Friday, October 29, 2010

Old Thomas Wayne

Once upon a time, Batman was being hunted by a villain who had not shown his face, but appeared in visions and fears and predictions. Grant Morrison took the template from a benign character, an Army psychologist in a much older story, and made him into what Batman called "the hypothetical ultimate enemy." Like the monster in a horror movie, this enemy, the Black Glove, was scarier for having stayed in the shadows, and even when he'd started to make his move, Batman still called him "a mysterious 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)

1889: Jack The Ripper killings take place. OTW is seen leaving by ship for England in attire like classical representations of JTR with accompanying narration saying that he seeks immortality "in blood." This could match the role of bloody murder in extending the life of Manfred in "Gothic." (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."


  1. Well the beaty and sadness is that the next issue of Batman and Robin gives us the final answers to Hurt and gives some anomisity left. :) I like this blog post, but yeah i guess Darkseid's hyper adapter corrupted a Wayne or so among other things. Afterall the monster in ROBW#2 was a hyper faust-monster thingy.

  2. Drazar, I hope the timeline adds some clarity to the matter, at least in putting information together in a way that's harder to process when it comes out like tossed salad over three years.

    I wonder if the hyper-fauna creature in ROBW #2 was part of the plan against Bruce or an unintended side effect. I moreover wonder if the tentacles that Bruce hacked are precisely what was in the casket.

  3. Hey Rikdad!

    Good to see this OTW/Hurt timeline you've created.

    Do you remember the ending of "The Birds" by Hitchcock, where he leaves the reason for the birds' attack unexplained. It really added to the mystery/effectiveness of the film as a whole. While like everyone else, I'm waiting for more facts about Hurt/OTW to be revealed, I would prefer it if some facts were actually never revealed or saved for some future story.

    Two questions in the meantime:

    1. At the end of ROBW #4, OTW is just knocked out by Bruce, who then vanishes after being shot by Hex. Why couldn't OTW attack Alan Wayne at a later date and recover the casket? With Bruce out of the way, Alan should have been an easy prey...

    2. Why would Bruce preserve some of the hacked tentacles in the box? As a clue to his past adventures?


  4. This certainly fills in some details, but the most important, for me at least, is missing: namely: why is Hurt doing all this? What is his obsession with the Waynes in particular?

  5. One thing I've never really got about the Mayhew storyline was what exactly Mayhew would have gotten out of it had he succeeded and killed Batman and the rest of the Club of heroes (and furthermore, wouldn't that have derailed Hurt's future plan in Batman R.I.P.) I also wondered what the point was of Mayhew impersonating El Sombrero.

  6. Dispatch, I think it's virtually guaranteed that some things will be left unsaid, not only for narrative effect like you suggest, but because there simply isn't enough space. And I think the mystery of the Wayne murder is actually a much more important blank in terms of the mythos than anything relating to Hurt (unless something relating to Hurt *is* about the Wayne murder).

    1) Good question. Hurt obviously feels the need to skip out of the entire country. Why not make another bid for the casket? Maybe we'll never know. The fact that he and Savage come to blows might be an answer: That's an opponent that OTW should have to respect.

    2) Bruce couldn't have put the hacked tentacles in the box because, I believe, he faded away during his fight. So if anyone did, it was either Malleus or -- much more likely -- Martin Van Derm. It's a bit of a blind speculation on my part that the tentacles are in the box, but:

    a) SOMEthing was put in the box.
    b) The Ancestor Box seems to hide itself.
    c) We saw people exploring the scene of the dragon's appearances. This could happen after the final fight.
    d) We know that the think in the box is supposed to be unmentionable. Hacked tentacles fit the description much better than a mechanical box.

  7. Penman,
    That's what I'll try to address in the next post. I see about five or six distinct motives (or, one might say, personae) for Hurt. I'll break those down, as described by his own dialogue. Coming soon...

  8. Sypha, good questions that have arisen before. Also, the monk tries to kill Batman. It would seem to be one of these:

    a) A plot hole.
    b) Hurt will recruit Bruce if he can, but would kill him if the opportunity arose in a context where recruitment could not be chosen instead.
    c) He was so sure that Batman would win that he wasn't really backing a serious attempt to kill him. He was really trying to attack Batman psychologically with "carefully prepared scenarios", and Mayhew attempt is no different than those of the monk, the Replacement Batmen, or the Nine Eyed Man.

    The fake COV in the COH story may serve the same role of "carefully prepared scenarios", except that the way RIP was planned, it seems like Bruce would be beaten before the COV even showed up. So it may be a minor plot hole that did something cool by introducing these villains.

  9. Does it not seem like the "fake Club of Villains" on Mayhew's island might have actually been an early-warning/preparation for Batman to eventually face them in real life? I'm curious about the "Old Gambler" - to date, his deals actually seem ... fair, in their own way.

