Hollis T. Mason was a former police officer and the first Nite Owl. He retired from vigilantism in 1962 and wrote an an autobiography, Under the Hood, that provided dramatic insights into the world of superheroes.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Personality
- 3 Abilities
- 4 Equipment
- 5 Trivia
- 6 References
Life in Mason Farm
Hollis Mason was born into a family of Irish immigrant farmers in 1916 who had settled in the state of Montana. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Discovering Hooded Justice
He joined the New York 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.
Officer Mason had been present for a police operation at a factory near Battery Park. The vigilante known as Hooded Justice had cornered a group of notorious murderers in the building. The police had been sent there to handle the situation. A badly beaten body of one of the criminals fell from a window, smashing the top of a patrol car below. At that point, the police rushed in. Mason saw Hooded Justice fleeing the scene and decided to look the other way rather than apprehend him.
Becoming Nite Owl
He spent the better part of 3 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. Adopting a modified version of the nickname as the name for his new vigilante persona.
At one point while he was still in the middle of creating his own vigilante character, Hollis had been present during a police operation taking place around a factory near Battery Park. The Hooded Justice had tracked and cornered a group of notorious murderers in the building and the police had been sent there to handle the situation. Later, the badly beaten body of the last killer fell from a window and smashed into the top of a patrol car below. At some point the police had entered the factory and Hollis had seen the Hooded Justice fleeing the scene and decided not to apprehend him.
When joining the New York police force 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.
Later on, while on patrol as an officer, he one night spotted a van with armed robbers. Deciding to act, he retreated, took off his police uniform and donned his vigilante costume. As the Nite Owl he ran towards the van, jumped inside and hijacked it from the robbers. This act of bravery quickly caught the eye of the news media, especially since the interest in "costumed protectors" was at its height, shining much attention and press to his following exploits.
While World War II was starting in Europe, Mason saw in the Daily News an advertisement by Captain Metropolis and Silk Spectre for recruiting costumed adventurers to fight for America. He went to the audition. He was very shy and nervous, however, his exploits were already known and he was chosen on the spot to join the Minutemen, a "masked adventurer" league.
Four months later, in mid-1939 they had their first mission, expose Italians smuggling weapons, which was botched, as the saboteurs turned out to be firework smugglers. Mason had double feelings about whether he should report their blunter to the police, but fearing the consequences he played along with the public who hailed them as patriotic heroes.
He established a close friendship with Ursula and they met in Madison Deli; against their internal rules, he revealed to her his full identity and job and gave her his police box number. This proved to be her salvation as she was heavily injured when she called him. Instead of notifying his colleagues, Mason wanted to be her savior himself, so he abandoned his post and as Nite Owl, he took her to Gretchen Slovak, "her doctor". The next day he paid her a visit, and there he found out that Gretchen was actually her lover.
Around 1946, after the end of the War, Ursula's lesbianism was exposed and the Minutemen voted her out, although Mason voted in favor of her. He announced their decision to her but they would continue to work together. She handed him a file with murdered kids to look up in the police files. Two weeks later Hollis sent her what he could gather. Days later he received one last call from her in Marina Bay.
Mason worked with Lewis in his secret laboratory with maintaining or improving his flying suit. There they learned the death of Ursula Zandt and Gretchen. Lewis arranged for unmarked graves so that they wouldn't be defiled by haters. Soon after, and against police procedures, Nite Owl broke into their home and collected all evidence that could find along with Ursula's investigations. He realized that someone was already there before him. He and Lewis skimmed through their belongings and heard Gretchen's story from an audiotape.
The following days the two continued to work Ursula's case, patrolled and investigated for missing kids. He also attended Sally Jupiter's wedding to Larry Schexnayder.
When Japanese saboteurs planned to destroy the Statue of Liberty, Nite Owl led the mysterious helpers Bluecoat and Scout into the Statue while C.M. and H.J. covered the slopes. The three climbed up, but then Bluecoat was shot by his father and Scout unsheathed his knife and assaulted the old man. Nite Owl shot him in the head before the boy approached him. As the old man fell down, he covered the device with enriched uranium, so Scout uncovered it with his bare hands. The Statue was saved but the boy fell sick and Nite Owl took it to the others. For the following 6 days, the boy was in the hospital, tended by Mason when he wasn't on duty. Although the government decided to bury the event, Mason lied to him that the whole world knew about his heroism.
The cover-up did not help the decline of the Minutemen and they disbanded in 1949, which was the worst year of Mason's life. But life smiled to him with the birth of Laurie Juspeczyk and he fell in love again. Nonetheless, he continued Silhouette's work.
The '50s were a depressing period for him with minor and sordid cases. The era was dominated with a sense of impending catastrophe.
In 1955 his neighbor Mrs. Musante told him that Tino Musante Jr. had disappeared since visiting the Top Circus that morning. As Nite Owl he revisited that night the empty location and abandoned building where Mothman had found the dead kid years ago. This time, Nite Owl saw Hooded Justice moving there and followed him. He was soon assaulted and fell unconscious, but when he stood up, he found Tino tied up, but alive.
