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For other uses of "Rorschach", see Rorschach (disambiguation).

"Soon there will be war. Millions will burn. Millions will perish in sickness and misery. Why does one death matter against so many? Because there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this. But there are so many deserving of retribution ... and there is so little time."

—Walter Kovacs referring to Eddie Blake's death


Rorschach, real name Walter Joseph Kovacs, is a violent and ruthless vigilante who is driven by moral absolutism. When superheroes were outlawed, he went undercover and continued illegally, where all others folded.

Rorschach used to wear a piece of cloth that has moving and shifting inkblots that resemble an actual Rorschach test as a mask. He considered this his true face. Rorschach had been one of the members of the Watchmen, but continues his one-man battle against crime long after costumed vigilantes become both detested and illegal.

Biography

Early life

Troubled Childhood

See also: Early History of Walter Kovacs and Chapter VI: The Abyss Gazes Also.

Watchmen Portraits - Young Walter Kovacs with Mother

Rorschach's real name is Walter Joseph Kovacs and he was born on March 21, 1940[1] to Sylvia Kovacs and her semi-permanent lover. While Sylvia was pregnant, everybody told her to have an abortion but nonetheless she gave birth.[2] His father had left her 2 months earlier,[3] and all that Walter knew about him was the name "Charlie", and that he and his mother would argue about politics as he supported President Harry S. Truman[4] (apparently this explanation was made up by Sylvia, as Charlie had disappeared 5 years before Truman's term).

Due to his mother's explanation, Walter fantasized an exaggeration to his father's admiration, thinking that he was a sort of aide to President Truman, and probably out of the country during the World War II on a type of mission. He imagined him a man of justice, perhaps an ideal model for his own beliefs, and supposed that he might have been killed by Nazis, which would explain why he had never returned to them.[4]

Sylvia started working as a prostitute in order to survive but also 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 a client, and approached, thinking he was hurting her. 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' shouting that she should have listened to everybody and had an abortion.[2]

In July of 1951, at the age of 10, Walter went to get something from the grocery for his mother. He was stopped by two older bullies who called him whore-son. One smashed fruit in his face, and 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 Richie's mouth and stuck it in his eye partially blinding him, then tackled the other, viciously tugging his hair and biting his face. The people near on the street pulled him off, referring to his wildness as that of a mad dog.[2] When questioned about the incident, Walter refused to talk about his motivation for attacking the boys, leaving others to presume the assault was unprovoked.[3]

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.

Becoming Rorschach

Wearing his 'new face', Kovacs decided to become a costumed adventurer by the name of 'Rorschach', taken from Hermann Rorschach, who created the Rorschach inkblot test. Continuing his work in the garment factory, Kovacs started his nocturnal lifestyle by fighting crime. The following year, 1965, he partnered with fellow costumed vigilante, Nite Owl II,[2] whose technical skills and resources complimented his own skills as an investigator. Rorschach's grappling hook gun was designed and built for him by Nite Owl. During that time they fought against the gangs and were successful against several major crime figures including Underboss and Big Figure.[5]

The Watchmen

The next year, April 1966, Ozymandias attempted to form a new group of superheroes called the Watchmen. When discussing the group's creation, with Rorschach, his partner Nite Owl II, Comedian, Doctor Manhattan, and Silk Spectre II, Rorschach commented that while he had success with Nite Owl, a group that size seemed more like a 'publicity exercise', and was "too big and unwieldy." Rorschach felt admiration for the Comedian's forceful personality and his courage to face reality as it is.

The Kidnapping of Blair Roche

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, a six year old child, 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 Modern Modes, an unused dressmaker's shop in Brooklyn.

Rorschach 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 broke in through the front door and examined the house. In a nearby wood-burning stove he found 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 on 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. He then used the meat cleaver to kill the other dog.

Grice was out drinking when he entered and returned at 10:45 that night. When he walked into the house, Rorschach threw the bloody corpse of one, then the other of the dogs at him through the window, knocking him to the ground. Silently, Rorschach grabbed and handcuffed him to the furnace while Grice screamed that Rorschach had no evidence of what he did. Rorschach violently splits his skull with a meat cleaver.

