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Watchmen is a graphic novel published by DC Comics in twelve installments in 1986-87. It has sometimes been described as a "post-modern" or "deconstructionist" take on the comic book superhero.

Writer: Alan Moore. Illustrator/letterer: Dave Gibbons. Colorist: John Higgins.
Spoiler warning: Plot, ending, or solution details follow.


Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias

  • Do it? Dan, I'm not a Republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.
  • [after Nite Owl asks what he would have done if his hired assassin had shot him first] I suppose I'd have had to catch the bullet, wouldn't I? [smirks]

Daniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl II

  • (As he and Rorschach prepare for their confrontation with the mastermind villain.) Y'know, this must be how ordinary people feel. This must be how ordinary people feel around us.

Edward Blake/The Comedian

  • Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.
  • Yeah. Yeah, that's right. Pregnant woman. Gunned her down. Bang. And y'know what? You watched me. You coulda changed the gun into steam or the bullets into mercury or the bottle into snowflakes! You coulda teleported either of us to goddamn Australia...but you didn't lift a finger! You don't really give a damn about human beings. I've watched you. You never cared about whatsername, Janey Slater, even before you ditched her. Soon you won't be interested in Sally Jupiter's little girl, either. You're driftin' outta touch, Doc. You're turnin' into a flake. God help us all.
  • You people are a joke. You hear Moloch's back in town, you think "Oh, boy! Let's gang up and bust him!" You think that matters? You think that solves anything?
  • It don't matter squat because inside thirty years the nukes are gonna be flyin' like maybugs...and then Ozzy here is gonna be the smartest man on the cinder. Now, pardon me, but I got an appointment. See you in the funny papers.

Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan

  • A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts. Why should I be concerned?
  • We're all puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings.
  • Yes. Yes, he killed Blake and half New York. Excuse me, Rorschach. I'm informing Laurie ninety seconds ago...I-I'm sorry. It's these tachyons. They're muddling things up; I'd better follow him inside.
  • This world's smartest man means no more to me than does its smartest termite.
  • I am disappointed, Veidt. Very disappointed. Reconstructing myself after the subtraction of my intrinsic field was the first trick I learned.

Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II

  • (Examining Dan's Nite Owl II utility belt.) What else have you got in there? Chocolate rations? Boy Scout knife? Army-issue contraceptives?

Walter Kovacs/Rorschach

  • (Asked to look at an inkblot test and tell what he sees, he pictures a dog with its head smashed in) A pretty butterfly
  • (To the psychiatrist Dr. Malcolm Long) You keep calling me Walter. I don't like you.
  • Give me smallest finger on man's hand. I'll produce information. Computer unnecessary.
  • Don't worry. Won't insult legendary underworld solidarity by suggesting you surrender name without torture.
  • Stood in firelight, sweltering. Bloodstain on chest like map of violent new continent. Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in night. Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning it's illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world. Was Rorschach. Does that answer your questions, Doctor?
  • By the way, you need a stronger lock. That new one broke after one shove.

Other Characters

  • Captain Metropolis: Please! Don't all leave... Somebody has to do it, don't you see? Somebody has to save the world...
  • Janey Slater: Some things, once they're busted, they can't ever be fixed.
  • Big Figure: You're alone in the valley of the shadow, Rorschach, where your past has a long reach, and between you and it there's one crummy lock. Think about it.
  • Dr. Malcolm Long: "Later: The Deptuty Warden just called. Apparently, Kovacs was involved in an incident today, just after he'd seen me. It happened during lunch, in the canteen...The guards Intervened, dragging Kovacs away to solitary and the other man to the prison hospital. According to the deputy Warden, his burns were horrific. Hot cooking fat...I don't like to think about it. As they dragged him away, Kovacs spoke to the other inmates. He said 'None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me' My earlier optimism was obviously unfounded. He's just getting worse."
  • Dr. Malcolm Long: You're locked up in here with me, he said. He's right. Absolutely right.
  • Dr. Malcolm Long: I looked at the Rorschach blot. I tried to pretend it looked like a spreading tree, shadows pooled beneath it, but it didn’t. It looked more like a dead cat I once found, the fat, glistening grubs writhing blindly, squirming over each other, frantically tunneling away from the light. But even that is avoiding the real horror. The horror is this: In the end, it is simply a picture of empty meaningless blackness. We are alone. There is nothing else.


