Watchmen‘s first season ended with a cliffhanger, but since we’re positive Angela Abar obtained Dr. Manhattan’s abilities via a magic egg, it answered nearly every big question we had ahead of the finale. Our only unresolved issue was the identity of LubeMan, the mysterious figure in a skintight silver body suit. He only appeared once during the season and we never learned who he was. Fortunately the show’s companion website has all been confirmed that the greased up weirdo was actually the superhero-obsessed FBI agent Dale Petey. And he will likely play a huge role if the show returns for a second season.
HBO’s Watchmen continued one of the best elements of the original graphic novel. Each chapter in the comic concluded with supplemental reading materials that contributed to the main story. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons used book passages, medical reports, newspaper clippings, and other primary sources to augment their story. These sections provided needed exposition and world-shaping historical facts, and they also offered powerful characterization and thematic connections.
The show did the same thing with their companion website Peteypedia. FBI Agent Dale Petey, the lanky, masked vigilante historian who accompanied Laurie Blake to Tulsa, was “responsible” for it. Petey updated it with relevant primary sources after each episode. They included things like FBI memos, self-help pamphlets, interrogation transcripts, news reports, and even the blueprints for a Dr. Manhattan sex toy named Excalibur. (As in, “Ex-Cal-Abar.”)
These helped fill in some gaps the show never addressed, like how Laurie Blake avoided jail and why computer technology was so far behind. But they also offered insights into Dale Petey himself. Many of the documents on Peteypedia were memos he wrote. They were informative and insightful, but they were also self-indulgent and annoying. Frequently, they bordered on being unprofessional, as Petey often shared his own personal thoughts on topics no one at the FBI cared about. But he never mentioned the strange figure in the metallic bodysuit Angela chased down in the show’s fourth episode. At least, not directly.
After the show’s eighth episode, the only two documents added to Peteypedia were pieces related to the novel Fogdancing. It was the book about “loneliness” Adrian Veidt was reading in his cell on Europa, and it appeared multiple times throughout the season.
The only thing comic readers knew about Fogdancing was that it was a) wildly popular and b) written by Max Shea. He was the “author” of Tales of the Black Freighter, a fictional comic book within the Watchmen graphic novel that thematically mirrored Moore and Gibbons’ story. (Ozymandias killed Shea after the author finished his work on Veidt’s giant squid.)
Agent Petey’s site provided a deep look at what the apparently hard-to-understand novel was about. This is how he described Fogdancing in a memo he wrote after finding a copy of the book in Wade Tillman’s shelter.
“Shea, a former writer of acclaimed, genre-bending pirate comics (including the thrice-filmed “Charnel Messiah”), wrote the novel in 1972 while working at a VA hospital in Cleveland. Facilitating an art therapy program for soldiers suffering from PTSD, Shea was struck by their testimonials — their awe of serving under the god-like Dr. Manhattan, their guilt of committing atrocities with the Comedian, their rationalizations about going from liberators saving a people from communism to conquerors seizing a country for capitalism. Their poignant stories of shattered worldview and conscience inspired Shea to capture the confused state of America’s heroic character.”
Petey, who mentions in his memo he entered a Fogdancing summary competition years earlier, ends that message with some self-reflection. It indicated he was undergoing a major change of his own.:
“Finding that edition in Detective Tillman’s gloomy bunker (what are the odds?) and reading my own words
of years ago by its dim light, was a veritable Campbellian experience, an encounter with my innermost self
in some dreadful cave of reckoning. What I saw — what I see — in that reflection exposes limits and flaws
that I’ve never outgrown. This entire adventure in Tulsa has shown me that I am not the enlightened intellect
I thought I was, but remain compromised by blinkered, assumptive, know-it-all thinking. I feel challenged
to engage our culture with a more generous and empathetic spirit. (Perhaps I’ll start by giving the fiction of
American Hero Story a second chance.) If I’ve just confessed to any incompetence that should cost me this
job, I accept that.
He also shared his old summary to his site. And it was Petey’s documents about Fogdancing, combined with his height and lithe build, that led us to theorize he was Lube Man. That strange, tall, thin man Angela followed wore a skintight silver suit and used oil to help him slide into the sewer. And this is how Petey describes the Fogdancers, who are essentially war criminals, in the novel (bold ours):
“They’re the most special of special-forces, braver than a Ranger, deadlier than a SEAL. Fogdancers do the ghastly wet-work that grease the wheels of the American machine and mop up proof of all the sick stuff you’re not supposed to do during combat. The canisters of toxins, the animals with weird boils, all the charred bodies who can still breathe and talk. See him now in your mind’s eye, moving through boiling clouds of Sunset Haze, wearing his gas mask and skin-tight silver suit shimmering with SPF-666, looking slick and doing what must be done, in secret, to keep you and me and all of us free. Or so we tell ourselves.”
LubeMan dresses like a Fogdancer, a character who obviously fascinated Petey. Those two documents alone make Petey the only logical candidate to be that slippery figure. Petey obsessed over superheroes and then he suddenly found himself in their midst in Tulsa. And his experiences there caused him to have an existential crisis. Sounds like a perfect recipe to make him put on his own mask.
And now, the last entry on Peteypedia has all but confirmed our theory. The FBI fired Petey (off-screen) for insubordination and he then went missing. Or rather, he likely went into hiding. His now former boss wrote this in a memo to Petey’s ex-colleagues:
“Given the simultaneous deaths of a U.S. senator and a prominent trillionaire, it would appear Petey has taken it upon himself to continue the investigation despite our closing it. It’s clear now from his memos that Petey (Hero Enthusiast-Obsessive/Solipsist on the Werthem Spectrum) is at risk for vigilante behavior, and most likely, always was. Perhaps sooner or later, this task force will be investigating him.”
One of the items found on Petey’s now abandoned desk? “A jug of what appears to be some kind of canola oil,” which sounds perfect for sliding into sewers. However, considering the moral ambiguity—if not outright war crimes—of the super soldier Fogdancers, it seems like a weird costume for a “hero” to wear.
If Petey really is embracing his dream to be a masked vigilante, is he also going to embrace the ethically questionable tactics of his chosen inspiration? We know there’s great meaning in him picking that skintight silver suit. This was the last thing he ever wrote to his colleagues at the FBI:
Agent Blake once told me that masked vigilantes often get two origin stories in life. The identity that circumstances create for you, and the one you choose for yourself. Perhaps the same can be true for me.”
A masked hero with an oversized ego and questionable tactics? Dale Petey’s Lube Man sounds like a perfect character for season two of Watchmen.
Featured Image: HBO