Nelson Gardner: 1908 - 1936
Nelson Forrest Gardner was born in Kentucky, not that he ever revealed that to anyone. As a child, Nelson was sickly and asthmatic, but years of physical training allowed him to get past his condition. In order to escape his modest life, Nelson joined the Marines where he quickly became a favorite of several officers who sponsored him for officer training. Upon earning the rank of lieutenant, Nelson served with distinction under Major General Smedley Butler in the Banana Wars. He was honorably discharged as a lieutenant in 1936 and began a career as a security consultant and military contractor.
Captain Metropolis: 1936 - 1939
By the time Nelson was thirty, he had gained a significant amount of wealth. He had reinvented himself in Metropolis, a small city at the time which he saw as ripe for expansion. Nelson invested heavily in Metropolis and it rewarded him exceptionally well in a very short amount of time.
Nelson had been contracted to advise the New York City Police Department on urban warfare strategies when he became aware of the actions of Hooded Justice. After Nelson convinced the politicians to give these sorts of masked vigilantes a chance, Nelson decided to become a masked vigilante himself, adopting the guise of Captain Metropolis. This was originally meant as a way to oversee this movement and shape it to suit his needs.
Using the skills he acquired in the military, he meticulously shaped his Captain Metropolis persona and attempted to eradicate organized crime in urban areas. He purchased an old malting factory from the Canadian government, who were happy to unload it from their books. He turned it into his secret headquarters, finding the company's logo, "C.M." (originally intended as Canadian Malt) and adopted it as his own. Once he had made a few public appearances, stopped a couple crimes, and finished renovating his lair, Nelson decided to form a team of crimefighters for the publicity boost.
Nelson, realizing that sex sells, wrote a letter to Larry Schexnayder, a talent agent representing Sally Jupiter, informing him that he devised codes, passwords, and strategic exercises for the "The New Minute Men of America" and asked for his cooperation. He signed as "Captain Metropolis" and left the name of "Nelson Gardner" as his representative. He also worked diligently to secure the mysterious Silhouette's placement on his team. Once Gardner collaborated with Larry on forming the superhero team, the Minutemen were born: consisting of Silk Spectre, Silhouette, Nite-Owl, The Comedian, Mothman, and Dollar Bill.
But Captain Metropolis was not ready to take the Minutemen public yet. He needed Hooded Justice and he worked diligently to find that vigilante and recruit him to the team. Once Hooded Justice, the masked vigilante who had started the movement, was recruited Nelson felt secured in his decision and he introduced the Minutemen to the press as their "fearless leader".
Captain Metropolis: 1940 - 1949
Though it was publicized that Silk Spectre was in a relationship with Hooded Justice, it is all but confirmed today that Nelson and Hooded Justice were in a relationship and Silk Spectre was merely playing the part for the added publicity - and possibly being paid by Nelson.
In addition to the crimefighting, the Minutemen were involved in a number of personal dramas. The first of which was the assault on Silk Spectre by the Comedian, which ultimately resulted in the Comedian's expulsion from the team in 1940. Six years later, Silhouette would be expelled after the media leaked that she was involved in a lesbian relationship. Nelson voted for Silhouette's expulsion, likely as he feared that voting for her to remain would confirm accusations of Nelson and Hooded Justice's affair that the Comedian had made prior to his departure.
When Silhouette was murdered later that same year, Nelson and Hooded Justice went on patrols regularly, often hitting up the gay and lesbian clubs of the city looking for leads. Hollis Mason's "Under the Hood" theorized that these "patrols" were often meant as a way for Nelson to comfort Hooded Justice who had grown sick with being coerced into voting Silhouette off the team. Though, regardless of Mason's theories, the two must have done some investigation as they were the ones who tracked down Silhouette's murderer, finding him dead.
Captain Metropolis: 1949 - 1960
The Minutemen were eventually disbanded by Nelson in 1949 so that he could return to the more mundane industry as the capes and costumes lifestyle had become too toxic for Nelson (though many would argue he had been the primary polluter). But despite returning to Metropolis full-time, Nelson did not hang up his cape or mask. He continued to play the part of Captain Metropolis in Metropolis.
During the HUAC hearings, Captain Metropolis was given a passing grade, Nelson went public with his identity as Captain Metropolis and earned an outstanding grade from the committee. Hooded Justice disappeared around that time, likely in response to being coerced by Nelson to also go public with his secret identity.
In 1955, Nite-Owl and Mothman visited Nelson in Metropolis, asking for H.J.'s whereabouts, believing that he may have been a notorious child kidnapper and murderer from Silhouette's investigations. Nelson insisted he had not seen Hooded Justice for years. In the discussion, Nite-Owl and Mothman both voiced their displeasure with Nelson. When they left, Nelson hung up his cape and mask, not donning them again for several years.
