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Walter Kovacs (March 21, 1940 - November 2, 1985), a.k.a. Rorschach one of the central protagonists of Watchmen.
Rorschach wears a piece of cloth which has moving and shifting inkblots that resemble an actual Rorshach test as a mask. He considers this his true face. Rorschach had been one of the members of the Crimebusters, but continues his one-man battle against crime long after costumed vigilantes become both detested and illegal.
Rorschach's real name is Walter Joseph Kovacs; born in March 21, 1940. He never met his father, only knowing him by the name of Charlie, and all he had ever been told was that he and his mother would argue about politics and other matters; his father liked President Truman while his mother didn't. His mother, Sylvia Joanna Kovacs, was a prostitute who abused him for interfering with her business. In one incident, possibly at the age of ten (or younger), Walter heard his mother having sex with an unidentified man and had mistook it for her being abused. As he entered the room, the man became angry and left only five dollars, far less than she anticipated. In her rage, she began to beat Walter, calling him an 'ugly little bastard' and telling him that she should have listened to everybody and had an abortion.
In the July of 1951, at the age of 10, Walter went to get something from the store for his mother. He was stopped by two older boys who were making fun of his mother, calling her a whore, and then calling him 'whoreson'. One of the boys picked up a piece of fruit and smashed it in his face. The other, joking that he had some sort of disease, told him to pull his pants down so they could give him an examination. Walter snatched the cigarette from the bully's mouth and then put it out in his eye, then tackled the other, viciously tugging his hair and clawing and biting his face. The people near on the street pulled him off, referring to his wildness as that of a mad dog. The first boy attacked had been partially blinded. When questioned about the incident, Walter refused to talk about his motivation for attacking the boys, leaving others to presume the assault was unprovoked.
Due to this event, the circumstances of Walter's life at home were investigated and it was revealed that he had been regularly beaten and exposed to the worst excesses of a prostitute's lifestyle, thus it was decided for him to be put under state care. He was admitted to the Lillian Charlton Home for Problem Children in New Jersey. During this time it was noted that Walter did very well at schoolwork, excelling particularly in the fields of literature and religious education, also he possessed impressive skill in the areas of gymnastics and amateur boxing.
At the age of eleven he wrote an essay on the subject My Parents. In which he barely mentions his mother, only discussing the absence of his father and who he thinks his father was. Due to his mother's explanation that they argued about President Truman, Walter fantasized an exaggeration to his father's admiration, thinking that his father was a sort of aide to the president, and probably out of the country during the war on a type of mission. He believed his father to be a man of justice, perhaps an ideal model for his own beliefs, and explained that his father might have been killed by Nazis, which would explain why he had never found his son. Walter went on to say how he liked President Truman and thought that by dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki he had saved millions of lives, because had he not done so, many more people would have died from war.
On May 27, 1953, while thirteen, Walter told one of the employees about a nightmare he suffered and they wrote a transcription of the verbal recounting. He describes that a man was with his mom and they were eating stuff like raw dough. His mother choked on a piece and the man tried to fish it out of her throat. He told Walter to get a doctor and he looked but realized there was no doctor in his home. When walking down one of the hallways he saw the man and his mom dancing without clothes on. When he got nearer he saw that they were squashed together, joined at the face, chest and stomach. He recalls the way they were blended together and how they started towards him like a crab, and he looked down to see trousers and underwear wrapped around their feet. Then he woke up, explaining that the dream upset him, 'physically'.
During his years at school, Walter's mother never attempted to make contact with him. In 1956 at the age of sixteen, his mother was found in an alleyway in the South Bronx, murdered through the forced ingestion of 'Drano cleaning fluid', killed by her pimp, George Paterson. When the news was broken to Walter, he said just one word: "Good".
