Watchmen: Never Compromise
Watchmen: Never Compromise By Christopher G. Poirier
When Hector asked me to write a chapter for this book, I was both excited and honestly a little overwhelmed. Generally speaking, I find myself immersed in pop culture, comics, video games,movies, TV shows, and every thing in between. This ultimately caused a bit of spastic freak out when having to narrow it all down for the sake of a single chapter. Both my desire to do well and my squirrel brain wanting to do all the things crashed and burned simultaneously while attempting to settle on the one thing to grace the pages of this epic tome. Then, as if parting the geeky Red Sea of current movies, comics, etal, the obvious struck me: A Tattoo. If you are scratching your head wondering what on earth a tattoo has to do with anything, then welcome to the insanity that is my mind.
At the turn of the new year, I finally leaped into obtaining my first tattoo. Being an utter geek with multiple fandoms,having a service background (Firefighter, EMT, and soldier), and a man of faith meant that there was an overwhelming amount of options to permanently inking something on my person. After some terrible ideas, some pretty good ones, and a few meh ones, I finally found myself coming back to a common theme: Rorschach.
For those of you with a psychiatrist background, don’t get overly excited. I do not have an ink blot randomly inked on my back so I can ask people, “and tell me, what do YOU see?” No, I mean Rorschach, the comic book character from Alan Moore’s “The Watchmen” as published by DC Comics. Also, known as Walter Kovacs, Rorschach is the thread that keeps the 12-part complicated narrative of The Watchmen together and on its path from start to finish. For those who are familiar with the story and may now be potentially disturbed on my character choice for permanent placement on my body and even those who may not know the story at all, let me paint a mental picture for you to set your collective minds at ease.
The story of The Watchmen is one that has captivated audiences of comics and screen alike with a dark tale of a world steeped in corruption, greed, violence, and a desire to be happy at nearly any cost. This is not the world of Superman, Batman, Flash, and the likes of Wonder Woman, but rather a similar reality that shows us a city gasping to survive. Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, The Watchmen’s world is full of crime and seemingly no one to stop it. EnterThe Watchmen, a band of heroes (vigilantes) formed in the shadows of a group that had once fought to help those who could not help themselves to take the fight to the crime of the city. Ozymandias, Nite Owl, Rorschach, Silk Spectre, The Comedian, and Dr. Manhattan round out this motley crew of misfits, do-gooders, and lost souls.
To say the very least, this is not your typical comic book vigilante story. Only two of The Watchmen are sanctioned by the government, as all super heroes were outlawed by what is called the Keene Act. Their existence is a shadow of a past that is no longer tolerated. They are outcast and trying to find meaning in a world that seeks their destruction both good and bad. As the series opens, we find Rorschach investigating the death of The Comedian. This becomes the pathway of our story: Rorschach believes that someone is attempting to kill all former and current Watchmen and that something larger than them all is forthcoming. As one follows the path with Rorschach we learn that not only is he most likely right, but that the puppet master in charge of the events appears to be someone close to the mall. As the story concludes,we learn that Rorschach was right and this twisted story of a fallen world ends in a massive event that takes the lives of millions of innocent people and leaving The Watchmen with a difficult choice.
To say that there is much more to this story is an understatement. The details are intricate, the art is amazing, but I set out on this discussion not to spoil a great comic for those who have not had the chance to read it. (Which you should. You should stop reading this right now and pick up The Watchmen...I’ll wait here for you..Go ahead...I’ll still be here...it’s totally worth it.) But, what I want to focus on here and now is why Rorschach now sits on my forearm with the phrase, “Never Compromise.”
Against the backdrop of The Watchmen story, where each character has a story of their journey to being a “hero” and what motivates them, Rorschach may be one of the most complicated of them all. That said, Rorschach is not a good person. He arguably might have never been until his final moments. However, Walter Kovacs is not mentally well, to say the very least. From a broken home into street level crime to making his way into finding right from wrong and using his skills, Walter becomes Rorschach and Rorschach becomes a legend striking fear into those who don’t look twice when ducking into a dark alley to escape their crimes. For many, Rorschach is the image of Batman, if Bruce Wayne had literally no remorse for the human condition. Rorschach seeks,moves, and punishes in a way that could be described as a journey without destination or any semblance of any moral code. All of this to say that The Watchmen story and that story of Rorschach appears to be one of pure Nihilism.
