Dark City, Dark Knights:
A History of Gotham City's First Family

By Loki Carbis

Even before the founding of Gotham City, the site upon which it would later stand was a significant one. After his participation in the final assault upon Camelot, the demon Barbathos was exiled from Britain by his mistress, Morgan le Fay. Taking wing on the giant bat that was his mount, and bearing with him the Stone of Aelk Hound, Barbathos first landed on America's shores at the very site upon which Wayne Manor would later stand. Here, he quarreled with the giant bat which had served as his mount, and left it imprisoned in the caves beneath the bluff upon which they had fought. The Stone of Aelk Hound was lost to Barbathos, and remained tied upon a rope around the bat's neck, in the cave that he now did not dare enter. Barbathos was quickly hunted down and returned to Hell by the shamans of nearby Indian tribes, and the matter was presumed to rest there. Even so, some did not forget. Another demon, Merlin's half-brother Etrigan, had fought on the side of Camelot. Thanks to Merlin's magics, he shared the form of a man named Jason Blood. Ageless and immortal, Blood spent centuries tracking down Barbathos and the stolen Stone of Aelk Hound. [1]

Hundreds of years later, Europeans settled the Eastern coast of North America, founding Gotham Towne in the early decades of the 18th century. Gotham remained a sleepy town for the most part, although all that would change. In the year 1765, a circle of mystics composed of Thomas Jefferson, Jacob Stockman, Thomas Wayne, Crosby Jacob Manfurd, Henry Queen and Bartly Langstrom invoked Barbathos, after spending six months preparing a sacrifice for him. Although the giant bat was unable to intervene and prevent the ritual's commencement, it sent one of its progeny, a bat smaller than itself but still larger than normal bats. Terrified by the beast, Stockman and his group left the ceremony incomplete. Barbathos, half summoned but incapable of taking physical form, seeped into the wood and mortar of Gotham City. The sacrifice, a young girl named Dominique, was abandoned to die. Stockman and his compatriots fared little better - one took his own life, and another was slain at Saratoga during the American Revolution - or so many believed. Stockman himself was overcome with remorse, and eventually left the city for good in 1793, leaving behind his diaries of the events. [2]

In truth, four of the six were contacted by Ludwig Prinn, a misshapen dwarf who was a worshipper of the Elder Things, and the author of De Vermis Mysteriis.[3] Sensing their greed, Prinn convinced Manfurd, Wayne, Queen and Langstrom to join him in a conjuration from the stolen Testament of Ghul. The four were convinced, and willingly sold their souls for immortality and power. They each had children, faked their own deaths, and assumed other identities. Wayne had a son named Darius, who was the heir of his name and properties, but in the decades that followed, he fathered many more children under different names, many of which would also be influential in Gotham's history, notably Dent and Cobblepot.

Still seeking the Stone, Jason Blood returned to Gotham in 1799, and on New Year's Eve his agent Stoker succeeded in finding the Stone, although completely by accident. Due to the intervention of the Swamp Thing, Stoker and his nemesis, the hero known as Tomahawk, crashed into the caves below the newly built mansion of Darius Wayne, where they encountered the giant bat. Grasping the Stone of Aelk Hound, Stoker found his hand became fused to it. Henceforth, it would be known as the Claw of Aelk Hound. It passes from this account now, being more relevant to the story of the Swamp Thing. [4]

Darius Wayne was ultimately ruined in business after the escape of the giant bat. Whether this was due to the vindictiveness of Barbathos or simply the result of bad luck is unclear. The Waynes left Gotham, and the mansion fell into ruin, remaining unoccupied for decades - local legend stated that it was haunted. In 1858 it was purchased by Darius' grandsons, Solomon and Joshua, who planned to use the caves beneath the mansion as part of the underground railroad that helped escaped slaves find freedom in Canada. [5]

From the year 1858 until the end of the Civil War, Solomon and Joshua did just exactly that. In the year 1860, Joshua was attacked and left for dead by bounty hunters chasing the escaped slaves. Although his death was used to great effect by his brother, and Joshua became a martyr to the cause, he did not die. Instead, he became a special agent working directly for President Lincoln, and was the first man to don the uniform of the Batman, fighting for justice in the old west. He was among Lincoln's most trusted agents, although the President did not take Wayne's concerns for his security seriously enough, with tragic results. By the time of Lincoln's death, Joshua had recruited a half-Indian boy, known only as "Redbird", as his assistant, and regularly fought alongside Wild Bill Hickock.[6] After the murder of Lincoln, he became despondent, and was eventually caught in a blizzard when he tried to return to Gotham the following winter. Trying to find the entrance to the cave, he became lost and died of exposure a drain pipe beneath the mansion. [7]

Solomon, unaware of his brother's activities, had fought in the Civil War alongside his old friend Jacob Packer in the meantime become one of the most influential voices in Gotham. It was largely at his insistence that the architect Cyrus Pinkney became the man who designed a vast number of Gotham's public buildings, giving the city its distinctive, and somewhat scary, look. [8] But Jacob and his wife would be murdered, the first of the Wayne's to be struck down in what would become known as the family curse. Possibly it was just exactly that - Ludwig Prinn's desire for vengeance was most concentrated on the Wayne's, since it was Thomas Wayne who had convinced the others to betray him.