Soon after Walter left the Charlton Home, he started living in a series of low-rent apartments. He took up full employment in a menial capacity as an unskilled manual worker within the garment industry. He described to Malcolm Long, "Job bearable but unpleasant. Had to handle female clothing." In 1962 there was a special order for a dress in a new Dr. Manhattan spin-off fabric. He described the customer as a young girl with an Italian name, saying that she thought the dress looked ugly. Rorschach recalls thinking, 'Wrong. Not ugly at all...very, very beautiful.' Since no one had wanted the dress, he believed it was meant for him, so he took it home and learned how to cut it using heated implements to reseal the latex. Soon he became bored and thought the fabric had no use, leaving it in his trunk and forgetting about it.
Two years afterward, in March of 1964, he bought a newspaper and saw 'her' on the front page. He read the name Kitty Genovese and decided that she was the one that ordered the dress, "I'm sure that was the woman's name." Kitty Genovese, in both the Watchmen reality and our world had been raped and tortured outside of her apartment building while her neighbors just watched, not calling the police. Because of this Kovacs learned what people were behind all the evasions and self-deception. Being ashamed for humanity, he took the remains of her unwanted dress and made a face he claimed that he "...could bear to look at in the mirror."
Wearing his 'new face', Kovacs decided to become a masked adventurer by the name of 'Rorschach', taken from Hermann Rorschach, who created the Rorschach inkblot test. Continuing his work in the garment factory, Walter started his nocturnal lifestyle by fighting crime. The next year, 1965, he partnered with fellow costumed vigilante, Nite Owl, whose technical skills and resources complemented his own skills as an investigator. Rorschach's grappling hook was designed and built for him by Nite Owl.
The next year, April 1966, Nelson Gardner, otherwise known as Captain Metropolis, the same man to begin the Minutemen, attempted to form a new group of superheroes called the Crimebusters. When discussing the group's creation, Rorschach added that a group that size seemed more like a 'publicity exercise', and was "too big and unwieldy." Rorschach was one of the seven vigilantes to attend, though Metropolis retired shortly after and the Crimebusters were built of the six that remained, including his partner Nite Owl, Comedian, Doctor Manhattan, Ozymandias and Silk Spectre.
Rorschach's signature at each crime scene was a piece of paper with ink displayed in an odd pattern on one side, then folded in half, and smeared to both symmetrically. For a long time Rorschach described himself as 'soft', "Soft on scum. Too young to know any better. Molly-coddled them. Let them live." His pattern continued until 1975, when Blair Roche, six years old, was kidnapped because Gerald Anthony Grice thought she had been connected to the Roche Chemical fortune. Roche's father was a bus driver and the family was not in any way wealthy. Rorschach had "personal reasons," for taking the case and he intervened, promising the parents he'd return her unharmed. He visited underworld bars, putting fourteen people in the hospital needlessly, but the fifteenth gave him an address to an unused dressmaker's shop in Brooklyn.
He arrived at the unlit building at dusk while Grice was out. He checked the backyard and saw two attack dogs, German Shepherds named Fred and Barney, fighting over a knob of bone. He went in through the front door and examined the house. The furnace had a piece of children's clothing. One of the cabinets was filled with meat hacking utensils and in the kitchen was a large cutting slab with thick cuts graved into it. He peered out the window, out at the dogs, and looked at the bone they were still fighting over. It was a femur, a human bone. He went into the yard and cut one dog's head open with a meat cleaver. It was at that moment, when he closed his eyes and opened them again, that he claimed to no longer be Walter Kovacs; he was now Rorschach. Then he used the meat cleaver to kill the other dog.
His informant told him the man using the premises was named Gerald Anthony Grice, who was out drinking when he entered, and wouldn't return until ten forty-five that night. When he walked into the house, Rorschach threw the bloody corpse of one of the dogs at him through the window. As he backed up, the other was thrown through the window behind him, knocking him to the ground. Rorschach grabbed him and handcuffed him to the furnace while he screamed "Y-you can't prove anything. I mean, wh-where's the evidence? You can't do anything to..." Rorschach leaves a hacksaw by his hand, "...me." He then starts to pour kerosene throughout the house and pulls out a match, "Shouldn't bother trying to saw through hand-cuffs. Never make it in time." He dropped the match and stood outside, watching the house burn to the ground for an hour, "Nobody got out."
