Unable to support themselves, Cobb's mother went to work at a textile plant, and William took to juggling baseballs on the street for pennies. His mother didn't approve of his job, feeling that the earnings were a form of shameful charity. Cobb continued juggling anyway and snuck his earnings into his mother's purse when she was not looking. He continued this strategy for over a year, just barely making ends meet.
One day, by chance, a thief on the street pickpocketed a man watching Cobb juggle. Alerted, Cobb luckily intervened and hit the thief in the head with one of his baseballs, stopping his escape. The pickpocketed man was grateful for William's heroism and offered the young boy a job at his circus. The circus owner talked to Cobb's mother, who had known her son had been begging behind her back all along, and she agreed to let William join the circus to make an honest living.
Upon arriving on his first day with the circus, the director told William that the old "baseball routine" was not going to bring in audiences and handed him knives to work with instead. Over the years, William Cobb had become spectacular with knives. He and Haly's circus travelled the United States, and his reputation as a juggler grew. The crowd loved him, and he managed to become a household name.
When William returned to Gotham City, a large crowd applauded their hometown celebrity. One woman caught his eye though; her name was Amelia. She was the daughter of one of Gotham's elite and an original child of Gotham. The two fell in love at first sight and began dating one another. However, as Cobb would later describe it, it was the beginning of the end for him.
William and Amelia were so in love that they discussed getting married. But, one day, Amelia's powerful and wealthy father Burton Crowne asked to speak with Cobb. He told Cobb that there were only two people in life - the rich and the poor, no room for in-between, and that he didn't approve of him dating his daughter. Though Burton banned William from ever seeing Amelia again, the couple became pregnant anyway with their first child.
Heartbroken and confused, William was offered a new position by the circus director Nathaniel Haly. Unbeknownst to the public, Haly's Circus secretly trained and sold their gifted young performers to the shadowy organization called the Court of Owls to act as their assassins "the Talons". William accepted the invitation and had an Electrum tooth implanted in his mouth, giving him covert regenerative abilities. Using his skills from the circus and training from the Court, William became a master Talon, assassinating anyone the Court deemed detrimental to their plans.
Months later, William broke into Amelia's house and stole their newborn son. William delivered the baby to Nathaniel Haly and asked him to raise him in secret - "...prepare him for my legacy. My son. The Gray Son of Gotham". This baby would become John Grayson's father, and his son, Dick Grayson's grandfather.
Sent to assassinate Batman, the two struggle off a rooftop and Talon plummets to his apparent death. On the drive to the morgue, he wakes up again and kills the driver before escaping. His next attempt on Batman's life is a giant explosion destroying his own recently discovered headquarters. Batman investigates the sewer when Alan Wayne's body was found, and Talon surprises then abducts him. The Court holds Batman in a massive labyrinth for over a week with no food where he goes slowly mad, until Talon finally approaches from behind and stabs him. They sentence Batman to death, and he delivers a brutal beating to the broken man. Finally, the super-hero fights back with his last reserves of strength, and savagely takes the Talon down while his masters flee. Following Batman's escape, the Court of Owls decide to dispose of Talon. Despite his ability to physically recover, he will never mentally recover from the defeat. It is revealed that they have an army of similar warriors.
Alfred and Nightwing later discover Talon's body adrift in the Gotham river and bring it back to the Batcave for further examination. Batman strips away the assassin's costume to reveal the body of William Cobb, great-grandfather of Dick Grayson! It seems that William was never truly dead, but rather kept in an odd form of stasis, neither living nor dead, and only awoken when the Court had need of his skills.
Night of the Owls
While the Batcave was under attack by the other Talons, Cobb remained in his half dead/half alive state on the examination table. However, he broke free and attacked Dick Grayson, his great-grandson, at the mayor's office. Though apparently evenly matched, in terms of training, and experience, Cobb's regenerative capabilities, combined with Nightwing's injuries, sustained during his prior fight with another Talon, give Cobb the advantage. Cobb says that Grayson betrayed him by becoming a vigilante instead of a Talon like Grayson was supposed to be. Cobb, disappointed, throws four knives into his descendant, and waits over him, preparing to kill Nightwing.
Nightwing manages to get away and proceeds to lead William on a chase through Gotham, and finally down into a subway station. The entire way, William expresses his disgust and disappointment with Dick for turning his back on his birthright to be a Talon, saying that Dick could have been the greatest of them all. Dick finally says he could not care less what his great-grandfather wanted for him and reveals he has led the undead assassin into a trap! He uses his escrima sticks to rupture a cooling pipe overhead, covering William in liquid Nitrogen and sending him back into hibernation. Dick picks up his ancestor's body and carries him outside, first stripping away his Talon mask and tossing it to the floor. He then tells the frozen Cobb that there is no such thing as destiny.
Forever Evil: "Arkham War"
What happened to William Cobb after his defeat is unknown, however, he somehow ended up in the Court of Owls' hands once more. Due to William Cobb's repeated failures, the Court of Owls pushed William Cobb and a potential replacement named Jonas to fight for the title of Talon. His throat cut, William lost. This time, William was put back into stasis and discarded in the bowels of Blackgate.
When the Crime Syndicate arrived on Earth and allegedly killed the Justice League, Gotham City was plunged into chaos because of Batman's absence. The loonies from Arkham Asylum, realizing that fighting between themselves would be futile, decided to break the city up between themselves. However, Bane, wanting the city for himself, lead the prisoners of Blackgate Penitentiary against the Arkhamites, in an unofficial "Arkham War".