Nelson Gardner: 1960 - 1977
As a representative of the last generation of costumed adventurers, Nelson became a frequent figure in press interviews, particularly being asked about his opinion on Dr. Manhattan. While Nelson appreciated the publicity, he began to visibly miss being a public hero.
At a charity event, Nelson made an unlikely reconciliation with Eddie Blake, the Comedian. The two were seen laughing and drinking together for much of the event.
In 1966, Nelson attempted to come out of retirement to form a new league of extrajudicial avengers, the Crimebusters, to which he invited Rorschach, the second Nite-Owl, the second Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, and the Comedian. Instead of just fighting crime, Nelson pitched the team as being capable of tackling the "social ills" of America. But his plans never fully came to fruition and the team became just another generation of street-level crimefighters who rarely went on patrols of more than two or three Crimebusters at a time. Nelson became so disheartened in his efforts to respark his glory days, he left much of the team's management to Ozymandias.
On May 31, 1971, Nelson modified his will. He even went so far as to order that his remains be cremated, with no funeral or grave marker, feeling it was what he deserved. Of course, no one knew about this for several years.
On the night of August 3rd, 1977, Nelson was driving from Washington DC to Metropolis. He had attended a rally protesting the signing of the Keene Act. While driving, Nelson lost control of the car and crashed into a barrier at a high rate of speed. He was ejected through the front windshield and was decapitated. His severed head was believed to have flown into a nearby river where it was swept away and never recovered.
At his request, there was no funeral or memorial and his remains were thoroughly destroyed. The identity of his sole beneficiary was sealed and remains secret.
- Military Tactics: Nelson was a skilled military officer, trained by the USMC. He was a capable hand-to-hand combatant, a deadly marksman, a skilled strategist, and was usually highly regarded as being a great leader by his military record. He received numerous medals for bravery and performance of duties.
- Marketing: Nelson had a head for publicity and finding a way to make a profit off almost anything. He was a self-made millionaire.
- Politics: Nelson had a large number of powerful political connections and allies through most of his adult life. Most of that began to sour with the election of Richard Nixon.
It is highly rumored that Nelson had a secret affair with Hooded Justice during their time as Minutemen. The Comedian certainly believed that was the case and taunted the two relentlessly about it. It is believed that Captain Metropolis also arranged for Sally Jupiter to pose as Hooded Justice's girlfriend to dispel these rumors.
There are even rumors that Nelson and Hooded Justice convinced Sally to seduce Comedian after a photoshoot, only for Sally to then shift gears and scream for help. This rumor was denied repeatedly by Hollis Mason and Sally Jupiter, 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].
It has been suggested that Nelson received high-marks in the military without promoting due to blackmailing key officers, perhaps by seducing them and then threatening to expose their affair. It has also been suggested that he used similar ploys to secure military contracts to acquire his fortune.
It has been proposed that Nelson did not die in his car accident and used a body double to feign his death. The order to have his body cremated prevents any scientific dispelling of this theory.
It is believed that Nelson may have hired Eddie Blake to threaten Hollis Mason, 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.
Trivia and Notes
- He gave an eulogy at William Brady's funeral.
- In 1960 he attended a Red Cross charity event for the India Famine.
- After Byron Lewis committed himself to a mental asylum he sometimes visited him, usually as a sort of annual Minutemen reunion event, making the drive with Hollis and Sally.
- During the first meeting of the Crimebusters, the Comedian noted in his brutally apt way exactly how petty the doings of the costumed heroes were and talked about the threat of nuclear war that hung overhead, and how powerless the crimefighters were before it. This meeting inspired Adrian Veidt's plan for the Manhattaning.
- There is a concert hall in Metropolis named after him.
- Nelson Gardner is a character from the Watchmen comic.
- His backstory has nods to Before Watchmen: Minutemen.
- The theory that he survived the car crash is an actual theory readers of Watchmen created after seeing two men in issue 1.
- The mysterious beneficiary might be a nod to Will Reeves from Watchmen TV series.
- Nelson's family has nods to many characters from the comics and media:
- Lance Gardner is a dancer and model from the Wonder Woman comics.
- Roland "Rolly" Gardner is Guy and Mace's father.
- Mace Gardner is a mercenary called Militia.
- Guy Gardner is a Green Lantern.
- Gloria Gardner is a police officer and Guy Gardner's sister in Prime Earth continuity.
- Alexa Gardner is Caitlin Fairchild's roommate.