Dan Dreiberg: 1945 - 1987
Dan was born on September 18, 1945. His father, William Dreiberg, was a corporate banker; while his mother, Victoria, was a bright woman. Though William was abusive toward Dan and Victoria, he was rarely home as he worked long hours and spent much of his after-work hours drinking and womanizing.
Nurtured by his mother, Dan grew to become an introvert fascinated with electronics. He was also obsessed with mythology. His favorite stories were about Pegasus and the flying carpet. Fascinated with the idea of flying, Dan studied ornithology and aviation extensively alongside engineering. Throughout his childhood in the early '50s, he spent many of his summers in New England, venturing out into the fields at night and searching for owls and this led to him taking an interest in the crime fighter known as Nite Owl.
In 1962, at the age of sixteen, during one of Nite Owl's publicity stunts in Sparky's Garage, Dan rigged the Owl Car with a listening device of his own invention and followed Nite Owl all the way to the secret entrance of the hero's lair. Daniel bypassed the lock and left a note requesting that they meet at Lincoln Park. During this meeting, Daniel learned the identity of Nite Owl as Hollis Mason. Dan offered to become Mason's sidekick. Hollis' initial reaction was surprisingly nonchalant, agreeing to give the kid a shot.
However, when Dan returned home, he saw that his father and mother were arguing. When William struck Victoria, Dan finally had the confidence to step up to his father and strike him back. After a brief scuffle, William clutched his chest and suffered a heart attack. Victoria stopped Dan from immediately calling for an ambulance.
Although William would be disappointed in Dan for not following him in his footsteps and becoming a banker, William left Dan and Victoria a large inheritance. Victoria moved up north to Maine while Daniel kept the family brownstone and used his newfound wealth for the materials needed to design and build his crime-fighting gear.
Though he trained with Hollis, Dan never did don a costume as a sidekick. When Mason saw the new lair which Dan had constructed and the gear that he had assembled, Hollis Mason decided to retire from crime fighting and asked Dan to carry on the mantle of Nite Owl.
Hollis opened an auto repair shop and continued to train Dan, helping him mold his body into crimefighting readiness. Finally, Dan then created a costume complete with advanced goggles and a glider cape. So armed and ready, Dan debuted as Nite Owl in the summer of 1964.
In 1965, Nite Owl teamed up with fellow costumed adventurer Rorschach to take on organized crime. Thanks to the Rorschach's unpredictability and Dan's tactical brilliance, they brought down Underboss and Big Figure. The next year, having made quite an impression on other crimefighters, they were invited by Captain Metropolis to join the Crimebusters. Dreiberg felt that he had joined a fellowship of legendary beings and was later devastatingly disappointed that it didn't last, falling apart soon after their founding. Though the Crimebusters became defunct, Nite Owl kept a recurring partnership with Rorschach and would occasionally team up with other former Crimebusters, particularly the Silk Spectre.
In 1968, Nite Owl brought down the vice queen known as the Twilight Lady (real name: Elizabeth Lane). Liz wrote to Nite Owl from prison. Against Hollis' advice, Dan wrote back, thinking he could reform her. When she was released in the early 1970's, Dan tried to mold her into a crimefighting partner, but she was more interested in being his romantic partner. After a long and tumultuous relationship, Dan and her parted ways.
In 1977, a missing girl named Violet Greene was found in a pornographic video circulating around New York's seedy underbelly. Rorschach recruited Nite Owl to help him investigate this case as it appeared that a new Twilight Lady might be behind it. Nite Owl and Rorschach found that Liz herself had returned to her old moniker and was now running a new high-class vice den. They found Violet Greene and discovered she was not kidnapped, but had disappeared in order to pursue this new hedonistic lifestyle as one of Twilight Lady's new starlets. Nite Owl told Twilight Lady to shut the operation down and leave the city, but Rorschach was not satisfied with this as he felt Twilight Lady's activities were a blight on the development of the youth in the area. Nite Owl and Rorschach came to blows and ultimately this case marked the end of their operational partnership for many years.
During the Keene riots, a few months after the Violet Greene case, Nite Owl partnered with the Comedian in an attempt to pacify the rioters. This effort quickly became moot when the notoriously short-tempered Comedian opened fire on the rioters, leading to a confrontation between the two heroes.
