The Owl was created by Stan Lee and artist Joe Orlando with possible assistance from Jack Kirby, making his first appearance in Daredevil #3 (vol. 1 August, 1964) . Vince Colletta was the inker, though Mr. Orlando may have inked a few portions as well. While no credit is listed, the color work has been attributed to Phil Lasorda. Sam Rosen provided the lettering. The cover art was done by Jack Kirby and Artie Simek with support from Mr. Colletta. Stan Goldberg has been cited as the colorist.
The Owl was the very first original villain created for the title. In #1, Daredevil encountered a gangster called The Fixer, who died at the end of the story. And in #2, he battled Electro, who was created as an adversary for Spider-Man.
Leland Owlsley was a wall-street wizard and got the nickname Owl by his peers. The IRS started snooping and revealed his ties to the underworld. Depressed, he took a serum that gave him the ability of flight. He has had several clashes with Daredevil, Spider-Man, Black Widow, and even Doctor Octopus. Through the years, the serum has caused him to mutate further. He has recently resurfaced to take revenge on Daredevil. The Hood later seemingly killed Owl in order to gain respect among the figures of New York's criminal underworld and steal Deathlok from him.
Later, it turns out Owl survived the attack, as he is under police custody, but gets freed by Kingpin's henchmen shortly - in return Wilson Fisk wants Owlsley's services in order to distract Daredevil and takeover The Hand. That leads to capture of Dakota North, who Owl plans to torture, but his plot gets ruined once again by Daredevil, who shows no mercy to his long time nemesis - he cuts Owl's arms and legs with a sword, very likely crippling him by doing so. This also lead to the beginning of Shadowland event.
Later, it appears that he is fully healed and is in possession of the head of Silvermane which Boomerang's Sinister Six tries to steal.
Height: 5'11" (1.80m)
Weight: 200-220 lb. (90-99 kg); with leg braces 240 lb. (108 kg.)
Real Name: Leland Owlsley
Aliases: None known
Identity: Publicly known
Occupation: Crimelord/Professional criminal; former financier, business owner and civic leader.
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with a criminal record - International status unclear. It has been indicated that the Owl has never been convicted of a serious crime despite being a known criminal, this may no longer be true.
Place of Birth: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Previously married; current status unrevealed
Known Relatives: Unidentified family; at one time claimed guardianship of two children, but his connection to them remains unverified
Affiliations: Leader of the Owl Gang; briefly allied with the Chameleon, Shroud, Kingpin, Vulture, the Bombers, a branch of the Russian Mob, the Maggia, Mr. Hyde, the Tinkerer, Mister Kline and an unidentified criminal syndicate; former member of the Gang of Four; confidant of Spider-Man, Black Cat, various underlings, law enforcement agencies, medical specialists and underworld/criminal figures
Base of Operations: Currently San Francisco, California; formerly New York, New York; Chicago, Illinois; San Francisco, CA and the New Jersey Palisades. In the past, the Owl commonly referred to his various hideouts as his "Aerie".
Powers and Abilities
It is a common misconception that Owl is a mutant, but he is a human mutate who obtained his powers through outside agents.
The Owl's main power is his capacity for limited flight. The source of this ability is a special serum he has used which originally enabled him to naturally glide for short distances (roughly 100 feet /30.5m); over time, his physical makeup changed to a degree which allowed him to expand on these initial facilities. Typically, he must to leap from a height of at least 20 feet (6.1m) off of the ground to allow for enough lift, but he has occasionally started from a standing position - although he has not been seen to travel higher than 15 feet (4.6m) in this way. His distance and speed are variable depending on ambient air currents and the height of his original lifting leap. With a strong tailwind he can travel distances of several hundred yards/meters at up to 30 miles per hour (48.3 km/h) - his top recorded speed thus far. Diving from a helicopter or skyscraper could increase his rate of flight even further, while jumping from a parked city bus or freeway overpass would result in a slower and shorter glide. The Owl might also intensify his flight efficiency through other methods, such as leaping from a moving vehicle. To aid in landing, his rate and speed can decrease as he loses altitude. Although the Owl's powers are most effectively used in conjunction with the surrounding airflow, there is very little to suggest that he cannot use them without one. The Owl has managed to achieve better control of his flying abilities through repeated use; and, despite appearances, has shown himself to be surprisingly agile. While airborne, he uses his arms and legs for balance and steering but is still able to perform complex midair maneuvers and engage in combat with little variation in his flight pattern (such as a free-fall followed by a quick ascension, allowing for a "swoop" attack).
