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Rorschach (Walter Kovacs)
Click here to see him without his mask. 
"This city is dying of rabies. Is the best I can do to wipe random flecks of foam from its lips?"

"The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians 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...

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  • 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".
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Some bullies show this to Rorschach and he goes berserk on them.
  • Anti-Hero: Rorschach is one of the best and most famous examples in comic books.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: 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.
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  • Anti-Role Model: You would think from the Watchmen fanbase that he's an intelligent badass to aspire toward, but many new readers were taken by surprise at how the story goes out of its way to subvert how the story sets up how Rorschach sees himself — far from being a master detective, he's made as repulsive, disturbing and ineffective of a protagonist as possible without making him outright unsympathetic as a way of spelling out how unglamorous, dangerous and insane a real life Vigilante Man would be. He's a mental basketcase, a ruthless and violent sociopath with a rigid and arbitrary moral code, has strong reactionary views and is homophobic and sexist, is plain looking at best if not ugly and takes poor care of his physical health, and is clearly not a people person in any sense of the word. On top of that, he's not even all that smart, acting mostly on hunches and assumptions instead of seeking out actual evidence or questioning his own theories.
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  • Audience Surrogate: Moore intended Rorschach to explore the adolescent mindset of the traditional comic book story, and Rorschach largely shares that attitude and tries to enact it in a more realistic setting. This makes him immediately relatable and identifiable to superhero comic fans in the early part of the book. However, from the fifth issue, the focus shifts away from him to Dan Dreiberg and Laurie, who become The Everyman figures from the middle-to the end of the book.
  • Ax-Crazy: He is borderline insane at times and is extremely ruthless with his brutality against criminals with his extreme methods of killing. Such as when he angrily murdered the child abductor and his dogs. Even as a child he was moderately unhinged but fully embraced homicidal sociopathic side when he became an adult.
  • Badass Boast: Rorschach's boast is the trope image.
    "None of you seem to understand. I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me."
  • Badass Longcoat: More evocative of pulp heroes.
  • Badass Normal: 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. And then, after the big reveal but before his death, he starts to walk out into the same Antarctic weather, in the same clothes and with no easy route home, with his intention to reveal Veidt's crime even if he has to walk home to do it. Never compromise, indeed.
  • Bash Brothers: With Nite Owl.
  • Bat Deduction: Deconstructed quite conclusively. While we are initially led to believe that Rorschach may be some kind of master pulp detective with a great gut instinct, it quickly becomes clear that he bases his prevalent "mask-killer" theory entirely on assumption rather than evidence. Every person he tries to warn points towards more obvious and compelling answers only for them to be ignored. While his gut instinct that Blake's murder was the start of a larger conspiracy proves correct in a sense, he fails to consider the sheer scale of it until it's far too late.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: His quote above. He feels the complete opposite when New York is destroyed.
  • Becoming the Mask: Initially played straight. ("NO! MY FACE! GIVE ME BACK MY FACE!") Later averted; see Dying as Yourself.
  • Berserk Button: Never ever steal his face. See above.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: Rorschach's devotion to his ethos is so strong that it is impossible for him to accept any form of compromise. The fault in his philosophy is shown early on, as his patriotism and admiration for the Comedian's persona and combat record make him accept the attempted rape of Sally Jupiter, who Rorschach considers to be a whore, as a moral lapse of an otherwise upstanding citizen, even though he is later shown to consider rape a perfectly good reason to kill someone. He also applauds President Truman's dropping the Atomic Bomb on Japan as it ended a world war, but decries Ozymandias' doing the same to New York for the same reasons, and is determined to make Veidt answer for this "evil".
  • Black-and-White Morality: Symbolically displayed through his mask, which is described as how he sees the world: through an extreme filter of black and white. Other characters find it more like Black-and-Gray Morality.
  • The Blank: The whole idea behind his mask.
  • Blood Knight: Rorschach is hinted to be this. Upon seeing a woman about to be mugged and raped, Rorschach had this to say about the assailant:
    Rorschach: The man turned...and there was something rewarding in his eyes. Sometimes the night is generous to me.
  • 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.
  • Boxing Battler: He has extensive training in boxing and can easily send thugs sprawling with a single punch. It's understated, however, as he is savvy enough to favor tactics, psychological warfare and the odd Improvised Weapon over Good Old Fisticuffs.