Police Detective: I think you take this vigilante stuff too seriously. Since the Keene Act was passed in '77 only the government-sponsored weirdos are active. They don't interfere.
Detective Steve Fine: Screw them. What about Rorschach? Rorschach never retired, even after him and his buddies fell out of grace. Rorschach's still out there somewhere. He's crazier than a snake's armpit and wanted on two counts of Murder One. We got a cozy little homicide here. If he gets involved, we'll be up to our butts in corpses.

[Rorschach informs the former Nite Owl II of the Comedian's death.]
Dan Dreiberg: Maybe this was a political killing?
Rorschach: Maybe. Or maybe someone's picking off costumed heroes.
Dreiberg: Um. Don't you think that's maybe a little paranoid?
Rorschach: That's what they're saying about me now? That I'm paranoid?
Rorschach: Used to come here often, back when we were partners.
Dreiberg: Oh. Uh, yeah... yeah, those were great times, Rorschach. Great times. Whatever happened to them?
Rorschach: [exiting] You quit.

Happy Harry the Bartender: [scared] Ruh. Ror. Ror. Rorschach! Har Har How are ya doin', fella?
Rorschach: I'm fine, Happy Harry. Yourself?
Happy Harry: Fine! I'm fuh, I'm fine! And I'm, and I'm, and I'm glad you're fine too! And uh, and uh... Oh God. Please don't kill anybody.

[Dan and The Comedian, in the midst of a riot]
Dan Dreiberg: But the country's disintegrating. What's happened to America? What's happened to the American dream?.
The Comedian: [brandishing shotgun] It came true. You're lookin' at it. Now c'mon... let's really put these jokers through some changes.

[Veidt and Rorschach discuss potential suspects in the Comedian's murder.]
Adrian Veidt: The Comedian had plenty of other political enemies to choose from, even discounting the Russians. The man was practically a Nazi.
Rorschach: He stood up for his country, Veidt. Never let anyone retire him. Never cashed in on his reputation. Never set up a company selling posters and diet books and toy soldiers based on himself. Never became a prostitute. If that makes him a Nazi, you might as well call me a Nazi, too.

Edgar Jacobi: Heh. Well, you know that kind of cancer that you get better from eventually?
Rorschach: Yes.
Edgar Jacobi: Well, that ain't the kind of cancer I got.

[Retired crimefighters reminisce about the good old days.]
Laurie Juspeczyk: Hey, you remember that guy? The one who pretended to be a supervillain so he could get beaten up?
Dan Dreiberg: Oh, You mean Captain Carnage. Ha ha ha! He was one for the books.
Laurie: You're telling me! I remember, I caught him coming out of this jeweller's. I didn't know what his racket was. I start hitting him and I think "Jeez! He's breathing funny! Does he have asthma?
Dan: Ha Ha Ha. He tried that with me, only I'd heard about him, so I just walked away. He follows me down the street… broad daylight, right? He's saying "PUNISH me!" I'm saying "No! Get lost!"
Laurie: Ha Ha Ha. What ever happened to him?
Dan: Well, he pulled it on Rorschach, and Rorschach dropped him down an elevator shaft.
Laurie: PHAAA HA HA HA! Oh, God, I'm sorry, that isn't funny, Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!
Dan: Ha Ha Ha! No, I guess it's not...
Laurie:Ahuh. Ahuhuhuh...Jeez, y'know, that felt good. There don't seem to be that many laughs around these days.
Dan: Well, what do you expect? The Comedian is dead.

(A therapy session begins.)
Dr. Malcolm Long: Hello, Rorschach. How are you today?
Rorschach: In prison. Yourself?

