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After the death of his parents, Philo Zeiss was taken in by his uncle Victor, the gardener of a Sicilian mafia lord. When his Uncle died soon after, the Sicilian took the young Zeiss in and, seeing something in the youth, prepared him for life as a killer for the mob. At first the young Philo was brought to watch mob enforcers work, then later was trained as a mob enforcer himself. Feeling a debt to the Sicilian, Zeiss agreed to have surgery performed on his spinal column and optic nerves to enhance his perception and reflexes to superhuman levels. As an adult, Zeiss relocated to Gotham City and became the bodyguard of Gotham mob boss Lew Moxon. After a falling out with Moxon when his fixation with defeating Batman caused him to compromise his duty as a bodyguard in favour of taking down the Dark Knight, he took up an offer to work for Pasquale "Junior" Galante. He fought against Catwoman when she impeded Junior's efforts to expand into Gotham's East Side, nearly killing her in single combat and threatening those around her. When she fought him a second time, during the War Games riots, she defeated him.

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