After the animated movie “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox,” the DC Animated Universe took a new approach with a series of movies that took part in the same continuity. After “Son of Batman” and “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis,” the new chapter of this universe arrived in the form of “Batman vs Robin.” This movie came with a lot of excitement from fans when it was revealed that it would adapt the modern classic Batman story “The Court of Owls.”
Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, “The Court of Owls” was a fantastic launch for the Batman title at the onset of the New 52. It introduced these terrifying new villains as a powerful and ancient force ingrained in Gotham’s architecture. However, the animated movie sadly failed to honor the brilliance of the series and the threat that was the Court of Owls. Today, CBR takes a look at 15 differences between the animated movie and the comic book story it was based on.
16. THE TITLE
While this may be fairly obvious, the first difference between the movie and the comic book is the title itself. While the story in the Batman comics by Snyder and Capullo ran as “The Court of Owls,” the title “Batman vs Robin” came from the first volume of the “Batman and Robin” series, written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Andy Clarke. As a part of Morrison’s brilliant Batman saga, this story saw a reluctant Damian Wayne — under the control of Deathstroke — face off against Dick Grayson, who was under the Batman cowl at the time.
For the movie, the title pointed to the divide and confrontation between Bruce and Damian as the Talon tried to convince Damian to join his side, but it had nothing to do with either comic series it borrowed from. Damian wasn’t controlled by Slade Wilson to fight his father — that’s something he did willingly in the film. The movie may have taken cues from the two series, but it ended up doing neither of them justice.
15. DAMIAN WAYNE
“The Court of Owls” was a story first and foremost about Bruce Wayne. It was a story about his home, Gotham City, in the present and in the past. It started with Bruce attempting to lead his city into a new, better future as a philanthropist, but he only ended up facing the wrath of its past. He had to come to grips with the fact that something he had thought to be fake — the Court — was all too real, and that they were the ones in total control. But when it came to “Batman vs. Robin,” Bruce’s story took a side-seat to Damian’s.
As another chapter is this new series of animated features, the movie preferred to further the story of Bruce’s son Damian Wayne and test the strength of his relationship towards his father. As Robin, Damian was the main character here. This was much more a story about a rebellious child acting out against his father, instead of what should have been a very dark and personal story about the history of Gotham City.
14. OPENING SCENE
Without context, the first issue of the comic series dropped us in the middle of Arkham Asylum, Batman facing against his most famous foes all at once, from The Riddler to Killer Croc. The confusion was heightened when it seemed like the Joker was joining forces with Batman. While it was later revelead that this was in fact Dick Grayson in disguise, this was still an opening scene filled with classic Batman characters and action.
But the animated movie took an entirely different route to start things off, choosing instead to focus on Damian on the hunt of Anton Schott, by himself. There were a few similarities here however, with the comic and movie both starting with a gruesome murder and a Robin seemingly responsible. In the comic, Dick was a likely suspect, whereas in the animated movie, Damian was the one made to look guilty. The killer’s identity may have been kept a secret for a while in the books, but the movie made no point of hiding that the Talon was responsible from the get go.
13. OWL FEATHERS
In the movie, Batman found the body of Anton Schott with an owl feather, something left behind by the Talon as a sort of calling card. This is an odd choice, as the Court of Owls operate in the shadows and have avoided detection for hundreds of years. To leave a calling card at the scene of their murders seems counter-productive for such a secretive organization. Sure, in the comics, throwing knives with an owl effigy were found at the scene of the crime, but in the world Batman inhabits, that was actually less conspicuous (and much more visually interesting) than an actual feather.
Granted, an argument could be made that this feather was left for Batman to find, as a means to have him seek out the Court so they could set a trap for him. But if there was one thing we learned from the Court of Owls in the comic books, it’s that, if and when they wanted Batman dead, they wouldn’t need to seek him out or play games. They would simply strike. The Court is always ready and they make themselves known only if they wish to be.
12. ALAN WAYNE
Bruce Wayne’s great-great-grandfather Alan Wayne oversaw the rise of Gotham City and the construction of its most important buildings. He had died a famous death by falling into an open manhole cover after a series of reports that he was slowly losing his sanity. Whether it was in flashbacks or Bruce’s inner monologue we learned a great deal about Alan Wayne, to the point that he was just as important to the story as any other supporting character.
The movie, however, never went there. The only flashbacks we saw were of Bruce’s father telling him the Court of Owls nursery rhyme just before bed. Alan Wayne’s presence was felt in every page of Bruce’s hunt for the Court and in every building structure that Greg Capullo excelled at drawing. He was a part of Gotham City and a main pillar of this mystery, something that should have been used to add more depth to the conflict once Bruce discovered that his ancestor had, in fact, been murdered by the Court of Owls.