    Love the evolution of the Black Glove from "Hammer Horror" to "Eyes Wide Shut". Suspect we can track Hurt further even still. After he disappeared (after the "Three Ghosts" were created and the GCPD ran him off), where did he go?

    Where an "Army Psychiatrist" could be useful. To Russia, to a possible insane asylum under the rule of Black Glove member "General Malenkov", where he encountered Lazlo Valentin ... and then to some Latin American country, where the same was done to Eduardo Flamingo. Possibly Mexico, considering the "Zorro"-esque nature of Flamingo, and the Penitente being HQ'ed in Mexico. (Senator Vine wears a cowboy hat, which could indicate his being a prominent border-state politician, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico).

    The man had connections elsewhere, although we have no examples of "cross-contamination" of Black Glove members' homes and minions of "El Penitente". Africa (Jezebel). The Middle-East (The Sheik Al-Khidr, and probably the Nine-Eyed Man, who had been expelled from the Ten-Eyed Tribe and became a freelancer). Britain (Sir Anthony, and his "Ripper" days, probably also Springheeled Jack, one would think). Lastly Italy, (Cardinal Maggi - although he too could have a link to the Penitentes and even Flamingo).

    And of course, he had his "original, 70's" Black Glove prototype friends as well - all of whom he was willing to watch die or wither (Nichols of ill-repute, Mayhew, Loeb, LaMarr, and probably Jessop, more literal deaths)

    All speculative, of course. But one would imagine the Black Glove would have its finger in many pies.

  10. Great post rikdad. Can't wait for your quote anaylsis. The story wraps up in 2 weeks! It's been a little over 4 years and it's felt like forever.

    Re-read the entire one before final guess of Dr. Hurt's idenity and the end of the run. Re-read a clown at midnight and found lots of interesting parallels like -

    "'Puddin', he repeats. He hates board games. They're his least favorite dessert." - Joker wanted to play dominos not chess.

    "If he ever gets loose again, Gotham will face a one-man holocaust and witness the descent of an angel snickering, mirthless death wihtout mercy or meaning or restraint. No matter what else hapens, the Joker must be contained here, tonight, as the stecond hand hesitnalty, steadily approahces midnights's full stop." - As a reader, I think taking the Joker to be benevelant at all is a big joke, the Joker's plan can't be good and is certainly as bad as Dr. Hurt's.

  11. great fun, rikdad. Two comments. Wasn't the monk working for Darkside? at the time, in Final Crisis, the glowing red eyes indicated Apokolitan (??) possession or anti-life, iirc.
    My casual guess as to contents of the casket: something from the rocket, sent back in FC 7, found by Bruce in Return 1. He removed the Superman cape, which then disappears from the storytelling, but in FC7 they gathered remaining items, cape, bat signal, Daily Planet, and it's implied, remaining memorabilia from the JLA.

  12. whoops. My point being, if he removed the Superman cape, which then got omitted from the storytelling, he may have removed a mother box or one of the other items.

  13. I maintain my own hopes for Dr. Hurt actually being the devil, not Satan like in Rain in Hell but the devil, a sort of tempter and corrupter who wanders the earth doing evil wearing the various forms of men like gloves. I was really hoping they were gonna keep the other son of the Waynes in the Willowood Asylum and have it be that Thomas Wayne (the younger) and Martha concieved him in the midst of some black glove ritual and he was born with brain damage and so was commited to Willowood Asylum, an empty vessel to be filled with this malevolent evil to take vengeance upon the world. But the incident with this first child would have caused Thomas Wayne to want to change and that'd have been the purpose of the secret room, like Martha's mother said where they "treated" him. I also felt that ROBW 6 really served to invalidate the character, yeah I mean he's not infalable but in this book he seems like just a man with a devil cult, which the black glove never was. And the apperance of Willowood seems kind of wasted having no real over bearing connection to the story as a whole. Also you have this whole "revelation" that what he was saying about the Waynes was all lies, I mean we all love the original stories but the truth is we've only ever really seen the Waynes through Bruce's eyes, through a child's eyes and I mean it's like Man-of-Bats said "Only a little kid would think we were heroes" I mean doesn't every kid only really see the good things about his parents? It could've been a massive turn that changed Bruce's relation to his parents and his approach to his mission forever.

  14. Few things:

    - I hate timelines with dates for comics! I see the necesity of it to examine OTW, Rikdad....its just the dates are never really static, are they ;) It seems funny to think that Dick was Robin in 1998 (Army expiriment). Great job with it though!

    - Someone asked why Hurt would try to kill Bruce in Nanda Parbat. Truth is, I think he was just sending a message, and knew Bruce would survive.

  15. been hoping there was a blog like this one im a huge grant morrison and batman fan have been following his run on the character glad a blog like this one exists

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