The Keene Act

After the incident, Rorschach started working alone mostly, and became more violent and brutal toward criminals.

In 1977, the Keene Act was passed, outlawing costumed adventurers and demanding their retirements. Enraged and defiant, Rorschach continued fighting crime in open defiance of the law. During the day, he could be seen walking around the streets of New York City 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

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 gun given to him by Nite Owl II, Rorschach climbed to the fourth floor and investigated Blake's home, discovering his secret identity as the Comedian. 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.[6]

First on the list to warn is his old partner, Dan Dreiberg, formerly 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."[6]

At 8:30 p.m. he wrote his second journal entry while breaking into the Rockefeller Military Research Center to find Jon Osterman aka Doctor Manhattan and Laurie Juspeczyk aka 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.[6]

Investigation

On October 16th, Kovacs was outside the cemetery during Eddie Blake's funeral; he noticed Edgar Jacobi, once the villain known as Moloch, there, and had already broken his home. 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.[7]

The other week Kovacs kept visiting Bernard who made tongue-in-cheek comments about the end of the world; Kovacs claimed it would happen that day, and before leaving he asked Bernard to keep his New Frontiersman for tomorrow.

After the disappearance of Doctor Manhattan, Kovacs pays a visit to Bernard.

Rorschach lights up Shaw.

Breaking another lock that Jacobi installed, Rorschach enters his apartment and asks about the "list" that mentioned Dr. Manhattan and his associates, pointing out that both heroes who were disposed of were enemies to Moloch. Then he found that Moloch had been shot through the head. Steven Fine and Joe Bourquin were outside with a police force and 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 for Men hair spray and matches.[8]

Give me back my face!

When the cops burst in he torches one officer, then lights the stairs aflame while running up them. He throws pepper in another's eyes, then shoots another with his grappling hook gun 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.[8]

Prison

In prison, Kovacs is subject to regular mental treatment from a clinical psychologist named Malcolm Long. In their first meeting 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 client. Later, Kovacs tells Long a lot about his childhood and growing to become 'Rorschach', eventually telling him about the kidnapped girl that transformed him. Disturbed, Long leaves informing the guards that he cannot help him.

Walter Kovacs in the lunch line.

Kovacs' time in prison consists of relentless death threats. At one incident in the food line, a monstrous man named Otis holds a prisoner's 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."

While in his cell, Kovacs is confronted by an old enemy named Big Figure, who informs him that Otis is dying and that when he dies there is likely to be a prison riot in an attempt to take Kovacs' life. 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."

"Your hands, my pleasure."

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. "Two-nothing. Your move." Terrified, Big Figure runs through the prison, eventually hiding in a restroom. Meanwhile, Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II 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.

Antarctica

Rorschach and Nite Owl II ride back to the Owl Cave to sort things out. Upon arriving, Doctor Manhattan returns stating that Laurie Jupiter is going to attempt to convince him to save the world. Laurie accepts, leaving Nite Owl and Rorschach alone. Nite Owl II 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.

Rorschach about to take care of "unfinished business"

Rorschach and Nite-Owl reunite.

There they learn that a man who works for Pyramid Deliveries delivered the note to hit-man Roy Victor Chess with instructions to kill Adrian Veidt. They also learn of Mason's 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.

Arrival.

Archie breaks down and crashes due to the unbearably cold temperatures of Antarctica. They walk the rest of the way to Karnka, Veidt's private compound, contemplating Veidt's plan and motives. There Rorschach and Nite Owl are beaten easily by Veidt. Veidt is faster and stronger, as well as extremely perceptive.

Rorschach against the World's Smartest Man.

