Rorschach #1 Kills Steve Ditko – HIs Alt Version Anyway

Rorschach #1 opens with a man dressed up as Rorschach getting shot in the face. Later, it turns out the man is a stand-in for real-life cartoonist Steve Ditko. Some readers might say that the book betrays, then kills Steve Ditko.

How Rorschach #1 Betrays, then Kills Steve Ditko
"Rorschach" #1 opening, DC Comics

The dead cartoonist's similarity to the myth of Ditko are quite pronounced – reclusive in his later years, hardly went out, drew his own increasingly incomprehensible comics. These are overt references to the real-life Ditko's later years. The perception is that after he stopped drawing mainstream superhero comics for Marvel and DC, Ditko retreated to his apartment in New York City to draw his own Randian political tracts in the form of the superhero Mr. A, already a more extreme extension of the character he created for Charlton Comics, The Question since taken over by DC Comics. This is a myth since, in real life, Ditko did go out and have a normal social life with friends and family, it just wasn't publicly announced and pop fiction tends to publish the myth. There's a slightly odd story in Rorschach #1 where the fictional version of the cartoonist may have entered a romantic relationship with a would-be vigilante woman that led him to be swayed into a failed attempt to assassinate Presidential candidate Robert Redford. That's the mystery to be unraveled in the comic.

In the original Watchmen series, Rorschach was Alan Moore's commentary on Ditko's Mr. A character, taking the absolutist black-white moral stance of the character to its logical conclusion. It was Moore's opinion that such a character would likely be psychotic, deeply alienated, dangerously violent, and smelled bad. Now Rorscharch writer Tom King might be writing his own commentary on not just Moore's portrayal of Rorshach but also about Ditko as well. One does wonder about the decision to show the artist get shot in the face and end up on an autopsy slab as the seeming endgame of his life's work and politics. No doubt the mystery of the series is to answer why and how he ended up on that path.

How Rorschach #1 Betrays, then Kills Steve Ditko
Page from "Rorschach" #1, DC Comics

What made the HBO Watchmen show so popular and resonant was that it used the comics to comment on topics other than comics, namely history, politics, and race that made it feel relevant. The show tackled the Tulsa Massacre and the legacy of racism in American History as well as issues of policing and police brutality. It used superheroes to comment on the times, not comment on comics. King might be using Rorschach to offer up some political commentary as well as an examination of the history of the American comics industry. The last pages of the first issue indicate this direction. We shan't spoil it here. You really should read it yourself for a fascinating alternate retelling of comics history.

Meanwhile, the poor, late Steve Ditko has to suffer the indignity of getting murdered in a comic just as Alan Moore had to face his intellectual property being stolen from him by a corporation to generate this metacommentary unauthorized sequel.

About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.

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