Zeiss was created by Ed Brubaker and Scott McDaniel. He made his debut in Batman #582.
Following the death of his parents, he went to live with his uncle Victor a gardener for a mafia lord. Following his uncle's death the young boy was taken in by the mafia to be raised as a mafia enforcer. Zeiss feeling a debt to the mafia agreed to undergo an experimental surgery on his optic nerves increasing his perception and reflexes into superhuman levels.
Following the surgery, the mob enforcer moves to Gotham. Penguin enlists the aid of Jeremy Samuels who used to be in charge of the security detail at Wayne Enterprises until the tragedy of losing his family to the mob caused him to his principles to fall in a downward spiral. However, Penguin is just the facilitator between Samuels and Zeiss. Samuels was instructed to case two key locations in the Diamond District. One armored detail is going to be transporting recalled currency while the other convoy is simply making its weekly transfer of gems and precious stones.
Bruce eventually learns that Samuels had failed to report to his parole officer and figures he is going to pull another job. Bruce then anticipates a few opportunities that might entice Samuels to pull something. As Batman, Bruce positions himself at one transfer in the Diamond District and has Tim observe the other. Suddenly, the armored convoy that Bruce was watching, comes under attack. Batman delivers justice with a mixture of fighting styles which begins to disturb him. Bruce has never gone through so much trouble to dispatch common robbers but these robbers were well trained. Bruce deduces that this heist is simply a diversion that was meant where he becomes the personal body guard of mobster Lew Moxon.However this would not last long, as he allowed Moxon to be critically wounded by Deadshot, while trying to defeat Gotham's vigilante Batman, who defeated him in combat.
Following his being removed from the Moxon mob, he accepts a offer to become an enforcer for Gotham mobster "Junior" Galante, in his effort to expand into the east end of Gotham, running afoul of Catwoman in the process,nearly killing her in the process.
During Gotham's gang war he battles Batman in his effort to murder "Orpheus" after being hired by Henry Aquista. Batman ultimately defeats him, but is forced to disarm a bomb putting Zeiss under Orpheus's watch, who is unknowingly Black Mask who sets him free to carry a message back to his employer and various other mob bosses.
After which he heads to Gotham's East End, where he murders several police officers before being found by the East End's resident protector Catwoman. Catwoman ultimately manages to defeat Zeiss by using a flashbang, which overwhelms his heightened eyesight.
The time is 11:35 pm in St. Christopher, Georgia (a small town located on the border between Georgia and Alabama) and an elderly woman wakes up to the smell of smoke. She walks down the stairs and sees an orange glow coming from her kitchen. The old woman prays that its not a fire but its something far worse. A demon comprised of fire begins to lose control and sets the entire house ablaze with the old woman inside. The next morning in Atlanta, Travis Clevenger aka Bloodhound, is visited by his ex-wife Trish Crosby. Travis has been working for the FBI that keeps him on a short leash...literally. Travis must wear an electronic collar that tracks all of his movements. The agency has put Travis in the Welfare Arms halfway house until his next mission. The agency wants to protect their asset so they have given Travis a weekly stipend in the form of a check to feed himself and a stylish bulletproof shirt.
The agency allowed Trish to have a momentary visit with Travis because she wanted to thank him for saving their oldest daughter Rachel from her kidnapper Edgar Morris. Trish wants her children to know about their father and perhaps become a family again. Travis is hesitant to say "yes" but before he can say anything, they are interrupted by a knock on the door. Its Agent Saffron Bell with a new case that pertains to the explosion in St. Christopher, Georgia. Trish decides to take her leave and let Travis think it over but before she leaves, she gives Travis a gift. Saffron greets Trish but Trish doesn't give her much attention and simply says "goodbye". It was at that moment that Travis felt uplifted because Trish had given Travis back his brass knuckles.
Saffron informs Travis that there has been a strange series of arsons in Alabama and Georgia. Travis doesn't see why this would be strange until Saffron explains that there have been rumors going around about a demonic manifestation causing these fires. Saffron received a report from the fire chief Winford Turner in St. Christopher who highly doubts the possibility of a fire demon causing these fires but he hasn't ruled out the chance that a meta-human maybe responsible for all of this chaos.
The duo arrive in St. Christopher and head to the courthouse in order to pay a visit to the town's sheriff. Sheriff Theodore "Poss" Nichols greets the pair with a cold shoulder. Nichols explains his contempt for letting outside help to interfere with his case. Nichols tells them that Fire Chief Turner is waiting for them at the recent crime scene. The pair arrive at the scene and notice Turner standing behind an ash covered crater. Turner explains that in the event of an arson, it is possible for an examiner to find the point of the fire's origin like a wall socket with electrical wires that melted or a gas leak from a stove as well as determine what accelerant was used to cause the fire.
