Hollis Mason: 1916 - 1928
Hollis Mason was born into a family of Irish immigrant potato farmers in 1916 who had settled in the state of Montana. Hollis was named after his grandfather, Hollis Wordsworth Mason, who also saw to it that his grandson received a proper moral, conservative, and God-fearing upbringing. Hollis had instilled in him a sense of what was good and just in the world which would be a part of him for the rest of his life.
Hollis Mason: 1928 - 1936
When Hollis was 12 years old, Hollis' parents divorced after the family farm went under. As part of their arrangement, Hollis' father took Hollis and his sister Liantha away from the family farm in Montana while Robert, Jr and Phillip remained in Montana with their mother. Hollis, his father, and his sister moved east to New York City where Hollis' father found work at Vernon's Auto Repairs.
Hollis hated New York City and longed to go back to Montana, often getting into heated arguments with his father on the matter. Regardless of how much he disliked his father, Hollis did what he felt were his duties as a good son. Some of his chores included running errands for his father while he was busy at work. When Hollis would report to the repair shop, the shop's owner, Moe Vernon, took a shine to the boy and often slipped Hollis some money as a secret allowance.
After a while, Moe began having Hollis run errands for him, too, paying Hollis accordingly. When Hollis was a bit older, he would befriend Moe. Moe was not the typical auto mechanic of the time. He listened to classical music, was well-learned, and spent his weekends at the museums - often accompanied by Hollis, whose father never saw the use in such things. Hollis' father cautioned Hollis about Moe. Of course, his father's words only made Hollis take a bigger interest in Moe. With Moe's mentoring, Hollis became an honor roll student.
Also contributing to Hollis' sudden interest in academics was Ms. Albertine, Hollis' English teacher. Ms. Albertine suggested that Hollis try reading comic books as a means to develop an interest in literature. While Hollis' literacy did improve, what he really developed was an interest in Ms. Albertine. Hollis began day-dreaming of pulp adventures involving him, cast as the hero, rescuing Ms. Albertine from scoundrels and villains of all sorts. These stories spoke to Hollis' moral code and even though he "graduated" to reading the classics that Ms. Albertine and Moe Vernon had recommended, Hollis became a regular reader of several comic book series.
Hollis Mason: 1936 - 1938
The summer that Hollis graduated, he was given a summer job (as he had for several past summers) at the shop. One day when Hollis was working late, a man came to see Moe and Hollis directed him to his employer's office. An hour later, when Hollis went to tell Moe he had locked up and was heading home, he walked in on Moe and the other man in a passionate embrace. Hollis apologized for the interruption and ran home.
When Hollis returned home, his father could tell that Hollis was distraught and coerced his son to tell him. Hollis begrudgingly admitted what he had seen. Upon hearing this, Hollis' father ran out. Hollis chased after his father, but could not keep up with him. By the time Hollis ran to the shop, Moe was already beaten and bloody on the ground. Hollis chased his father off by threatening to call the cops. Hollis moved in to apologize and help Moe, but Moe told Hollis to go home, even insisting on it. Hollis did as he was told.
The next day, when Hollis opened the shop, he found Moe hanging from the hydraulic lift. As the coroner took the body away, Hollis' father tried to comfort his son, but Hollis pushed him away and told him to never speak with him again.
Hollis Mason: 1938 - 1940
Hollis joined the New York City Police Department. On an early patrol, Hollis got talking to some neighborhood youngsters. They wanted to know if Hollis, as a cop, was as big a hero as the ones featured in the new comics they were reading. One of the kids lent Hollis an issue and Hollis read it throughout his patrol. These heroes wore costumes and capes, and had firmer morals than the pulp heroes Hollis had enjoyed since his childhood.
Hollis read the book through, back-to-back eight times that evening. When he returned it to the kid, Hollis' childhood fantasies of grand heroism had returned to him. Hollis wondered if such heroes could really exist and then two weeks later, Hollis heard of the exploits of the real-life vigilante Hooded Justice. In response, Hollis immediately began making his own costume. He spent the better part of 3 months designing his suit and maintaining a strict regimen of heading to the police gymnasium for physical conditioning for several hours after his afternoon patrol.
Officer Mason had been present for a police operation at a factory near Battery Park. The vigilante known as Hooded Justice had cornered a group of notorious murderers in the building. The police had been sent there to handle the situation. A badly beaten body of one of the criminals fell from a window, smashing the top of a patrol car below. At that point, the police rushed in. Hollis saw Hooded Justice fleeing the scene and decided to look the other way rather than apprehend him.
