HBO's Watchmen series is reviving the seminal graphic novel, building on the legacy of its writing, world-building, and colorful cast of characters. That also means there's plenty of history that's crucial to the new, remixed story narrative, particularly when it comes to the superhero team of The Minutemen... and their mysterious brawler, Hooded Justice.
Trailers for the upcoming series have highlighted Hooded Justice, a burly vigilante with an executioner's hood and a hangman's noose around his neck. He's tall, dark, and imposing--and a crucial figure in the Watchmen mythos. Hooded Justice is one of the story's earliest masked heroes, and has deep ties to some of its most critical characters, the original Minutemen largely credited with popularizing costumed heroes. But for those unacquainted with the classic series, a crash course in Watchmen history is about to begin.
Who Were the Minutemen?
Founded in 1939, The Minutemen were America's first team of masked crimefighters. The stalwart Captain Metropolis spearheaded the team initiative with the original Silk Spectre (a.k.a. Sally Jupiter and née Sally Juspeczyk) and her manager, Laurence Schexnayder. Together, they formed a supergroup with America's finest Golden Age "mystery men": the first Nite Owl, Silhouette, Moth Man, Dollar Bill, the Comedian, and the enigmatic Hooded Justice.
Though fearless fighters for justice throughout World War II, controversies would dog the team in their later years—including the homophobia-fueled murder of Silhouette. The team disbanded in 1949, and while individual members kept active in the '50s, eventually all retired (sometimes forcefully, in the case of Moth Man, who was committed to a mental health facility).
Hooded Justice: The Minuteman Mystery
Hooded Justice was America's very first known crimefighter, and he's long proved the most mysterious. Though his true identity has never been revealed, he directly inspired Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl, who would go on to mentor Dan Dreiberg (star of Watchmen). Built like a wrestler and dressed like an executioner, Hooded Justice cut an imposing figure, terrifying criminals.
Much of what little is known of Hooded Justice comes from Hollis Mason's autobiography, Under the Hood (one of the series' numerous backup features). The vigilante was first spotted in 1938, foiling a robbery in Queens and leaving one of the crooks crippled for life. A week later, he was seen again crashing through a supermarket window to stop a stick-up, beating the robbers' leader so viciously the rest surrendered. A newspaper article followed suit, christening the masked man with its headline: "Hooded Justice."
After joining the Minutemen at the team's founding, Hooded Justice became a more public figure, even "dating" teammate Sally Jupiter (though in secret, he was involved with Captain Metropolis). One fateful night after a Christmas party he discovered the Comedian attempting to assault Sally, and brutally beat him into submission. Ever the mystery, he remained cold and aloof after the incident, as distant as ever. Circa 1955 the House Un-American Activities Committee demanded (at the height of paranoid McCarthyism) the Minutemen unmask. While his teammates complied, Hooded Justice simply disappeared. His fate remains unknown.
How The Minutemen 'Created' The Watchmen
In 1966, Captain Metropolis attempted to reform a team of costumed crusaders, this time attempting recruit a new generation. Dubbed the "Crimebusters," the team would pick up where the Minutemen left off. The "team" had only one meeting, immediately falling apart, but it would prove to be a pivotal point in Watchmen's history. It was the first time many had met, notably Laurie Juspeczyk, the daughter of Sally Jupiter and second Silk Spectre, and the all-powerful Doctor Manhattan. Unfortunately, many balked at the idea; the black-and-white-minded Rorschach called it a "publicity exercise," while the returned Comedian openly mocked the idea of the superhero team itself. Though many of the invited would work together in the future, with Nite Owl and Rorschach remaining partners, and Silk Spectre and Doctor Manhattan becoming lovers, the Crimebusters' tenure ended before it began.
Early looks at HBO's Watchmen have indicated Hooded Justice will be a focal point, flashing back to the very incident that gave him his name. Whether his identity will be revealed is anyone's guess, but history has always been a key part of the classic story, and the upcoming series looks to continue the tradition. For the next chapter of Watchmen, tune into HBO on October 20.