11. THE HALL OF OWLS
In the animated movie, Batman sneaks into the museum late at night to gather clues inside a museum exhibit called the Hall of Owls. This scene was never in the comics and it is notable because since the Court of Owls are such a well-guarded secret, nothing more than a folk myth and a nursery rhyme, it would be pretty convenient for the Gotham museum to make an exhibit about owls. In the comics, there are no such obvious clues as to their existence. A young Bruce tried to find them once and failed, which convinced him beyond a doubt that they were just a myth.
The Hall of Owls scene is also notable since it is the first place where Batman fights against three Talons. That is contrary to the comic series where it is not Batman that is attacked but Bruce Wayne the man, in broad daylight, at the top of the old Wayne Tower, surrounded by Gotham history. Bruce Wayne was their principal target, not the Batman. Besides, there was only one Talon there, not three, something which in the comic couldn’t confirm a conspiracy yet. For all Bruce knew, this was just one man acting out against him.
10. SAMANTHA VANAVER
One of the main points of focus in “The Court of Owls” comic book series was that Bruce Wayne was all alone. Sure, Alfred was always more or less around and Dick would pay Bruce a visit every once in a while at Alfred’s behest, but only because they were both worried about him. Alone, Bruce was slowly becoming obsessed over his investigation into the Court of Owls and if there was any chance they could be real and that was something that highlighted the effect and power they had on him.
But with the animated movie, all of that was lost when Bruce was shown in a happy relationship with his socialite girlfriend Samantha Vanaver. We saw him go on dates, host her at his mansion and even introduce her to his son Damian. Never mind the fact that Samantha was secretly a member of the Court of Owls, something that Bruce never even got to find out. He was in a much different emotional and personal space in the movie and that alone lessened the impact the Owls had on him.
9. THE TALON’S HIDDEN BASES
While Bruce was on the hunt for the Talon in the comics, he still wasn’t convinced that the Court of Owls was real. For all he knew, this was just some crazy murderer in an owl costume with an obsession for the old nursery rhyme. But when he came to discover that the Talon had a nest inside the vacant thirteenth floor of the old Wayne Tower, Bruce’s world was turned upside down. He then visited every building in Gotham that were tied to his family.
In each of those buildings, all over the city, Bruce found more of these nests; places that the Talon used to live and hide in. Places where Bruce saw pictures of the Court of Owls, with dates going as far back as 1891. This terrifying sequence was crucial to the story, as it proved that the Court was ingrained in Gotham’s history and that somehow they had managed to not only avoid Batman’s detection but also that they were hiding under his very nose this entire time.
8. THE LABYRINTH
Batman’s journey inside the Court of Owls’ labyrinth was somewhat glossed over in the animated movie, but it was a very big part of the comic book. Batman was lost in that maze for eight days without food or natural light in an issue that played loose with the constructs of the comic medium to help readers understand just how lost and confused Bruce was. He was tormented, battered, weakened and beaten within an inch of his life, something that doesn’t happen to him very often.
The Court’s labyrinth showed us just how big their reach and wealth was. Bruce visited room after room where he saw pictures of their victims, dozens of coffins and a miniature model of Gotham city, over and over and over just so the Court could make him realize how they were the ones in control, how they had been here longer than he could imagine and how they were a foundation of his city. The labyrinth was an important point of the story that showed the full might and reach of these new (yet ancient) villains.
7. THE TALON
The movie devoted a lot of time to its main villain The Talon. They explored his backstory in the form of flashbacks that showed us his formative years with his abusive father, the two of them working together as a team of thieves. He sought out Damian Wayne and decided that both of them were alike in a lot of ways. He tried to recruit him, to have him join his side and the Court. It is an offer at the source of the movie’s main conflict that led the Talon to eventually attack Wayne Manor.
In the comic storyline, however, the Talon’s identity was not central to the story. In fact, as soon as one was unmasked or defeated, another would come to take his place. The Talons are no more than undead soldiers, assassins that answer to the members of the Court and they are as expendable to them as they are numerous. They are terrifying, deadly and can’t be reasoned with. But most of all, they are loyal and, seemingly at some points, endless.
6. HARPER ROW
While the animated movie showed us a quick sequence of a vision Bruce had while drugged in the labyrinth, he is next shown to be safe and awake back at his mansion, with a mention that Dick Grayson was the one to find him thanks to a beacon. But in the comic books, it was Alfred who followed the beacon’s signal and once he got to the location, found nothing. Instead, a near-dead Batman had been rescued and revived by a new character created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo: Harper Row.
