The Court of Owls
The Court of Owls watching as Batman is tortured by the Talon while they also suggest how Batman should die. Batman (Volume 2) #6.
Art by Greg Capullo
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Batman #1 (December 2011)
Created by Scott Snyder
Greg Capullo
In-story information
Type of organization Organized crime, secret society
Base(s) Gotham City
Leader(s) Joseph & Maria Powers (formerly)
Thomas Wayne Jr. (as Lincoln March, usurped)
Agent(s) The Talons
See:Court of Owls#Members

The Court of Owls is a fictional organized crime group and secret society in Batman and other DC Comics. They have secretly existed for over a century in Gotham City. The Court kidnaps child performers from the circus, to train and transform into their assassins known as Talons. It was created by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. The Court of Owls is first mentioned in Batman #1 (2011), and make their first full appearance in Batman #5 as part of The New 52.

Fictional history

The Court of Owls is an ancient conspiracy that has controlled Gotham City for centuries. They are a violent cabal of some of Gotham City's oldest and wealthiest families who use murder and money to wield political influence throughout history. Their bases of operation are hidden in some of the city's oldest structures, existing beneath everyone's notice. Their legend is told only through whispers and a nursery rhyme that bears their name:

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.

To carry out their interests, they employ a breed of highly trained assassins known as Talons. The leaders of the organization appear to be human and wear owl masks on their faces.

The Court of Owls takes notice when billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne announces plans to rebuild and reshape Gotham City for the future.[1] Gotham City Mayoral candidate Lincoln March agrees with Bruce's vision of the future, himself having been orphaned. Bruce is sentenced to death by The Court, and their assassin The Talon, William Cobb, attempts to murder him during a meeting with March. They struggle at the top of Wayne Tower and the killer survives a fall from the top.[2] Batman begins to investigate, and he comes to believe in the old nursery rhyme about The Court of Owls, as he discovers that their society has secret headquarters throughout hidden rooms in every building established by the Alan Wayne Trust, created by Bruce's great-grandfather, Alan Wayne. They attempt to kill Batman again by blowing up their most recent base with him inside. Bruce recounts that as a child he believed the Court of Owls responsible for the death of his parents, and personally investigated the conspiracy before determining that there was no evidence. When he visits the sewer where Alan Wayne's body was found, the Talon surprises and abducts him.[3] They trap Batman in a massive labyrinth used for all their victims where he spends nine days without food and little water, regressing to the point of hallucination. The giant maze tells the story of every man and woman The Court of Owls has ever killed there, including Alan Wayne. Talon finally walks up from behind and stabs Batman to kill him when he is at his weakest.[4] The Court finally reveal themselves in person, having decided to honor their worthy enemy by displaying his skeleton in the maze. Talon asks for their sentence, and he is commanded to brutally beat the super-hero to death. Batman gathers his last reserves of strength when he is inspired by the memory of his tortured ancestor, and tears the Owls away from his body. Delivering a savage beating to The Talon, Batman swears that he will hunt them down and escapes using a makeshift explosive. Although the William Cobb Talon is disposed of for having outlived his value, The Court reveal that a small army of similar warriors are waiting to be released.[5]

Not long after, apparently tired of their game and angered at Batman's escape and discovery of their lair, the Court unleashes the full might of their army of undead Talons on the city to kill Batman and his allies and retake Gotham for themselves.[6]

The "Night of the Owls" storyline was a crossover event which included the majority of the Batman-related books. Scouting out The Penguin's base, Selina Kyle and her partner, Spark, decide to commit espionage against the gang boss. The Court of Owls, angered at Cobb's defeat at the hands of Batman, awaken all of their other Talons to reclaim Gotham City - literally and ideologically - from Batman. They also dispose of Cobb's body for Alfred Pennyworth to find. The Court's goal is to prove that they are the superior legend of Gotham City, not Batman. The Owls first attack the Batcave, but the injured Bruce still manages to defeat several of them due to their outdated fighting style. Alfred uncovers the forty targets of the Owls and sends a radio message out to the Batman Family for help. Tim Drake and Jason Todd receive one and Jason decides to protect Mr. Freeze. Robin (Damian Wayne), Batwing, and The Birds of Prey also answer Alfred's call. Bruce dons an armored Batsuit to be able to fight all of the Talons while one of the assassins revives William Cobb.[7]

