HBO's Watchmen covers a century of American life, from the 1921 Tulsa Massacre to an alternate version of 2019, where self-proclaimed changed the course of history. Within those 98 years, it features three generations of masked vigilantes. The current group, Angela Abar and her coworkers, operate in the present. There's Adrian Veidt, Laurie Blake, and their cohort in the 1980s. Then there's the original 1940s era superheroes, The Minutemen, led by Hooded Justice, who American Hero Story is chronicling. But little is known about the man who started it all: Who was Hooded Justice? Warning: Spoilers for Watchmen follow.
No one knew who Hooded Justice was in the Watchmen comic. Supposedly, he was never seen without his hood and gloves by anyone. In Peteypedia, Laurie Blake claims her mother, Sally, never saw Hooded Justice uncovered, even though Sally let Laurie believe he was her birth father. Also, no one knows what happened to Hooded Justice. He disappeared, but a body was never found.
Hooded Justice is described as a large man with a wrestlers' physique. The Before Watchmen supplemental comic linked him to being the alter-ego of circus strongman Rolf Müller, a closeted gay man. This is the history American Hero Story runs with.
But Angela learns this is all wrong. Having taken her grandfather's Nostalgia pills, she relives William Reeves' life, from escaping the Tulsa Massacre to graduating from the New York Police Academy. She sees William meet and marry his wife, June, and have a son.
But the racist atmosphere of the NYC police is awful. When he arrests white criminals, their versions of events are accepted over his. He doggedly keeps trying, until one night he's nearly lynched. He's cut down just in time and told not to interfere with white folk's business, or he will die.
Stumbling home, lynch hood and noose in hand, William sees a white couple being mugged. An idea seizes him. What if, to interfere with white folks' business, he disguises himself? He pokes eye holes in the hood, cinches it to his face with the rope, puts on his police gloves, and goes to work rescuing the innocent.
This is how Hooded Justice has been pictured ever after (including in the 2009 Watchmen film). From the neck up, it's almost ridiculous anyone wouldn't realize he's wearing the remnants of nearly being lynched.
But even in a society where racial equality has made headway, and reparations are happening, the world still assumes a white default. It never occurs to anyone Hooded Justice's secret is he isn't white. (They're happy to portray him as closeted though.)
As for why Reeves disappeared, he walked away from the Minutemen when he called upon them to help rescue innocent African-Americans, and they refused. Reeves uncovers a white gang intent on starting a race war. They are brainwashing African Americans via the flashing lights of a movie projector in segregated theaters, driving them to violent behavior. It's a comic book scenario brought to life, with science-fiction technology and supervillains intent on the destruction of society and genocide. It's what superheroes were made for.
But when Reeves calls for help, he's told: "This sort of thing isn't really the Minutemen's cup of tea." They're happy to dress up in costume and be praised as heroes, but only for the "right" people.
No wonder Hooded Justice walked away. But will Angela understand and forgive his choices?