After the incident, Rorschach quit his job as a garment worker. In 1977 the Keene Act was passed, outlawing costumed vigilantes and demanding their retirements. Enraged and defiant, he answered by leaving the corpse of the notorious multiple rapist Harvey Charles Furniss in front of a police stationed with a note pinned to his chest, reading "Never!" True to his word, Rorschach continued fighting crime in open defiance of the law, living in a slum owned by his landlady, Dolores Shairp, without any source of income. During the day, he can be seen walking around the streets of New York without his face or costume as a vagrant with a sign that reads "The end is nigh."
Events of Watchmen
- See also: Rorschach's Journal.
The murder of Eddie Blake
- Main article: Chapter I: At Midnight, All the Agents...
On October 12th, 1985, a man named Edward Blake was thrown out of his apartment window, and Rorschach wrote his first journal entry. Using the grappling hook given to him by Dan Dreiberg, Rorschach climbed to the fourth floor and investigated Blake's home, discovering his secret identity as the Comedian (a former colleague). In attempting to discover the murderer's motivation Rorschach develops the 'mask-killer' theory; someone is attempting to kill all existing costumed vigilantes. Considering this as a possible cause makes Rorschach feel obliged to inform the other masks about a threat on their lives.
First on the list to warn is his old partner, Dan Dreiberg, who was known as Nite Owl. He enters his apartment by breaking in the lock and eating a can of cold baked beans. He tosses Dreiberg the Comedian's badge that he picked up from the blood drenched sidewalk. Dreiberg suggests an ordinary burglary or a political killing, but Rorschach persists with his 'mask-killer' theory. He recalls when they were partners and Dreiberg pleasantly remarks, "Those were great times...whatever happened to them?" While leaving through the tunnel in Nite Owl's workshop, Rorschach replies, "You quit."
Rorschach writes an entry in his journal on October 13th, and walks into Happy Harry's Bar & Grill to ask questions. He tells Happy Harry about the incident, then breaks Steve's fingers, calling out for anyone to tell him some information. No one knew anything, so he left for Adrian Veidt's office, warning him and listening to his 'political killing' opinion. At 8:30 p.m. he wrote his second journal entry while breaking into the Rockefeller Military Research Center to find Jon Osterman (Doctor Manhattan) and Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre). Osterman explains how he has no reason to care for human life, and Laurie expresses her hate for the Comedian. At 11:30 p.m., Rorschach writes another entry while walking through a dark alleyway toward his apartment.
On October 16th, after Eddie Blake's funeral, Rorschach questions Edgar Jacobi, once the villain known as Moloch, by bursting out of his refrigerator. He asked why he had attended the funeral since they had been enemies for forty years, and how he knew his name. Jacobi explained that Blake had broken into his room and rambled about somebody trying to mess with the big blue geek and about an island with writers, scientists and artists. Deciding Edgar didn't know anything, Rorschach left, after examining a bottle of illegal pills called Laetrile. Jacobi explained he needed the medication since he had cancer. Writing another entry, Rorschach broke into the cemetery and paid his last respects to Blake 'without fuss' (the priest's scripture readings), taking one of the roses Jacobi left.
After the disappearance of Doctor Manhattan, on October 20th, Rorschach breaks into Dan Dreiberg's home, breaking the new lock (installed by the Gordian Knot Lock Co. after Rorschach had broken the old one) and eating some cereal with coffee. He gives Dreiberg a copy of the New York Gazette that reads "Dr. Manhattan Leaves Earth," persuading his 'mask-killer' theory more heavily, since the second 'mask' had been exiled.
