The Fate of Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis

Occulted Watchmen: The True Fate of 'Hooded Justice' & 'Captain Metropolis' is a paper by James Gifford, originally published in 1999. The paper presents a theory that both Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis did not die (as is alluded to in the supplementary material presented with Watchmen), but are alive and well in 1985, and further that they appear together in a panel in Chapter I: At Midnight, All the Agents....

The article presents evidence (much of it conjectural) that two men depicted in the foreground of panel I:25:4 (that is, Chapter I, page 25, panel 4) are Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis, then suggests a theory concerning how they have survived despite widespread belief that they are dead. In particular, it suggests that the pair faked their own deaths in order to retire. Hooded Justice's identity as Rolf Müller is assumed.

The paper makes repeated suggestions that, due to the many details that lend credence to the theory, that it must have been an intentional reference by Dave Gibbons (and possibly Alan Moore as well). However, as reported in Rich Johnston's column Lying in the Gutters, when Dave Gibbons was asked about this theory he replied "That wasn't our intention, but it's such an interesting and plausible theory that I'm reluctant to deny it!" Johnston suggested it was fate conspiring against the creators.[1]

This theory was disproved with the release of the HBO limited series Watchmen, which revealed that Hooded Justice was secretly a black police officer named Will Reeves, and that Captain Metropolis is confirmed to have died in a traffic collision. However, the DC timeline and the TV series timeline may be different, so this theory may still hold credence.

The remainder of this article is adapted from excerpts of the original paper. A link to an updated version of the paper is included at the bottom of this article.

The True Fate of Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis

By what we are told in Watchmen, mostly in the documentary material at the end of each chapter, the costumed heroes Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis are long gone from the scene at the time of the primary story line. According to the overt statements of the story, Hooded Justice vanished in 1955, possibly murdered by the Comedian, while Captain Metropolis was decapitated in a car accident in 1974. The truth — that is, the correct interpretation — may be one of Watchmen's last unsolved mysteries.

These claims and their supporting evidence are somewhat peculiar when compared with the described fates of the other costumed heroes of the novel. We know (and see unfold) the fates of the major characters. Most of the minor characters, the other first-generation, Minutemen-era costumed heroes, have their stories take place off-page and in passing mentions, but their fates are unambiguously described. Dollar Bill was killed in a bank robbery, Silhouette was murdered by a jealous rival, and Mothman was committed to an asylum. Each of these claims is convincing in itself and easy to take at face value, as it can be assumed there were witnesses, evidence etc. to confirm the two deaths.

The cases of Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis are less convincingly stated, and there may be a good reason we are never fully convinced of their demises: because both men are actually alive and well at the time of the story’s present day, and in fact appear within the present-day storyline.

It is made clear in the various end materials that Hooded Justice was homosexual and probably a sadist who derived his pleasure from rough treatment of male partners. It is also plainly put that Nelson Gardner and Hooded Justice had an extended homosexual relationship, including squabbling “like an old married couple” by 1948. [9:EM:p3] Although the publicist for the original hero group had Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre) parade around in public with Hooded Justice, he comments that it is getting harder to cover up for the two gay heroes. [ibid.]

The Contradictory Panel

Restaurant 2.png
The contradictory panel (1:25:4)
Panel 1:25:4 is set in October 1985 in Rafael's, an upscale restaurant and focuses on two older, well-built, apparently homosexual and openly affectionate men, with the nominal action of the panel—part of the conversation between Dan and Laurie—relegated to a background detail. The men are of the right age, near 70. The man on the left closely resembles the photo of Rolf Müller seen on 3:EM:p12, and the man on the right is an excellent match for all images of Captain Metropolis; see for example panel 2:10:4.

The most likely interpretation of this panel is that these two characters faked their own deaths in order to return to anonymity, and closure on what would otherwise be unresolved elements in a notably well-resolved tale.

Dave Gibbons is an exceptionally careful artist and a case can be made that no stroke in the many pages of Watchmen is unconsidered or casually drawn. He (and perhaps Moore) also must have had a reason for framing this image as it is, with the two men so strongly highlighted and all the other content, the progress of the overt storyline included, relegated to background images. There are very few other panels in the novel in which characters of no story significance are so prom­inently presented while the flowing story elements are minimized to make room for them.

It is also unlikely to be a coincidence that Gibbons drew the two men's ties with small lighter spots in them, given them each the appearance of removed domino masks - the other three bow ties visible in this image (those of the waiters and the man sitting behind and to the right of 'Nelson') and elsewhere in the novel do not feature these spots. Furthermore, the figure at right is wearing a red vest while his jacket has silvery panels resembling wings; Captain Metropolis's costume was mostly red, with gold wings on the chest. The figure at left has a substantial mustache; very nearly the only other mustache seen in the novel is on Rolf Müller.

As for context, the in-book date for this dinner is October 13, 1985, the anniversary of Hooded Justice's first full, in-costume appearance, at a 1938 supermarket robbery. Considering Alan Moore's extremely close attention to detail, it is not hard to imagine this is no coincidence. It is highly possible that the two former adventurers are having a dinner celebration of Hooded Justice's "coming out" anniversary.

This great number of collateral details makes it a high likelihood that this panel must be considered as portraying the older Hooded Justice (very likely Rolf Müller) and Captain Metropolis/Nelson Gardner... alive in 1985.

It could be argued, though, that this panel reflects the irony of Laurie's words, and the overtly gay couple serves as a reflection upon how Laurie may really be feeling - everyone else can enjoy their relationship, while she cannot.

The Question of Why

If the assumption about panel 1:25:4 is accepted, the reader has to consider why the two characters would behave in this manner.

It is not difficult to trace Hooded Justice's choice of action; given the demands of HUAC and his unwillingness to expose either his name or his distasteful lifestyle, it was easier to remove the mask and disappear in plain sight.

It is more difficult to assess Nelson Gardner's actions. In 1974 he would have been in his early fifties and probably longing for a quiet retirement. Since he had exposed his true identity to a congressman, he could not disappear as had Hooded Justice. His personal life would be invaded and his homosexuality likely exposed, sooner or later. So a gruesome accident leaving an unidentifiable body would be just the ticket for him to make a quiet exit.

Creator Response

Dave Gibbons responded via email to the theory, and stated that it had not been the intention of the creators, however, he enthusiastically responded that it was such a well written and convincing theory that he did not wish to argue against it.

The writer of the email concurringly argued that it was one of the many accomplishments of Watchmen, even though unintentional.


This article is taken from a limited-circulation paper first published in 1999. An updated version of the original may be found Here.

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