Court of Owls
The Court of Owls is a secret society that features in DC Comics.
The Court of Owls was a secret society that operated from the shadows in the world. Thousands of years ago, the ancestors of the Court were members of one of the four immortal tribes on Earth when they serving those of the bird tribe. However, they betrayed their kin and allied themselves with the Strigydae in an effort to bring about the bat tribe's dark god Barbatos leading to these members of the bird followers being condemned as the Judas Tribe. Since that time, they had in the background as they prepared to aid their dark brethren in bringing about the emergence of Barbatos on Earth once more. (Dark Nights: Metal v1 #2) They were a secret group of men who had been ruling Gotham City since colonial times. (Batman v2 #3) Since the 1800's, they were known to secretly create bases throughout the developing city. (Batman v2 #4) Among their earliest known acts was in 1862 where they were known in a number of criminal activities in Gotham over the years. (Batman and Robin v2 #23.2) Around a hundred years ago, they conducted a search for a substance theorized known as Dionesium that had the power of giving immortality to the user. The Courts search, however, only uncovered a corrupted version of it that they used to eventually develop Electrum in order to make their Talon assassins. (Batman v2 #39) During the 1880's, they faced a challenge to their power base in Gotham from adherents of the Dark Faith namely the Religion of Crime. Around this time, they also encountered Jonah Hex and Dr. Amadeus Arkham when they two got involved in the conflict between the two secret societies. (All-Star Western v3 #10)
Through the Wayne family, they used the architect Alan Wayne to secretly control the construction of Gotham in the 19th century so that a number of bases could be hidden throughout the city. (Batman v2 #4) In the winter of 1922, a paranoid Alan Wayne had developed an obsession with owls and believed that they were following him. This was because he had learnt of the existence of the Court and that they had built multiple hidden nests scattered throughout the city. He was later found half-naked on the streets of Gotham but seemingly drowned after falling into a manhole before the Gotham City Police Department could take him to safety. (Batman v2 #3)
Night of the Owls
A young Bruce Wayne used to ask his father about the Court of Owl's but he dismissed them as being stories. When Thomas and Martha Wayne were killed by Joe Chill, for a time the young orphaned Bruce could not accept it as a random killing. Thus, he came to believe that the murder in Crime Alley had been orchestrated by the Court of Owls and vowed revenge where he sought to find as well as destroy them. During his investigation, he sought out any trail to find them but could not uncover their existence and came to believe that they were indeed a folktale. (Batman v2 #4) They had managed to keep their presence hidden from Bruce Wayne leaving him to believe they were simple legends. (Batman v2 #3) Whilst hidden, they became active when they took notice of billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne announcing his plans to rebuild and reshape Gotham for the future. The Court of Owls took notice when billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne announces plans to rebuild and reshape Gotham City for the future (Batman v2 #1) As Batman, he managed to uncover one of the nests of their Talon's but ended up triggering the trap within it. (Batman v2 #5) Afterwards, he was captured by the Talon and taken to the Labyrinth where the Batman was beaten before the bloodthirsty Court members who intended to see him broken. However, he managed to defeat the Talon and escape leading to the Court killing their current enforcer whereupon they decided to awaken the other Talon's. (Batman v2 #4)
After the Night of the Owls, Cluemaster learnt of the Court and sought them out as allies to get their resources to defeat Batman. When he arrived at their lair, he discovered their members slain by Lincoln March who was interested in his plan and allied with him. (Batman Eternal v1 #52)
When the Crime Syndicate took over the world during Forever Evil, they saw the news of this new force that claimed that the Justice League was dead and that the Court would prosper in this new era. They, however, came to see their own existence as being threatened and dug into the foundation's of their history in order to use it to adapt as well as survive. This lead to some members of the Court journeying deep underground to the site of the very creation of their secret society. (Batman and Robin v2 #23.2)