The Birds of Prey are one of the first to fight a Talon who is merciless and cruel in his methods, wanting to kill "street vermin".[8] Nightwing receives the message and goes to save Mayor Sebastian Hady. Nightwing has no problem in killing the Talon attacking Hady due to it already being dead, but upon stopping it, he is knifed in the chest by a revived Cobb. Cobb credits Nightwing, his descendant, working for Batman as his worst betrayal.[9] When Selina and Spark arrive to steal from the Penguin, they see the Penguin's car leaving, but are not aware that the Penguin himself is still alive and being viciously beat down by Ephram Newman, a Talon.[10] Bruce, meanwhile, continues to fight the Talons invading the Batcave and eventually manages to stop them, and he heads out to save Jeremiah Arkham who is fighting the Talons through Roman Sionis.[11] Nightwing is brutally beat down by Cobb who continues to mock him. Cobb demands that his heir impress him, eventually giving up and calling Nightwing a waste. Nightwing, however, retaliates and electrocutes Cobb, then offering to take Jeremiah Arkham from Batman.[9][12]

Selina and Spark check the fight out, and while Spark wishes to back out, Selina jumps into the fight.[10] After giving Arkham to Nightwing, Batman goes to save Lincoln March. Bruce combats Alton Carver, the Talon sent to kill March, but is unable to stop Carver from killing March, a mayoral candidate who wanted to make Gotham a better place. March gives Batman a package that will make Gotham better and Bruce heads out to burn down the lair of the Court of Owls.[5] Damian heads off to the outskirts of Gotham and decapitates a Talon who was seeking to kill an army general[13] and Batwing proceeds to mutilate a Talon who wanted to assassinate Lucius Fox.[14]

Batgirl proceeds to meet a Talon named Mary, who, when she sees Batgirl, simply strokes her across the face. Batgirl swipes a piece of paper from Mary. Balloon bombs set off by the Court of Owls also begin to go off at random spots. Batgirl then pushes Mary into a balloon bomb, killing her. Batgirl then finds a court member, an Owl, thinking if they just lost Gotham.[15] The Outlaws capture Mr. Freeze and Red Hood ends up talking an Owl into killing itself.[16] The battle against the Owls begin to go the way of the Gotham citizens. Alton then awakens, believing himself to finally be free from fear and all that has bound him. Mr. Freeze, however, escapes and tries to kill Bruce Wayne, but once again ends up being stopped.[17]

Selina and Spark initially think they have killed the Talon, but later realize that the Talon is in a way immortal. Ephraim takes Selina's whip and begins to mercilessly beat Spark and then choke Selina's lover with it with Selina not understanding. Selina decides to bargain with the Talon, offering him a full set of Talon daggers. Ephraim begins to listen but is shot in the head by the Penguin. Selina and Spark eventually decide not to steal the Talon daggers that Penguin originally had in his possession and head off to deposit the Talon's body, which they leave at the W:C:DC:Bat-SignalBat-Signal, with the Night of the Owls having come to a close.[10]

Following the battle, Bruce tracks down the leadership of the grouping of the Court of Owls in Gotham City to the Powers family. However, when he finds the Court, they are all dead by poison. The next day, confused as to whether or not the Court killed his parents, he discovers Lincoln March had been a Talon and tracks him down. Confronting the living mayoral candidate, he learns that March used Mr. Freeze's Talon serum to survive, that March was a Talon created to compete with Batman, and that March killed the grouping of the Court in Gotham for personal vengeance against Bruce. March claims to be Bruce's brother Thomas Wayne Jr. and he believes Bruce to be responsible for the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The two very quickly engage in combat, which March dubs "OWL to BAT."[18] March claimed that he was visited by Martha Wayne every day while he was being trained by the Court of Owls. Batman continued his fight with March and he ended up escaping. Though March's regenerative capabilities meant that he could never be sure if Lincoln March would return. Bruce would never be truly certain whether Lincoln March was telling the truth about his parentage without a DNA test, but many of the facts of his story could fit around the official paperwork - on the condition that Martha and Thomas Wayne had lied. Bruce mentions to Dick that when the Court of Owls returns, he'll be ready.[19]

