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|“||The Lord forgives everything, but I'm just a prophet... so I don't have to. Amen.||„|
|~ Zachary Hale Comstock|
Zachary Hale Comstock is the main antagonist of BioShock Infinite. He is the founder and theocratic dictator of the floating city of Columbia, as well as the leader of the Founders, Columbia's sovereign ultranationalist political faction. Within Columbia, Comstock is known as a prophet, earning the nicknames "Father Comstock" and the "Hero of the Battle of Wounded Knee". He was once married to Lady Comstock until early-January 1895 when he claimed she was killed by their maid, Daisy Fitzroy. It is later revealed that Comstock himself killed her to cover up his "daughter" Elizabeth's true origin.
As a result, the duo has to travel through Columbia to reach Comstock House to take down Comstock together, where he resides. It is later revealed that Comstock is actually an alternative version of Booker DeWitt reborn after accepting baptism.
The man who would become Zachary Hale Comstock was 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. Coming across Preacher Witting, Booker was offered a chance to be reborn as a different man and start anew, free of his past trauma.
In one reality, Booker was unable to go through with the baptism. However, in an alternate reality, he accepted, taking on the name "Zachary Hale Comstock". After the baptism, Comstock became a deeply religious man, and he used his newfound faith to reshape his identity. He soon became an influential preacher with a following that allowed him a strong pull on the United States government.
The Creation of Columbia
Not long after his baptism, Comstock met Rosalind Lutece, a quantum physicist, who had been experimenting with manipulating the actions of atoms. Through the use of her 'Lutece Field', she was 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 creation of the city, which he named Columbia. It was launched in 1893 with much fanfare, and Comstock became its leader, later creating a political party of all white called The Founders.
Comstock began to see America as "The New Eden", and the Founding Fathers as prophets of God's Great Plan. However, he also saw Caucasians as the only truly free race, and viewed minority races with 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 also marry one of his devotees, Lady Comstock.
Discovery of Interdimensional Tears
Between 1892 to 1893, through extended experimentation with the quantum atom, Rosalind found that she was able to create a communication field into an alternate universe, making contact with Robert Lutece, an alternate version of herself, who was performing the same exact experiment. The two quickly befriended each other and even started to consider themselves "twins". Determined to find a way to see Robert face to face, Rosalind reported her findings to Comstock. Comstock provided Rosalind with sufficient funds, believing her discovery was a window into the future, despite her insistence otherwise. By early-1893, Rosalind and Robert were able to create a machine to create tears into alternate universes. Seen as a floating symbol of American ideals at the time the United States was becoming a world power, Columbia was sent to all corners of the globe and was marveled by the people everywhere. During this time, Comstock continued to use Rosalind's device to open more tears, using them to see even more visions of the future. When he showed these visions to inventor and businessman Jeremiah Fink, the latter was able to create several inventions (such as the Sky-Hook) and mass-produce Vigors, making Columbia advanced beyond its time. With Comstock's influence, thanks to the inter-dimensional tears, the Founders would eventually see him as a true prophet and began to worship him like a messiah.
The Lamb of Columbia
Through Rosalind and Robert's device, Comstock saw that in order for Columbia to remain alive, he would need an heir to take his place. However, overuse of the device began to take its toll on Comstock. He began to age rapidly, and he soon discovered to his horror that he was rendered infertile. Desperate to carry his seed into the future, he got an idea to gain an heir from an alternate version of himself.
In 1893, Robert was able to find Booker DeWitt; a version of Comstock living in New York City who had rejected Preacher Witting's baptism. A still-regretful Booker had spiraled deep into alcoholism and gambling debt. Comstock had Robert offer to wipe away these debts in exchange for Booker's infant daughter, Anna DeWitt. Booker haltingly agreed, and Robert brought Anna to Comstock.
Booker almost immediately regretted the decision and tracked Robert down. 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. In the process, the tear closed a moment too soon, slicing a portion of Anna's right pinkie finger off.
Seeing the child as the key to making his dream of remaking the world a reality, and with Lady Comstock's insistence that the child not live under their roof, Comstock created Monument Island to house her. Due to the fact that her pinkie finger was in another universe, she existed in two realities at once, and she acquired the ability to create Tears, portals through dimensional space and time similar to the ones created by the Luteces' machine. To keep her in check, Comstock saw to the creation of the Siphons, which limited her use of her powers. Comstock also used these inter-dimensional abilities with the Siphon to create a guardian creature known as "the Songbird", which would not only keep her safe but also prevent her from escaping. Renaming her Elizabeth, Comstock began to call her the "Lamb of Columbia", and the Founders soon began to worship her as a savior.
