Warner was first created for the movie The League, directed by Kyle Higgins, and written by Higgins and Alec Siegel. He was portrayed by actor Rick Cramer.
His first comics incarnation was in C.O.W.L., written by Higgins and Siegel, and drawn by Rod Reis.
The Grey Raven, like many other C.O.W.L./League characters, is intentionally patterned on classic comics and pulp heroes. In the Grey Raven’s case, he most similar to the Green Hornet, but also shares similarities with Captain America and the Shadow to some degree. His name may be an echo of the original Red Raven, a classic Marvel comic.
Warner’s father James is a decorated police officer in Chicago. Geoffrey idolizes his father and joins the police academy to follow in his footsteps. However, he finds out that his father is on the take, and leaves the police world in disgust. He becomes a professional boxer and does very well for around three years, but again runs into corruption in his new sport just before reaching the championship, and quits that as well. Finally he becomes a private investigator, helping everyday people, only to find that the police ignore his evidence when he finds corruption in the city’s politics. When a costumed criminal known as the Robber starts terrorizing the town, he creates his own costume to stop him. He defeats the Robber, only to find that the Robber’s driver is his own father.
He works as a vigilante for some time. His motto is, “Maybe this is the way the world works, but it doesn’t have to be.” It is probably around this time that he takes on Sparrow as his sidekick.
He joins a special military unit in World War II alongside Sparrow and Blaze, and becomes a national hero. When he comes home, he, Blaze, and Sparrow fight as costumed heroes in Chicago for three years before creating C.O.W.L., the world’s first superhero union, in 1949.
In 1955, the leader of the Chicago Six, the main group of super villains, the Dart, badly hurts Sparrow. Sparrow goes into hiding, and for unknown reasons there are bad feelings between Sparrow and Warner that continue on for years. Warner seems to have retired from his persona as the Grey Raven after that fight, but retains his position as chief of C.O.W.L.
Major Story Arcs
C.O.W.L. learns that the last member of the Chicago Six, Skylancer, wants to kill Alderman Lowe. A union team stops the assassination and kills Skylancer. However, with the Six, and most other costumed villains, gone, it’s not clear that C.O.W.L. has a reason to exist any more. Since their contract with the city is coming to a close, Mayor Daley wants to renegotiate the contact on terms that are less favorable to the union.
He also has discontent spread through some of his own ranks. For instance, Grant Marlow has been complaining about Warner’s gruffness to his family, and then his son tells off Warner on the street. Another example is that detective John Pierce thinks Warner makes it sound like they know more than they do about certain crimes, to improve the public’s sense of how important the union is. Yet another example is that well-known bombshell union member, Radia, is disgusted with Warner for making the rest of the union think that he’s sleeping with her (his own marriage to his wife Valerie is on the rocks). Still, through a mixture of political canniness and his strong will, he continues to keep things moving along.
Warner has Randall, a newspaper writer, write an article about him and his role as an early costumed crime-fighter and founder of C.O.W.L. for publicity. However, he tries to cut out the parts that he is uncomfortable with, like Sparrow and the Dart, regardless of the truth.
Other problems start to rise. Grant Marlow kills a superpower criminal who wasn’t wearing a costume, thus making him outside the union’s jurisdiction, and there is an investigation. Then Radia and Marlow’s partner, Eclipse, start a secret illegal campaign to rough up the criminal empire belonging to the thug’s boss, mobster Camden Stone. C.O.W.L. detective John Pierce learns that Skylancer somehow got a hold of old C.O.W.L. technology designs, and is trying to find out who gave them to him.
All this makes it harder on Warner as he and his deputy, Blaze, try to negotiate with the city. Warner takes the union on strike to show the city how hard it will be without C.O.W.L. on the prowl.
Yet another potential union black eye comes up when the prominent Arclight gets drunk an beats up his hooker and her pimp. Warner has Blaze deal with it, but the arrogant Arclight is becoming increasingly hard to manage. And to make matters worse, the whole thing frustrates Blaze, who is tired of his increasing reputation as Warner’s “lapdog.” Still, Warner convinces Blaze to not fire Arclight until after the contract negotiations are over.
Warner confronts Pierce about the Skylancer tech story. Warner already knew about it. He had secretly moved all their technology documents to his headquarters so he could investigate himself, and learned that the leak was actually Alderman Lowe, who was sleeping with Warner’s secretary. Skylancer wasn’t planning to kill Lowe earlier, he was just going to buy more tech. However, he wants Pierce to put the story on pause until (like Arclight’s problem) they have a new contract.
Things continue to go downhill. A riot erupts on the strike line, and an unknown hero shoots City Hall with a fire blast, creating a very public problem with the union’s level of trustworthiness. He tries to get Randall to write another promotional piece in his paper, but Randall refuses, saying nothing can help now.
Warner starts drinking in the C.O.W.L. locker room, trying to figure out how it all went wrong. Arclight shows up; he’s helping Pierce in his investigation of Skylancer’s tech, and is going to quit after the story breaks. Warner tells him how he never meant to completely retire from being a hero, but Operations put his uniform in a shrine in his office, and now he can’t go back. He gives Arclight a pep talk about how much people need heroes, subtly suggesting that what John is doing is wrong. Arclight follows up on the suggestion and kills Pierce to keep him from giving his evidence to the city police.
