Plot Summary

Watchmen, Issue 6

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Watchmen No. 6

The Abyss Gazes Also

Release Date: February 1987

Rorschach, now identified as Walter Kovacs, is out of costume and in prison. Dr. Malcolm Long, a prison psychiatrist, shows an ink blot to Kovacs which, to him, looks like a dog with its head split in half, though Kovacs says it looks like “a pretty butterfly.” Long comments in his journal that Kovacs condition is improving, and shows him another inkblot.

Kovacs has a flashback to when as a child he walked in on his mother having sex. When this upsets the “john,” he abruptly leaves. Kovacs mother then beats her son severely and tells him she should have never had a child. When Long asks Kovacs what he just saw in the ink blot, he humors the doctor again and says, “Some nice flowers.”

As Kovacs heads back to his prison cell, other prisoners threaten and mock him. He recalls a time as a child when he violently attacked two bullies for taunting him because his mother was a prostitute.

Walter Kovacs examines an ink blot

During his next session with Dr. Long, Kovacs recounts the details of how, after realizing how selfish and uncaring humanity was, he crafted a mask to make a face he could “bear to look at in the mirror.” He also accuses the doctor of being no different then the rest of society’s dregs, only wanting to treat him to gain notoriety.

Later, in a prison food line, Kovacs throws hot oil on another prisoner’s face to avoid getting stabbed with a “shiv.” Then, in another session with Long, he discusses his early days working alongside other costumed heroes, and how he felt The Comedian was the only other “mask” that really understood how the world worked.

Further into the session, Kovacs finally admits that the first ink blot looked, to him, like a dog with its head split in half. He recounts the story of a child kidnapping case in 1975, where he tracked down the kidnapper to his hideout. Upon finding evidence of the girl’s rape and murder, Kovacs handcuffed the pleading perpetrator to a pipe inside his hideout and burned the place down. As he gazed at the flames, he felt cleansed. At that moment he ceased to be Walter Kovacs and became Rorschach.

Closing Quotation: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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