When he came to, he rescued Tino and returned to him to his family, and he continued looking for H.J.. 2 weeks later the mayor honored him for the rescue and gave him the Key to the City. Some of the children he had saved and some of his fellow police officers would give testimonials about his deeds. He didn't know however that he was fooled; believing that he had to face Hooded Justice, he cooperated one last time with Mothman, and after seeking help from Nelson, they sneaked into the tower of Freedom. Mothman saved his life when a crate fell on them, and when he came to, he saw H.J. holding Mothman, bleeding. With a foolish assault, he hurled on H.J. snapping his neck. Then Nelson showed up, crying, threatening them not to unmask him.
Happy that the child murderer was out, he continued ridding his neighborhood of criminals. He established a closer relationship with Sally Jupiter's family. He felt it harder to keep up and the arrival of other costumed adventurers and Dr. Manhattan with his real-life superpowers marked for him the end of his era.
Mason retired in May 1962 and a ceremony was given in his honor with dinner, and he was given a statue engraved with the words "In Gratitude". That night, he also met Doctor Manhattan, whom he told that he will spend his retirement repairing cars. Dr. Manhattan told him about his plans to produce lithium for simpler, electric cars, making Hollis once more feel obsolete.
Soon after Hollis retired, Dan 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).
While working as a car technician, Hollis decided to write a memoir of his crime-fighting exploits, Under the Hood. He felt it was a confessiοn he had to do to the public, regarding the covered-up, idealized image of the costumed adventurers. He found opposition from his ex-manager, Laurence Schexnayder and Norbert Veldon, the lover of Nelson Gardner. Despite the reactions, Mason was adamant about the factuality of the book. That was until one night the Comedian sneaked into his house and woke him up with a music record. He informed him that J. Edgar Hoover was not happy with the book, and as an example that some things should not be revealed, he explained to him that it was him who kidnapped Tino and posed as Hooded Justice wanting him disgraced; this led Mason to Hooded Justice, who was otherwise innocent, leading to his death. He also threatened him in case his book was anything else than a light-hearted reminiscence of the old days. Mason was convinced, although he didn't cut the part of the Comedian's rape attempt.
In the 1960s, Hollis, Byron and Nelson 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 teen Laurie if she read his book, infuriating her mother.
Events of Watchmen
Dan Dreiberg often would visit Mason 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 disappointed about the Keene Act forcing him and others to retire. One night he told him about the meeting with the now retired Screaming Skull. The next week Dan visited Hollis and saw on TV what happened to Dr. 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 shocked about the way the journalists treated him.
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.
A puppet bearing the likeness of Mason is used by Erika Manson's father to hide extortion money which he pays to corrupt cops who patrol the neighborhood.
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 presented in Watchmen. 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 Muller 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. Mason’s counterargument to anti-vigilante sentiment counted non-normative sexuality as a public image problem comparable to fascism. Despite this, he refused to join Dollar Bill in disparaging Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice for their sexual preference, and he didn't discriminate or resent Silhouette after learning she was a lesbian, in fact he was one of only two Minutemen to vote against her expulsion from the team after she was outed as a lesbian. While he himself remained a Bachelor during his life, he admitted to an intense attraction for Silhouette which prevented him from realizing she was a lesbian for too long.
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.
In Before Watchmen: Nite Owl, he is shown to have created and operated an Owl-themed land vehicle, similar to buggy or car. He is also seen storing several firearms in his lair from handguns to submachine guns and assault rifles, which he might use on special occasions when the mission called for it.
- He is a modified version of the various Blue Beetle characters created for Fox Feature Syndicate and later sold to Charlton Comics.
- While Alan Moore devised character notes for Dave Gibbons to work from, the artist provided a name and a costume design for Hollis Mason he had created when he was twelve.
- There is a minor inconsistency between his appearances in Before Watchmen: in Minutemen he auditioned along with other customed adventurers, before he (and Mothman), being accepted. In Dollar Bill, although several characters like Mothman are seen in the row, Nite Owl is not. Instead, he is seen beside Silk Spectre, Captain Metropolis and Larry Schexnayder.
- In the very first part of the opening to the movie adaptation, Nite Owl is seen punching a masked criminal in the face in front of two well-dressed individuals outside the Gotham City Opera House. This caused speculative debate as to the identity of the individuals. Fan theories point them out as Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce Wayne's parents. This could possibly mean that the masked criminal is actually Joe Chill and that by prevented the death of Bruce Wayne's parents, Nite Owl also prevented the creation of Batman. However, the presence of Batman posters in the background indicates that Batman exists as a fictional character in this universe, making this interpretation unlikely to be true.
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 02
- Under the Hood: Chapter I
- Under the Hood: Chapter II
- Under the Hood: Chapter III
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 01
- Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 03
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 04
- Under the Hood: Chapter IV
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 05
- Under the Hood: Chapter V
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen 06
- Chapter IX
- Chapter I
- Chapter III
- Under the Hood: Chapter I