During the Forever Evil storyline, the Court of Owls see the news from the Crime Syndicate that the Justice League is "dead" and claims that the Court of Owls will prosper. With their existence threatened, they will dig into the foundations of their arcane history and use it to adapt. In 1974, R.H. Orchard showed the unnamed Mayor of Gotham City his treasury hidden in the Orchard Hotel. The Mayor of Gotham City was surprised at the opulence, not to mention the palpable disdain of the man who had invited him there. R.H. Orchard explained that the Mayor's meeting the following day with five national union heads would be unacceptable to his organization. As R.H. Orchard explained, the city survived on a balance of power that was created over centuries and cannot be allowed to be challenged by outsiders. When the Mayor of Gotham City demanded just who Orchard thought he was to tell him what to do, he was disturbed to find himself surrounded by men in masks echoing his "who?" back at him over and over. The next day, the Mayor of Gotham City threw the union leaders out of Gotham in outrage and returned grovelling to the Court of Owls. The Court of Owls then dropped the Mayor of Gotham City into their labyrinth to be "broken" and murdered by a Talon. In 1871, a young photographer had discovered the hideout of the Court of Owls at Harbor House, and discovered that their activities were actually mundane and boring. His wife though still believed they were dangerous, and warned him against speaking too loudly of it. He was preparing to take the photo he had got of the Court of Owls in action to the Philadelphia Press at the Metropolitan Station, and she begged him not to go. As he kissed her goodbye and prepared to board the train, a noose slipped around his neck from the rafters and hung him by the neck 'til he was dead. As she screamed for him, a man placed a drugged cloth over her mouth. By the next day, their deaths were headlines in the Gotham Gazette. Now, a prominent member of the Court of Owls leads his daughter down into a safe place which turned out to be where the Court of Owls began. As they enter the tunnels beneath the city, the girl admits that she is scared,and her father reveals that strength comes through fear, recounting the tale of the Gotham Butcher. In 1862, a well-dressed man angrily strode through the Narrows. Stepping over the threshold of a particular house, he brushed past the mutilated corpses strewn about with disgust. Confronting Felix Harmon, he warned that the papers had dubbed him the Gotham Butcher a problem given that none of the Talons are even supposed to be known about....let alone kill without being told to. Tiring of listening to his guest's berating, Harmon reached out and crushed his skull in one massive fist. The Court of Owls had to spend a decade in hiding after Felix Harmon's indiscretions. When the Court of Owls returned, they were stronger than ever. The Court of Owls always wins because it is a part of Gotham City as much as its rivers and caves. Gotham City's foundation would have to be torn up to even grasp at the Court of Owl's roots. Curious, the girl wonders how their history can save them from a crazed mob of rioters. Her father explains that while they could use their control of established institutions to quell threats in the past, this situation is more dire, and so they have gone below to the home of the one who started it all. From the shadows, a woman shouts for them to stop warning that they cannot bring back the first. She had murdered more of their brothers earlier in service of preventing the first's awakening and she would not hesitate now. To her surprise though, the man's daughter leaps onto her back and tears into her flesh with knives. Proud, her father leads her through the great wooden doors to the chamber of the First Talon. Once through the great wooden doors, they eagerly anticipating the look on the faces of the First Talon's victim faces when they see the first and most terrible weapon that the Court has ever used.[20]


  • Benjamin Orchard - A Grandmaster of the Court of Owls.
  • Felix Harmon - Felix Harmon was known as the Gotham Butcher who murdered hundreds of Gotham City's citizens during the 1860s out of boredom. He was captured by the Court of Owls and entombed. He was later reawakened to go after Calvin Rose.
  • Maria Powers - The wife of Joseph Powers, owner of the Powers Hotel, and member of the Court of Owls.
  • Lincoln March - A Gotham City mayoral candidate who claims to be Thomas Wayne Jr.
  • Thurston Moody - A wealthy Gotham nobleman who is a potential member of the Court of Owls in the 1800s. He used kidnapped children as slaves beneath Gotham City which was uncovered by Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham.

The Talons

The Talons are a breed of deadly assassins that are absolutely loyal to the Court of Owls. They remain sleeping deep within their inner sanctum until they are called upon. Experts at murder, they are responsible for controlling the Court's interests with an iron fist whenever their services are needed for an execution. The Talons below are listed by when they were first active.

