The Club of Heroes
a.k.a. The Batmen of Many Nations + The Dome
Created by Edmond Hamilton & Sheldon Moldoff
Historical: World's Finest #89 (August 1957). Current: Batman #667 (August 2007).
By 1950, the legend of Batman had circled the globe. The tale of the man who built himself into a crime-fighting icon inspired imitators not just in the United States but across Europe and beyond.
The Knight and Squire
The Knight and Squire made their home in an English village known as Wordenshire. They were a father and son team who by day were the Earl of Wordenshire and young Cyril. The Knight was clad in gold armor and chain mail while the Squire wore a matching tunic and archer's cap. Inspired by the story of the Bat-Signal, the duo arranged for the townspeople to sound the rectory bell whenever they were needed. These modern cavaliers rode into battle on unique motorcycles with horse's heads mounted on the front their war horses.
A few years earlier, Nazi spies had been captured near Stonehenge where they were rumored to have hidden a fortune in stolen gold. A band of Gotham crooks led by Matt Thorne learned of the gold and headed for the site of the spies' trial Wordenshire.
Batman and Robin pursued the gang to England and, inevitably, met their British counterparts. It was not an auspicious occasion. the Knight and the Squire entered the fray between the Dynamic Duo and the Thorne mob and unintentionally allowed the crooks to escape. Batman tried to lessen the embarrassment of the situation by suggesting that the foursome swap partners, allowing the relatively inexperienced British heroes to observe their idols in action.
Even this solution proved less than ideal. The Squire was held hostage by Thorne, forcing Batman to stand idle while the gang fled from Stonehenge. Soon after, the Knight was nearly electrocuted, requiring Robin to save him while Thorne escaped yet again.
Capping the whole disastrous affair was Thorne's discovery of the gold — beneath the Earl of Wordenshire's own castle. Batman and Robin deferred to the Knight and Squire, allowing them to capture the villains on their home turf. Unfortunately, Thorne had spotted the war-horses in the Knight's version of the Batcave, deduced the hero's true identity and said as much to the assembled reporters and police. The theory failed to hold up under scrutiny, though, especially after the Earl and Cyril appeared opposite the Knight and Squire to inquire what was going on. As always, Batman and Robin's expertise with make-up and disguise was flawless.
» FIRST APPEARANCE: Batman #62 (Jan. 1951)
» FEATURED APPEARANCES:
- The Knight (Percy): Batman #62 • Detective #215 • Infinity Inc. #34 • Who's Who Update '87 #2 • World's Finest #89 • Young All-Stars #22, 23, 25-27 (as the original Squire)
- Squire II (Cyril): Batman #62 • Detective #215 • Infinity Inc. #34 • JLA #26 (as the Knight II) • New Teen Titans v.2 #44 (retired) • Who's Who Update '87 #2 • World's Finest #89 • Young All-Stars #23
» SEE ALSO: A page of art from Batman #62
Soon after meeting the Knight and Squire, another European Bat-surrogate made his debut. This one had learned from their mistakes and his country requested that the Dark Knight train him first. (This new hero was a naturalized American citizen of an un defined European nationality.) Simultaneously, Robin had suffered a broken leg and was forced to the sidelines for six weeks. This meant the new Wingman (clad in a red and yellow costume) could serve as Batman's partner.
Dick Grayson became paranoid, convinced that he was going to be permanently replaced. Fueling his fears were comments among Gothamites that an adult made a more appropriate ally for Batman than a child. Even more devastating, Dick overhead a comment on his belt radio made by Commissioner Gordon: "We don't need any Robin, Batman!"
The final blow came when Dick watched television footage in which Wingman flawlessly rescued Batman from a rooftop robbery. Back in the Batcave, the new hero refused to reveal his identity to the unmasked Robin. In tears, Dick confronted Batman later that evening only to learn that the Wingman he'd met earlier was Batman himself. He and Wingman had swapped identities for the night and Bruce had met Robin in that guise to test its effectiveness. If the Boy Wonder couldn't see through it, no one could. Commissioner Gordon's earlier comment, Batman added, had simply been a statement that the European nation didn't require a substitute Robin.
