The year is 2020. And Rorschach is…back?
In Rorschach from writer Tom King and artist Jorge Fornés, the character famously disintegrated by Doctor Manhattan in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen #12 resurfaces, but how? Why? And of course, who?
With issue #1 on sale this week, King and Fornés shed some insight into their unexpected new 12-issue DC Black Label series that brings back the enduringly compelling Watchmen character to tell a thoroughly current story.
Rorschach is one of the most uniquely polarizing characters in comics—maybe in all of fiction. Before starting this series, what was your perspective on Rorschach?
Tom King: I always thought of Rorschach as a parody or a tribute to Steve Ditko’s obsession with Ayn Rand’s work, all that A = A stuff. Ditko basically thought that fiction exists to present the ideal man as a moral lesson to the reader, a model for their behavior. And to him the ideal hero was someone who understood that there was good and there was bad and there was nothing in between. The obvious obligation of that hero then is to do the good and punish the bad.
Rorschach is the attempt to insert that perfect vision of incorruptible man into our imperfect, corruptible world and see what happens.
Jorge Fornés: The first time I read Watchmen I was very young, maybe 13 years old. At that age I still couldn’t understand the most adult aspects of the book, and obviously Rorschach was the most charismatic character and everyone’s favorite. I grew up in the ‘80s between Rambo and Bronson movies every week, so for me, Rorschach was another hero fighting against crime. As I grew up and rereading the book almost every year, I began to understand the Manichean aspects of Moore’s character, and I was able to enjoy the work in a deeper and less superficial way.
The two of you worked together quite a bit on Batman, but partnering on a 12-issue series this ambitious is obviously something else entirely. What has it been like collaborating on Rorschach?
King: It’s easy. Jorge is a phenomenon in the line of Alex Toth and David Mazzuchelli, just a pure storyteller that gets at the true vision of what comics are when people close their eyes and imagine a hero made of lines and ink splots. He’s going to be as big as you can be in this industry. His interpretations of my scripts are always better than what I wrote, so mostly I just let him do his thing and I try to catch up when he’s done.
Fornés: I love Tom’s work. I think he’s one of the best writers right now and the perfect man for this book. To have the opportunity to do a maxi-series with him with creative freedom and playing with this iconic universe is a dream come true. He knows perfectly the kind of artist that he’s working with every time and knows how to take advantage of your virtues while leaving space for your own voice. I think it’s the project that I’m enjoying most in my whole career.
Tom, without getting into spoiler territory, what’s the process like of taking Rorschach—a character who has really only existed in one time period—and telling a story that had relevance to you in 2020?
King: Things are &@#$ing crazy right now. I mean it’s insane; it’s driving people insane. And we have to talk about it. We have to try make things that are as good as all that bad that’s out there or else we’ll just surrender to it and who wants to do that? Who has the #%#$ing time to do that?
The language of Rorschach is a language you can tell a story about a world like this in. It doesn’t work with Superman and Batman. Those are the wrong words. But Rorschach, he can talk to it, he can describe it, he can write it on a sign and march it down the street past all the heroes ignoring the truth that’s in front of them. The only way to write Rorschach is to be relevant.
Jorge, how do you describe your visual approach to the series? How do you balance honoring the character’s very famous artistic legacy while also making it distinctly yours?
Fornés: It’s hard work. One of the most recognizable things about Watchmen is the phenomenal work that Dave Gibbons did—it’s really iconic! We’ve tried to create a book in the same universe but independent in itself, so I tried to continue working with my usual style equally inspired by the noir genre but with a quite different look from the original Watchmen. We didn’t want to make an imitation of the original series. I opted for a look close to aesthetic classicism and inspired by the noir films of the ‘60/’70s that fits perfectly for the book…I hope! (Laughs)
This series introduces new characters, including a young woman partnering with Rorschach. What can you share about her?
King: This is the young woman's first appearance anywhere. She's going to be very important to a lot of things going forward.
Fornés: Don’t think you know what to expect. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t think you’ve seen everything. Give it a chance and delve into the story with them. You’ll be surprised where they will take you…