The Watchmen, as one can probably imagine, is therefore a tough read, but where it ends is indeed the message that matters. For in the final moments of an event that claimed the lives of millions, undertaken by a man who once was considered a hero — a savior even — The Watchmen have a choice: Do they cover up the fact that they know who orchestrated the event, knowing that the result of the horrific act will reunite a people who had turned against their brothers and sisters, or do they turn him in, knowing it is the morally right thing to do as he is responsible for so much death and destruction? In this moment, a broken man, one who appeared to have no moral compass or care in the world plants his feet and utters the following in response to being told that maybe compromise for the greater good is the best course of action. “No. Not even in the face of Armageddon, never compromise.”
In James 4:17, James reminds us, "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James spells it out clearly that if we know the right thing and choose compromise, we choose sin. Rorschach him self most likely would not have quoted this verse, but he obviously felt a similar conviction. Compromise is something culture teaches as a positive response to two conflicting positions. That said, as in this example, compromise is not always an option that meshes well with one’s worldview, especially when it comes down to matters of faith. To that end, compromise becomes something that we all face and can struggle with. Knowing what one should do, but the pain of doing the right thing can sometimes be incredibly overwhelming in the face of making that choice when the risk of being a social outcast is very real. Sometimes we even cower and compromise in far less than the face of Armageddon.
We compromise for many reasons: to avoid awkwardness, discomfort, and negative perceptions. But, for us compromise is more than just weakness in character, it's a spiritual issue.
However, what makes this final moment so powerful in The Watchmen story isn’t just that Rorschach is a broken man, but that it also shows how characters you were lead to believe are actually good by their nature are also willing to shrug off what seems so obvious, simply so that the greater good may be in peace. The decision Rorschach makes to remain strong in truth and justice, the two things he thought they were doing as a group of heroes, ultimately does cost him greatly. However, in that moment, Rorschach knows what is right, why it is right, and accepts the consequence of his decision. For me this is a powerful message, one that I felt so strongly about that it became my first tattoo: Rorschach’s face and the words, Never Compromise. This is not simply a cool tattoo from a legendary comic book, but also a reminder of who I am called to be in Christ.
In Matthew 6:24, Christ tells us, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” To me, this is the challenge Rorschach was faced with. He had the decision to sacrifice his moral/ethical position on truth and justice for the sake of a perceived cultural greater good or to stand his ground knowing what is good and just. That said, it is also the choice that we are faced with each and every day of our lives as we live out our Christian walk in the culture(s) that surround us. How, often are we asked to make a choice between life and death? Probably not that often; however, we are often asked to make
sacrifices and/or compromise our faith simply to appease the culture(s) or to attempt to not rock the boat. Our hearts may be in the right place, but what are we communicating to the world if we claim to espouse our faith so solidly, in that we might make small compromises for the sake of the greater good.
But Christ does not say, “We can serve one master, but occasionally compromise in order to make the masses happy together.” His position is clear and simple; our heart and energy must be on the one that gave up even of Himself that we might live. Any thing else is bound to cause strife between the two and ultimately result in compromise, sacrifice, and/or even betrayal for what we perceive as the greater good. The greatest good possible for us to espouse, as Christians, in our journey in life is the one that is of the cross and the life changed in Christ Jesus. I wish I could say I had something more profound to say, but I fear it truly is that simple. We are called to stand firm in our faith, not allow wealth, position, objections/materialism, or anything to allow us to falter, we must never compromise no matter the cost.
Because the cost can be great and the circumstances can seem impossible, the truth of and in Christ is still the truth and worth standing for. Therefore, I chose to place a physical reminder of the story of an incredibly broken man named Walter Kovacs upon my forearm. Who despite his flaws, in the end would stand as a hero named Rorschach, who never compromised his beliefs, his understanding of truth and justice, and all in the face of personal destruction.
Like many, my tattoo serves to remind me of who I was and who I am. I was broken, but now as a child of Christ, no matter how tempted by society and culture, I will never compromise my beliefs no matter the cost, for Christ calls on us all to be the light of the Kingdom against the darkness. There is no middle ground, there is no compromise, only Him.
---- About Chris: Chris currently works bi-vocationally as both the Community Outreach Director at The Point Church - Cary, as well as, a Store Manager for Ultimate Comics in Cary, NC. In his spare time he also functions as the Director of Communications and Media for NC Comicon conventions. Chris obtained his MDIV in North American Church Planting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he focused on new and unique ways to engage culture. He lives with his amazing wife Rebekah in Raleigh, NC where they are constantly in engaged all things geeky