Gotham City will soon be overrun with owls. At DC FanDome, the virtual convention that rolled out reveals for movies like The Flash, Shazam: Fury of the Gods, and Black Adam, a new group of Batman villains were featured in a big way. The Court of Owls, a secret cabal of Gotham City elite, will be a huge focus in the new video game Batman: Gotham Knights and may be the secret villains in the 2021 movie The Batman.
Why Court of Owls may be the villains of The Batman
There are three things, both in the trailer and in Matt Reeves' panel at DC FanDome, that hint the Court of Owls are the villains of The Batman.
First, Matt Reeves spoke about Robert Pattinson's Batman unearthing "corruption" deeply rooted in Gotham City.
"You see [Batman's] not having any of the effect that he that wants to have yet," explained Reeves at DC FanDome. "And that is when the murders start to happen. The murders begin to describe the sort of history of Gotham in a way that only reinforces what he knows about Gotham but it opens up a whole new world of corruption that went much farther. But as that story starts to come out, without being an origin tale for him, touches on his origins."
New world of corruption? History of Gotham? Touching on his origins? All signs point to the Court of Owls being positioned as baddies in The Batman. But that's not all.
Second, as seen in the trailer for The Batman, the Riddler (played by Paul Dano) leaves behind a cryptic message in a Halloween greeting card. What's pictured on the card? Just a hooting owl. Inside, the message reads: "Haven't a Clue? Let's play a game, just Me and You..."
Written on the left flap is a riddle: "What does a liar do when he's dead?" On the other flap is the answer written in a secret text. Not long after the trailer, a Twitter user named Andrew Lane (@TheMasterD101) apparently cracked it, translating it to be: "He lies still."
Third, previous set photos of The Batman as well as Jim Lee's art for the movie revealed Robert Pattinson's full costume that may suggest a strong Court of Owls connection. There are visual cues, namely in the gauntlets, that echo between the costume for the Talons and Robert Pattinson's own costume. This is more likely a coincidence, as we're talking about a villain design in the comics and a Batman design in his own movie. But still!
What is the Court of Owls?
The Court of Owls are a cabal of Gotham City elite who secretly control the city through nefarious means. Using an army of kidnapped children and highly-trained assassins, called "Talons," the Owls wield political influence by means of assassination, blackmail, and other things oodles of money can buy. What makes the Owls different from other Batman villains is that they are very old, having controlled Gotham in secret since the 1600s.
In fact, the Wayne Family have long been victims of the Court of Owls, dating back to Bruce Wayne's great-great-great-grandfather, Alan Wayne, founder of Wayne Enterprises, who was killed by the Talons. For a while, Bruce even suspected his parents' murders were carried out by the Court, but his investigation brings up no evidence.
The Court of Owls defines the beginning of writer Scott Snyder's and artist Greg Capullo's Batman at the launch of the New 52 continuity reboot from 2011. Kicking off a then-new era of Batman, Snyder pitted the Dark Knight against the Court, a very old (yet very new) enemy that inadvertently resonated with the Occupy protests, widespread demonstrations that brought attention towards wealth inequality that took place at the same time.
The Court are visually exemplified by their creepy owl masks that, obviously, hide their identities. But their greatest assets are the Talons, an army of killers who operate at their beck and call. The Talons are introduced first by the Talon, whose real identity was William Cobb, the great-grandfather of Dick Grayson. But after Talon's defeat by Batman, who the Court trapped in a maze, the Court unleashed an army of Talons who took over Gotham City, which kicked off the crossover event Night of the Owls, the first major crossover event in the New 52.
How the Court of Owls will influence Batman's future
The immediate future of Batman media looks overrun with owls.
First, there's Batman: Gotham Knights, the co-op multiplayer game from Warner Bros. Games Montreal. Also inspired by the late 2000s comics like Final Crisis, Batman R.I.P., and Battle for the Cowl, the game involves the death of Batman, forcing his students in the Batman Family to save Gotham City. At the end of the premiere trailer, the Court of Owls were featured in a big way with an army of sleeping Talons waiting in their coffins.
If the Court of Owls also shows up in The Batman, they could quickly become as synonymous with the Dark Knight as the Joker.
Why the Court of Owls are here
As one of the more popular stories to come out of Batman comics in the last ten years, the Court of Owls are just fresh enough for a mainstream audience who are still fixated on Joker, Penguin, and Riddler. While the video games are upfront about the inclusion of the Court of Owls, Reeves' The Batman is either purposefully obscuring the Court of Owls or accidentally doing so.
Only a reported 25% of The Batman completed filming before pandemic restrictions forced production to freeze for the summer. Though Reeves probably would have kept the Owls secret anyway, perhaps there's a more simple reason why they remain lurking in the shadows.
The Batman will be released in theaters on October 1, 2021.