This year marks the 30th anniversary of Watchmen. Widely considered the greatest graphic novel of all time, and also the only graphic novel listed on Time magazine’s List of the 100 best novels, the novel was a deconstruction of the superhero genre it along with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns issued in the era of dark, mature comics that were not afraid to deal with adult themes and commentary on societal problems and politics. One of the most beloved aspects of the novel is the characters who each are shown with a different philosophical view on life and all have strengths and flaws in their characters.
One of these characters, Rorschach, sees the world in a very black and white way. There is only good and evil and he will never compromise no matter what even if it mean Armageddon. He is a character with his own strong view of morality and tragic past that has led him to be one of the most popular if not the most popular character from the novel. These are the best moments involving him in the novel and show what makes him such a compelling character.
6. Is That What Happens to Us?
In a touching moment Rorschach goes to visit the Comedian’s grave late at night so he can do it by himself without any fuss. While there he wonders if this is what is in store for all the heroes, they will die alone and violently and in the end only their enemies will leave roses at their graves. It is a great philosophical moment about what does it really mean to be a superhero and what kind of person would do such a thing. It is a scene the perfectly represents the kind of philosophical and commentary that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons was going for in the novel. It also is a great use of both Rorschach and Comedian’s characters showing the differences and similarities between their two views of the world while also showing that in his own way Rorschach is capable of feeling for someone or something.
5. When You Are
While investigating the murder of the Comedian, Rorschach visits Moloch who was one of the villains the heroes faced over the years. Eventually he receives word that Moloch wants to speak and has information but when he gets to Moloch’s house he is dead and the cops show up and Rorschach realises that he has been set up and walked right into it. Rorschach then takes on the cops as he tries to escape to find out what is going on and who framed him. This is a great action scene that portrays Rorschach’s resourcefulness in a fight. He is like Batman but without any of the fancy gadgets, besides the grappling hook. It shows how dangerous he is and how far he is willing to go to continue his fight for justice even if it means taking on the cops who want to take him down.
4. You’re Locked in Here With Me!
Now in prison Rorschach is dealing with being locked up with a bunch of criminals that he put there and would like to see him taken out. When one of the prisoners tries to shank him while in line for lunch he takes a pan of hot cooking oil and throws it at him. He then yells that no one understands that he is not locked in there with them they are locked in with him. This is actually a scary moment that makes you cringe as you can imagine the pain and scaring that the inmate is going through. It also shows how unhinged Rorschach can be and how extreme his view of justice is. Yes he needed to defend himself but he chose the most painful and tortuous way possible to stop his attacker. We have already heard about the extremes he will go to in his vigilantism and we finally get to see it up front and it is horrible and ugly.
3. Does That Answer Your Questions, Doctor?
In prison Rorschach is interviewed by a psychiatrist who believes he can cure him and get rid of his violent urges and alter ego. Of course he quickly realises he can’t and is floored when Rorschach finally reveals his origin. He was investigating a child who was kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity and discovers the kidnapper butchered her and fed her to his dogs. He snaps and kills the dogs and then chains up the guy in his house and burns it to the ground, standing outside to make sure he doesn’t get out. He talks about how this is when he realised the truth that there is no god or fate and whatever meaning we can find in the world.
This is the quintessential moment for Rorschach as we finally see how someone who is awkward, with no social skills, but has a sense of justice became the dark, uncompromising vigilante we see in the present day. Even if you don’t agree with his views or philosophy one can not help but sympathise for him and the discovery of what happen to the little girl and feel just a little bit of justice at what he does to the killer. One of the strengths of this novel is each character is treated fairly and you get a chance to see why they are who they are and their justifications for what they are doing. It doesn’t judge the characters it just puts them out there and lets you judge them and decide who is wrong or right.
A crime boss named Big Figure that has been put in jail by Rorschach comes to kill him when there is a riot going on in the prison. Meanwhile Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are coming to bust him out knowing he is in danger. Rorschach is able to kill the two goons with Big Figure and then Big Figure runs away in fear. He goes in the men’s room to hide as Rorschach tracks him but Rorschach is interrupted by Nite Owl and Spectre. Telling him he needs to use the men’s room, Spectre is annoyed that Rorschach wants to use the restroom since they are risking their lives for him while Nite Owl is more sympathetic.
Rorschach soon exits while bloody water comes out from beneath the door. This moment is a hilarious moment of black humour at its finest. We know what Rorschach is doing in the bathroom but the other character’s discussion about going to the bathroom while in costume is a great counter point to it while also keeping with the deconstruction of superheroes theme of the novel. For a very heavy book it is a welcome moment of levity, even if its one involving the murder of a criminal boss.
1. DO IT!
At the end of the novel it is revealed that Ozymandias, one of the heroes, is the one behind the Comedian’s murder and Rorschach’s framing and has just killed a good portion of New York City in a bid to bring about peace in the world before it is destroyed in nuclear fallout. After debate the heroes agree to keep the secret of what Ozymandias did, everyone but Rorschach that is. As he goes to leave Dr. Manhattan kills him in order to save Ozymandias’ utopia. Rorschach, defiant to the end, just yells at the Doctor to get it over with and just do it already. In a way this is the only way Rorschach’s story could end. His unwillingness to compromise in anything would eventually lead him to a moment where he would have to be taken out. It shows that whether you agree with him or not he stayed true to himself until the end and in his own way is the one pure character. His simplistic view might now work in the real world but that is what makes him so compelling is a man trying to stay true in the face of the world around him.
Rorschach is arguably the most popular character in Watchmen. While his methods are extreme, his sense of justice, his views of the chaos in our world, in his unwavering belief in his morals makes him a standout character and that is why he is so beloved.
What do you think of our list? Is there any other moments that you think should have been included? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!