How Rorschach Became the Face of WATCHMEN’s Seventh Kavalry

The Watchmen graphic novel ended with the fascist right-wing newspaper the New Frontiersman discovering the journal of one of its most fervent, dedicated readers: the recently deceased Rorschach. It outlined the truth of Adrian Veidt’s deadly scheme, and its possible release threatened the world peace created by the lie of the giant squid. Now HBO’s new sequel series has shown that while the journal became public over 30 years ago, almost no one believes it’s veracity. No one except the white nationalist terror organization the Seventh Kavalry, who have adopted Rorschach’s iconic mask as the literal face of their terrorist group. The reasons why are explained in a “report” from the show’s new companion site, and it lays out why a new showdown between Rorschach and Ozymandias is brewing.

Watchmen comic New frontiersmanDC Comics/Dave Gibbons/John Higgins

The website “ Peteypedia,” from special agent Dale Petey (who will appear later in Watchmen‘s first season), includes a confidential memo from Petey to the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force. Titled “Rorschach’s Journal,” it is ultimately an argument for why the FBI should not declare Adrian Veidt dead, but it also outlines when and how the infamous journal was released and why it became the rallying cry for white nationalists.

When Rorschach, real name Walter Joseph Kovacs, was arrested in October 1985, the FBI came into possession of another one of his journals. His messy, coded handwriting made it totally indecipherable. The FBI did confirm that after he was sprung from prison, Rorschach was seen on November 1—a day before Veidt sent his squid to NY—taking another hidden journal out of his apartment’s floor. Rorschach was heard calling it his “final draft.” We know this journal was both real and accurate, and that Rorschach dropped it off at his favorite paper before he left for Antarctica to confront Veidt. Four months later, the journal was found in the crank pile of the New Frontiersman.

The paper wasn’t just a right-leaning publication. It was led by editor Hector Godfrey, whom Petey accurately describes as “a hideous racist.” Godfrey ran pieces praising the KKK for trying to “preserve American culture.” He was also a champion of masked vigilante (with the exception of the liberal Ozymandias), not in spite of their fascist tendencies but because of them. We now know Godfrey tried multiple times to confirm the journal’s authenticity, including trying to gain access to the first Rorschach journal to compare them, but was thwarted by the government. On March 21, 1986, he began publishing excerpts anyway.

Watchmen graphic novelDC Comics/Dave Gibbons/John Higgins

It was easy to dismiss this “final draft” journal as a fake—or at best the rantings of a lunatic, either a crazed Walter Kovacs himself or a person who believed they actually were Rorschach—because the handwriting in the second journal was easy to read, the complete opposite of the other one in the FBI’s possession. However, it did contain some nuggets of authenticity, notably that its writer knew the recently deceased Eddie Blake was the masked vigilante the Comedian.

Godfrey couldn’t prove it was real, but no one could prove it was a hoax either. Meanwhile the baby cephalopod rains that started shortly after the giant squid appeared continued to fall from the sky, reminding the world of the alien “threat” still looming.

The journal’s most shocking accusations were nearly impossible to believe. Rorschach said Adrian Veidt—philanthropist, smartest man in the world, former superhero, and wildly successful businessman—was responsible for killing the Comedian, giving hundreds of people cancer, and driving Dr. Manhattan from the planet, all in service of some mass conspiracy. Rorschach also wrote that he didn’t expect to survive his confrontation with Ozymandias.

Jeremy Irons HBO's WatchmenHBO

In the New Frontiersman‘s tenth and final installment on the journal, Godfrey concluded the giant squid was a false flag orchestrated by Veidt in an attempt to create a liberal government. Godfrey wrote:

“Behold the most diabolical plot against America ever designed: to destabilize the governance of righteous conservative rule, Veidt concocted a counterfeit cosmic cataclysm rendered with Hollywood magic and Satanic science for the purpose of turning the Stars and Stripes onto Hammers and Sickles. AND IT WORKED! The events of the past six months are proof! Our commander-in-chief has been frightened into brokering peace with the Kremlin for the sake of creating a ‘common defense’ against a threat that doesn’t actually exist! (How SUSPICIOUSLY CONVENIENT of that pile of psychic seafood to melt into a puddle of harmless water and then evaporate away before science could study it. Dubious, I say! Dubious!) The Ruskies have gained a foothold on our sacred soil (Burgers-n-Borscht anyone? I HOPE NOT!), and our glorious Manifest Destiny march toward global Democracy, Capitalism, and Christian Supremacy has been stalled. Now we cower as we wait for the next shoe to drop. You know what it is. It’s not another beastie from the outer limits of Dimension X, and it’s not the nuisance of spoiled shrimp sloshing from the sky. No, this jackbooted jabberwocky is the Anti-Christ masquerading as a bleeding heart cowboy, a bad actor on so many levels who seeks to re-educate us into slaves of Big Brother. IT’S A GODDAM LIBERAL PRESIDENT!”

Veidt denied the incredibly accurate allegations, which were ignored by mainstream media, and they never really stuck. Petey says initially the journal was considered “at best” an “outrageous entertainment from an outrageous outlet that provided brief distraction” from squid anxiety.

Giant Squid Panel from Watchmen comicDC Comics/Dave Gibbons/John Higgins

Then in 1992, a “blue wave,” backed by Veidt’s donations, created the kind of liberal government Godfrey had warned his readers about. When the New Frontiersman republished “Rorschach’s Journal,” the bookazine became a best-seller, especially with right wingers. Petey writes:

“For them, ‘Rorschach’s Journal’ — and Godfrey’s interpretation of it — challenges the new, heretical orthodoxy that makes them feel marginalized and obsolete, written by a revolutionary they revere as a saint. It rationalizes their conviction that our current president is an illegitimate president, brought to power because of the [giant squid] , which, again, per the convoluted logic of Godfrey’s conspiracy theory, was essentially an insidious coup concocted the embittered liberal elite, as the ramifications of the [squid] paved the way for the Blue Wave of ‘92. This belief is the justification for any number of anti-social behaviors, from the formation of drop-out communities known as “Nixonvilles,” to domestic terrorists like the aforementioned Seventh Kavalry, who protest the president by committing violence against symbols of the executive branch, which is to say, law enforcement.”

Rorschach’s “enduring appeal” has led to a cult-like following by a group whose “own warped ideology” is “reflected in the mad swirl of his ink blot face.” Petey warns that what the Seventh Kavalry ultimately wants, as much as an end to liberal policies, is “justice for their martyr-messiah,” whom they believe was murdered by Ozymandias.

And Ozymandias was just declared dead by the same government the Kavalry doesn’t trust, a decision that could lead to more bloodshed.

Seventh Kalvary members in HBO's WatchmenHBO

Petey says ending the search for Veidt “risks antagonizing and activating Rorschach-inspired extremists who express their distrust of government with maverick vigilantism or brazen attacks on law enforcement or both” because declaring him dead “will look like a cover-up.” He also asked what will happen if Veidt suddenly shows up? “Given his vast resources and even vaster ego, isn’t it more likely than not that ‘The Smartest Man in The World’ is planning a show-stopping comeback of his own?” Petey asks.

Ozymandias almost certainly is, and he could be planning the final showdown between him and Rorschach, who three decades later lives on as the face of white nationalist terrorists. It’s a war the Seventh Kalvary has been waiting for. Tick tock, tick tock…

Featured Image: HBO

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