  • Breakout Character: He is easily the most popular and influential character in the comics, with some people viewing him as the protagonist. This is especially true for Jackie Earle Haley's interpretation, which remains one of the most acclaimed things about the 2009 film. Before Doctor Manhattan's role in Rebirth, Rorschach was the most consistently used character of Watchmen in DC comics, appearing through cameos on Kingdom Come and The Question trying to imitate him in one of his issues (and calling him a loser for his ineffective methods). He is also the protagonist of the licensed Watchmen game.
  • 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 relatable character. An outcast and loner even among his superhero "peers", intelligent but embittered due to his experiences, introspectively brooding, strong in his personal beliefs, and a total refusal to compromise on anything 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.
  • Civvie Spandex: Being an Expy of The Question and Mr. A.
  • Clueless Detective: Not as blatantly obvious as most examples, but the Scientific Method is clearly an alien concept to Walter. Owing to his uncompromising, paranoid personality, his method of deduction involves coming to absurd conclusions and trying to find the sufficient evidence later. He flatly dismisses his former teammates' much more plausible theories as to how the Comedian died. As a result, he spends most of the plot in a wild goose chase after an imaginary superhero killer.
  • Combat Pragmatist: To an insane degree. Rorschach's solution to the "Gordian Knot problem". When faced with an impossible lock, Rorschach will simply kick the door down.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: He started as an Expy of The Question, who in the DCAU was a saner Expy of Rorschach.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: He sports the basic outfit, but with a head-covering mask (as opposed to the standard domino) with a shifting black-and-white pattern that initially inspired his moniker.
  • Cool Mask: Made from a failed prototype for a designer dress. Contains black and white fluids, sandwiched between thin layers of latex, which move in response to heat and pressure but never mix into grey.
  • The Cowl: As the main Terror Hero who works as a vigilante operating outside the law to bring down criminals when the police are inept.
  • Creepy Good: Rorschach is firmly on the side of justice and despises criminals, but suffers from a horribly severe case of Black-and-White Insanity, to the point he literally cannot properly function in normal, modern society.
  • Creepy Monotone: Represented in the comic by all of his dialogue being in italics and without the bolded words other characters' lines have to indicate emphasis.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The kidnapping and death of Blair Roche (see Despair Event Horizon).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Particularly with Big Figure ("Small world"). Also when a therapist attempts to evaluate him with a Rorschach test.
  • Deathly Unmasking: In the finale, Rorschach is the only member of the team unwilling to cooperate with Adrian Veidt's plan for utopia - only for his attempted exit to be brought up short by Doctor Manhattan. Unable to fight his way out but refusing to compromise "even in the face of Armageddon", Rorschach doffs his hat and distinctive shifting inkblot mask - opting to be without his "face" in his final moments - and tearfully demands that Manhattan get it over with. He obliges.
  • Death Before Dishonor: Rorschach, by far the most morally unyielding of the team, cannot let all the villainy that's occurred for Veidt's plan to work go unpunished - though he knows that blowing the whistle will result in a possibly apocalyptic reignition of hostilities, and since Veidt has Doctor Manhattan on his side, there's no chance of stopping the supervillain anyway. In the end, Rorschach unmasks and all but orders Manhattan to kill him.
  • Death Seeker: Alan Moore says he is. He finds it.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Rorschach is one for Steve Ditko's characters like Mr. A and The Question, and to a lesser extent, Batman. Rorschach subscribes explicitly to an Objectivist viewpoint - Black-and-White Morality, atheism, and that anyone who holds such a viewpoint can act as judge, jury and executioner. As Moore points out, this kind of person can only maintain their worldview by indulging in Psychological Projection, paranoia, Hypocrisy and a certain level of denial. He pretends to be uncompromising despite compromising his stated values all the time, and he's a terrible human being for it: Rorschach despises rapists and kills them without remorse, but his patriotism and admiration for the Comedian's persona causes him to overlook the rape of Silk Spectre I, Sally Jupiter, who Rorschach considers to be a whore, leading him to dismiss the crime as a "temporary moral lapse" of an otherwise upstanding American citizen. He also decries Ozymandias' plan to wipe out New York City while he previously praised President Truman dropping nuclear bombs on Japan as it ended a world war. Rorschach's unshaking belief in his own worth over society's norms leaves him living as a hobo, impossible to employ, sleeping in the street, eating trash and breaking into his friends' houses to eat cold beans stolen from the fridge. His most advanced gadget is a Batman-like zipline pistol he just stole from his partner Nite Owl II.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Moore intended him to parody many of Steve Ditko's characters, especially his objectivist characters Mr. A and The Question. Similar to Mr. A, Rorschach subscribes implicitly to an objectivist viewpoint, i.e. Black-and-White Morality, atheism, and that anyone with such a viewpoint can act as judge, jury, and executioner. As Moore points out, such characters are in fact shaped and defined by entirely subjective experiences and the only way they can maintain their viewpoint is via Psychological Projection, paranoia, and living in certain denial. His rational belief in his own worth over society's norms, leads him to live the life of a hobo, since he is unemployable, poor, and unbalanced, and believes that anyone with some level of comfort and achievement is a Sell-Out and "prostitute" (his term for "looter").
