Batman Gambit: In one of the RPG modules (which had input from the original creators), he secretly arranged the kidnappings of the 1960s heroes' loved ones in order to force them to work together, in an effort to make them more amenable to the idea of teaming up as The Crimebusters. If considered canon (there's nothing in the comic that contradicts it), the plan obviously didn't work, but he wasn't exposed as the mastermind.
"Blake is interesting. I have never met anyone so deliberately amoral. (...) As I come to understand Vietnam and what it implies about the human condition, I also realize that few humans will permit themselves such an understanding. Blake's different. He understands perfectly — and he doesn't care."
A veteran 'hero' who was vicious even when young, and has since become a full-blown hired gun on government payroll. Dies on the first page, though we only later find out why.
Badass Normal: Along with every "masked vigilante" except Dr. Manhattan.
Becoming the Mask: At one point Rorschach theorizes that The Comedian took on his persona in order to become a satirical reflection of society's corruption. If this theory is true (Rorschach is hardly an unbiased observer), Blake appears to have gotten into the part a bit too much.
Also, he defies this trope when he discovers Ozymandias’ plan and raves about it to Moloch: He discovers that even he cannot laugh this off as another joke:
Byronic Hero: This trope could very well be renamed to "The Edward Blake" because of how well he fits the guidelines. Intelligent, bitterly cynical, has a pronounced disdain for humanity and the world in general, carries strong personal convictions, and winds up getting killed because of said convictions... it all fits.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Genuinely attempted to connect with Laurie on two separate occasions and notably didn't react the way he usually does after she publically lashed out at him and dashed him in the face with a drink. According to the RPG, he was also composing a letter to her before Ozymandias killed him. He also seems to have had real feelings for Sally Jupiter.
Comedian also looks a lot like Bucky in his Minuteman days who somehow grew into a wise-cracking, cigar smoking, woman beating version of Captain America, with a bit of Wildcat and a pinch of Nick Fury, and The Killing Joke Joker.
Jerk Ass Has A Point: His major trademark, Comedian is a complete asshole, however much of the things he says to antagonize others, villain and hero alike often have some truth to it. For example, he was one of the first to notice Dr. Manhattan's humanity beginning to falter when Manhattan didn't even try to stop him from Killing a woman pregnant with his child.
Kick the Dog: Killing a pregnant woman and attempting to rape a fellow superheroine, for examples. Some choose to see the first as a sign of him going off the deep end, especially how he blames Doctor Manhattan simply for not stopping him.
Psycho for Hire: To a certain extent, suggested to have merely become a masked vigilante for a reason to kill people. Despite most of his comrades recognizing this he appears to have impressed part of the mindset that led him to such actions onto every one of them, with varying reactions. He becomes a more classic example, or so it's implied, after the very government that claims vigilantes are dangerous hires him as a political assassin.
Token Evil Teammate: He even went as far as to try to rape one of the other members of the team. Whether or not the other members are any better than the criminals they go after is debatable (excepting both Nite Owls, whose biggest flaw in both cases is being largely ineffective), but The Comedian is definitely the worst of them and seems to thrive on torturing and killing people. He even kills a pregnant woman (carrying his own child!) back in Vietnam. He's also more or less the exact opposite of Captain America (consider his stars-and-stripes patriotic outfit), inverted on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
Took a Level in Badass: He was already badass when he started out, but over the years he started wearing body armor (after getting stabbed) and carrying guns.
Who Shot JFK?: He's also implicated to be behind Woodward and Bernstein's deaths (which didn't happen in our timeline), although this is much more speculative. In the movie, the assassination is shown outright, and The Comedian also remarks while he's violently dealing with an angry mob: "I haven't had this much fun since Woodward and Bernstein!" However, Before Watchmen indicates that he didn't shoot JFK in the comics continuity at all, though he did kill Marilyn Monroe.
Would Hit a Girl: First time when he assaults Silk Spectre and the second time when he and Nite Owl are doing riot control. He also killed a woman who was pregnant with his child!
Dollar Bill (Bill Brady)
A star college athlete from Kansas who was hired by a bank to be their in-house superhero. Died in 1947, when during an attempt to foil a bank robbery, his cape got caught in the door and he was shot.
Born Lucky: According to the RPG, his sporting and superhero career were studded with incredible strokes of good luck. Up until a certain day, that is...
The Cape: Both the attitude implied by and the actual cape in his costume got him killed.
Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: He had to wear a garish costume as one of the conditions of his sponsorship. Perhaps not so ironically, the cape was caught in a revolving door, tripping him up long enough for a crook to shoot him dead as he tried to stop a bank heist.
Nice Guy: At least, according to Hollis Mason in Under the Hood.
Superheroes Wear Capes: Deconstructed, as Alan Moore was showing how impractical wearing a cape is, and how wearing a cape lead to his death.
Cape Snag: In the backstory, he was ordered by his sponsors to get a cape as a part of his outfit, in order to increase his marketability. However, one day, when he tried to stop a bank robbery, his cape got caught in a revolving door, allowing the bank robbers to shoot him to death. Nite Owl notes (somewhat bitterly) in his memoir that Dollar Bill would likely be alive today were he allowed to design the costume himself.
Hooded Justice (Possibly Rolf Muller)
"You sick little bastard, I'm going to break your neck..."
