Watchmen Wiki
For other versions of Nite Owl, see Nite Owl (disambiguation).

Hollis T. Mason was a former police officer of the New York City Police Department and the first Nite Owl. Mason retired from vigilantism in 1962 and wrote an an autobiography, Under the Hood, that provided dramatic insights into the world of superheroes.


Early life

Life in Mason Farm

Hollis T. Mason was born into a family of Irish immigrant farmers in 1916 who had settled in the state of Montana.[1][2] Named after his grandfather, Hollis Wordsworth Mason, who also saw to it that his grandson received a proper moral, conservative and god-fearing upbringing. Instilling in him a sense of what was good and just in the world which would be a part of him for the rest of his life.[3]

Moving to New York

When Mason was 12 years old, his father decided to take him and his sister Liantha away from the family farm in Montana and move to New York City where his father found work at Vernon's Auto Repairs. Longing to go back to Montana, where his grandfather had stayed, and knowing that his father felt guilty for leaving, he'd often say that he would rather return there than stay in the city whenever he ended up squabbling with his father.[2][3]

Ride of the Valkyries

Even so, Mason assisted his father with work and at times ran errands for the owner of the repair shop, Moe Vernon, who in turn would come to enjoy the company of the young man. One day they found Vernon sitting alone, listening to Richard Wagner, wearing a pair of fake breasts and tells them how his wife had left him and had cheated on him for two years. Mason and his father, most likely due to the bizarre nature of the scene before them, begin to laugh at him. Though they were quick to stop and apologize to the man for doing so, he in turn forgives them but ends up taking his own life later the same day.[2]

Becoming a Police Officer

Comic Book Heroism

At 14 years of age, Hollis found himself stricken by his math teacher, Ms. Albertine, who was engaged to an English teacher at the same school by the name of Mr. Richardson. He would fantasize about heroically saving her from kidnappers and then marrying her afterwards. Hollis was also fond of "pulp stories" involving Doc Savage and the Shadow, especially alluring to him was the world in which they lived where it seemed that morality, in his mind, worked as it was supposed to. Those who were wholly good punishing the ones who did evil, despite the violence depicted in these stories and supposed repressed sexual urges he thought it looked like a perfect world. The sense of justice instilled in Mason by his grandfather along with this new idea of how the world should be, spurred him on to train as a police officer.[3]

Discovering Hooded Justice

He joined the New York City Police Department in the year 1938, at one point snatching a Superman comic from the hands of a neighborhood youngster. After reading through it back-to-back eight times in a row, Hollis' childhood fantasies of grand heroism would return to him. Mason wondered if such heroes could really exist and then two weeks later, he heard of the exploits of the real-life vigilante Hooded Justice.[3]

Becoming Nite Owl

Hollis spent the better part of three months designing his suit, trying to come up with a name for his vigilante persona and training as often as possible in the police gymnasium. Adding a strict regime of going to bed at 9:00 p.m., waking at 5:00 a.m. and heading to the gymnasium for training before donning his badge and uniform. Because of this and for declining all invitations he received from his fellow officers to go with them for drinks after work he was nicknamed "Night Owl" by another officer at the precinct, which he then modified and adopted as the name for his new vigilante persona.

As a New York City police officer, Hollis had urged to be assigned a route that would have him patrol some of the more troubled areas of the city. Then, as his vigilante suit was ready, he begun wearing it underneath his regular police uniform. During his first outing as the Nite Owl in 1939, he'd been struggling with a violent drunk who was wielding a knife. In the scuffle Hollis' hood had been partially pulled off of his head which ended up completely blocking the view out of one of his eyes, after this he decided to fix his mask in place against his head by using spirit gum.[4]

Minutemen Era

After the Comedian attempted to rape Sally Jupiter, Hollis supported his expulsion.[5] He stopped colorful criminals like the Screaming Skull and went on to fight Axis operatives including Captain Axis.

The cover-up did not help the decline of the Minutemen and they disbanded in 1949.[6]

The 1950s were a depressing period for him with minor and sordid cases. The era was dominated with a sense of impending catastrophe.[7]

In 1960 he attended a Red Cross charity event for the India famine; there he met the new adventurers, Ozymandias and Doctor Manhattan. The feeling made him feel obsolete and ponder his next steps.[7]


He retired in 1962 and a ceremony was given in his honor with dinner, and he was given a statue engraved with the words "In Gratitude".[8] That night, he also met Doctor Manhattan, whom he told that he will spend his retirement repairing cars. Manhattan told him about his plans to produce lithium for simpler, electric cars, making Hollis once more feel obsolete.[7]

Before retiring, he bought himself a new apartment and a building for his auto business where he moved with his dog, Phantom.