Embarrassed over his jealously, Dick couldn't help but express his elation that he and Batman would continue on as the Dynamic Duo.
» FIRST APPEARANCE: Batman #65 (July 1951)» FEATURED APPEARANCES: Batman #65 • Infinity Inc. #34 • Secret Origins v.2 #27 • Who's Who Update '87 #2
By late 1954, "Batmen of All Nations" had proliferated so greatly that Batman decided to hold a formal conference for his counterparts in Gotham City. The meeting was inspired by a letter from Australia's Ranger, a masked man in a brown shirt and hat. Those in attendance included France's sword-wielding Musketeer (clad in the trademark uniform), Italy's Legionary (armed with a lance and dressed like a Roman centurion), South America's Gaucho (renowned for his skill with the bolo) and, finally, the Knight and Squire.
The heroes arrived in Gotham to a spectacular tickertape parade and Batman began a quick overview of his techniques. Casting a pall over the proceedings was the boast of a mobster named "Knots" Cardine "to commit unprecedented crimes under the very noses of these great lawmen." Rising to the challenge, the heroes took off in the direction of Cardine's first reported robbery, the Gaucho and Ranger riding their horses, the Knight and Squire astride their vehicular counterparts, and the rest crammed into the Batmobile.
The gang managed to escape and, incredibly, evaded multiple roadblocks. Only the Legionary seemed to have spotted anything a distinctive series of scratches on the side of the getaway car, "as though by bushes so their hideout must be in a thickly-wooded country region." The fact that Batman had missed the clue and seemed to be at a loss to explain Cardine's getaway shook the confidence of the other Batmen, but they kept their opinions to themselves.
Riding with Batman and Robin, the Legionary spotted the bushes that he imagined had scratched Cardine's vehicle. Batman went ahead to investigate an abandoned house in the wooded area and the other heroes could only watch helplessly as the structure exploded in a fireball. The Dark Knight, it seemed, was dead.
With Gotham in a state of shock, the international heroes vowed to avenge him. Taking over as their leader, the Legionary offered to ride with the armored van and, at an opportune moment, pulled a gun on the driver.
Cardine's gang poured out of the woods and the door of the truck was opened to reveal Batman! With the aid of the others, the thieves were quickly rounded up. The Legionary was unmasked as Cardine, who'd abducted the true Roman hero the moment he landed in the United States.
Batman had been suspicious from the start and allowed the Legionary to take the lead in the investigation. As a precaution, the Dark Knight threw his batarang into the supposed hideout . When it exploded, he allowed Robin and the others to believe him dead until he could draw Cardine's gang into the open. "Knots" had kept his mob abreast of the heroes' plans thanks to "a walkie-talkie mike inside his helmet, with his spear for an aerial".
"To think that for a moment I doubted your ability, Batman!" the Musketeer admitted. "I apologize."
"Si," added the Gaucho. "There is, after all, only one real Batman in the world!"
» FIRST APPEARANCE: Detective Comics #215 (Feb. 1955)
» FEATURED APPEARANCES:
- The Gaucho: Detective #215 • Infinity #34 • Who's Who Update '87 #2 • World's Finest #89
- The Legionary: Blue Beetle #20 • Detective #215 • Infinity Inc. #34 • Secret Origins v.2 #27 • Who's Who Update '87 #2 • World's Finest #89 , Secre
- The Musketeer: Detective #215 • Infinity Inc. #34 • Secret Origins v.2 #27 • Who's Who Update '87 #2 • World's Finest #89
- The Ranger: Detective #215
In 1957, the international heroes (minus the Ranger) were gathered in the United States once more, this time at the invitation of Metropolis millionaire and philanthropist John Mayhew. Years before Maxwell Lord funded the Justice League, Mayhew offered Superman, Batman, Robin, and the others a skyscraper complex that he dubbed "The Club of Heroes." He offered to sign over the deed for the property to whomever the group chose as their chairman.
