For three months after reading the article and deciding to become a costumed adventurer Hollis was filled with self-doubt, self-ridicule and self-conscious training at the police gymnasium, as well curiosity as to how he was going to make a costume.
To make the costume he knew he first needed to decide a name, but he was stumped for a couple of weeks because he wanted to have a name with the sense of drama and excitement as "Hooded Justice". Another policeman he knew at the station house invited him for beer after work two or three times but was turned down due to his desire to work out as much as possible, and he slept from nine p.m. to five a.m. every night. He finally gave up asking and took to calling him "Nite Owl" out of sarcasm. He liked it, and decided now to come up with a costume.
He notes that the costume is something nobody really thinks about, but he opts for a design that left his arms and legs as free as possible while protecting his body and head with a tough leather tunic, light chainmail briefs, and a layer of leather-over-chainmail protecting his head. He experimented with a cloak with Shadow in mind, but in practice he found it too unwieldy; he tripped in it and it got caught in things, so he abandoned it for an outfit more streamlined with a mail and leather headpiece hiding his hair. He found he only needed a small domino mask to conceal his identity, but it caused a problem that wasn't obvious at first. It was attached to his face by the simple expediency of a string, but after his first fight he had it changed by sticking the mask to his face with spirit gum.
He first became Nite Owl during the early months of 1939. In his first night out he encountered a drunk with a knife who hooked his fingers in the eye holes of his mask and pulled it down so he could only see out of one eye. He had to tear off the mask and then disarmed the drunk, hoping the alcohol would fog clear recollection of his face. His first few exploits were largely unspectacular but aroused a lot of media interest because at the time, dressing up in costume had become a fad that America was interested in.
Within seven months of Hooded Justice's entrance, there were at least seven other costumed vigilantes on or around America's west coast. He later recalls Hooded Justice openly expressing approval of Hitler's Third Reich.
A month after his debut, a young woman who called herself the Silhouette was in the headlines after exposing a crooked publisher trafficking in child pornography, and beating the entrepreneur and his two chief cameramen.
A little after her a reports of a man dressed like a moth who could glide through the air came from Connecticut. He later recalls how Mothman, only a week before his writing, had been committed to a mental institution after a long bout of alcoholism and a complete mental breakdown.
A particularly vicious and brutal young man in a gaudy yellow boiler suit started cleaning up the city's waterfronts under the name Comedian.
There was Captain Metropolis, who brought a knowledge of military technique and strategy to his attempt at eradicating organized crime in the inner urban areas, and who is still active as of Hollis' writing, although he does mention that he has gone on record as making statements about black and Hispanic Americans that have been viewed as both racially prejudiced and inflammatory, charges that are difficult to argue or deny.
He wrote about the Silk Spectre, and how she was now retired, living with her daughter after an unsuccessful early marriage, and in retrospect realized was the first of them to realize there were commercial benefits from being an adventurer. She used her reputation primarily to make front pages and receive exposure in her lucrative modeling career. Hollis believes all of them who knew her loved her a little and no one begrudged her living.
He reveals a lot of information about Dollar Bill who is relatively unknown and unspoken of. He was originally a star college athlete from Kansas who was employed as an in-house super-hero by one of the major national banks after they realized that the masked man fad made being able to brag about having a hero of their own to protect the customer's money an interesting publicity prospect. He calls Dollar Bill one of the nicest and most straight-forward men he ever met, and the fact he died so tragically young being something that still upsets him when he thinks about it. While attempting to stop a raid on one of his employer's banks his cloak was entangled in a revolving door, then he was shot dead at point-blank range before he could free it. The designers the bank hired to make the costume made it with maximum publicity appeal, and Hollis speculates that perhaps if he'd designed it himself he wouldn't have used a cloak and would still be alive.
Who they were
He reflects on all of them, choosing to dress up in gaudy opera costumes, sometimes respected, sometimes analyzed, but most often laughed at, and he doesn't think any of them still surviving understand why they did it all. Some did it because they were hired, some to gain publicity, some for a sense of childish excitement, and others for the excitement that was more adult, even if perhaps less healthy. They were called fascists and perverts, and while there was an element of truth, neither were big enough to get the whole picture. He says yes, some of them were politically extreme, some had sexual hang-ups, some were unstable and neurotic, yes they were crazy; kinky; Nazis, but he believes they were doing something because they believed in it.
|Under the Hood|
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