Soon after Hollis retired, Daniel Dreiberg sought out Hollis in the mid-1960s and asked if he could use the name and persona of Nite Owl to fight crime. Hollis met Daniel and was far too impressed by Daniel's technologies and ideas to deny him the mantle of Nite Owl (which Hollis confesses in his book was a slightly idiotic name).[7]

In the 1960s, Hollis, Byron Lewis, and Nelson Gardner had a reunion at Sally Jupiter's house. He mentioned to them about the young man who asked for his blessing to continue his work. He asked Sally's daughter, Laurie, if she read his book, infuriating her mother.[9]

Events of Watchmen

Dan Dreiberg often would visit Hollis each Saturday for beer sessions and talk about their past careers. Mason believed that Dreiberg was a "better Nite Owl" than he had been and was sorry about the Keene Act. One night he told him about the meeting with Screaming Skull.[10] The next week Dan visited Hollis and saw on TV what happened to Doctor Manhattan on Benny Anger's show, the accusations of causing cancer to those around him, and teleporting everyone away in his anger; while he seemed to not like Dr. Manhattan, Hollis seemed sorry about the way the journalists treated him.[11]

Mason beaten by the knot-tops

After Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II break Rorschach out of prison on Halloween night, the Knot Tops, led by Derf, hear of the news. Angered by it, the entire group follows the suggestion of a gang member who mistakenly believes that Mason is the same Nite Owl that had participated in the prison break. Mistaking the group for trick-or-treaters, Mason opens his door to them. They attack en masse. Mason gets in a few solid hits but is beaten down. Ignoring the protests of some of the Knot Tops, Derf kills Mason with the very statue that was given to him as an acknowledgment and reward for his service as a costumed adventurer. As it happens, he likely would have been killed upon the execution of Adrian Veidt's plot anyway, so his earlier murder makes it easier for Nite Owl II to stomach Veidt's actions.


Hollis as the Nite Owl

Hollis Mason was an "old school crimefighter", a real "Boy Scout" in the eyes of Captain Metropolis. He was quite possibly the most decent and "normal" of the masked adventurers. While many of his colleagues have psychological issues with regards to society, race, gender, or just simple megalomania, Mason is apparently free of these traits, and judging by the excerpts from his book, is something of a voice of reason in the world of the costumed adventurers. By all accounts, he was just a police officer who felt he needed to go a bit beyond the normal line of duty in order to make a more significant impact on crime - though in Under the Hood he speculates that his strict moral upbringing and love of pulp comics may have been a factor, at least in his initial choice to become a policeman. Both in-person and in his book his words tend to be kind and temperate, with a slight tendency towards light-hearted self-deprecating humor.

Mason was a staunch conservative and was an avid reader of the New Frontiersman, which explains where Mason got the idea that Hooded Justice was a communist subversive named Rolf Müller who was conveniently found murdered shortly after HJ's disappeared. There is no proof to support this claim. Furthermore, Mason made it clear in subsequent interviews that he knew of Hooded Justice's same-sex relationship with Nelson Gardner, aka Captain Metropolis, a relationship Mason designated as deviant.[12] Mason’s counterargument to anti-vigilante sentiment counted non-normative sexuality as a public image problem comparable to fascism.[13] Though it is believed that Mason was a closeted homosexual himself because Mason was never known to be with a woman and died a bachelor.[12]

Despite this, he seemed to be well-liked by most of his teammates and got along well with most of them, despite sometimes being all too aware of their faults and flaws. His enmity seems to be saved for the Comedian, whom he never forgave for the attempted rape of Sally Jupiter, and whose brutal means of crimefighting proved too much for Mason to reconcile himself with. He spoke against him in their council to expel him.


  • Expert Combatant: Mason was a highly skilled hand-to-hand combatant. He fought with a boxing style, and could put a lot of power into his punches. He also mentions that he has a mean right hook, which he used to defeat the likes of Captain Axis. Even in his declining years, Mason was still able to hold his own against the Knot Tops for a while, though he was ultimately overwhelmed.
  • Skilled Investigator: As a police officer, Mason was a highly skilled detective and highly experienced crime investigator.


Initially, Mason experimented with a cape but eventually opted for a streamlined outfit with free arms and legs. He was protecting his chest and abdomen with a tough leather tunic while his leather over chainmail hood protected his head. His briefs were made of light chainmail. A domino mask concealed his identity, initially attached on his face with a string, but then stuck with resin.[4]