Possibly the first costumed superhero. Little is known about him, save that he was extremely violent and brutal, and a supporter of The Klan and Nazis. Disappeared in 1955, possibly at the hands of The Comedian.
Armoured Closet Gay: The comic only implies he's in a gay relationship with another Minute Man, but it's heavily implied in the movie that he's very sensitive about it.
The Comedian: (Being beaten by Hooded Justice) Is this what you like, huh? Is this what gets you hot?
Hooded Justice: WHAT?!
Badass Normal: Along with every "masked vigilante" except Dr. Manhattan.
Berserk Button: Seeing women hurt, possibly. His first appearance involved him stopping a rape (crippling one of the attackers in the process), he beat the Comedian severely following his attack on Sally Jupiter, and according to the backstory presented in the RPG Rolf Muller's father abused his mother — Until thirteen-year-old Rolf beat the crap out of him.
The Berserker: In his first ever case as a vigilante, HJ beat up a street thug so bad he lost the use of his legs for the rest of his life.
Culture Equals Costume: Justice's costume references the circus (leotard and cape), The Klan (face concealing hood), and bondage (ropes on ankles, wrists, waist and neck) — all things Muller/Justice is associated with.
Lightning Bruiser: Fast enough to take on three armed men and win, strong enough to cripple and kill with his bare hands.
Shrouded in Myth: He might have been a circus strongman by the name of Rolf Muller. The implication is strong, but still somewhat ambiguous. There are semi-canonical sources from Moore that imply that he was Rolf Muller, but that was just one of his many aliases.
The Spook: His identity was never known and he promptly disappeared when people started asking questions, never to be seen again.
"Me, I hope we keep out of it. Just thinking about war, it scares me..."
A millionaire playboy who decided to become a superhero both out of a desire to add spice to his life and out of guilt over his privileged lifestyle. Ultimately, his alcoholism (and being hauled before the HUAC) turned him into a shell of his former self, and was eventually committed to a sanitarium.
"This is the left hook that floored Captain Axis!"
One of the first superheroes to fight crime, and a former police officer, Hollis Mason has since retired, revealed his identity and written an autobiography that provided dramatic insights into the world of superheroes. He has seen the rise and fall of superheroics in the world, and fears for the new generation of costumed crimefighters.
Vigilante Execution: Inverted trope — He is killed by a sadistic gang of top knot-wearing people who apparently think they are dealing out street justice.
Nice Guy: Doubles as the Only Sane Man. He's humble, friendly, and took up his career because he wanted to be a superhero. About the only thing he did in the story that could even count as mean was calling out a few people in his autobiography, and the only person who really got it was The Comedian.
Only Sane Man: In a far, far less comedic sense than the usual application of the trope.
Passing the Torch: Handed off the heroship to a fan of vigilantes and nocturnal fowl, and retires to be a mechanic and neighborhood old guy. Until his head is bashed in by a mob of punks for being vaguely related to the controversial Badass Normal and Well-Intentioned Extremist Rorschach, that is.
Retired Badass: Subverted - a reader accustomed to this trope might him to fight off the street gang that breaks into his place with ease. This, to say the least, is not how it plays out.
In the director's cut of the film version, he does fight back, with the blows cutting to brief flashbacks of him landing punches on masked villains when he was in his prime, but in the end there's just too many thugs for him to take on at once. There's even a brief Hope Spot for him (and an Oh Crap for the thug) right at the start, where he catches the first punch before laying out the thug.
Superheroes Wear Capes: Tried it, but after he discovered how hard it was to walk around his own house with the thing on without it catching on things, he decided to go without.
Token Good Teammate: Like Nite Owl II, he comes the closest of the Minutemen to being a true hero.
The Silhouette (Ursula Zandt)
"Perhaps the Poles thought so too, eh? You agree, Sally?"
A bored Jewish aristocrat who fought crime for thrills. Was exposed as a lesbian and drummed out of the Minutemen in 1946, and killed by an old foe afterward.
Civvie Spandex: In the comics, her costume is a simple black pantsuit with a red sash. The Movie makes it look more super-heroic.
Rich Bitch: Her only line is an insulting dig at Sally for being Polish, and she's mentioned as being a rather unpleasant person.
Although since Sally steadfast denied being Polish and tried to cover up her European roots, she likely took this as a personal insult against her own proud Austrian heritage.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Being Jewish, she despised the Hooded Justice, who was openly supportive of the Nazi regime.
Silk Spectre I (Sally Juspeczyk/Jupiter)
"Laurie, I'm 65. Every day the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it... well, it just keeps on getting brighter all the time."
A former model who started fighting crime for publicity and became a founding member of the Minutemen, but hasn't been doing much since, except training her daughter to follow in her footsteps.
Action Mom: She continued her career for several years after having Laurie.
Adaptational Attractiveness: Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter is far prettier than how the character was drawn, but Sally is also supposed to have been a bombshell when she was younger, so she's arguably an improvement.
Stocking Filler: In the movie, although it's justified by the fact that pantyhose weren't yet common in the 1950s.
She does wear stockings and suspenders in the comic.
Took a Level in Badass: Although her first fights were staged, she had to learn how to fight properly as a member of the Minutemen.
