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DC’s new Rorschach comic will bring back all of the Watchmen characters

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This Rorschach would also piss off Steve Ditko

Rorschach #1 variant cover Image: DC Comics

This October, DC will add another volume to the shelf of Watchmen follow-up comics, with Rorschach, a 12-issue series from writer Tom King (Batman, Strange Adventures) and artist Jorge Fornés (Batman). King and Fornés were on hand at this weekend’s DC FanDome (a follow up to that other DC FanDome) to talk about their take on the Watchmen universe with — who else? — Damon Lindelof, showrunner of HBO’s Watchmen TV series.

And it looks like it won’t just be Rorschach coming back for Rorschach. Maybe. Actually it’s probably not even the real Rorschach!

The new book will kick off decades after the events of Watchmen, when a person dressed like Rorschach is involved in the assassination of a presidential candidate. King said that the relationship between the Rorschach lookalike and the real Rorschach will be explored in the first issue, but that the bulk of the comic is “in the Citizen Kane style, [...] a detective going around and asking people what happened, and as they ask him, you get flashbacks to what happened.”

It seems likely that those flashbacks could be the key to King and Fornés’ answers to one simple yes or no question. Will any other Watchmen characters appear in Rorschach?

King’s answer: “Yes.”

Fornés’ answer: “Yeah, for sure.”

As they spoke, the prerecorded panel footage revealed this intriguing panel of the core cast of Watchmen standing in a snowy forest.

Doctor Manhattan, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre II, Ozymandias, the Comedian, and Rorschach all stand in a snow-covered forest, in a panel from Rorschach, DC Comics. Image: Tom King, Jorge Fornés/DC Comics

What’s most interesting about this panel is that it depicts that cast in a configuration that seems impossible: Doctor Manhattan is naked — an affectation he only adopted at the close of his career — while Ozymandias is costumed — a bit of theatricality he discarded years before the events of Watchmen. And sure, he put that costume on at the climax of Watchmen, but by that point the Comedian, pictured here, was dead as a doornail.

Lindelof got King and Fornés to spill quite a bit more about their upcoming comic in the 25-minute panel. Their series will be based on the original Watchmen graphic novel, naturally, but also details included in the official Watchmen roleplaying game — which was written with the input of Moore and Gibbons before Moore’s falling out with DC editorial. The two creators are also doing their best to keep the story, set in the modern day, from contradicting with the canon of HBO’s Watchmen series.

King offered a lot of insight on his particular take on Rorschach, one of Watchmen’s most polarizing characters, who, in the story of the Watchmen TV series, became the posthumous martyr of a conspiratorial and terroristic white nationalist group.

“Rorschach, as probably a lot of nerds know, but some nerds don’t, is a parody character,” King said. “It’s making fun of Steve Ditko’s creation, Mr. A and a little bit of the Question, which is the idea that Steve Ditko, post-Stan Lee, became enmeshed in the philosophy of Ayn Rand. It boils down to a lot of things, but basically the idea is in Ayn Rand, there is good and there’s bad and there’s nothing in between. And Ditko’s personal philosophy was [that] his responsibility as an artist was to write about people who were good that were killing bad people.”

Mr. A, with his impassive steel mask, rants to the reader about the demands of justice, in a panel from a Mr. A story. Steve Ditko/witzend

As part of his research for the series, King did a deep dive on Ditko. “You can see Ditko slowly going, there’s no other way, but slowly going mad as he goes forward and forward. But he’s going mad in the most artistically beautiful... It’s like watching Van Gogh. You’re watching a madness poured out on a page where it gets more and more intricate. [...] He eventually trapped himself in his apartment for 30 years, basically left just to get groceries and ignored the outside world except to grumble now and then.”

Instead of Rand, the new Rorschach of Rorschach is obsessed with the work of Hannah Arendt — a contemporary of Rand’s who was also a woman, and a Jewish immigrant from Germany. Arendt was imprisoned by the Gestapo for her work on anti-Semitic propaganda the year that Hitler took power, escaped, fled to France, was imprisoned again when the German army invaded, and escaped again to the United States in 1941. Her work is wide ranging — she coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to express how complacency can breed injustices — King characterized her work as focusing on “how we as a free society stop another Nazi rising.”

Needless to say, that’s a very different look at Rorschach, but King indicated he was very aware of the character’s facets.

“Somehow [Rorscach the character], and probably Ditko would have giggled at this, appealed to people,” King said, “and really grasped in that way that when you’re a kid, you love Wolverine and you love the Punisher. And I remember as a kid, yeah, I was like, ‘Man, Rorschach’s my favorite.’ I remember the first time I read Watchmen I was like, ‘Oh, they made a mistake. The one thing that would have fixed this book if they had let Rorschach and Veidt get together at the end just to get a little vengeance at the end. How dare Veidt get away? Rorschach should have killed him.’”

The writer likened the way that what the reader finds in Rorschach says more about them than about the character to, well, a Rorschach Test image.

“The fictional work becomes about you. What this book is about, again, is about a detective solving a mystery. The bigger theme is, as he solving this mystery, is him looking into his own Rorschach Test and finding out about himself. And that motivates him to take action.”