  • 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 then some. Even more impressive in the movie version as he does get up and proceeds to beat down several more cops before he's finally overwhelmed.
  • Disappeared Dad: Rorschach's father walked out on his mother before he was born and never made any attempt to contact his son, even after he was removed from his mother's custody. Despite this, Rorschach idolizes him and considers him to be a good man—seemingly out of spite towards his mother who often disparaged her ex.
  • Does Not Know How to Say "Thanks": Nor how to apologize, as he tries to do so with a handshake.
  • 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.
  • Does Not Like Women: From his poor experiences with his mother.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: A rare Anti-Hero version. Rorschach's identity was mostly a secret until it is revealed he was that guy who carried a "THE END IS NIGH" sign.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": "You keep calling me Walter. I don't like you." His therapist eventually starts writing "Rorschach" in his notes, a sign that his patient is getting to him.
  • The Dreaded: This was seen in the comic when Rorschach entered the bar and the bartender begged him not to kill anyone today. And in one scene he is dreaded even more than Dr. Manhattan. Where the riot argued with Manhattan, the riot Rorschach dealt with dispersed with his mere presence. The entire Lower East Side.
  • Dying Alone: We don't even know how Dreiberg reacted or if he even cared about his ex-partner. Averted in the film, as Dreiberg follows Rorschach in an attempt to dissuade him from exposing the truth, only to witness in horror as Manhattan kills him.
  • Dying as Yourself: Rorschach takes his mask off just before Dr. Manhattan kills him. 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 - 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.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Upon making landfall in the Antarctic, Rorschach refuses to change into anything more insulating and doesn't seem overly bothered by the sub-zero temperatures.
  • * Corrupted Character Copy: Of The Question and Mr. A, whom Rorschach was specifically based on. 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 the excuses". There's more than a little of Travis Bickle in his journal entries, too. (Also confirmed by Moore.) When Steve Ditko was asked about Rorschach's similarity to his own heroes he confirmed it as well, saying, he was "Like Mr. A, except insane."
  • Expressive Mask: And how. It does more than cover his face; to Rorschach, it is his 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.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Anything he does. A vengeful prisoner gets his face burned, a masochistic "villain" is thrown down an elevator shaft...
  • Face Death with Dignity: How he goes out. He does not beg and refuses to compromise.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    Rorschach: No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise.
  • The Fettered: Kovacs' principles are all that matter to him; the good must be protected, and the evil must be punished, no compromise or nuance allowed. When he's finally confronted with his own failure to completely live up to his standards and faced with a dilemma he can't solve just by appealing to his code, he breaks down.
  • Foil: To Ozymandias. Both Kovacs and Veidt are ultimately unstable Übermensch who are unflinching in doing what they think is right, no matter what the cost. They just play it in very different ways.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Before crimefighting was outlawed, he seemed to get along relatively well with his costumed peers, albeit with some criticism of his methods. Though Nite Owl was always his closest ally. After going rogue and a healthy dose of Sanity Slippage, however, his former colleagues grow largely disgusted and disappointed in his brutality, rotten attitude and reckless vigilantism. Even Nite Owl is unsettled by his old friend's worsening mental state, and Rorschach's sociopathic tendencies begin to put a strain on their partnership when they reunite to investigate the Comedian's death.
  • Friend to All Children: One thing he won't stand for is someone else hurting a child, even if he isn't necessarily all that engaging with them himself. The murder of Blair Roche pushed him over the edge, driving him to commit his first killing. Later on he doesn't punish his landlady for (falsely) telling the news he made lewd advances at 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.