White-Dwarf Starlet: By the time 1985 has rolled around. Subverted in that while she's lost her beauty and her following (and never got the actress career she wanted), she is happy in retirement, with no wish to take up adventuring again, only to reminisce about her glory days and live vicariously through her daughter (whom she raised and trained to be Silk Spectre II) a bit.
Heroes Who Became Active During The 1960s
Dr. Manhattan (Jon Osterman)
Comedian: "Yeah. Yeah, that's right. Pregnant woman. Gunned her down. Bang. And y'know what? You watched me. You coulda changed the gun into steam or the bullets into mercury or the bottle into snowflakes! You coulda teleported either of us to Goddamn Australia... but you didn't lift a finger!"
The only truly superpowered character in the story, due to a Freak Lab Accident, Jon Osterman gained godlike powers. He's used his powers to revolutionize the world, provide energy for electric cars and blimps, and continues to work on amazing new technology... but as time has passed he has turned more emotionally distant to the people around him and indifferent towards humankind in general, and just doesn't seem to care about anything any more, or do anything unless he's told to.
A God Am I: A deconstruction. Having godlike power and (seemingly, but actually not quite) near total omnipotence has lead to Jon casually forgetting what it was to be human, and has just become generally apathetic about life in general. Once he comes to believe that life itself does, in fact, have some sort of intriguing, intrinsic value, he decides to become a god by creating life somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy as a sort of experiment.
The Anti-Nihilist: Has become this at the end of the story. While he believed that humanity was unimportant because life isn't important enough to give other planets a chance, he also believes that the sheer improbability of any relationship, especially one so horrid as Laurie's parents' (adoptive and biological), resulting in any one person makes that person's existence a miracle, since so many factors could have gone to either create no life at all, or a different life.
Badass Bookworm: Most of what he does with his powers, as well as what he did before he had them, was studying particle physics.
Beware the Superman: The very existence and the enormous extent of his powers almost leads to a nuclear war. Although benevolent enough by himself, he is very weak-willed and kills uncounted Vietcong in the Vietnam War and a solid number of American criminals (petty and otherwise) only because somebody told him to. Throughout all of this, he becomes progressively detached from humanity, at one point watching a pregnant woman being killed without even trying to interfere.
Blue and Orange Morality: Even after rediscovering the value of life, he sees life in terms of predictable/unpredictable, instead of good/evil.
Came Back Strong: Although it's not solely his death that is the catalyst of his powers, but the way he died. That is being disintegrated at the sub-atomic level but remaining conscious and disembodied for months before figuring out how to make a new body.
Jon: "Up" is a relative concept. It has no intrinsic value.
Complete Immortality: The only thing that slows him down is the same thing that gave him his powers, and since he already overcame that problem to begin with, it's more of a minor hindrance than anything else.
Dr. Manhattan was an Expy of Captain Atom, so it is not surprising that Cap's origin was the same in both the original Charlton version and post-Crisis DC version: his body atomized by a nuclear bomb, he returns with superpowers.
Deus Exit Machina: Laurie even called him that when he appeared at Daniel's apartment.
There are also elements of Superman, a fact even commented on by characters in the story. His origin as a simple meek scientist caught in a science experiment echoes that of The Incredible Hulk and other Marvel origins, putting a quantum spin to their I Love Nuclear Power origin stories.
Extreme Doormat: He only became a nuclear physicist because his father ordered him to. Even after he became the most powerful man in the world, he still remained a doormat, following the orders of the government.
Full-Frontal Assault: An unusual case. The nudity symbolizes his detachment from the human race, as well as emphasizing his utter invulnerability: nothing can hurt him, so why bother covering up? The only times he bothers to get dressed are at the request of others.
He starts out in a black bodysuit. As he grows increasingly inhuman, he wears less and less — he's in a thong by the Vietnam War.
Humanoid Abomination: He shows signs of becoming this throughout the story due to his growing detachment from, well, everything. He ultimately embraces humanity, sort of, but not his own. At best you could say he recognizes the value of humanity. What he actually does is to go off to a galaxy far, far away to play God.
Human Weapon: Treated as the ultimate nuclear deterrent and anti-nuclear weapon by the US government. He decides to go play god in another galaxy before things go that far.
Non-Linear Character: Past, present, and future is going on at the same time and so he cannot do anything.
No Nudity Taboo: His preference is being completely nude, and he'll only wear clothes when he needs to. After his accident, he was actually given a costume which he reluctantly wore. But as he slowly detached himself from humanity, he chose to not be associated with anything in relation to humankind, and clothes were one of the first to go.
Not So Stoic: After the accident, he only shows genuine emotion during his interview and later when Adrian attempts to destroy him.
Doctor Manhattan: Please if everyone would just go away and leave me alone... I SAID! LEAVE ME ALONE!
The Omniscient: In the first part of the story, while he's still a side character. Although while he can see the future, past and present simultaneously, his knowledge of events is limited solely to the point of view of himself at that point in his personal timeline. For instance, he reveals that he knew that Laurie was sleeping with Dan, not because he saw it happening, but because she told him about a minute into the future.
Prescience Is Predictable: Dr. Manhattan describes himself as "a puppet who can see the strings." Since he views all time simultaneously, he can't change the future because, to him, it's already happening. This causes him to stop caring about what happens and just go with the flow. When a tachyon storm disrupts his ability to tell the future, he becomes excited, saying he had forgotten the joy of uncertainty.
