There are a lot of heroes in the epic series Watchmen, and one hero may be its most deserving of praise. Before Watchmen: Minutemen sheds a light on Ursula Zandt, the Silhouette, and the team’s true unsung hero.
Though Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ superhero story Watchmen largely focuses on a group of heroes in the mid ’80s, the history of heroism in the comic dates back to the ’30s. Long before the days of Rorschach or Doctor Manhattan, the Minutemen fought crime and kept the streets of New York safe. However, while there were a few earnest heroes in the Minutemen, most members of the team weren’t doing it for justice. They were looking for fame and glamour, or they just wanted the thrill of chasing after and beating up criminals. Aside from a few outliers, the Minutemen had few in its roster actually out to make the world better.
Except, that is, for one hero who wanted nothing more than to take out an insidious crime ring harming the city’s most vulnerable. In Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1, readers get to see the heroes of Watchmen’s world before they ever teamed up together. As the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, narrates the origins of the Minutemen, fans see how heroes like Hooded Justice and the first Silk Spectre made their forays into the world of costumed adventuring. But Hollis makes special note of Ursula Zandt, aka the Silhouette, and fondly recalls the good she did for the world. Silhouette is shown hunting down criminals involved in a child trafficking ring. She catches up to a man kidnapping a child and gives her all in trying to stop him. Though the villain manages to escape, Silhouette saves the boy from his dark fate.
What Silhouette Added to the Watchmen World
Now, Silhouette isn’t Watchmen’s only hero, of course. The original Nite Owl was a police officer who wanted to help apprehend criminals and Hooded Justice struck fear in the hearts of evil-doers all across New York. However, while many on the team were content with chasing after Moloch or other thematically-inclined supervillains, Ursula had her heart set on stopping the trafficking of children in New York. Her dedication for making substational change puts her in a league above the rest of Watchmen’s heroes, yet she never gets the proper credit.
Sadly, the only place Silhouette has in the original Watchmen story is as a cautionary tale. The Watchmen character was murdered by a B-list supervillain over Silhouette’s queer relationship. Essentially, Ursula’s role was meant to show the negatives of being a hero, and presents Silhouette as a victim. But Before Watchmen shows that not only was she a genuine do-gooder, she fought for something important. She tried protecting the children of New York while her teammates were occupied with good publicity and action. Silhouette doesn’t come up often in discussions of Watchmen, but her actions present her as the story’s best example of a hero.
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