Court of Owls

Court of Owls

The Court of Owls watching over as Batman is tortured by a Talon, while they also suggest how Batman should die.
Art by Greg Capullo.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Batman Vol. 2 #2 (October 2011)
Created by Scott Snyder
Greg Capullo
In-story information
Type of organization Organized crime
Secret society
Base(s) Gotham City
Agent(s) The Talons
See: List of Court of Owls members

The Court of Owls is an organized crime group and secret society appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with the superhero Batman. They have secretly existed since Colonial times in Gotham City. The Court kidnaps child performers from the circus, only to train and transform them into their assassins, known as Talons. As part of the 2015-2016 "Robin War" storyline, the Court of Owls had expanded internationally and is referred to as the Parliament of Owls.

Publication history

The Court of Owls is first mentioned in Batman #2 (2011) and make their first full appearance in Batman #5 as part of The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe) where they were created by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo.

Fictional team history

The Court of Owls is a 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. A nursery rhyme describing them has been passed down through Gotham's generations:

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, but some lower-ranking members appear to actually be human-owl hybrids.

The earliest history of the Court of Owls dates back to Gotham's earliest days in the 1600s,[1] and it has been involved in many criminal acts in Gotham over the years[2] The Court of Owls took notice when billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne announces plans to rebuild and reshape Gotham City for the future.[3] The Court sentences Bruce to death, and their assassin the Talon (William Cobb) attempts to murder him during a meeting with Lincoln March. They struggle at the top of Wayne Tower and the killer survives a fall from the top.[4] Batman 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. 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. Batman is caught and tortured by the Court, but escapes.[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 Ephraim Newhouse, 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 freezes 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. Commissioner Gordon is then found by a Court of Owls member being told that Gotham is lost, not to activate the bat symbol and that if he tried to stop the Court a Talon would kill his daughter Barbara Gordon (Batgirl)[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 Bat-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]

Artist Greg Capullo signing a Talon mask during an appearance at Midtown Comics

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. 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. 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.[2] Some of the Talons are shown to be on ice at Blackgate Penitentiary at the time when Bane is causing an uprise there.[20] Bane arrives at the area where the Talons are being held where he makes plans to use then as weapons.[21] Scarecrow and Man-Bat attempt to steal the frozen Talons from Blackgate Penitentiary while Penguin is having a meeting with Bane. Bane later arrives at Blackgate Penitentiary as Man-Bat and his fellow bats are attempting to transport the Talons to Mr. Freeze and is able to keep one from leaving.[22] The Man-Bats are able to bring the remaining Talons to Mr. Freeze. Bane later fights Killer Croc and is able to defeat him while setting his sights on retrieving the Talons.[23] Bane wakes up William Cobb and takes him through Gotham where he fights members of Arkham Asylum. Bane begins recruiting Gotham citizens to his side, offering his base at Wayne Tower as a haven to the people to escape the rule of the Arkham inmates. He tells Cobb his plan to turn the city over to the Court, in exchange for use of Talons at his disposal to be powered by his Venom.[24] The Talons attack Bane's men, and eventually set their target on Bane. With the help of Cobb, Bane is able to injure the Talons enough to activate their regenerative powers to remove the mind-control technology.[25] The Venom-induced Arkham villains attack Bane and the Talons at Blackgate. They bring Bane back to Arkham Asylum, where Bane begins to defeat them as their Venom wears off.[26] Following the defeat of the Crime Syndicate, Bane and the Talons are defeated by Batman who regains control of Gotham City.[27]

At the conclusion of Batman: Eternal, it is revealed that Lincoln March used the Court's resources to fund Cluemaster's campaign against Batman, reasoning that Batman wouldn't pay close attention to Cluemaster as a candidate while March let Cluemaster do all the work of wearing Batman down, planning to step in and kill the Dark Knight at the last minute before retreating back into the shadows, reasoning that Batman's public death at the hands of an unknown foe would forever end the 'myth' of the Dark Knight. However, the plan fails when Batman's allies and the people of Gotham rally together against March's assault after Gordon calls on them to stand up for the city in Batman's name, forcing March to retreat. As he flees through the sewers, he is captured by the restored Court and locked away in suspended animation. The Court of Owls reflects that they may release him in a decade or so if they decide they need him.[28]