Radiation Immune Mutants: Which is great for him, but not for his loved ones who got cancer from him leaking it. That was all a lie by Veidt.
Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted. His presence and abilities have definitely solved many of the world's problems. (Not as many as he could solve, though.)
Lampshaded by Niteowl I. He states that he plans to run a car repair shop after he puts up the cape, saying that even Dr. Manhattan can't change cars. Manhattan then explains how he can do exactly that.
The Spock: Referred to as "goddamn Mr Spock there" by a minor character at a cocktail party.
Time Dissonance: He experiences time in a non-linear sense. It can make it difficult to have a conversation with him as he simultaneously hears what you're saying, what you've said, and what you're going to say. This gives him an extreme sense of fatalism.
Tin Man: Doesn't seem to have any emotions at all, anymore. He does.
Unexplained Recovery: It somewhat hints that his watchmaking skills and intelligence to physics and the human body helped put his atoms back in the right order. But where his mind was in the duration still goes unexplained.
Walking Wasteland: Dr. Manhattan's presence is said to give people cancer. Subverted, as it's actually Veidt deliberately inducing cancer in Manhattan's past acquaintances.
Walk on Water: Near the end of the graphic novel, as he notes his interest in creating life, he's standing on water. The implication is obvious.
In The Movie, the walking on water scene is visible in a commercial but lacks the symbolism.
You Cannot Change The Future: Dr. Manhattan exists in a multidimensional quantum solid state, and quickly tires of listening to his friends talk about what "could have happened" or what "should happen", since he already sees his time-stream. For him, the only difference between past and future is directional causality. The effects of causality on Dr. Manhattan himself are slightly contradictory, as future events can affect him backwards by causing him to report them, but not in any other way; he's unable to use the knowledge to interfere, and sees himself as bound by one-directional causality much like normal people.
Dr. Manhattan: Miracles by definition are meaningless. Only what can happen does happen.
You Can't Fight Fate: Gradually came to such a belief due to his immense powers. Despite being a Physical God, he felt himself powerless before the forces governing the universe. Even though he could see key events before they occurred and could easily have shaped history to his liking, he felt that anything he did would be so insignificant in the long run, taking action was pointless. His ability to see the future being disrupted is one of the reasons he stops being passive.
Nite Owl II (Dan Dreiberg)
Rorschach: Used to come here often, back when we were partners.
Dreiberg: Oh. Uh, yeah... yeah, those were great times, Rorschach. Great times. Whatever happened to them?
Rorschach: [exiting] You quit.
A former superhero fan, then full-fledged superhero, and now retired intellectual. A gadget-based hero who flies the night skies in his state-of-the-art airship, Archie, he sometimes questions his use of million-dollar technology to fight petty crime.
Adaptational Attractiveness: Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II may not look just like in the graphic novel, but considering Dan was a male version of Beautiful All Along once Laurie pulled off his glasses in the original too, it's hard to see this as a problem.
Adorkable: He's based on Ted Kord, and therefore also fits. It doesn't hurt that he and his Love Interest Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II are, despite the uber-deconstructive nature of the story, the only two heroes in it that would fit in in a "normal" comic just as well. Dan's got some baggage, but it's normal, sane baggage.
Badass Normal: Along with every main character except Dr. Manhattan.
Badass Bookworm: Although he isn't as tough or smart as Ozymandius, he's still a caped crimefighter with enough technical wizardry to build his own crimefighting weapons. He doesn't look threatening, and is effectively a comic book geek living out a childhood fantasy.
Berserk Button: Hurting those close to him, apparently. Upon finding out that Hollis Mason, his old hero, mentor, and the original Nite Owl was murdered in his home by hoodlums, mild mannered Dan Dreiberg utterly flips the fuck out and shouts that he's going to kill whoever is responsible.Rorschach has to hold him back. Rorschach. Let that sink in for a while...
Big Beautiful Man: Once he stopped crimefighting, Dreiberg presumably stopped getting his usual exercise (read: thrashing bad guys) and put on some weight. Under that, though, he's still quite strong, and he has a pretty handsome face to go with it. The glasses don't make it any worse.
Blue Oni: To Rorschach (Red Oni) though its briefly flipped when rioters push his Berserk Button and kill Nite Owl I where Rorschach has to hold him back.
Boring, but Practical: His approach to crime fighting seems like this next to Rorschach, it doesn't seem very dramatic but its far more effective. Rorschach wants to pursue his Entertainingly Wrong assumption about a a mask killer by beating up more suspects while Dan takes time apart and interrogates that very assumption in the first place, leading them to the trail of the real culprit behind the Comedian's murder, Adrian Veidt.
Crazy-Prepared: When Laurie frets that the cops have figured out Dan is Nite Owl, he nonchalantly mentions that he had set up back-up identities years ago, just in case. He also made one for her.
Dan is like the poster boy for the Silver Age. The amount of equipment he had built for himself is just plain silly. His ship, built for fighting urban crime, has a fog generator, a water cannon, flame thrower and air to freaking air missiles. He also had a different Nite Owl suit for every environ you could possibly imagine. He even has a Snow-Owl suit for crime fighting in extreme cold. Why would you need one of those?
Crimefighting with Cash: A deconstruction of this trope, at one point openly admitting how spending millions on dollars on crimebusting equipment to fight purse-snatchers and prostitutes isn't exactly the most economically sound thing to do.
