"Y'know, this must be how ordinary people feel. This must be how ordinary people feel around us."
—Nite Owl to Rorschach
Daniel M. "Dan" Dreiberg is the second Nite Owl and a former member of the Crimebusters. Dreiberg succeeded the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, and took part with the second generation of costumed vigilantes. He took advantage of his massive inheritance and engineering know-how to build various gadgets and machines to assist him alongside his partner Rorschach on top of their combat skills.
He joined with other heroes to form the Crimebusters, but the team never came to be. Nite Owl II continued to fight crime until he was forced into retirement due to the Keene Act which made masked crimefighting illegal, causing him to feel lost and dejected.
Dreiberg came out of retirement after the death of fellow crimefighter the Comedian, and found purpose again through his lover, his former teammate in the Crimebusters, Laurie Juspeczyk. After failing to stop Ozymandias' plot to save mankind by killing millions, Dan and Laurie adopted new identities, and fought crime for several more years.
As a child, Dan was an introvert fascinated with birds, aviation, mythology, and the crime-fighting exploits of his hero Nite Owl. His favorite stories were about Pegasus and the flying carpet from mythology.
Throughout his childhood in the early 1950s, he spent many of his summers in New England, venturing out into the fields at night and searching for owls. Fascinated with the idea of flying, he studied ornithology and aviation extensively alongside engineering. He was also fascinated with the Arthurian legends and deemed Sir Galahad his favorite knight because of his bravery, heroism, and strength, though his father reminded him that such heroes no longer exist.
In the late 1950s he attended Harvard University. During this time, he attended several of Joseph Westwood's ornithology lectures. When he was nineteen, Dreiberg graduated summa cum laude from Harvard with a double major in Aeronautics and Zoology. As valedictorian he gave a speech to his class called "A Little Nostalgia".
After leaving Harvard, Dreiberg received a job offer from his uncle, Alan Dreiberg, to work in the family banking industry, but respectfully declined, as he decided to spend time studying ornithology at the Bronx Zoo.
Becoming Nite Owl
Using the inheritance that his father left for him after his death, Dreiberg invested his money in designing and building an arsenal of high tech crimefighting devices as well as his base of operations, which he called the Owl's Nest.
Upon hearing about Hollis Mason's retirement from crimefighting, Dreiberg wrote to him asking if he could carry on the mantle of Nite Owl. Upon looking at his technology, Mason was too impressed to refuse him, and so he became Nite Owl II in 1962.
In 1965, Nite Owl teamed up with fellow costumed adventurer Rorschach to take on organized crime. Thanks to Rorschach's unpredictability and Nite Owl's tactical brilliance, the dynamic duo were successful in apprehending and defeating several criminals throughout New York City, including Jimmy the Gimmick, Underboss and Big Figure.
The next year, having made quite an impression on other crimefighters, Dreiberg and Rorschach were invited by Captain Metropolis to join the Crimebusters. Dreiberg felt that he joined a fellowship of legendary beings and he was disappointed that it didn't last. Though the Crimebusters became defunct, Nite Owl kept a recurring partnership with Rorschach and would occasionally team up with other former Crimebusters, particularly the Silk Spectre.
In 1968, Nite Owl brought down the vice queen known as the Twilight Lady. She wrote to Nite Owl from prison. Against Hollis Mason's advice, Dan wrote back, thinking he could reform her. When she was released in the early 1970's, Dan tried to mold her into a crimefighting partner, but she was more interested in being his romantic partner. After a long and tumultuous relationship, Dan and her parted ways.
During the Police Strike of 1977, Nite Owl was patrolling with The Comedian on Archie and attempted to pacify the rioters, an action rendered moot when the notoriously short-tempered Comedian opened fire. Having already come to believe that his expensive activities were accomplishing little, Dreiberg retired after the passing of the Keene Act on August 3, 1977, although he seemed to regret his decision later. Rorschach would later say regarding his retirement, "No staying power."
