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Hollis Mason was the original Nite Owl, one of the first superheroes and a member of the Minutemen.

Biography

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. 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 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.

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.

Minutemen Era

After the Comedian attempted to rape Sally Jupiter, Hollis supported his expulsion. He would continue to fight 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.

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

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.

Retirement and Passing the Torch

Mason retired in May 1962 to open an auto business and write his memoir of his crime-fighting exploits Soon after Hollis retired, Daniel Dreiberg sought him out and asked if he could use the name and persona of Nite Owl to fight crime. Mason acceded and Dreiberg became the second Nite Owl.

Under the Hood

In 1963, Hollis Mason wrote a tell-all memoir about his time as a superhero called Under the Hood. In it, he made some bold and sometimes unfounded claims about his other teammates - at one point claiming that Hooded Justice, who he didn't realize was a black man with a specific vendetta against racism, had "openly [expressed] approval for the activities of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.” Mason's book also popularized the theory that Hooded Justice was actually the communist spy Rolf Muller, whose body surfaced in Boston Harbor around the time of Reeves' sudden retirement.

Mason's book would be used as one of the primary sources for the 2019 television series American Hero Story: Minutemen.

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.

Trivia

  • Agent Dale Petey, in a memo to the FBI, speculated that Hollis Mason could have been homosexual himself and covered it up with homophobia based on the fact that Mason was never publicly known to be with a woman and died a bachelor.

References

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