Having already come to believe that his expensive night-life was accomplishing very little, Dreiberg retired after the passing of the Keene Act on August 3, 1977. Without heroics to occupy his time, Dan went on to become a master in aeronautics and zoology at Harvard University. Dan chose not to reveal his civilian identity and kept his past as Nite Owl secret. He kept close friendships with Laurie Juspeczyk, Adrian Veidt, and Hollis Mason. Of the three, Dan maintained his closest friendship with Hollis as the two men met every Saturday night for the next decade. In his civilian life, Dan contributed essays and scholarly articles to ornithological journals, although he knew that they didn't interest much people.
In 1983, Dan visited Maine in order to attend the funeral of his mother. While there, he took an extended vacation and paid a visit to Byron Lewis (the former Mothman) in the asylum, on behalf of Mason. On his way back to the parking lot, he heard the screech of a mature owl, and was filled with a feeling that renewed his excitement about crimefighting. He upgraded his gear, suit, and Archie but ultimately abandoned his return to crimefighting when he realized his suit no longer fit him as he had severely let himself go. He did begin to diet and exercise, but progress was slow.
In 1987, after the death of Edward Blake, Dan was the first of the "masks" that Rorschach warned of a supposed "mask-killer". The two shared a tense reunion, with Rorschach chastising him for his decision to retire, and Dreiberg defensively criticizing Rorschach's insistence on continuing his vigilante activities.
Nite-Owl: 1987 - 1997
When Rorschach warned Dan after the death of Edward Blake, the two shared a tense reunion while Rorschach helped himself to some of Dan's canned goods. Shortly after this warning, Dan had a reunion with another from his old glory days as Laurie Juspeczyk called him up and asked him to meet her for dinner where the two reminisced about their times as costumed adventurers, reigniting Dan's attraction to her.
He hoped to see her as he attended the Comedian's funeral, reuniting with Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan, but Laurie did not attend due to her personal issues with the Comedian's past assault on Laurie's mother. A lot of stuff happened after the funeral with an attempt made on Adrian Veidt's life, and Laurie leaving Jon. That night, Laurie payed a visit to Dan and Dan insisted she stay with him with the 'mask killer' on the loose. Later, while going to visit Hollis Mason, Dan and Laurie are assaulted in a mugging attempt, but this incident only reignites their dormant fighting skills and crimefighting drive.
After visiting with Hollis, Dan and Laurie return to Dan's house. They discussed their crimefighting days, still on an emotional high from the mugging and the nostalgic ramblings of Hollis Mason. The conversation ended when Laurie brought up Jon's upcoming television interview, souring Dan's mood. Laurie attempted to make it up to Dan by professing her own feelings for him and initiating an attempt to make love. Dan, however, experienced a moment of impotency and was unable to perform. The two then watched Manhattan's interview and witnessed Jon go into self-imposed exile on the Moon after being accused of hurting those closest to him.
During Laurie's stay with Dan, they were made aware of the capture of Rorschach by authorities, as he was charged with the murder of Moloch. After a nightmare, Dreiberg went to his lab, where he expressed how helpless he felt in the face of impending nuclear war. He and Laurie decided to take up arms once again and experience that sense of power they had before. Donning their outfits, they took Archie and patrolled New York City once again, in defiance of the Keene Act. Discovering a fire at a tenement, they came to the rescue and evacuated everybody from the burning building safely. Being in his Nite Owl persona again revived Dan's spirit, and he and Laurie were able to make love in the Archie above the city during the sunrise.
After a prolonged discussion, Dan and Laurie decided the time had come to act rather than stand by. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre broke Rorschach out of Sing Sing using Archie and their recently exercised crimefighting talents. Afterward, Laurie was taken to the Moon by Manhattan, leaving Dreiberg and Rorschach to explore the New York underworld looking for clues on whatever plot was taking place. They discovered that the prison break led to a series of anti-superhero riots, including the murder of Dreiberg's predecessor and mentor as Nite Owl, Hollis Mason. Dreiberg swore vengeance, assaulting one of the Knot Tops responsible with such fury that Rorschach (known for his brutality in dispatching criminals) had to pull Nite Owl off the bloodied and broken man. During their interrogations, they determined that their leads pointed to none other than their former comrade Ozymandias. Dan insisted that they owe it to Adrian to head to Karnak, Veidt's fortress in Antarctica, and confront him directly.
In Antarctica, Veidt revealed his plan to kill millions to save billions, sacrificing New York City and twenty-six other major cities. It was Veidt's plan that it would be perceived as an act of Doctor Manhattan forcing the nations of Earth to end their squabbles and nuclear arming to unite against a common and greater foe. Although Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, and Rorschach tried to stop him, Ozymandias revealed that his plan was already in motion, well ahead of their arrival. The three were forced to watch the devastation which then reignited their anger.