Death

When Adrian Veidt released the S.Q.U.I.D. program across the globe Rorschach and Nite Owl II, along with Doctor Manhattan and Laurie Juspeczyk attempt to apprehend him. However, the heroes learn that humanity has called off the war, and that the countries of the world are united against Doctor Manhattan. Realizing the fragility of this newfound peace, they all decide not to tell anyone the secret, so that the world may become somewhat of a utopia. Everyone except Rorschach. He tries to leave and return to civilization, but Manhattan stops him. Rorschach takes off his mask, knowing that Veidt's new utopia is to be protected with the cost of his own life and prompts Manhattan to disintegrate him, much to Dreiberg's horror.

Appearance

Walter Kovacs is a red-haired, expressionless man of excellent physical shape (5'6" tall and 140 lbs). Dr. Long considers him ugly and finds his unblinking eyes and expressionlessness disturbing. In the day he poses as a vagrant doomsayer who carries with him a sign that reads "The End is Nigh".

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. Rorschach himself states that he cannot bear to look upon his human face, considering his "beautiful" mask his true face.

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.

His "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.

Personality

When he teamed with Nite Owl, Rorschach displayed tactical talents and unpredictability that complemented Dreiberg's. Veidt considered him a man of great integrity. Rorschach was always silent and grim, and he gave the creeps to young Laurie but still he was more "normal", rational and tidy, compared to after his transformation. From his later point of view, in retrospect, he considered his past self naive and soft.

Politically, Rorschach is an anti-communist, anti-liberal, reactionary, strong nationalist and a far right-wing character. Rorschach's actions and journal writings display a belief in moral absolutism, objectivism between black and white that are clearly defined, and the notion that evil must be violently punished. He has alienated himself from the rest of society to achieve these aims.

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. He collected all issues and meticulously stacked them in his (otherwise dirty and messy) apartment.

His views on women largely stem from his animosity towards female prostitutes in general, possibly because of his experiences with his abusive mother. According to Dr. Long, he redirected his hate for her to the criminals. While Rorschach is chivalrous towards women, he is uncomfortable around their clothes and naked bodies with his job in a women's clothing factory being unpleasant. 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".

During his later life, he has an unpleasant, monotone voice, yet back in 1966, he has a "normal" voice during the 1960s.

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, struggle to comprehend empathy, and his stilted, direct and often incomplete speech, Rorschach has a remarkable talent for expressing himself in writing: he displays a skillful use of dark, macabre poetic metaphors in his journal. As such, it is possible that he may also suffer from Asperger's Syndrome.

His death, which he insisted that Dr. Manhattan carry out, is possibly a form of compromise; that would allow him to keep their secret without actually agreeing to do so, and 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 sees harmless things in the Rorschach inkblot test when he is actually seeing disturbing images.

Skills and Equipment

Rorschach with his grappling hook

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 Police Strike of 1977. 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'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.

Improvised flamethrower.

Rorschach typically carried few resources with him, except for a map of New York. A gas-powered grappling hook gun, 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 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 knockdown, seemingly any man that came across him, whether 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 Veidt's own physical abilities greatly exceed Rorschach's own, as do the former's fighting skills, causing Rorschach to be entirely vulnerable to Veidt's attacks. Alternatively, he is shown to be quite stealthy 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.

Trivia

  • This version of the character is exclusive to the continuity of the film Watchmen and is an adaptation of Walter Kovacs/Rorschach. The original character was created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and first appeared in Watchmen #1.
  • In the film, Rorschach is not portrayed as left-handed.
  • In the film, Walter Kovacs is 35 years old instead of 45 in the original series, his psychological instability is downplayed, and he appears to be stronger than his original character.
    • Since Rorschach's birthdate is 1950, this means that he would have been in his teens during the 1960s when he began his partnership with Nite Owl. However, this most 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.

Behind the Scenes

  • Rorschach was portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley, who also voiced him in the video game Watchmen: The End Is Nigh. Eli Snyder, the son of director Zack Snyder, portrayed the young Walter Kovacs in flashbacks.
  • 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.

Gallery

References

  1. Walter Kovacs' arrest file
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Chapter XI: Look On My Works, Ye Mighty
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named early
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named parents
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named seven
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Chapter I
  7. Chapter II
  8. 8.0 8.1 Chapter V: Fearful Symmetry
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