March later revealed himself as being one of the architects of razing Gotham City and bringing down Batman where he slit the throat of his co-conspirator Cluemaster when he intended to publically claim credit for the feat. However, Gotham City and its various vigilantes united where they stood behind Batman forcing Lincoln March to flee into the subway tunnels. However, he was captured by the Court of Owls who decided to punish him for his betrayal and froze him where they thought that they may awaken him within a decade or so in order for him to learn his lesson. (Batman Eternal v1 #52) To free himself, March offered to find the Gray Son that would join their ranks. The Court believed this person would join their ranks and solidify their rule over Gotham with any failure to find this individual meaning that they would activate their berserker Talons to destroy the city. (Robin War v1 #2) They later approached Gotham Mayor Noctua and offered her membership into the Court in exchange for her passing the Robin Laws that made it illegal to be part of this movement. As a result, the Gotham police began rounding up teenagers that wore Robin paraphernalia. (Robin War v1 #1) This was part of their goal to find the Gray Son with Damian Wayne taking the mantle in order to spare Gotham from destruction. The event proved to be a ploy orchestrated by Lincoln March as he desired for Dick Grayson to take the mantle which he secretly did in order to prevent the court from activating a remote bomb on Damian's mask. Thus, the Talon crisis was averted but none was aware that Grayson had joined the Parliament of Owls. (Robin War v1 #2)) The Parliament of Owls was a splinter faction that operated on a global level compared to the Gotham based Court of Owls. (Nightwing: Rebirth v1 #1)
They then proceeded to awaken the Strigydae and began the Mantling process to use Batman to bring about the return of the bat-god. This required Batman to be exposed to various metals with the final one being forged by science that had created a new metal called Batmanium. Batman was thus turned into a portal from which Barbatos and the entity's seven Dark Knights emerged onto Earth where the Court of Owl members were killed by the Batman Who Laughs. (Dark Nights: Metal v1 #2)
In the wake of the Superman Theory, the world at large came to distrust Metahumans everywhere as people came to believe they were manufactured weapons by the U.S. government. This saw the Riddler gathering supervillains in order to discuss the possibility of leaving for Kahndaq. However, the Judge of Owls refused and stated that he had returned to lead the Court which elected to remain in Gotham City. (Doomsday Clock v1 #6) The Batman Who Laughs later came before the Court in order to petition them for a small favour which they denied and dispatched their Talons to kill him. However, the Talons were already defeated and the Batman Who Laughs triggered bombs in the escape routes killing many of the Court. It was revealed that the Batman Who Laughs had only come to the Court's secret maze to intercept an alternate version of Bruce Wayne that was arriving at the scene where he murdered the man. (The Batman Who Laughs v2 #5) Afterwards, the Court made a renewed effort in recruiting Dick Grayson into their ranks after he received a grievous head injury from a sniper shot. This caused him to experience amnesia with the Court having one of their agents named Dr. Isabella Haas to oversee his treatment. She utilised a number of techniques to ensure that Grayson's memories did not return leading to him starting a new life as Ric Grayson. This was to ensure that William Cobb would be able to approach his great-grandson and recruit him into the Court of Owls. (Nightwing Annual v4 #2)
After regaining his original, Grayson attempted to fix his fractured psyche that was torn between his real life and the life manufactured by the Court of Owls. During his search for clues, he came to learn that Dr. Haas was a member of the Court and went to track her down. He learnt that she resided in a Court of Owls stronghold that resided in Switzerland with Grayson travelling there to confront her. Upon finding her, he nearly fell under her sway again when she used the Identity Crystal to put Grayson under a trace. However, explosives were set off in the castle that damaged it and nearly killed Dr. Haas with Grayson saving her. He then took the crystal and set about restoring his mind to its true self once again. (Nightwing v4 #69)