When his costume was ready, Hollis pressured his superiors to assign him a route in the more troubled areas of the city during the night shift. His chain of command figured he was a fool, but complied with his request. Hollis then began wearing his costume underneath his regular police uniform. His plan was to let Nite-Owl handle anything where laws stood in the way of doing what Hollis knew to be right.
One night, after Hollis had been operating for months as Nite-Owl, he spotted a van with armed gunmen. After a quick change of costume, Nite-Owl ran towards the van, jumped inside, and hijacked it from the robbers. This act of bravery quickly caught the eye of the news media, especially since the interest in "costumed protectors" was at its height, shining much attention and press to his following exploits. It also caught the attention of the Minutemen.
Though Hollis was shy and nervous among the Minutemen in their downtime, he befriended many of them during one on one patrols. He became more confident with time, particularly as he and Mothman tried to outdo one another for the affection of Silhouette, both volunteering to help her in her private crimefighting against child trafficking and child abuse.
Nite-Owl: 1940 - 1946
After the Comedian assaulted Silk Spectre, Hollis supported the Comedian's expulsion. During World War II he and Byron went to enlist but they both were classed 4F. Though denied from serving his country, Hollis worked extra hard to maintain peace and order within his city during wartime. He personally took down some colorful criminals like the Screaming Skull, Spaceman, and went on to fight supposed Axis operatives working in the United States.
After his crush on her had cooled, Hollis established a close friendship with Ursula Zandt. Against their internal rules, he revealed to her his full identity and job and gave her his police box number. She would later call him when she was heavily injured during an evening patrol. Hollis rushed in as Officer Mason rather than Nite-Owl, rescued a gunshot Ursula, and took her to her private medic, a woman named Gretchen. The next day Hollis paid Ursula a visit, and there he found out that Gretchen was actually her lover.
Ursula was astonished by how accepting Hollis was of learning that element of her lifestyle, but he explained to her that his "father" was gay, a statement which caught Ursula off-guard and endeared her to Hollis more than ever.
When Ursula's lesbianism was exposed, Hollis was one of only two Minutemen who did not vote her out. Regardless of her expulsion from the team, Hollis made it clear that he would continue to work with her on his own. Months later, Hollis was the one who found Ursula and Gretchen murdered in their motel room.
Before calling the police, Hollis collected all the evidence that he could find among Ursula's personal effects which pertained to her investigations. In the following days, he continued to work Ursula's cases, patrolling and investigating as both Officer Mason and Nite-Owl. He did this in addition to joining the Minutemen in the search for Ursula's killer - who they found already murdered.
Nite-Owl: 1946 - 1962
In the following years, the Minutemen would disband but Nite-Owl remained a constant crimefighter. With Byron Lewis financially supporting him, Hollis was able to quit his day job as a police officer and dedicate himself to Nite-Owl around the clock. He became the golden boy of New York City crimefighting and was awarded a key to the city. Hollis also took in a pupil, a young boy named Dan Dreiberg.
With the rise of other heroes, like Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, and Rorschach, Hollis became more of a mentor. He stepped down from heroics, passing his mantle on to Dan to become the next generation's Nite-Owl.
Hollis Mason: 1962 - 1987
Before retiring to a clinic for treatment with his drug addiction and mental illnesses, Byron bought Hollis a new apartment which he had renovated for Hollis. The apartment was adjacent to Vernon Auto Repair which Byron had also bought and restored for Hollis. Hollis moved into the apartment, but with Byron away receiving treatment and Dan off crimefighting, Hollis became quite lonely. He remedied this by getting a dog he named Phantom.
While working as a car technician, Hollis decided to write a memoir of his crime-fighting exploits. This memoir became the best-selling book "Under the Hood." He found opposition from his ex-manager, Laurence Schexnayder and Sally Jupiter. Despite the reactions, Mason was adamant about the factuality of his book, until the Comedian visited him one night, shortly before the book's expected release.
Eddie Blake, now an agent of the US government, informed Hollis that J. Edgar Hoover was not happy with the book, and stressed that some things should not be revealed. Hollis was supposedly convinced and complied with Hoover's requests. However, in his own personal act of standing his ground, Hollis' final draft did contain the tale of the Comedian's assault on Silk Spectre.
When the Keene Act passed, Dan Dreiberg began visiting Hollis each Saturday for beer. The two would talk about their past careers. Hollis would often stress that Dreiberg was the "better Nite-Owl" than he had been and was sorry about the Keene Act. Hollis' words may have played a part in Dreiberg building up the courage to begin an affair with the second Silk Spectre and return to masked heroism in defiance of the Keene Act.