Rorschach breaks into Jacobi's house again, this time shoving him into the refrigerator, and is slowly starting to unravel the plot of the murder. Rorschach leaves the house in the a.m., thus writing one entry after leaving Jacobi's, and then another after leaving his apartment and seeing Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk come out of Gunga Diner. He sits in the diner and watches his 'maildrop' across the street (the trash can on the corner), waiting for Jacobi to leave a message. Writing his final entry on October 21, he has learned of the attempted assassination on Adrian Veidt's life, which is further proof of his 'mask-killer' theory. He reads a note from Jacobi that tells him to call at 11:30 p.m., then picks up his outfit and face from an alleyway where he left it, on his way to interrupt an attempted rape/mugging/both.
Breaking another lock from the Gordian Knot Lock Co., Rorschach enters Jacobi's apartment, only to find he had been shot through the head. Someone with a megaphone outside, calls out to Rorschach stating that he is surrounded by the police. Realizing he has been framed, he searches for a sort of protection, grabbing a bottle of Veidt hair spray and matches.
When the cops burst in he torches one of them, then lights the stairs aflame while running up them. He throws pepper in another's eyes, then shoots one with his grappling hook at point-blank range before leaping through the bedroom's window. While trying to get up he is surrounded and beaten and his mask removed, revealing his identity.
In prison, Kovacs is subject to regular mental treatment from a clinical psychologist named Malcolm Long. He examines Kovacs' opinions through the Rorschach inkblot test, though Rorschach tells Malcolm that he sees pretty butterflies and flowers while he actually sees pictures much more gruesome, like a dog with its head split in (a memory of the kidnapped girl ten years ago), or the night when he walked in on his mother with a john. Later, Rorschach tells Malcolm Long a lot about his childhood and growing to become 'Rorschach', eventually telling him about the kidnapped girl that transformed him. Soon after, Long resigns.
Kovacs' time in prison consists of relentless death threats. At one incident in the food line, a monstrous man named Otis holds a prisoners shiv to his back, and Rorschach grabs a canister of hot cooking fat, smashing it into his face, giving him severe burns. As the guards haul Kovacs to solitary, he screams to the other inmates, "None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me." We later learn that Otis is dying and that when he dies there is likely to be a prison riot in attempt to take Kovacs' life. The Big Figure convinces Kovacs' guard, Mulhearney, to leave for five minutes. With Big Figure are his cronies Michael and Lawrence and they give Kovacs a death threat.
On October 31st, Halloween night, Big Figure and his cronies return with an arc welder to get through the lock. Kovacs insults Lawrence, who reaches through the bars trying to grab him. Using his shredded shirt, Rorschach ties Lawrence's two smallest fingers together, breaking them in the process. Because Lawrence is in the way, Michael is forced to sever of Lawrence's arms, pushing him aside and using the arc welder. Kovacs monotones, "One-nothing. Your move."
While Michael is breaking through, Rorschach gets on top of his bed and kicks open the toilet bowl which spills water onto the floor. The poorly insulated arc welder electrifies Michael, As the wire was on the floor, killing him. "Never disposed of sewage with toilet before. Obvious, really. Two-nothing. Your move."
Spectre have broken into the prison and met up with Kovacs, but he tells them he needs to take care of something before they leave and follows Big Figure into the men's room. Laurie could hear a 'bumping' noise and Dan heard the toilet flush as Rorschach kills Big Figure. They then escape on Archie.
Rorschach and Dreiberg ride to Kovacs' apartment, picking up spare clothes and his journal, where they run into his landlady, Dolores Shairp. In a rare display of pity for the prostitute's children, Rorschach forgives her lies about him to the papers, and they decide to go back to the cave to sort things out. Upon arriving, Jon 'returns' claiming that Laurie is going to attempt to convince him to save the world. Laurie accepts, leaving Nite Owl and Rorschach alone. Nite Owl ponders the assassination attempt on Adrian notes that it was a hired killer, and Rorschach says they go out and check the bars, interrogate people, mocking his partner for 'lazing'. This causes Dan to angrily snap at Rorschach, about how he lives off others while insulting them: and "nobody complains because they think you're a goddamn lunatic." Dan goes about how hard it is to be a friend to him, then suddenly stops and apologizes for his outburst, saying that he shouldn't have said any of that. Rorschach then, to Dan's surprise exhibits a rare moment empathy offering his hand in apology for his actions: "Daniel... you are... a good friend. I know that. I am sorry... that it is sometimes difficult." Dan accepts it and the two head over to Happy Harry's to ask more questions.
