The Minutemen, formerly known as the New Minutemen and later the Minutemen Franchise LLC, were the premier group of superheroes throughout the 1940s. They were founded in 1939, largely through the actions of Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis), Sally Jupiter (the first Silk Spectre) and Jupiter's agent Laurence Schexnayder. Schexnayder also provided the group's publicity. After several public controversies, the group disbanded in 1949.
The crime-fighter Captain Metropolis contacted Silk Spectre and her manager, Larry Schexnayder about joining forces with all "mystery men". Metropolis provided his headquarters, an incomplete and abandoned malting factory on the Hudson River. As the World War II was starting in Europe, advertisements were published in newspapers, attracting the interest of adventurers who wished to fight for the country.
Sometime around December of the same year, the team held their very first annual Christmas party.
The Golden Age
Because of their name and the war, Metropolis and Schexnayder wished their image to be that of "modern patriots". They worked to organize their first mission together that would grab attention and publicity: to expose Italian weapon smugglers. Spectre diverted the guard while Owl, Silhouette and Comedian infiltrated the warehouse. C.P and H.J. came with an army tank, driven by Bill while simultaneously Mothman flew and threw a smoke grenade in the warehouse. 
However the information was not verified. The smugglers actually smuggled chinese fireworks, cherry bombs and candles. Mothman's grenade fell right into the crate creating a havoc of explosions and fireworks. Metropolis allowed the smugglers to go, in exchange for their silence, threatening them if they ever spoke about their blunder. In a press conference, Metropolis claimed that his team took out enemies of the nation, which began the Minutemen's reign as patriotic heroes in the radio shows and the front pages.
The earliest criminals thwarted by the Minutemen were gangs dressed up as pirates or ghosts, who found it hilarious to perpetrate heists while wearing costumes. Regardless, with Schexnayder as their manager, he kept track of their popularity and appearances in newspapers, radio shows, and publicity events, allowing the Minutemen's popularity to sour. He attended to their personal lives, including arrangements for those of the team who needed help with living expenses, like young Eddie Blake. He also suggested targeting only big time cases, like saving elderly women, and beating crime bosses, such as Moloch. This disappointed some of the heroes like Silhouette who felt they were fighting for something more and so continued to work independently.
In 1940, while in the process of robbing a military weapon train, they stopped Moloch and apprehended the Solar Mirror Weapon which he employed for heists. The Minutemen continued to be his frequent enemies, often foiled his operations and sent him to prison... only to begin anew when he'd escape.
That year, the Comedian left the group, after attempting to rape Sally Jupiter, reducing the group's membership to seven. Around that time, the Minutemen were immortalized by the publication of a comic book which promoted their heroism, patriotism, and moral values.
When America entered the war, the two female team-members appeared in Pin-Up photo shoots to entertain soldiers and inspire un-enlisted Americans to recruitment. The remaining Minutemen actively fought crime throughout the war years, with their peak period of activity ranging from 1939 to 1946.
Mason recounted that one of the big problems they had faced was the absence of costumed criminals. The Minutemen had hammered costumed villains to such an extent in the 1940s that new criminals stopped continuing the trend. He claimed that stopping criminals without costumes felt kind of stupid and embarrassing, but there had never been as many costumed criminals as heroes. He says crooks turned in their costumes along with their careers, but some opted for a less extroverted and more profitable approach. He called them the new breed of villains who had colorful names but were ordinary men in business suits who ran drug and prostitution rackets, and although they still caused a lot of trouble, they were no fun to fight.
In 1946, Silhouette was expelled for having a lesbian relationship and was later killed by the Liquidator. When the villain arrived to New York the Minutemen made a coordinated effort to locate him. Eventually he was found and killed by Silk Spectre, who felt guilty about the death of Silhouette; and announced her retirement. Dollar Bill was also killed while attempting to intervene at a bank robbery when his cape became caught in the revolving doors of the entrance. Also that year Sally Jupiter married Schexnayder. Without Larry's management, the remaining Minutemen lost coordination and met sparingly. Only King of Skin and Moloch showed up now and then. Nite Owl and Mothman privately continued Silhouette's work.
The Minutemen's finest hour would come during those declining years. Japanese saboteurs planned to destroy the Statue of Liberty, Two mysterious figures disguised as comic book characters Bluecoat and Scout warned the Minutemen about that plan. Captain Metropolis coordinated the assault to Liberty Island, which they reached with his private boat. After Mothman dropped a satchel from above, this caused enough diversion for the team to disembark. Covered under C.M. and H.J.'s fire, Nite Owl with the mysterious helpers fought their way into the Statue. As the Japanese old man fell dead, he covered the makeshift device with enriched uranium, so Scout uncovered it with his bare hands. The Statue was saved but the boy fell sick. Although that final feat was the most heroic for the Minutemen, the government decided to bury the embarrassing event from the press. Captain Metropolis, who was a warrior at heart, felt devastated by the cover-up, and this was the final blow to the Minutemen.