  • Ephram Newhouse - Ephram Newhouse was the Talon of 1665. However, his sloppiness forced the court to retire him, stripping him of his weapons and armor with a mark of disgrace on his record. Four of his knives were stolen by Catwoman centuries later. During the Night of the Owls storyline, Ephram was revived and sent by the Court to assassinate Oswald Cobblepot. By sheer coincidence, the Penguin was in possession of the fifth knife which Catwoman had set her own sights on. In the ensuing conflict, Catwoman saved the Penguin's life and promised the five knives back to the Talon preying on his need for redemption in the eyes of the Court of Owls. The Penguin shot him through the head before an exchange could be made, and so Catwoman - feeling as though she and the Talon were kindred spirits - laid his body on the roof of Gotham City Police Department with his five knives and turned on the W:C:DC:Bat-SignalBat-Signal.
  • Henry Ballard - Henry Ballard was encountered by the Birds of Prey. He remembered the Gotham City of 1847 as a violent place, and saw the city's present the same way. When he was unmasked, he already had the appearance of an old man. He seemingly regards women as "vermin", suggesting Misogyny traits. The Birds of Prey managed to subdue him when Poison Ivy dragged him into a refrigerated train car meant for carrying meat.
  • Alexander Staunton - Alexander Staunton was the Talon in 1856. He was effective, but his killings lacked the subtlety the Court of the day felt was essential, and he was retired. During the Night of the Owls he was sent to kill Lucius Fox, but was stopped by Batwing.
  • Xiao Loong - Xiao Loong was the Talon of the 1890s. He was an acrobat of Chinese descent. In his time, he was sent to assassinate Thurston Moody, the former deputy head of Gotham Sanitation, who was a member of a terrorist group called the August 7.
  • William Cobb - William Cobb is the assassin sent to murder Bruce Wayne, prior to the Night of Owls. Born on October 10, 1901, William Cobb was the son of an ironworker and textile worker. During work on a bridge that they were working on for Cameron Kane, the bridge collapsed, the event of which cost William's unnamed father his life and also robbed young William of his childhood as he and his mother sought to make ends meet. In the aftermath of the tragedy, William was often left alone while his mother worked long hours at a textile factory due to the fact that they barely had enough money to pay anyone to look after young William and even for food. As such, William began standing on street corners, jugging to earn a living although while telling his story, he regards it at having a profound effect on what he could become before remarking, "How much more hopeless can one feel?". Upon spotting a pickpocket, William stopped him by throwing a ball at him. The would-be victim, Nathaniel, grateful then offered young William a change in venue. A while later, William states that Nathaniel had had his eye on young William for weeks and although William's mother was not happy to learn of how her son had been spending her days, she had known all along and she agreed to let her son join Haly's Circus. William underwent training, mastering the art of throwing many knives which helped increase his popularity and make him a household name. As the years passed, William's reputation grew and he remembers, "Once a child living in Gotham, I had managed to become a child of Gotham". It was during his return that he met and fell in love with a young woman named Amelia. Despite the fact that Amelia was also Burton Crowe's daughter, the two got off from the start and spent many times together but William then ruefully states, "Two children in love. In hindsight, that really was the beginning of the end. Even though neither of us knew it. In the months that followed, everything was stripped away". During one evening, William met Burton Crowe who told him that although William had pulled himself out of the slums, the young man was still living in filth and that a city like Gotham, a city of light and dark has no middle, it never has and that William was not going to change that. Burton's disapproval weighed very heavily on William and Amelia's relationship with things getting even worse when Amelia learnt that she was pregnant with William's child. This ultimately resulted in William and Amelia breaking up for good while Burton arranged for his daughter to marry a second cousin, hiding the true identity of their son and for the city knew, the baby, a boy would ever be a Crowne. William was left out in the cold, remarking, "I had started as nothing and in the eyes of those who mattered, would always be nothing. No matter what". At the Circus, William was left