Walter Kovacs: 1940 - 1987
Walter Joseph Kovacs was born to Sylvia Kovacs. While Sylvia was pregnant, everybody told her to have an abortion but nonetheless she gave birth. His father had left her two months earlier, and all that Walter knew about him was the name "Charlie," and that he and his mother would argue about politics as he supported President Harry S. Truman (apparently this explanation was made up by Sylvia, as Charlie had disappeared five years before Truman's term). Due to his mother's explanation, Walter fantasized an exaggeration to his father's admiration, thinking that he was a sort of aide to the President Truman, and probably out of the country during the Second World War on a type of mission. He imagined him a man of justice, perhaps an ideal model for his own beliefs, and supposed that he might have been killed by Nazis, which would explain why he had never returned to them.
When Walter was around seven or eight, Sylvia began selling herself as a prostitute. In one incident, in 1950, Walter heard his mother having sex with a client, and approached, thinking his mother was being hurt. After Walter entered the room, the john became angry and left only five dollars. In her rage, Sylvia began to beat Walter, calling him an 'ugly little bastard' shouting that she should have listened to everybody and had an abortion.
In the July of 1951, Walter went to get something from the grocery for his mother. He was stopped by two older bullies who called him "whore-son." One smashed a piece of fruit in Walter's face and the other told Walter to pull his pants down so they could give him an examination to "check him for disease." Walter snatched the cigarette from one of their mouths and stuck it in the kid's eye partially blinding him. Walter then tackled the other, viciously tugging his hair and biting his face. It took several witnesses to the assault to pull Walter off of the screaming youth. When questioned about the incident, Walter refused to talk about his motivation for attacking the boys, leaving others to presume the assault was unprovoked.
Due to this event, the circumstances of Walter's life at home were investigated and it was revealed that he had been regularly beaten and exposed to the worst excesses of a prostitute's lifestyle, thus it was decided for him to be put under state care. Walter was admitted to the Lillian Charlton Home for Problem Children in New Jersey. Away from his mother's negative influence, it was noted that Walter proved to be intelligent and stable, doing very well at schoolwork, excelling particularly in the fields of literature and religious education. He possessed also impressive skill in the areas of gymnastics and amateur boxing. Although he engaged in interesting discussions with his classmates and teachers, he was shy and withdrawn, especially towards girls.
At the age of twelve he wrote an essay on the subject 'My Parents,' In which he barely mentions his mother, only discussing the absence of his father and who he thinks his father was. Walter went on to say how he liked President Truman and thought that by dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima he had saved millions of lives, because had he not done so, many more people would have died from war.
On May 27th, 1953, while thirteen, Walter told one of the employees about a nightmare he suffered and they wrote a transcription of the verbal recounting. He describes that a man was with his mom and they were eating raw dough. His mother choked on a piece and the man tried to fish it out of her throat. He told Walter to get a doctor and he looked but realized there was no doctor in his home. When walking down one of the hallways he saw the man and his mom dancing without clothes on. When he got nearer he saw that they were squashed together, joined at the face, chest and stomach. He recalls the way they were blended together and how they started towards him like a crab, and he looked down to see trousers and underwear wrapped around their feet. Then he woke up, explaining that the dream upset him, 'physically.'
During his years at school, Sylvia never attempted to make contact with her son. In 1956, his mother was found in an alleyway in the South Bronx, murdered through the forced ingestion of 'Drano cleaning fluid' by her pimp. When the news was broken to Walter, at the age of 16, he said just one word: "Good."
Soon after Walter left the Charlton Home, he started living in a series of low-rent apartments. He took up full employment in a menial capacity as an unskilled manual worker within the garment industry. He described to Malcolm Long, "Job bearable but unpleasant. Had to handle female clothing." In 1962 there was a special order for a dress in a new prototype fabric. The customer was a young girl with an Italian name, Kitty Genovese, who didn't accept it saying that the dress looked ugly. Walter thought otherwise, and since no one had wanted the dress, he believed it was meant for him, so he took it home and learned how to cut it using heated implements to reseal the latex. Soon he became bored and thought the fabric had no use, leaving it in his trunk and forgetting about it.
Two years afterward, in March of 1964, he bought a newspaper and saw that Kitty Genovese had been raped and tortured outside of her apartment building while her neighbors just watched, not calling the police. Kovacs used this to justify his belief that most people were hollow beings behind all the evasions and self-deception. Ashamed for humanity, Walter took the remains of Kitty's unwanted dress and made a face he claimed that he "could bear to look at in the mirror."
