Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is Rorschach Watchmen's Batman (DC) - Similarities between Rorschach & Batman

So, Alan Moore refers to him as the real life Batman, or in other words how Batman would've been if he were present in our present world! Looking for similarities between Rorschach and Batman might not make a lot of sense initially though because Rorschach is a half crazy homeless dude posing as a superhero in Watchmen while Batman is the millionaire playboy working as the legendary Darknight next to Superman himself in the DC universe!

Let's look at the dissimilarities between Rorschach and Batman though, first, to put things in perspective -

1) Rorschach doesn't use any fancy gadgets while Batman is known for his gadgets (more so in the early Batman TV shows and Tim Burton movies) complete with stuff ranging from Bat-shark-repeller-sprays to Bat-plane (or Batwing as fanboys might call it)

2) Rorschach is a rather short and slightly built guy while Batman is towering at six feet with a superb muscular build.

3) Rorschach is a good hand-to-hand combatant with some very good boxing skills and well thats about it! Batman on the other hand is nothing short of a human killing machine! Bruce (Batman) has perfected his martial arts skills and physical conditioning to an Olympics athletic levels, he's pretty much at the maximum level that a human being can reach!

4) Rorschach (as Kovacs) is a homeless guy with no job who pretty much (seems to) collect garbage and hangs out in the neighborhood as any other borderline crazy idiot. Batman (as Bruce Wayne) on the other hand is one of the richest men in the whole wide world! Just like Rorschach (Kovacs), Bruce doesn't seem to have any day job either (pun intended) but well you can easily spot the differences ;)

5) Rorschach kills. Batman doesn't kill. This is pretty much the biggest difference of all in my opinion. Having suffered the loss of his parents, Batman values life, no matter if it's a criminal or not. Batman never kills (and I must add that that's part of his problems) but Rorschach's goal is to impart justice - punishing the criminal for his crimes and if the right punishment (according to Rorschach) is death then so be it!

So those were the similarities and now you must be wondering why indeed Alan Moore refers to Rorschach as being similar to Batman! Well, this is actually a bit more intricate I believe and it requires the reader to understand Batman and Rorschach at an even deeper level -

Basically, when we get to down to it, Batman is not really about his gadgets or wealth quite as much. Batman's martial arts abilities are one of my favorite characteristics of his character but even they are not *really* what *define* batman if you see what I mean! Bruce Wayne was Batman even before before learned the forbidden Kungfu techniques and certainly much before he got his fancy Bat-mobile! In other words, Gadgets don't define Batman! Kungfu is not what Batman is really all about! Wealth is important for Bruce Wayne but not Batman. These things help Batman to become more efficient for sure but they are not what Batman is all about.

Instead, Batman is about that primitive rage that drives Bruce Wayne. That borderline craziness seeking justice, that view of bringing justice to the (seemingly) rotting world, that outright madness that makes him put his own life on line every night are the things that define Batman! These are the things that turn Bruce Wayne into Batman. And as you would observe, these are the very things that Rorschach shares with Batman (or Kovacs shares with Bruce Wayne depending on your view). Rorschach is borderline crazy about doing justice, about revenge (not as direct as Batman's though) just like Bruce Wayne is and no wonder that the same factors that turn Bruce Wayne into Batman are also instrumental in converting a seemingly normal Kovacs into Rorschach!

Another thing I'd like to note here is that Rorschach is more of a "real world" Batman. The very idea of things like Batwing (Batman's plane) and the possibility of all the other gadgets require some severe suspension of disbelief. I know that the recent Batman movies (Batman Begins and Darknight) have tried to correct this considerably but still in my opinion, the fancy gadgets kinda betray Batman's character (Darknight here, if you may!) or at least act as distractions . Rorschach here comes as a welcome relief as he is simply driven by the rage and emotions, he *will* keep on going, wealth or no wealth. He's the realistic portrayal of a Batman who is not a millionaire (or doesn't have access to any fancy gizmos). This is what Bruce Wayne must've become if he was not, well, Bruce Wayne the CEO of Wayne industries! This is also the main point where IronMan (Tony Stark) differs from Batman (Bruce Wayne) by the way, but that's another discussion.

Another important, albeit not quite as important, personality element that Rorschach and Batman share is their desire to work alone and being somewhat (many times unwarranted) distrustful when dealing with other fellow superheroes. This is particularly evident throughout all serious Batman story lines (even more serious stuff like Darknight and Kingdom Come etc) in the way he doesn't really play with Justice League and all; and it's very clearly portrayed by Alan Moore in Watchmen in the way Rorschach interacts with Night Owl (who is his close ally). What is specially important is Rorschach is all nice and friendly initially, he collaborates with Night Owl in a fun way, attends their "superhero meetings" and does all the good stuff but as soon as he comes across the little girl's kidnapping case, it all changes. I'd like to note that the "little girl's kidnapping" case is what was instrumental in converting Kovacs into the real Rorschach. Once he is at that point, i.e. once he has "become" Rorschach, then on Rorschach is more like real Batman! From that point, he is not part of the superhero crowd that does it just for the kicks (in other words just because of the sense of adventure); rather Rorschach does it because he is "compelled" to do it (in Rorschach's describes himself to Dr. Malcolm Long in Watchmen)! From then on, Rorschach is no longer a costumed adventurer, but from then on Rorschach is a real (street) crime fighter (even if borderline psychotic) just as Batman is. This kinda sets both Rorschach and Batman apart!