  • Freudian Excuse: A good part of his personality, his isolation, his self-righteousness, his dismissive view of adult society, his attitude to women (which can be summed up as a Madonna-Whore Complex) derives from his very abusive childhood as the son of a prostitute, which results in his fixation and obsession with purity, moral and sexual. This leads to his refusal to compromise, an attitude that manifests itself when he calls those he considers Sell-Out (such as Adrian Veidt) "prostitutes" in the metaphorical sense, and his Slut-Shaming of Sally Jupiter, Laurie, and his landlady (though he regrets that last part) and his tendency to view everything in extremes.
  • Genius Bruiser: Holds his own in a fight, and has decent, albeit not exceptional, detective skills. Dan Dreiberg is the overall better detective, and is the one who actually figures out that Adrian Veidt is behind The Conspiracy.
  • Good Is Not Nice/Good Is Not Soft: He might be dedicated to fighting crime, but Rorschach is not gentle about it. He's a stone-cold Vigilante Man prone to dealing with his problems with extreme violence and brutality with an uncompromising sense of Black-and-White Morality. And even then, he's an extremely hard person to get along with.
  • 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: It's mentioned that he speaks in a 'creepy monotone', but growling or lack thereof isn't specified. However his speech bubbles are drawn with wavy outlines, implying the trope holds true for the comic as well. When doing a reading, Alan Moore also read Rorschach's dialogue with a growl.
  • Hates Their Parent: He couldn't give less of a shit when he's told his mother died.
  • Hero with an F in Good: Not only he's The Cynic, but his methods are violent to the point of shocking even other heroes.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Rorschach's chapter even closes with that quote. He wasn't even always the violent unlikeable vigilante he is during the story. It seems that he and Dreiberg were legitimate friends at one point, and though always odd, he was Then the kidnapping case happened and changed him forever.
  • Hobo Gloves: Since he's basically a bum who happens to work as a superhero, it should come as no surprise that his gloves are dirty and fingerless. Given he's both a Tragic Hero and a Sociopathic Hero, his gloves have both the "sympathetic" and "rough" connotations.
  • Homeless Hero: He lives in squalor and has poor personal hygiene. Since he is entirely devoted to his work as a superhero and doesn't really have ties to civilian life in terms of friends and family, he doesn't really care about being poor.
  • Hypocrite: Rorschach claims to be an uncompromising believer of Black-and-White Morality but it's clear Alan Moore intended him to be this instead. Rorschach condemns Veidt's attack on New York City, regardless of the peace it brings, but once defended the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the same reasoning (though maybe his issue with Veidt's attack was because it was a gigantic falsehood vs. America's ownership of the responsibility of the A-Bomb). He also murders rapists but tolerates the Comedian raping Sally Jupiter because he was a veteran who suffered a "moral lapse."
  • Hypocritical Humor: We have this bit of humor from him.
    Rorschach: Why are so few of us left active, healthy, and without personality disorders?
    • Then again, he might not necessarily include himself in that category...
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Went over the edge after failing to save little Blair.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Frequently, as a Combat Pragmatist with a penchant for improvisation. Exemplified by his trusty grappling gun, which he can employ as a weapon with devastating results.
  • Improvised Weapon: Can turn just about anything deadly, whether it's hairspray into a flamethrower or throwing cooking fat into an attacker's face.
  • Informed Attribute: Played with. Rorschach is referenced as being a brilliant detective, but his "mask killer" take on the Comedian's death is completely wrong. However, this was because he was against Veidt, who's ridiculously intelligent and actively working to manipulate him. By himself, he appears to have been pretty successful at least at legwork and uh, "interviews".
  • Ironic Nickname: Similar to how Ozymandias, the guy who wanted to create permanent peace, named himself after a poem about how nothing lasts forever, Rorschach, a staunch objectivist who believes that everything is clearly defined as right or wrong, named himself after a test whose signature trait is being almost entirely subjective and having no wrong answers.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: A possibly insane, borderline sociopathic, ruthless vigilante with reactionary leanings who nevertheless has good intentions, saves civilians, cares for children, tries to be a hero, and genuinely appreciates his friendship with Daniel.
  • Knight Templar: A rare Anti-Hero example.
  • Little "No": What Rorschach fantasizes about doing when the world eventually destroys itself, as seen in the page quote. He eventually changes his mind.
