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, and make their first full appearance in Batman #5 as part of The New 52.
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:
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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