Hooded Justice, whose real identity is Will Reeves, was the first-ever masked adventurer and the lead influence for Nite Owl (Hollis Mason) and the rest 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.
Although the press and many members of the public believed the Hooded Justice was in a relationship with fellow crime fighter Silk Spectre (Sally Jupiter) (to the extent that Laurie Juspeczyk believed that Hooded Justice was her father), in fact he was a homosexual who was involved with Captain Metropolis. He also had sadomasochistic tendencies (see Sexuality, below).
He is the only masked vigilante whose final fate is never fully resolved. It is suggested he may have been killed but never proven.
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.
Becoming Hooded Justice
In the autumn of 1938, there was an attempted assault and robbery in Queens, where a man and his girlfriend were walking home from the theater. They were attacked by a gang of three men with guns who stole all their valuables and physically abused the man, then threatened to assault his girlfriend. They were interrupted, however, by a masked figure 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 spinal cord injury.
A week after this incident, on October 13, there was a supermarket stick-up that was prevented by a man who had crashed in through the window. He attacked the man who was responsible, likely the group's leader, with such intensity and savagery that those who were not already disabled dropped their guns and surrendered. This witness recounting was much more thorough than the first, and they described him as a tall man who was built like a wrestler and wore a black hood and cape with a noose around his neck. The article that detailed this incident was headlined "Hooded Justice", which gave him the name he'd go by for many years to come.
In 1939 there was 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 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.
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 Nelson Gardner with the help of Laurence Schexnayder. Like the rest, Hooded Justice joined the group and fought crime as a team.
His sexual relationship with Gardner was soon known, and Larry Schexnayder tried to persuade him to be more cautious and suggested he tried to be closer to Sally Jupiter when in the public eye. He also tried to persuade Sally Jupiter to pretend to date him.
At the Minutemen Christmas Party that year, it was noted that he and Sally Jupiter had 'sort of' started dating, but Hollis Mason speculates 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, Sally 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 homosexuality, C.M. and H.J. voted her out as the revelation would damage the team's image. She was soon murdered by the Liquidator and Sally held themselves responsible. While investigating the Liquidator's murders, C.M. and H.J. were after his traces in gay joints, before reaching his hideout. They found Sally, having already killed the Liquidator. After scolding them for their hypocrisy, she announced her wish to quit.
During the Senate Subcommittee hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee sometime around 1955, each Minuteman 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.
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 Mason suggested in Under the Hood that Hooded Justice probably chose to retire rather than reveal his identity (a simple matter for costumed heroes, since they only need to remove their masks).
It is later revealed that Hooded Justice was killed by the Nite Owl in 1955 after the latter believed he killed several children. Rolf Muller was later revealed not to be Hooded Justice, but instead, the real killer of those boys and was a Nazi criminal who raped and tortured young children including Silhouette's sister. The Comedian found Rolf and killed him while finding a photo of him and a boy named Jacob (perhaps the real Hooded Justice), and orchestrated events to flush Hooded Justice out, only to have Nite Owl kill him.
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 disappeared at the height of the Communist witchhunts. It may be that Hooded Justice feared that, since East Germany was then a Communist country, he would immediately be targeted as a Communist sympathizer (despite apparently holding far-right-wing values - see Personality, below). The New Frontiersman's article takes this further, suggesting that Hooded Justice had been working for Communists.
An article revealed that a body, tentatively identified as that of Rolf Müller, washed up on the coast of Boston some three months after his disappearance. The body was badly decomposed and had been shot through the head. If Hooded Justice really was Rolf Müller, and the body was really his, then this suggests that he may have been assassinated. The assassins are never identified, although The New Frontiersman suggests that Müller may have been killed by his Communist superiors.
Some time later (although prior to 1960), Adrian Veidt looked into Hooded Justice's disappearance when researching his crime-fighter predecessors. He learned that a government operative, Eddie Blake, attempted to un-earth 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.
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?"
He is the only costumed vigilante whose real name or identity is never revealed in the series.
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.
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.
The sixth episode of the HBO series answered the largest unsolved mystery in Watchmen Canon: who is behind the Hooded Justice mask? The common presumption is that, like the rest of the Minutemen, Hooded Justice is white. It’s even depicted as such in the campy show-within-the-show, American Hero Story.
However, it turns out that the man behind Hooded Justice is Will Reeves, Angela Abar’s grandfather. Reeves joined the NYPD to fight for justice only to be met with racism immediately: the Chief refuses to shake his hand at the badge ceremony. After Officer Reeves tries to arrest a white man for throwing a Molotov cocktail into a Jewish deli, the other cops let the man go. Later, they follow Reeves down the road, asking him to go for a drink with them. When he refuses, they follow him, kidnap him and take him to a park where they put a hood over his head and a rope around his neck. His fellow cops lynch him, leaving Reeves within an inch of his life before cutting him down as a warning for “getting into white folk’s business.” While walking home, traumatized, Will Reeves sees a group of men attacking two people in an alleyway. He dons the hood and rope used to lynch him and becomes Hooded Justice, the first vigilante in the Watchmen Canon.
True to legend, Will engages in a sexual relationship with Captain Metropolis. Metropolis says to HJ after an intimate moment that HJ will have to keep the mask on outside their relationship because "the others are not as tolerant as I am" about Will being Black. It is furthermore implied that the two don’t share the same vision for the Minutemen. Reeves asks Gardner for help taking down the Klan and foiling their plan to coerce violence out of black people through hypnotism. Gardner interrupts him at the press conference instead to talk about a more cartoonish villan and a recent advertising deal. Later, when Hooded Justice calls Captain Metropolis from a payphone to request the Minutemen as backup against Cyclops (a secret Klan-aligned white supremacist group), Captain Metropolis refuses, telling HJ "I’m afraid you’ll have to solve Black unrest all on your own."
- "Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship" (AHS)
- "Little Fear of Lightning" (AHS)
- "This Extraordinary Being" (flashback)
- The author's notes reveal that this costume was originally designed for a Minuteman called Brother Night who claimed to have occult powers.
- In the movie, Hooded Justice is only heard to speak one line, "You little bastard!" His inflection and accent are not American, they could perhaps be German, but they could also be upper-class British or even Irish, adding a further level of ambiguity.
- 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.