At his breaking point, Warner goes against everything he stands for, and enters into a deal with mobster Camden Stone: Stone will hire costumed criminals to once again terrorize the city, making it seem necessary for the city to give C.O.W.L. the contract it wants. In return, he wants Eclipse and Radia to stop harassing his operations—and be well paid.
When Warner hears about Pierce, he realizes that it was Arclight, and he confronts him in a bar. He beats Arclight up and forces him to go to the police with a confession, saying it was self-defense. However, police detective Evelyn Hewitt doesn’t believe it, and starts her own investigation into Pierce’s death.
Warner tries to make nice with John’s widow, seeming to be her ally in order to keep her from suspecting Arclight’s self-defense story, and simultaneously pressures Radia to toe the line and stop messing with Stone.
Stone’s first villain, Doppler, kidnaps Alderman Hayes, and the newspapers hype up the crime, putting some pressure on the city to settle with C.O.W.L. so they can stop him. Daley offers the union the contract that they had been asking for—but now Warner says he wants even more, and walks off without signing.
However, Radia is sick of being taken for granted, and stops Doppler on her own, destroying Warner’s well-laid plans. He goes to the hospital, where she’s recovering from the fight, and threatens to give her name and costume to someone else unless she does what he asks. Then he tells the press that he told her to stop Doppler after all, as a show of good faith on the union’s part. Perhaps there is still a chance for the contract.
However, when he next meets with Stone, the mobster demands that Warner needs to have Radia killed for what she did to Doppler. Warner agrees, since he can’t let Stone tell anyone about their deal.
Meanwhile, Sparrow returns to crime fighting in a new, darker guise, in partnership with detective Hewitt. He coerces some crooks to tell the police that Arclight was lying about self-defense when he killed Pierce.
However, things start to go Warner’s way. The city caves and gives C.O.W.L. the contract they want. Blaze discovers that union member Frank blasted City Hall, and he’s arrested. Detective Hewitt is told by the DA to give up her investigation into Arclight, despite the confessions that Sparrow coerced. Alderman Lowe is arrested for his part in selling weapons to Skylancer.
Not everything is perfect: Radia and Eclipse quit over their frustrations with Warner. Warner persuades Arclight to go into hiding away from the city, even though Hewitt’s investigation is over, to make sure that no one pins anything on the union, but Arclight tells Warner off, saying that whatever Warner says, Arclight knows that Warner meant for him to kill Pierce. He asks what if Warner’s legacy as the Grey Raven means anything any more.
The Raven steps over one final line to wrap things up: he shoots Camden Stone in cold blood to keep him from telling anyone about their deal—and so he doesn’t have to kill Radia. Finally he and Blaze, who has been Geoffrey’s confidant in all of these matters, sit down to quietly celebrate. Blaze feels that it was all worth it to keep the union together, since he believes they provide a necessary service to the people of the city. Warner, looking at his old uniform, isn’t so sure.
Powers & Abilities
Warner is an expert strategist and skilled administrator, having led his union to defeat the Chicago Six and almost all other super villains in Chicago, and having manipulated Mayor Daley into renewing the union’s contract under favorable terms and during stressful times.
He is an excellent marksman. As the Grey Raven, he typically carried one or two .45 caliber semiautomatic pistols. In the movie, he is known as “the fastest trigger in all the states.”
He is a highly skilled hand to hand combatant. For instance, he was capable of defeating Arclight, who has powerful energy blasts, just by hand, after being retired for years. He was a professional, near-championship boxer early in his career, known for his speed.
Warner was a good detective, having worked as a private investigator for a while before joining C.O.W.L.
In Other Media
In the movie The League, Warner’s early story is more or less the same as in the comics, but more recent events diverge somewhat.
The Raven creates the League of Heroes (C.O.W.L.’s name in the movie) along with Blaze and Sparrow. They are national heroes. Their main villains include Dmitri Popov, Nicolai Lennin, and the Dart, as well as others such as the Red Renegade and Big Ivan (founder of the Fearsome Five, the movie’s version of the Chicago Six). The Dart injures Sparrow, who is said to have let the villain go. Sparrow leaves the League and runs away, leading to a separation between Sparrow and Warner.
Seventeen years after the League was formed, Warner wants to expand the League nationally. However, ten old villains are murdered in ten weeks, allegedly by the Dart, who hadn’t been seen in years. Sparrow, hearing about his old nemesis, also returns, now in the guise of Wraith. He investigates the crimes, and talks to Warner. Warner wants him to drop it. Wraith steals Warner’s folder of information on the murders.
Wraith tracks down Lennin, who tells him that Warner is behind all the killings—and that Warner strangled the Dart years ago.
Wraith confronts Warner again. He says they’ve been doing it to keep the League alive, and provide a reason to take it national. The League is all he has. If they go national, they can be real heroes again. Wraith thinks he’s addicted to fame, but Warner says that’s true about Wraith too. Then Wraith realizes that while Warner has been the mastermind of the plan, Blaze is the one who was actually killing the criminals, as his ring enabled him to mimic the Dart’s speed.
Wraith defeats Blaze, and tells the police what Blaze and Warner have been doing. Presumably they are arrested.