The Minutemen were the premier group of superheroes throughout the 1940s. They were founded in 1939, largely through the actions of Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis), Sally Jupiter (the first Silk Spectre) and Sally Jupiter's agent Laurence Schexnayder. Schexnayder also provided the group's publicity. After several public controversies, the group finally disbanded in 1949.
The crime-fighter Captain Metropolis contacted Silk Spectre and her manager, Larry Schexnayder about joining forces with all "mystery men". Metropolis provided his headquarters, an incomplete and abandoned malting factory on the river Hudson. As the World War II was starting in Europe, advertisements were published in newspapers, attracting the interest of adventurers who wished to fight for the country.
The Golden Age
Because of their name and the war, Metropolis and Schexnayder wished their image to be that of "modern patriots". They worked to organize their first mission together that would grab attention and publicity: to expose Italian weapon smugglers. Spectre diverted the guard while Owl, Silhouette and Comedian infiltrated the warehouse. C.P and H.J. came with an army tank, driven by Bill while simultaneously Mothman flew and threw a smoke grenade in the warehouse.
However the information was not verified. The smugglers actually smuggled chinese fireworks, cherry bombs and candles. Mothman's grenade fell right into the crate creating a havoc of explosions and fireworks.
The Comedian left the group in 1940, after attempting to rape Sally Jupiter, reducing the group's membership to seven.
The remaining Minutemen actively fought crime throughout the war years, with their peak period of activity ranging from 1939 to 1946.
In 1946, Silhouette was expelled for having a lesbian relationship and was later killed. In 1947, Dollar Bill was also killed while attempting to intervene at a bank robbery when his cape became caught in the revolving doors of the entrance. Also in 1947 Sally Jupiter retired in order to marry Schexnayder, and gave birth to her daughter Laurel Jane. In 1949, the remaining four members of the group decided to disband the organization.
The remaining members still remained individually active in the 1950s, but their careers were on the decline. Hollis Mason later described the '50s as cold and bleak, both for himself and for masked adventurers in general.
Mason recounted that one of the big problems they had faced was the absence of costumed criminals. The Minutemen had hammered costumed villains to such an extent in the 1940s that new criminals stopped continuing the trend. He claimed that stopping criminals without costumes felt kind of stupid and embarrassing, but there had never been as many costumed criminals as heroes. He says crooks turned in their costumes along with their careers, but some opted for a less extroverted and more profitable approach. He called them the new breed of villains who had colorful names but were ordinary men in business suits who ran drug and prostitution rackets, and although they still caused a lot of trouble, they were no fun to fight.
Things were starting to get serious, but Mason noted how funny it was that the more serious things got, the better the Comedian seemed to do. About ten years younger than the other masked vigilantes, the Comedian was entering into his physical prime while the others were starting to feel old. He was the only one of them still showing up in the front pages, and possibly through his government connections, was turning into some sort of patriotic symbol.
Besides the Comedian, the remaining active masked adventurers had to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and were forced to reveal their true identities to one of its representatives. This action didn't present any immediate problems for most of them, with Captain Metropolis' outstanding military record and Hollis' service in the police force, but Mothman had more difficulty because of left-wing friends he cultivated while a student. He was cleared, but the investigations were both lengthy and ruthless, and Hollis speculates that the pressure may have prompted his drinking problem that later contributed to his mental ill-health. Hooded Justice refused to divulge his real identity to HUAC and simply disappeared: he was never heard from again and may have simply retired.
Sally Jupiter's marriage was rocky and ended in divorce in 1956. Afterwards she stayed retired and focused on being a single mother, though Mason felt that she subsequently did a great job of raising an amazing daughter.
The final end of the Minutemen even as a loose association came with the sudden appearance of Doctor Manhattan on the world stage in 1960, which changed everything. A few months later Nite Owl and some of the other masked vigilantes met Dr. Manhattan at a Red Cross event. Mothman was also in attendance but had a bad shake and not long afterwards would be entered into a sanitorium for his drinking problem and mental illness. At the Red Cross event, Nite Owl realized that he was forty-six and feeling old, and decided to retire.
However, a second generation of costumed adventures was beginning to appear, inspired by the Minutemen. Ozymandias first appeared in 1958, two years before the Red Cross event where Nite Owl decided to retire. Even as Nite Owl wrote Under the Red Hood in 1962, a new young crime-fighter inspired by his career wrote him a fan-letter formally asking his permission to use the "Nite Owl" name as a new masked vigilante. Mason met with the polite young man, gave him his blessing, and they became good friends. Captain Metropolis' career continued sporadically, and despite his declining years he tried his hardest to stay fit for duty through vigorous exercise. In 1966 he even went so far as to try to organize the second generation of costumed adventurers into a new team he called the "Crimebusters", modeled on the Minutemen organization (which he himself had first proposed organizing). The attempt at an actual organization failed, though the individual careers of the second generation of superheroes continued.
The decline of the "masked vigilantes" in the 1950s mirrored the real-life "lost age" of comic books between the Golden Age and Silver age (sometimes called the "Atomic Age"), when the original superheroes of the late 1930s and war years declined in popularity, and even faced external attacks from congressional hearings, spurred by the book Seduction of the Innocent by psychologist Fredric Wertham.
One of the founders of the Minutemen, Nelson Gardner, originally suggested that a group of heroes pooling their resources could be more effective than a handful of individuals. As an ex-Marine lieutenant, Captain Metropolis was motivated by ending "social ills" such as promiscuity and anti-war demonstrations. Gardner insisted that his motivations were not selfish or fanatically conservative.
