Real Name: Walter Joseph Kovacs
Identity/Class: Normal human
Occupation: Vigilante, vagrant, former garments worker
Affiliations: Nite Owl; formerly Crimebusters
Enemies: Moloch, the Big Figure, the Underboss; Ozymandias; Captain Carnage
Known Relatives: Sylvia Joanna Kovacs (mother, prostitute, deceased), Peter (father)
Base of Operations: New York
First Appearance: Watchmen #1 (DC Comics)
Powers/Abilities: Expert detective. Above average strength and high endurance. Skilled, brutally efficient, fighter, with boxing being his base style. He carries a gas-powered grappling gun built by Nite Owl to climb buildings; it can be used as a fairly lethal weapon. He is a tactical genius, and resourceful at using items and his surroundings as improvised weapons. He can picks locks.
History: Born in 1940, the son of prostitute Sylvia Joanna Kovacs, Walter Joseph Kovacs never knew his father. He grew up verbally and physically abused by his mother. Idealising his unknown father, Kovacs developed an unyielding sense of right and wrong. In 1941, while going to the corner store for his mother, he was taunted and then assaulted by two youths; snatching a cigarette from one, Kovacs burned out his attackers eye, then savagely went for the second assailant. Afterwards Kovacs refused to explain why he had fought the boys, causing the police assuming his violence was unprovoked. The resultant background investigation saw him removed from Sylvia and placed into New Jersey's Lillian Charlton Home for Problem Children. With his new home environment he excelled at school, especially in gymnastics, literature, religious education and amateur boxing. When he was sixteen, Kovacs' mother was found dead, murdered by her pimp; Kovacs had not seen her since being taken from her care, and when informed of her death, responded only with the word "Good."
Leaving the home Kovacs took an unskilled menial job in the garment industry. In 1962 a woman returned a dress made of a new material developed via processes created by Dr. Manhattan; made of latex, it contained two unmixing viscous liquids, one white and one black, which constantly shifted in response to heat and pressure. Taking a liking to the material, Kovacs took it home, practising cutting it with heated scissors to reseal the material, until he got bored and stored the remains in a trunk. Two years later he read of the rape, torture and murder of Kitty Genovese outside her own apartment building while neighbors watched without calling the police; convinced it was the same woman who had returned the dress, and ashamed of humanity, he turned the remains of the dress into a mask, and became the vigilante Rorschach. Near each criminal he caught, he would leave a piece of paper marked with ink, which he folded in half to spread the mark symmetrically, as his signature. Though relentless and unforgiving, at the start of his career Rorschach would leave his criminal targets alive for the police; by his own, later description, at that point he was Kovacs pretending to be Rorschach. He worked alongside fellow vigilante Nite Owl for a time, targeting gangs, and in April 1966 was amongst the vigilantes invited to form the Crimebusters by Captain Metropolis. Despite considering them a big and unwieldy publicity exercise, he did work with the group for a short while.
However, this changed in 1975, when he investigated the kidnapping of six young old Blair Roche, taken because her abductor had wrongly believed she was connected to the Roche Chemical fortune; despite her coincidental surname, there was no connection, and her father was a poor bus driver. Rorschach promised Blair's parents he would retrieve the girl unharmed, and violently extracting information from criminal lowlifes, hospitalising fourteen before the fifteenth directed him to a closed Brooklyn dressmaker's shop occupied by Gerald Anthony Grice. Breaking in while Grice was out, Rorschach observed two German shepherds in the back yard fighting over a bone, then discovered the remains of a child's clothing in the furnace, and a chopping slab marked with deep cuts. Looking at the dogs again, he realised the bone they were fighting over was a human femur. Something snapped inside him; Walter Kovacs closed his eyes, but Rorschach opened them. Picking up a cleaver, he went outside and split the two dogs' heads open. When Grice returned home, Rorschach overpowered him, then handcuffed him to the furnace. Ignoring Grice's screams that there was no evidence and that the vigilante could not prove anything, Rorschach placed a hacksaw by his captive's hand, then poured kerosene around the house. Showing the terrified killer a match, Rorschach noted that he would never saw through the handcuffs in time, then set the place alive. He waited outside for an hour to see if Grice would cut off his own hand and escape; no one left the building. Rorschach quit his garment worker job, and took up unpaid residence in a slum, living as a vagrant during the day.
In 1977 the US congress passed the Keene Act, which made costumed vigilantism illegal unless government sanctioned. Most crimefighters retired, but Rorschach's response was to leave the corpse of notorious multiple-rapist Harvey Charles Furniss outside a New York police precinct, with his signature note attached, a single word written on it: "Never!" He defiantly continued his vigilante activities, now a wanted fugitive. The night after Edward Blake's murder, on October 12th, 1985, Rorschach investigated the dead man's apartment, confirming his suspicion that Blake was the Comedian. Suspecting a possible "mask-killer" he warned his former partner Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl), then Adrian Veidt (unaware Veidt was the true killer), and finally the couple Dr. Manhattan and Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre). Covertly observing Blake's funeral, he noticed the Comedian's former enemy Moloch (Edgar Jacobi) in attendance, and later confronted the retired criminal to find out why he had been there, and how he had known the Comedian's true identity; Jacobi informed him that a drunken Blake had broken into Jacobi's apartment a few days earlier, and rambled about someone planning to take out Dr. Manhattan. When Manhattan was driven off Earth a few days later, Rorschach suspicions about a mask-killer strengthened. To strengthen this mistaken theory, Veidt faked an assassination attempt on himself, successfully diverting Rorschach's suspicions away from himself, then murdered Jacobi and lured Rorschach to the dead man's apartment, to be ambushed by the police and blamed for the killing. Rorschach's violent escape attempt severely injured several police, but he was captured and unmasked. An attempt to psychologically evaluate him in prison backfired, resulting in the stressed psychologist Malcolm Long resigning. Meanwhile Rorschach became the target of his fellow inmates, many of whom he had brutalised and helped incarcerate; after burning one-would be attacker's face with hot cooking fat, Rorschach calmly informed the other prisoners "None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me." When the burn victim died, a prison riot broke out; midget felon and former crimelord the Big Figure and two of his men took the opportunity to try and kill Rorschach, but he turned the tables on them; now convinced Rorschach's theory had been correct, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre helped him escape prison shortly after Rorschach had finished killing his assailants. The trio soon discovered Veidt had been behind the attempt on his own life, and set off to confront him in his Antarctic resort, though not before Rorschach posted his journal detailing recent events to the New Frontiersman.
Veidt admitted his part in events, explaining that he was working to make the world a utopia, starting by eliminating war by making humanity believe it had a common external enemy; he planned to teleport a genetically engineered "alien" lifeform into central New York, which would expire with a psychic blast that would kill half the population. He also noted that he had done this half an hour earlier, while his former friends were on their way to confront him. The others realised that it was too late to undo the damage, and decided it best to let the positive aspects of the plan proceed; Rorschach however was unyielding, and insisted Dr. Manhattan slay him or else he would expose what had happened. Dr. Manhattan did so. However, the potential remained that his journal would see print, undoing Veidt's carefully laid plans anyway.
Comments: Created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, inspired by Charlton Comic's the Question and another Steve Ditko creation, Mr. A.
He is portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley in the 2009 Watchmen movie.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
The Question, the Charlton hero on whom he was originally based.
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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