Dr. Malcolm Long: Walter, is what happened to Kitty Genovese really proof that the whole of mankind is rotten? I think you've been conditioned with a negative worldview. There are good people, too, like...
Rorschach: Like you?
Dr. Malcolm Long: Me? Oh, well, I wouldn't say that. I...
Rorschach: No. You just think it. Think you're 'good people'. Why are you spending so much time with me, Doctor?
Dr. Malcolm Long: Uh...well, because I care about you, and because I want to make you well...
Rorschach: Other people, down in cells. Behavior more extreme than mine. You don't spend any time with them...but then, they're not famous. Won't get your name in the journals. You don't want to make me well. Just want to know what makes me sick. You'll find out. Have patience, Doctor. You'll find out.

Rorschach: Visited underworld bars and began hurting people. Put fourteen in hospital needlessly. Fifteenth gave me an address. Disused dressmaker's in Brooklyn. [describing an old investigation to prison psychiatrist.]

Rorschach: [examining the same inkblot test, the second time, and answering honestly] Dog. Dog with head split in half.
Dr. Long: And, uh. What do you think split the dog's head. In half.
Rorschach: I did.

[a riot occurs in the prison due to Rorschach's presence]
Prison Inmate: We wanna piece, Big Figure!
Big Figure: Sure. Thank-giving's Early this year, but everyone gets a piece of turkey. It's just I get to carve. Now beat it.

Big Figure's Henchman Larry: [reaching into the bars of Rorschach's Prison Cell] You lousy little bastard! I'll tear your goddamned heart out! You're dead, you unnerstand? Dead! We got a jail full of guys out here who hate your guts. What in hell do you got?
Rorschach: [grabbing his arms] Your hands. My perspective.

[Big Figure is forced to have Larry killed so he can get into the prison cell]]
Big Figure: We'ere gonna cut through there and then that bastard's gonna find out what the Score is!
Rorschach: One-nothing. Your move. Come and get me.

Rorschach: There. Did what had to be done. Can leave now.
Laurie: Really? Are you sure? We don't want to get too reckless and go diving headfirst into things!
Rorschach: (Having just drowned Big Figure in a toilet bowl) Hurm. Good advice. Sure there are many who would agree with you.

Nite-Owl: Rorschach...? Rorschach, wait! Where are you going? This is too big to be hard-assed about! We have to compromise!
Rorschach: No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise.

Adrian Veidt: But you said you'd regained interest in human life.
Doctor Manhattan: Yes, I have. I think perhaps I'll create some.

Adrian Veidt: I did the right thing, didn't I? It all worked out in the end.
Dr. Manhattan: 'In the end'? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.

Doctor Manhattan: Thermodynamic miracles... events with odds against so astronomical they're effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing.
And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter... Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold... that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.
Laurie Juspeczyk: But...if me, my birth, if that's a thermodynamic miracle... I mean, you could say that about anybody in the world!.
Dr. Manhattan: Yes. Anybody in the world. ..But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget... I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from the another's vantage point. As if new, it may still take our breath away. Come...dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes... and let's go home.

Laurie Juspeczyk: Is that what you are? The most powerful thing in the universe and you're just a puppet following a script?
Doctor Manhattan: We're all puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings.

Doctor Manhattan: You sound bitter. You're a strange man, Blake. You have strange attitudes to life and war.
The Comedian: Strange? Listen... once you figure out what a joke everything is, being the Comedian's the only thing that makes sense.
Doctor Manhattan: The charred villages, the boys with necklaces of human ears... these are part of the joke?
The Comedian: Hey... I never said it was a good joke! I'm just playing along with the gag...

Nite-Owl: Look, I just meant we took enough unnecessary risks retrieving your outfit this morning...
Rorschach: Unnecessary? Cowering down here in sludge and pollution, conjuring names on screens, learning nothing: that is unnecessary. Give me smallest finger on man's hand. I'll produce information. Computer unnecessary. This face, all that's necessary... all I need.