Alan Wayne, their son, witnessed the horrible event, and was plagued by recurring dreams of it. When he was old enough, he left Gotham to travel and study. In 1888, he was in London, studying under Sherlock Holmes at the time the Ripper murders occurred. The following year, he studied with Holmes' friend Sigmund Freud in Vienna, before returning to Gotham to become the Bat-Man. Although he was initially suspected of being the Ripper himself, he managed to clear his name and bring the true Ripper - none other than Jacob Packer - to justice.[9] Although shaken by the discovery that a man he considered almost an uncle was actually Jack the Ripper - and the murderer of his parents - Alan Wayne continued to fight as Batman on those occasions his town needed him, wearing the cowl for 15 long years.[10] In 1903, he teamed up with the visiting Harry Houdini to battle the first Joker.[11] His marriage produced a single son, Brutus, who, like his father before him, witnessed the death of his own parents.

Brutus became a noted arctic explorer, spending many years outside of Gotham. In the meantime, his childhood friends, men like Harold Dent and Oliver Queen, stayed in Gotham and observed its decay with growing apprehension. After unsuccessfully attempting to rescue his mentor, Professor Cobblepot, from the arctic wastes, Brutus returned to Gotham with his aides, Richard Drake, Timothy Grayson and Jason Todd. Unknown to all but Brutus, Jason was actually his illegitimate son. Brutus and his allies fought against the demonic Prinn, now serving Ras al Ghul, an immortal sorcerer and madman. The time to pay the debts of the original men who made the pact with Prinn was come - and all four of the sorcerers were killed by Prinn or his allies. The descendents of these men formed the nucleus of resistance to the demon's plans, and with the aid of the demon Etrigan, they won. The price of victory was very high. Dent, Queen, Langstrom, Manfurd, Grayson and Hunter all gave their lives to defeat the horrid entities that Ghul served, much of Gotham, including stately Wayne Manor, was destroyed by fire, and Brutus himself was be transformed into a giant humanoid bat. [12]

Brutus retired from public affairs after these events, recognizing Jason's paternity and naming him heir to the Wayne fortune. Jason was stronger than most people gave him credit for - he rebuilt Gotham city almost single-handedly. Brutus, on the other hand, became increasingly animalistic, and eventually escaped his bonds, becoming known as the Man-Bat. At the outbreak of World War Two, Jack joined the OSS, becoming one of their best agents, the Bat. He was instrumental in the conversion of the Nazi Ubermensch to the allied side in 1942. [13] But after this incident, Hitler recruited superhumans of his own, including the power-canceling Parsifal. By Presidential edict, all heroes were required to fight only on the home front. [14] This bothered Jack not at all, since Gotham had always been his main passion.

Jack Wayne fought alongside such heroes as Superman [15], Captain America [16] and Tarzan [17] alongside who he battled Finnegan Dent, Harold's son. He also adopted young Dick Grayson, grandson of his old friend Timothy Grayson. He also dealt with his young aide, a man known as Brass, who had become more and more of a criminal in running Wayne's businesses. In an angry confrontation, he threw Brass out of his newly built Manor, and started to devote more time to his own son, Thomas. [18] Dick Grayson would become Jack's sidekick as Robin. Later, when Jack retired from active crime fighting, Dick assumed the role of Batman, and Jack's son Thomas became Robin. In one of their more celebrated exploits, they rescued Captain America from his frozen state, reviving the living legend. [19] Dick's career as Batman was cut tragically short at the hands of the Joker, and Jack's son Thomas, who had served as Robin for some years, took over the role. Thomas Wayne II became the Batman in the 1960's, and was virtually unique in being the only man ever to be Batman who was actually recruited by his father. But Thomas' life was far from easy. He fought alongside Anthony Gordon and Harvey Dent only to see Dent fall prey to his family curse, assuming the role of Two-Face as his father had before him [20]. He fought against many of the familiar faces of the Gotham underworld, including the Man-Bat, the third Joker, the second Penguin and others - and other less familiar faces [21]. But he did not do so alone - like his father, he recruited a Robin, a youth named Jason Todd, whose grandfather had been the half-brother of the original Jason Todd [22]. But Todd was no Dick Grayson, and he was eventually slain by the Joker after his rashness led him into a trap. [23]

On the other hand, it was also Thomas who achieved some of the greatest triumphs of the Batmen. He found and properly buried the remains of Joshua Wayne [24], the original Batman, and most importantly, he set free the demon Barbathos, whose captivity had slowly transformed it into a more benign presence. Indeed, referring to itself as Gotham, the demon elected to remain present as a spirit of the city, but was no longer an integral part of it. [25] The various criminal roles that continued to crop up - particularly the first rank of Gotham's criminals, such as the Penguins, Jokers, Two-faces, Catwomans and the like, would no longer be compelled by the various curses laid on the city, although the conditions would remain ripe for anyone who sought to travel the same paths. At the same time, Gotham had lost the living spirit that had protected it from so much over the years. Perhaps this explains the rapid reversal of Gotham's fortunes in the months that followed.

