1963/2011: The Birds and the Court of Owls

Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time,
Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime.
They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed.
Speak not a whispered word about them, or they’ll send the Talon for your head.

Tippi Hedren and children in a scene from THE BIRDS, 1963.Sarah and I once a “The Birds” experience. It was this summer, on our way home from a wedding in Alberta, on one of our pit stops. We had stopped for Mcdonald’s and were sitting in the parking lot getting a start on our food before taking off. A seagull had been staring at Sarah’s fries and she, being a caring person, felt bad. So she gave it one. AND GULLS FROM EVERYWHERE DESCENDED!

They all got really close. One even hit the door. So she ditched the whole thing of fries and we took off.

I sometimes enjoy watching Birds fight over food, I especially remember laughing one day after watching one crow struggle for minutes to get a burger king burger out of a bag and then seeing a second, who had just been standing around, grab the liberated burger and fly away. But this was a little more extreme.

birds-hitchcock-jungle-gymAlfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller is brilliant because of how it builds on that simple fear. It asks the question – what would happen if enough of them flocked together?

I only watched this movie for the first time last year around Halloween, and instantly loved it. I had heard of it and always wanted to watch it, but hadn’t gotten around to it, until I saw it on a sale rack. And I’ve been looking for an excuse to rematch it ever since.

My look at the Scarecrow gave me that excuse. His use of bird attacks took me right back to those scenes. Except Hitchcock does it way better (a line you’ll never hear on Brooklyn 99).

He builds his bird attacks out of what I loved from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, pranks. The protagonist is a little bit of a wild thing who meets a man at a birdshop and pretends to work there. It turns out he knows who she is and doesn’t work there, but showing her what it feels like to be on the other end of a gag. To exact her revenge she drives all the way to Bodega Bay to give his sister some love birds. Sinister, right?

It turns out that this is more of a schoolgirl/schoolboy flirtation and they actually are attracted to one another. She ends up staying in town for a while and is victim to, at first small run ins with birds, then full on attacks, and then war. And the brilliant part. You never find out why.

The flick is brilliantly paced. It doesn’t go strait into terror, or even into suspence. It builds, it rises and falls. There is humour, there is, for those interested, a love story. There is family dynamics, character growth. You get to know the characters before they get bitten and clawed and scraped to shreds. When characters die, and they do die. You feel the pain.

owlbatBruce Wayne had a similar problem with birds recently. Specifically owls. There are definitely some obvious parallels between the two, but there are a few more subtle parallels as well.

The Court of Owls, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s kick off to their New 52 Batman run, pits Batman against an ages old secret society led by his long thought deceased brother, possibly.

There is a scene in The Birds, during the calm before the storm, where a group have gathered in a diner and are talking about the unlikeliness of a bird war. an Ornithologist says that birds don’t have the brains for war, and if they did why now, when they’ve been around for millions years.

That’s a question for the Owls. Why now? You’ve been hiding in Gotham for a couple hundred years going back to the early days of the city. The answer for both, someone has come along and disturbed their coop. Obviously it’s Batman for the court of owls, but what is it in The Birds, is it the protagonist – Melanie Daniels? Or is it something else? It’s never made crystal clear.

The other similarity is at the end of the movie when it seems as if they are safe and the birds have moved on, Melanie hears a sound and goes into a room. That room is filled with birds. They were just sitting and waiting for her. They attack and her love interest Mitch Brennar has to come to the rescue, and barely does. This is my favourite scene in the movie. More than any attacks, even more than the brilliant build up of crows gathering behind her before the attack of the school children.

The reason I loved this so much is that it just shows, these guys are devious. They know they have all the power. They can’t be trusted. They can be in your home and you’d never know.

Batman_and_Robin_Vol_2_23.2_The_Court_of_OwlsAnd that’s the position the owls are in. They can be in your home without you knowing. In fact, they have bases built into the space between the 12th and 14th floors of 20 some towers in Gotham, build over 150 years. And they were just waiting for Batman to open the door.

And when he did, that’s when they unleashed everything. And it took all of his friends and allies to protect the city from them.

In the end it is revealed that the leader behind everything is the Gotham Mayoral Candidate Lincoln March, who thinks he is the long thought dead brother of Bruce Wayne. I choose to think so as well.

In Pre-Crisis continuity, Thomas Wayne Jr. was an older brother of Bruce who had mental problems and grew up in a children’s facility. He was later hired to kill Boston Brand (who became Deadman). Batman, Superman and Deadman discovered him, but he soon died after, saving his brother.

In Earth 3 continuity Thomas Wayne Jr. is the older brother of Bruce who had his family killed. He later grew up to become Owlman.

In New 52 continuity Bruce had a younger brother who was born premature after a car accident that the Court of Owls had caused. He died shortly after. The car accident had taken place at the corner of Lincoln and March.

Lincoln March was raised in a children’s home that he had been placed in only one week after the death of Thomas Wayne Jr.

batmanheadersecretbroIt’s almost writing that is too ingenious. I read this and think: Why was this never written before? Like a Geoff Johns book, everything that was there before just slides right into place like the pieces were always meant to go that way. The connection to Pre-Crisis continuity and the affinity for owls of his Earth 3 counterpart makes it too coincidental for me not to believe.  But this is how it is supposed to be. It’s supposed to make you think and decide for yourselves. That is the beauty of things like this and The Birds. They leave things open to the imagination and leave you thinking about it well after viewing or reading.

This does and doesn’t really fit into the theme I’ve been going with so far, which is Batman’s early days, specifically those leading up to The Long Halloween.

It doesn’t because it is a modern tale. It only came out 3 years ago and it takes place in the present. But at the same time, it does focus on Bruce history. There are flashbacks to the death of his brother and the fourth issue deals heavily with Bruce’s first case, proving that the fabled Court of Owls were real, and that they were responsible for his parents murder. He was unable to prove it, and still, he has no proof it was them.

It also gives more insight into Robin’s past. It is dealt with more in his own tie in to the series, but Dick Grayson had always intended on being a Talon, one of The Court of Owls thugs. Even Alfred might not have been around. Before he got to involved in his own pursuits, the Owls had his father, Jarvis Pennyworth, killed for not listening to their instruction. Though, if he had listened, maybe there would never have been a car accident that killed Thomas Jr. Maybe. Their lives are intertwined deeply with the Owls. Had they not been around nothing would have been the same. Maybe Batman would never have been needed.

Yes it is a modern tale, but it does give us lots more information about who he was and what lead him to becoming the Batman that he is today.

I’ll be back soon with more villain origins, and later with a little more Snyder and Capullo. So stay alert! Thanks for reading!

Images from:,,,,,


One thought on “1963/2011: The Birds and the Court of Owls

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s