There they learn that a man who working for Pyramid Deliveries delivered the note to hit-man Roy Chess with instructions to kill Adrian Veidt. They also learn of Mason' death on the TV, prompting Nite-Owl to assault a nearby member of the Knot-Tops, and forcing Rorschach to restrain him.
They visit Veidt's office, where Nite Owl guesses the password to his computer, discovering that Veidt owns both Pyramid Deliveries and Dimensional Developments and was behind his own assassination attempt. Now convinced Veidt is behind everything, Nite Owl and Rorschach head for Antarctica, after Rorschach writes his final journal entry and mails it to persons unknown.
Archie breaks down and crashes due to the unbearably cold temperatures of Antarctica. They take Nite Owl's hoverbikes the rest of the way to Veidt's hideout and resort, contemplating Veidt's plan and motives. There Rorschach and Nite Owl are beaten easily by Veidt. Rorschach continues to attempt to grapple him from behind and stab him with a fork but with no luck. Veidt is faster and stronger, as well as extremely perceptive.
Death and legacy
Rorschach learns that Veidt has used his genetically engineered alien monster to kill half of New York. Doctor Manhattan and Laurie Juspeczyk join them, trying to stop Veidt. They learn that humanity has called off the war, now that there was a greater force to handle. They all decide not to tell anyone the secret, so that the world may become somewhat a utopia. Everyone except Rorschach. He tries to leave on one of the hoverbikes but Manhattan stops him. "Evil must be punished. People must be told." Osterman replies, "You know I can't let you do that." Rorschach takes off his mask, "Of course. Must protect Veidt's new utopia. One more body amongst foundations makes little difference. Well? What are you waiting for? Do it." Manhattan hesitates, giving him one last chance... but he screams in reply, without his mask and tears erupting from his eyes, "Do it!" and Manhattan disintegrates him.
Rorschach left his journal in the mailbox that was addressed to the New Frontiersman. Digging through their pile of mail, Seymour, Hector Godfrey's assistant, is reaching for the journal on the very last panel of the very last page. This last panel threatens the whole flawed foundation of Veidt's new ends-justified-the-means world.
There is a level of irony, perhaps hypocrisy, in Rorschach's words and actions. In his childhood essay My Parents he supports President Truman's decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, believing that the end justified the means, and that without killing so many people, the war would have continued. However, he openly denounces Veidt's actions, which had much the same purpose and consequences (though this could be because Veidt's plan was based around a lie rather than action). Furthermore, his death, which he insisted that Dr. Manhattan carry out, is possibly a form of compromise; his death would allow him to keep their secret without actually agreeing to do so. It would also erase the only party involved that would have been willing to divulge information, although the delivery of his journal to the New Frontiersman would still allow him to reveal the truth indirectly. It's possible that Rorschach believed that his death would remove the last perceived blemish from Veidt's "utopia" and justify Manhattan's image as a murderer (in the film version). It's also ironic that he didn't want to keep a lie even in the cost of his life, but he lied to Malcolm Long saying that he look harmless things in pictures when he is actually seeing disturbing images on them.
Rorschach was created by Watchmen writer Alan Moore with artist Dave Gibbons but, as with some of the characters in the series, he was derived from Charlton Comics characters, in this case The Question and Mr. A, created by Steve Ditko, both of whom follow Ayn Rand's personal philosophy, objectivism.
