Silk Spectre is the name shared by a mother and daughter fictional superheroine pair who are central characters in the 1986-87 comic book limited series Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. They are often said to be modified versions of the character Nightshade from Charlton Comics; however, Alan Moore has stated that he found Nightshade "boring," and that Silk Spectre was modeled on sexier characters, such as Phantom Lady and Black Canary. (also an alias shared by a mother and daughter.)
Fictional character history
The first Silk Spectre was former frizzy haired, redhead waitress and burlesque dancer Sally Jupiter (her real last name was Juspeczyk, which she changed to hide her Polish ancestry), who entered action sometime around 1938 when she was only 18 years old. In her time, she was a sex symbol by whom criminals didn't mind getting caught. She was an action heroine version of a pin-up girl and, even in her old age, she seemed proud of her sex symbol status, apparently enjoying male attention as indicated by her career as a dancer and her reaction to learning of a Tijuana bible that was based on her, much to her daughter's disapproval.
She was soon invited by Captain Metropolis to join the Minutemen, a group of costumed heroes. On October 2, 1940, after a meeting of the Minutemen, she was sexually assaulted by Edward Blake, alias The Comedian. He was thwarted in his attempt by fellow Minuteman Hooded Justice, who gave him a vicious beating. The event would have a profound impact on Sally's life. Her agent, Laurence Schexnayder, persuaded her not to press charges against the Comedian for fear of damaging the group's image. More celebrity than vigilante, Silk Spectre provided a cover for Hooded Justice's homosexuality by being his glamorous girlfriend. In an interview, she admitted that she didn't really like The Silhouette, a.k.a. Ursula Zandt, who was constantly pestering her about her Polish heritage, but later expressed regret that she was expelled from the group simply because she was a lesbian, especially since there were men on the team who were gay (though she did not identify them).
In 1947 Sally retired from crime-fighting and married her agent, Laurence Schexnayder, while keeping in touch with Hollis Mason (Nite Owl) and Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis). In 1949 she gave birth to her daughter Laurel Jane, commonly known as Laurie. It was known to both parents that Laurie was not Laurence's child, but the Comedian's, from a second encounter, and this led to conflict in the family, leading the couple to divorce in 1956. While not explicitly stated, it is implied that Sally's second sexual encounter with the Comedian was consensual, and that, despite his earlier attack on her, she did have feelings for him.
Sally pushed her daughter into the "family business of crimefighting." Laurie Juspeczyk
never held much interest in becoming her mother's successor, but went along with Sally's wishes anyway. Growing up, the brunette Laurie knew Laurence Schexnayder was not her real father, and she always believed, incorrectly, that her real father was Hooded Justice
. Laurie Juspeczyk is a liberal-thinking, modern woman. She is vocal in her feminist and humanitarian concerns, and is quite a conditioned fighter, and at the start of the story is shown to have a strained relationship with her mother. Driven by the memories of her own experience, Sally tried to keep Laurie from knowing some of the harsher realities of the crimefighting life. For example, she didn't allow her to read Hollis Mason (Nite-Owl
I)'s autobiography Under the Hood
(which included mention of the Comedian's sexual assault on Sally, something Laurie knew nothing of). Sally acted like an agent for her daughter, picking out her costume, and chauffering her to "Crimebusters" meetings. After one of these meetings, Laurie met the Comedian outside, who commented and complimented her for being the spitting image of her mother, but their conversation was broken up quickly by an angry Sally Jupiter. Laurie noted that the Comedian looked sad as he watched them drive away, and felt sorry for him. During the car ride home, Sally told her daughter of her history with the Comedian, but did not tell her that the Comedian was her father. Disgusted and deeply saddened for her mother's pain, Laurie never forgave the Comedian for his actions, though it seems that as time passed, and in a complicated way, Sally was able to come to terms with it, even to the point that she was willing to defend the Comedian from Laurie's derogatory remarks after he was murdered. Shortly after the meeting of the Crimebusters, Laurie met and became involved with Doctor Manhattan
(at the age of 16), something her mother did not approve of, likening Laurie's relationship with Manhattan to being the equivalent of sleeping with an H-bomb
. Drawn to him from the moment she first saw him, Laurie worked with Doctor Manhattan in some of his various domestic assignments, including the suppression of riots during the police strike of 1977. Never exactly happy being a vigilante and not happy with the government taking advantage with her relationship with the superhuman Manhattan, Laurie was more than pleased to quit being a superhero when the Keene Act of 1977 forced all but government-sponsored superheroes to retire.
Events of Watchmen
After retiring, Laurie lived with Manhattan for a number of years. However, their relationship became strained, owing to Manhattan's growing disconnection with humanity. Laurie eventually left Doctor Manhattan and began living with Dan Dreiberg
, a.k.a. the second Nite-Owl, and the two soon became romantically involved. Dreiberg and Laurie decided to don their old costumes and take Dreiberg's airship Archie out. During their flight, they found a building on fire and rescued the inhabitants. Soon after, Laurie was brought to Mars
by Dr. Manhattan, where she attempted to convince him to save humanity from impending nuclear war. During their conversation, Laurie finally came to the realization that, to her horror, her father was really the Comedian. Moved by the sheer unlikelihood of two people as different as Sally Jupiter and the Comedian producing a child, and the child being Laurie, Dr. Manhattan realized the miracle and value of human life and agreed to save the planet. The pair returned to earth, only to find half of New York City
destroyed by Ozymandias'
creature. They then teleport to Ozymandias' lair in Antarctica
, where Laurie attempted to shoot Ozymandias, only to be thwarted by Ozymandias' newfound, and untried, ability to catch bullets
. After realizing that Ozymandias' plan had worked, and that, despite the loss of several million lives, nuclear war had been averted while also uniting the nations of the world, the heroes (with the exception of Rorschach
) decided that Ozymandias' plan should be kept secret to serve the greater good.
Shortly after these events, Laurie and Dan Drieberg adopted new appearances and identities, now calling themselves Sam and Sandra Hollis, and sporting blond hair. They visited Sally Jupiter - now living in a retirement home - and Laurie told her mother that she had realized the truth about her father. The issue was put to rest for Laurie, who accepted that the situation between her mother and the Comedian was too complicated, and forgave her. "Sam and Sandra" left soon afterwards, indicating that they would continue to adventure, although Laurie expressed the wish for a better superhero identity, a more protective leather outfit, a mask, and a firearm. This parallels the Comedian's change from a gaudy yellow clown suit to paramilitary gear, even the aforementioned firearm. After watching them leave, Sally picked up an old photograph of the Minutemen, which included the Comedian, and kissed his half of the picture as tears rolled down her face.