Stolen Pixels #160: Rorschach Interview, Part 2

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Prophetic Heresy:

Shamus Young:
Stolen Pixels #160: Rorschach Interview, Part 2

The most reprehensible of the Watchmen is also the most popular. Why?

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In most simple terms, a lot of people like him because he's a bad ass. He is not only physically capable, but he is merciless. People see him more as a warrior.

I like him for various reasons. I think a few people may have just the right political or philosophical alignment to agree with some of what he says. I may be a political moderate, but at the time I read the comic I was in College and surrounded by loud-mouthed liberals whose ignorance was as broad as the red neck spouting idiotic hate on Obama. Hence Rorschach's opening monologue got me all giddy to read, because while it's not necessarily correct it isn't necessarily wrong either. Thus from the start Rorschach becomes a character we can like.

Also, that first issue does a lot for the story as well. As you can see from the comments, people mistake him as being the protagonist. In truth, he's merely there to kick start the narrative. He's not the protagonist, and if you were to try and pin point one you'd probably have trouble. I'd say Nite Owl is the closest thing to the hero of the story, but even that is debatable.

In an interview Alan Moore confessed that Rorschach was supposed to be a hated character due to being such an extremist. However, deep down inside all of us wish we could take extreme measures once in a while. Not to mention that it becomes revealed that Rorschach wasn't always like this. He even says he used to allow criminals to live. It's only when he is confronted by a crime so horrific that he finally and truly snaps, seeing the flaw in the system. While a character like Batman (who Nite Owl is more a reflection of) refuses to kill, believing that the system CAN work, Rorschach feels it doesn't. The criminals just deal with it until they can get out and do it again. So Rorschach finally snaps and does the only true solution: to kill them.

It's not repulsive or reprehensible. It's something we can all understand. By allowing readers to see that Rorschach is so messed up because 1) a fucked up childhood, and 2) his naive ideals being torn away by a most horrific crime, we can see the human inside of him being torn asunder until he becomes what we see in the comic. A once hero that no longer believes in the system of justice, especially since they don't hold up to his own high expectations.

By being so extreme Rorschach becomes the most interesting of all the characters. And there comes the deeper reason he resonates with fans. Not everyone thinks this hard about it, and many still hate him, but a lot of people like him because 1) he's a bad ass, and 2) he's the most interesting psychologically of all the heroes.

Phenom828:
EDIT: though I think it's interesting, Moore tries very hard to make the characters relatable, giving them very human issues. But the one character that actually is a hero all the time (almost) and doesn't seem to have a social life, is being criticized for not having a solcial life, IE being too much of a hero. If Superman didn't have a life as Clark Kent he could probably save a lot more people... (If you disagree, please don't get caught up on my comparing Rorschach to Superman... please.)

I personally find Rorschach-Superman comparisons to be one of the most interesting things to do with the character. It's the inversion of that old peculiarity about Superman; that his false identity is Clark Kent, that his identity-concealing mask is his thick glasses and well-pressed suit. Rorschach, despite being human, is so psychologically broken, that he thinks of his superhero persona as his true identity, and becoming Kovaks is something he has to endure in order to make use of ordinary day-to-day conveniences. His mask is his face, in more ways than one.

PedroSteckecilo:
For the last time Rorschach isn't BATMAN, he's nothing like Batman, he's THE QUESTION taken to the ultimate extreme, not Batman. Granted to two characters have a lot in common, but the Question has always been more Hard Boiled Private Eye less Sherlock Holmes + Cape. He's also a crazy conspiracy theorist nutter, you know, like Rorschach!

In an interview for the BBC's Comics Britannia, Moore stated that Rorschach was created as a way of exploring how an archetypical Batman-type character-a driven, vengeance-fueled vigilante-would be like in the real world. He concluded that the short answer was "a nutcase."

Far be it from Alan Moore to question your judgement, though. ;)

RR was both. He was originally designed to show both the noble and ignoble facets of Ditko's signature heroes (like The Question and Mr. A), but he was also sociopathic hobo version of Batman.

I think that a major part of Rorschach is that he is supposed to be a sympathetic character in spite of his failings. You're supposed to admire his determination and dedication, as a way of seeing the good in even the most depraved of villain. I mean really, can you name an actual villain in Watchmen? There's really no good or evil people, there's just people, flawed and trying there best. A lot like real life. The Comedian might be the most villainous of the bunch, but even he has his own justifications and moral limits.

Of course, Rorschach does seem to get Carte Blanche from fans, and his redeeming qualities seem to outweigh his most obvious shortcomings. That isn't such a good thing. I grudgingly had to concede respect for him by the end, but I have to admit that seeing him blown to bits for being an extremist was kind of satisfying, because his philosophy deserved to die. Regardless, long live Ozymandias, king of kinds, look on his works ye mighty and despair!

