With the release of Doomsday Clock #1, a fairly significant revelation comes pretty early on. And we’re going to take a look at that right now, so warning, spoilers ahead!
Very quickly in the issue we discover that the vigilante Rorschach is somehow still active. Last we saw him, he’d been blown into atoms by Doctor Manhattan. Well, fairly soon after seeing he’s still around, we also find out why.
Revealing his ungloved hand to Marionette to put her mind at ease over his presence, this Rorschach reveals that he is not Walter Kovacs, the original Rorschach. The Watchmen world is no stranger to legacy heroes of course, with there being two Nite-Owls in the series. So that someone else has taken up Rorschach’s name and guise is maybe not as unusual as one would think.
So, what makes the ungloved hand enough to prove he’s someone else? Simple… this Rorschach is a black man.
With this in mind, can we at this time deduce who the identity of the new Rorschach is? This of course would be assuming that it is someone we met in the original Watchmen series, and not an entirely new and previously unseen character. Given the nature of Watchmen, and presumably Doomsday Clock, where every little detail usually carries significant importance, it seems more likely that the new Rorschach is someone, or at least someone connected to, someone we already know.
Now, a notable element of the original Watchmen is the lack of significant characters of colour, remarkable given this is meant to be New York City in the 1980s. However, with the exception of a few background characters like some dive bar thugs and a street watchseller, there are only a couple of black characters who have any interaction or connection to the characters or a substantial role in the original events.
These would be Bernie, the comic reading teen always found with the newsstand vendor; Doctor Malcolm Long (and his wife, Gloria), a psychiatrist who was assigned to the original Rorschach’s case when he is captured; and one of Rorschach’s fellow inmates, whom the vigilante horrifically injures in prison.
Starting with the latter, why should we even consider him? Only one reason, to be honest — in the new Rorschach’s thoughts, narrating the story, (because this Rorschach doesn’t write things down out of paranoia) he mentions going to Joe’s Diner for pancakes, and hoping for a particular waitress because she doesn’t ‘stare’. However, when this waitress’ abusive boyfriend turns up, Rorschach gets another waitress…one who does stare.
But what would they be staring at exactly? Well, in Watchmen #6, the unnamed black inmate tries to shiv Walter Kovacs in the prison cafeteria, only for Kovacs to grab a container full of hot cooking fat and throw it in his face, leaving the inmate horribly disfigured.
Horrific burns may well lead to staring, to be sure. But it wouldn’t really make sense for this man to become the new Rorschach. Why would he ‘become’ the man who injured him so horribly.
It’s also perhaps less likely to be Bernie. Bernie spends much of Watchmen reading the Black Freighter comic at the newsstand (huh, where you won’t find comics anymore — funny, that), which of course places him at Ground Zero for Ozymandias’s fake Invader attack. Quite literally in fact, as the spot in which he stands is literally right in front of where the monstrosity materialises.
As such, could he have survived? There’s an argument that the newsstand vendor seems to try and protect Bernie, putting his body between him and the creature, but when we see them in Watchmen #12, they lie on the street, seemingly dead, with flames on them too.
If Bernie did survive the blast of the materialisation, he may have been still burned by it, explaining the stares of the waitresses. Plus, using him as a new Rorschach may fit in with Doomsday Clock‘s writer Geoff Johns‘s plan to explore how Watchmen affected comics. Bernie becomes a new Rorschach because he thinks that is what a hero should be, dark, violent and grim, instead of bright and hopeful hero. It could certainly fit in with the ideas Johns is looking to explore.
However, the creature was also meant to have blasted out an intense psychic attack, just as responsible for deaths as its sudden materialisation and as such, it surely makes Bernie’s survival exceedingly unlikely.
So that leaves us with Dr. Malcolm Long.
Long was also caught in the fake attack, and is also someone we see presumably dead at the scene. However, what if he didn’t die? What if his work as a psychiatrist and understanding of the mind helped him too, and instead of dying he instead became twisted by the horror of the event.
Towards the end of issue six of Watchmen, after working with Walter Kovacs for some time and witnessing the horrors in his patient’s mind, Long’s notes, which replace Rorschach’s journal as narration for the issue, begin to take on the cadence and stunted sentence structure of Rorschach. What if that has progressed, seeing Dr. Long becoming a new Rorschach, one that is still not quite ‘right’ as the original but has become deeply affected by his identity?
Add to this the new Rorschach seems to hold some importance to the concept of family, in a brief moment where the idea causes him pause.
Dr. Long, as noted by CBR in an article positing that the new Rorschach may be the hitherto unseen son of Dr. Long, appears to have at some point been a father. Noting that in a blink and you’d miss it detail of Watchmen #6, Dr. Long has a mug which has ‘DAD’ written on the side, it seems to suggest that he did at some point have a child. It seems likely he lost his wife, Gloria, in the attack, but perhaps his son, too? His whole family destroyed?
Of course, the questions marks over this lie in how Malcolm Long survived and what would cause people to stare at him now? Some previously unknown effect of the attack? Or perhaps he gained notoriety as a survivor of the attack?
As mentioned, CBR assume it’s Long’s son, but why would his son chose to dress as Rorschach, let alone begin thinking and talking like him too? Moreover, they use the fact that Long was overweight in Watchmen as a reason, but hey, people can lose a lot of weight in seven years.
Our money is on Dr. Malcolm Long, but hey, it’s only been one issue. It could be someone entirely different, or even someone completely new. Who do you think is the new Rorschach?