However, in this case, the whole house was the point of origin and there is no trace of an accelerant. Plus the fire from this explosion was so hot that it could have spread throughout the entire neighborhood but it didn't which means someone or something was in control of the fire. Travis and Saffron head to the town's hall of records in order to dig up any connection between this recent act of arson and the other five that were reported within the the last three weeks. As Travis and Saffron examine the records, they are unaware that they are being observed by Zeiss.
Fifteen minutes away from St. Christopher is another small town in Alabama called Kestrel. A store clerk named Jay is smoking a cigarette behind the Stop & Shop supermarket until he is interrupted by Tammy, the records keeper in St. Christopher. She informs Jay that two FBI agents are at the hall of records because they are investigating the recent acts of arson. Later that night, Travis and Saffron decide to rest up for tomorrow. Travis agrees to stay in his room at the motel but later he decides to get away for a little while. As Travis takes his walk in the moonlight, he gets this distinct feeling that he is being followed.
Travis puts on his brass knuckles and turns his attention to a garbage bin in a nearby alley. Within an instant, Travis charges the garbage bin and as the bin slammed against the wall, Zeiss pops out of his hiding spot. Zeiss and Travis tangle for a while until another fire erupts a block away. Zeiss bails on Travis and tells him that they will meet again. Travis heads to the burning home until he is stopped by Saffron. Saffron calls for the fire department while Travis tries to get into the house and save anyone who might be inside. Unfortunately, the fire reached the kitchen and the explosion blew Travis into the air.
The home belonged to Sheriff Nichols and his wife Heidi was lost to the fire. Travis tells Saffron to dig up anything she can on Zeiss. The next morning, Travis grabs some coffee from the motel lobby and brings it to Saffron's room. Travis knocks on Saffron's door but no answer then he tries to unlock the door. The door was unlocked but the chain latch was on and it prevented the door from going any further. Travis notices Saffron getting out of the shower. At first, Travis considers the possibility of Saffron trying to entice Travis but he chooses not to act on it and decides to close the door.
Saffron finds Travis standing outside of her motel room with another man. Travis hands Saffron her cup of coffee and introduces Reverend Bruce Hutto of the First Episcopal Church in St. Christopher. The reverend expresses his concerns to the FBI's involvement in St. Christopher and asks them to tread softly when finding answers. Travis asks the reverend if the sheriff's home was originally an apartment building before it got remodeled. The reverend confirms that the home was an apartment building about 31 years ago. Travis believes he is starting to make a connection between the acts of arson. The reverend makes his exit while the duo drives away.
The duo head to the courthouse and go through the police records for any domestic disturbances or disorderly conduct that might have occurred in any of the homes. They come up with one lead: a fifty-two year old named Charles Benjamin Huskey. Travis figures that Sheriff Nichols might have also established this connection between the homes so he asks one of the deputies where Sheriff Nichols is. The duo head to the local hardware shop and find Reverend Hutto handcuffed to the counter. The reverend explains that Sheriff Nichols has gathered a lynch mob and they intend to kill Huskey. The deputy at the courthouse activates the lowjack in the sheriff's car and the duo make their way to the outskirts of town.
The lowjack's signal leads the duo to a two story home with a barn. They notice Sheriff Nichols and his mob driving off as if they didn't find Huskey or they already killed him. The duo search the home but find nothing so they decide to search the barn. It was at that moment, Zeiss appears and thanks the duo for leading him to Huskey. Zeiss disarms Saffron and throws across the front yard. Zeiss and Travis go at it in the barn but Travis proved to slow to stop Zeiss. Zeiss threw and kicked Travis around like a ragdoll. Travis' body knocked out some of the rafters that held the barn together and the entire place collapses on top of them.
Saffron finds Travis trying to gather himself from his bout but she doesn't see any trace of Zeiss. Travis then notices something under the debris. He digs a little further and finds Huskey's body wrapped in sheets. Saffron determines from the decomposition of the body that Huskey has been dead for about three weeks which is around the same time these fires started. All of a sudden, the house near the barn goes ablaze. Travis heads to house and kicks in the door. Travis and Saffron are shocked at what they see. The demon responsible for these fires looks just like the recently deceased Huskey.
Meanwhile, Tammy and her boyfriend Jay had just finished having sex. Tammy explains her concern for Jay's ongoing depression and tells him that she is going to take him to the doctor's tomorrow. Tammy returns to the city's Hall of Records to lock up but she is stopped by Travis and Agent Bell who has just returned from Huskey's burnt home. Travis and Saffron figure that the demon is a psychic construct of Firebug made to look like Huskey because the demonic manifestation showed no sign of autonomy. The duo must find any living relatives in St. Christopher who would have a personal grudge against Huskey. Tammy overhears their conversation and explains that her boyfriend was originally Jay Fowler Huskey.
Jay changed his name when he turned eighteen in order to prevent his father from finding him as well as eliminate any connection he had to his abusive drunk of a father. Tammy explains to the duo that Jay is a good but troubled person. Travis convinces Tammy that he won't hurt Jay but he must get to him before Nichols or Zeiss does because Jay's subconscious is burning down all remnants of his troubled childhood as if it never existed. Travis fears that when Jay is done destroying any trace of his childhood then he will kill himself so he won't have to remember the pain his father brought on him.
