NOTE: This is the page for the original Talon and Dick Grayson's great-grandfather William Cobb only. Not to be confused with The Talons (team)
Born October 10, 1900, William was a poor boy in Gotham who had lost his father in a construction accident for the Gate Brothers Bridges. He would spend his days on street corners juggling to earn a little extra money to help his mother. One day William stopped a pickpocket by hitting the thief in the back of the head with one of the balls he was juggling. The man whose wallet had been plucked happened to be the current ringmaster of Haly's Circus, who was not only grateful for William's help, but also saw the boy's talent. The ringmaster took William into Haly's Circus where he learned to throw knives as one of the show's attractions.
After a few years, he gained some money and returned home for a show. There he met Amelia Crowne, and it was love at first sight. They fooled around until the point marriage came up. One day when walking into her house, Amelia's father Burton asked to speak with him. He told William that there are only two people in life (the rich and the poor), no room for gray. Burton had banned William from ever seeing Amelia again, but not without making her pregnant beforehand. Being so torn at the time, he accepted an offer to join the Talons by Nataniel Haly. Making his rounds and becoming elite, he broke back into Amelia's house stealing his then born son. Outside of the house he met Nataniel, handed him the baby, "Raise him with Haly in secret, Nathaniel... prepare him for legacy. My son. The Gray Son of Gotham". This baby would become John's father and Dick's grand father.
Talon was created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for the Batman series that was launched as part of the new 52 following the events of Flashpoint. He first appeared in Batman #2.
Major Story Arcs
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 much of the threat. He refuses to entertain the notion that there is some ancient organization pulling the strings of 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 in 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 out, 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.
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.
Bruce manages to find his way back to the Batcave through the sewer system, and when he arrives he sees that Alfred has recovered the body of the Talon that he thrashed in the Court's maze. He examines the body closely, discovering the chemical mechanism that allows the Talons to resurrect themselves from injuries that would normally be fatal. When Nightwing arrives at the cave, Bruce reveals that the Talon's real name is William Cobb, and that he is Dick's great-grandfather. Bruce tells him that Haly's Circus shared clandestine ties with the Court of Owls, and that with each generation they would present a crop of young athletes to the Court to be trained into Talons. Dick was saved from this fate by the untimely death of his parents that led to him being adopted by Bruce and taken away from the circus and the influence of the Court.
Meanwhile, the elders of the Court awaken all the Talons from their labyrinth, and set them loose on Gotham City.
Night of the Owls
After the Court of Owls attacks Wayne manor, the Talons infiltrate the Batcave, where one of them cuts the coolant cables attached to William to keep his body from regenerating from his wounds. After he comes back from death, once again, he seeks out his great-grandson, Dick Grayson, in an attempt to kill him for his perceived betrayal of Gotham.
Powers & Abilities
There are an unspecified number of Talons in the employ of the Court of Owls, and as such their physical and mental abilities almost certainly differ from Talon to Talon.
William Cobb, the Talon who attacked Bruce Wayne in Old Wayne Tower and the Court's labyrinth, possessed a degree of enhanced speed (he was capable of moving out of an elevator and leaving two dead guards in his wake by the time it took Bruce and Lincoln March to turn their heads) and a degree of superhuman strength (he was unfazed by Bruce applying ten times the force it would take to collapse a normal man's windpipe).
In his first appearance, Cobb was shown to be able to heal and resurrect himself from a massive fall off Old Wayne Tower. It was later revealed that this was the result of the Court infusing his system with an unspecified chemical compound that could reanimate dead tissue and heal living tissue over and over again. The compound is fueled by body heat, and so exposing a Talon to conditions that could cause body temperatures to drop would also compromise their healing abilities. The Court refers to the process of infusing a Talon with this compound as "drinking from the cup of immortality". It is implied that all Talons undergo this process, and so all of them should possess similar regenerative capabilities.