Hooded Justice, whose real identity is unknown, was the first-ever masked adventurer and the lead influence for many of the early costumed heroes. He wore a hood and a noose, had the body of a wrestler, and was a charter member of the Minutemen.
Never appearing without his mask on, his identity was a mystery to even his fellow Minutemen, and his lover, Captain Metropolis.
Becoming Hooded Justice
On October 14th, 1938 a young couple was on their way home from the theater when they were ambushed by three criminals in a alleyway in Queens, New York. The armed robbers stole all their valuables and physically assaulted the man, then threatened to assault his girlfriend. They were interrupted, however, by a masked figure in an executioner's hood with a noose around his neck who had disarmed them and then beat them with such severity that they were hospitalized. One of the assailants lost the use of his legs due to a spinal cord injury.
The news media sensationalized this story and it became the talk of the town, but there were no other sightings of the masked vigilante for seven days. The vigilante was again spotted disrupting what appeared to be a supermarket robbery. Gunfire disrupted the night, drawing onlookers who all reported seeing the masked vigilante sporting a red cape, noose, and an executioner's hood and was built like a wrestler.
Many more sightings sprung up over the next few months including an incident involving a triple homicide at a federal bank. Of the four criminals, H.J. hunted down Tony and Little Bob, the other two were inside a battery park factory. H.J. took off Monty. Nobody knows what happened, but the cops, and Hollis Mason who was present on duty heard their screams. Mason was the only one who saw a little of his red cape as he left. The vigilante's violent tactics made him a target of a police manhunt, but he became a champion of the people - particularly the impoverished neighborhoods he seemed inclined to protect. After a number of failed attempts to capture Hooded Justice by the police, the NYPD hired a private consultant to aid in the apprehension of Hooded Justice and the copycat vigilantes which began popping up.
However, the consultant, Nelson Gardner, went the other direction. Nelson secured political backing to endorse the costumed adventurer movement. Unbeknownst to the police, Gardner even became a costumed adventurer himself, calling himself Captain Metropolis, and formed his own team of adventurers. Gardner did make good on his promise of finding Hooded Justice, but instead of locking him up, he recruited him to become a member of the new team of costumed heroes known as the Minutemen.
In the autumn of 1939 there was an advertisement in the New York Gazette for all other masked adventurers to step forward that was submitted by Captain Metropolis with the help of Laurence Schexnayder. Like the rest, Hooded Justice joined the group and fought crime as a team.
His relationship with Gardner was soon known, and Schexnayder tried to persuade him to be more cautious and suggested he tried to be closer to Silk Spectre when in the public eye. He also tried to persuade Jupiter to date him and revealed his identity.
At the Minutemen Christmas Party that year, it was noted that he and Jupiter had 'sort of' started dating, but Nite Owl speculated that even though she attached herself swiftly to him, he never seemed very interested in her.
In 1940, after the group's photo had been taken, Jupiter stayed in the room to change, and the Comedian attempted to sexually assault her. Hooded Justice walked into the room realizing how long she was taking and caught Blake on the ground over her with his pants down, and she appeared to be almost unconscious. After Hooded Justice brutally attacked him, Blake coughed up blood and said, "This is what you like, huh? This is what gets you hot..." Hooded Justice replied, "Get out," and told Sally to put some clothes on.
After the verdict to expel Blake was announced to him, HJ attempted to separate Blake and Mason, who argued. As he approached, Blake pulled HJ from his rope noose and threw him down. He pulled a gun on Gardner and then threatened that he will shoot HJ when he next sees him.
When Ursula Zandt's lesbianism was outed by the press, and despite their homosexual relationship, Metropolis and H.J. voted her out as the revelation would damage the team's image. She was soon murdered by the Liquidator and Jupiter held themselves responsible. While investigating the Liquidator's murders, Metropolis and H.J. were after his traces in gay joints, before reaching his hideout. They found Jupiter, having already killed the Liquidator. After scolding them for their hypocrisy, she announced her wish to quit.
During the Congressman Subcommittee hearings of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee sometime around 1955, each member Minutemen was requested to reveal their identities to one representative of the committee. Even though his identity would not be released to the public, Hooded Justice refused to be exposed on the grounds that he was not prepared to reveal his true identity to anyone. Due to America's strong campaign, they put a great deal of pressure on the vigilante, but he never did reveal his identity. Instead, he simply disappeared.
Death of a Legend
After he was kicked off the team, the Comedian continued the Silhouette's investigation into the series of child murders. In 1955, he found out that the killer was Rolf Müller, a former Nazi henchman who raped and tortured young children including Silhouette's sister, Blanche. The Comedian had killed Müller and then decided to frame Hooded Justice for the child killings, so he'd be arrested and unmasked by his former teammates.
Nite Owl and Mothman fell for the Comedian's ruse and went after Hooded Justice, who was hiding in the Minutemen's former headquarters, the Tower of Freedom. During the fight, Nite Owl inadvertently killed Hooded Justice by breaking his neck.
Due to his disappearance, there has been wide speculation concerning the identity of Hooded Justice. To the general public, there is no concrete evidence regarding Hooded Justice's fate after his disappearance. Even his reasons for disappearing are not known for certain, although Hollis Masonsuggested in Under the Hood that Hooded Justice probably chose to retire rather than reveal his identity to the House Un-American Activities Committee. An article from the New Frontiersman, printed about a year after Hooded Justice's disappearance, mentions an East German circus strongman named Rolf Müller, who was believed to have been Hooded Justice since they both disappeared around the same time and shared a similar body type. The article takes this further, suggesting that Hooded Justice had been working for the communists.