A teenage "thug" armed with a baseball bat. He was fighting the criminals around the New York harbor and always made sure that it was worth his time. There was a word that the Comedian striped the criminals he captured from their money and kept them himself. When he joined the Minutemen he complained that publicity was not enough and he was looking forward for real money.
The Comedian was noteworthy for the rape attempt against Silk Spectre. Most of his colleagues voted whether he should be expelled, such as Hollis Mason who was often critical for him. As the Comedian told them, the Minutemen were all he had, however he pursued a solo career after that.
As the first costumed vigilante, Hooded Justice utilized sheer brutality to stop a bank robbery as his first act of heroism. His identity was never revealed, but due to his large, body-builder type figure, many conjectured that HJ was actually former circus strong-man Rolf Müller.
After HJ stopped her rape at the hands of the Comedian, Silk Spectre (Sally Jupiter) posed as his girlfriend to calm suspicions that Justice was a homosexual sadist and protect the image of the Minutemen in the 1940s.
When the Minutemen began to be questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee, Hooded Justice vanished, leaving many to conjecture that he died at the hands of the Comedian. Rolf's badly decomposing body was found in a river three years later, but the circumstances of his death, and the possibility that he actually was Hooded Justice, were never proven. Then again, due to the East German background of Rolf, some suspect that if he was indeed Rolf, he may have had communist ties and been assassinated either by the US government (possibly using the Comedian himself, but perhaps not), or by his own Red superiors because they felt he was becoming too high-profile. Mason didn't like the implications of any of these lines of speculation, so he simply left the fate of Hooded Justice as an open mystery.
Ursula Zandt, a Jewish Austrian immigrant who escaped the rise of Nazism in Austria, joined the Minutemen as Silhouette. Ursula wanted the team to do something meaningful, like her exposure of a child pornography ring; Schexnayder insisted that the Minutemen publicity should be connected with more positive and patriotic concepts like "saving the grandma" and not "sad children". This policy made Zandt to doubt about the real meaning of the team, which was mainly image, publicity and money. Ursula often baited Sally Jupiter about her Polish roots, which Jupiter outright denied.
She was later expelled from the group when it became public knowledge that she was a lesbian in 1946. Six weeks after her public outage and expulsion from the team, she was killed alongside her lover by an old adversary who sought revenge.
After being inspired by an article on Hooded Justice's first appearance in the New York Gazette, Hollis Mason, an average policeman, became the first Nite Owl. He replied to C.M.'s advertisement and was accepted to the Minutemen. Initially he was attracted to Silhouette, whom he considered the only person who knew why she was fighting. He helped to lead the team for many years.
Once Doctor Manhattan became a public mainstay, Mason retired from hero work to open a garage, passing on the Nite Owl mantle to Dan Dreiberg, a long-time fan and eventually wrote a tell-all book about their endeavors called Under the Hood. His book contained the first public mention of the Comedian's rape of Sally Jupiter..
Upon the advice of her agent, Laurence Schexnayder, Sally Juspeczyk quit her career in burlesque dancing/waitressing and became a crimefighter. After one of the first meetings of the Minutemen, Sally "Jupiter," as she preferred to be called to mask her Polish heritage, was sexually assaulted by the Comedian. Hooded Justice intervened, resulting in bad blood between the two men. Sally later fell in love with the Comedian, even having a child by him while still married to Schexnayder, eventually becoming the root cause of their divorce.
Her dancing background and acceptance of pornography-style comics drawn of her are indications that she is a victim of low self-esteem as well as a woman who desired aggressive male attention.
The original Silk Spectre trained her daughter, Laurel Jane, early on to take up the mantle and be a better hero than she could ever be. She eventually retired to a rest home in California, letting her daughter take care of the crimefighting.
Dollar Bill was originally a star college athlete from Kansas, employed as an in-house superhero by one of the major, but unnamed, national banks. While attempting to stop a raid upon one of his employer's banks, his cloak became entangled in the bank's revolving door and he was shot dead before he could free it. In Under the Hood, Hollis Mason's tell-all book, Mason described Dollar Bill as an honest, friendly young man, and rued the stupidity of capes because of the incident. Interestingly enough, Dollar Bill's clear commercial motivations (public identity, hired by a bank) are never commented on by his peers or the subsequent generation of vigilantes who all seem to regard him as a worthy hero – even Rorschach, who condemns Ozymandias for his commercialization, laments Dollar Bill's untimely death.
Something of a minor character, Byron Lewis was one of the costumed adventurers that appeared after the appearance of Hooded Justice. Lewis used special wings to glide in the air while battling crime. Lewis was frightened by the idea of the second World War. He was one of the four Minutemen to remain on the team after the deaths of Dollar Bill and the Silhouette, the Comedian's expulsion, and the Silk Spectre's retirement.
Lewis was investigated by HUAC, and had difficulty clearing his name due to several left-wing friends. The pressure from these investigations is considered to have precipitated his alcoholism and subsequent mental health problems that eventually consigned him to a sanatorium in New England. He is not a main focus of the storyline, but appears in flashbacks, at one point reduced in later years to fragile sanity, unnerving the second Silk Spectre. He is regarded fondly by most of the Minutemen, and the first Nite Owl sends Dreiberg to visit him, uncostumed, on his behalf.