Court of Owls
The Court of Owls surrounds Batman,
art by Greg Capullo
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceBatman (vol. 2) #3
(December 2011)
Created byScott Snyder (writer)
Greg Capullo (artist)
In-story information
Type of organizationOrganized crime
Secret society
Base(s)Gotham City, then international
(in "Robin War")
Agent(s)The Talons
See: List of Court of Owls members

The Court of Owls is an organized crime group and secret society made up of wealthy Gothamites 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 to train and transform them into their assassins, known as Talons, which first appeared in Batman (vol. 2) #2 (2011). As part of the 2015–2016 "Robin War" storyline, the Court of Owls had expanded internationally and is now referred to as the Parliament of Owls.

Publication history

The Court of Owls were created by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo and feature as Batman's main antagonists in the first two-story arcs of The New 52, the 2011 reboot of DC's continuity.[1] They are first mentioned in Batman (vol. 2) #2 (2011) and make their first appearance in Batman (vol. 2) #3 when Batman discovers one of their secret bases of operation and where they are seen posing with one of their assassins, the Talon William Cobb, in a series of old photographs, finally providing Batman with proof of their existence.

Fictional team history

The New 52

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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 white owl masks on their faces.

The earliest history of the Court of Owls dates back to Gotham's earliest days in the 1600s[2] and it has been involved in many criminal acts in Gotham over the years.[3] The Court of Owls took notice when billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne announces plans to rebuild and reshape Gotham City for the future.[4] 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.[5] Batman discovers that their society has various 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.[6]

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.[7]

In the 2012 storyline "Night of the Owls", which ran through the Batman-related books, the Court of Owls, angered at William 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.[8]

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".[9] 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.[10] 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.[2] Bruce, meanwhile, continues to fight the Talons invading the Batcave and eventually manages to stop them, then 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.[10][12]

Selina Kyle and Spark check the fight out, and while Spark wishes to back out, Selina jumps into the fight.[2] 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.[6] 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 Turner 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, who tells him that Gotham is lost, not to activate the Bat-Signal 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 the Red Hood ends up talking an Owl into killing itself.[16] The battle against the Owls begins 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 the 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.[2]

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 Bruce could never be truly sure if Lincoln March would return. Bruce would also never be truly sure 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 Thomas and Martha Wayne had lied. Bruce mentions to Dick that when the Court of Owls returns, he will be ready.[19]

Artist Greg Capullo signing a Court of Owls replica mask during an appearance at Midtown Comics
Artist Greg Capullo signing a Court of Owls replica 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 doors, they are eagerly anticipating the look on the faces of the First Talon's victims when they see the first and most terrible weapon that the Court has ever used.[20] Some of the Talons are shown to be on ice at Blackgate Penitentiary at the time when Bane is causing an uprising there.[21] Bane arrives at the area where the Talons are being held and makes plans to use them as weapons.[22]The Scarecrow and the Man-Bat attempt to steal the frozen Talons from Blackgate Penitentiary while the Penguin is having a meeting with Bane. Bane later arrives at Blackgate Penitentiary as the Man-Bat and his fellow Man-Bats are attempting to transport the Talons to Mr. Freeze and is able to keep one from leaving.[23] 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.[24] Bane wakes up William Cobb and takes him through Gotham, where he fights the inmates of Arkham Asylum. Bane begins recruiting the 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 the Talons at his disposal to be powered by his drug, Venom.[25] 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 in order to remove the mind-control technology.[26] 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 the Venom wears off.[27] Following the defeat of the Crime Syndicate, Bane and the Talons are defeated by Batman, who regains control of Gotham City.[28]

At the conclusion of the 2014-2015 series Batman Eternal, it is revealed that Lincoln March used the Court's resources to fund the Cluemaster's campaign against Batman, reasoning that Batman would not pay close attention to the Cluemaster as a candidate while March let the 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 enemy would forever end the "myth" of the Dark Knight. However, the plan fails when Batman's allies and the people of Gotham City rally together against March's assault after Commissioner 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 again.[29]

In the 2015 - 2016 storyline "Robin War", the Court of Owls reanimate Lincoln March, who has devised a way to obtain their prophesied 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 all 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 Robins 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 an 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.[volume & issue needed]

