Today, for show-and-tell, I brought in my Rorschach figure, just released as a tie-in to the Watchmen movie. I bought this figure as a meditative tool for when I write about heroes as they are in our culture. Like the inkblot test that adorns his mask, Rorschach reveals to us our own attitudes about heroism.
Originally, I wanted to buy this to rub it in Alan Moore's face while I appropriate Rorschach for my own purposes; it's no secret that Watchmen is his takedown of superheroes in the real world, claiming that they would be "nutcases." He's also said some pretty nasty things about Ayn Rand and Steve Ditko, claiming that they stand for a type of fascism. It should also be noted that he's for anarchy himself, as he claims in an interview about V for Vendetta:
Anarchy is, and always has been, a romance. It is clearly the best way, and the only morally sensible way, to run the world. That everybody should be the master of their own destiny, that everybody should be their own leader.
Well, I agree with the last sentence, although I sometimes sympathize with him on the first, when I see the shenanigans in our government. But Rand is no fascist, nor Ditko, who Moore attacks for his "black and white/no shades of gray" stand via the Mr. A character, on who Rorschach is based. But if Moore believes what he does about anarchy, it's strange that he would come down so hard on vigilantes and Ayn Rand, when she wrote that would lead to vigilante "justice"...I do sympathize with Moore's warning about vigilantes and superheroes being about power-lust (not the idealized superhero, but superheroes as they have been presented so far).
Hrmmm... I'll leave Moore to work out his own contradictions. But back to Rorschach: Moore's made a joke about Steve Ditko, upon hearing Ditko's reaction to Rorschach. Supposedly Ditko said, "Oh, yes, Rorschach, he's like Mr. A, only he's insane," to which Moore responds with a "knowing laugh," as if to say "Steve, you missed the joke, and you're the punchline." And yet, Rorschach did get away from Moore enough to steal the story; even if Moore thinks he's "mad," he does admit to his popularity being based on his "ferocious moral integrity."
Moore does have some praise for Ditko, despite his misgivings, noting the "tormented elegance" of his work, his nine-panel layout, and his incorporation of the landscape into the story itself. But it seems that Moore's "love of Ditko" centered on the more disturbing aspects of Ditko's work, the paranoia of the characters, the way that they "always looked highly strung...on the edge of some kind of revelation or breakdown." But Moore is not (totally) wrong; these things are all there, and from the stories about him, were probably there in Ditko himself. A highly secretive and private man who has broken (most, if not all) ties with friends, his Marvel work, and society, he has taken Rand at her word and, for all intents and purposes, has went "on strike." (Whether or not this is "martyrdom" or "self-sacrificial" is for Ditko to decide for himself.) Hrmmm....
Now, as far as I know(!), Ditko has never killed anyone or broken fingers while eating sugar cubes. But his characters in his post-Marvel work have no compunction about extreme justice. But I don't know that his characters ever went so far as Rorschach! It is Moore's interpretation that for someone to be that morally certain, one must be a traumatized child wearing a mask, like the psychotic versions of Batman, reliving the past over and over and over...and yet, Moore does believe in morality, based on the quote above about anarchy. So one has to ask, how far would Moore go in defending his morality? Hrmmm....
But at the same time, I do sympathize with the notion of accountability; who watches the watchmen, indeed! (I stress accountability, not to society in general, but to the principles that make society possible, meaning objective rules for society.) I, like Ditko, am an Objectivist. I do believe in self-defense, and heroes as protectors of "what is right." But without an objective basis for liberty, "right" becomes "because I said so," or "because God said so," or "because the State said so," and so on. And even if it can objectively proven that one is right and the other wrong, freedom does require that we leave others to make their own mistakes, as long as others aren't infringed upon.
Earlier, I said that Moore was attracted to the "creepier" elements of Ditko's work. But, to be fair, and because this is a good segue for what's next, I should add another quote from Moore:
I at least felt that, though Steve Ditko's political agenda was very different to mine...I would basically disagree with all of Ditko's ideas, but he has to be given credit for expressing these political ideas.
Moore has stated that he doesn't want people to mindlessly agree with him, but simply "to think" about these things. To that, I say, great. And that's what makes Rorschach a great character; not the actual Rorschach, the tragic figure, abused as a child into psychotic vigilance, but the "question" of Rorschach himself, the "questions" asked of him that make you think. The character of Rorschach, through the lens of Moore's take on Rand and capitalism, is just another fascist, imposing his will. He is what Moore sees when an inkblot of Ditko/Rand is presented to him, and what Moore sees is a psychopath. But that is not the only possibility. When I see an inkblot of Rand, I see achievement, purpose, productivity, creativity, defended by moral certainty that one's life is one's own, no apologies for living. And yet, I have seen what Moore is talking about; one isn't immune just because he calls himself an Objectivist. If I don't see it in Rand, or maybe not it Ditko, I've seen it in other self-proclaimed "Objectivists" who would straddle the border between defender and vigilante, or "radical" and "psychotic."
It is the question of Kira in Rand's We the Living, that makes her say to her Communist foil:
I loathe your goals. I admire your methods. If one believes one's right, one shouldn't wait to convince millions of fools, one might just as well force them. Except that I don't know, however, that I'd include blood in my methods.
It is the question of Rand herself, who, in a revised edition, removed this section entirely, except to say "I loathe your goals."
Rorschach, like the inkblot, is a test for what we want and choose to see: do we want to protect what we value, or destroy what we hate? Do we fight because it's necessary, or because we take delight in breaking our enemy's fingers and spirit? Do we regret the battle, or relish the death of our enemies?
So, in the end, I didn't buy this figure to "rub it in" Moore's face, but to serve as a reminder that heroism is a choice, one that brings great power and responsibility...to one's self. The responsibility to NOT become the very thing that we set out to fight. To not lose sight of the purpose of heroism: not the fight, but the defense of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." What do you see in Rorschach's face? That's for your own "show-and-tell" to reveal.
(Alan Moore as Lego)