Nothing gets past Batman. The Dark Knight knows everything that goes on in Gotham City. You can’t step foot in his town without him knowing. Batman is always three steps ahead and there is no sneaking up on him.
At least that’s what he believes. The Caped Crusader’s persona exudes confidence, helping Batman fans and the entire Bat-Family buy into the narrative that nothing gets past him. But that’s far from true. Batman doesn’t control Gotham, the Court of Owls does.
Consider yourself lucky because you’re about to read an article that Bruce Wayne wishes he could read. I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the Court of Owls. It’s only fair, since you’ll be taking on the secret society in the soon-to-release Gotham Knights. Considering this group has given Batman and the entire Bat-Family a run for their money, we figured you could use as much intel as you could get.
The Court of Owls is a secret society that runs Gotham City from the shadows. You might think they’re a new addition to its legendary underworld, but that’s because Batman’s only recently become aware of them. In reality, they’ve been around for centuries. They helped build Gotham City from the ground up and have secret rooms in many of the city’s buildings.
The leadership of the Court includes some of Gotham’s most affluent members, from socialites to politicians. They meet in secret, wearing the group’s signature owl masks. The white masks are eerie and expressionless, driving home the point that the Court of Owls is bigger than their individual identities. The Court uses their money and positions of power to control the city, but when that fails, they deploy their secret weapon—the Talons.
The Talons are the Court’s deadly enforcers. Dressed in dark suits with glowing eyes, the Talons strike fear into the hearts of their targets. Each Talon is trained from childhood to be the perfect killing machine. That’s all they live for. When a Talon isn’t being deployed, it’s placed in a special hibernation chamber until the Court needs it. These chambers allow the Talons to survive for centuries. Some of the Court’s first Talons from the 1600s have survived to see the 21st century thanks to the Court’s hibernation tech.
While the general public doesn’t know about the Court of Owls’ reach and the role they’ve played throughout Gotham’s history, their existence has been hinted at through urban legends and whispers. A popular nursery rhyme contains the lyrics: “Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadowy perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word of them or they’ll send the Talon for your head.”
As a child, Bruce Wayne heard this rhyme and believed the Court might have been responsible for the death of his parents. He even went so far as to launch an investigation, but he couldn’t find any evidence of the Court’s existence.
That’s because the Court of Owls can’t be found unless they choose to reveal themselves. The only reason Batman knows of their existence today is because they deliberately targeted the Dark Knight, a rare misstep, in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s iconic “Court of Owls” storyline. The revelation of the Court’s existence dramatically rocked Batman’s worldview as he came to grips with the fact that he didn’t know his city as well as he thought. The Talons also proved themselves to be more than a match for the Dark Knight, almost finishing him off for good. Later stories would expand upon the mythology, revealing the Court of Owls was part of a global cabal called the Parliament of Owls. The Parliament began as a cult who worshipped Barbatos, a powerful bat god.
Despite the Court preferring to keep a low profile, they’ve made their way to various pieces of Batman media. The 2015 animated film Batman vs. Robin took elements from Snyder and Capullo’s “Court of Owls” story. We also saw the Court of Owls pulling the strings during the third season of Fox’s Gotham. At one point Jim Gordon infiltrated the group, attempting to take them down from within. Most recently, the Court of Owls was seen on HBO Max’s Harley Quinn, though it probably would have preferred to not have Harley pay a visit. The satirically minded animated series presented the Court as an ancient order with a very loose dress code that conducted certain…er, rituals…at their meetings. (Just watch Harley Quinn. You’re missing out on some wild stuff if you don’t.)
Does the Court of Owls sound terrifying to you? No? Well, let’s see how you feel after facing the Court and their deadly Talons in Gotham Knights. To make matters worse, you’ll be doing it without the help of Batman, since the game kicks off with Bruce Wayne’s death. But no doubt you’ll put these bizarre birds in their place. You definitely shouldn’t let the fact that they’ve been controlling Gotham for centuries (without Batman noticing) discourage you. After all, owls aren’t nearly as scary as bats.
Wait, what’s that? Did you hear something? Are those…eyes peering out from the darkness? When did you say this building was built? Did something just land on the roof?!
You know…heh…this was all just a little DC.com joke. Haha! We gotcha good, right? There is no Court of Owls! Nah, we just wanted to scare you a bit for Halloween. Have fun playing Gotham Knights this weekend and if you happen to run into some owl-like creatures in the game, we don’t know anything about it! You hear that?!? We know nothing!!!
Gotham Knights is available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. For all the latest on Gotham's new protectors, visit our official Gotham Knights game page.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DC.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.