DC Rebirth

This article needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (September 2017)

In Nightwing (vol. 3), 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 the 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.[30] 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; they are wary of and suspect Grayson's true intentions, but they do not know that their leverage over him has been resolved. To keep him in check, the Parliament partners him with the Raptor to aid in his missions.[31]

In the 2017 storyline Dark Nights: Metal, it is subsequently revealed that the Court of Owls were predominately a cult that worshiped Barbatos, a dark god associated with bats who hailed from the Dark Multiverse beneath the DC Multiverse. A cell of members ambush the Justice League and offer Batman up as the key to open up the Dark Multiverse, but are subsequently brutally murdered by The Batman Who Laughs and his Robins.

In the Watchmen sequel Doomsday Clock, the remaining representatives of the Court of Owls are among the villains that attend the underground meeting held by the Riddler to talk about the Superman Theory. Their judge states that the Court of Owls are not relocating to Kahndaq.[32]



The Talons are a group 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.[33] A serum was eventually developed that, coupled with the electrum, could bring the dead Talons back to life. Talons so revived appear to be nigh-unkillable, surviving knives through the skull, electrocution, losing a body part, falling from the height of a skyscraper, etc. 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 itself. 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. A new Talon must prove himself worthy to earn 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 selves with the help of the Lazarus Pit.[34] The Talons below are listed by when they were first active.

Among the known Talons are:

William Cobb

One of the Courts most prolific members, Cobb is the assassin sent to murder Bruce Wayne prior to the Night of the Owls. Born on October 10, 1901, William Cobb was the son of an ironworker and textile worker who lost his life while working on a bridge. This event robbed young William of his childhood, as he and his mother struggled to survive afterwards. After an encounter with a man named Nathaniel, Cobb joined a circus, mastering the art of throwing knives and earning fame. Cobb met and fell in love with Amelia Crowe, the daughter of Burton Crowe, which resulted in Amelia's pregnancy, but Burton disapproved and arranged for her to marry a second cousin. Through Nathaniel's efforts, Cobb joined the Court of Owls and became a Talon in order to make a difference in society. Cobb kidnapped his infant 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;[38]Cobb's son becomes the first in his bloodline to be called Grayson, as it has been ever since. After failed attempts to defeat Batman, Batman discovers that Cobb is Dick Grayson's great-grandfather. Cobb is disappointed to learn that Dick, as Nightwing, is an ally of Batman and faces his great-grandson in combat, in which Dick is victorious.[38]

After his body was retrieved by the Court, they made him fight another member named Jonas for the title of Talon. He fight ended with Cobb tossing and being put back into stasis. During the Forever Evil event, Bane began collecting many Court assassins to create an army to help him rule Gotham City. Cobb was the only one willing to join him. He manages to fight and defeat other Talons who were being controlled by the Mad Hatter and helped Bane win the unofficial "Arkham War", but was then defeated by a returned Batman. [39]

During the Year of the Villain event, Cobb actively stalks Dick, who had recently lost his memory following an encounter with KGBeast. He believe that this was his greatest opportunity to have Dick become the Gray Son of Gotham. He was soon contacted by Lex Luthor, who offered him the information needed to convert Dick to his side.[40]

After the reality changing event of Dark Nights: Death Metal, Amanda Waller sends a group of villains to retrieve Talon from Arkham Asylum just before The Joker gassed it. He is then inducted into the Suicide Squad.[41]

In other media



The Court of Owls appears in the animated film Batman vs. Robin, with an unidentified main Talon (voiced by Jeremy Sisto) that resembles Calvin Rose. This Talon is the son of an abusive jewel thief who turned his father in to the police, resulting in his death after a failed job. He was soon recruited into the Court of Owls, and developed a desire to help Damian Wayne / Robin realize his potential. In the film, Talon attempts to persuade Robin to join the Court of Owls following several encounters. However, Talon kills the Grandmaster (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes), the socialite Samantha Vanaver (voiced by Grey DeLisle), and betrays the rest of the Court of Owls after refusing to kill a kidnapped Robin and seizes control of the Court's army of zombified Talons. He tasks them with attacking the Batcave while he fights Robin, but they are destroyed by Batman, Nightwing and Alfred while the unnamed Talon is defeated by Robin and commits suicide.[44]

Video games



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