  • Logic Bomb: As a child, Walter expressed in a paper that dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was indeed justified, as it helped to end World War II and prevent greater loss of life in the future. He followed this mindset through when he became Rorschach, and doubled down on his Black-and-White Insanity after his Start of Darkness. Ozymandias' destruction of New York was done as a massive Genghis Gambit, meant to pressure the world into giving up international conflict and work to better all of mankind. However, despite Veidt's motives, his actions to save the world are beyond anything Rorschach can stomach, and sends him into a mental breakdown.
  • Loving a Shadow: A non-romantic example. Early on Rorschach praises his father as an honest, hard-working man. It is later revealed that he never even knew his father, who ditched Rorschach's mom before he was born and was possibly just one of his prostitute mother's many customers.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: As a result of his bad upbringing, and personality formation, Rorschach tends to see women as either helpless victims or succubi, i.e. entirely in extremes. In his mind, Blair Roche, and the historical Kitty Genovese, the horrible victim of rape and brutal murder, are pure angels who he failed to rescue, whereas women who don't fit that standard, whether its actual prostitutes such as his mother or his landlady, or independent women who complain about sexual assault such as Sally Jupiter, are liars and betrayers. This allows him to hate rapists and submit them to retribution while also dismissing allegations against the Comedian as false.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Rorschach as in the ink blots is a fitting name for a man with a capacity to externally project his internal beliefs, who sees plots and meaning in vague outlines (i.e. the "Mask Killer" conspiracy idea of his) that are either non-existent, or woefully short of the real thing. The reality of the Rorschach ink blot test as noted by Dr. Malcolm Long is that they are truly meaningless and only reflect people's capacity to interpret the world, which is also fitting for Rorschach's existential belief in his convictions, that the world doesn't make sense unless you want it to.
    • The mondegreen "Raw Shark" which the police officers initially mishear when getting the Anonymous tip (by Veidt as it turns out) is perhaps a more apt description of his attitude and approach to crime-fighting and vigilantism, than Rorschach.
  • Mercy Kill: One way of interpreting his request that Dr. Manhattan kill him near the end.
  • Morality Chain: His former superhero comrades were clearly this to him. Rorschach is described as having always been more extreme and disturbed than the other Crimebusters, but we see in a flashback that he was much better adjusted when he worked alongside them, especially Dan. Even his speech bubbles were more solidified. After the Blair Roche incident and the outlawing of costumed heroes, Rorschach went completely off the deep end.
  • Motor Mouth: He gets uncharacteristically talkative when investigating Veidt's offices alongside his old partner Nite Owl, making a long, long string of observations on Veidt's fixation with Egyptian culture and speculating on his plans, all while Dan tries to crack Veidt's computer password. Overall, he and Dan are not so different in how they approach crimefighting like excitable kids playing Sherlock.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Debuting in The '80s, he and The Comedian are considered the prototypes, or Ur-Examples, for these type of anti-heroes, despite not strictly embodying this trope themselves.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Is among other things a misogynist and homophobe. But unlike many examples, instead of white washing his behavior, it only serves to further showcase how unpleasant a person he is, and why you shouldn't entirely identify with him uncritically.
  • 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 and they very much do so.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Granted, he is pretty crazy as it is, but he typically adopts the identity of a loopy prophet of doom as a civilian disguise.
  • 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.
  • Ominous Walk: Uses this to great effect.
  • Only Sane Man: He paints himself as one in a Crapsack World. However, he is also batshit insane, asocial and generally incapable of self-reflection and irony. Ultimately it's left ambiguous. It's clear that his approach to crimefighting is flawed, that he doesn't quite latch on to Veidt's conspiracy, and is not as competent a fighter as he thinks he is. But 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 a man of uncompromising conviction and the only main superhero in the story who never truly betrays what he believes to be right, no matter how limited his actual agency to act on his beliefs really is.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: He is the one who has to restrain Dan from assaulting the gang member who told him about Hollis Mason's death.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Rorschach has very nationalist views and ideas. Part of his admiration for The Comedian is tied to his service for the government as a black ops operative which he sees as admirable despite it involving assassination and war crimes, mostly because it was done to non-Americans, and as a young man and an adult he cites Harry Truman as a hero, albeit not for his actual politics (i.e. New Deal Democrat progressive) as for his decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. He also subscribes to The New Frontiersman and considers them the only paper that tells "the truth" and nominates them as the custodians of his diary in the event of his expected, and eventual, death.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: His modus operandi.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Despite being a rampant moral absolutist, Rorschach begrudgingly decides to let Moloch off the hook after Moloch reveals he has terminal cancer. This is after discovering some "illegal" drugs (i.e. phony pharmaceuticals that Moloch likely couldn't have known were outlawed) in his possession, making it an even more striking act of leniency.