Gadgeteer Genius: Has an insane amount of gadgets devoted to fighting crime in his basement.
Also, while we repeatedly see Airships are commonly used in 1985 as a viable form of transport due to Dr Manhattan being able to synthesise Helium; the fact that Archimedes on the other hand is able to hover with no visible jets seems to suggest that Dan invented some form of anti-gravity technology. That he has Archie in the first (and only) Crimebusters meeting, means that he had cracked this technology as early as 1965!
Powered Armor: Tried to make a set at one point, but the prototype broke his arm in three places and he gave up. (It's one of the only things he leaves behind when fleeing the police. Wonder if someone tried it out?)
Rich Idiot with No Day Job: With the twist that as Dan Dreiberg, he doesn't fake idiocy but instead pretends to be a harmless intellectual. After he retires, it's not so much an act...
Token Good Teammate: Alan Moore says that of all the Watchmen, he is the most like a classic superhero.
Unstoppable Rage: When Hollis Mason (a kindly old man and Nite Owl I) is murdered in his home for the 'crime' of being tangentially associated with superheroes, Dan freaks out. We'll say it again, he unnerves Rorschach with his fury.
It is as Rameses said: "Canaan is devastated, Ashkelon is fallen, Gezer is ruined, Venoam is reduced to nothing, Israel is desolate and her seed is no more, and Palestine has become a widow for Egypt... ...All countries are unified and pacified.
Probably the most successful and effective hero of the lot. Adrian has honed his body and mind to near-superhuman perfection, created a multibillion dollar corporate empire, and mastered the sciences to change the world.
The Ace: At the peak of intellectual and athletic achievement.
Affably Evil: In addition to being a Well-Intentioned Extremist, he's also gentlemanly, witty, and calm, even in hand-to-hand combat. He treats his underlings kindly (right until he drugs them and leaves them to die of exposure to prevent his secrets from getting out.) When his former crimefighting colleagues track him down and learn of his already-in-progress master plan, he gives them the opportunity to keep silent, and when all of them (except Rorschach) agree, he trusts them enough to not only let them live, but to offer them hospitality in his fortress and allow them to leave freely. Hardly seems fair to hold the deaths of millions of innocent people against him.
Ambiguously Evil: Was his master plan tragic, but necessary or just wrong? Or both?
Broken Ace: He is a young, blond super genius who is insanely rich, has America in his hands and defeats Rorschach, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl and Dr Manhattan at the end. He is also the antagonist, and portrayed as delusionally idealistic to believe that his plan will work.
Charles Atlas Superpower: His feats are mostly believable through most of the story, but in the final act, he catches a bullet. (It tears up his hand, and he doesn't quite believe it himself.) There's an interview he has at the end of the second-to-last comic where he firmly believes any normal human can be just as built as he is, you just need the will to see it through.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: "Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago."
Dark Messiah: He causes the deaths of millions in order to unify the world and prevent the nuclear Armageddon he believes is otherwise inevitable. The comic itself refuses to either obviously support or condemn his actions.
Evil Plan: He is motivated by the desire of a 'better, more loving world'. To this end he orchestrated Comedian's murder and the destruction of New York to avert a nuclear war.
Expy: Of Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. Though there's also a bit of Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne in him.
Genghis Gambit: Plans to force America and Russia to put aside their differences and work together by making it seem as if a massive Alien Invasion is imminent. Whether or not it works on the long run is left up to the reader.
Germanic Depressives: In the film, Veidt comes off as rather dour and bitter, with an aloof smirk the closest to a smile he seems to actually be capable of (in contrast to his much warmer, more genial comic book counterpart).
It's Personal: While he kills the Comedian because He Knows Too Much, it's strongly implied that this was simply an excuse to finally get some payback on the Comedian beating the ever-living snot out of him when they first crossed paths in the 60's.
Lonely at the Top: Hidden under dense layers of ego and posing for the eyes of history. The reveal is his insecure last exchange with Dr Manhattan.
Karma Houdini: He commits a massive act of unadulterated mass murder and not only gets away with it scot-free, but is actually aided in covering it up by the heroes - because to expose the scheme would endanger the world even more. Although it's left open to interpretation whether or not his plan will ultimately succeed: before chasing Adrian, and with strong suspicions about his plan, Rorschach left his personal notes at the local newspaper. In the last page, after the Happy Ending, a guy in the newspaper reaches towards a stack of papers ("the crank file"). The diary is near the top. The End... Or Is It?
In the film adaptation he at least gets a good beating from Dan and a lecture on why his actions were wrong. He knows his actions are wrong, but inaction would have been catastrophic.
Meaningful Name: Ozymandias, which suggests the final fate of his "better, more loving world". His last name, Veidt, comes from German actor Conrad Veidt, whose appearance in The Man Who Laughs directly inspired the character design of The Joker.
Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Ozymandias is a misunderstood villain. He single-handedly kills off half of New York City in order to avert a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union that would destroy the world.
Although he's DREIBERG's age, his face is serene and unlined by worry. Blond and pale, he looks thirty. When he's sixty he'll look forty.
Omniscient Hero: He has everything so well figured out that the morality issue is reduced to whether or not the goals he achieved was worth all the lives he sacrificed. However, two of the last few scenes make the whole thing ambiguous, leaving it to the reader/viewer do decide if the trope is played straight or subverted.
