William Cobb was the most foremost and formidable of the Talon assassins used by the Court of Owls when Batman uncovered the secret society. He is also the great-grandfather of Dick Grayson, AKA Nightwing.
William Cobb, better known as The Talon, was born October 10, 1901 to a construction-worker father who died building a bridge for the Kane family. As his mother's work at a textile plant could barely support them, William grew up as a petty-thief, street-corner performer on the streets of Gotham City. William's mother never approved of this, but William persisted and would always sneak his earnings into her purse for her.
On one fateful day, William prevented a fairly wealthy man from being robbed by throwing a juggling pin at the assailant's head. In gratitude and respect for the boy's talents, this man revealed himself to be named Nathaniel Haly and offered William work at his circus. Within Haly's Circus, William moved from being a juggler to being a knife-thrower whose talents earned him household name celebrity status in the early 20th century of Gotham.
After returning to Gotham from a tour, William would fall in-love with a wealthy woman named Amelia Crowne who was heir to one of Gotham's Five Families. The two began courting one another despite Amelia's father Burton having disapproved of the union. Nevertheless, the two young lovers became engaged and even conceived a son before their wedding-day.
Burton Crowne came to intervene within the marriage of Amelia and William by telling William that he wasn't good enough as there are clear-cut wealthy and poor citizens of Gotham, with no room for the gray. Following this devastating affair, William would be convinced by his employer Nathaniel to do work for him and his upper-class friends within their secret-society, the Court of Owls. Given an electrum implant which embedded him with enhanced physiology, a healing factor and reduced aging, William became the newest Talon for the Court of Owls.
After Amelia gave birth, William would break into the Crowne estate to steal his son and bring him to Haly's Circus. William left the infant under the care of Nathaniel with the understanding that they would use the circus to breed the ultimate Talons for the Court of Owls. Remembering Burton's words, Willam declared the boy to be the Gray Son of Gotham. As such, the boy would come to have the surname of Grayson and father John Grayson, himself the father of the first Robin.
The Court of Owls
Shortly after receiving a threat on his life, after discovering a murder victim killed with multiple antique throwing knives marked with an owl symbol, Bruce Wayne dismisses the possibility that the fabled Court of Owls exists, not thinking of it as much of the threat. He refuses to entertain the notion that there is some ancient organization pulling the strings in Gotham, as he believes no one knows the city better than he does. However, during a meeting Bruce has with Gotham mayoral candidate Lincoln March, he is warned by Lincoln that an ancient evil has come back to Gotham, awakened by the ambitious new plans for the city that Bruce has been promoting. Almost immediately, Talon bursts from an elevator, leaving two deceased security guards in his wake. After plunging a knife into Lincoln's chest, Talon attacks Bruce. Talon manages to stab Bruce multiple times, and despite eventually getting his arm around Talon's neck, Bruce is unable to choke the assassin, despite applying more than enough force. Bruce is stunned from the thought that Talon will not go down, even after he applies more than ten times the force required to crush a human windpipe. Talon throws Bruce out the window of Old Wayne Tower, and jumps after him, claiming that he "loves killing Waynes". Bruce manages to catch a gargoyle on his way down, shaking off Talon who hits the street below. EMT's pick up the seemingly dead body, but a short time later, Talon's body comes back to life, killing the people, disposing of his body into a morgue and further reinforcing the notion that Talon is immortal.
Later, as Batman, Bruce seeks answers as to how Talon found his way into Old Wayne Tower. Accosting a group of Ukrainian criminals called the "Whisper Gang" in the subway, he beats them all up and demands to know how Talon entered the Tower, as the section of the rail lines that they controlled was the only possible secret route into the building. After an altercation with half a dozen other members, The Whisper Gang member remaining in Batman's presence cannot give Bruce any answer as to how anyone could have entered the tower. After narrowly escaping from a trap in one of the Court's ancient bases, Bruce exhumes the body of his ancestor Alan Wayne. Alan was deathly afraid of owls in the last years of his life, many people considered him paranoid. He was suspected to have been killed by the Court of Owls as he had ranted about owls hunting him in the days leading up to his death. However, no one believed him at the time, dismissing his fears as the effects of senility. As Batman, he enters the sewer system to investigate the spot where Alan's body was found, and while his back is turned Talon suddenly appears and pounces.
Battle in The Labyrinth
Talon holds Bruce captive in a giant maze constructed by the Court for over a week, during which time Bruce had no food but only a constant supply of drugged water from a fountain, which causes him to have vivid, disturbing hallucinations. He desperately tries to find a way out of the maze while Talon watches him from the shadows. Upon finding a weak tile on the floor, he rips it out and enters a room filled with pictures of Batman. He screams "I'm not listening! I'm not listening to you!" while Talon slowly walks up to him and impales him from behind with a sword. While the battered and bleeding Bruce crawls across the floor of the labyrinth, Talon looks up to the Court and asks them how they wish to see Batman die. The youngest member tells Talon "Hurt him......more", so the assassin proceeds to thrash Bruce, finally kicking him through a wall and leaving him for the Court to tear apart.
Weakened and close to succumbing, Bruce contemplates surrendering to his fate and meeting his end at the hands of the Court. Then he spots a broken portrait of his ancestor Alan Wayne. The terror in Alan's expression fills Bruce with a potent burst of rage and anger, and he pounces back on his feet. Talon is amused by his defiance and walks up to end him, but Bruce charges at him and violently beats him around the labyrinth. After beating him unconscious, Bruce uses the potassium chlorate in a nearby camera to trigger an explosion that drops him into the river as an escape route. The members of the Court walk up to Talon's unconscious form and one of their leaders (an elderly woman) decides to have him disposed of since it's unlikely he would recover psychologically from the beating he received at Batman's hands. She then turns to the room filled with caskets, all filled with Talons, and gives the order to wake them all up for the war against Batman.
Powers and Abilities
- Increased Healing: Due to the the synthesized electrum in his blood, Cobb can easily survive intense pain. He, in his first encounter with Batman, was thrown off of Wayne tower and survived.
- Hand to Hand Combat (Advanced): The Court of Owls has forged William into a master hand-to-hand combatant. He is able to match Batman blow for blow.
- Throwing: A trained knife thrower, William has uncanny aim with his knives, able to hit specific arteries and veins even in the midst of combat.
- Weaponry: William, like all Talons, uses an arsenal of bladed weapons on his missions, ranging from his signature throwing knives to full sized broadswords and axes.
- Coming Soon
- Requires Electrum: When Cobb is defeated, he requires an alloy known as electrum to continue functioning. This alloy is supplied by the Court of Owls, but, if the Talon is defeated, they have the choice to cut off his supply.
- Paraglider Wings: The Talon, although never used, possesses deployable wings that allow him to glide. This is proven when the other Talons, who wield the same armor as Cobb, jump from the top of a building and glide away.
- Throwing Knives: Cobb utilizes antique, professional grade throwing knives that have had their grooves filled with mercury for steadier flight.
In Other Media
- LEGO DC Super-Villains: William is unlockable and playable in this game.
- DCAU: While never appearing in the show, a figure known as "Talon" was created for the Batman: The Adventures Continue figurine-line of fall, 2020. The figure is clearly modelled after William Cobb and was set to appear alongside figures of The Batman who Laughs, Hush, Thomas Wayne's Batman, and the Batman of Earth-43 (all of whom likewise never appeared in the series). A series of comics were announced to tie in several (if not all) of these characters into the BtaS timeline.
- Nightwing #8 reveals that The Talon who has been fighting Batman during the Batman (Volume 2) Story Arc "The Court of Owls" is actually named William Cobb.