The Alan Moore Interview: Watchmen characters [warning: spoilers]
By Barry Kavanagh
, 17 October 2000
The Watchmen characters, I've read that they're based on DC Universe characters but I know very little about those old superheroes
Well, I mean, it's a fairly minor fact but what originally happened was that me and Dave [Gibbons] had got an idea for a kind of a superhero story which we figured needed a whole continuity of characters, not a big continuity but a whole continuity of characters, like we figured that if there were any superhero characters from old defunct comic companies lying around, that we could take a whole bunch of them wholesale and then tell this story starting with the murder of one of them, that would take these kind of familiar old-fashioned superheroes into a completely new realm. Now, at that time Dick Giordano was working for DC Comics. Now, Dick had previously been working for a company called Charlton comics. Now, while he was at Charlton he had overseen the creation of a number of characters that are still remembered with vague nostalgic affection by comic readers and comic fans. These included a lot of characters that had been created or co-created by Steve Ditko, including the Blue Beetle; the Question, who was as sort of moral extremist vigilante in the Steve Ditko mould at the time; a nuclear character called Captain Atom; there was a character called Thunderbolt, a man who had got control of the full ten-tenths of his brain capacity and was thus capable of astonishing mental and physical feats. You know, these are fairly forgettable superheroes but -
- Was there a guy with a hat and a mac?
There was a guy with a hat and a mac, that was the Question, who was also very similar to Steve Ditko's far more right-wing character, Mister A, that was too right-wing to put in mainstream comics but which Ditko had published some strips about in independent comics at the time. Mister A was an absolute insane fascist but done absolutely straight. So we originally said that we could do the story about the Charlton characters because DC had just acquired the rights to the Charlton characters and Dick Giordano had asked if we could do anything with them. So me and Dave kind of laid out this plan for what we could do with the characters. Now, although they liked the idea of it, they had only just paid to acquire the Charlton characters, so they didn't fancy the idea of a series where at the end of it a couple of them would be dead and a couple of them would be too messed up to really work with any more, so they said "Why don't you come up with your own characters?" So we said okay and then just took the Charlton characters as a starting point and in a way it was a perfect solution because Captain Atom was a nuclear superhero but he's nowhere near as interesting as Doctor Manhattan!
No way, I wouldn't imagine so.
With Dr Manhattan we were able to bring in all this kind of quantum consciousness.
And the fact that he'd changed the world and so on.
Yeah! We were able to do all this stuff, so yeah, it was much better the way it eventually worked out but there was a sort of a seed of the original Charlton characters but we took them further. Steve Ditko's Question/Mister A, Rorschach is a kind of logical extension of that character but I'm sure it's not one that Steve Ditko himself ever imagined, in fact I did hear that someone was interviewing Steve Ditko and asked him whether he'd seen Watchmen
and this character in it called Rorschach and he said "Oh yes, I know that, he's the one who's like Mister A, except Rorschach is insane." [Laughs] I thought, well yeah, that's about what I'd expect! Well, Mister A wasn't
, presumably. Yeah so it was just taking these ordinary characters and just taking them a step to the left or right, just twisting them a little bit.
Speaking of Rorschach, he takes off his mask to face death at the end. I only noticed that reading it again recently. Has he had some kind of psychological epiphany, or - ?
I'm not sure, I'm not sure, it just seemed right. I mean, a lot of these things you just - I kind of felt that's what he'd do. I don't know, I don't know why. I couldn't logically say why the character should do that but it just felt right. At the end this is not the mask talking, it's not Rorschach, it's the actual human being that is somewhere under there.
Yeah, it's just amazing that it comes out because you kind of think that that person is dead, you know?
But he's there
. There's still this kid who had an awful time at children's homes. And that is the moment when he's going to die, that he wants it to be that
personality that's at the forefront, or something. I don't know, I couldn't really explain why I did it, it just seemed like what I'd do if I was Rorschach, which is the only way that I can really justify the actions of any of the characters.