rejected over his failure when Nathaniel approached him with an offer, stating, "What if I told you I had a way for you to truly matter?". William later remembers that it was far from simple as during his "training", he was starved and tortured for months, even being driven to the brink of insanity before remarking that he was made better. William's first year as a member of the Court of the Owls and a Talon was "liberating" as he was making a difference the only way that works, i.e., by targeting and killing people. After one such mission, William kidnapped his baby son and gave the boy to Nathaniel, urging Nathaniel to release the child in secret and prepare him for the legacy as the Gray Son of Gotham. In the present day, William launches an attack on the Batcave before being captured and he is examined, Bruce discovers that he is Dick Grayson's great-grandfather. William eventually escapes and goes up against his great-grandson, telling Dick of his disappointment in Dick betraying the Court of the Owls to join Batman instead. After a vicious fight, Dick eventually wins, using ice from many pipes to weaken William and as he climbs the stairs, carrying his great-grandfather, Dick remarks, "I'll tell you what I embrace, William. What I embrace is that destinies don't exist".
  • Mary Turner - Mary is the Talon of the 1940s. She was horribly disfigured at a young age by a bomb attached to a balloon which was sent by Emperor Hirohito to cause panic in the United States during World War II. Mary is awakened and sent to coerce Commissioner Gordon into letting his police force handle the Night of Owls ineffectively, and into inadvertently lighting a modified W:C:DC:Bat-SignalBat-Signal which fills the sky with the symbol of the Court of Owls, thereby killing hope that the Batman will save Gotham. She faces Batgirl, but lets her go, because they both wear masks. Later, Catwoman broke Mary out of Blackgate Penitentiary having been hired by a prominent member of the Court. When she realized his motivations, though, she turned on him, and with Batgirl, they defeated his Talons - including Mary, who turned on her master in the name of friendship with the two women. In order to protect Mary, Catwoman faced the police alone, leaving Batgirl to get Mary out.[21] Batgirl's solution was to find a place for Mary with the Birds of Prey[22] giving her the codename "Strix" (which is Latin for "owl").[23]
  • Alton Carver - Alton Carver was the most recent Talon. Like every other Talon, Carver was a performer with Haly's Circus, but his fear of death prevented him from mastering the high-wire. Frustrated, the ringmaster forced him to overcome his fear by setting his trailer ablaze with him inside. When he emerged, burned but alive, he was ready for the Court's training. Twenty-six years later, he had become one of the best Talons, but he had also become sloppy. He was warned that if he continued to make mistakes, he would be replaced with a boy who had already been chosen to succeed him. On the night of the mission that was meant to redeem him, Carver couldn't help but go to see the one who would replace him. He saw Dick Grayson perform, and knew that the boy would outmatch him. Having delayed too long, he missed his chance to kill his target stealthily and was attacked by the Batman. His failure forced the Court to retire him, and he was not wakened again until the Night of the Owls. He was given mayoral candidate Lincoln March as target. Though March was stabbed, he shot Carver in the head. Unexpectedly, though, Carver revived, and attacked the Batman, who had arrived on the scene. The battle ended with Carver sent careening through the window and onto the street below. Despite the fall, he managed to escape into the sewers.
  • Calvin Rose - Calvin Rose was an escape artist from Haly's Circus. He was trained and then recruited by the Court of Owls. He was the only Talon to ever escape the grasp of the Court of Owls. He is an excellent escape artist and trained assassin.


  1. Batman Vol. 2 #1
  2. Batman Vol. 2 #2
  3. Batman Vol. 2 #4
  4. Batman Vol. 2 #5
  5. 5.0 5.1 Batman Vol. 2 #6
  6. Batman Vol. 2 #7
  7. Batman vol.2 #9
  8. Birds of Prey Vol. 3 #9
  9. 9.0 9.1 Nightwing Vol. 3 #8
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Catwoman Vol. 4 #9
  11. Detective Comics Vol. 2 #9
  12. Batman: The Dark Knight (Volume 2) #9
  13. Batman and Robin Vol. 2 #9
  14. Batwing #9
  15. Batgirl Vol. 4 #9
  16. Red Hood and the Outlaws #9
  17. Batman Annual Vol. 2 #1
  18. Batman Vol. 2 #10
  19. Batman Vol. 2 #11
  20. Batman and Robin Vol. 2 #23.2
  21. Batgirl Annual (Volume 4) #1
  22. Birds of Prey (Volume 3) #15
  23. Birds of Prey (Volume 3) #16

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