Moore once said about Ayn Rand's objectivism:
I have to say I found Ayn Rand's philosophy laughable. It was a 'white supremacist dreams of the master race,' burnt in an early-20th century form. Her ideas didn't really appeal to me, but they seemed to be the kind of ideas that people would espouse, people who might secretly believe themselves to be part of the elite, and not part of the excluded majority... Steve Ditko is completely at the other end of the political spectrum from me. I wouldn't say that I was far left in terms of Communism, but I am an anarchist, which is 180° away from Steve Ditko's position.
Moore has said that the character's real name, Walter Kovacs, was inspired by Ditko's tendency to give his characters names beginning with the letter K.
Walter Kovacs is a red-haired, expressionless man; 5'6" tall and 140 lbs., who always carries with him a sign that reads "The End is Nigh", who prefers to be known as Rorschach. In his nocturnal activities he wears a striped purple business suit, similarly colored leather gloves, a grayed scarf, and heavily unpolished elevator shoes. More signature of his apparel is his brown trench coat with his matching fedora hat that has a light purple stripe. Of course, the most eye-catching feature of his costume is his ink-blotted mask. Most people who see Rorschach consider him grotesquely ugly and Rorscach himself states that he cannot bear to look upon his human face, considering his "beautiful" mask his true face.
- Main article: Rorschach's mask
Rorschach considers his mask as his true face. It is a part of fabric made from a material derived from the technologies of Doctor Manhattan, and it is blank except from the front, where two viscous liquids, one black and one white, are between two layers of latex. The liquids continually shift in response to heat and pressure, forming symmetrical patterns like those of a Rorschach inkblot test while never mixing, thus never producing a gray color.
Rorschach is an extremely right-wing character. Rorschach's actions and journal writings display a belief in moral absolutism and objectivism, where good and evil are clearly defined and evil must be violently punished. He has alienated himself from the rest of society to achieve these aims. Politically, he is an anti-communist, anti-liberal, reactionary, and strong nationalist.
Rorschach reads the New Frontiersman, the right-wing conspiracy theorist tabloid which speaks in favor of the now-outlawed costumed adventurers. Rorschach not only has a compatible mentality, but also was himself who first considered a possible conspiracy against the adventurers, starting with the Comedian.
While Rorschach is chivalrous towards women, he is uncomfortable around their clothes and naked bodies. His views on women largely stem from his animosity towards female prostitutes in general, possibly because of his experiences with his abusive mother. Viewing lust as a human weakness and as a deterrent to more righteous purposes, he is deeply erotophobic as a result of his mother's abuse and immorality. He speaks about sex and fornication as some of the things that bring decadence to the city. Consequently he also speaks about homosexuals negatively; at least once he considered Veidt to be one, and made a note to "investigate further".
Rorschach is also left-handed: he grasps and handles things (like his grappling hook gun) mainly with his left hand, while he wears a watch on the right.
In the film, Adrian Veidt describes Rorschach as a sociopath, though this would not be an accurate diagnosis. While he sometimes struggles with empathy, Rorschach is capable of it. Thus, a more accurate diagnosis would be Paranoid personality disorder.
Despite his lack of social skills, learning difficulties as a child and struggle to comprehend empathy, Rorschach has a remarkable talent for expressing himself verbally as seen by his skillful use of metaphors in his journal. As such, it is possible that he may also suffer from Asperger's Syndrome.
His relationships to his colleagues are consistent clearly defined and stem from his simplistic viewpoints and ideology.
Although he is never seen interacting with him while still alive, Rorschach seemed to be fond of the Comedian and spoke favorably for him. A possible reasons is that Comedian was one who continued to work after the Keene Act; he fought against the Communists and, according to Rorschach, he was "Standing for his country". Veidt would describe both Comedian and Rorschach as Nazis. His admiration to Comedian was perhaps what urged Rorschach to explore what caused his death; we can't know if Rorschach would be that motivated if the victim was someone else. (Though he said: "An attack on one is an attack on all.")
