"Y'know, this must be how ordinary people feel. This must be how ordinary people feel around us."
—Dan Dreiberg to Rorschach
Daniel "Dan" Dreiberg is the second Nite Owl and a member of the Crimebusters.
Dreiberg succeeded the original Nite Owl Hollis Mason during the second generation of 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 returned to retirement with his lover Laurie Juspeczyk and tried living a normal life under the name Sam Hollis.
Daniel Dreiberg was born on September 18, 1945. His father, William Dreiberg, was a corporate banker. Though William was abusive toward Dan and Victoria, he was rarely home as he worked long hours and spent much of his after-work hours drinking and womanizing.
Dan was an introvert fascinated with electronics, inventions, and the crime-fighting exploits of his hero Nite Owl. His favorite stories were about Pegasus and the flying carpet from mythology. Fascinated with the idea of flying, he studied ornithology and aviation extensively alongside engineering.
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.
Becoming Nite Owl
In 1962, at the age of sixteen, during one of Nite Owl's publicity stunts in Sparky's Garage, Dan rigged the Owl Car with a listening device of his own invention and followed Nite Owl all the way to the secret entrance of the hero's lair. Dan bypassed the lock and left a note requesting that they meet at Lincoln Park. During this meeting, Dan learned the identity of Nite Owl as Hollis Mason. Dan offered to become Mason's sidekick. Hollis' initial reaction was surprisingly nonchalant, agreeing to give the kid a shot.
When Dan returned home, he saw that his father was abusing his mother again, but soon after the man had a heart attack, and neither Dan nor his mother bothered to call the hospital in time. Although his father was disappointed in him for not following his in his footsteps and becoming a banker, he left him a large inheritance, which Dan used to pay for the materials needed to design and build his crime-fighting gear. He went on to become study aeronautics and zoology at Harvard University.
When Mason retired from crime-fighting and opened an auto repair shop, Dan wrote to him asking if he could carry on his name as Nite Owl II. Upon looking at his gear, 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 the latter's unpredictability and tactical brilliance, they both notorious criminals such as Underboss and Big Figure.
The next year, having made quite an impression on other crimefighters, Dan 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.
In 1977, a missing girl named Violet Greene was found in a pornographic video circulating around New York's seedy underbelly. Rorschach recruited Nite Owl to help him investigate this case as it appeared that a new Twilight Lady might be behind it. Nite Owl and Rorschach found that Liz herself had returned to her old moniker and was now running a new high-class vice den. They found Violet Greene and discovered she was not kidnapped, but had disappeared in order to pursue this new hedonistic lifestyle as one of Twilight Lady's new starlets. Nite Owl told Twilight Lady to shut the operation down and leave the city, but Rorschach was not satisfied with this as he felt Twilight Lady's activities were a blight on the development of the youth in the area. Nite Owl and Rorschach came to blows and ultimately this case marked the end of their operational partnership for many years.
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 1983 he visited Maine in order to pay a visit to Byron Lewis (the former Mothman) in the hospital, 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.
Events of Watchmen
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.
In Antarctica, 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.
In the final act, Dreiberg and Laurie have taken on a new identity, since they are assumed to have been killed in the "alien" attack. 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.
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.
- Master Martial Artist: Dreiberg is a master 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.
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.
In addition to his owl suit, he had additional suits for specific purposes, like for arctic cold or for underwater work. He had designed an exo-skeleton suit prototype but during trying it broke his arm and abandoned it.