After a brief fight, in which a reconstructed Dr. Manhattan joined the fray, it ended with a beaten Ozymandias activating the broadcasts of multiple world leaders as they declared his plan successful. Dan and Laurie took a moment to contemplate the matter and ended up making love once more before deciding that the preceding events are preferable to a nuclear holocaust. Veidt agreed to give Dan and Laurie protection at his fortress which they only accepted for a short time.
Weeks after the devastation, Dan was last seen when he and Laurie visited her mother. Dan witnessed the mother and daughter reconcile after Laurie discovered that the Comedian was her father. After this visit, Laurie and Dan seemingly disappeared into the ether, presumably taking on false identities. Though there are a number of times that Silk Spectre and Nite Owl are confirmed to have been sighted in the nineties, most significantly when apparently working with Rorschach to give Rorschach's journal to Perry White for publishing on the tenth anniversary of the so-called "Manhattaning," it is uncertain if these were in fact Dan and Laurie or possibly a Nite Owl 3.0 and Silk Spectre 3.0.
- Acrobatics: Dan was an accomplished acrobat, who more often than not, utilized this greatly into his hand-to-hand fighting style.
- Genius Intellect:
- Invention: Dan had a knack for mechanical and electrical engineering. His masterpiece was Archie.
- Martial Arts: Dan had studied with several martial arts masters, and can out-fight just about any group of thugs or criminals with his fighting skills alone.
- Wealth: Dan had received a substantial inheritance from the passing of his father, and later his mother.
- The Scrape: Dan retrofitted and expanded his brownstone's sub-basement into a small though considerable lair, workshop, garage, and crime lab. The Scrape was full of devices and gadgets.
- Nite Owl Suit: Dan's suit had goggles for enhanced vision. It also had a belt with various pockets that contained respirator masks, smoke bombs, a fingerprint kit, pocket laser, and a console that remotely controlled Archie and other devices. In addition to his standard suit, Dan had additional suits for specific purposes, like for arctic cold or for underwater work. He had designed an exoskeleton suit prototype but during experimentation, it broke his arm and he quickly abandoned it. Much like Batman, Dan's cape was said to have acted like a wingsuit, parachute or hang gliding gear, making his falls slow and allowing him to glide through the air. The cape expands and flies like a kite, but it does not make the appearance of wings, as Batman's does.
- "Archie" (Archimedes): A vaguely ovoid craft capable of both aerial and underwater operation. Dan named the aircraft after Merlin's pet owl in the "The Sword in the Stone".
- Confidence: Dan was known for being somewhat insecure and awkward. He often lacked confidence in himself. When filled with such self-doubt, Dan would often be prone to analysis paralysis and inaction.
- Friends: Whenever his friends, family, or acquaintances would quarrel, Dan would often be unable to pick sides or take action which would cause many problems. He avoided such drama whenever possible, often leaving the room during arguments.
- Ideals: I am loathe to say having "ideals" is a weakness, but Dan was never comfortable working in the sometimes 'gray areas' of vigilante work. Though he was often forced into such decisions, these sorts of tactics never sat well with Dan and often would lead to further problems as he would become sullen or ridden with guilt over such dealings.
Trivia and Notes
- As a child, Dreiberg loved birds, airplanes, the idea of flying, and mythology.
- Like Hollis Mason before him, Dan Dreiberg was friendly, honest, and affable. Also like Mason, he lacked psychological issues like the ones that tainted many of his colleagues.
- Dreiberg appears to have old-fashioned tastes in music, preferring 1930s-1940s jazz (Billie Holiday, Nellie Lutcher, Louis Jordan) to more contemporary pop music.
- Lucius Fox has admitted to being a Nite Owl "fanboy", basing much of his designs on Nite Owl's arsenal. Interestingly, Lucius said he knew an aeronautics engineer at Atwater Air who was also a Nite Owl "fanboy" and the two would often geek out by theorizing how that equipment was made, even occasionally making blueprints. These hobby plans would later be adapted into actual prototypes for use by the Batman and his allies.
- Dan is Jewish, but by his personal admission, he is a poor representation of his religion.
- Dan Dreiberg is a character from the Watchmen comic.
- Rorschach and Nite Owl looking for Violet Greene is a nod to Watchmen: The End Is Nigh video game.
- Discovering Nite Owl's lair and William's death are described in Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1.
- Dan's Nite-Owl suit features the design of his suit in the Watchmen film and the colors from the original graphic novel.