Regarding the Comedian's attempt to rape Sally Jupiter, Rorschach thought that his heroic career was far more significant than the unfortunate moment. At one point he even seemed to dislike Hollis Mason for writing bad things about the Comedian in Under the Hood.
Rorschach also didn't miss to pay his tribute to the Comedian; he was present outside the graveyard during the ceremony without a guise. On the same evening he broke into the graveyard and stood over his grave.
Rorscach seemed to dislike the two Silk Spectres, Sally and Laurie; the main reason was that Rorschach was asexual with misogynist tendencies, originating from his bad relationship with his mother.
Concerning Sally, she was a sex symbol during the Minutemen era. At one instance Rorschach calls her a "whore". As for Laurie, she had distanced herself from the costumed hero business and preferred a regular life, something that Rorschach did not condone. Laurie also disliked Rorschach for unspecified reasons, perhaps simply because of his ruthless methods.
Furthermore, both women stood against the Comedian (whom Rorschach obviously admired; see above).
Rorschach was consistently negative towards Veidt. His disfavor perhaps started when he willingly retired from the costumed adventurer business and "prostituted" his past career. As mentioned above, Rorschach suspected Veidt as a liberal and possibly a homosexual, his ideological opposites. However he didn't hesitate to visit and warn him about the "costumed hero murderer".
His stance remained consistent and even intensified when Veidt's plans were revealed; Rorschach was the only individual who stood up against him and insisted that his deeds were evil and should be publicized.
Nite OwlA companion to Nite Owl, Rorschach was fond and respectful of Nite Owl but did not express it. He was bitter with him for retiring and considered him a "flabby failure". Nonetheless, both remain friendly throughout the story and Rorschach remembers their days as crime fighting partners as "the best time of [his] life" and admits to Dan while heading for the Arctic that he is the only person whom he considers "a good friend".
As with other costumed heroes, Dr. Manhattan did not have any particular relationship; Rorschach did not seem to agree or disagree with Jon on any topic, stance or ideology. Other than criticizing his indifference concerning the Comedian's murder
Skills and equipment
Rorschach is blatantly ruthless and overwhelmingly fast, known to be tactically proficient with the use of his surroundings, and also an impressive self-declared investigator. He possesses great strength as well as brutal skill, and he tends to use otherwise harmless objects as improvised weapons, such as hair spray, pepper, cooking fat, electric wiring, clothing fabric and even a toilet to give himself an advantage in combat. Rorschach demonstrated a high tolerance for pain as he was thrown into marble walls and crashed into TV sets with great force yet he remained conscious despite having no armor. He is also skilled at picking locks, as seen when he breaks into a cemetery to see The Comedians grave and pay his last respects. During the Keene Act Riots Rorschach held down the entire Lower East Side alone. In Antarctica he was able to withstand incredibly cold temperatures while wearing only his trademark suit and trench coat. While going to school at the Charlton Home he was excelling particularly in the subjects of literature and religious education, as well in amateur boxing and gymnastics.
Rorschach typically carried few resources with him, except for a map of New York. A gas-powered grappling hook, given to him by Dan Dreiberg while they were partners, was also of great use to him, allowing him to climb tall buildings. He once fired it into a S.W.A.T. team member at point-blank range, sending him to the ground with a severe wound. He is described as "tactically brilliant" by Dan Dreiberg.
