On January 30th, DC will continue to explore the Watchmen universe that Moore and Gibbons built with a one-shot focusing on a fallen hero. Len Wein and Steve Rude's Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill #1 will tell the story of a the late, lamented Bill Brady--athlete, actor, and masked member of the Minutemen as the corporate-sponsored Dollar Bill.
For Wein, the Eisner-winning co-creator of Swamp Thing and Wolverine--this was a chance to explore an unsung character withing the Watchmen canon, a man better known for the tragic, almost ridiculous way he died, as detailed by retired superhero Hollis Mason in the series' book-within-the-book, Under The Hood. "He's never been visited before. Of all the Watchmen, he's the one with the least information given about him over the course of the series," Wein says of the appeal in exploring the life of the character.
And one of the key things about the character that Wein hopes to explore in the one-shot is why Bill Brady put on a costume an effectively became a mascot for National Bank Co.. It's a story of missed opportunities and frustrated ambition. Wein says that Brady never set out to become a superhero or a spokesman for a bank, originally aiming for Hollywood stardom. Wein's story stretches back to Bill's high school days, where a busted knee frustrated his sports career, while his good looks didn't translate into an acting career. But when he was approached by the National Bank Co. to help them take advantage of the superhero craze of the 40's, Dollar Bill offered an accidental, roundabout path to fame.
"The difference between [Bill] and the rest of the characters is that he kind of accepts his lot in life," Wein says, seeing the character as less wracked by the guilt and neuroses of the other heroes in Moore's story. He's not playing out some psychosexual trauma, he's not trying to reshape the world, and he's not trying to live up to a legacy--the character simply rolls with the punches and takes a job that offers him a moment in the spotlight and a chance to make a difference. "He just copes," Wein says of the character. "He's one of those guys who just gets by, he does what he needs to do." It's a life that leaves the character without any lasting legacy, whose innate sadness appealed to Wein.
Since there was so little written about the character from Hollis' recollections--his good nature, his name, and his death are really all we're given about this forgotten side character--Wein says that he had to figure out who Bill Brady was on his own. Part of his goal in writing the one-shot was figuring out why the character would be the one to respond to Captain Metropolis and Silk Spectre's ad recruiting would-be masked avengers for the Minutemen on behalf of a bank. For Bill, it was a leap from getting shot at with blanks onscreen to getting shot at for real by actual criminals. Thankfully, Dollar Bill's big screen presence gives him one advantage on the streets: "Part of what makes him succeed initially, is that criminals aren't that brave to begin with. They've seen Dollar Bill in the movies kicking ass, and so for those first couple of minutes, they're frozen."
Ultimately, Wein hopes to have redeemed the character by the end of his one-shot, saying that although the character's life is ultimately a tragic one, there's at least one bright spot for the guy: for one brief period in time, he finally gets the fame he craved in life as a hero. "It's a tragedy," Wein says, "but some good came out of it."
Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill #1 will be on sale January 30th from DC Comics.