Johnny Thunder watched as Hypernion tore apart the Tower of London with his bare hands. Centuries of majesty crumbled to dust because one of the Lawless League wanted to make a point. “People of England!” shouted Hypernion, his voice carrying across the entire United Kingdom. “In 1776, you declared your independence from America after your victory in the British Revolution. That era is over! You are now a part of the New American Empire as ruled by the Lawless League. Your Princess Sarah is to surrender herself to me in three hours. She will be the new mate of Hypernion, and like her people, she will submit to our iron rule.”
Johnny whispered to the Kryptonian, “I don’t get it, Hypernion. How didja get rid of the Crime Syndicate, again?”
The handsome last son of his alternate Krypton said, “I told you before, Johnny. We used Atalanta’s lasso and the Martian Warlord’s mental powers to rob them of all memories of their identities and of their selves. Then we dressed them in ordinary clothes and released them around the nation. They live yet have no idea that they once ruled this world. Think of the delightful irony. They live in pathetic secret identities, if they have discovered any name for themselves at all.” His laughter was thunderous, and Johnny tried hard not to flinch as the villain’s mirth boomed around him.
In Gotham City, the amnesiac Owlman had been taken in by the Boss Zucco gang and had developed a real friendship with the hero-worshiping Ricky Zucco. Five months passed. He was now clean and well-dressed as he lived the life of a mobster’s bodyguard. He grew to like the boy, and he realized that he would want to protect him even if he was not being paid to do so. Something about keeping children safe resounded in his mind, though he knew no more of his past than ever before.
He and Ricky trained together as he showed the bright and agile boy how to fight, to shoot, and to use his senses to track and observe all that happened around him.
“Notice that woman’s ankles? They’re too large. She’s a man in a dress and wig,” he said one night as he sat around the Zucco table at the posh night spot called Zucco’s.
Ricky Zucco smiled. “Yeah, you’re right. Why would he dress up like that unless he’s after us?”
Owlman nodded. “He’s most likely going to make a move on your dad. Don’t worry. I’ll stop our man in pantyhose.”
He patted Rick on the shoulder and eased around the table to approach Boss Zucco’s office door. All the while, he watched the man in the evening gown via the wall mirror. He moved with such silence that Zucco did not hear him approach.
The fat man said, “I don’t like the way Al is becoming such a hero to Richard. A kid should look up to his old man, not some nameless bum. We gotta get rid of him. Just get him alone and slit his throat. Ricky will think he deserted him, and he’ll forget him.”
Owlman frowned and slipped inside quietly. He waited in the shadows as first Zucco’s thug left the room, and then, as he predicted, the man in the dress slipped inside.
“Zucco, you’re gonna die for what you did to Big Jim Gordon’s son!” said the hitman.
Owlman slipped up and closed his hands over the hitman’s throat. He fell to the floor in a faint.
Zucco smiled. “You saved me again, Al! I won’t forget that. You’ve made Richard your little shadow over the last few months — that I won’t forget, either.”
Owlman approached with a predator’s grace, his eyes gleaming hypnotically, and whispered, “Too bad I overheard your plans for me. Too bad I failed to stop that hitman before he shot you. Too bad I’ll raise Ricky myself, you slug!”
He picked up the hitman’s gun and — just as the gang leader seemed like a deer caught in headlights — he shot Zucco cleanly through the heart.
What Owlman hadn’t realized was that young Ricky Zucco had followed him to the door after he noticed the hitman slip inside. He had heard and seen everything, and his eyes filled with tears as he backed away. His mind raced, and one thought filled his brain. I’ll kill Al for killing Dad, but to do it I’ll need to be as good as he is. The only one who could make me that good a fighter and thinker is Al himself. I’ll pretend to believe in him and beg him to make me his partner, and as I learn with every minute, every day, every year, I’ll become equal to him, and when he trusts me years from now, I’ll kill him!
So it went. For motives unknown to the amnesiac Owlman, young Ricky Zucco became his ward and partner. He taught him ceaselessly until he had become a very capable fighter and thinker. But in the weeks that followed his assumption of the Zucco empire’s wealth and power, Al suddenly remembered all.
His keen mind and subtle mental powers had allowed him to recover his identity and memories before his more powerful teammates in the Syndicate. Thus, he knew himself as Dr. Thomas Wayne, alias Owlman, and he knew that he had lost a fortune and a family estate of his own years before.
He told Ricky everything except for the fact that he had murdered Boss Zucco. He was troubled to feel that he had so lost touch with himself as to learn to care for the boy. That he did, however, and he would not go back on his word now. He would raise Ricky Zucco as his own son and make him worthy of the mantle of the Owl.
Using the Zucco wealth, he bought the old manor house outside Gotham that had been the Wayne family home before the scandal the doctor had gone through had stripped him of his wealth. He equipped a cavern beneath it with all he would need to reclaim his role as Owlman and then reunite his partners and ultimately kill the Lawless Legion.
“I call this the Aerie,” he said. “It shall be our base from which we shall eventually conquer this world. And I have a surprise for you, lad. This black costume will make you my partner. I shall name you Raven.”
Excited, Ricky Zucco eagerly donned the black costume. “I like it. Owlman and Raven.” He had mixed emotions. True, he had formed a vow to one day kill his mentor to avenge his father’s murder, but he also had a respect and admiration for Dr. Wayne that he could not explain or forget.
Little did either of the two know that Owlman’s latent mental powers were not as dormant since the Crisis as he had assumed. They had, in fact, reached out to the boy and slowly influenced him until his loyalty to Wayne had become almost as strong as had been his passion to kill the man who killed his father. Thus, Raven was a very confused young man.
Nightly, Owlman and Raven worked together and haunted the shadows as they warred on Big Jim Gordon’s rival gang for control of Gotham. This dynamic duo became an urban legend, and slowly Owlman’s keen mind developed a plan to find and restore his partners from the Crime Syndicate, but there was no hurry. As long as the Lawless League concerned themselves with the world as a whole and left Gotham City to him, he had no problem and no reason to rush out of a life he relished.