Superman and Batman each insisted that the other was most deserving and Mayhew was forced to suggest a solution: "Whoever performs the greatest feats in the next few days will be your chairman." In an amusing display of modesty, both Superman and Batman performed their subsequent crimefighting activities with as much discretion as possible even as the international heroes were downplaying their own efforts in favor of the two icons.
Abruptly, though, Superman was laid low by a mysterious illness reminiscent of kryptonite poisoning and a new hero named Lightning-Man, clad in an orange costume with a purple cape and cowl, came on the scene. Even as Lightning-Man's displays of heroism racked up, from dispersing a tornado to preventing an airplane crash, Superman and Batman suspected the worst. They feared the new crime buster wanted to claim the chairmanship of the Club and the property for himself.
As Superman's sick spells continued at twenty-four hour intervals, Batman began to form a new conclusion, one that the Man of Steel ultimately confirmed. A fragment of a kryptonite asteroid had entered Earth's orbit. As it passed over Metropolis each day, Superman fell into a sickly, amnesiac state. "Your strong instincts to prevent disaster, and to keep your identity secret, still moved you to action," the Dark Knight explained. "And so, unaware who you really were, you yourself became Lightning-Man. And each time, when the kryptonite amnesia-influence passed away, you couldn't remember that you'd been Lightning-Man."
To the cheers of the other heroes, Batman told the Man of Steel that "you won the chairmanship fairly as Lightning-Man ... so we insist that as Superman, you keep it."
"I might have known all the time," added Lois Lane, "NO ONE could ever top Superman, except himself!"
» FIRST APPEARANCE: World's Finest #89 (Aug. 1957)
In 1958, Bill Finger (with Jack Kirby) rewrote the Detective #215 episode as a Green Arrow story in Adventure Comics #250. "The Green Arrows of the World" included the Bowman of the Bush, the Phantom of France, and archers from Japan, Mexico, Polynesia, and Switzerland. The fake hero in this episode proved to be the Bowman of Britain.
Detective #215 and World's Finest #89 were reprinted in World's Finest #180 and 179 (1968), respectively. Adventure #250 was reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #23 (1982).
|THE BATMEN OF ALL NATIONS and THE CLUB OF HEROES|
|Name||Country||Original 1st app.|
|The Knight (The Earl of Wordenshire)||England||Batman #62|
|The Squire (Cyril)||England|
|Wingman (unrevealed)||unrevealed||Batman #65|
|Gaucho (unrevealed)||Argentina||Detective #215 (Feb. 1955)|
|The Legionary (unrevealed)||Italy|
These heroes did not appear again until 1988, when Roy Thomas used the original stories as a springboard, and tied the Club of Heroes to the histories of both the All-Star Squadron and the Global Guardians. After the "Crisis on Infinite Earths," the international heroes still existed but could no longer be inspired by Batman and Robin. Instead, they took their inspiration from the Justice Society.
The earliest of these heroes was Percy Sheldrake, the young English man destined to become the Earl of Wordenshire. His father had been killed in North Africa in 1940. Just prior to his twentieth birthday (in early 1942), he and his mother moved from Wordenshire village to London, arriving amidst the Germans' bombing raids. Percy was rescued by the Shining Knight, but his mother perished. Percy began working under the Shining Knight, who kept him safe. (Young All-Stars #22)
Eventually, Percy donned a chain mail armor and red bandana mask to become the Squire. In 1942 he joined three other young heroes to form the Allies. The Allies accompanied the Young All-Stars on a "morale-building" tour of the U.S. One of the All-Stars, the Tigress, became enamored with the young Englishman. Cyril brushed away her advances, revealing that he had a wife and young son, Cyril, back in Britain. Riding astride the Shining Knight's flying horse, Winged Victory, the Squire fought off an attack by agents of Axis Amerika but was too late to save the Tigress' life. (#23)
In the wake of the final battle with Axis Amerika (#25), the Squire prepared to return to England (#26), first joining the Shining Knight and the Seven Soldiers of Victory in their battle with the Skull. (#27, a post-Crisis account of Leading Comics #5)
At roughly the same time, the Justice Society embarked on a goodwill mission to Europe to deliver "food to starving patriots." (All-Star Comics #14, Young All-Stars #27) Later, during the early 1950s, several recipients of the JSA's kindness became some of the first real costumed heroes to emerge outside of the United States. (Infinity, Inc. #34) They included:
- The Legionary, who had been a young anti-fascist Italian in the early 1940s
- The Knight and Squire
- The Gaucho, who, though an Argentinean, had spied for the Allies inside Nazi Germany itself
- The Musketeer, a member of the French Resistance, at home with either sword or firearms
- The Wingman, who, born in neutral Sweden, had fought as a youth with the Norwegian Underground
In 1957, the metahuman immortal known as Doctor Mist urged these heroes to create "a supra-national organization code-named the Dome." Headquartered in a mansion in Paris, all but Gaucho (who returned to Buenos Aires) agreed, and as the years passed, more international heroes joined. Eventually the team took the name the Global Guardians.
