Watchmen’s recent glimpse into the origins of American superheroism profoundly changed the overall arc of the show and intertwined the HBO series with the comic in unexpected ways. But as fascinating as the show’s exploration of the past was to see on screen, there’s more to the story of Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis that was left unsaid.
Last Sunday’s episode, “This Extraordinary Being,” chronicles how Hooded Justice inspired the first generation of American superheroes to put on masks and take to the streets to become symbols of justice and the rule of the law. But it’s also a story about how, in stark contrast to their public personae, Hooded Justice and the Minutemen’s leader Captain Metropolis fell in something like love behind closed doors at a time when their queerness would have made them pariahs if anyone knew that they were up to.
HBO’s Watchmen turned the heroes’ queerness, which was subtextual in the original comics, into full-on text, and while the show tells the origins of their closeted romance, it also depicts how the two eventually parted ways over their ideological differences.
Hooded Justice, who’s revealed to be a black man in the episode, wanted the Minutemen to assist in his crusade to rid New York City of a villainous group of white supremacists. Captain Metropolis, by contrast, was only interested in maintaining the Minutemen’s celebrity, which for him meant steering clear of any kinds of real heroism that would force people to acknowledge the actual kinds of evil superheroes were meant to rally against. The two heroes’ clashing priorities ultimately led to Hooded Justice leaving the group and moving on with his life, and Watchmen allows us to believe that Captain Metropolis was content to let his lover leave.
But in the supplementary documents provided in the Peteypedia—HBO’s canon encyclopedia filled with correspondences and reports put together by Laurie Blake’s partner Petey—it’s shown that Hooded Justice’s departure affected Captain Metropolis in significant ways. While Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis’ civilian identity) might not have initially been sympathetic to Will Reeves’ (Hooded Justice) cause, in time he would see the error of his ways. The latest Peteypedia entry reveals Gardner’s will, in which he reveals that he did genuinely care about his colleague on an emotional level, and he understood that the Minutemen wouldn’t have existed were it not for Will’s idea to put on his signature hood.
The will shows that following the Minutemen’s dissolution, Nelson came to see that he was wrong for keeping the rest of the group from supporting Will, and while he could never change what he did, he attempted to make things right by bequeathing Will his sizable estate—including all of the intellectual property rights to the Minutemen, which raises some interesting questions.
In the world of Watchmen, the Minutemen aren’t just an important historical footnote, they’re also the inspiration for one of America’s most popular television series that nearly all of the show’s characters can be seen watching at one point or another. Nelson leaving Will the Minutemen IP rights suggests that while Will’s presented himself as merely an old man armed with just a flashlight that hypnotizes people, he’s actually quite well off and potentially set for life with a fortune that would furnish a return to Tulsa, Oklahoma and give him the opportunity to upend his granddaughter Angela’s life.
It’s just as possible, though, that Will declined Nelson’s offer and went on living a modest life completely free of his history with the Minutemen, and he’s just been getting by on his own steam when he’s introduced in Watchmen. But the fact that he’s apparently in league with Lady Trieu, the richest and arguably most powerful person in the world aside from Doctor Manhattan, suggests that maybe just maybe, Will’s been running in similar circles to her this entire time. Whatever it is that Will and Trieu have been plotting is obviously years in the making, and it stands to reason that he’s brought more to the table that just his legacy as America’s first superhero. Whether his contributions to their cause end up being more financial, though, remains to be seen.
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