In Robin War, the Court of Owls reanimate Lincoln March who has devised a way to obtain their prophecized Gray Son. Councilwoman Noctua, a member of the Court, rises to power in Gotham City and implants a set of laws and regulations that ban Robin paraphernalia and will imprison those caught possessing or wearing anything Robin related. This obtains the attention of the original four Robins: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne (the current Robin) who all arrive in Gotham to train the hundreds of members of the Robin street gang. All the Robins (apart from Grayson) are imprisoned and the Court tries to force Tim and Jason to fight each other to the death. This fails and all the Robins escape imprisonment. Damian finds Lincoln March who blackmails the former, implanting a explosive device within Damian. In order to spare the other Robins, Damian agrees to become the Court of Owls 'Gray Son' and leads a group of Talons to prevent the Robins from interfering. Dick Grayson confronts Lincoln March who reveals that the whole event was a ruse to bring Grayson to him and for the former to accept his destiny as the 'Gray Son'. Using the explosive device in Damian as leverage, Lincoln successfully brings Grayson into the Court of Owls, ending the Robin War. Grayson is introduced into the newly expanded, international Parliament of Owls and declares 'I'm not Robin'.

In the new Nightwing series, Lincoln March addresses the Parliament of Owls as they decide to cast aside their connection to the Court of Owls in Gotham and don black owl masks. As March begins to preach his new role in the Parliament, he is killed by Raptor, who reveals that both he and the Parliament agree that March's own desires began to become a hindrance to them and they needed a clean path to Nightwing.[29] Dick Grayson has finally re-obtained his secret identity and has returned to the role of Nightwing. He willingly works for the Parliament in order to bring them down from the inside, but they are wary of and suspect Grayson's true intentions, but they don't know their leverage over him has been resolved. To keep him in check, the Parliament partners him with Raptor to aid in his missions.[30]


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. The Court, seemingly obsessed with Greek mythology, began using electrum (a highly conductive alloy of silver and gold with trace amounts of copper and other elements) to treat their "retired" Talons. A serum was eventually developed that coupled with the electrum could bring the dead Talons back to life. Talons so revived appear to be unkillable, surviving knives through the skull, electrocution, dismemberment, falling from the height of a skyscraper and even decapitation. If exposed to extreme cold the revived Talons will shut down, entering a kind of stasis. The only means verified to kill a revived Talon is a poison developed by the Court. The Talons are highly trained and conditioned. They are extremely proficient with knives, and experts in hand to hand combat. In order to remain undetected the Talons are masters of stealth and concealment. Prior to the Night of the Owls the Court only had one active Talon at a time. The new Talon must prove himself worthy to wear that mantle by killing his predecessor in single combat in the Labyrinth. Talons are to follow the Court's orders and serve until they are deemed unfit for service due to age or failure at which point they face their chosen successor. Revived Talons can be returned to their former self with the help of the Lazarus Pit.[31] The Talons below are listed by when they were first active.

Among the known Talons are:

In other media



The Court of Owls appear in the animated film Batman vs. Robin, with Talon voiced by Jeremy Sisto. In the film, Talon attempts to persuade Robin (Damian Wayne) into joining the Court of Owls. But midway through the film, Talon betrays the Grandmaster (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes), revealed to be Bruce Wayne's lover Samantha Vanaver (voiced by Grey DeLisle), and seizes control of the Court's army of zombified Talons to attack the Batcave. In the end, the Talons are destroyed while the current Talon commits suicide when defeated by Robin.[37]


  1. Catwoman Vol 9
  2. 1 2 Batman and Robin Vol. 2 #23.2
  3. Batman Vol. 2 #1
  4. Batman Vol. 2 #2
  5. 1 2 Batman Vol. 2 #6
  6. Batman Vol. 2 #7
  7. Batman Vol. 2 #9
  8. Birds of Prey Vol. 3 #9
  9. 1 2 Nightwing Vol. 3 #8
  10. 1 2 3 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. Detective Comics Vol. 2 #23.3
  21. Forever Evil: Arkham War #1
  22. Forever Evil: Arkham War #2
  23. Forever Evil: Arkham War #3
  24. Forever Evil: Arkham War #4
  25. Forever Evil: Arkham War #5
  26. Forever Evil: Arkham War #6
  27. Forever Evil Aftermath: Batman vs. Bane #1
  28. Batman: Eternal #52
  29. Nightwing Rebirth #1
  30. Nightwing #1
  31. Talon Vol. 1 #17
  32. Batgirl Annual (Volume 4) #1
  33. Birds of Prey (Volume 3) #15
  34. Birds of Prey (Volume 3) #16
  35. EXCLUSIVE: Bruno Heller Confirms Court of Owls for Gotham
  36. Fish Mooney Returns to Gotham? - #DCTV
  37. "Animated 'Batman vs. Robin' Movie Finds Its Voice Cast (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. January 14, 2015. Retrieved January 14, 2015.

External links

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