Totalitarian Utilitarian: His goal is to end the Cold War and then use his abilities to control the Earth and make it a paradise on Earth. His problem is mainly a type 1, killing half of New York in a Genghis Gambit, but the ending implies it may also be a type 2, assuming naively that this is all that is required to defuse a 40+ year old nuclear standstill and failing to take into account Rorschach's diary.
Tragic Villain: He is never punished for his actions; they do hurt him psychologically, though. But the real tragedy is that in trying to save humanity, Ozymandias loses his soul by becoming the very evil he wanted to destroy.
Nite Owl: No. I just don't buy it. Any of it. You wouldn't kill half New York. You couldn't...
Ozymandias: I could. I did. If you like, I'll tell you how.
Villain with Good Publicity/Visionary Villain: He is a public hero and has his own product line, including action figures. Ozymandias slaughtered half of New York, killing millions, in an attempt to save the rest of the world from a nuclear apocalypse.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Possibly the most successful one in fiction. He kills 3 million people to achieve world peace...and, as far as the reader can tell, it works, though the last panel opens up the possibility that it may have all been for nothing.
"The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicans will look up and shout 'save us'... and I'll look down and whisper 'no'."
The only non-government superhero still active as of the beginning of the book, Rorschach is a ruthless, disturbed vigilante who believes the world to be falling apart around him. He speaks in fragments and lives like a bum, having devoted his life almost entirely to fighting crime—and it's his devotion that allows him to pick up the trail of a man's mysterious death...
Abusive Parents: His mother was certainly a horrible parent. How bad was she? When informed of her death, Walter only had one thing to say: "Good".
Ambiguously Evil: While he certainly has good intentions, Rorschach is deliberately left morally ambiguous to let the readers decide whether his extreme methods of fighting evil were necessary or not. Or whether exposing Ozymandias's plan was the right thing to do or not.
Pragmatic Hero: Initially, Rorschach was this during the early days of his career. He was in better health mentally, being a vigilante was still legal, and he would leave criminals to be arrested by the police, instead of murdering them. But the Keene Act and mentally snapping after the brutal murder of a girl had driven him nearer to the edge.
Unscrupulous Hero: What he currently is and what he is well-known for. Rorschach is far from an ideal hero. He is absolutely ruthless towards criminals, killing them when he could easily beat them and leave them for the police. That said, most of the criminals Rorschach encounters are either killers or rapists so killing them might seem a proper punishment. However, he does have genuinely good intentions and sincerely wants to make the world a safer place. To this end, he still saves civilians and actually cares a lot for kids.
Asexuality: Rorschach is asexual, or at minimum repulsed by normal sexuality due to his traumatic childhood. Throughout the whole comic, he frequently makes derogatory comments towards sex in general.
Ambiguously Gay: The "holding a handshake too long" scene that demonstrates Nite Owl II's sexual tension for Silk Spectre II is mirrored later with confirmed bachelor Rorschach doing the exact same thing to Nite Owl II. Though it's left ambiguous, he may have only done this because he has No Social Skills and that he appreciates Dan being his Only Friend.
Ax-Crazy: See what he did to the child abductor and his dogs.
Badass: He is, among other things, more badass than the Antarctic itself, enduring the bitter cold and what had to be some severe wind chill on one of Nite Owl's hoverbikes with no superpowers and no more protective equipment than the same overcoat and hat that he wore around New York. Without even a shiver.
Also Rorschach's one limit. He won't punish his landlady for (falsely) telling the news he slept with her, because her kids are with her. Also, perhaps, because he saw himself in her son. And unlike his mother, she was holding her kids like she loved them.
Bold Inflation: Aside from the ill-fated Crimebusters meeting (which took place long before the 1975 kidnapping case which completely redefined him), the only instances where he spoke like this are when he was unmasked by the police and when he goads Dr. Manhattan into killing him.
Butter Face: A Rare Male Example. Has a very muscular and athletic body but, from the neck up, he's rather unattractive. Plain-looking at best.
Byronic Hero: As flawed as he is, Rorschach is a very sympathetic character. An outcast and loner even among his superhero "peers", intelligent, cynical due to his experiences, introspectively brooding, dark, strong personal beliefs, follows his own rules which eventually lead to his death, Rorschach is the exemplar of a Byronic hero in comic books.
Bystander Syndrome: Inverted. He beats up thugs who have harmed people he's never met and idealizes people he doesn't know (Kitty Genovese, Harry Truman, etc.) but loathes virtually everyone he does know. Familiarity breeds contempt, indeed.
Celibate Hero: He's freaked out beyond all recognition about anything to do with sex, due to child abuse. He has a massive madonna-whore complex and mentions once that he was "offered Swedish love and French love but not American love [by prostitutes]," however you want to interpret that.
Despair Event Horizon: He crosses it when his investigation into the little girl's kidnapping reveals the kidnapper had butchered her and fed her to the dogs. He kills the dogs and then traps the kidnapper in the building he sets on fire. It was Kovacs that went into that place, it was Rorschach that came out.
Determinator: Even after he jumps out a window which is at least five stories up, he lies on the ground telling himself to get up while the police kick him unconscious. And them some.