Another thing that I feel I should elaborate more on, even if I've grazed through earlier, is Rorschach is a Batman without the wealth! To put it in perspective, I'd like you to think what Batman would have been if Bruce Wayne was not one of the wealthiest men in the world. In this case, the rage (or psychosis, what you may) that fuels Batman is still there but the means to get all the gadgets and stuff, that would help steamline things, are lacking; in this case Bruce Wayne would try whatever he can to *still* go fight crime in the best way he can. And if he's smart enough as well (got to be a bit smarter than average to just sustain the intensity) then he would try to use anything and everything as a *gadget* (gadget being things that help him do his job better), thus displaying MacGyverism and bingo, thats exactly what Rorschach does! Also, given the limited means (and some reality), Bruce Wayne would certainly not be able to master all those eastern-deadly-forbidden-secret-martial-arts skills either, rather he'd master what fighting lessons that he can easily get (boxing of example) very well and as you might have guessed, Rorschach learned boxing very well.

Also, at the risk of nitpicking, I think Alan Moore's decision to portray Rorschach as a shorter and thinner guy also helps make him closer to real life because we are trying to portray Rorschach as a noraml average individual who is doing the superhero / vigilante stuff because of that "compelling rage" and not because he is just stronger and can! Rorschach being shorter also emphasizes the intensity of his "compelling rage" as he is not naturally equipped to physically handle a big part of the tall and strong criminal fraternity! Yeah, Alan Moore knew what he was doing when he was creating his Watchmen characters!

So, well I'm sure that we see now how Rorschach is Batman (Darnight rather if I may) minus the suspension of disbelief!

To read more about Rorschach's psychology, click - Rorschach Psychology Analaysis

To read about how Rorschach shows himself to be a true superhero at the time of his death, click - Rorschach dies as a true superhero

To read something funny about Rorschach, click - Why does Rorschach stink so bad

Read about funkiness involving Dr. Manhattan's transformation - Osterman's funky transformation into Dr. Manhattan


  1. awesome analysis on rorschach, can't wait for the movie to come out in march!

  2. Thanks for the comment. Yes, I guess Rorschach is one of most complex and interesting characters in the whole comic-verse! Kudos to Alan Moore!

    Movie finally coming out next week, I already have the midnight's ticket booked!!

  3. Love your articles, however I would like to add the Moore was bang on in his physical depiction or Rorschach, he's the perfect build for a bantam fighter! A bantam fight, BTW, is a small guy who fights like a terrier, all rage and agression, completely oblivious to pain, in order to make up for his size disadvantage. So to sum up, I agree with everything you've said, I just thought I'd add this fact to show emphasise how well Moore desgined his characters.

  4. Thanks for that excellent point!! I didn't know about the Bantam fighting thing and it makes all the more sense now. Thinking about it all, I'm really amazed at how much effort Alan Moore put into coming up with characters that perfectly fit the roles (as opposed to mostly the muscle bound hunks that all normal super heroes tend to be)!

  5. I'm glad you mentioned Night Owl, but I'm surprised that in a discussion about Batman he doesn't play prominently.

    Night owl is the 'surface' Batman. He's that 70s gadget-wielding space alien dinosaur-fighting Adam West Batman.

    Rorscach is closer to the gritty core of his personality though.

    Plus like... we really shouldn't overlook Vic Sage (the Question) who was obviously as much an inspiration if not more, than Batman was.

    His fighting style, the boxing and such (prior to his martial arts instruction from Richard Dragon) and his costume style, his RAGE, and his desire to get the truth out to people, those are some of the major similarities.

    Ozymandias is also, while Lex Luthorish, almost like what Bruce Wayne might have become if he wasn't so humble.

    Manhatten is like the evil Superman who doesn't care about Truth or Justice, just social stability. More of a Captain Atom attitude.

  6. In boxing terms Rorschach isn't that small, I read somewhere he's 5'6" and 140lbs, that is welterweight if I'm not wrong, think of Manny Pacquaio who is that size. He is definitely the best character of the story. Bantam weight is under 120lbs in boxing and the 2nd lightest division there is. Thankfully the film's portrayal of him was more than just someone who can box, he was a more resourceful fighter, while not as showy as Jet Li the brutality of his ways never get dull!

  7. Rorschach stinks