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As a child, Nelson Gardner was sickly and asthmatic, but years of training allowed him to get past his condition and eventually played football in college before joining the U.S. Marines. He later adopted the Captain Metropolis persona, and, using the skills he acquired in the military, attempted to eradicate organized crime in urban areas. In the Fall of 1940, he founded a superhero team called the Minutemen which was composed of Silk Spectre, Hooded Justice, the Silhouette, Nite Owl, the Comedian, Mothman and Dollar Bill.

In Watchmen #9, it is implied that he had a relationship with fellow gay teammate Hooded Justice, yet this information was unknown to the public. This revelation may explain his mysterious departure from the Marines. Judging by a letter written by Silk Spectre's agent, Laurence Schexnayder, it appeared that Metropolis was the submissive partner in the relationship while Hooded Justice was the more dominant partner, with Metropolis often calling to Laurence and complaining about the arguments he was having with Hooded Justice. Though a soldier and the de facto leader of the Minutemen, Metropolis often appeared timid and weak willed, easily flustered.

Unhappy with the way the team was more concerned about social appearances than actual crime fighting, the Minutemen were eventually disbanded by Captain Metropolis himself in 1949. Later he attempted to form another team, The Crimebusters, to which he invited Rorschach, Nite Owl II, Silk Spectre II, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt) and The Comedian, but his plans never fully came to fruition. When he spoke at the meeting of tackling the "social ills" of America, the Comedian mocked him for wanting to "dress up" and play "cowboys and Indians", and further accused the older hero of trying to form the Crimebusters as a means of seeking personal glory, which Metropolis insisted wasn't true; as the would be members filed out, Metropolis begged them not to leave, telling them that someone had to "save the world." The crime display that he worked so hard on was burned and destroyed by The Comedian. Also, about this time, he was making various racist statements about Hispanics and African Americans, which contributed to the public's already growing distaste for superheroes. He was decapitated in an automobile accident in 1974.

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