“No, not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise,” were the words said by Rorschach, a vigilante in Alan Moore’s graphic novel “Watchmen.”
Rorschach, who’s real identity is Walter Kovacs, was a controversial and polarizing figure within the group of vigilantes known as the Crimebusters, which preceded the Great Depression-era Minutemen.
, and trench coat, Kovacs would strike fear in the hearts of criminals and villains alike.
Kovacs was born to a prostitute and had a harsh upbringing. As he got older and became a more hardened vigilante, Kovacs’ brutality and extreme right-wing dogma made him a force to be reckoned with. Even when Kovacs was imprisoned at the Sing Sing Penitentiary, he was still feared among the prisoners.
Kovacs did not socialize and often was looked at with disdain from his fellow vigilantes, notably Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II) and Jon Osterman, (Dr. Manhattan). However, the only person who was a close friend to Kovacs was Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl II). While Kovacs respected the former Minuteman, Edward Blake (The Comedian) he looked down on the politically liberal Adrian Vieidt (Ozymandias) and questioned his fellow vigilante’s sexuality.
In his free or idle time, Kovacs would write down about his personal and vigilante experiences and thoughts in his journal. Sometimes, Rorschach would write his opinions about other vigilantes or enemies. Furthermore, his journaling would also chronicle his far-right views and his opinions on liberals and communists.
Kovac’s death at the hands of Dr. Manhattan would make Rorschach immortal or into a cult legend. After the New York Massacre, orchestrated by former vigilante turned supervillain, Adrian Veidt, many people would take up the Rorschach mantle.
Here is a list of the many men who donned the mask, fedora, and trench coat.
–– Potential spoilers ahead ––
In “Doomsday Clock,” the Watchmen-Justice League crossover, Reggie was the son of Malcom Long, the prison psychiatrist who tried to treat Kovacs at Sing Sing penitentiary. During his adolescence, Reggie was a good kid but like Kovacs, he did not socialize much and kept mostly to himself. He was also bullied by a kid who made him eat worms to the point he never fought back. Reggie grew up often seeing his dad trying to be positive and boast that his psychology career was going to take off while his mother, Gloria, had anxiety due to the times surrounding the Cold War.
While studying at university, Reggie learns that his father would be interviewing Kovacs and begins to have reservations. His mother tries to assure him that his father’s work with the vigilante would bolster his career. However, Gloria also shares her son’s concern about Malcolm interviewing Rorschach. It is during the night of the giant inter-dimensional squid being dropped onto New York City when Reggie’s journey to becoming the new Rorschach begins.
Due to his post traumatic stress from the event and learning of his parents’ deaths, Reggie is admitted to the Fitzgerald Mental Home where he befriends Byron Lewis, the former Minutemen vigilante Mothman. Lewis escapes from the psych ward to get the late Dr. Long’s notes on Kovacs which Reggie starts to study. In addition, Lewis also trains Reggie on how to fight like his old Minutemen allies. Reggie also starts reading the original Rorschach’s journal and begins to become more dangerous like his predecessor. Eventually, when Reggie learns that Veidt was alleged to be responsible for the New York City Massacre and that the U.S. government is rounding up survivors of the incident, he escapes the asylum with help from Lewis. After his escape from Fitzgerald, Reggie plans to enact his revenge on Veidt.
After traveling to Veldt’s hideout in the Antarctic, he tries to kill Adrian to avenge his father only to find out that the former vigilante has brain cancer. The two form an uneasy alliance to get Dr. Manhattan to save their world. However, the partnership is further shattered after they travel to Prime Earth. The recently found Dr. Manhattan reveals to that Ozymandias lied to him about having cancer and he also informs him that Byron hid his father’s more detailed notes about Kovacs getting inside his head. This causes Reggie to quit being Rorshach until Batman and Alfred convince him to carry on the mantle in the name of good. Reggie becomes Rorschach once again and is instrumental in saving his world in honor of his late father Malcom Long, Mothman, and the original Rorschach.
In Tom King’s 12-issue miniseries comic, “Rorschach,” William ‘Wil’ Myerson was a somewhat famous comic book creator who took on the mantle of Rorschach. At the beginning of “Rorschach,” Myerson and his accomplice, Laura Cummings are both shot and killed while attempting to assassinate a presidential candidate. Through the point-of-view of an investigator looking into the Rorschach case, King’s comic shows that Myerson and Kovacs have some things in common. They are reclusive, they lack social skills, and they (eerily) have matching finger prints.
Issue #2, serves as a somewhat origin story of how Myerson became Rorschach. We see a flashback from thirty years ago where the introverted Myerson tries to strike up a relationship with a woman name Alma who lives in the same apartment complex as he does. Myerson tries to impress the apparently bored Alma by saying that his comic book Pontius Pirate is too immature and that he was trying to work on a comic that is more mature. After he tries to court Alma at the end of their date, she turns down the comic book artist. To add more insult to injury, the woman marries a “traditional man,” name Carl (revealed to have died recently) who she told about Myerson courting her. Carl bullies Myerson both verbally and physically for decades.