Shortly after the demon was freed, Ra's al Ghul returned to the city, bringing with him plagues.[26] Another demon, known only as Scarface, created an earthquake that almost destroyed the city.[27] Perhaps Barbathos' new-found freedom made him less able to protect his city. Perhaps it was simply bad luck. But these disasters, combined with Gotham's high crime rate, brought the city to its knees. By federal decree, in 1974 Gotham City was cut off from the USA, and became a No Man's Land. [28] This state of affairs continued for a year, until Gotham was welcomed back into the United States after the President was pressured into allowing its re-entry to the union. But there was a price to be paid - 1975's Keene Act specifically outlawed all costumed and super-powered heroes, excepting only those who worked for the government.[29]

Most were reasonably happy to retire, excepting only Superman, who continued to work for the government, and the team of the third Green Arrow (Oliver Queen III) and the second Black Canary (Dinah Lance), who took to the underground, preaching revolution. In a conflict between these three, the Canary was slain and Green Arrow's arm was torn off by Superman. After a short time, the Arrow escaped from prison, and continued his fight, covertly funded by Thomas Wayne.

By 1985, the situation in Gotham had grown almost unbearable. Thomas Wayne returned to the streets as Batman, just as the Joker escaped and went on a final homicidal rampage. In their last meeting, Batman slew the Joker, and the government elected to send in Superman to bring him to heel. Thomas almost succeeded in killing Superman as well, with the aid of the third Robin (Carrie Kelley) and Green Arrow. Instead, he faked his own death, destroyed the mansion and literally went underground with his allies, intending to return one day and clean up the entire planet. Alfred, his butler, was badly injured in the explosion, and Thomas' son Bruce arranged for the aging retainer to be put in a home.[30]

Superman left the service of the government thereafter, and formed what he called the Kryptic Order, a group of super-powered individuals who fought crime invisibly and without any public notice. In partial expiation of his guilt, Superman created memorials for Thomas, Oliver and Dinah in the Order's trophy room.

In 1998, Bruce, now an agent of the FBI, teamed up with tabloid reporter Lois Lane to investigate the Kryptic Order. Discovering the truth about his father, Bruce too donned the mantle of the Batman.[31] Marrying Lane, he returned to Gotham City and rebuilt his grandfather's mansion. He fought off the return of Brass to Gotham the following year, when the mercenary sought to reclaim his lost gold [32]. He encountered that peculiar group of investigators, Planetary. [33] Finally, after the death of Lois, Bruce himself went up against the king of all vampires, Dracula, and was turned by him. Fighting back, he managed to defeat Dracula, and continue his fight as Batman. [34] Eventually, he succumbed to his own bloodlust, and allowed himself to be staked rather than betray his ideals. [35]

The long saga of the Waynes was at last at an end.



  1. Swamp Thing #87
  2. Detective Comics #452-454
  3. "The Shambler from the Stars" - short story by Robert Bloch
  4. Swamp Thing #86
  5. Shadow of the Bat #45
  6. Batman: The Blue, The Grey and the Bat
  7. Shadow of the Bat #45
  8. Batman #474, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #27, and Detective Comics #641
  9. Batman: Gotham By Gaslight
  10. Batman: Master of the Future
  11. Batman/Houdini: Devil's Workshop
  12. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham #1-3
  13. JSA: The Liberty Files #1-2
  14. The Golden Age
  15. Batman/Superman: Generations
  16. Batman/Captain America
  17. Batman/Tarzan: Claws of the Catwoman
  18. Legends of the Dark Knight #132-136
  19. Batman/Captain America
  20. Batman: The Long Halloween
  21. Batman teamed with both Spiderman and Dardeveil, and encountered the Hulk, the Aliens and the Predators.
  22. Batman: Dark Victory #0-13
  23. Batman: A Death in the Family
  24. Shadow of the Bat #45
  25. Detective Comics #452-454
  26. Batman: Contagion & Batman: Legacy
  27. Batman: Cataclysm
  28. Batman: No Man's Land #1-5
  29. In 1985, DC Comics published a book entitled "Watchmen", which sounded a warning clarion that allegedly retired heroes might take it upon themselves to return. Like Morgan Robertson's "Futility", the book was ignored until it actually happened.
  30. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  31. JLA: Secret Society of Super-Heroes #1-2
  32. Legends of the Dark Knight #132-136
  33. Batman/Planetary: Night On Earth
  34. Batman/Dracula: Red Rain
  35. Batman: Crimson Mist