Ursula Zandt: 1920 - 1938
Ursula was the child of a remarkably wealthy family. She had a happy childhood and shared it with her younger sister Blanche. That all ended on March 12th, 1938, with the Anschluss. The German annexation of Austria brought with it public ousting of Jewish families from stations of power and prestige. Ursula's parents were among the first victims of the hate-fueled violence that became tolerated. Ursula and her sister were put up in an orphanage set up for Jewish children, run by Nazi staff. Ursula and Blanche were not cared for, but oppressed, tormented, and cruelly beaten.
Fortunately, Ursula was able to escape this by virtue of turning eighteen just a month after landing in the orphanage. With the help of the orphanage's sympathetic pharmacist named Gretchen Gruber, Ursula returned to the orphanage with a disguise and a fake identity, this time as a nurse. Intent on protecting her sister Blanche until she and Gretchen could secure passage out of the country, Ursula brought comfort to her sister by reading her verses from A Child's Garden Verses.
On the eve of their escape, the head of the orphanage found Blanche in possession of contraband. The Nazi director ordered Blanche brought to his chambers for punishment. Ursula killed the guards stationed outside and entered the room just in time to find Blanche brutally murdered by the orphanage's director after systematic torture. Ursula shot the man in the knee and freed her sister from the rack into which she had been strapped.
Ursula was intent on torturing the orphanage's director, just as he had Blanche. Still, Gretchen intervened -- shooting the director in the head just as Ursula finished strapping him into the rack. Though Ursula was furious, she would later realize Gretchen saved her life that night as more guards were already on the way. Due to Gretchen's interruption, the two fled to the United States to begin a new life.
Silhouette: 1938 - 1939
After a long and painful mourning of Blanche, Ursula began looking for ways to adjust to life without her sister. She and Gretchen became lovers, but in the era in which they lived, their love was forbidden. That element of their life needed to be kept secret and only shared with the closest of friends.
Due to her past trauma, Ursula began to speak out against child abuse, neglect, and trafficking. She found work as a writer for a New York City women's magazine and used that as a platform to share her message. Though she never did rise to prominence for her literary endeavors, this medium would lead her into an investigation that would forever alter her life's trajectory.
In 1939, an anonymous reader of Ursula's penned a letter to her, alerting her to a publisher's involvement in a child trafficking ring. Ursula tried to take the message to the police, but was met with skepticism and threatened with lawsuits for libel and slander. With the advent of recent newspaper articles discussing masked vigilantes, Ursula decided to take the law into her own hands.
Not bothering with a mask, but donning a costume and dubbing herself 'The Silhouette,' Ursula gave a punitive "beating" to the publisher and two of his associates (Newspapers at the time cleaned up the violence, citing a pure beating. However, evidence indicates that Ursula knee-capped the men with her automatic pistols). After her debut, Silhouette became a National sensation and feminist icon, proving to the world that women could deal street justice just as well as the men.
Ursula handled her newfound celebrity status better than the other prominent female crimefighter in the city -- Silk Spectre. Quitting her job as a columnist, Ursula began to work off private donations, payments for public appearances, and Gretchen's income. This new source of income allowed Ursula to become Silhouette full-time in just months after her debut.
Shortly after appearing in Vogue, Ursula was contacted by a new crimefighter named Captain Metropolis, and given an opportunity to join the Minutemen, which was billed as the first team of "costumed adventurers", or as the newspapers had become to label them: "Watchmen".
Silhouette: 1939 - 1946
Silhouette became the third costumed adventurer to join the Minutemen, following Captain Metropolis and Silk Spectre. As a member of the Minutemen, Ursula disagreed with Captain Metropolis' focus on "headline-grabbing" actions rather than street-level crime-fighting. She found herself often siding with the Comedian in early discussions, and took a liking to the young man. Ursula came to see him as a younger brother and mentored him.
Ursula kept her relationship with Gretchen concealed from the Minutemen (including the Comedian). She came to dislike the Silk Spectre very early on. When the Comedian was ejected from the team, Ursula abstained from the voting process. Prior to the vote, Ursula explained that she agreed his transgression was reprehensible but also claimed she felt banning the Comedian was not the right punishment. Following the departure of the Comedian, Ursula became very close to Nite-Owl, who became a frequent companion on her personal war against child trafficking.