The Court consisted of a group of men who ruled the city from the shadows and consisted of Gotham's powerful families. Their will was enforced by a highly trained killer assassin known as the Talon's who were kept in hidden bases throughout Gotham. (Batman v2 #4) These Talon's consisted of young men and women who were kidnapped whereupon they were trained to be such killers. (Batman v2 #5) Members of the Court often wore clothing of the elite in society ranging from suits to dresses with their common theme being wearing an owl-like mask. These individuals ranged from being grown men and woman to young children. (Batman v2 #6) Those that were part of the Court consisted of families that were from Gotham or derived their wealth from the city. As such, it was unheard of in their history to admit a person that had no history with Gotham City. (Robin War v1 #1) However, they were a world wide organization with branches in every country on Earth that joined the Parliament of Owls. (Robin War v1 #2) Hiding in history was considered the greatest talent of the Court. (Dark Nights: Metal v1 #2)
All of the Grandmasters had a clean paper trail with them being effectively not existing on records thus ensuring their anonymity. (Talon v1 #13) An important relic to the group was the Mask of the Grandmasters which resembled a standard Court of Owl face mask but made out of goal. It was actually forged by the man who first formed the organization and served as a symbol of ultimate authority that was passed on from one generation of leaders to the next. (Talon v1 #2) Their maze was shown to contain the earliest maps of Gotham City that predated the founding of the United States of America and supposedly highlighted the true purpose of the city. (The Batman Who Laughs v2 #5)
There was an old rhyme that spoke of the Court in folktales:
- Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word about them, or they'll send The Talon for your head. (Batman v2 #3)
Another class of Elite Talons were not assassins that were bred to kill individual targets but rather created to be berserkers. These were born and bred to kill thousands indiscriminately without any precision with them being buried underground over a century ago. They were created by the Court as a failsafe in case they ever lost Gotham whereupon the Elite Talons would be awakened to raze the city to the ground. (Robin War v1 #2) Those that failed as Talons were referred to as the Unworthy with these failures being buried deep beneath Gotham in the Tomb of the Unworthy. Their ranks consisted of renegade Talons that were deemed too dangerous even for the Court and were buried with the eventual plan to destroy their remains once Gotham was razed. However, in desperate times, the Court was known to awaken them in order to dispatch troublesome enemies during moments when the number of Talons were stretched thin. (Talon v1 #2)
Among the areas under their control was the Labyrinth that was a maze that resided beneath Gotham City and was where they left their dead enemies as sentence for any perceived crimes. The gathered members of the Court would watch from above as their Talon's would viciously hurt their enemies and give commands on how they would like to see their foe broken. (Batman v2 #6) For protection, the hidden bases of the Court were known to contain trip wired explosives that detonated if an intruder entered them. (Batman v2 #4) These always had a replica of Gotham City built upside down and hung from the ceiling to remind the Court that they were beneath Gotham yet it served as their goal that they sought to attain for themselves. Despite that, they were not above letting it be destroyed as they believed so long as they existed that it could be rebuilt and made better. (Batman v2 #39)
- John Wycliffe :
- R.H. Orchard :
- Maria Powers :
- Lincoln March :
- Thurston Moody :
- Sebastian Clark :
- Moloch : male member of the Parliament of Owls splinter faction who transformed himself into a half-owl monster that attacked Nightwing and Raptor. (Nightwing v4 #4)
- Isabella Haas : a white blonde haired female doctor who treated Dick Grayson after he experienced amnesia and she used treatments to ensure that he forgot his past so that he could be more easily recruited into the Court of Owls. (Nightwing Annual v4 #2)
- Judge of Owls : a mysterious figure with a red-mask who served as the leader of the Court of Owls that had returned following a long period of absence. (Doomsday Clock v1 #6)
- The Court was created by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo where they first appear in Batman v2 #1 (December, 2011).
- In an interview on CBR with Scott Snyder, he commented on the Court of Owls creation:
- "I actually started thinking about this story back when I was on "Detective Comics." I was about halfway through my run when I started really putting it together as the next thing I wanted to do. I approached Mike Marts -- this was maybe three or four months before there was a New 52 -- and I told him I was really interested in this story that would pit Bruce against this historical enemy of Gotham. I wanted to use the symbol of the owl because of both the mythological baggage that it would bring to the Bat Universe and also because I felt like it was just a genuinely and objectively creepy symbol we could get behind for new fans also."
