Elizabeth: "That's a rather large gap."
Booker DeWitt: "Time… Life I had before… sort of becomes a blur. '49. '49 for sure." (Booker's nose starts to bleed)
Booker DeWitt: "Damn."
Elizabeth: "You look a mess, Mr. DeWitt."
Booker DeWitt: "Just keep your eyes open for Splicers. They can do us a whole lot worse."
- BioShock Infinite Preview: Back on Track on Eurogamer
- Ed Gaines' Voxophone: Born in the River
- Rosalind Lutece's Voxophone: Playing Prophet
- Zachary Hale Comstock's Voxophone: Undeserving
- City of Columbia Historical Timeline
- Date indicated by the calendar on Booker's desk
- Rosalind Lutece's Voxophone: One and the Same
- Jeremiah Fink's Voxophone: A Child Needs a Protector
- Zachary Hale Comstock's Voxophone: A Broken Circle
- Zachary Hale Comstock's Voxophone: A Reward, Deferred
- Harrison Powell's Voxophone: Pavlov's Bell
- Anthony Comstock on Wikipedia
- Ernst Rüdin on Wikipedia
- Cornelius Slate's Voxophone: A Soldier's Death
- Ken Levine on Twitter
- BioShock Infinite's religious themes led dev to consider quitting on Gamespot