It is often said that Watchmen is the most influential comic ever to be released. That comics wouldn’t be where they are without it, for good and for ill. But how did we get here, exactly? More to the point, just what influence did Watchmen provide to the larger world of comics? What, ultimately, is the legacy of Watchmen? Who watched the Watchmen?
Let’s get this out of the way; Yes, Rorschach is the coolest character in Watchmen. Now, I know a lot of people don’t like to hear that. Twitter leftist types mainly. “Oh, now can you say Rorschach is cool? He’s violent! He’s a bigot! He doesn’t support restorative justice and police abolition!” And to that I say…so what? None of that changes the fact that he’s the coolest dude in the book. Sure, Rorschach is a bigoted rape apologist who reads the 1980s equivalent of Brietbart, but Alan Moore still gave him all the coolest parts of the story. No one else erupts from a fridge. No one else kills a man by breaking a toilet. No one else says, “I’m not locked up in here with you. You’re locked up in here with me,” which is possibly the coolest line ever written in comics. Being a good person has never been a requirement for being cool. The key to Rorschach’s coolness in Watchmen are two factors: his brilliantly crafted dialogue and the creativity of his violence.
Watchmen gives Rorschach a plethora of cool lines. The screaming “I’m not locked up in here with you.” The calm, couldn’t-care-less-about-your-threats delivery of “Tall order” and “Fat chance.” The sheer power of “I’ll look down and whisper No.” I may not personally care for the work of Alan Moore, but I will freely admit that the man is a dab hand at dialogue. Before Watchmen: Rorschach, conversely, doesn’t give Rorschach a single good line. His first line of spoken dialogue in this comic is “Bitch to be you right now.” This, to put it mildly, fucking sucks ass. This line is so bad I just had to google it to make sure it wasn’t a reference to a crime movie I haven’t seen. Alan Moore gave Rorschach a very deliberate way of speaking. He has an incredibly brisk manner of speaking that implies a calculated utilitarianism in what he chooses to say (comically at odds with the overwrought manner in which he journals). I would posit that Rorschach has one of the most defined character voices in all of comics, and Azzarello has ignored it on the first line to have Rorschach talk like a second rate Yoda.