Detective Steve Fine: (answering phone) Hello? Yeah, Detective Fine speaking. A tip? Sure. What's your name...? No name, huh? Okay, that's acceptable. So what do you have? Raw what? Did you just say "shark"? Raw shark? Why should I want to know where to find... (Fine realizes what the informant is trying to say; "Rorschach") ...raw shark. Okay. Yeah, I know who we're talking about. Now where...? Okay. Got that. When will he be there? Is he...? Yeah. Understood. We're on our way. 'Bye. (hangs up phone)
Police Detective: Steve, you're kidding! That wasn't about...?
Detective Steve Fine: Damn right, it was. After all these years, somebody just handed us that bastard's head on a plate. (Fine and the detective leave the police station) C'mon, man. We got a date. Let's go ignore some red lights.

Fictional Publications

The publications here exist only in the fictional Watchmen universe unless otherwise noted.
  • I never said, "The superman exists, and he's American." What I said was,"God exists, and he's American."
    • Dr. Milton Glass, Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers
  • We are all of us living in the shadow of Manhattan.
    • Dr. Milton Glass, Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers
  • No, I don't mind being the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one.
    • Adrian Veidt, interview in Nova Express
  • [Responding to question on how much of putting on a superhero costume is a "sex thing".] No, I don't… Well, let me say this, for me, it was never a sex thing. It was a money thing. And I think for some people it was a fame thing, and for a tiny few, God bless 'em, I think it was a goodness thing. I mean, I'm not saying it wasn't a sex thing for some people, but, no, no, I wouldn't say that's what motivated the majority…
    • Sally Jupiter, interview in Probe.

Excerpts from Rorschach's Journal

  • Rorschach's Journal. October 12th, 1985. Dog Carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'Save us!' And I'll look down, and whisper 'no.' They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men like my father, or President Truman. Decent men, who believed in a day's work for a day's pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn't realize that the trail led over a precipice until it was too late. Don't tell me they didn't have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers, and all of a sudden nobody can think of anything to say.
  • This city is dying of rabies. Is the best I can do to wipe random flecks of foam from its lips?
  • Beneath me, this awful city, it screams like an abattoir full of retarded children. New York. Somebody knows why. Down there... somebody knows. The dusk reeks of fornication and bad consciences. I believe I shall take my exercise.
  • 42nd Street: Women's breasts draped across every billboard, every display, littering the sidewalk. Was offered Swedish love and French love, but not American love. American love; like Coke in green glass bottles, they don't make it anymore.
  • I leave the human cockroaches to discuss their heroin and child pornography. I have business elsewhere, with a better class of person.
  • Meeting with Veidt left bad taste in mouth. He is pampered and decadent, betraying even his own shallow, liberal affectations. Possibly homosexual? Must remember to investigate further.
  • I shall go and tell the indestructible man that someone plans to murder him.
  • On Friday night, a Comedian died in New York. Someone threw him out of a window and when he hit the sidewalk his head was driven up into his stomach. Nobody cares. Nobody cares but me.
  • There is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this.
  • Paid last respects quietly, without fuss. Edward Morgan Blake. Born 1924, forty-five years a Comedian, died 1985, buried in the rain. Is that what happens to us? A life of conflict with no time for friends… so that when it's done, only our enemies leave roses.
  • Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says "Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says "But Doctor... I am Pagliacci."
  • Away down alley, heard woman scream, first bubbling note of city's evening chorus. Approached disturbance. Attempted rape/mugging/both. Cleared throat. The man turned and there was something rewarding in his eyes. Sometimes, the night is generous to me.
  • For my own part, regret nothing. Have lived life, free from compromise… and step into the shadow now without complaint.
  • Waiting for a flash of enlightment in all this blood and thunder.
  • If reading this now, whether I am alive or dead, you will know truth. Whatever precise nature of this conspiracy, Adrian Veidt responsible. Have done best to make this legible. Believe it paints disturbing picture. Appreciate your recent support and hope world survives long enough for this to reach you, but tanks are in East Berlin, and writing is on wall.

See also

External links

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