Byron Lewis: 1915 - 1930
Byron Lewis originally came from Connecticut, where he had a relatively normal childhood. He was known for being interested in politics at a young age, but a flight in an early commercial airplane changed his life's trajectory. After that, Byron had his head in the clouds, obsessed with developing a personal flight suit so he could experience the thrill of flying without a plane.
If anyone was going to crack the formula, it was going to be Byron. He was not just smart enough to figure it out, he was also not afraid to put his ideas into action, personally testing his prototypes at constant risk of life and limb.
Byron Lewis: 1930 - 1938
At fifteen, Byron dropped out of school to pursue his passion. As a young prodigy, Byron made a quick fortune making and selling patented inventions to the aviation industry. None of those encapsulated his dream, though. They were just the stepping stones to him.
Byron's thirst for adventure and knowledge would lead him around the world. He studied birds and insects in Africa, South America, and Asia. He became a mountaineer to conquer his early fear of heights. When he returned to the states to put the sum of his findings together, he gave large amounts of his fortune to the less fortunate.
As he neared completion of his flight-suit, Byron had an epiphany. There were many people whose oppression was due to corruption, violence, and a flawed system working against them, problems which money alone could not address. Byron could not look the other way and when he read a newspaper article about a masked man in New York fighting crime, Byron knew he could do the same. Less than a month later, Byron had moved to New York City, set up a personal workshop and crime lab, and took to the skies as the mysterious "Flying Man".
Mothman: 1938 - 1946
Byron had several near-fatal injuries in the earliest days, but none of that distracted him from his goals of perfecting flight and fighting crime. However, either due to undiagnosed mental illnesses or the constant stress of having to subject himself to strict physical regimen to maintain compatibility to his flight suit, Byron began to branch out to experimenting with drugs. In addition to aspirin, liniment, and morphine, Byron also self-medicated himself with alcohol. At first, the drugs were only used at the end of a rough patrol or flight experiment.
Shortly after the recruitment of Silhouette, Byron encountered Captain Metropolis on a nightly patrol and was recruited to join the Minutemen. As "Flying Man" did not have much of a ring to it, Silhouette suggested since his suit reminded her of a moth, he should call himself "Mothman". Byron liked the idea and made a few modifications to his suit to account for the aesthetics of a moth.
During his time with the Minutemen, Byron worked as aerial support, scouting, and rarely got directly involved in the fighting. Being a minor celebrity turned out to be something Byron enjoyed. When he was Mothman, important people listened to him and regarded him as a hero. One of Byron's greatest joys became making appearances as a "surprise guest" during Dollar Bill's publicity events, particularly those with children. However, in 1942, the bank which sponsored Dollar Bill became concerned that Mothman was drunk during these visits and stopped calling Mothman for scheduling, replacing him with Nite-Owl. Byron's drinking increased after this but he also became involved with Silhouette's work fighting child trafficking to appease his desire to help children.
He also tried to enlist to aid the war effort, but was classified as 4F, which also did little to help Byron's drinking problem. When the Minutemen voted for Silhouette's removal from the team, Byron went on patrols less frequently and stopped attending regular meetings. He had fallen in love with Ursula Zandt. Finding out she was a lesbian came as a blow to him, and then her dismissal from the team nearly killed him.
To keep his mind off his heartache and guilty conscience, Byron drank more until Hollis Mason tracked him down on a bender and forced him to pull himself together. With Hollis' encouragement, Byron bought an abandoned machine shop and used it to make his improved secret lair where he could focus on improving his flight suit around the clock. It was here that he learned of the death of Ursula Zandt and her lover Gretchen. Byron obsessively searched for her killer but also arranged for unmarked graves for Ursula and Gretchen so that their remains could rest in peace and not be defiled by those who disagreed with their lifestyle.
Mothman: 1946 - 1949
When Ursula's killer was found already killed, Byron felt cheated and again turned to hard drugs. This time none of the Minutemen helped him pull himself together and Byron lived in a drug-fueled funk for months. He did pull himself together to attend the wedding of Sally Jupiter and Larry Schexnayder, though he spent most of the celebration drinking by himself.
When Japanese saboteurs planned to destroy the Statue of Liberty, Mothman was tasked to fly above and deliver a satchel with tear gas and fireworks. This diverted the guards, allowing the Minutemen and other costumed adventurers to dock to Liberty Island and assault the saboteurs. Mothman landed on the Statue of Liberty's flame and saw the saboteurs completing the procedure. It was during this mission that Byron, for the first time ever, drew the gun that Hollis had insisted he carry due to his lack of fighting ability. Byron fired the weapon at one of the saboteurs, saving Nite-Owl's life from a would-be killer. However, while Byron was in shock at having taken a life, another saboteur shot Byron and brought the Mothman to the ground.
Byron spent eighteen months in the hospital recovering from the gunshot and over a dozen broken bones. The Minutemen would disband before Byron was released from the hospital.
