The first time he saw the Batman he was eleven years old, and his daddy was hitting mommy again. He was slapping her for no reason but he was drunk and staggering and she was flinching and sobbing and promising to do better and the window exploded into a thousand shards of sparkling glass that glittered like a thousand crystal prisms and a shadow from hell flew into the room. He watched as the demon kicked daddy across the room into the wall, staring in awe as it grabbed him and beat him with its black fists. He remembered hearing people talk about a man who dressed like a bat and hurt people, but only the ones who deserved it. Like daddy.
The black thing from the pits of hell dropped daddy and he fell limp and heavy on the floor and the thing tied him up with black rope with a metal bat on the end, and turned to mommy, gave her some money and said, in a voice like rocks being crushed, 'This is for the window. I want you to take your son, and go to a shelter tonight. For his sake, if not yours.' And mommy, who was never afraid of anyone except daddy, just nodded, her eyes wide as she scooped him up and soothed him as she packed her bags and went out the door. By the time he looked again, the dark man was gone. He was eleven years old, and he never forgot the Batman, who hurt people who deserved it, and protected people like mommy.
That was fifteen years ago, and Batman had just been beginning his career as a vigilante and urban legend. John Freeman had been away from Gotham for a long time now. His mother, finally able to bring herself to leave her husband, for John's sake if not hers, had gone to her grandparents in upstate New York. That was where John had grown up, finished school, went to seminary, and was ordained a minister. Now, he felt an urge to go back, back to where it had begun for him, in the dark city with its Dark Knight. The leadership of his denomination agreed to his request, and he was given an assignment with an inner-city Gotham church that dealt primarily in youth ministry.
John Freeman was tall, handsome in a rather grim way, lean and muscular. He'd been captain of multiple sports teams in high school, and could have been an athlete had he chosen that path. He kept his head shaved, and wore a close-trimmed chin beard. He favored black clothes, which went well with his dark brown skin. He had graduated high school with honors, and his seminary grades were excellent. He was, in short, a superb young man, full of promise. That was one reason for sending him to Gotham, whose darkness had been known to overwhelm preachers with less strength of will.