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RORSCHACH

"I believe he's a man of great integrity, but he seems to see the world in very black and white, Manichean terms. I personally believe that to be an intellectual limitation."--Ozymandias on Rorschach

Walter Joseph Kovacs (1940-1985) was Rorschach, a "second generation" vigilante who made his own rules and lived ... and died by those rules no matter how powerful the adversary or how grim the situation he faced. Poetically nihilistic, he was the most existential hero in WATCHMEN; he kept a journal which initiated and framed the comic book's storyline.

Kovacs was the son of an abusive mother, Sylvia Joanna Kovacs, who lived most her life as a prostitute and died a prostitute. He never knew his father because he left Sylvia before Kovacs was even born. According to Sylvia, however, his father's name was "Charlie." Despite this small, unsubstantiated scrap of knowledge, Kovacs chose to idolize his father and President Truman, for whom young Kovacs believed Charlie worked in some secret yet important capacity. In 1951 Kovacs was removed from his mother's custody and put into the Lillian Charlton Home for Problem Children after he attacked two older boys who were mocking him, partially blinding one of the antagonists with a lit cigarette. During his time at the Charlton Home, he was noted to be a "bright but quiet" child who excelled in literature and religious education as well as boxing and gymnastics. He stayed in foster care until 1956 when he got a job in the garment district and moved into an apartment of his own. It was through this occupation that he came upon the specialized synthetic fabric which became the mask he wore for crimefighting.

Standing only 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 140 pounds, Rorschach was the notorious nemesis of all New York's criminals as well as any police officers who got in his way. He never had qualms about maiming or sometimes killing those thugs who were unfortunate enough to become his prey.

Rorschach, 1985

Walter Kovacs in Sing-Sing, 1985

He was charged with two counts of murder--but may easily have killed more. His first murder in 1975 changed him irreversibly--so much so that he became Rorschach for good and being Walter Kovacs was, from then on, just a mask he sometimes wore. This first killing involved the kidnapping of a little girl, Blaire Roche, who was mistaken to be the heir to a "chemical fortune." When the kidnapper, Gerald Anthony Grice, discovered his error, he killed Blaire and fed her remains to his German shepherds. Upon discovering this heinous crime, Rorschach killed Grice and his dogs, burning Grice alive. After passage of the Keene Act outlawing vigilantism in 1977, Rorschach killed serial rapist Harvey Charles Furniss and left the corpse in front of the police station as a message that he would never retire from his chosen calling.

In 1985, because Rorschach's investigations threatened Ozymandias' (Adrian Veidt's) plot to "save the world from itself," Kovacs was framed for the murder of ex-criminal mastermind Moloch (William Jacobi) and apprehended by police. He eventually escaped from prison with the help of Nite Owl II (Daniel Dreiberg) and Silk Spectre II (Laurie Juspeczyk). Shortly after, however, he was killed by Dr. Manhattan (Jon Osterman) during his failed attempt to reveal to the world Ozymandias' plan.

QUOTATION: "This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not Fate that butchers them or Destiny that feeds them to dogs. It's us. Only us."