Damn Ozy rocks.

thenamelessloser:

Prophetic Heresy:

I agree totally with pretty much everything in the first spoiler. Now, while I agree with some of the things in the second spoiler, but I'd like to point this out:

Edit: Oh, and Rorschach is about my favorite character, and I don't like him at all. The Batman debate is sort of moot. He and Nite Owl are like two sides of Batman, but Rorschach is much more of a fully realized character than any Batman story I've read/watched.

Eruanno:
Hm, now that you mention it... Rorschach is my favorite in Watchmen, and a complete nutcase. But he has a trenchcoat, so it all works out in the end... right? Right?... Helloooo... anyone?

you also forgot he wears a fedora.

Rorschach fucking owns

Hey Shamus... when you were making this comic, did you at all expect the comments to turn into a deconstruction of Rorshach's mental condition and his role in "Watchmen"? I betcha didn't.

skyfire_freckles:
I agree totally with pretty much everything in the first spoiler. Now, while I agree with some of the things in the second spoiler, but I'd like to point this out:

Edit: Oh, and Rorschach is about my favorite character, and I don't like him at all. The Batman debate is sort of moot. He and Nite Owl are like two sides of Batman, but Rorschach is much more of a fully realized character than any Batman story I've read/watched.

"...abusive, paranoid, homophobic, self-righteous, and exceptionally violent."
You say those as if they're bad things...

Break:

Phenom828:
EDIT: though I think it's interesting, Moore tries very hard to make the characters relatable, giving them very human issues. But the one character that actually is a hero all the time (almost) and doesn't seem to have a social life, is being criticized for not having a solcial life, IE being too much of a hero. If Superman didn't have a life as Clark Kent he could probably save a lot more people... (If you disagree, please don't get caught up on my comparing Rorschach to Superman... please.)

I personally find Rorschach-Superman comparisons to be one of the most interesting things to do with the character. It's the inversion of that old peculiarity about Superman; that his false identity is Clark Kent, that his identity-concealing mask is his thick glasses and well-pressed suit. Rorschach, despite being human, is so psychologically broken, that he thinks of his superhero persona as his true identity, and becoming Kovaks is something he has to endure in order to make use of ordinary day-to-day conveniences. His mask is his face, in more ways than one.

Yeah... I felt something similar when I read the book. You could say Rorschach is the "inverse" Superman, being human but not acting like one, killing people...removing his mask to be in disguise... (there are probably more examples as well.)
I study psychology and he's a very interesting character to analyze, even though he's not a real person..

JMeganSnow:
Rorshach was intended by Alan Moore to be a sort of "Straw Objectivist", actually, as it's Moore's personal belief that "extreme" ideologies don't and can't work. He said (and you'll have to look up where yourself, I think there was an interview about it) that Rorshach was, in many ways, his response to the sort of writing that Steve Ditko did, Ditko being (sort of) an Objectivist.

Semi-Objectivist-ish characters get this sort of response all the time because just about everyone recognizes on some level that consistency, determination, focus, strong ethics, etc. are all *extremely valuable traits* and *necessary* if one is to accomplish goals instead of just accident-ing one's way through life. The homophobia, paranoia, etc. are incidental traits thrown on as an attempt to "kick the dog" and show that Rorshach is not *supposed* to be a real protagonist. However, this aspect of his characterization (particularly in the movie, where it's all tell, don't show) is completely unimportant and most people recognize it as such.

Authors with mixed or just outright bad philosophical premises (like Moore) often have this problem: those they intended to portray as villains wind up being much more engaging and interesting than the characters they intended to be heroes, or at least protagonists. Add in the fact that most people's philosophies are impossible to enact in real life and the heroes end up as wishy-washy inconsistent twerps while the villains are righteous badasses.

Slight correction, Moore never intended Rorschach to be an objectivist in any meaningful sense, since he did not and probably still doesn't know what Objectivism is, it being a predominantly American thing in my experience. He was very much a direct response to Ditko's comics.

I'm not sure that it's fair at all to say that Rorschach is a "bad" character who overshadows the goodies because Objectivism is awesome. For one thing they're all screwed up (the Night are unambiguously moral, but they're pretty pitiful) and it the story has a protagonist, he's it. Moore's disenchantment with Rorschach is less to do with people agreeing with him philosophically and more to do with the appropriation of "OMG AWESOME VIOLENCE" by other writers without the analysis of how this comes about (why yes, I am an unambiguous Moore fanboy, how can you tell?)