Tammy tells Saffron and Travis that Jay is staying with her at the local trailer park. The duo arrive at the trailer park and Saffron gently confronts Jay. From a far, Travis can see cars approaching the trailer park. Travis was anticipating on being followed so he could put this madness and anger to an end. Travis tells Saffron to look after Jay while he dealt with Nichols' posse. Jay tells Saffron that he didn't have much money to bury his father so he hid his body in the loft of the barn. It turns out Charles Huskey died from alcohol poisoning.
Meanwhile, Nichols and his posse are getting ready to ambush the trailer where Saffron and Jay are hiding in. Nichols intends to hang Jay in the Springs swamp because no one will hear Jay screaming for help. In the trailer, Saffron makes some headway with Jay by establishing the theory that his dreams and nightmares are the catalyst for his unstable subconscious. Whenever Jay remembers a moment when his father abused him as well as the place it occurred, his subconscious creates the demonic manifestation of his father. The fiery explosion that takes place afterwards occurs when Jay wakes up from his nightmare because he has lost his concentration over the construct.
Jay becomes riddled with guilt for all the pain he never intended to visit on anyone. Jay confides in Saffron that his father used beat him since he was five. When Jay moved out at the age of eighteen, his father still managed to find him and direct all of his drunken anger on Jay. It wasn't until Huskey died that Jay finally felt free but only physically. The mental scars that his father left are still present and Jay's subconscious has been trying to erase any trace of the abuse by burning down any remnants of his troubled childhood. Saffron tries to calm Jay but his anger continues to get the better of him.
Saffron decides to confide in Jay about how her father was also a cold individual. It turns out Saffron came from a well established family. When she was twelve years old, Saffron was kidnapped and the kidnappers demanded 20 million dollars for her safe return. Saffron's father decided to play it cheap and hired a small group of mercenaries to find his daughter and get her back. The mercenaries killed the kidnappers and returned Saffron to her father. When Saffron went to her father for comfort, he grabbed a paperweight and knocked the back of her head. Saffron shows Jay the scar on the back of her head. Jay asks why her father would do that to her. Saffron replies "My kidnapping made him lose control and he hated me because I took that from him. In his defense, a child took away his sense of control as well as cost him money."
Outside of the trailer, Travis makes short work of Nichols and his posse but then he notices Zeiss creeping behind the trailer. Travis reengages Zeiss for one more rematch. Zeiss explains to Travis that the people who hired him, wanted Huskey to answer for some of his past screw ups. Zeiss' client also instructed him that if Huskey's string of bad luck has brought to an early grave then they want his son to pay off his father's debt. Zeiss still had the upper advantage over Travis until another fiery construct appeared outside the trailer. With Zeiss distracted, Travis takes advantage of the situation by sucker punching Zeiss. Zeiss was all but defeated while lying on the ground and spitting up blood. Zeiss staggers to his feet but while Travis makes his way to Nichols' police car. Within an instant, Zeiss becomes a smear on Nichols' windshield as Travis drives the police car into a tree.
Travis leaves Zeiss lying unconscious on the ground in order to go help Saffron. Travis wraps himself up with a fire retardant blanket from Nichols' car then he charges into the trailer because the fiery manifestation was burning the trailer. Travis takes Jay by surprise with his entrance then Saffron injects Jay with a tranquilizer that she was ordered to use on Travis if he ever got out of line. The FBI called in the DEO to put Jay into their care but Saffron explained to her superiors that she wants to be a part of the detail that looks after Jay because she is familiar with the DEO's tendencies to illicitly experiment on meta-humans. Travis asks Saffron where she got the tranquilizer and she comforts him by saying "I never intended to use it after Morris incident. I know you are not the same man that went to prison."
For a brief moment, there is silence between them then Saffron asks Travis a question "Travis, what went through your mind this morning?" Travis is confused by Saffron's question. Saffron knew Travis had knocked on her door that morning and she intended for him to see her naked. Travis explains "I have thought about it but honestly, I can't say what I would have done." Saffron knows why Travis didn't act on it and says "Trish wants you back, doesn't she?" Travis tries to say something but Saffron places her fingers on Travis' lips to prevent him from talking. Saffron exclaims "I know. You're confused and you can't make a decision." Saffron then proceeds by giving Travis a long passionate kiss and says "So let me make things more clear." Saffron gives Travis the key to unlock his collar and walks off in order to accompany the DEO agents as they escort Jay into their armored convoy. Travis unlocks his collar but despite his freedom, he still feels regret. In the end, Travis decides to take a walk in the moonlight to be alone with his thoughts.
Powers and Abilities
Zeiss only power derives from his increased eyesight, to the point of making Batman appear to be moving in slow motion.