Mothman: 1949 - 1987
Byron decided to abandon his dream of flight and left crimefighting altogether. Byron gave his workshop to Hollis Mason to use as a lair, and became Hollis' behind-the-scenes guy. With Byron's help, Nite-Owl became New York City's premiere hero and was honored with the Key to the City. During this time, Byron got an assistant to help him in the workshop: Dan Dreiberg. Both Hollis and Byron agreed that Dan would make a far better hero than either of them, and they combined their efforts to mold Dan into a worthy successor. Dan would take the mantle of Nite-Owl and would be armed with some of Byron's greatest inventions, including a glider cape and a high-tech version of Mothman's own goggles.
About the time of the new Nite-Owl's debut, Byron and Hollis attended a Red Cross event for a famine in India. Seeing what had become of his old friends and reliving the deaths of so many others caused Byron to experience a mental breakdown. Byron bequeathed his fortune to Hollis Mason and Dan Dreiberg before committing himself to a mental asylum in Amnesty Bay, Maine.
While committed, Byron would be visited regularly by Hollis Mason and Dan Dreiberg. Hollis would usually visit to have Byron help him with his book, while Dan often came with schematics for Byron to look over. Dan and Byron also enjoyed watching birds together. Nelson Gardner and Sally Jupiter would also visit less frequently, usually as a sort of annual Minutemen reunion event, making the drive with Hollis. When he was unable to visit his friends, Byron obsessively read the works of Max Shea, particularly Fogdancing. Byron often repeatedly quoted passages from this book - especially after the disappearance of the novelist.
When the Manhattaning happened, Byron was locked away in a padded cell for attacking an orderly earlier that day. Despite having no access to radio or television, Byron appeared aware of the explosions and began screaming for hours on end. When the staff finally pulled him from his cell, Byron appeared to have completely snapped - apparently having gone completely catatonic, aside from the random utterance of "into the blue flame, they go..." or various passages from the works of Max Shea or other artists like Mitch Wacky or Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Mothman: 1987 - 2009
Byron remained in this catatonic state for years. When it was revealed that Adrian Veidt was behind the Manhattaning and other crimefighters like Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre were involved, agents from the FBI came to speak with Byron regularly. Byron's quotes mirrored many things that Adrian Veidt had expressed a fondness for in interviews and searching Byron's cell found many schematics that appeared to be prototypes for the intrinsic bombs. Byron was labeled a person of interest in the Manhattaning and was transferred to Arkham Asylum for security reasons.
Byron remained catatonic for the vast majority of his stay in Arkham. On the eve of the twenty-second anniversary of the Manhattaning, Byron snapped out of his catatonic state, scaring his cellmate: a young twenty-one-year-old Drury Walker who had been admitted for a weekend observation following a mental breakdown in the wake of his wife's suicide. Byron grabbed Drury, stared in his eyes, and shouted "I give you my knowledge! My legacy shall be endless! Find the Mothman! Become the moth! The moth cannot die!" before he was subdued by orderlies and dragged off to the infirmary, all the while screaming "Into the blue flame I go!"
Two days later, Byron was pronounced dead. His autopsy revealed a stroke had caused him to snap out of his catatonic state but his sudden violent behavior prevented Arkham staff from recognizing that at the time.
Byron's work in aviation remains integral to modern science. The work he developed in pursuit of his personal flight-suit inspired the glider cape of Nite-Owl and was later modified by Batman for his own needs.
- Aviation Engineer: Byron was decades ahead of other aviation engineers for his time.
- Limited Cosmic Awareness: It is possible that Byron's insanity gave him an insight into the esoteric nature of the world that most mortals are not able to fully grasp. This may have allowed Byron the ability to think in ways that permitted him to design technology that was far ahead of the curve and allow him to predict elements of Adrian Veidt's plan.
- Mental Health: Byron struggled with mental health and chemical dependency throughout his entire adult life.
Trivia and Notes
- He, Nite-Owl and Silhouette regularly teamed up to tackle investigations like child trafficking rings while other Minutemen considered them "depressing and sad".
- He disregarded the Minutemen policy about concealing identities and revealed it to Ursula and even gave her his phone number. Ursula always thought he was sweet and she almost felt sorry for him.
- He voted against Silhouette's expulsion.
- He and Nite-Owl researched Ursula Zandt's audiotapes after her death and continued her work.
- Byron Lewis is a character from the Watchmen comic
- His costume in the comics is different, but the white "M" and straps on his arms and legs are a nod to his appearance in the Watchmen movie. He's also making the same pose from the Minutemen photo.
- Elements of his backstory are nods to Before Watchmen: Minutemen and Doomsday Clock.
- Mitch Wacky is the Earth-27 version of Walt Disney.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley is the author of Ozymandias.
- Max Shea is a character from the Watchmen comic, who was taken by Adrian Veidt to help him create his alien monster. Earth-27 uses the intrinsic explosions from the movie instead, and it's unknown whether Max's disappearance is connected to the Manhattaning.
- In the comics the mental asylum he spent time was located in Maine.
- In Earth-27 Byron Lewis died in an asylum and his last words are about going into the flame. In Doomsday Clock he dies by walking into a burning asylum.
- The year of his death, 2009, is the same year when the Watchmen movie was released.