Pre-Crisis: The Batmen of All Nations. By 1950, the legend of Batman and what he stood for had circled the globe. Tales of a man who against all odds built himself into a crime-fighting icon inspired others to imitate him and his partner(s) in the US and also abroad.
The Knight and Squire
The Knight and Squire's home is Wordenshire, an English village. This father and son team were known in everyday life as the Earl of Wordenshire and young Cyril. The Knight himself was clad in golden armor and chain mail. Squire, on the other hand, wore a matching tunic and archer's cap.
Inspired by the story of the Bat-Signal, this dynamic duo arranged with the townspeople that whenever they needed help or there was trouble coming, they would sound the rectory bell. Instead of a Batmobile or Batcycle, these modern cavaliers rode on motorcycles, continuing their Knight theme by mounting horse's heads on the front of the vehicle.
Before this however, Nazi spies had been captured near Stonehenge. They had been rumored to have hidden gold, which they had stolen. Of course, fortunes of gold, even stolen gold attracts attention, so it was no surprise when a band of Gotham villains, led by Matt Thorne, headed for the site of the spies' trial, Wordenshire.
When the Gotham dynamic duo went to England to pursue the villains, they inevitably met their British counterparts. It was not a favorable occasion for when the Knight and the Squire entered the fray, they got between Batman & Robin and the Thorne band, which took the opportunity in the confusion to escape. Batman attempted to diminish the awkwardness of the whole situation by suggesting the foursome swap partners, allowing the relatively inexperienced British heroes to learn the ropes from their idols.
However, this idea and the situation about it proved to be less than ideal. The Squire was held hostage by Thorne, forcing Batman let the villains fled from Stonehenge. Afterward, the Knight was nearly electrocuted forcing Robin to save him while Thorne escaped yet again.
Adding to the whole affair, Thorne had found the gold of all places, beneath the Earl of Wordenshire's own castle. Batman and Robin allowed the Knight and Squire capture the villains, as it was their home. However, Unfortunately, Thorne, spotting the war-horses in the Knight's version of the Batcave, deduced the hero's identities and said as much to the assembled reporters and police. Fortunately, the theory failed to hold up as 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.
After meeting the Knight and Squire, another bat-similar hero appeared. This hero, who was an American citizen of an undefined European nationality, had learned from the previous people’s mistakes and requested the Dark Knight train him first. Simultaneously, Dick Grayson broke a leg, which forced him to the sidelines for six weeks. This meant the new Wingman (clad in a red and yellow costume) would serve as Batman's partner.
Dick became convinced 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 upsetting, Dick overhead a comment on his belt radio by Commissioner Gordon: "We don't need any Robin, Batman!"
The final blow to Dick was when he saw on TV footage, which showed Wingman flawlessly rescuing 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 Bruce later only to learn that the Wingman he'd met earlier was Bruce 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. To relieve Dick even more, Commissioner Gordon's earlier comment, Batman added, had simply been a statement about how the European nation didn't require a substitute Robin. Embarrassed over his jealously, Dick couldn't help but express his joy that he and Batman would continue as the Dynamic Duo.
Batmen of All Nations
In late 1954, inspired by a letter from Australia's Ranger (a masked man in a brown shirt and hat), and the increase in "Batmen of All Nations" members, Batman decided to hold a conference for his counterparts. 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 all arrived in Gotham to a spectacular ticker-tape parade. Afterwards, 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 Knots’ gang managed to escape and amazingly evaded multiple roadblocks. Only the Legionary seemed to have spotted anything, a unique 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!"
"The Club of Heroes"
In 1957, the international heroes (minus the Ranger) gathered in the US a second time, 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. Mayhew suggested 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 subsequent crime fighting activities with as much discretion as possible, even the international heroes down played their own efforts in favor of the two icons.
Abruptly, though, Superman was laid low by a mysterious illness reminiscent of kryptonite poisoning. In addition, 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 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 others, Batman told the Man of Steel, "You won the chairmanship fairly as Lightning-Man, so we insist as Superman, you keep it."
"I might have known all the time," added Lois Lane, "NO ONE could ever top Superman, except himself!"
Post-Crisis: The Dome
These heroes didn’t 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 before his twentieth birthday in 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.
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.
In the wake of the final battle, the Squire prepared to return to England (#26). However, first he joined Shining Knight and the Seven Soldiers of Victory in their battle with the Skull.
At about the same time, the Justice Society embarked on a goodwill mission to Europe to deliver "food to starving patriots." 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. 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,
The Global Guardians
In 1957, the metahuman immortal known as Doctor Mist urged these six 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 to join. As the years passed, more internationally known heroes joined. Eventually the team took the name 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. The second Squire (now Sir Cyril, Earl of Wordenshire) became a British spymaster.
The Club of Heroes (Current)
In the current continuity, of New Earth, the timeline and origins of these heroes is uncertain. Once again, they all now say that Batman inspired them. 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 in a manner much 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.
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. 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. The "English Batman" was ultimately killed by his archenemy, Springheeled Jack. Cyril succeeded him, becoming the Knight II.
At some point, Cyril took on his own Squire (III), a girl named Beryl Hutchinson. They joined the new Ultramarine Corps of Superbia. 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.
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 had become 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 was left to solve the murders and stay alive.
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. Batman deduced 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"?
The next body they found appeared to belong to the Wingman. However, 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.
They have recently approached Tim Drake, asking to be part of the Network in Batman's absence.
The group came to Batman's assistance during the assault on Gotham by Doctor Hurt and his group during the R.I.P. story arc. The group included Knight, Squire, Dark Ranger, El Gaucho, Musketeer, Man of Bats and Red Raven.
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