    • Rorschach may be batshit insane, Ax-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.
    • When Dan is upset to the point of tears over Hollis Mason's death, Rorschach actually attempts to comfort him. It doesn't come out in the traditional way, being Rorschach, but Dan appreciates the effort.
    • When Daniel and Rorschach go to retrieve Rorschach's spare mask, and he calls his landlady a whore to her face, but doesn't press further after seeing her kids.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: The guy's 5'6". He wore elevated heels as a part of his outfit.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: His black and white morality and extreme views of justice result in this. He has no patience for proof or rights when pursuing criminals and applies torture liberally. He sees addicts and prostitutes as scum beyond redemption, no matter how victimized or desperate they are. He's explicitly misogynistic and darkly puritanical about sex and women. For instance, has a less than sympathetic reaction to one character's survival of a sexual assault. The fact that he deeply admires and stubbornly defends the Comedian, easily the most politically incorrect character in the story, is pretty good indication itself. Not to mention his subscription and alignment with The New Frontiersman which has even more extreme views. It should be noted, however, that a lot of his views are the result of severely traumatic experiences he'd had as both a child and throughout his superhero career.
  • 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.
  • 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 caused him to lose it.
  • 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.
  • Psychological Projection:
    • Rorschach has a talent for this, projecting those characteristics on to others that he unknowingly possesses himself.
      Rorschach: Why are so few of us left active, healthy, and without personality disorders?
    • There's also his frequent insinuations about how All Women Are Lustful, and how Ozymandias as a Sell-Out is similar to a prostitute, solely out of his own bitterness about his mother being a prostitute.
    • Rorschach also mocks other heroes for not being able to be as tough as he is, either because they are too comfortable (Veidt), too pampered (Sally) or that they have retired (Dan Dreiberg), when in most cases Rorschach merely fights low-level thugs who he intimidates by breaking their fingers and other bullying acts, in addition to interrogating an old man suffering from cancer (Moloch). Likewise he's the only hero who ends up being captured by the police and having his identity exposed (something that didn't happen to Dan, Laurie or Adrian), and he pretty much suffers a Curb-Stomp Battle against the only one who is equally matched, to Ozymandias, simply because he's not as good a fighter as he thinks he is. Although beforehand he does acknowledge that Ozymandias might be a better fighter than him.
    • Likewise his hilarious comment near the end about how he must not let the Egyptian décor at Veidt's office overpower his logic, unaware that his own logic was coloured by his mask-killer theory simply because Eddie Blake at the time of his death happened to be The Comedian.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Although they're hard to spot considering how grimy they usually are, Rorschach wears a pair of rather gaudy purple pinstripe trousers, reflecting that beneath his otherwise plain, gritty Civvie Spandex he's really not so different from the other "costumed heroes". They don't lessen his intimidation factor in the slightest.
  • Purple Prose: Indulges in this occasionally in his journal, which makes for a stark contrast against his usual Terse Talker tendencies. Some of it is clearly intended to be somewhat narmy invoked and sophomoric, reflecting his juvenile view of the world.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: In the film, he gives a very short (but still powerful) one to Dr. Manhattan.
    Rorschach: Out of my way, people need to be told!
    Dr. Manhattan: You know I can't let you do that.
    Rorschach: Suddenly you discover humanity? Convenient. [removes mask] If you had cared from the start, none of this would have happened.
  • Red-Headed Stepchild: Right from childhood, though his mother has as much influence in the mockery as the hair color.
  • Red Oni: He is the intense and impulsive Red Oni to the calm and rational Blue Oni of Nite Owl.
  • Running Gag: He keeps breaking into Dan's house throughout the novel, forcing Dan to call the locksmith. Even more ironic when you notice the locksmith is the "Gordian Knot Lock Company". Sick of this, Dan finally buys the toughest lock they sell, only to wind up teaming up with Rorschach shortly after. The stronger lock winds up buying them time to escape when the police try kicking down the door.