Another article revealed that a body, tentatively identified as that of Müller, washed up on the coast of Boston a little over a year after his disappearance. The body was badly decomposed and had been shot through the head believing it to be a political assassination. The assassins were never identified, although the article from The New Frontiersman suggests that Müller may have been killed by his communist superiors.
Although his identity was never confirmed, there was speculation in an article in The New Frontiersman, a year after Hooded Justice disappeared, that mentioned the absence of a circus strongman named Rolf Müller who quit his job at approximately the same time as Hooded Justice had vanished. Only three months later his body had washed up on the coast of Boston that was shot through the head and badly decomposed. HJ was also accused of being a communist, however, a lot of his statements imply that he was a Nazi supporter rather than a communist.
Adrian Veidt looked into Hooded Justice's disappearance when researching his crimefighter predecessors. Veidt learned that the Comedian, while under the orders of J. Edgar Hoover, attempted to unearth Hooded Justice shortly after his disappearance but reported failure. Veidt suspected that Blake had found and killed Hooded Justice, but reported failure to his superiors, although he admitted that he could not prove this.
After retiring from crimefighting, Hollis Mason considered telling the whole story in his autobiography. The Comedian sneaked into Mason's home and told him the truth, revealing to the former Nite Owl that he had killed an innocent man.
On multiple occasions, Hooded Justice was described with the physique of a wrestler and has been noted as one of the biggest men most people had ever seen. Both tall and made up of erupting muscles, there is no question why he was such a worthy candidate for his title. In one view, it can be seen through the eye-holes of his hood the color of his blazing ember eyes, filled with fury and shock.
His costume was the least gaudy of the Minutemen, even with his bright red cape, his attire was simple and surprisingly symbolic. Along with his cape, which fell to his knees and opened upward from his neck, circling his face except for the front, was his similarly colored spandex trousers. The rest of his body was covered in the same material with a dark purple or possibly black color. Most notable and symbolic of all his attire, besides perhaps the simple hood over his head (resembling that of an executioner), is the hangman's noose wrapped around his neck, likely a symbol for the punishment of villains and law-breakers. He also wears the same rope around his waist, wrists, and ankles.
Linking Hooded Justice further to the circus strongman Rolf Müller, Hollis Mason mentioned that while Hooded Justice was part of the Minutemen, he had gone on record for expressing approval for Hitler's actions during the Third Reich, although this was before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Some of the few confirmed moments of Hooded Justice's actions as a crimefighter indicate that he was incredibly vicious and terse, as evidenced by the bodies of the villains he hunted down. The crimefighting was possibly a way for him to express his vice in a somehow useful manner. As the Comedian taunted, beating him was what turned him on. While Larry tried to make some remarks about his public image, H.J. was seen browsing and caressing hardware tools like a saw and a hammer, possibly burying some anger caused by Larry's words. In any case, his character was in stark contrast to the mostly gentle and timid Nelson Gardner.
In a letter from Sally Jupiter's scrapbook, Laurence Schexnayder discusses the dilemma between "Nelly" (Nelson Gardner) and "H.J." (Hooded Justice) and how Nelly was upset over another tiff with Hooded Justice. He describes their actions in public as those of an old married couple and how they are getting more difficult to cover for. Nelly claims that when he calls, Hooded Justice is 'out with boys' with a lot of 'rough stuff' going on.
The fact that Hooded Justice apparently relished rough sex is what allows Blake to goad him when he stops Blake's rape of Sally. "This is what you like, huh? This is what gets you hot?"
Rolf Muller, if that was indeed a name that Hooded Justice used, may also have been only an alias and his true identity was never discovered. Muller and his family were East German and had been on the run from the Communist witch hunts, thus the paper claimed that he had been executed by his own Red superiors.
A lot of his actions while Hooded Justice imply that he was a Nazi supporter rather than a communist, but the strongman's immense size could easily have been described as the physique of a wrestler.
Considering Muller's family is from East Germany, this would only be further proof of their secrets. Seeing Muller as a Nazi would conclude that he is an authoritarian, but is hypocritical toward himself due to Hitler's eradication of homosexuals from Germany also.
One could speculate that Muller if he was indeed Hooded Justice, was simply a very authoritarian person who wanted to see law and order prevail in his country, and would support whichever group promised this, Nazis in the 1930s, Communists after the war.
- He is the only costumed vigilante whose real name or identity is never revealed in the series.
- Rorschach's journal in Chapter I says that HJ had gone missing in '55, and Under the Hood: Chapter V says he disappeared during the HUAC hearings without giving a date, but suggesting the same. The prequels retcon the dates, and H.J. is seen missing earlier, in '52. He is killed in '55, but while officially still considered missing, and his death is kept secret; Rorschach (or anyone else) wouldn't know about the date '55.
Behind the Scenes
- The author's notes reveal that the costume for Hooded Justice was originally designed for a character called Brother Night who claimed to have occult powers.
- Under the Hood: Chapter I
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 01
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 02
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 04
- Under the Hood: Chapter V
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 05
- Under the Hood: Chapter V
- Chapter XI: Look On My Works, Ye Mighty
- Under the Hood: Chapter III
- Chapter II: Absent Friends
- Watchmen RPG
- He would not be unique in this; a number of very masculine homosexuals have historically been attracted to authoritarian and militaristic organizations, indeed a number of the original SA brownshirts were homosexual, and a subculture of the gay scene, repudiated by the main gay rights organizations, were still fetishizing elements of Nazism as late as the 1980s (at least). Furthermore one of the leaders of the British National Front, one Martin Webster, was not only gay but notably camp (which Hooded Justice would probably have despised).
- That was also the case with Dollar Bill until it was revealed in the R.P.G. books and the prequel comics.