While Dan and Laurie, in their costumed personas, were breaking Rorschach out of prison, several members of the local Knot Tops gang decided to retaliate against Nite-Owl for roughing up some of their gang in a previous encounter. The Knot Tops mistakenly believed that Hollis Mason was still operating as Nite-Owl and barged in on him while he and Sally Jupiter were having one of their late-night flirting by phone sessions.
The Knot Tops attacked en masse. Hollis was overwhelmed but a muffled scream from the phone triggered something long dormant in his mind. Against all odds, the retired Hollis began to fight off his attackers. Hollis did not stand a chance, but no one could ever say he did not go down fighting. In fact, several Knot Tops would later tell Dan Dreiberg that the old man gave them the beating of their life, prompting them to flee. However, at least one Knot Top did not flee and beat Hollis to death with his ceremonial key to the city.
If he had not been murdered twelve hours earlier, Hollis Mason would likely have died in the intrinsic explosion. His book enjoyed another eight reprintings following his death and saw another spike in sales after the revelation that the Bat of Gotham was real. However, I am confident that Hollis, if he were alive today, would say that Dan is his proudest accomplishment. Unfortunately, no one knows what happened to Dan following the events of the Manhattaning - aside from a few sightings here and there.
- Brawling: Nite-Owl was an accomplished fist-fighter. He took down dozens of high profile criminals and even threats to national security during his years as a crimefighter.
- Police Tactics: Hollis Mason was a highly respected and experienced law enforcement officer. He was well-loved by his community and known as a fair and honest cop. Hollis was also a skilled investigator, interrogator, and marksman.
- Writing: Hollis Mason became a world-renowned author with his one and only book: Under the Hood.
- Mechanics: Hollis Mason was a talented automotive mechanic. His mechanical expertise also translated to aviation and gadgetry through his experiences working with Dan and Byron. He worked as the primary mechanic for the Archimedes when Dan was an active crimefighter in the 60s and 70s.
Trivia and Notes
- After the bank which sponsored Dollar Bill stopped scheduling Mothman for publicity events he started appearing in them.
- Nite-Owl and Mothman continued Silhouette's work following her death, dedicating much of their remaining time as crimefighters to championing the cause of children.
- During the assault against Japanese saboteurs at the Statue of Liberty his life was saved by Mothman.
- He had a conversation with Dr. Manhattan during his retirement banquet which inspired Manhattan to create lithium based electric cars.
- He and Dan Dreiberg regularly visited Byron during his time in an asylum.
- His book theorized that Captain Metropolis convinced Hooded Justice to vote for Silqouette's expulsion and ther "patrols" into gay and lesbian clubs after Ursula's death were often meant as a way for Nelson to comfort Hooded Justice who had grown sick with Nelson's coercions.
- He repeadly denied a rumor that Nelson and Hooded Justice convinced Sally to seduce Comedian after a photoshoot, only for Sally to then shift gears and scream for help, but it is worth mentioning that Nelson was the one who sent Hollis with Hooded Justice to go find Sally and it was Hooded Justice who beat the Comedian to submission, all the while with the Comedian revealing his belief about Nelson and HJ's relationship to the rest of the team. [Further evidence for this rumor would be Sally's own reversal of opinion on the Comedian in her later years].
- There is a conspiracy theory that Nelson Gardner may have hired Eddie Blake to threaten Hollis, using the excuse that J. Edgar Hoover was ordering Blake to make the threats. It is also possible that J. Edgar Hoover did order the threats, under the recommendation of Nelson, who was a personal friend.
- Hollis Mason is a character from the Watchmen comic.
- His portrait is based on his appearance in the Watchmen movie. He's also making the same pose from the Minutemen photo.
- His backstory has nods to Before Watchmen: Minutemen comic.
- Hollis' family has nods to many characters from the comics and related media:
- Phillip Mason is a member of Easy Company.
- Alexander Mason was Planeteer, a Superman villain from the Pre-Crisis continuity.
- Hunter Mason is Hun, the leader of the Purple Dragons from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles media.
- Rex Mason is the shapeshifting hero Metamorpho, who here in E27 is Shift.
- Courtney Mason is Anima, a member of the Blood Pack, here a former Titan.
- Gil Mason was a corrupt deputy commissioner from Batman: The Animated Series.
- Myra Mason is the wife of Charles McNider, aka Dr. Midnight.
- Robert Mason was the costumed outlaw Jester of Quality Comics.