Rorschach's physical abilities are far lesser than the other characters in the series who are portrayed as being seemingly superhuman, especially in the film. Despite this, his fighting abilities are far above average, even though he does not entirely appear to be superhuman. As a child, he easily incapacitated a much larger teen with a punch to the groin, quickly knocking him down with his bag and effortlessly jumped on a second one, almost like he was pouncing or tackling him, before punching the teen's face and bite off some of his cheek. As an adult, his strength and fighting abilities allow him to easily overpower or knock down, seemingly any man that came across him, wether armed men of normal size or a burly figure, while he could also knock some of them a few feet. His use of nearby objects also implied his normal human strength and encouraged the idea of only his fighting abilities being superhuman. However, numbers could overpower him, as multiple police officers restrained him all at once, leaving him helpless. Adrian Veldt's own physical abilities greatly exceeds Rorschach's own, as do the former's fighting skills, causing Rorschach to be entirely vulnerable to Veldt's attacks. Alternatively, he is shown to be quite stealth and silent, sneaking up on enemies with ease, or slipping past security of a building, using rooftops to avoid it. He also showed extreme escapology capabilities, shown when a police officer shooting at him while he was on a ledge, him simply standing their and watching the officer, and then suddenly vanishing while he was still shooting. Along with this, he seemed to be greatly resilient, as he was not slowed down or weakened after falling through a window, allowing him to fight off multiple police officers until they all piled on him and restrained him. His acrobatics allowed him to traverse rooftops, catwalks, fire escapes and various other platforms, to move around urban areas.
References in other comics
- Rorschach appears as a cameo character in the limited DC Comics series Kingdom Come by Alex Ross and Mark Waid. He appears in volume two as a background character in the metahuman bar. He is seen breaking Brother Power's fingers, and standing between the Question and Obsidian during Superman's speech.
- The Question, on whom Rorschach was based, actually read Watchmen in one issue of his own comic book depicting his origin story, and decided that he admired the character of Rorschach. He tried to emulate the character's brutal style of justice, but was beaten up. In the end, he decided that "Rorschach sucks."
- Damien Darkblood, Demon Detective, is a character in Invincible based on Rorschach. He wears a trenchcoat and fedora, speaks like Rorschach, yet has the face of a comic demon in place of Rorschach's characteristic inkblot mask. Darkblood is introduced while investigating the murder of the Guardians of the Globe.
- Rorschach makes a cameo in another Alan Moore comic, Smax, wherein he is shown for one panel when Jeff Smax and Robyn enter the multiverse transport.
- In The Books of Magic, Rorschach appears in the background of a market in the realm of Faerie.
- In Astonishing X-Men vol. 3 #6, Rorschach makes a cameo appearance in one of the riot scenes, running across the panel.
In other media
- Jackie Earle Haley portrays the character in the film.  Prior to Haley's casting, Jude Law, who is a fan of the comic, had expressed great interest in portraying Rorschach (or Ozymandias) if a film of Watchmen was ever made. When Paul Greengrass was slated to direct the film Simon Pegg met with producers about taking the part.
- In the film, Rorschach is not portrayed as left-handed. He also is mentioned to be 35 instead of 45, putting his date of birth in 1950. Curiously, this means that he would have been in his teens during the 1960s, when he began his partnership with Nite Owl. However, this more likely an error in production as his file states him to be 45.
- In the film, instead of leaving Gerald Anthony Grice to die in the burning building, Rorschach splits his skull with the cleaver he killed Grice's dogs with.
- In the film, Rorschach's prison break involves a change to the use of an angle grinder by Big Figure and his thugs, as well as a change from cutting Lawrence's throat to cutting his arms off; the cell's toilet is broken by Rorschach slamming Michael's head into it instead of using his own foot.
- Rorschach was named the sixteenth greatest comic book character by Empire Magazine.
- ↑ The name is an homage to Charlton Comics
- ↑ Blather: The Alan Moore Interview: Watchmen characters
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Alan Moore Interview - Comic Book Artist #9 - TwoMorrows Publishing
- ↑ Chapter I, p.17
- ↑ March 2008
- ↑ June 2008
- ↑ Empire | The 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters
|Captain Metropolis • Hooded Justice • Nite Owl I • The Comedian • Silk Spectre I • Dollar Bill • Mothman • Silhouette|
|Captain Metropolis • Doctor Manhattan • Rorschach • The Comedian • Ozymandias • Nite Owl II • Silk Spectre II|