The DC Universe has featured multiple incarnations of Owlman, the true evil Batman of the multiverse, each with its own uniquely dark sides.
As one of the most famous heroes in modern fiction, Batman has plenty of alternate incarnations — with an entire army of them serving as the antagonists in many recent events like Death Metal. But the first true evil Batman — and perhaps the most enduring — is Owlman.
Throughout multiple reboots and storylines, Owlman always finds a way to come back from the brink, even more so than his teammates in the Crime Syndicate. Each incarnation of the character highlights a different dark idea of what Batman could mean in the wrong hands. Now, we’re taking a closer look at all the major versions of Owlman who’ve appeared across the history of the DC Universe and what makes each of them a uniquely dark reflection of the Caped Crusader.
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THE ORIGINAL OWLMAN
The first version of Owlman appeared — alongside the rest of the original Crime Syndicate of America — in 1964’s Justice League of America #29 by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky. While his true origins were never revealed, Owlman was a clear villainous stand-in for Batman. On top of his years of physical and mental training, Owlman also was born with low-level mental abilities. Developing a transmitter disguised as the reflective eyes of his owl cowl, he gained the ability to lightly try to control others, forcing his will onto others whereas Batman openly asks for friendship from his allies.
Owlman and his allies on the Crime Syndicate were some of the most powerful figures in their world, frequently doing battle with the heroic Alexander Luthor and facing off with the Justice League of Earth-One and the Justice Society of Earth-Two, which transformed him into the conqueror Batman never could be. Like the rest of his world though, this incarnation of Owlman was destroyed when the Anti-Monitor began wiping out realities across the multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez.
EARTH 2 OWLMAN
In the Post-Crisis DC Universe, Thomas Wayne Jr. was known as Owlman and became a leading member of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. Appearing in JLA: Earth 2 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, Owlman was the brother of Bruce Wayne — and, along with his father Thomas, survived the fateful night in the alley that killed his mother and brother. Owlman became dedicated to a life of crime, working with Gotham crimelords like Boss Gordon while facing off with his own father, who became the chief of police in an attempt to stop his son.
This Owlman was a twisted crimelord instead of the dedicated crimefighter Batman was. Carrying on an affair with his teammate Superwoman, this version of Owlman ended up facing off with Batman and the heroes of the core DC Universe multiple times. However, when Alexander Luthor remade the multiverse in Infinite Crisis, his anti-matter Earth-2 became unstable, and eventually collapsed when the multiverse was reconstructed into 52 worlds.
In the Post-Flashpoint version of the DC Multiverse, Thomas Wayne Jr. was reborn on Earth-3 and fought alongside the Crime Syndicate of that world. He arranged for the murder of his family while still in his youth with the assistance of his world’s Alfred. Becoming the undisputed ruler of his Gotham City, Owlman eventually took over the world with the help of his super-powered teammates, his paranoia fueling him in a dark reflection of Batman’s own caution. Like the Pre-Crisis Earth-3, his world was destroyed by the coming of the Anti-Monitor.
However, he and his teammates escaped the destruction of their reality by invading Earth-0, setting off the events of Forever Evil by Geoff Johns and David Finch. Although most of his teammates were killed in the event, Owlman survived by going into hiding. He ended up briefly even in the Mobius Chair thanks to Metron during The Darkseid War, and sought out the secrets of the universe — only to learn about Doctor Manhattan, who responded by vaporizing Owlman (and Metron, for good measure) with his immense power.
During the build-up to Dark Nights: Death Metal by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Earth-3 was reconstructed and the Crime Syndicate was revived. They became servants of Perpetua for a time, helping her in her plans to restart the multiverse in her image. But upon discovering about his previous existences — and that he would always be restored by a repaired multiverse — he betrayed Perpetua and murdered his teammates in Death Metal: Metavere’s End by James Tynion IV and Juan Gedeon.
This version of Owlman then sacrificed his life destroying the Multiversal Tuning Forks Perpetua needed for her plan, giving the heroes a fighting chance. In the modern Infinite Frontier era, he has been reborn once more as Thomas Wayne Jr. and actually tried to become a heroic figure in his world — until he learned about his parent’s own villainy. The revelation broke him and turned him into the ruthless and apathetic figure who’s been appearing in the modern Crime Syndicate series.
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