At least two original Dome operatives remained active. The Legionary took part in a Global Guardians investigation of a pharmaceutical company's role in the resurrection of Agent Axis. (Blue Beetle #20) The second Squire (now Sir Cyril, Earl of Wordenshire) became a British spymaster. (New Teen Titans v.2 #44)
The Global Guardians' connection to the Club of Heroes may have been inspired by a fan article published in Amazing Heroes #50 (1984) that listed all of DC's international heroes.
After creating the Dome, Roy Thomas, who wrote Young All-Stars and Infinity, Inc., gave credit to "historical concepts created by R.J.M. Lofficier." Lofficier scripted the latter-day appearances of the Club in Blue Beetle #20 and New Teen Titans #44.
The inclusion of Dr. Mist comes from the pre-Crisis origin of the Global Guardians, which appeared in two forms — Super Friends #7 (1977) and DC Comics Presents #46 (1982).
|THE CLUB OF HEROES / THE DOME|
|Name||Country||Post-Crisis 1st app.||Original 1st app.||Post-Crisis Status & Notes|
|Dr. Mist (Nommo)||not applicable||Inf. Inc. #34||Super Friends #7||Presumed deceased Primal Force #12.|
|The Knight (Percival Sheldrake, the Earl of Wordenshire, The Squire)||England||Young All-Stars #22||Batman #62||Unknown|
|The Squire II (Cyril Sheldrake)||England||Unknown|
|Gaucho (unrevealed)||Argentina||Infinity, Inc. #34||Detective #215 (Feb. 1955)||Unknown|
|The Legionary (unrevealed)||Italy|
|Wingman (unrevealed)||Sweden||Batman #65|
In the current continuity, of New Earth, the timeline and origins of these heroes is uncertain. Once again, they are all said to have been inspired by Batman. This rules out the World War II involvement of the Knight and Squire (unless some explanation can be given for their extended longevity). It is possible that some of these heroes were involved with the foundation of the Dome (and thus, the Global Guardians). This would push the Dome's formation into recent decades, not the 1950s.