One of the vital keys to controlling the city was the army of Talons that were in stasis. Bane, attempting to free all of them for his side, was unsuccessful and only managed to keep William Cobb, who became his lieutenant in the war. Cobb, wanting to regain the city with Bane, was forced to fight his Talon brothers, who were brainwashed by the Mad Hatter's technology. Cobb was successful, proving to be the best Talon, and aided Bane in winning the war against the Arkhamites until Bane's defeat when Batman returned.
The Dark Gift
A few years after the Arkham War, Talon began tracking his great-grandson's movements. Fortunately for Cobb, Nightwing had recently been shot in the head by KGBeast, giving him brain damage. While Dick was able to recover fully, he lost most of his memories in the process, retiring as Nightwing to live in Bludhaven as a cab driver. Talon saw his great-grandson's current mental state as the perfect opportunity to turn him into the Gray Son of Gotham.
One day, Talon encountered a drone owned by Lex Luthor. The drone contained a recorded message, which informed Talon that the information he possessed was not sufficient to sway Grayson into the fold. Luthor then offered Talon the information he needed to convert Grayson, free of charge.
Talon was eventually "recruited" into Task Force X, also known as the Suicide Squad, after being abducted from Arkham Asylum. Determined to escape, he conspired with Rick Flag and several other former Squad members to attack Amanda Waller and acted as the group's mole. He feigned insanity and an inability to communicate in order to draw suspicion away, successfully convincing Waller.
Talon also developed a friendship with Culebra, who was tasked with ensuring his "insanity" did not interfere with missions. During a mission to Hell to trap the souls of deceased squad members and force them to rejoin using a magical artifact, Culebra was killed and forced to rejoin in the same way. Showing concern for her, Talon avenged her death and later revealed his ruse to her in private. The two cooperated with a disillusioned Task Force scientist to facilitate Flag's infiltration of Waller's hideout, but were separated when Talon was teleported away to participate in Waller's mission to Earth 3.
Powers and Abilities
- Electrum Enhancement: William's system was infused with a chemical compound called Electrum, which is fueled by body heat and partially made up of the chemical compound Dionesium, which has the supernatural ability to reanimate dead tissue and heal living tissue over and over again.
- Immortality: Due to the synthesized electrum in his blood, William does not physically age, having been alive since 1901. He cannot die by any ordinary means.
- Regeneration: Cobb can easily regenerate from lethal injuries, due to the synthesized electrum in his blood. In his first encounter with Batman, William survived a fall from the top of Wayne Tower. He survived a similar fall when battling Nightwing, healing from multiple broken bones within seconds.
- Superhuman Durability: William is capable of resisting tremendous kinetic impact forces that could easily kill a normal human, as he was unfazed by Batman applying ten times the force it would take to collapse a normal man's windpipe.
- Superhuman Speed: William can move at speeds greater than any normal human. In their first encounter, Batman quickly took note of William's increased 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.
- Superhuman Strength: William is stronger than any normal human, due to the electrum in his blood. He was able to lift Batman high above his head and hurl him into a wall with enough force to crack it.
- Martial Arts: The Court of Owls has forged William into a master martial artist, stating he has been trained by the best fighters on the planet. He is able to match both Batman and Nightwing blow-for-blow.
- Swordsmanship: William is a highly skilled swordsman, capable of matching Nightwing in a sword dual.
- Tactical Analysis: William is a master tactician and highly observant. He was capable of kicking Batman through an unbreakable window of glass, by analyzing it and kicking in just the right area.
- Throwing: A highly trained knife-thrower, William has an uncanny aim with his knives, able to hit specific arteries and veins even in the midst of combat. By targeting a person's brachial arteries, he can quickly incapacitate them with his throwing knives, making it nearly impossible for the person to move.
- Weaponry: William, like all Talons, uses an arsenal of bladed weapons on his missions, ranging from his signature throwing knives to full-sized broadswords and axes.
- Electrum Dependency: When Cobb is defeated, he requires an alloy known as electrum to continue functioning. This alloy is supplied by the Court of Owls, but, if the Talon is defeated, they have the choice to cut off his supply.
- Vulnerability to Cold: Cold temperatures counteract the Talon's Electrum healing ability.
- Vulnerability to Cold: Cold temperatures counteract the Talon's Electrum healing ability.
- Paraglider Wings: The Talon, although never used, possesses deployable wings that allow him to glide. This is proven when the other Talons, who wield the same armor as Cobb, jump from the top of a building and glide away.
- Throwing Knives: Cobb uses antique, professional grade throwing knives that have had their grooves filled with mercury for steadier flight.
- 60 Appearances of William Cobb (Prime Earth)
- 37 Images featuring William Cobb (Prime Earth)
- 6 Quotations by or about William Cobb (Prime Earth)
- Character Gallery: William Cobb (Prime Earth)
- Nightwing (Volume 3) #8
- Batman (Volume 2) #2
- Batman (Volume 2) #3
- Batman (Volume 2) #4
- Batman (Volume 2) #5
- Batman (Volume 2) #6
- Batman (Volume 2) #7
- Nightwing (Volume 3) #7
- Batman (Volume 2) #8
- Nightwing (Volume 3) #9
- Talon #15
- Forever Evil: Arkham War #4
- Forever Evil: Arkham War #5
- Forever Evil: Arkham War #6
- Forever Evil Aftermath: Batman vs. Bane #1
- Nightwing (Volume 4) #62
- Suicide Squad (Volume 7) #1
- Suicide Squad (Volume 7) #7
- Suicide Squad (Volume 7) #9
- Suicide Squad (Volume 7) #12
- Batman (Volume 2) #38
- Batman and Robin (Volume 2) #23.2: The Court of Owls
- Batman (Volume 2) #1
Suicide Squad member
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This character is or was primarily an enemy of Nightwing. This template will categorize articles that include it into the category "Nightwing Villains."