06 March 2010

Our definition and Under the Hood

“Under the Hood” form the comic book the “Watchmen”. It’s the autobiography of one of the comics characters named Hollis Mason who is the masked adventurer named Nite Owl. The reading goes through from the time Mason is twelve in 1928 to when he retires as a police officer and Nite Owl in 1962. First he tells us the story of Moe Vernon. Moe was his father’s boss who was laughed at by all his employees when he reviled to them that his live was crashing in all around him. Point of the story was to get readers sympathies, to highlight unfairness of life and her later states that he was more of a laughing stock then Moe could have ever been. Account is given of how he inherited his sense of morals from his grandfather who was a farmer from Montana. The affect of his grandfathers moral instruction is what caused him to grow up with a sense of moral repulsion when looking at the state of things his New York home. This is what drove him to be a police officer. In 1938 he graduated from the police academy. 1939 he was 22 years old and read Superman for the first time while on duty having barrowed it from a young kid.
He later read a news radical describing a crime foiled by a masked avenger. He decided he’d be the next such avenger. He became Nite Owl. So the birth of the citizen vigilante. First “Hooded Justice” then Nite Owl, the Comedian, the Silhouette, Dollar bill, the Silk Spectre with in twelve months of the first. Mason’s personal motives are first stated as for fun, because it was needed and because he felt like it. Mason later when addressing the group of them states that reasons varied between them all. He states the reason ranging from being hired to getting publicity to fulfilling childish fantasies to fulfilling less health adult fantasies. Essentially all motives are covered with the broad brush of doing what they think is right and making their country a better place. Observation is made that on their own perhaps they would have quit and that would be the end of it but when they united in a team called the Minutemen who’s agent kept them in the public eye and kept them together as a group. The group was formed by fall 1939.
The group started falling apart soon after it was formed. First the Comedian’s attempted rape of Sally Jupiter getting him kicked off the team in 1940. 1946 the Silhouette kicked out because of her life style choice then killed by an enemy. Dollar bill killed on the job and Sally Jupiter getting married both in 1947. So the Minutemen disbanded in 1949.
Then the McCarthy era everyone except the Comedian were called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Hooded justice disappeared and was rumored to be a man named Rolf Muller found dead pulled from the sea with a bullet hole in his head put there by his “Red superiors”. They all had their identity’s revealed and cleared of charges after a while. The late 50’s no serious note worthy thing just a lot of dark crime and uneasiness.
Then came the 60’s and the super-hero era and Dr. Manhattan. Mason briefly goes over how it feels to be replaced in context of a Red Cross Charity event. Then is resigned to his retirement with a brief mention of a new Nite Owl coming on seen and a statement of the lasting consequences of his own living out of childhood fantasies.
It’s interesting to me that though this is this mans legacy he sees it as more of a consequence of his actions. He sees his actions as a superhero in a more negative light then he did early on in his career as one.
Mason names a lot of reasons why the heroes of the 1950’s did what they did. The list is justified by the statement “We were also doing something because we believed in it. We were attempting, through our persona efforts, to make our country a safer and better place to live in.”(p.8 last paragraph) Judging strictly by the definition we created in class that says a ‘Super Hero is someone who dose good and doesn’t get a reward’ I’d venture to say that none of these “Super heroes” are super heroes at all. Starting with Dollar Bill who is on a pay roll of the banks he protects. He is hired partly for real protection and part for bank publicity. Dollar Bill seems a decent guy and dos do heroic things but heroism is his job. Granted he probably wouldn’t apply for the job in the first place unless heroism appealed to him in some way still he gets a reward so by our definition he is not a super hero. The Silk Specter fought crime to get on the front page and get publicity to further her modeling career. Her publicity is her reward making her not a super hero. The Comedian, from Masons point of view, seems to be motivated by fame and he gets it. So he isn’t a superhero. Though I would disqualify him because of his less heroic actions our class definition allows for bad behavior.
With the definition we created in class we didn’t set qualifiers that defined reward. Reward could be brode as to include emotional reward. In other words if a hero feels good after beating the bad guy and saving the day that good feeling could be seen as a reward and by our definition they are no longer a super hero. Saying this disqualifies the rest of the Minutemen because none of the rest would have fought crime or stayed fighting crime if they didn’t at least feel good about what they were doing. Then again them being a superhero would rely on their success if they did a good job at being a superhero and saved the day they’d feel good about that and no longer be a super hero by our definition. However if they aren’t a good super hero and don’t save the day they don’t feel good about themselves then they are still a super hero by our definition but I don’t think they’d have a lot of fans.
Unrelated to the definition dispute, Hooded Justice, I just had to talk about him. It’s interesting I’m sure that there’s a comic that spells out who he really is in depth but for Mason in this life like autobiography louse end aren’t neatly tied up the way they are for a real audience. If Rolf Muller is Hooded Justice it says something about Americans and their super heroes. On the on hand It says that Americans are ok with just the fantasy but perhaps someone from another country would take it more seriously and try to on a personal level make the world or their country a better place. May be if given our freedoms they would be more likely to turn vigilant to right wrongs. There’s a disconnect in which the average American read Superman and like Mason jumped buildings in their mind but the fantasy stays between their ears where as Muller reads Superman and is inspired to do what he does to the best of his ability. If Rolf Muller is Hooded Justice then it says something more about the real origins of Superman. After all Hitler had his idea of what a superman was. His idea was blond hair, blue eyes, and light skin. (His idea included purifying the race so to have a race of supermen. By the way he thought that he was making his country a better place. That’s why good intentions don’t qualify a person to be a super hero) May-be our Superman was a response to that. Likewise in the watchmen Muller perhaps decided to step up and be Hooded Justice which was a bit brutal but inspired Mason to respond. Even if Hooded Justice isn’t Muller he had a different perspective on entertainment. To an extent Superman is seen by all as an example but not to the point that the average man is going to put on a cape and mask and kick butt. Hooded Justice did just that. One can only conclude that something must have been different than the average American underneath that hood of his.


  1. Great Job. I thought this was very interesting because you seen different aspects of the story that I did not even think of. Keep up the good work. Way to go beyond the required word count.

  2. Wow, Roxanne. This is the epitamy of the list summary. Don't do this. Ever. It's bad. And it includes not just the main points, but EVERY point. Everytime a student writes a summary like this, God kills a kitten ;-)

    I really like how you incorporated our class definition of "superhero" to these characters. It certainly makes for some interesting discussion :-)