Things were starting to get serious, but Mason noted how funny it was that the more serious things got, the better the Comedian seemed to do. About ten years younger than the other masked vigilantes, the Comedian was entering his physical prime while the others were starting to feel old. He was the only one of them still showing up on the front pages, and possibly through his government connections, was turning into some sort of patriotic symbol.
In 1949, the remaining four members of the group, all tired of it, decided to disband the organization. They still remained individually active in the 1950s, but they were largely forgotten. Hollis Mason later described the '50s as cold and bleak, both for himself and for masked adventurers in general.
In 1952 the remaining active masked adventurers had to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and were forced to reveal their true identities to an FBI lawyer and sign an oath of loyalty. The Comedian, under president Hoover, was secretly present during those interrogations. This action didn't present any immediate problems for most of them, with Captain Metropolis' outstanding military record and Hollis' service in the police force, but Mothman had more difficulty because of left-wing friends he cultivated while a student. He was cleared, but the investigations were both lengthy and ruthless, and Hollis speculates that the pressure may have prompted his drinking problem that later contributed to his mental ill-health. Hooded Justice refused to divulge his real identity to HUAC and simply disappeared: he was never heard from again and may have simply retired.
The final end of the Minutemen even as a loose association came with the sudden appearance of Doctor Manhattan on the world stage in 1960, which changed everything. A few months later Nite Owl and some of the other masked vigilantes met Dr. Manhattan at a Red Cross event. Mothman was also in attendance but had a bad shake and not long afterwards would be entered into a sanitorium for his drinking problem and mental illness. That night Nite Owl realized that he was forty-six and feeling old, and decided to retire.
Critics of the Minutemen have leveled the accusation that they were simply performing street theater while atrocities were being committed overseas during World War II. Despite this accusation, they were very popular with the American public. Even after the group disbanded in 1949, the concept of the costumed adventurer became embedded into the American psyche.
The second generation of costumed adventurers, inspired by the actions of the Minutemen, began to appear. Ozymandias first appeared in 1958, two years before the Red Cross event where Hollis Mason decided to retire; Laurie Juspeczyk, the daughter of Sally Jupiter, would ultimately follow into her mother's footsteps and ultimately became the second Silk Spectre. Even as Mason wrote Under the Hood in 1962, a new young crimefighter named Dan Dreiberg inspired by his career wrote him a fan letter formally asking his permission to use the "Nite Owl" name as a new masked vigilante. Mason met with Dreiberg, gave him his blessing, and they became good friends. Captain Metropolis' career continued sporadically, and despite his declining years he tried his hardest to stay fit for duty through vigorous exercises. In 1966 he even went so far as to try to organize the second generation of costumed adventurers into a new team he called the "Crimebusters", modeled on the Minutemen organization, which he himself had first proposed organizing. The attempt at an actual organization failed, though the individual careers of the second generation of superheroes continued up until the signing of the Keene Act in 1977, which outlawed vigilantism with the exception of those in service of the United States government.
DC Universe Rebirth
In DC Universe Rebirth, Wally West attempts to contact Johnny Thunder, the only known surviving member of the Justice Society of America, a group of costumed superheroes who served in World War II. The elderly Johnny is believed insane by everyone, but he is convinced its members still survive, and Wally confirms this to him. Before being pulled out of reality due to Johnny's panicked state, he pleads with him to locate them. During his ramblings, Johnny Thunder alludes to both the Keene Act and the Minutemen.
One of the founders of the Minutemen, Nelson Gardner, originally suggested that a group of heroes pooling their resources could be more effective than a handful of individuals. As an ex-Marine lieutenant, Captain Metropolis was motivated by ending "social ills" such as promiscuity and anti-war demonstrations. Gardner insisted that his motivations were not selfish or fanatically conservative.
A teenage "thug" armed with a baseball bat. He was fighting the criminals around the New York harbor and always made sure that it was worth his time. There was a word that the Comedian stripped the criminals he captured from their money and kept them himself. When he joined the Minutemen he complained that publicity was not enough and he was looking forward to real money.
The Comedian was noteworthy for the rape attempt against Silk Spectre. Most of his colleagues voted whether he should be expelled, such as Hollis Mason who was often critical of him. As the Comedian told them, the Minutemen were all he had, however, he pursued a solo career after that.
As the first costumed vigilante, Hooded Justice utilized sheer brutality to stop a bank robbery as his first act of heroism. His identity was never revealed, but due to his large, bodybuilder type figure, many conjectured that HJ was actually former circus strong-man Rolf Müller.