Does Not Like Guns: Nite Owl says that Rorschach didn't shoot Moloch because that way of killing someone is too ordinary. Presumably this is why Rorschach chose to improvise when he is cornered by the police instead of picking up the gun. The gun was also empty, and Rorschach only kills criminals; crazy as he is, he doesn't bear ill will against police officers, and only fights them at all in order to escape.
Confirmed by Alan Moore who believed that it "is not the mask talking, it's not Rorschach, it's the actual human being [Walter Kovacs] that is somewhere under there."
Entertainingly Wrong: His investigation of The Comedian's murder is doomed from the start because of his very wrong assumption of a mask killer, that is an old villain trying to kill superheroes and a conspiracy that will endanger his old gang. Veidt enables this assumption to throw him off his trail and send Rorschach to jail. It's only after he teams up with Dan Dreiberg who questions his assumptions that they make real headway.
Moore also puts in elements of Batman noting that "he would be considered a nutjob in real life" and in another interview he clarified Rorschach as "Batman without theexcuses".
There's more than a little of Travis Bickle in his journal entries, too. (Also confirmed by Moore.)
Existentialist: Rorschach believes life has no meaning other than the ones we impose on it.
Anti Nihilist: Possible, since Rorschach believes that rules and principles are the most important in life because the world has no more meaning than the one we impose on it. Alternatively or overlaps with...
Übermensch: In addition to creating his own meaning and morality, Rorschach's view of life is largely misanthropic. That said, he does follow his own rules to try to make the world a better place.
Expressive Mask: And how. It does more than cover his face; to Rorschach, itishis face. His actual face, in contrast, is like a mask; his expression almost never changes.The black and white splotches in his mask never mix, representing his morality. For him there is only black and white, never gray.
Grappling-Hook Pistol: One of Rorschach's signature tools, until the police take it away after his arrest. It gets turned into an Improvised Weapon at one point. It was originally designed for him by Dan, back when they were partners.
Guttural Growler: In the film, at least. In the comic it's mentioned that he speaks in a 'creepy monotone', but growling or lack thereof isn't specified.
Homeless Hero: He lives in squalor and has poor personal hygiene.
Hypocrite: Pretty much hypocrisy characterized. He looks up to Harry Truman as a "good man" for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan to prevent even more death, but is horrified when Veidt does the same thing on a larger scale. He hates and kills rapists, but dismisses Edward Blake's Attempted Rape of Sally Jupiter because he is a war hero. He hates lawbreakers and murderers, but is both of those things because he's a vigilante. The list goes on.
Nice Hat: In the movie, he keeps picking it up even when Ozymandias keeps kicking his butt.
It's also the only part of his outfit that doesn't get vaporized.
Nineties Anti-Hero: He and The Comedian are considered the prototypes for these type of anti-heroes, despite not strictly embodying this trope themselves.
No Sell: His Combat Pragmatist street-fighting approach is no match for Adrian Veidt, who outclasses him while continuing his Expo Speak to him and Dreiberg without missing a breath.
No Social Skills: He never bathes, he thinks it's socially acceptable to break into people's houses and steal their stuff and has the nerve to tell Laurie that her mother almost getting raped by the Comedian could have been a moral lapse. Even Dan has problems dealing with him to the point where he finally lashes out at Rorschach. This leads to a handshake that Rorschach finds very awkward. The only time Rorschach feels at ease with anyone is when he's breaking people's fingers. He at least has the decency to try to avoid doing that in front of children (probably because of his own past experiences with Abusive Parents). It's made clear to the reader that while Rorschach is ultimately a good person and genuinely wants to help others, his total lack of proper social skills and his abundance of disorders will probably end up destroying him. They do in the end.
Odd Friendship: With Nite Owl, who used to be his partner in crime-fighting.
Its telling that when he suspects a Mask Killer, Dan is the first one he warns.
Double Subverted: ...but he was onto something with his "mask killer" theory; he was, initially, the only person to notice something odd. Though he was also Entertainingly Wrong and its only after he teams up with Dan Dreiberg that he makes headway, the latter's Boring, but Practical approach being more effective and useful.
He's also the only one who refuses to become complicit in Adrian's twisted lie on which he plans to base his future utopia. Whether this makes him insane or the only one who's not is a major point in the story at large. Crazy though he may be, he's the only main superhero in the story who never truly betrays what he believes to be right, so is it he or Adrian who is the real hero of the story?
Pet the Dog: Rorschach may be batshit insane, Axe Crazy and treat even his team-mates with suspicion and abuse, but he does make it very clear that he does value his friendship with Nite Owl and apologizes when Nite Owl calls him out on his behaviour.
Power of Friendship: The Power of Friendship is apparently the only thing that can counter his Knight Templar attitude about everything. The only time we see him display a more-or-less human reaction (outside of flashbacks) is when Daniel bursts out and spells it out for him just how difficult exactly "being his friend" is.
Principles Zealot: Most people easily see him as this. There is however one time where he could be viewed as straying from his principles. A former criminal, Edgar Jacobi, previously known as Moloch the Mystic, had cancer and in his desperation to save his life he took illegal drugs that probably wouldn't save him anyway. Rorschach let this offense slide, for Edgar. He did however take the name of the company that sold the drug down, so in this case he might be viewing Edgar as a scam victim instead of a criminal.