Wearing his 'new face', Kovacs decided to become a costumed adventurer by the name of 'Rorschach', taken from Hermann Rorschach, who created the Rorschach inkblot test. Continuing his work in the garment factory, Walter started his nocturnal lifestyle by fighting crime. The next year, 1965, he partnered with fellow costumed vigilante, Nite Owl, whose technical skills and resources complemented his own skills as an investigator. Rorschach's grappling hook was designed and built for him by Nite Owl. During that time they fought against the gangs and were successful against Underboss and Big Figure.
The next year, April 1966, Nelson Gardner, otherwise known as Captain Metropolis, the same man to begin the Minutemen, attempted to form a new group of superheroes called the Crimebusters. In addition to Captain Metropolis, the team also consisted of Rorschach, Nite Owl, Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, and Silk Spectre. Rorschach had concerns about the size of the team, but otherwise went along with it, though he mostly only worked with Nite Owl during the group's brief run.
For a long time Rorschach described himself as 'soft.' He would no longer think that after 1975, when Blair Roche, six years old, was kidnapped because Gerald Anthony Grice thought she had been connected to the Roche Chemical fortune. Roche's father was a bus driver and the family was not in any way wealthy. Rorschach had "personal reasons," for taking the case and he intervened, promising the parents he would return her unharmed. He visited underworld bars, putting fourteen people in the hospital needlessly, but the fifteenth gave him an address to Modern Modes, an unused dressmaker's shop in Brooklyn.
He arrived at the unlit building at dusk while Grice was out. He checked the backyard and saw two attack dogs, German Shepherds named Fred and Barney, fighting over a knob of bone. He went in through the front door and examined the house. The furnace had a piece of children's clothing. One of the cabinets was filled with meat hacking utensils and in the kitchen was a large cutting slab with thick cuts graved into it. Rorschach peered out the window, out at the dogs, and looked at the bone they were still fighting over. It was a femur, a human bone. He went into the yard and cut one dog's head open with a meat cleaver. It was at that moment, when he closed his eyes and opened them again, that he claimed to no longer be Walter Kovacs; he was now Rorschach. His first action as Rorschach was to use the same meat cleaver to kill the other dog.
Grice was out drinking when he entered, and returned at 10:45 that night. When he walked into the house, Rorschach threw the bloody corpses of the dogs at him through the window, knocking him to the ground. Silently, Rorschach grabbed and handcuffed him to the furnace while he screamed that there was no evidence about what he did. Rorschach leaves a hacksaw by his hand, then starts to pour kerosene throughout the house and pulls out a match, leaving Grice with a choice: to saw his hand off to escape or burn in the flames. Rorschach dropped the match and stood outside, watching the house burn to the ground for an hour, as he contemplated the emptiness of human existence.
Rorschach started now working mostly alone as even the Comedian could tell that Rorschach had been driven crazy. Only Nite Owl remained an ally with Rorschach, but it was a strained relationship since the death of Blair Roche. It became further strained when Rorschach asked for Nite Owl's assistance in the investigation of the disappearance of Violet Greene. When Rorschach demanded that a brothel's madame be killed for 'corrupting the youth,' Nite Owl and Rorschach came to blows, effectively destroying their working relationship for years to come.
During the Police Strike of 1977, Rorschach made some inflammatory comments about the police that were never forgotten. During the riots of 1977, Rorschach tried alone to quiet the unrest at the lower East Side. That same summer, the Keene Act was passed, outlawing costumed adventurers and demanding their retirement. Enraged and defiant, Rorschach answered by leaving the corpse of the notorious multiple rapist Harvey Charles Furniss in front of a police station with a note pinned to his chest, reading "NEVER!" True to his word, Rorschach continued fighting crime in open defiance of the law, living in a slum owned by his landlady, Dolores Shairp, without any source of income. During the day, Walter walked around the streets of New York without his 'face' or costume as a vagrant with a sign that reads "THE END IS NIGH." By night, Rorschach patrolled the streets, taking lives of the morally bankrupt and breaking fingers of any that he perceived to be sheltering such characters.
Rorschach: 1987 - Present
- Hand-to-Hand Combat: Rorschach was a brilliant street fighter, and has since honed this skill during his years of crime-fighting.
- Acrobatics: Training himself to become a gifted athlete, Rorschach has been able to jump from roof top to roof top, scale tall buildings and land on his feet without ever making a sound.
- Genius Level Intellect: Rorschach has been described by Nite Owl as "tactically brilliant." He has excelled in religious education, political science and literature in his schooling days.
- Investigation: Rorschach is an accomplished detective, figuring out the "mask killer theory" and eventually Ozymandias' plan with little to no help.
- Interrogation: Rorschach has his own special brand of asking questions, mostly involving breaking body parts and otherwise scarring or maiming victims (or suspects) to get answers.
