“Thought we both could use a friend
To run to
And I wouldn’t have to be with you
As something new” – Hey Jupiter, Tori Amos
With the arrival of HBO’s continuation of Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ groundbreaking comic Watchmen, it felt like the perfect time for a look back at one of my favorite characters: Sally Jupiter, aka the first Silk Spectre. At the end of the graphic novel, Sally is settled into a retirement home and finally makes peace with her daughter, Laurie. Sally’s choices played a deep emotional undercurrent in the original source material, and I’ll be interested to see if they are referenced in the new series. Until then, remember: it rains on the just and unjust alike, cupcake.
Waitress. Dancer. Masked crime fighter. Sex symbol. Aging starlet. The Silk Spectre of the Minutemen era fits so many archetypes of her time—the 1940s—and yet, there’s something much more tantalizingly complex under the glamour and diamond-hard exterior.
Born Sally Juspeczyk, she shortened her name to Jupiter to distance herself from her Polish roots. From the beginning, she was on the lookout for the American Dream. After working as a waitress and burlesque dancer, she found her main meal ticket with the Minutemen. Clad in a frothy yellow slip dress and dark satin under-things and fishnets, she became the Silk Spectre, a name plucked from the ether because it reminded her of silk stockings and slipping through someone’s fingers (according to the Under the Hood documentary).
While her male counterparts used brute force to take down criminals, Silk Spectre relied on her feminine charms to literally disarm criminals. As her career progressed, she and her manager and later on husband, Laurence Schexnayder, would continue to cash in on her sex symbol status for modeling and acting gigs. Down the line, Jupiter would admit that was her main desire for joining the Minutemen, unlike the Nite Owl, who was led by strong moral obligations to clean up the streets. Her image is littered through newspapers and pinups, and engraved on lighters and painted on fighter planes. She was the masked “It” girl.
But the Minutemen weren’t without their own secrets, and Sally Jupiter had her share of sorrows behind the scenes. Hollis Mason (aka Nite Owl) alleged in Under the Hood that the Comedian tried to rape Jupiter after a meeting—allegations she refused to comment on publicly and would later hide from her daughter. She was also a well-planted distraction to keep the press from wondering about Hooded Justice’s true sexuality (and relationship with Captain Metropolis).
And just as everyone had personal convictions for joining the Minutemen, they also had their reasons for leaving. Jupiter continued to shift her focus to acting but then became pregnant. The government also began to tighten their grip on squeezing out the Minutemen’s true identities, so retirement and impending motherhood once again kept Jupiter out of reach.
“Thought I knew myself so well
All the dolls I had
Took my leather off the shelf
Your apocalypse was fab”
With age comes wisdom, but also lost dreams. After having a daughter named Laurie, she desperately wanted her brand of Silk Spectre to continue; as Laurie grew up, Jupiter pressed her to take up the mantle. She did but considered herself sidetracked by her mother’s wishes.
“She blames me for her career, but what else would she have been? A housewife?”
And isn’t that what every mother wants, in a way, but to live on through their children? Perhaps Jupiter thought Laurie could excel where she sputtered out, stuck in a quiet but comfortable life of luxury living and liquid lunches. Jupiter’s marriage to Schexnayder was also short-lived and prove to be more business than pleasure.
As an aging matriarch, all she has left are framed clippings and colorful memorabilia (Tijuana bibles, anyone?). Much like Mason, who loved her from afar (and couldn’t muscle up the courage to ask her for a date), Jupiter found herself losing herself in the nostalgia of days gone by.
“I’m 67 years old. Every day, the future looks a little bit darker. But the past…even the grimy parts of it…keep on getting brighter.”
The Comedian (also known as Eddie Blake) was part of that grime, and the thinly veiled truth would finally out that Blake was Laurie’s father. Jupiter blamed herself for years for the rape attempt, yet in the shadows and with the passage of time, the two were drawn together again, changed by life but bound by the shared experience of duality in and out of the public eye.
“And sometimes you take a swim
Found your writing on my wall
If my heart’s soaking wet
Boy your boots can leave a mess”
Jupiter’s life was a star-spangled attempt to find fame and fortune, and she did, to a certain degree. But under it all was a woman longing to be seen as more than a sexual object (despite her basing her whole career on that claim). When her daughter became Silk Spectre 2, her moment of pride was dashed by Blake also joining the newly formed Crimebusters and circling in on Laurie. But she raced in and ran interference in a way she wasn’t able to for herself all those years ago after the Minuteman meeting. Years of fighting crime under her garter belt but it was her daughter she ultimately saved (even while wounding her in other ways).
“I was a hero, goddamn it!”