08 July 2010

Crazy Kinky Nazis - AKA Super-heroes

Under the Hood” is a section of Watchmen by Alan Moore that is the fictional autobiography of Hollis Mason, or “Night Owl,” a masked adventurer from the series. The autobiography focuses on Mason’s creation of his alter-ego, joining the Minutemen, and retirement from crime fighting.

After Joining the police force in 1938 Mason eventually decides to follow in the footsteps of Hooded Justice, a masked vigilante. He creates his alter-ego “Night Owl” and begins fighting crime. He eventually joins the Minutemen, a team of costumed adventurers. They included Hooded Justice, The Silhouette, The Silk Spectre, The Comedian, Nite Owl, Mothman, Dollar Bill, and Captain Metropolis. The team continued to fight crime through the Forties until the Silk Spectre married her agent, and the Minutemen’s publicist. After that the Minutemen went downhill and eventually disbanded in 1949.

Mason recounts the rise of new superheroes Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias. Dr. Manhattan, a large blue man with seemingly godlike abilities, makes Mason feel that “We've been replaced.” Not just the old superheroes but all life as we know it. So finally in May of 1962 the Night Owl hangs up his mask and retires, but not before passing on the torch, and letting another would be crusader take up the name.

Having watched the movie Watchmen, I was somewhat familiar with the plot. I found the more developed back story behind “Night Owl” was very interesting to read. Watchmen is a somewhat more realistic portrayal of the “super-hero.” They are portrayed with flaws, and some of them are just adrenaline junkies, and aren't really the good moral people you would typically imagine a super-hero to be. This is such a refreshing perspective. While it does make the world darker, and more unstable, it also adds depth to the characters. When your super-hero's alter ego is a crazy, kinky, Nazi, you have to ask “what made them want to become a costumed adventurer?” Its great that Mason explains his motivations.

"Under the Hood" is a great look into a uncommon, but fascinating, world of super-heroes. Real people with uncertain futures that fight crime dressed in silly costumes. These super-heroes have issues, just like real people might. They're crazy, they're kinky, they're nazis, they're unpredictable; and that is exactly what makes them interesting.

07 July 2010

Under His Hood

In reading Watchmen “Under the Hood” by Alan Moore I was exposed to the fictional autobiography of Hollis Mason or Nite Owl. Mason’s was a story of mediocrity turned extraordinary. He wasn’t an alien with super-abilities, he wasn’t rich with fancy gadgets, he wasn’t even bit by radioactive spiders… Hollis Mason was, in fact, a normal man. He reminisces about his childhood growing up in the city, working with his father in an auto repair shop. Hollis gives us some background about his family values; his grandfather disapproves of his father’s choice to take the family to the city and away from the Montana farm he spent his first twelve years in. “If I look at myself today, I can see the basic notions of decency that were passed down direct from [my grandfather] to me.” Hollis believes that he has been swayed to see the bad in the city because of this background. The city is filth, a cesspool of dishonesty, greed, lust and godlessness. Hollis exclaims, “I’d feel sick in my gut at the world and what it was becoming.” Hollis recognizes the gap between his country and city homes and retreats to the world of pulp adventure fiction saying that it offered a glimpse at a better world where “morality worked the way it was meant to.” Hollis then asks a question that leads him to become Nite Owl:

“Which world would you rather live in, if you had the choice?”

With a will to do some good in the city, he becomes a cop. However, his whole life changes in 1938 when he sees Action Comics #1 the first appearance of Superman, the first superhero of his kind. He was enthralled. This new addition only added to his adventurous personality and Hollis begins to imagine himself jumping over buildings and running faster than trains like Superman. These fantasies become something else when the appearance of “Hooded Justice” appears in the real headlines of newspapers. Hooded Justice was the first in the trendy fad of real-life superheroes. He wears a costume and protects his community by fighting crime and beating assailants to a bloody pulp. Hollis decides to do the same. He makes himself a costume and goes out in the night to fight crime. He adopts the name “Nite Owl” and less than a year later, the superheroes of the day come together to form the "Minutemen." The Minutemen was a collaboration of superheroes, male and female consisting of the Comedian, Hooded Justice, Dollar Bill, Silhouette, Silk Spectre, Captain Metropolis, Mothman, and of course, Nite Owl. A crime-fighting team that became something worse than what was originally intended. Personality conflicts, sexual assault, marriage and children, alcoholism, and death struck the members of the Minutemen and eventually disbanded the original group. With times changing, superheroes also changed. It was no longer a fad to dress up and fight crime. War, McCarthyism, and social change/protest/music/etc. made for a different America. However, Hollis was still Nite Owl for two decades until the day he realizes, “We’ve been replaced.”

With the appearance of Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias, the superheroes of old were exactly that… old. A new band of superheroes, younger, and some with real abilities and powers come into the picture. Hollis was a cop by day, Nite Owl by night… but his day career is what it is, a job. Hollis decides that the day has come to “hang up my mask and get myself a proper job.” He retires to repair cars, the way his own father did. To settle into being regular and even gives permission for another young superhero to done his name. After a 23 year-long career as a superhero, Nite Owl becomes Hollis again.