- Improvisation: Rorschach is blatantly ruthless and overwhelmingly fast, known to be tactically proficient with the use of his surroundings. He possesses great strength as well as brutal skill, and he tends to use otherwise harmless objects as improvised weapons, such as hair spray, pepper, cooking fat, electric wiring, clothing fabric and even a toilet to give himself an advantage in combat.
- Espionage: Rorschach has proven himself quite skillful in the act of espionage, spying on his enemies and allies alike just to keep tabs as well as confirm his suspicions. He is also skilled at picking locks.
- Journalism: Rorschach kept a journal of his adventures when it was most necessary. He's proven to be a deep thinker; and ever since he began as a witness to what occurs in the underbelly of the city, Rorschach has at all times cataloged its many nightmares.
- Intimidation: Rorschach's mental instability is well known; even without his costume or any of his friends about, he is an intimidating man and has made many people flee in his presence.
- Indomitable Will: After the events which made him take on the personality of Rorschach, in every aspect of his life, he developed a desire to make sure that all crime is punished. Even after masked adventurers became detested and banned, he continued his vigilante activities. He has also defied odds against a large number of armed police officers that surrounded him at Moloch's home. Veidt described Rorschach as having the "tenacity of a true sociopath." Rorschach also had demonstrated a high tolerance for pain as he was thrown into marble walls and crashed into TV sets with great force yet he remained conscious despite having no armor. In Antarctica, he was able to withstand incredibly cold temperatures while wearing only his trademark suit and trench coat.
- Rorschach's Mask: Which he referred to as his "face." This mask consisted of a specialized fabric, one that was actually two layers of fabric with viscous black and white fluids trapped between them. The fluids remained in constant motion, being affected by heat and pressure, however, the black and white colors never combined to form gray. The patterns formed by the fluids also maintained a consistent symmetrical pattern down the mid-line of whatever shape the fabric had been formed into. Kovacs first discovered the fabric when he worked for a dressmaker. The fabric was originally made into a woman's dress and the marketing of such a product would be linked to Dr. Manhattan. The product's first customer was a woman named Kitty Genovese, who was unhappy with the dress, calling it "ugly" and refused to buy it. Kovacs thought differently however, and took possession of the fabric for himself, saying it was "very beautiful." At home he used heated instruments to shape the fabric into a full head covering, a face he "could look at in the mirror." In a way it is true that this was his "real face" as the fluids react to his expressions, where without it, he usually never shows any facial expression, except anger or indifference.
- Rorschach's Journal: Rorschach kept a journal chronicling the events in his life as well as that of his fellow Crimebusters. Rorschach continued writing in the journal as late as October of 1987 when he began investigating the murder of former colleague Edward Blake, aka, the Comedian. Rorschach kept his journal in short-hand, which oddly enough, also reflected the way that he spoke to other people. Rorschach's final entry in the journal was in late October and took place just prior to his ill-fated mission to Antarctica to confront his former colleague, Adrian Veidt. Before leaving, he trusted the journal to an unknown associate. The journal would eventually be given to Perry White.
- Rorschach's Coat: Rorschach typically carried few resources with him, except for a map of New York. A gas-powered grappling hook, given to him by Dan Dreiberg while they were partners, was also of great use to him, allowing him to climb tall buildings. He once fired it into a S.W.A.T. team member at point-blank range, sending him to the ground with a severe wound.
- Mental Illness: Some call Rorschach a sociopath, driven to his nature by the horrid nature of mankind. Whatever the case or cause might be, Rorschach is not a stable individual in modern public society and is only suited for his special brand of justice.
Trivia and Notes
- Dan Dreiberg reported that he saw Rorschach eat a can of cold beans.
- Vic Sage after reading Rorschach's journal originally tried to emulate Rorschach's brand of justice (at least, from the early days of Rorschach's career). However Vic did not anticipate how difficult it can be to effortlessly break hands and after failing to do so during an interrogation, Vic found himself the one in for a beating. The Question was able to turn the tides and come out victorious and as he dealt a knock-out blow and dusted off his coat, witnesses to the event recall the Question muttering "Rorschach sucks" to himself.
- Walter made audio recordings which then he transcribed into his journal.
- A new, female Rorschach became active in 2014 (possibly even earlier, in 1997). She wears what appears to be the original mask worn by Walter, but how she came to have this unique piece of headwear remains unknown.
- Walter Kovacs is a character from the Watchmen comic.
- "Rorschach sucks" is a nod to Question, Vol. 1 #17.
- Rorschach and Nite Owl looking for Violet Greene is a nod to Watchmen: The End Is Nigh video game.