The investigator is able to piece together how Alma’s husband died after seeing an unfinished comic sketch of the Citizen, a Rorschach-like superhero taking on the Unthinker, a wolf dressed up as a Nazi with an apartment number on his helmet. After talking to a neighbor who lives in the very apartment where Carl died, Myerson confronts Alma who comes clean to him about Myerson, dressed as Rorschach, and Cummings breaking into her apartment. The flashback to Alma’s memory shows Myerson kicking Carl at their old apartment front door. The old neighbor that bullied Myerson succumbs to his death as he pleads for his pills. Myerson and Cummings leave the man to die while the later threatens to shoot Alma if she tells anyone about what happened.
It remains a mystery as to why Myerson donned the Rorschach costume and followed Cummings. More will be revealed in the next eight issues of Tom King’s “Rorschach.”
Muscles, the Man Mountain
Before William Myerson, Muscles the Man Mountain was a circus strongman who took on the mantle of Rorschach. Muscles’ story is told in Issue#4 in Tom King’s “Rorscach in which Muscles’ is serving a prison sentence for the murders he committed while dressed up as Rorschach. During an interview with the investigator, Muscles tells him that he and Laura, who he called “Kid,” shared a love of Wil Myerson’s comic “Pontius Pirate.”
Although he confesses his apparent feelings for Cummings, Muscles had a non-romantic relationship with her and they often spent time or performed on stage together. Muscles also talks about the night he killed a roadie who beat his wife to death after Laura threatened to shoot him. He explains that after he killed the roadie, Laura did not speak to him until she confronted him and accused him of hiding the fact that he is Rorschach. When the investigator asks why Muscles put on the Rorschach mask, the former circus strongman claims that he had always worn the mask.
He correctly deduces that Dr. Manhattan had destroyed the body of the original Rorschach (like he did in “Watchmen”) however, he says that Manhattan also destroyed the bodies of the other original Crimebusters to prevent the squid from taking over their minds. He also claims that Manhattan put their souls in other bodies so that they could fight the squids while Ozymandias walked away due to having a smart enough mind to prevent the squids from controlling him. Even after the investigator tells Muscles that Cummings is dead, the former strongman
laughs laughs and tells him that she will come back to save the world from the squids and that “Rorschach is waiting.”
Senator Joe Keene Jr. and The Seventh Kalvary
In the 2019 HBO miniseries “Watchmen,” a group of white supremacists, known as the Seventh Kalvary, have adopted Rorschach as their symbol. Wearing Rorscach masks, they have used Kovac’s journal as a manifesto to carry out their bigoted beliefs and harass minorities throughout Tulsa, Oklahoma. The leader of the Seventh Kalvary is Senator Joe Keene Jr. of Kansas, the son of Senator Joseph Keene. Keene is seen as a charming and friendly politician but in reality, he is a racist who wants Dr. Manhattan’s power for himself. Other members of the Seventh Kalvary include the late Chief Judd Crawford (whose father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan) and his wife Jane Crawford.
Joe and Judd conspired an event called the White Night in which the Seventh Kalvary broke into many homes of key Tulsa Police Officers and massacred them and their families. However, only Angela Abar, along with Crawford, survived. As a result, Keene uses his political savvy to create a law requiring Tulsa police officers wear masks to protect their identities (A sort reverse Keene Act of 1977 that his father set up to ban vigilantes from operating). This act was aimed to help the Tulsa police fight against the Seventh Kalvary. Detectives, like Abar, retired from the police force on paper while taking on vigilante identities when carrying out work for the Tulsa Police Department. Abar became Sister Night and joined an ensemble of detectives which consists of Red Scare, Looking Glass, and Pirate Jenny.
However, Keene and the Kalvary conspire to work on interdimensional technologies to help them capture Dr. Manhattan. And thanks to Keene’s political connections, he has a video of Adrian Veidt revealing his involvement in the New York City Massacre in 1985. The Seventh Kalvary is successful in capturing Dr. Manhattan, who was under the guise of Angela’s husband Calvin Abar.
Manhattan gets locked in a box that prevents him from using his powers and is put on display in front of the Seventh Kalvary and members of Cyclops, another white supremacist group in which Keene’s father, Joseph, is a member. Keene plans on using the same technology that made Jon Osterman into Dr. Manhattan (and even dresses similar to the god-like hero while wearing cowboy boots). However, as the process begins, it is interrupted by Lady Trieu. As a result, Senator Keene becomes red goo and Lady Trieu uses Manhattan’s powers to kill the Seventh Kalvary and the Cyclops members as they watch in horror.