Who chooses our heroes? Who watches our heroes? Who watches the Watchmen? Over
the course of history, many public figures have been scrutinized for heroic actions that some
have deemed controversial. Charles Darwin dismantled theories of Creationism with his
discoveries in evolutionary biology. President Harry Truman single-handedly ended World War
II by authorizing the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, killing thousands upon
thousands of civilians. Gangster John Dillinger stole from banks all across the U.S. Midwest in
the midst of the Great Depression and was heralded by some as a modern-day Robin Hood. All
of these figures share a common characteristic concerning their heroic lore: the controversy
surrounding the decisions they have made continues to resonate throughout society.
We find the same debate about controversial heroes in our literature as well. Probably the
most well-known example of this in the graphic novel genre exists in Alan Moore’s Watchmen.
While the story follows the perspectives of several vigilantes, the most interesting of the group
may be Walter Kovacs, or Rorschach. A man with a mysterious ink-blot mask and even more
mysterious persona, he represents due justice in its purest form and will go to any length to make
sure that it is carried out. He must ignore the corrupt authority that exists in the world of
Watchmen and the criticism that he receives from the public to do what he knows is right.
Rorschach’s heroism stems from his immunity from public corruption and opinion. He sees
criminals escape justice, whether it is because of a cold case or botched police work, and hunts
them down himself. Rorschach does not disregard the law, but works above it. Society has set
their morals in accordance to the laws we develop; Rorschach, however, transcends that by
praising good and punishing bad. Even after the public saw them as disturbances to the peace of
the city and the government had banned them, Rorschach continued to serve justice. Heroes will
work tirelessly to improve the greater good even when it comes at a deadly cost to those that
stand in their way. To eradicate the world of evil and corruption is heroic, even when it
jeopardizes one’s well-being and legacy. It is his moral absolutism that makes Rorschach the
purest hero of all the Watchmen.
To fully understand Rorschach, it is imperative to analyze the event that turned him into
the fighting vigilante that he became. During the early hours of March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese
was returning from her job at a bar when she ran into a killer on the street a mere 100 feet from
her apartment. She was repeatedly stabbed as she yelled out to her neighbors for help; but among
the thirty-eight witnesses that heard the commotion and watched the scene from their windows,
not one called the police. Kitty Genovese died from her injuries and the murder has since been
thoroughly studied in...