||This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (September 2012)|
|First appearance||Watchmen #1 (1986)|
|Created by||Alan Moore
(based on Blue Beetle created by Steve Ditko)
|Alter ego||Hollis T. Mason
Wields and employs owl-themed gadgets and weaponry, including a flying/submarine owl shaped ship (that he affectionately refers to as "Archie")
Great athlete and hand-to-hand combatant
Nite Owl is the name of two fictional characters in the comic book limited series Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and published by DC Comics. The duo are modified analogues of the first two Blue Beetle characters (The second Nite Owl's background detail is created to parody Clark Kent) created for Fox Feature Syndicate and later sold to Charlton Comics. The second Nite Owl parodies the appearance of the iconic popular superhero Batman while the first parodies The Phantom. The second Nite Owl made it to number 115 on Wizard's Top 200 Comic Book Characters list.
Hollis T. Mason
Starting out as a New York City policeman in 1938, he was inspired by Action Comics' Superman and the real life exploits of Hooded Justice to take up the life of a vigilante. He was nicknamed "Nite Owl" for spending his evenings working out in the Police Gymnasiums as much as possible and going to bed at 9:00pm to rise for a 5:00am workout before donning his badge and uniform. His costume was designed to free his arms and legs while protecting his chest, abdomen and head with a tough leather tunic. With the tunic hiding his hair, a domino mask concealed his identity.
He became a member of the Minutemen, a "masked adventurer" league in mid-1939. Mason was an "old school" crimefighter, a real "Boy Scout" in the eyes of Captain Metropolis. He stopped colorful criminals like the Screaming Skull and went on to fight supposed Axis operatives including Captain Axis during World War II. He retired in May, 1962 to open an auto business and write his memoir of his crime-fighting exploits, Under the Hood. By reading Under the Hood, Silk Spectre II later learned of the Comedian's attempted rape of her mother Silk Spectre I.
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.
After Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II break Rorschach out of prison on Halloween night, the Knot-tops street gang are angered by what they perceive to be vigilantism. Under the influence of the drug KT-28, the Knot-tops believe Mason to be the same Nite Owl who had participated in the prison break and decide to attack him. Mistaking the group for trick-or-treaters, Mason opens his door to the gang and, although managing to put up a good fight, is killed with the very statue of himself that was given to him as an acknowledgment and reward for his service as a costumed adventurer.
Born in 1945, Daniel Dreiberg, a Batman-like figure, relied more upon technical wizardry and tools than toughness, which set him apart from his fellow costumed adventurers. All of his gadgets and costumes are based on an owl theme. He uses an owl-shaped flying vehicle nicknamed the "Owlship" or "Archie" (short for Archimedes, after Merlin's pet owl in T.H. White's novel The Once and Future King), equipped with a variety of offensive and defensive devices, such as flamethrowers and "screechers"—devices capable of producing a sharp screech-like sound.
Dreiberg (as Nite Owl) met fellow costumed adventurer Rorschach, who suggested they partner to take on organized crime. The two became, not only a team, but also best friends. He supported the idea of costumed vigilantes forming a group to fight crime strategically, but Rorschach and the Comedian rejected the idea. Having already come to understand that his expensive activities were too limited in scope to make any real difference, Dreiberg retired after the passing of the Keene Act on August 3, 1977, although in 1985 (when the story takes place) he seems to regret his decision to give up crime fighting. Rorschach would later say regarding his retirement, "No staying power". Following the Keene Act, he contributed scholarly articles to ornithological journals.
His owl-ship represents advancements in propulsion, nautical engineering, and aerodynamics that would have exceeded the level of technological innovation known at that time, suggesting that Dreiberg was a genius. As a costumed adventurer he would also have had access to fellow hero Dr. Manhattan's futuristically advanced level of nuclear technology.
Events of Watchmen
Dreiberg becomes romantically entangled with the second Silk Spectre, Laurie Juspeczyk, after she leaves Doctor Manhattan. He returns to vigilantism along with her, beginning with a heartening night out in costume in which they successfully save the occupants of a burning building. The excitement of aiding the residents awakens Dreiberg's sexual feelings for Laurie and the two make passionate love following the rescue. They later break Rorschach out of prison in an attempt to stop Ozymandias' scheme to "save the world from itself." Unfortunately, the freeing of Rorschach indirectly results in the brutal murder of Hollis Mason, which Dan learns of only when he and Rorschach go to interrogate suspects. Upon learning of Mason's death, Dreiberg becomes violent, attacking the informer and loudly swearing vengeance against Mason's killers with such ferocity that Rorschach, a notorious sociopathic killer, has to restrain him. In the end, Hollis' killers (the Knot Tops) are killed along with half of New York City by Ozymandias' plot.
Dan and Rorschach travel to Ozymandias' Antarctic fortress. They battle with and are swiftly defeated by Ozymandias, who reveals his plan to unleash a telepathic monstrosity on New York City that will release massive psychic waves that will kill half the city. Nite Owl expresses the desire to stop him and is told that the events have already occurred. Millions are dead, and the world's nations agree to work together to combat this new "extraterrestrial threat". Reluctantly, Dan and the recently arrived Dr. Manhattan and Laurie Juspeczyk agree to keep this secret for the sake of world peace.
The morally absolute Rorschach leaves, attempting to take Dan's vehicle back to civilization to tell the world. Unseen by the others, Doctor Manhattan kills Rorschach to stop him. Dan and Laurie are offered hospitality by Ozymandias, which they accept. Before leaving for another galaxy, Manhattan seems satisfied and happy at the sight of Laurie now in a relationship with Dan.
In the conclusion of the story, having been assumed to be dead in the attack, they are seen in their new identities of Sam and Sandra Hollis (in homage to the late Mason), with dyed blonde hair. They travel to California and make a brief visit to the former Silk Spectre, in which Laurie reconciles with her mother over the discovery that the Comedian was her father. Promising to visit again soon, they leave with the intent of continuing their adventures in crime-fighting.
Character differences in the script drafts of the film
In the 1989 Sam Hamm film draft script and the 2003 David Hayter film draft script the superhero name is Night Owl (The characters that adopted the Nite Owl persona are combined into one character and there is no showing or mention of Hollis Mason as the first Nite Owl). In the climax of the 2003 script Dreiberg kills Veidt after sleeping with Laurie while in Antarctica. In addition Dreiberg and Laurie have a child at the end of the story.
Patrick Wilson portrayed the second Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, in the film. Although not a comics fan, Wilson enjoyed Watchmen upon reading it and opted to gain weight for the part, rather than wear a fatsuit. Stephen McHattie portrayed the elder Nite Owl, Hollis Mason. Clint Carleton played the younger Mason in the Minutemen flashbacks. During several attempts to get Watchmen adapted as a film, Kevin Costner, Christopher Walken and Richard Gere were each considered for the part. John Cusack, who is an admitted fan of the graphic novel, expressed great interest in playing the role.
Although Wilson's role remained relatively faithful to his comics' counterpart, the Nite Owl costume was radically changed, because Zack Snyder wanted him to look more intimidating. While he retains his night vision goggles, utility belt and thick cape from the comic, the brown spandex/leather bodysuit has been replaced with chain mail-type armor.
- Hamm, Sam. Watchmen Screenplay (1989).
- Hayter, David. WATCHMEN --3rd draft--. September 26, 2003. Accessed on December 8, 2008. 132.
- "Watchmen Cast Confirmed!" on SuperHeroHype.com (July 26, 2007).
- Shawn Adler (2007-06-13). "John Cusack Calls Hilary Duff 'A Revelation'; Has His Eye On Watchmen". MTV. Retrieved 2008-02-20.