The limits of his flying powers are inconclusive; he typically uses these abilities in short bursts, depending on the situation. While there may be an as yet unknown physical source aiding the Owl's abilities, his glide/flight ratio -the rate of drop compared to the distance traveled- coupled with other variances he has displayed suggests the presence of some type of psionic assistance. And while some data has been presented concerning the Owl's anatomy, specific details concerning his maximum velocity and altitude, how long the he can remain aloft before becoming fatigued, or how his body regulates the energy to do so are still vague. The Owl's powers are affected by his physical condition at the time, and any illness or injury would impede his ability to use them.
Aside from the flight serum, the Owl has used other experimental drugs and unique surgical procedures to enhance his flying ability over the years. The specifics of these methods and their relative effectiveness have yet to be shown.
Altered Skeletal Structure: The Owl's bones are hollow, allowing for a lighter frame and greater midair agility. Although lightweight, they are strong enough to handle the stresses of taking off, flying, and landing. Considering the avian effects of the Owl's flight serum, in can be inferred -though not confirmed- that he has developed a pneumatized skeletal structure (or something comparable). This would mean that his bones contain hollow chambers accessible to air. These air pockets are honeycombed with crisscrossing struts or trusses, which increase structural strength while also reducing mass. His bones may also possess a greater degree of rigidity compared to that of an average human being, which could prevent fragmentation or splintering in the event of a fracture and so allow the bone to mend more quickly. Though most of these traits are associated with bird anatomy, the Owl's unique situation coupled with his relative size would suggest a skeleton with much more durability than that of a normal person. This does not mean that his bones are unbreakable, only that they can withstand a greater amount of trauma before being damaged. The Owl has also developed special vertebrae in his neck that allows him to rotate his head nearly 270 degrees. The musculature and vessels around the neck have altered to allow for this action without restricting the flow of blood to his brain. However, the Owl has only been seen doing this intermittently. It is unclear if he no longer retains this ability or only uses it in rare circumstances.
Strength (Peak-human): Despite occasional changes in body shape, The Owl has a low fat-to-muscle ratio and possesses a greater proportionate muscle mass than a typical person. His unique musculature aids in allowing for, and managing the stresses of, his flying powers. While he only engages in moderate exercise, he can still lift/press around 600 lb. (272 kg.) with great effort. It is unknown how much weight the Owl can carry while airborne or for how long, but he has been observed briefly carrying two grown men aloft on at least one occasion.
Internal Adaptions (Avian-like Cardiac-Pulmonary System): The Owl's heart rate is considerably faster than the standard 72bpm. Although exact figures are not available, reliable sources have estimated as many as several hundred pulses in a single minute. His average core temperature has risen to 113 degrees (45 degrees Celsius), and his body no longer produces perspiration. To compensate for some of these changes, the Owl's lungs have expanded to contain air sacs that serve to cool his body and keep him afloat after takeoff. These adaptions, along with appropriate clothing, help regulate his body in relation to the external temperature. The Owl is able to adjust his breathing for flight, though how his breathing is affected by factors like high altitudes, weather changes or pollution is not known. The muscles and bones in the Owl's chest and upper torso are very powerful, providing additional protection and support to these sensitive areas.
Animal-like [Avian] Enhanced Senses: The Owl's senses of hearing and vision, while nowhere near as acute as those of an individual like Wolverine, still operate at a range considerably higher than that of a normal human being. His eyesight is particularly strong in low-light conditions. He may have developed something akin to the tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer of tissue behind the retina, which reflects visible light, allowing for better nocturnal vision and creating the appearance of eye shine. He is also apparently able to move his eyes independently of each other. The Owl's eyes have adjusted to the rigors of flight and both possess a transparent nictitating membrane (an extra lid located on the side of the eye, allowing for additional protection, moisture retention and the removal of minute particles) with its own blink reflex.
Body Manipulation: Animal-like [Avian] Nail and Hair Manipulation: The Owl can grow sharp, talon-like nails on the tips of fingers. While still breakable, the keratin in the nail plates is thicker, and the tissue surrounding it is more durable, enabling them to tear through flesh and muscle easily without harming the digits. The Owl can not do this instantaneously (via a transformative process) but must allow his nails to grow naturally or shape them according to preference (The keratin thickness extends to his hair follicles as well, granting each strand more tensile strength and greater resistance to damage.)
Enhanced/Avian Metabolism: The Owl has taken to consuming live rodents and small fowl. It is unknown if this is merely a matter of taste or if he now needs to supplement his regular diet with these alternate sources. Nevertheless, his digestive system not only processes these items, but also neutralizes any parasites or bacteria they might contain.
Durability: It has not been confirmed that the Owl possesses a true healing ability, nevertheless he has consistently displayed a resilience which suggests a greater than human muscle efficiency and metabolic control, allowing for unusual endurance and extraordinarily rapid recovery from injury and fatigue. Although more severe injuries do require a longer convalescence period, he has managed to recover from trauma severe enough to kill or permanently incapacitate an ordinary human being -including serious injury to his brain, spine and nervous system as well as gunshot wounds to major organs. It is also probable that, due to the heavy damage done to his nervous system, he could have a greater-than-average threshold for pain, which he may use to his advantage in certain situations.