While Harper didn’t play a big role in “The Court of Owls” storyline, she became a very important new supporting character in the extended Bat-family during Snyder and Capullo’s tenure on the “Batman” line. She even went on to adopt her own secret identity under the codename Bluerbird and proved to be quite popular with fans. The animated movie universe could have benefited from introducing Harper in “Batman vs Robin” and introduce a new audience to a new kind of sidekick, one whose story could have been explored in future movies.
When it was revealed that the identity of the victim that launched Bruce’s investigation into the Court of Owls was William Cobb, Dick Grayson’s great-grandfather, Nightwing’s world was turned upside down. Not only did we come to learn that the Court recruited their Talons from Haly’s Circus, we also learned that Dick Grayson had been chosen to be their new Talon during the time when he performed at the circus with his family.
But when his family died and Dick was left an orphan, Bruce Wayne took him in and consequently away from the Court’s grasp. They found a new Talon instead and Dick found a new home and a new life. But this revelation had long-lasting effects, effects that have tied Nightwing and the Court of Owls even to this day. Instead, the movie chose to focus on a Talon who attempted to take Damian Wayne under his wing and turn him against Bruce Wayne, not for the Court, but for himself.
4. THE NIGHT OF THE OWLS
When the Court tasks him with killing Damian Wayne in the animated movie, the Talon is pushed to his limit and instead chooses to rebel against his masters. He kills every member of the Court he can get his hands on and awakens every Talon they had sleeping. Then, he leads them on an assault on Wayne Manor. But in the comic series, this attack was orchestrated and launched by all members of the Court. This was their big attack on Gotham, an attack to reclaim their city.
Having the Talon launch this attack diminishes its scope as well as the awe of the Court of Owls. When we saw the Talons fly off over Gotham City on the page, readers were left waiting with bated breath for what would happen next. It was a full scale attack that was as frightening as it was promising, to see how Batman would ever hope to defeat these numerous Talons. But, as a matter of fact, he wouldn’t defeat them alone…
3. THE BAT-FAMILY
“Night of the Owls” was a major event that took over all of the Batman titles in the comic books for a time. From Batgirl to Red Hood and the Outlaws to Catwoman and the Birds of Prey, there was not a character with a tie to Gotham City who wasn’t involved in this story. The Talons were all over the city hunting for Gotham’s wealthiest and most influential citizens, and every hero had to pull his or her weight to save these people from certain death.
In the animated movie, the “Night of the Owls” was only an attack on Wayne Manor led by the Talon and his army. Bruce fought them with his thrasher suit, just like in the comics, but he defeated them in his cave and that was where the story ended. Batman didn’t then head out into his city to help his allies fight off these fearsome foes. There was no Catwoman, no Birds of Prey and there was no battle for the very future of Gotham.
2. THE COURT OF OWLS DEFEATED
After the Talon eliminated the Grandmaster of the Court of Owls, killed all the Court members who had the misfortune of being in his way and led the Talons to Wayne Mansion, the Talons were all frozen back into cryogenic sleep thanks to the combined forces of Alfred, Nightwing, Damian and Batman. Seeing that he wasn’t going to win this fight, the Talon ended up taking his own life. The Court of Owls was defeated. With every single member dead, the Court was done, with no one left to pick up their pieces.
In the comic series, there was no such defeat for the Court. They simply count too many members in their ranks and they have been around for far too long to simply be taken out and forgotten about just like that. The movie ended not with a tease of the Owls resurfacing once more but with Damian continuing his quest as Robin. Thanks to Snyder and Capullo’s efforts, the Court of Owls have become a new mainstay in Batman’s rogues gallery and it was disappointing to see them all eliminated so quickly and easily.
1. LINCOLN MARCH
Lincoln March was introduced in the first issue of Snyder and Capullo’s run as a fellow socialite to Bruce Wayne, a wealthy man who was in the running for Gotham City mayor. In their mutual desire to see their city healed and improved, he and Bruce struck up a friendship that was quickly solidified when both men survived an assassination attempt by a Talon in the second issue of the series. Lincoln then came to seemingly die later on in Batman’s arms during the “Night of the Owls.”
But as it turned out, Lincoln wasn’t dead. He was secretly a member of the Court and they had used him to lure Bruce Wayne out and attempt to kill him. What none of them could know, however, was just how strong Bruce truly was. Believing himself to have long ties to Bruce’s past, believing himself to be Thomas Wayne Jr. — Bruce’s long-lost brother — Lincoln wore a modified Talon suit and took the fight to Batman. Bruce would never come to know if Lincoln’s story was real, but as a Talon, he would come back as an enemy of Batman once again.
Did you prefer the comic book, or the animated movie? Be sure to let us know in the comments!