After retirement, he chose not to reveal his civilian identity and kept his past secret. However, he had kept some friendship with Laurie Juspeczyk. He also maintained his friendship with Hollis Mason and the two men met every Saturday night. In his civilian life, he contributed essays and scholarly articles to ornithological journals, although he knew that they didn't interest many people.
In 1981, Dreiberg traveled to Africa with Professor Westwood to study rare specimens of birds in the region. During the trip he wrote a postcard to Mason.
In 1983, Dreiberg visited Kennebunkport, Maine in order to pay a visit to Byron Lewis at the Overlook Asylum, on behalf of Mason. On his way back to the parking lot, he heard the screech of a mature owl and was filled with a feeling that renewed his excitement about birds. He shared his experience in the Journal of the American Ornithological Society.
The Mask Killer Conspiracy
Death of the Comedian
Dreiberg was the first of the "masks" that Rorschach warned after the death of Edward Blake. The two shared a tense reunion, with Rorschach chastising him for his decision to retire, and Dreiberg criticizing Rorschach's insistence on continuing his vigilante activities. Shortly thereafter he met with Laurie Juspeczyk, the second Silk Spectre, at Rafael's and the two reminisced about their times as costumed adventurers.
Dr. Manhattan goes into self-imposed exile on Mars after Laurie leaves him and he is tricked into believing he was harming the people he loved. Simultaneously, an attempt is made on the life of Adrian Veidt, and Dreiberg takes in Laurie as a precaution. The two explore their feelings for each other and attempt to make love. However, Dan experiences a moment of impotency and they are unable to. During her stay, they are made aware of the capture of Rorschach by authorities, as he is charged with the murder of Moloch. After a nightmare, Dreiberg goes to his lab, where he expresses how helpless he feels in the face of impending nuclear war. He and Laurie decide to take up arms once again and experience that sense of power they had before. Donning their outfits, they take the Owlship and patrol New York City once again, in defiance of the Keene Act. Discovering a fire at a tenement, they come to the rescue and evacuate everybody from the burning building safely. Being in his Nite Owl persona again revives Dan's spirit, and he and Laurie are able to make love in the Owlship above the city.
Deciding the time had come to act rather than stand by, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre break Rorschach out of Sing Sing. Afterward, as Laurie is taken to Mars by Manhattan, Dreiberg and Rorschach explore the New York underworld looking for clues on whatever plot is taking place. They discover that the prison break led to a series of anti-superhero riots, including the murder of Dreiberg's predecessor and mentor as Nite Owl, Hollis Mason. Dreiberg swears vengeance, assaulting one of the men responsible with such fury that Rorschach, known for his brutality in dispatching criminals, has to restrain him. During their interrogations, they determine that their leads point to none other then their former comrade Ozymandias. The two head to Karnak, Veidt's fortress in Antarctica, in the Owlship.
Confrontation with Veidt
In Antarctica, Adrian Veidt reveals his plan to send a genetically-engineered "alien" to New York City, knowing it will kill millions of people. His hope is that it will be perceived as an extraterrestrial threat forcing the nations of Earth to end their Cold War and work together. Although Dreiberg and Rorschach try to stop him, he reveals that his plan is already in motion, well-ahead of their arrival. They are forced to watch the devastation and look on as the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union end their standoff and agree to work together to end the "alien" threat.
After a brief fight, joined by Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre, most of the masks (except Rorschach) agree with Veidt that, although terrible, the preceding events are preferable to a nuclear holocaust. Rorschach tries to leave to tell the world of the plan but is intercepted by Manhattan, who reluctantly kills him. Veidt agrees to give Dreiberg and Laurie protection at his fortress. After coming in from killing Rorschach, Osterman sees Dreiberg and Laurie laying together on a fur rug, naked. He smiles, shares a brief conversation with Veidt, and departs for parts unknown.
Sometime after leaving Karnak, Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk take on a new identities, since they are assumed to have been killed in the "alien" attack. Now going by Sam and Sandra Hollis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and both sporting blonde hair, they pay a visit to Laurie's mother, Sally Jupiter, where mother and daughter make amends for years of animosity.