Ursula continued to question Larry Schexnayder and Captain Metropolis' interest in image and publicity rather than substantial efforts against crime. Her constant recommendations for team outings against child trafficking rings were often shot down by Schexnayder, who regarded such cases as "depressing and sad". But not all Minutemen were obsessed with the limelight, Nite-Owl and Mothman regularly teamed up with Silhouette to tackle such investigations. Mothman even disregarded the Minutemen policy about concealing identities, revealing his real name to Ursula and even giving her his phone number. Ursula always thought he was sweet, she almost felt sorry for him.
Ursula's life took a sharp turn when the press revealed that she was living with another woman in a lesbian relationship. In the wake of this news, Laurence Schexnayder persuaded the Minutemen to expel Ursula to minimize the "bad publicity". When the vote came, Ursula was voted out 4 to 2 (Silk Spectre, Captain Metropolis, Hooded Justice, and Dollar Bill voted for Ursula's removal while Mothman and Nite-Owl voted against). Nite-Owl broke the news to Ursula but he would continue to work with Ursula for the next few months, with Nite-Owl even revealing his identity as former policeman Hollis Mason.
During their last joint-investigation, Ursula trusted Hollis with a file containing the names of missing children. Hollis was to take the file to some of his contacts in the police. Hollis returned with promising leads but Ursula was unable to pursue those leads at that time as she and Gretchen had been evicted from their apartment. Ursula told Hollis to meet her the next night and gave him the address of a motel where he could find them once they had settled.
Hollis found Ursula and Gretchen murdered in that motel. The two had been killed in their sleep by a longtime minor foe of the Minutemen, the Liquidator. The petty criminal turned murderer had written "Lesbian Whores" on the wall of the murder scene, written in Ursula's own blood.
When Hollis brought news of Ursula's murder to the Minutemen, the team rallied together in a way they had never done before. None of them considered Ursula as a disgraced member of the team any longer. She was a fallen comrade. Even the Silk Spectre, who had more than her share of troubles with Ursula, became obsessed with finding the Liquidator. The Minutemen did eventually find the Liquidator... though a more apt name for him at that time was "the Liquidated." The murdered murderer was found dead and mutilated in a bathtub in New Jersey. Who murdered the Liquidator remains unknown to this day - though Eddie Blake remains the prime suspect.
Nite-Owl and Mothman continued Ursula's work, dedicating much of their remaining time as crimefighters to championing the cause of children. After retiring from the mantle of Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter paid regular visits to Ursula's gravesite, notably on Ursula's birthday and the anniversary of the date of her death. During one of these visits, Sally Jupiter and Eddie Blake met again over the site of Ursula's grave. Mourning the death of Ursula together mended the past divide between Eddie and Sally. This reconciliation eventually led to the birth of Laurie Juspeczyk.
As the LGBT movement picked up steam and a culture of tolerance and acceptance took root in America and global popular culture, Ursula Zandt was resurrected - as an icon of feminism and a pioneer of the LGBT movement.
- Combat Training: Ursula trained regularly to maintain an edge against criminals.
- Markswoman: Ursula learned to use handguns with remarkable accuracy in Europe and in her early days as a crimefighter. She maintained this proficiency until her death.
- Whipmaster: As the use of guns did not fit with Laurence Schexnayder's vision for a team of costumed adventurers, Ursula decided to train in the use of a whip. This proved to not only be an effective weapon, and even a practical tool in many situations, the whip also enhanced Ursula's status as a sex symbol due to the weapon's association in BDSM subculture.
- Martial Artist: Though Ursula's hand-to-hand combat style was originally a simple boxing style, she did learn some Eastern martial art styles which were relatively unknown to most New York City thugs, giving her another edge against them.
- Writing: Ursula was considered a capable writer with an interest in journalism.
Trivia and Notes
- It was her idea Byron changed his superhero alias from "Flying Man" to "Mothman".
- Byron Lewis had fallen in love with her. Finding out she was a lesbian came as a blow to him, and then her dismissal from the team nearly killed him.
- Hollis revealing his real identity became fortunate when she was heavily wounded. He took her to her house where he learnt she and Gretchen were lovers. Ursula was astonished by how accepting Hollis was of learning that element of her lifestyle, but he explained to her that his father figure was gay, a statement which caught Ursula off-guard and endeared her to Hollis more than ever.
- Ursula Zandt is a character from the Watchmen comic.
- Her portrait is based on her appearance in the Watchmen movie. She's making a pose from the Minutemen photo.
- Her backstory is a nod to Before Watchmen: Minutemen.
- Her usage of whip is Earth-27 original. In the movie she's seen with a riding crop, and in the comics she used handguns.