Hollis shows that it doesn’t take a supernatural occurrence to be a superhero. Any ordinary person can make the difference… he chose to wear a costume and fight crime literally but he was also mortal and never forgets that. The past experiences he has with death (of his father’s boss’ suicide and then the death of other superheroes) keeps him centered on that fact. I don’t remember much about Watchmen the movie… so I wouldn’t know Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias from Adam… but there’s something oddly terrifying about their mention in Mason’s writing. I guess I’ll have to read it then! Dun, Dun, Dun! :)

Superman

In reading Superman the first comic, it was clear that it was directed to young readers of the generation. The strip consisted of two stories which had an introduction, plot, and conclusion, but never a direct ending. This is common in most comic strips they eventually come to a resolution after the plot, because there is never any intended ending. Superman is an amazing character with many strengths and abilities; he is after all the one and only Superman.

This comic’s introduction story was pretty simple save’s three people and pummels several other bad guys. After his work is done saving the day he returns to his secret identity as Clark Kent and goes on his date with Lois Lane, he humiliates himself in trying not to be violent while three men start wrecking his evening. Later on the men from the dance capture Lois Lane and then here come Superman to save the day.

:( :( :(

06 July 2010

The Inner Workings of the Superhero World

In the book, Watchman, published by DC Comics in 1986 there's a great look into the superhero life called "Under the Hood" about a superhero named Nite Owl. His day name was, Hollis Mason, who begins his story telling the reader about his memories about his father job in a auto shop. He delivers a humorous yet gloomy story about his fathers boss and how he met his tragic end. He goes further to explains how he made his decision of becoming a superhero named Nite Owl. He career during the day was that of a police officer but it wasn't till be took/borrowed a comic from a kid in his community that sparked his childhood fantasies. At that time, the 1939's, there were many superheros emerging doing justice in their community but it wasn't till later that they came together to form the Minutemen which consist of The Silhouette, Silk Spectre, Comedian, Hooded Justice, Captain Metropolis, Nite Owl, Mothman, and Dollar Bill. As soon as the group formed it began to fall apart either by humanly duties like marriage or alcoholism or by the inevitable; death. Nite Owl soon begins to see share how his 27 year career as a superhero goes by and he is replaced with the new age superhero like Dr. Manhattan. Which pretty much leads to his retirement and him being sot out by a young adventurous individual with the same passion for the double life as he did and ends with part two of the life and existences of the Nite Owl.
This reading is a comic that I am familiar with because of the movie. I liked how the story starts off. It is a little humorous imagining a little kid seeing a grown man wearing a pair of boobs crying over a wife that left him. I also liked how he turned to the women from the corner store for help regarding his book, even though she seemed to bug him when he shopped with her 42 novels that never made it to a bookshelf, to me he could have picked a better source for him, maybe a published author. Nevertheless I like the progression of the story of Nite Owl pre-existence to his non-existence.

05 July 2010

Watching Watchmen!

In Alan Moore's The Watchmen, Moore presents the reader with two drastically different characters who have one strikingly similar trait. Ozymandias is a handsome, rich, public, and powerful man. Rorschach is an ugly, poor, private, and almost worthless man. Despite all of these contrasts, they share a common philosophy: they believe that the ends justify the means. This is a major theme of the story, and through it Moore causes the reader the ask themselves the question - do the ends justify the means?

Ozymandias was the first of all the super heroes to go public, two years before heroes were required to unmask themselves by law. Rorschach never went public, choosing to live as an outlaw rather than give up his identity. Ozymandias is considered by many to be the most handsome man in the world, while Rorschach is an ugly man who does not even bathe on a regular basis.Ozymandias runs an international conglomerate, while Rorschach does not have enough money to pay his rent. These differences present the reader with two extremely different characters, their only similarities being their staunch belief that the ends justify the means.

Throughout the Watchmen the reader is presented with many different characters. The characters of Rorschach and Ozymandias have a manichaean relationship. The line between good and evil has been blurred with these two characters: it is unclear to the reader which of the two is good, and which is evil. One is rich, liberal, and handsome. The other is poor, conservative, and ugly. However, despite all of their differences, these characters share a common philosophy: they believe the ends justifies the means. Which to me is a perfect example of the behavior of human nature is a sense!

Regardless, Watchmen still holds up really well on it’s own, and I’d encourage you to read it. Alan Moore is just about as smart as writers come (comic-book or otherwise), and it’s a great entry point into his work. I suppose it might help going in if you have a passing familiarity with the tropes of silver-age superhero comics, but you don’t have to know who any of the characters are beforehand or anything like that (they were all created specifically for the comic, and have not re-appeared elsewhere). Plus, the whole story pretty much begins in media res and then explains the details as it goes, so you’ll be playing a little bit of narrative catch-up either way– it’s just part of how the story’s written.