This month's Batman #1, by new creative team Tom King and David Finch, not only introduced Gotham and Gotham Girl, two alleged new heroes for Gotham City, but it also alluded to a mysterious villain who will play a role in the title's upcoming story.
Toward the end of the issue, a mysterious figure, cloaked in silhouette, is shown. The character appears to have killed the terrorist who attempted to shoot down an airplane — the one that Batman is in the midst of saving. As the figure is shown looking at the airplane, falling from the sky in flames, the character says, "Observe the clock, Batman."
"Observe the clock, Batman? That's a solvable mystery!" King said. "If people know their Batman hard enough, they might be able to figure that one out. That's all I'm going to say."
"The fun part about Batman is the villains," he continued. "You have to play with the villains. And that character is one of the main villains. And behind that character, there are more coming."
So who is the "observe the clock" figure?
[Probable spoilers ahead for future issues of Batman!]
If you gather all the clues about the villain's identity, it appears to be Professor Hugo Strange.
Assuming King means that after reading his Batman #1, readers should then check out an older Batman #1, then there are only a few villains in the running. If we consider both the "New 52" Batman #1 and the original Batman #1, then King could be talking about characters like the Joker, Lincoln March, Hugo Strange and few others.
Yet a glance through those comic books reveals the second and more decisive clue. In Batman #1, the 1940 issue, soon after Hugo Strange debuts and captures Batman, the characters says: "Observe the clock, Batman!"
That seems like the type of "solvable mystery" King was suggesting.
In King's Batman #1, the silhouetted figure drawn by David Finch looks like it could be Hugo Strange, as his head looks bald (and Strange has been depicted as a bald man in past incarnations, including in Fox's Gotham).
And solicitations for September's Batman crossover, "Night of the Monster Men," features characters that are usually associated with Hugo Strange. In fact, the 1940 issue of Batman #1 also introduced the Monster Men, who were brutal giants created by Strange himself.
If the mysterious villain in Batman #1 is Hugo Strange, does he have anything to do with Gotham and Gotham Girl? Did he hire someone to take down the airplane so Gotham and Gotham Girl could show up? Or is his appearance more of a seed for future stories, such as the "Monster Men" crossover?
And then there's always another question to be asked in the post-Rebirth DCU: Does this character tie into the Rebirth-introduced mysteries about there being three Jokers, or the missing time stolen by Watchmen character — two mysteries that King said are "coming together in Batman?"