Doctor Hurt who seems to have appeared out of nowhere." One clue at a time, Grant Morrison has told us that the enigmatic Doctor Hurt, who goes by many names, was in the past Thomas Wayne -- not Bruce's father but a Thomas Wayne who lived in the 18th century and, apparently, all of the time since then.
Old Thomas Wayne, for brevity's sake "OTW", is said to be the black sheep of the family, who led a sect of devil worshippers. As we have seen Hurt's plans come to fruition in two different stories in the present -- first Batman, R.I.P. and then the first sixteen issues of Batman and Robin -- we've gotten some snapshots of his backstory in at least two of the issues of Return of Bruce Wayne.
There is much to say about what Doctor Hurt is, how his statements -- often, provably lies -- may be used to determine what he has been and what he has become, and how the "devil worshipper" from 1765 became "the Devil" plaguing Batman in RIP. Rather than try to take all of that on in one post, I present here the more objective facts of OTW's life. Even in the basics, there are blanks where one can only speculate. But as nearly as can be patched together, this is the timeline of OTW's life:
~1645: Malleus = Nathaniel Wayne. (ROBW #2) He is almost certainly not Old Thomas Wayne, but he's the only other bad Wayne we've seen. His overzealous witch-hunting in the 1640s brought a curse upon the Wayne family and that curse probably took the form of OTW. There is also the journal of unknown authorship, probably Martin Van Derm, at the end of ROBW #2 saying that the Devil was not yet done with Gotham. Any adult alive for Bruce's adventure as "Mordecai Wayne" would be dead before any of the other events involving OTW unless "the Devil" stepped in way before 1765. There is no portrait of Nathaniel in Wayne Manor. Because OTW, in ROBW #4, identifies his meeting with Barbatos as being one with Thomas Jefferson, it seems that the original case of unnatural life extension coming to an evil Wayne must have taken place long after Malleus was dead.
~1730 or earlier: Born. (ROBW #4) Alan Wayne, writing over a century later says that Thomas is "at least" 150 years old. He wouldn't know for sure if Thomas were much older.
1765: The original Barbatos ritual with Thomas Jefferson, patterned on the one in the story "Dark Knight, Dark City." (ROBW #4)
~1880: Doctor Thomas Wayne is trying to get the casket back, and believes it to be the key to the same Barbatos he encountered before. We don't know how he lost access to it after having had it once. At the end of the Bruce/Hex fight, Alan Wayne ends up with it. (ROBW #4)
~1978: Thomas and Martha Wayne take Hurt in, showing him kindness. (B&R #15) He poses as young Thomas and begins trying to frame Bruce's parents, believing that the slander will destroy their souls. His stated goal is to feed souls to Barbatos. (ROBW #5) It is not stated that he caused their deaths, but he is working against them immediately before and after their deaths. He obviously desires command of the Wayne estate, having used it soon after their deaths and having now tried to seize control of it at least twice. (Batman #677-681, B&R #13-15)
~1980: Simon Hurt works at Willowwood, in a role reflecting the Isolation Experiment and other evil psychology seen later. It seems like the Black Glove is in a sort of "rough draft", not quite as it was in RIP. For the first time we see him make someone a deal. Even though Nichols does not provide Hurt with his technology, Hurt says that Nichols wins, meaning that the terms all along were for Nichols to do evil, not to help Hurt per se. We can see that Hurt takes his deals seriously in that he lets Nichols go after Nichols turns his back on evil, but condemns Mayhew though Mayhew tries to do evil. (ROBW #5)
~1980?: Newspaper headline: GOTHAM'S HURT MISSING. The original date, seen dimly in Batman #678, was 1978, but the key idea may be that it is about 30 years in the past. It is hard to say where in the timeline this fit in. The terminal nature of the meaning may imply that it represents Doctor Hurt disappearing altogether from public at the end of the events of ROBW #5. However, he somehow becomes a psychologist working with the Army again.
~1988: Jacob Nkele, a wealthy African national leader, wins Jezebel and her mother in a Black Glove wager. (Batman #681)
~1998: Hurt is heading an experiment for the Army. Batman volunteers, and Hurt gains access to Bruce's mind. (Batman #673-674, #679)
~2000: Hurt runs an experiment for the Gotham City Police Department. This ruins three policemen, making them Hurt's slaves. This story is told primarily in Batman #664-665 and #672-674. One panel shows numerous policemen drawing their guns on him when they discover the cruelty and evil of his work. Hurt's whereabouts after this are unknown.
Unknown: Eduardo Flamingo is subjected to brain surgery that turns him into an evil killer working for Hurt. (B&R #5)
Unknown: Lazlo Valentine is subjected by Hurt to psychologically damaging experiences that turn him into Professor Pyg. (B&R #3, #14)
~2006: A monk tries to kill Batman, citing a message from his "dark master." Bruce obviously takes this to be the same mastermind who is after him in RIP. (Batman #681)
~2007: Hurt runs a contest between Good and Evil with John Mayhew trying to kill Batman and other heroes. Wingman, who was tempted by fame as a hero, also took part. This is one instance of an annual meeting of Black Glove members which must go back to the Eighties, but possibly much further. (Batman #667-669)
~2008: RIP. Hurt's long-term plan to bring down Batman unfolds but falls short of killing him. (Batman #676-681)
~2009: Hurt takes up, or resumes, an identity in Mexico as El Penitente. El Penitente has a legitimate belief in the power of a priest's forgiveness. He directs an upcoming attack on Gotham from Mexico before returning to put his plan into high gear. (B&R #4-11)
~2010: Hurt returns to Gotham, taking the identity of young Thomas Wayne and trying to corrupt the whole population. His plan to beat Batman and Robin has just been derailed. (B&R #12-15)
And so, to a respectable degree, we know where Hurt was and what he was doing. And yet the Hole in Things remains. What is his actual relationship with Barbatos, and what does he believe it to be? Is he one man with one mind, or does he host another darker spirit? Are his Satanic leanings delusions brought on by a chance encounter with an item of Darkseid's technology? Before we get to the end of the story that Batman and Robin has been building for over a year, another post in this blog will take choice passages from Doctor Hurt, which contain at the very least a high number of falsehoods, and try to patch together what is going on in the mind of Batman's erstwhile "hypothetical ultimate enemy."