Properly Paranoid: After an attempt is made on Ozymandias's life, it seems he was right to suspect that the Comedian's murder was the beginning of a plot to kill off superheroes. Or not. Ozymandias himself had killed the Comedian then faked his own assassination attempt so Rorschach would believe his own theory and thus miss the real plot.
The Protagonist: While the series doesn't exactly have a main character, if there had to be one, then it is Rorschach. He is described by many as the one who drives the story's plot forward.
Sociopathic Hero: He is one of the better-known examples of this, being more than willing to torture and kill if he believes good will come of it. He also shows a Lack of Empathy towards the criminals he kills, even hinting that he enjoys killing them.
Son of a Whore: He developed a number of sexual hangups thanks to growing up around his mother's work. Well, that and being beaten and verbally abused by his mother, and bullied by other kids for being a Son of a Whore.
That Man Is Dead: After failing to save Blair Roche, he no longer responds to the name "Walter Kovacs". In his mind, Walter Kovacs entered that house. It was Rorschach that left it.
Tragic Hero: A man who grew up in a hellish childhood and tried so hard to uphold some lofty standard of conduct guided by a twisted perception of integrity, and ultimately destroyed by it.
Tranquil Fury: Unlike the other characters, who express fury through violent outbursts (The Comedian particularly), Rorschach is almost always calm and quiet in his violence. Even when pushed to his very limit in 1975, he didn't yell or lash out, he retained his quiet demeanor. He is emotionally withdrawn and during his adulthood he only makes a facial expression twice in the book (Panel 8 of Page 7 of Chapter 6, when he remembers a childhood incident, and when he orders Manhattan to kill him. For the rest of the story his face is either covered by his mask or a blank stare.
This is changed in the movie, however. His blank stare is replaced by a Clint Squint, and he is prone to fits of eye-twitchery. In 1975, when pushed to his limitations, instead of breaking down into the calm psycho he breaks up into an aggressive animal.
Terse Talker: He'salways like this when talking, but his journal and internal monologue switches between this and outbreaks of fluency. Still skips articles and pronouns in journal.
"Stood in firelight sweltering. Blood spreading on chest like map of violent new continent."
Vigilante Man: A deconstruction of this trope, as well as the Anti-Hero in general. He is not presented as a good person and the police disdain him — in fact, they hate him almost as much as the criminals do.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: His violent and murderous behavior towards criminals is fueled by his own twisted desires to protect the world and defend the good. However, due to mental trauma, he tends to view almost everything and everyone as bad and needing punishment, making him come off as a Sociopathic Hero.
Mysterious Parent: At first, she thought that her real father was the Hooded Justice. Then it turns out to be the Comedian.
Never a Self-Made Woman: Laurie inherited her mother's identity, and spends the graphic novel dependent on her love interests. Ultimately subverted with Laurie in the end, who expresses that she doesn't want to settle down with a family, but take up crime fighting again. But then again, she seems to be following in her recently revealed father's footsteps in that regard as well based on her description of improvements to her costume...
Passing the Torch: More like having the torch shoved into her hand against her will, gratefully throwing it away, and then deciding it wasn't so bad after all.
Pretty Freeloader: She was this for Doctor Manhattan and became this to Dan (he insisted). Can't blame her since she has no job skills aside from fighting crime.
Satellite Love Interest: She was employed by the US government essentially to be one of these for Dr. Manhattan after she quit her old job in the Superhero business. Deconstructed in that she actually does have a personality, and it winds up conflicting to some extent with her mission of keeping Manhattan focused/sane/human, because the fact that he's too much the first of those and not enough the third upsets her, which in turn upsets him.
Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She eventually realizes that Jon really loves her. Although his detachment from humanity caused him to be used as a walking murder weapon during the Vietnam war, she's attracted to his omniscience, his virility and his power over her. She also realizes that, as a god, he's unable to care for her the way a normal guy could. So she ends up with the nerdy, mild-mannered, fat, balding, initially impotent Dan Dreiberg, and they live happily ever after.
Deconstruction Natch, this is Watchmen. Most Token Female characters in the Silver Age Of Comic Books were presented as the most emotional and/or empathic, and usually as the less physically powerful of their respective teams. Laurie is definitively the most emotionally-driven of the main characters, being almost exclusively motivated by her relationships (with Jon, with her mother, with Dan and with her real father). The empathy part is quite arguable as Laurie acts with indifference at best and great sceptism to the value of the superheroes or the ideals other characters fight for. And as for the "less physically powerful", she ironically is the one that comes the closest to defeating the arguable Big Bad Veidt by engaging Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? on sight.
Stripperific: Her superhero outfit. She doesn't like it (and neither does Rorschach).
Strong Family Resemblance: The Comedian notes that Laurie looks just like Sally except for the brown hair... something she inherited from him.
The Heart: Of the main characters Laurie is by far the most selfish and the one the least concerned with ideals, but the moment she sees the aftermath of Adrian's plan she's completely horrified, to the point of trying to kill Adrian on sight
Tykebomb: Trained from a young age for the sole purpose of being a superheroine.
The Heart: Managed to keep six (briefly seven) people together as an effective crime-fighting team, in spite of their neuroses and occasional hatred for each other. Perhaps a subversion in that he didn't actually care about any of the individual members (except for Sally) and dumped the team when he saw that they weren't going to be profitable for much longer.
May-December Romance: With Sally. He seems to have hooked up with her when she was about seventeen or eighteen.