Spoilery stuff:

RabbitDynamite:

JMeganSnow:
Rorshach was intended by Alan Moore to be a sort of "Straw Objectivist", actually, as it's Moore's personal belief that "extreme" ideologies don't and can't work. He said (and you'll have to look up where yourself, I think there was an interview about it) that Rorshach was, in many ways, his response to the sort of writing that Steve Ditko did, Ditko being (sort of) an Objectivist.

Slight correction, Moore never intended Rorschach to be an objectivist in any meaningful sense, since he did not and probably still doesn't know what Objectivism is, it being a predominantly American thing in my experience. He was very much a direct response to Ditko's comics.

Yes, sorry, I meant that he meant it to be a "straw Objectivist" to the extent that he was contra-Ditko and Ditko is (sort of) an Objectivist. I doubt Moore himself would use that term to describe his own work.

And I know quite a few European and Indian Objectivists, but we're more prevalent in the U.S. (to the extent that we're prevalent anywhere).

thenamelessloser:

I agree with this spoiler.

On other note, I sympathise a lot with the Nite Owl. He was the only boyscout moral hero of Watchmen. Unfortunately, he wasn't in a typical superhero comic -world, where he would have prevailed despite his weaknesses.

Shamus Young:
Rorschach is abusive, paranoid, homophobic, self-righteous, and exceptionally violent.

I'm confused about this.

Abusive seems already covered in violent. Paranoid, for a vigilante working under the Keene Law seems quite justified. Homophobic I can't remember evidence of, as he could be said to be heterophobic as well (Yeh, he's far right but apart from the occasional diary entry (and given how he first saw sex...)), self-righteous really needs charisma and exceptionally violent makes it sound like a ballet.

Sorry, that line just stuck out as describing someone else. I'd just use the word psychopath.

And psychopaths that keep going have always become love figures (Michael Myers, Jason Vorheez, Leatherface, Ash, Freddie Krueger, Jack Torrance, Alex DeLarge)

Didn't Moore say in an interview that he was reprehensible for starting the "dark era" of comics, and that he wished he hadn't, because most dark comics don't bother asking any questions; they're just dark and violent for their own sake.

Rorschach is the best simply because he never wavers.

This one was not one of the best that has been done,
Having said that it was by no means bad but there are many more that I have found funnier.

So he needs to take a break to make an inner monologue. Nice!

I think people liked Rorschach so much because he was extremely violent.
And people really do like their violence.

That said, I like Rorschach for entirely different reasons.

No one sticking up for Rorschach?

Doug:

Shamus Young:
He's easily the most popular of the Watchmen, but at the same time he's the most reprehensible.

Surely "The Comedian" is more reprehensible? After all, he is attempted rapist, women and children killing, surrendering soldier killing, pregnant woman killing bastard...

Rorschach, on the other hand, just seems to be extremely violent with the criminals, and has a low tolerance for 'intellectuals'.

Thank Buddha

Shamus Young must have skipped over every scene with The Comedian. I have to admit its very hard for me to overlook Comedians atrocites, but Rorschach? Whats the worst he ever did, chop or burn up a kidnapping, baby killing/dismembering asshole?

Rorschach is a lot of things, but insane ain't it. Insane people murder mothers and babies to make a point about free will. Insane people throw untested existential threat-hoaxes into the middle of cities on the offchance that there MIGHT not be someone smarter or smart as them who can put two and two together.

Insane people do not publish their thoughts in a public forum, but keep them all to themselves and their closest friends, believing that they can work out the kinks themselves, in their own head.

Insane people do not know how people think and thus anticipate their reactions. (There was one scene in the comic book where Nite Owl was torturing a guy in a bar and RORSCHACH was the one telling him to quit, because it was tactically useless. In the movie Nite Owl just looked on while Rorschach did his thing, which was a step down, I believe.)

Insane people do not offer comfort to the truth-loving in the world's darkest hour. Rorschach passed the Father Grigori test-when the town is overrun by zombies, not only do you have to kill any you see, you also have to broadcast whatever inspirational message you can to whatever survivors you can reach. In the end, Rorschach did both. He had no 'too big for you plebes to understand' attitude about his plans.

PedroSteckecilo:
For the last time Rorschach isn't BATMAN, he's nothing like Batman, he's THE QUESTION taken to the ultimate extreme, not Batman. Granted to two characters have a lot in common, but the Question has always been more Hard Boiled Private Eye less Sherlock Holmes + Cape. He's also a crazy conspiracy theorist nutter, you know, like Rorschach!

Actually I like to think Rorschach is the Batman who broke his one rule. And it isn't about monologuing, Bats has done that a few issues.

This is one of my favorites Shamus! hahaha Thanks for the laughs.

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