Dan Dreiberg is friendly, honest, and affable. Like his predecessor Hollis Mason, he lacked any psychological issues like the ones that tainted many of his colleagues.
He is known for being somewhat insecure and awkward. He often lacked confidence in himself. When filled with such self-doubt, his would often be prone to analysis paralysis and inaction.
He is known to be somewhat indecisive. For example, whenever his friends, family, or acquaintances would quarrel, he would often be unable to pick sides or take action which would cause many problems. He avoided such drama whenever possible, often leaving the room during arguments.
Dreiberg appears to have old-fashioned tastes in music, preferring 1930s-1940s jazz (Billie Holiday, Nellie Lutcher, Louis Jordan) to more contemporary pop music.
Even as a vigilante, he was never comfortable working in the sometimes 'gray areas' of vigilante work. Though he was often forced into such decisions, these sorts of tactics never sat well with him and often would lead to further problems as he would become sullen or ridden with guilt over such dealings.
- Genius Level Intelligence: Dreiberg has demonstrated immense mental prowess throughout his career as a costumed adventurer. Although nowhere near the likes of Ozymandias and the nearly omniscient Doctor Manhattan, Dreiberg is much more intelligent than the average person, with his intellect granting him two degrees from Harvard University.
- Master Engineer: Dreiberg is an immensely formidable genius in vehicles' operations and general engineering, being able to construct numerous technological wonders to aid his crusade against crime. These devices include not only his iconic and highly futuristic Owlship, but also his suit, the Owl Cave, handheld laser, night vision goggles and Rorschach's grapple gun.
- Expert Martial Artist: Dreiberg is an expert martial artist, with his skill allowing him to defeat most, if not all common thugs and costumed villains. However, despite his skill and fervor, Dreiberg is nowhere near a match for Ozymandias, a nearly superhuman combatant in his own right.
- Master Pilot: Dreiberg is able to fly the highly complex Owlship, a futuristic aircraft of his own design, to great effect. For years Dreiberg navigated the ship through the concrete jungles of New York City, only ever faltering due to an engine failure in Antarctica caused by freezing temperatures.
- Expert Businessman: Dreiberg managed to secretly start his own company MerlinCorp which provided law enforcement agencies throughout the country with their own versions of Nite Owl technology to fight crime. Dreiberg managed it in secrecy for several years until it was seized by the government following his arrest.
Dreiberg was a skilled inventor and mechanic, talents he could pursue thanks to his large inheritance. His garage was full of devices and gadgets. In retrospect, he thought of them as kitsch, camp, and unneeded for the hunt of muggers and hookers.
- Goggles: His suit had goggles for night vision. A belt had pockets that contained respirator masks, smoke bombs, a fingerprint kit, pocket laser, and a console that controlled remotely Archie and other devices. He wore night-vision goggles that operated when he turned them.
- Owl-Suit: Dreiberg possesses numerous suits that aid in concealing his identity and providing body armor. In addition to his Owl-Suit, he had additional suits for specific purposes, like for arctic cold or for underwater work.
- Exoskeleton: Dreiberg had designed an exoskeleton suit prototype but during trying it broke his arm and abandoned it.
- Nite Owl is partly based on Ted Kord's version of the DC Comics superhero Blue Beetle. Just as Kord's Blue Beetle had a predecessor, Alan Moore also incorporated an earlier adventurer who used the name "Nite Owl" (the retired crimefighter Hollis Mason) into Watchmen.
- Richard Reynolds noted in Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology that despite the character's Charlton roots, Nite Owl's modus operandi has more in common with the DC Comics character Batman.
- According to Geoff Klock, his civilian form "visually suggests an impotent, middle-aged Clark Kent."
- According to the Watchmen Sourcebook, Dreiberg's driver's license lists his address as 400 W. 79th St. New York, NY 10021.