Every character deserves a Spotlight. A moment of appreciation, reflection, discussion…and in some cases rejection.
Alan Moore was given newly bought Charlton Comics character Blue Beetle to introduce into the DC Universe, but his rough draft was deemed too intense for DC to use outright, so DC gave him essentially a pocket universe to tell his story. As a result, had to change everything about Blue Beetle and come up with a new character with a different name and appearance. When was faced with this challenge, Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons told him of a character Gibbons created when he was fourteen named “Night Owl”, along with his drawing of the character. loved it, and came up with the name Hollis Mason.
Moore’s use of Mason in Watchmen was to introduce the superheroes of this world to readers in a relatable and realistic manner. Sure the story took place in 1985, but costumed heroics began almost fifty years earlier – during Mason’s time. We also learned why Mason got dressed up in the first place, where the name “Nite Owl” came from, and how public opinion regarding his actions and those of his comrades changed over time.
And did all of this using excerpts from Mason’s autobiographical novel, which was never revealed in full.
The first time I read Mason’s words, I kept hearing Adam West’s voice in my head, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Hollis had that sense of nostalgic appreciation to heroics of the past that come up every time I saw a Batman re-run. Keep in mind Watchmen came out in 1986, and I first read it in 1988 - when there was talk of a new Batman movie being made (thanks in part to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns) - and West’s name kept popping up. He was first considered for the lead, then for a cameo as Thomas Wayne, and for the longest time fans and West himself felt that he should be somewhere in the movie because of his long-standing association with the character. It never happened, but there was a definite similarity between West and Mason – two older men retiring in obscurity, being replaced by the next generation of ‘hero’.
I read the first seven issues and thought it was a great story, but when I reached the last few pages of #8 I was furious. Mason’s death, in that manner, really drove home to me ’s intended message of expanding the potential of comic book storytelling. I was crushed. I was heart-broken. I almost gave up reading the rest of the story. My eyes were opened…and I hated it. Looking back, I realized it had to be done.
It just sucked b@!!$.