No other bad guy in Daredevil's rogues gallery keeps coming back for more like the Owl. You can beat him, defeat him, humiliate him, and throw him in jail, and Leland Owlsley will just come back for more. Sure he has enhanced physical abilities and a handy gliding power, but it's that sharp criminal mind that really allows the Owl to go toe to talon with most of Marvel's street level heroes.
The Owl first appeared fifty years ago this month in DAREDEVIL #3 by Stan Lee and Joe Orlando. The character's much hyped arrival definitely feels weird in retrospect considering how he has changed over the years.
Despite what the caption box says, it does not take a minimum of 90 minutes to read this 22-page comic. When we first meet the Owl, he's taking a meeting with his accountant – a man that's just been framed for fraud by his evil employer.
Faced with a lengthy jail sentence, the accountant immediately steps into traffic. The Owl's legal troubles worsen once the police begin investigating the man's mysterious death. Overcome with confidence, the Owl blindly selects a lawyer from the phone book – his finger lands fittingly on Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer of Hell's Kitchen. Daredevil's first encounter with the Owl comes in a courtroom, and the hero practically feels evil radiating off of the curiously coifed criminal.
With his secret criminal identity on the verge of being exposed, the Owl commits to being a crime lord by hiring henchmen within his aviary hideout located in New Jersey's Palisades. And yes, his henchman interview process included both wax bullets and ape wrestling.
With the Owl Hopped up on super villain adrenaline, his plan started to become a little unfocused. He traveled to Matt Murdock's law offices in the hopes of turning him into another fall guy, but quickly changed his mind as soon as Daredevil swung into the picture. The Owl and his goons kidnapped Daredevil and Murdock's secretary, Karen Page.
Finally, the Owl got to put those big birdcages to use for something other than extra closet space! The Owl decided to use Daredevil as leverage within the criminal community; he'd sell DD to the highest bidder, thus increasing his clout. Daredevil and Karen escaped, of course, and ruined the Owl's plan. Murdock even ruined the Owl's getaway when he jammed his apparently indestructible billy club into the propeller of the bad guy's boat.
The Owl slipped away, primed and ready to annoy the Man Without Fear on a semi-regular basis for the next five decades.