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Who the heroes in Watchmen?

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If one could sum up Watchmen by Alan Moore in a few words, it basically tells the story of the death of Edward Blake, Rorschach’s investigation of his death, and the events surrounding his death. Overall, Watchmen has an underlying representation of American society through the various masked vigilante characters and their respective attitudes towards government and each other. The quote, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” by Batman (played by Christian Bale) in The Dark Knight represents many of the issues in Watchmen. Rorschach, especially among all the characters, is caught between the extremely blurred line of hero and villain many times. This makes one wonder who the hero is, or if Watchmen has any heroes at all. Following the death of Edward Blake, Rorschach later discovers him as The Comedian.

Rorschach attempted to convince the remaining members of “The Crimebusters” there was a “mask-killer” of some sort but to no avail. But truly Rorschach wasn’t only looking for justice for The Comedian; he was also looking for justice for himself. Rorschach admired The Comedian in every way and he felt as if they were a similar entity with a similar fate. But, Rorschach was a bit self-righteous; he acted completely out of emotion especially due to the brutality he faced as a child. In all of Rorschach’s attempts to do what was right it always involved tyranny of some sort, sometimes justified, sometimes not. The Comedian on the other hand was a man with extremely negative attributes that include attempted rape, assault, murdering a woman pregnant with his own child, etc. Yet, somehow he was right, he always managed to see things in ways no one else could which solidifies him as a hero. Adrian Veidt on the other hand is a complete foil to Rorschach’s character, and is only rivaled by Dr. Manhattan in strength and intelligence.

Veidt is a firm believer in the ends justifying the means, and he feels as if he is humanities only option to save them from themselves. Watchmen is set in time when the United States and the Soviet Union are on the brink of nuclear war, in order for threat of nuclear war to die down, Veidt felt as if he had to instill fear across the world. He created this monster and The Comedian died because he stumbled upon it and he couldn’t handle it. Although, he is the “smartest man in the world”, he is found to be unsure of whether he did the right thing when confronting Dr. Manhattan near the close of the book. In juxtaposition to The Comedian or Rorschach he is a person with nearly all positive attributes but overall he cannot be hero in anyway shape or form due to causing the death of millions of people with a shaky outcome.

In Watchmen the masked vigilantes meant to stop crime would sometimes find themselves doing some sort of criminal behavior at some point but even in the world of Watchmen heroes exist. Rorschach’s final attempt to inform people across the world Adrian Veidt caused the death millions was nothing short of heroic, back to the quote “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” if Rorschach lived he wouldn’t have solidified himself as hero, same with The Comedian. All the former masked vigilantes cross the hero-villain line at some point or another, but it appears that a true hero is the person who sees things as they truly are. “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy”- F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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