Unfortunately for Comstock, overuse of the Luteces' contraption continued to deteriorate his body, giving him cancer, the inability to sexually reproduce, and causing him to have the appearance of an elderly man despite his youthful age. In addition, it gave him the knowledge that Booker would eventually find a way to take Elizabeth from him. He then began to warn the populace that a "False Shepherd" would appear, bearing the mark "AD" on his right hand, Anna DeWitt's initials, a mark which Booker branded on himself as penance for his failure, and became determined to make Elizabeth his heir.
Secession of Columbia
When the Boxer Rebellion in China occurred in 1901, Comstock discovered that the Chinese were holding American citizens hostage. Comstock then ordered Columbia to open fire on the Chinese populace, considering them an enemy of American ideals. 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 to secede from the United States, and the city disappeared into the skies. Comstock thereafter considered Columbia the true America, believing the United States to be a shell of its former self, and condemning it with the rest of the world as "The Sodom Below".
Murder of Lady Comstock and the Luteces
At the same time, Lady Comstock was growing frustrated and angry with keeping the truth about Elizabeth from the populace. Knowing that she was going to reveal the truth, Comstock had her killed and framed his servant, Daisy Fitzroy, for her murder. This set in motion the chain of events that would lead to Fitzroy creating the revolutionary group known as the Vox Populi.
Later, Rosalind and Robert saw the future of Columbia, and what Elizabeth would become through their machine. In an effort to prevent such a future from transpiring, they plotted to take Elizabeth from Comstock and return her to her original universe. However, Comstock soon discovered what they were doing, and ordered Jeremiah Fink to sabotage their contraption, supposedly killing the two as they were using it. In actuality, the sabotage 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 as a form of redemption for both sides.
As Booker traveled through the tear that Rosalind and Robert created, he lost his memory, and his brain created new ones. He now believed that he was bringing Elizabeth back to New York to clear a gambling debt he owed to "people you would not want to owe money to", which the Lutece twins would pay off for him upon recovery of the girl. Knowing that he would have to reacquire his memories on his own, the Luteces decided to play along with Booker's false memories and sent him to Columbia. When Booker makes his presence known during a city raffle, Comstock sends his forces after the man, determined to stop him from retrieving Elizabeth. Comstock's efforts are initially for naught, as Elizabeth willingly goes along with Booker and assists him in battling Comstock's soldiers. Comstock's tactics soon become more aggressive; on one occasion, he uses Elizabeth's powers with the siphon to create a warped version of Lady Comstock in order 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, he instructs his scientists to operate on her 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 as part of the mental conditioning she is put through, both to turn her to Comstock's way of thinking, and squash any hope that Booker will come for her.
In one reality, Booker is unable to save Elizabeth, and Comstock turns her into a brutal and murderous dictator. However, this older Elizabeth, feeling regret that she allowed herself to become Comstock's heir, the executor of his desire to "drown in flame the mountains of man", brings Booker to her universe while he is navigating Comstock House. She gives him a note for her younger self with coded instructions on how to avoid this fate and sends him back to retrieve Elizabeth in the appropriate timeline.
|“||It is... finished.||„|
|~ Zachary Hale Comstock's last words before he is killed by Booker DeWitt.|
After eliminating the scientists and henchmen, escaping Comstock House, and boarding and navigating his ship, The Hand of the Prophet, Booker and Elizabeth confront Comstock in his cabin. There, Comstock tries to regain Elizabeth's trust by weakening her faith in Booker, grabbing her and demanding 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. The two travel to the place of Booker's baptism after the Battle of Wounded Knee, where he was "reborn" as Comstock. Elizabeth then reveals that, in order to truly destroy Comstock, throughout every reality that he exists in, Booker must die before he can either accept or refuse the baptism. With this revelation, Booker allows a number of Elizabeths from different universes to drown him. In doing so, Comstock and all of the events he put in motion, up to and including the creation of Columbia, are erased from existence. Booker and Anna's life return to the moment when she was still a baby.
- 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 (including anatomy textbooks) 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 methods.
- Additionally, Comstock's social philosophies resemble that of Ernst Rüdin, a Swiss-German eugenicist affiliated with Nazi Germany who promoted systematic sterilization of select races he considered genetically inferior.
- Of note, they also share the same birth date and year.
- Comstock is apparently only thirty-eight years old during the events of BioShock Infinite. In a Voxophone located on the Hand of the Prophet airship, Rosalind Lutece suggests his advanced age is due to cancer caused by overexposure or an accident involving the Luteces' Device.
- Although his appearance as a prophet shows that he is much older, with white hair and a full beard, in early gameplay footage, he appeared on political banners as middle-aged, with darker hair and clean-shaven.
- Comstock's dying words in-game are the same as the last words traditionally attributed to Jesus Christ in the Christian faith.