Mental Powers - Photokinetic Data Acquisition
The Owl recently obtained the ability to assimilate data channeled through unrestrained photons directly into his brain, granting him "utter and total omniscience." The full extent of and ramifications from his acquisition of these powers has yet to be revealed.
The Owl has occasionally assumed a more bestial appearance and demeanor. (Excessive hair growth, pointed ears, sharp teeth, discoloration of the eyes and nails, alterations in skin tone and body shape.) Some of these conversions have been linked to his use of the flight serum, though to what degree is still not known. There seems to be no set pattern in how these changes manifest themselves, but recent appearances suggest that he has, in some way, managed to temper their more extreme/damaging physical aspects.
The serum profoundly impaired the Owl’s nervous system, leaving him a virtual invalid for a considerable time, unable to walk or fly. At the beginning of the degeneration, he was able to move short distances with the aid of crutches and braces, but most of the time was confined to a wheelchair. He attempted to correct these procedures through various surgeries and other enhancements, only a few of which are known about, but these only appeared to provide temporary results at best. Dr. Howard Petrovic implanted a “flying device” at the base of the Owl’s spine and supplied him with a powerful exoskeleton, both of which later malfunctioned and sent the Owl plummeting through the frozen Hudson River (this fall would cause further damage to his spinal column). Professor Brent Kerwin later fitted the Owl with a neurological pacemaker, designed to regulate the chemical effects from the serum, that sent him into a coma and almost caused permanent brain damage after a large power surge caused the device to short itself out. Precise details concerning how these appliances operated are not currently known. Specialists working for the Maggia provided him with a special hovering life support module, which also featured several defensive attachments, but this was destroyed during an escape attempt.
His most successful aid against his paralysis was a series of custom-built, battery-powered leg-braces (some of which were modified by the Tinkerer) that responded to minute muscle shifts and literally moved the Owl’s legs for him. Although they permitted more freedom of motion and allowed him to fly once again, his movement (especially when walking) was often stiff or jerky, and the braces were sometimes subject to mechanical malfunction. Gradually, his condition began to improve and he was able rely less on the braces for support. His paralysis now appears to have vanished altogether, or at least gone into remission, as he no longer seems bothered by it.
During the most severe stages of his paralysis, it was discovered that the flying serum had significantly altered the Owl’s body beyond simply allowing him to fly. In particular,his bones had gradually hollowed out; his lungs expanded to allow for the growth of air sacs within them, special vertebrae formed in his neck allowing for a greater turn radius and his vision and hearing had reached superhuman levels. However, new, damaging side effects accompanied these changes as well. The Owl had developed a nictitating membrane in both of his eyes, the pupil and iris in both had become enlarged; he could now use both eyes independently, but could no longer control their movement. His ears had also atrophied, leaving only tiny aural openings in their place.
To compensate for these effects, the Owl had to wear a special piece of personalized headgear that focused his new senses for him, making them somewhat more manageable. These defects seem to have been corrected, presumably through surgery, and he no longer needs to wear the headgear.
The Owl has periodically been seen with bird-like appendages in place of his feet that are capable of grasping and holding objects as large as a full-grown man. It has never been addressed if these are mutations caused by the serum, surgical modifications, or mechanical affectations.
The unpredictability of these physical fluctuations makes them very difficult to gauge, but their seeming stabilization suggests that they can be managed over time. There could also be a sort of complex transitional process that the Owl is steadily overcoming. If, hypothetically, the serum were responsible for all of these alterations then perhaps the damaging side effects were part of the transformative cycle and would have ultimately corrected themselves.
Earth 295: Age of Apocalypse
In the Age of Apocalypse timeline, the Owl was a member of the Marauders (Human terrorists enhanced by Apocalypse), along with teammates Arcade, the Kingpin, and Red (aka Norman Osborn). The four villains were sent by Apocalypse to destroy Wakanda. The Marauders were able to murder the Black Panther and destroy much of the country, but the Owl's life was cut short by Hawkeye, who killed him with an explosive missile.
It is assumed that this Owl had the same powers as the one in the regular Marvel Universe (Earth-616). He was also equipped with wrist weapons and "air-steppers"; boot attachments that allowed him near-flight.
Bob Gunton portrays Leland Owlsley in the Netflix Daredevil series. Unlike the comics, this version of the character is simply an accountant who works for the Kingpin. He is killed after he double-crosses Fisk and tries to kill his girlfriend, Vanessa. This version of Owlsley is noted to have a son.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series
The Owl appears in a non speaking role in the episode Insidious Six Part One in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. He is said to be a crime lord, and sits in a meeting with Kingpin, Hammerhead, and Silvermane.