- At Newsrama, Scott Snyder commented in an interview on the Court's goals in "Night of the Owls":
- "The Court of Owls is making a play for the city, and they're not only back, but they're more powerful than before. They have done what owls do in nature sometimes, which is hide in plain sight and kind of go silent, but they're always there watching. Until now, they've just been amused by what's happening in Gotham with Batman. But they don't find it amusing anymore. They want to bring down the claw and crush the entire Bat-family and show Gotham that they're the only legend and the only symbol that the city has ever had and will ever need."
- Writer Greg Cox commented about the group that featured in his novel Batman: The Court of Owls, "I love the idea that owls are the natural predators of bats, and the way the Court is nested deep into the very foundations of Gotham and its history, dating back to long before the Batman was a thing. I also see them as embodiment of the worst aspects of the 1%. They’re robber barons and aristocrats who put their own power and wealth above the welfare of those “beneath” them. Small wonder they hate the Wayne family, who have always been reformers and philanthropists."
- In The Batman Who Laughs v2 #5 (2019), the Court of Owls were shown to had existed in an alternate reality where in that world Bruce Wayne had risen to become the leader of the organization.
In other media
- In Gotham, the Court was referenced in season 2 of the live-action television series starting in the episode "A Legion of Horrible Monsters". They were revealed to had been the secret employers of Professor Hugo Strange and gave him a mission to conduct hidden experiments with the goal of reviving the dead. Afterwards, they showed their displeasure to Strange at the failure of his project until he revealed that he had successfully brought back Fish Mooney with her memories intact.
- In Batman vs. Robin, the Court of Owls made an appearance in the animated film. They were mentioned as a myth in Gotham City with a rhyme being made to warn people not to attract their attention otherwise one of their Talons would kill them. It was held that it consisted of the rich elite of the city with Thomas Wayne telling a young Bruce Wayne about rhyme but told his son that it was only a legend. After the Wayne's death, the boy Bruce Wayne came to believe that perhaps the Court of Owls were real and had ordered the murder of his parents. He followed the rich and elite of Gotham but despite his searches he found nothing leading to him to sadly conclude that the Court was not real. However, in reality, the Court of Owls did exist but had to disappear after a faction forced them into retreat. The Vanavers family had led the Court for many years with Samantha Vanaver becoming its latest Grandmaster. By the modern day, they sought to restore their power and had begun perfecting a technique that reanimated their dead Talon warriors to life for a short amount of time before they needed to return to their crypt. The latest living Talon was an orphaned thief taken in by the Vanavers and as an adult was involved in a secret relationship with the Court's Grandmaster. Through Samantha dating Wayne, they learnt that Bruce had plans to rejuvenate Gotham City leading to Court agents crashing his car in order to abduct him. Once there, they offered membership into their ranks to which Bruce replied he would think about the matter and requested for time. Afterwards, Batman tracked the Court's underground headquarters but he was knocked out when the Court had flooded the tunnels with a psychotropic drug. Around this time, Talon had brought Robin to the Court in order to petition to train him as his apprentice to which the Grandmaster demanded he remove his mask whereupon they learnt that he was Damian Wayne. Talon was then ordered to kill Damian as they concluded that Bruce was Batman. However, Talon decided to murder the Court and the Grandmaster as he desired to take Damian Wayne as his sidekick as well as get him to reject Batman. To that end, he revived the fallen Talons and laid siege to Wayne Manor where he was ultimately killed in the Batcave. Though the Grandmaster was killed, Talon had warned Damian that the rest of the Court would seek to hunt them down for his betrayal.
- In Batman: Arkham Origins, the Court of Owls were referenced but did not make an appearance in the video game. During one scene, there was two statues of owls holding throw knives that references their Talons. In addition, there was a book within the game that contains the rhyme about the Court of Owls.
- Batman v2: #3
- Talon v1: #2
- Batman Eternal v1: #52
- Nightwing v4:
- Dark Knights: Metal v1:
- Doomsday Clock v1:
- Nightwing Annual v4: