In 1962, Hollis Mason, the retired super hero Nite-Owl, is preparing to release a tell-all autobiography which would shock the world, revealing the dark secrets hidden by their shiny, happy mystery men. The team’s former agent, Larry Schexnayder, former husband of the Silk Spectre tries to talk him out of it, but he’s determined.
He flashes back to the late 1930s, after he’d just begun his secret career as a super hero, when he spotted an ad placed in the papers, calling all mystery men to meet at the base established by Captain Metropolis. His successful activities distinguish him from the pack of American Idol-esque rejects that turn up. He then recaps their first adventure, which they badly botch, yet Captain Metropolis and Larry spin it for the press. Hollis fully expects for the truth to come out, but the public eats them up and fully embraces the team.
The manipulation continues after Silhouette suggest they help her in her child pornography investigation, which Larry dismisses because it’s too dark and he doesn’t want the public associating darkness with the team. After the meeting, she departs in a huff. Nite-Owl goes after her, but she dismisses him and tells him to go have a beer with the others, but he, like she, is actually in the hero business to help people and he along with Moth Man accompany her on her mission.
We get further establishment of the sexual relationship between Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice, with Larry suggesting Silk Spectre appear in public to be involved with Hooded Justice. There are also innuendos regarding Silhouette’s lesbian status.
This chapter closes on a dark note, cutting before a boy being kidnapped from the circus, Silhouette and the others’ search for the missing boy and Hooded Justice’s penchant for rough sex.
It’s really interesting how this book, based on a graphic novel from the 1980s, set in the 1930s and 40s still manages to seem perfectly suited for today. I mentioned the American Idol-like auditions, with ridiculously un-super fame whores showing up just to be famous. There’s the exploration of Larry’s manipulation of the media, flat out lying and covering up the team’s darker aspects. In the 1960s, the idea of a scandalous tell-all book certainly still resonates in today’s TMZ/Perez Hilton/E! News etc. society.
There’s also the fascinating exploration of what makes each hero tick. The Comedian asks when they get their cut of all the money they are bringing in. Dollar Bill can’t do his assigned patrol because he has to work at the bank, seeing as how he is a paid mascot. Nite-Owl and Silhouette are part of the team because they actually think that as a whole they can accomplish real good; an idea which may ultimately prove false.
Writer/artist Darwyn Cooke manages to craft something nostalgic yet modern. That’s nothing new and proves again that no other creator would suit this book the way he does. It’s smart. It balances humor and extreme darkness. And it’s unapologetic. The characters are human. They have flaws… loads of them and those aren’t hidden or white-washed. They’re practically celebrated.
There were rumors of a ‘Minutemen’ movie back before ‘Watchmen’ underperformed at the box office. At the time, I was appalled at the idea. But if it can be as good as this, I’d be all for it!
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #2
Writer, Artist and Cover – Darwyn Cooke