  • Sanity Slippage: Before the Blair Roche case, it's hinted that he was somewhat stable and didn't have his creepy monotone voice as evidenced with the word balloons in the flashback to the first Crimebusters meeting. He was also more willing to display emotion, idealistic, and expressed his friendship with Dan more openly with things like handshakes. After Blair Roche's murder and burning down her murderer's house, he slowly spiraled into insanity and became more obsessed with his Black-and-White Morality principles.
  • Scarf of Asskicking: Wears a white scarf as part of his costume.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Manly Man to Nite Owl's Sensitive Guy.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: It could be argued that he fits in this trope, though he is more commonly placed as He Who Fights Monsters.
  • Snow Means Death: Dies alone in Antarctica.
  • 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.
  • Start of Darkness: He failed to save a little girl in time when a murderer kidnapped her and fed her body to his dogs. Rorschach killed the dogs, chained the murderer to a stove, set the place on fire, and left him with a hacksaw and a choice: cut his hand off and escape, or stay there and die. Rorschach watched the building burn, but didn't see anyone emerge. After that, he never left criminals alive.
  • Terror Hero: Rorschach's well-earned reputation for brutality means even civilians are terrified to be around him.
  • Terse Talker: He's always like this when talking, but his journal and internal monologue switch 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."
  • 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. Moore however believes that in his final moment, when he removes his mask and asks Dr. Manhattan to Get It Over With, he in fact died as Kovacs, or rather chose to die as a man rather than an icon.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: The guy sure loves his sugar cubes.
  • Tragic Bromance: With Nite Owl, who is his sole connection left to ordinary people and society. While his tough-guy persona prevents him from admitting it at first, Rorschach does care deeply for their friendship.
  • Tragic Hero: A man who grew up in a hellish childhood and tried so hard to uphold some sort of moral standard, albeit guided by a twisted perception of integrity, and driven by a growing list of tragedies and failures... before ultimately being 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.
  • 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.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Despite his status as a mascot and an iconic Badass Normal, fans on coming to Watchmen will be surprised that he's frequently shown to be incompetent and ineffective. He utterly fails to decipher Ozymandias' scheme, merely coming across a few important clues which he filters with a very wrong assumption that Nite Owl shoots down with basic detective work. Unlike Batman, who can fight hundreds of mooks as a One-Man Army and an entire swat team in Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, Rorschach gets easily ganged up by the police, has his identity exposed and sent to prison where he more or less is confined, without any possibility of escape, until Nite Owl and Silk Spectre bust him from prison. Similarly, Rorschach, while a powerful fighter and physically skilled and adept, primarily fights criminals who are physically weaker than he, bullying them by breaking their fingers and other means of intimidation. He loses a fight against any opponent who is his equal or superior, be it the police or Veidt. Indeed, for all that Rorschach mocked Veidt for being a spoiled namby-pamby liberal who has not been in a real fight for decades, he is unable to land a single punch on the Charles Atlas Superpower and Veidt more or less ignores him and fights him one-handed.
  • Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: Or in Rorschach's case, uncleanliness is next to a severely warped mind. Ironically, it's heavily implied he doesn't bathe, as it distracts him from crimefighting. Many who encounter him recount after the fact that he smells terrible, and he liberally douses himself with cologne to counter his smell.
  • Unreliable Narrator: He claims to have met Kitty Genovese before her murder, but despite his certainty his own recollections seem shaky, casting doubt on his entire backstory.
  • 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.
  • Verbal Tic: 'Hurm' and 'Ennk'.
  • 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.
  • Walking Disaster Area: He tends to create a mess a lot. It ranges from the relatively mild, such as easily breaking Dreiberg's locks and busting into his house to eat his cans of beans, to the extreme brutality of burning down a house, terrifying a load of bargoers just by showing up to break a criminal's fingers, and wrecking his cell and a prison restroom to kill his victims.
  • 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.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Only Nite Owl and the other heroes know he can be somewhat caring.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Rorschach was born in 1940. His police folder includes a school report he wrote when he was 13 but it's dated 1963 when Rorschach would have been 23.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: His fundamental issue. His views on morality would be better suited to the kind of stories Watchmen sets out to deconstruct: In-Universe, they come across as unrealistic at best, and outright insane at worst, which is often. Likewise, while he is proven right in there being a conspiracy involving Blake's murder, he completely misses the true reason for his death, and more pertinently, the true nature of the conspiracy.