Even at the dawn of his career, Batman inspired non-powered men across the world to don disguises and fight crime. Within these first years, he was invited by the billionaire John Mayhew to join his admirers in the "Club of Heroes." Mayhew was a mega-rich daredevil who spent his days like Howard Hughes. Mayhew constructed a 20 billion dollar headquarters for the Club, which never really got off the ground. The Club's original members included: the Knight, of England; the Native American Man-of-Bats and his son, Little Raven; the Wingman of Sweden (who debuted a year before Batman); the Swordsman of France; the Ranger from Australia; Gaucho of Argentina; and the Legionary of Italy. (Batman #667)
During an early original meeting, the Knight left his son, (the Squire, Cyril Sheldrake) in the lobby of Mayhew Int'l, while he went in to a Club meeting. Cyril overheard his father tell them that the Batman would not be joining them. After this, the Knight began fighting with Mayhew, accusing him of killing some woman. (#668) The Squire burst in on the meeting to protect his father, but the real damage had already been done. After this incident, the Knight lost much of his nerve. (#669) The "English Batman" was ultimately killed by his arch-enemy, Springheeled Jack. Cyril succeeded him, becoming the Knight II. (JLA: Classified #1)
At some point, Cyril took on his own Squire (III), a girl named Beryl Hutchinson. They joined the fledgling Ultramarine Corps of Superbia. (JLA #26) This group was similarly ill-fated. After failing to defeat an entity called the Black Death, they were sent by the JLA on a mission into the infant universe of Qwewq. (JLA: Classified #1-3)
Years after its members had gone their own way, Mayhew invited the Club of Heroes back together for a reunion. Over the years, the Ranger had renamed himself Dark Ranger and Little Raven had grown to become Red Raven. The Swordsman had done time in prison. The Legionary was corrupted and fell to his nemesis, Caligula. Once Batman and Robin arrived, a mysterious villain called the Black Glove appeared on a video screen and claimed to have killed Mayhew. The Legionary soon became the first Club member to fall prey to the Black Glove. He was murdered with knives, like his Roman forebear, Caesar. The Glove blew up Batman's transport and the Club were left to solve the murders — and stay alive. (Batman #667)
During the investigation Wingman bristled at Batman's presumption of leadership. He reminded everyone that he'd debuted a year before the Dark Knight. The Black Glove continued his thematic attacks, designed specifically for each member. Gaucho encountered weapons like those of enemies', Scorpiana or El Sombrero. The Batman deduced that the person behind the attacks was likely someone who had the most to lose when the Club of Heroes failed. Perhaps this man was trying his hand at a "Club of Villains"? (#668)
The next body they found appeared to belong to the Wingman. But Batman's deductive instincts were dead on: the Wingman was too good to have fallen so easily. He soon coaxed the Wingman out — he'd killed the Dark Ranger and was impersonating him. Wingman admitted to having allied with the Black Glove. He protested that the Club had been his "big break" and it was ruined by the Knight's accusations.
Meanwhile, the younger heroes found Mayhew disguised as "El Sombrero." Mayhew killed Wingman just after he revealed that Mayhew had indeed gotten away with killing his ex-wife years ago. Mayhew attempted to flee by plane, but was stopped by Batman. Mayhew parachuted back to his island and was apparently destroyed by his own bombs. (#669)
|THE CLUB OF HEROES (CURRENT)|
|Name||Country||Current 1st app.||Status & Notes|
|The Knight (Percival Sheldrake, the Earl of Wordenshire, The Squire I)||England||Batman #667||Killed by Springheeled Jack, revealed JLA Classified #1|
|The Knight II (The Squire II, Cyril Sheldrake)||England||JLA #26||Active in adventuring|
|John Mayhew||USA||Batman #667||Killed Batman #669|
|Gaucho (unrevealed)||Argentina||Active in adventuring|
|The Legionary (unrevealed)||Italy||Killed Batman #667|
|Man-of-Bats (unrevealed)||unrevealed||Active in adventuring|
|Red Raven (Little Raven)||unrevealed||Active in adventuring|
|Dark Ranger (Ranger)||Australia||Killed Batman #668|
|Swordsman (unrevealed)||France||Active in adventuring|
|Wingman (unrevealed)||unrevealed||Killed Batman #669|
|Batman (Bruce Wayne)||USA||Batman #404||Active in adventuring|
|Robin (Dick Grayson, Nightwing)||USA||Detective #327||Active in adventuring|
|The Squire III (Beryl Hutchinson)||England||JLA #26||Active in adventuring|
|Robin III (Tim Drake)||USA||Active in adventuring|
|Ranger II (Scout)||Australia||Batman #681||Active in adventuring|
|Scout II (unrevealed)||Australia||Active in adventuring|
» FEATURED APPEARANCES:
- Batman #667-669
- Detective Comics #215
- Infinity, Inc. #34
- JLA: Classified #2-3 (Knight and Squire)
- World's Finest #89