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Rorschach died in Watchmen — here’s how he’s back for Doomsday Clock

No comic book shenanigans necessary

Rorschach, in Doomsday Clock #1 (2017), DC Comics Gary Frank/DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Doomsday Clock was already a highly anticipated book when DC Comics shared the first six pages of it at New York Comic Con in October. But those pages contained a reveal that fans have puzzled over since.

[Warning: This post will contain spoilers for Doomsday Clock #1.]

How could Rorschach be alive in Doomsday Clock? Doomsday Clock is set after the events of Watchmen. And in Watchmen ... Rorschach dies.

Rorschach’s death at the hands of Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen #12 (1986), DC Comics
Like, he super dies.
Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons/DC Comics

By what cosmic shenanigans has he returned to life to monologue grumpily over a seething mass of humanity and terrorize criminals once more? Has the ubiquitous superheroic resurrection made its way to Watchmen’s setting?

The answer is actually very simple, and far more interesting than any elaborate hypertime theory.

We find out the truth about Rorschach just three pages after that page 6 reveal. The masked vigilante has come to a prison to spring Erika Manson, a costumed criminal known as the Marionette.

She says she won’t go with him because the last time they met he said he’d throw her down an elevator shaft. That’s when Rorschach says an interesting thing: “Wasn’t me. Not same guy. Different.”

She tells him to prove it.

Rorschach reveals he is actually the second Rorschach, and a black man, to the Marionette in Doomsday Clock (2017), DC Comics. Geoff Johns, Gary Frank/DC Comics

So he pulls off his glove and shows her his skin color, markedly different than that of Walter Kovacs, the man that the world knows is Rorschach.

In Watchmen, Nite Owl wasn’t the first Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre wasn’t the first Silk Spectre — and in Doomsday Clock, Rorschach isn’t the first Rorschach. In the particular grammatical parlance of the superhero universe wiki, he’s Rorschach II.

At a press event during New York Comic Con, Doomsday Clock’s writer, Geoff Johns, said that it was important to him to preserve what he considers “one of the best moments in the original Watchmen, which is [Rorschach’s] death.”

“But the character is so iconic,” Johns continued, “and his voice is so iconic, that I wanted to do a different version of it.”

“Recasting” Rorschach as a black man was not an idly chosen detail on Johns’ part when adding to the Watchmen setting. At the same press event, he was asked whether the new Rorschach’s race was a conscious effort towards a cast with greater diversity, and he answered candidly and immediately.

“It is,” Johns said, “There’s also more to it than that. The Mime also is Hispanic. I think the story needs it, I think the characters need it. There’s a lot that’s going to happen with it, so it’s not just “Hey, he’s black,” and we move on. But yeah, it’s very conscious — and it does tie into a lot of other things in the story. It’s kind of a hint.”

And Doomsday Clock #1 is already hinting at Rorschach having a hidden depth. Later in the issue, Adrien Veidt, the “smartest man in the world” compares Rorschach to his predecessor.

“The first Rorschach was an interesting man,” he says. “A cruel one in some respects, but someone who held on to his principles. He was predictable. Uncompromising. But this one ... ”

Rorschach cuts him off, telling him that he’s not different from Rorschach, he is Rorschach.

Ozymandias and Rorschach in Doomsday Clock #1 (2017), DC Comics
Johns confirmed that that is a tiny clone of Bubastis
Geoff Johns, Gary Frank/DC Comics

And the smartest man in the world backs down, looking just a little nervous.

Doomsday Clock #1 is out now. Doomsday Clock #2 will hit shelves on December 27. In the meantime, check out the first of our two part series on the history of Watchmen.