After HJ stopped her rape at the hands of the Comedian, Silk Spectre (Sally Jupiter) posed as his girlfriend to calm suspicions that Justice was a homosexual sadist and protect the image of the Minutemen in the 1940s.
When the Minutemen began to be questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee, Hooded Justice vanished, leaving many to conjecture that he died at the hands of the Comedian. Rolf's badly decomposing body was found in a river three years later, but the circumstances of his death, and the possibility that he actually was Hooded Justice were never proven. Then again, due to the East German background of Rolf, some suspect that if he was indeed Rolf, he may have had communist ties and been assassinated either by the US government (possibly using the Comedian himself, but perhaps not), or by his own Red superiors because they felt he was becoming too high-profile. Mason didn't like the implications of any of these lines of speculation, so he simply left the fate of Hooded Justice as an open mystery.
Ursula Zandt, a Jewish Austrian immigrant who escaped the rise of Nazism in Austria, joined the Minutemen as Silhouette. Ursula wanted the team to do something meaningful, like her exposure of a child pornography ring; Schexnayder insisted that the Minutemen publicity should be connected with more positive and patriotic concepts like "saving the grandma" and not "sad children". This policy made Zandt to doubt about the real meaning of the team, which was mainly image, publicity, and money. Ursula often baited Sally Jupiter about her Polish roots, which Jupiter outright denied.
She was later expelled from the group when it became public knowledge that she was a lesbian in 1946. Six weeks after her public outage and expulsion from the team, she was killed alongside her lover by an old adversary who sought revenge.
After being inspired by an article on Hooded Justice's first appearance in the New York Gazette, Hollis Mason, an average policeman, became the first Nite Owl. He replied to C.M.'s advertisement and was accepted to the Minutemen. Initially, he was attracted to Silhouette, whom he considered the only person who knew why she was fighting. He helped to lead the team for many years.
Once Doctor Manhattan became a public mainstay, Mason retired from hero work to open a garage, passing on the Nite Owl mantle to Dan Dreiberg, a long-time fan and eventually wrote a tell-all book about their endeavors called Under the Hood. His book contained the first public mention of the Comedian's rape of Sally Jupiter.
Upon the advice of her agent, Laurence Schexnayder, Sally Juspeczyk quit her career in burlesque dancing/waitressing and became a crimefighter. After one of the first meetings of the Minutemen, Sally "Jupiter," as she preferred to be called to mask her Polish heritage, was sexually assaulted by the Comedian. Hooded Justice intervened, resulting in bad blood between the two men. Sally later fell in love with the Comedian, even having a child by him while still married to Schexnayder, eventually becoming the root cause of their divorce.
Her dancing background and acceptance of pornography-style comics drawn of her are indications that she is a victim of low self-esteem as well as a woman who desired aggressive male attention.
The original Silk Spectre trained her daughter, Laurel Jane, early on to take up the mantle and be a better hero than she could ever be. She eventually retired to a rest home in California, letting her daughter take care of the crimefighting.
Dollar Bill was originally a star college athlete from Kansas, employed as an in-house superhero by one of the major, but unnamed, national banks. While attempting to stop a raid upon one of his employer's banks, his cloak became entangled in the bank's revolving door and he was shot dead before he could free it. In Under the Hood, Hollis Mason's tell-all book, Mason described Dollar Bill as an honest, friendly young man, and rued the stupidity of capes because of the incident. Interestingly enough, Dollar Bill's clear commercial motivations (public identity, hired by a bank) are never commented on by his peers or the subsequent generation of vigilantes who all seem to regard him as a worthy hero – even Rorschach, who condemns Ozymandias for his commercialization, laments Dollar Bill's untimely death.
Something of a minor character, Byron Lewis was one of the costumed adventurers that appeared after the appearance of Hooded Justice. Lewis used special wings to glide in the air while battling crime. Lewis was frightened by the idea of the Second World War. He was one of the four Minutemen to remain on the team after the deaths of Dollar Bill and the Silhouette, the Comedian's expulsion, and the Silk Spectre's retirement.
Lewis was investigated by HUAC, and had difficulty clearing his name due to several left-wing friends. The pressure from these investigations is considered to have precipitated his alcoholism and subsequent mental health problems that eventually consigned him to a sanatorium in New England. He is not a main focus of the storyline, but appears in flashbacks, at one point reduced in later years to fragile sanity, unnerving the second Silk Spectre. He is regarded fondly by most of the Minutemen, and the first Nite Owl sends Dreiberg to visit him, uncostumed, on his behalf.
The decline of the "masked vigilantes" in the 1950s mirrored the real-life "lost age" of comic books between the Golden Age and Silver age (sometimes called the "Atomic Age"), when the original superheroes of the late 1930s and war years declined in popularity, and even faced external attacks from congressional hearings, spurred by the book Seduction of the Innocent by psychologist Fredric Wertham.