The Court of Owls returns to haunt Gotham later this month in a new prose novel from long-time genre author Greg Cox.
In Batman: The Court of Owls, the secretive organization comes out of the shadows once more when a string of charred human bodies are found in and around Gotham. Batman sees the mark of the Talons on this one, and enlists Nightwing and Batgirl to find out what is going on - and how to stop it.
Cox is arguably the most prolific superhero prose author, writing over a dozen prose novels in the worlds of DC and Marvel - going all the way back to short stories for 1992's Batman Returns film. The Pennsylvanian writer comes full circle here with Titan Books' Batman: The Court of Owls, the first in a series of prose novels from the publisher set in the DCU.
Newsarama: Greg, who are the Court of Owls to you? What makes them interesting?
Greg Cox: I love the idea that owls are the natural predators of bats, and the way the Court is nested deep into the very foundations of Gotham and its history, dating back to long before the Batman was a thing. I also see them as embodiment of the worst aspects of the 1%. They’re robber barons and aristocrats who put their own power and wealth above the welfare of those “beneath” them. Small wonder they hate the Wayne family, who have always been reformers and philanthropists.
Nrama: What comic books did your refer to in writing this standalone, original prose novel?
Cox: Well, the original “Court of the Owls” comics were never far from my desk. Among the collections I pored over, again and again, were the "The Court of Owls," "The City of Owls," "Night of the Owls," and two volumes of the spin-off Talon series: "Scourge of the Owls" and "Fall of the Owls."
Plus, I binged on Bat-comics in general.
Nrama: For comic fans coming in, where in DC continuity is this set?
Cox: Several months after the infamous “Night of the Owls.”
Nrama: That would have ended in 2012, after "New 52"'s Batman #9.
Cox: The Court has been lying low, licking its wounds, but now they’re back in a big way - and Batman is not happy about it.
Nrama: A series of murders sets off this story - what's going on?
Cox: An outbreak of spontaneous combustions, resulting in charred corpses, turns out to be the work of the Owls - and related to a 100-year-old mystery that the Court would rather remain buried.
Nrama: Batman is of course in this - but what other heroes are involved?
Cox: Nightwing and Batgirl assist Batman at various points. Barbara Gordon is mostly involved as a historical detective, using her superlative research skills to help Batman probe Gotham’s shadowy history, but she eventually suits up to join in the action as well. Nightwing is also needed because even Batman can’t be everywhere at once.
Nrama: You've been doing adaptations and original novels based on comic books going back to 1995. What's that experience been like?
Cox: Actually, I sold my first Batman stories way back in 1992, to a couple of Further Adventures of Batman short-story anthologies that were published to coincide with the second Tim Burton movie.
Nrama: I'll have to track those down.
Cox: And as somebody who has been reading comics since they were only 12 cents apiece, my inner 12-year-old is still thrilled that I get to write my favorite superheroes and villains for a living.
Nrama: How has adapting and expanding from comic books changed since your early days?
Cox: With the movie novelizations, the secrecy has gotten a lot tighter since I first novelized Daredevil back in the day. I blame the internet since spoilers have practically become a cottage industry these days, which has forced the studios to go to greater and greater lengths to keep the plots of their blockbuster movies under wraps: code names, encrypted files, watermarked scripts and photos, etc.
Nrama: That being said, is there a certain comic book character you'd like to do a novel with?
Cox: The Spectre is one of my favorite DC characters. I have a pronounced weakness for the “spooky” heroes: the Spectre, Doctor Fate, Madam Xanadu, Doctor Strange, Brother Voodoo, Morbius, etc. If and when somebody does a Spectre movie, I would kill to do the novelization.
Nrama: Have you thought about doing original comic book work?
Cox: It’s funny. Despite having written lots of prose novels and short stories about comic book characters, I’ve never written an actual comic book.That’s definitely on my bucket list, though. One of these days...
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for this novel?
Cox: Goal one was to try to live up to the high standard set by the original “Court of the Owls” storyline by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Beyond that, I hope readers will be intrigued by historical mystery aspects of the book as well as the superhero action.