Batman’s Rogue Gallery features an eclectic mix of supervillains who constantly push The Dark Knight to his limits, and while Big Bads like Joker and Ra’s Al Ghul have shaped Batmans’ evolution as a crime fighter, there are many other characters who’ve shaped the creation of his family and his crusade to protecting Gotham.
An underrated character who fits into this category is Natalia Knight/Nocturna. Not only has Nocturna affected the life of Bruce Wayne, she’s also played a key role in the lives of characters like Jason Todd and Stephanie Brown.
Mistress Of The Night
Created by Doug Moench and Gen Colan, Nocturna debuted in Detective Comics #529 in August 1983 and her backstory was that of an orphan who grew up on the streets of Gotham begging to survive. Eventually, she was taken in by a wealthy benefactor called Charles Knight, who adopted her and gave her a life of luxury.
Knight’s passion for astronomy led her to take a job at Gotham City’s Observatory, only for her to be exposed to a radioactive laser, which drained her skin of all pigment. Knight spent a large amount of her adoptive father’s fortune trying to find a cure for her light sensitive disease with no results.
After her father was murdered, Knight discovered that her life was funded by a criminal empire and she met Charles’ son Anton. The two of them fell in love and in order to maintain their expensive lifestyle, the two of them turned to burglary. Natalia used the name Nocturna, but she never stopped searching for a way to cure her illness. During one of the robberies, Nocturna and Anton ran into Batman. Eventually, Anton was sent to prison though Nocturna managed to avoid being captured.
Her relationship with Batman became more complex when they slept together and Nocturna found herself becoming closer to Bruce Wayne. To add to this complexity, Nocturna also encountered Jason Todd, who’d recently become estranged from his mentor. She became Jason’s surrogate mother, even going so far as to adopt him and winning a custody case against Batman to become Jason’s legal guardian.
Nocturna and Red Hood’s relationship is one of the most interesting parts of Jason’s Pre-Crisis backstory because the two of them shared many similarities. Nocturna had grown up on the streets and she recognised that same need for survival in the second Robin. In Nocturna, Jason saw a woman who could be a source of stability, as his biological mother constantly abused his trust.
Their relationship developed to the point where Nocturna considered giving up her criminal activity, though a child welfare officer submitted a new custody case in court and Jason was returned to Bruce’s care.
During another fight against Anton, who’d become the murderous Night Slayer, Nocturna, Jason and Bruce were able to reconcile their relationship, with Batman and Robin protecting her against her former lover.
Rebirth in the modern day
After The Crisis Of Infinite Earths, Nocturna’s backstory was altered. She became Natalia Mitternacht, a former astronomer with the power to manipulate emotions. In this continuity, Nocturna developed a friendly relationship with Stephanie Brown.
As Spoiler, Stephanie rescued Nocturna from a man with schizophrenia, whose condition had been agitated by Nocturna’s emotion-altering powers. This happened accidentally when Nocturna was playing the piano in a theatre and her pheremones affected the man negatively.
Stephanie convinced Natalia to have her powers examined so she would no longer be a danger to herself or others.
With her connection to the Batman family, there’s so much potential for Nocturna to appear in future Batman stories. I’d love to see her relationship with Red Hood revisited, as she was a major part of his childhood and it’d be interesting to see what she thought of what he became.