Watchmen: Club Black Freighter
Rorschach Review

I finally found where I packed my old trusty blue background. It could use a good scrubbing, but that’s nothing new. Since Uncle Sam was done on the fly, I’m calling this my first official 2013 review and what better way to kick things off than with an all-new line that I’m really excited about?

If you’ve just come out of a thirty-year coma or only recently gotten over some allergic reaction to all things geek, then you might not have heard of Rorschach or the story that spawned him, Watchmen. It’s doubtful that’s the case, but in the name of thoroughness…

Walter Kovacs was given a raw deal when he came into this world. He never knew his father. His mother was an abusive prostitute. And for the first few years of his life, things only got worse from there. After he was removed from his mother’s case, things looked up for Walter. He grew up, excelled in school, held a normal job, and ultimately embarked on a superhero career to help others as Rorschach. But he was never able to escape his origins. When we find him at the start of Watchmen, the abuse and suffering as a child coupled with the darker side of the world he would see as Rorschach to leave him either insane or ultra-sane, depending on your interpretation. Rorschach isn’t the protagonist of Watchmen, I’m not sure there really is one, but he’s integral to the story as the voice of righteousness; his sense of right & wrong providing us one viewpoint on the morally-conflicting events that unfold throughout the story.

While I find Rorschach fascinating as a character (I often wonder if Moore even intended for us to like him), it’s also interesting how he came about. When Watchmen was conceived the intention was to use the characters DC had acquired from Charlton. At that stage, there was no Rorschach, only Charlton’s Question. At some point, DC directed Moore to create all-new characters for his story. That ended up being a boon for Watchmen if you ask me. The story excels partly because of the “mostly” original characters. One small tangible example of this is Rorschach’s mask. The constantly changing inkblot mask is genius and visually sets Rorschach apart before you even get into the story.

The first thing that surprised me about the figure was the packaging. As you all know, I’ve been crazy busy since probably November. It’s been one thing after another and my time to browse my favorite toy sites has been limited. As such, I hadn’t seen a single thing about Rorschach’s packaging when the January Matty box appeared. I opened it up expecting the usual sea of white boxes, but instead was greeted by this slick, black box featuring Watchmen iconography on nearly every side.

Inside that box was another surprise, a clamshell package that featured a few more things to look at including a strange, but neat coaster-type piece that features some new art and a Rorschach biography on the back. The depiction of Rorschach is a little more cartoonlike than I’d care for, but I love how everything is put together. This is a real problem for me because I delight in recycling packaging. It takes up space I don’t have; even when it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful trash at best, right? But I haven’t been able to toss this one yet. This may be one of those rare times where I simply have to make room to store the packaging. We’ll see if I change my tune when I’ve got a hefty pile of all six, but for now they did a great job and it gets to stay.

When it comes to the figure itself, I should point out that when I said “all-new” in the opener, that’s kind of a misnomer. Yes, the 6” comic-based Watchmen figures represent a new toy line from Mattel, but I think a lot of us might just see the line as six additional DC figures, particularly when they’re going to be largely built with parts long-used in the DC Classics’ offerings.

In fact, Rorschach’s “Question origin” comes into play in this way as well. He is largely the Question figure, requiring only new forearms, the soft plastic trench coat, and the new head. Despite the reuse, I think the figure pulls off the look masterfully. I’ve heard some complaints about the re-use, like the figure looking fat from the layers, but it falls on deaf ears for me. I was downright giddy when I freed Rorschach from the box. I’m still giddy playing with him at my desk while I right this. He looks fantastic. This is pretty much what I’ve always wanted. Continue to Page 2…

57 thoughts on “Watchmen: Club Black Freighter
Rorschach Review

      1. don’t forget “out of his mother’s caSe”, unless there’s some side story about him sleeping in a suitcase as a baby? 😉

  1. Like but I haven’t read any or watched Watchmen all the way thru to get the fanship. Like the packaging design and the stand is good. Just I didn’t get excitied over this line.

    1. With the DC stuff, it tends to be that you have to like the source material at least a little bit to get excited. Rorschach gets by on his being a little totem of an awesome thing than being an awesome thing.

  2. Spot on review! I thought January was going to be a bit of a downer month since Ram Man got moved, but Rorschach ended up being such an amazing figure, I’m actually kind of glad about the delay. This is everything I wanted out of a comic-based Watchmen line; I’m even keeping the packaging too.

  3. I’m really going back and forth on whether I regret not getting the Watchmen sub or not. On one hand Rorshach turned out really awesome and I think worth it. But I share you concerns over Dr. Manhatten and Silk Spectre. When I saw them at NYCC Manhatten still didn’t really do it for me and Silk Spectre was too rough a prototype to make a good judgement.

    I like what I see in Rorschach though! Great review!

    1. Vault skipped on it and he’s been kicking himself. But yeah, the early pics of the next two are questionable. I hope the figures turn out improved…

  4. I guess I’m a little miffed that Mattel seems to be putting more effort into their Watchmen line than they’ve put into any of their other DC lines in years. The fact that Rorschach gets an accessory puts him over most of the other DC offerings, but then he also gets a stand and that slick printed box/clamshell? Bogus.

    It doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of the source material. I didn’t read Watchmen until I was an adult, so I didn’t get the “wow, for 1986 this is an amazing comic!” factor. What I got was a comic that was dull, unoriginal, pretentious, and over-written (literally, the series was originally slated for 8 issues, and when the first few isues sold like gangbusters, DC ordered Moore and Gibbon’s to pad it out to 12, and it really shows), and without a single likeable character. Rorschach is just Question but “TeH GrItTiEzZz!1!1!”

    1. Do elaborate. Those are some pretty harsh points to not actually explain or expand on, especially considering that this review will naturally attract fans of the book.

      1. I’m not sure which point you would like me to expand upon (mostly when I diss “Watchmen,” I find that fans tend to want me to shut up, not say more), but here goes:

        First off, the characters; they are not original. If Moore had actually gotten the rights to the characters back, as he’s complained for decades he wants, I’m pretty sure DC could sue him for plagiarism, because they still own the Charlton characters. It’s common knowledge that Moore originally intended to use the Charlton characters that DC had acquired ownership of, but DC decided they wanted to utilize the Charlton characters in the DC universe proper, so Moore made some slight cosmetic alterations to them to create the cast of Watchmen (Captain Atom became Dr. Manhattan, Blue Beetle became Nite Owl, Question became Rorschach, etc.). Moore may think that he differentiated them enough from their Charlton counterparts to make them unique intellectual property, be I don’t find that to be the case.

        Secondly, I don’t find the characters to be the least bit likeable or interesting. You need likeable characters to engage the reader. Reading “Watchmen,” I found myself asking, “Which of these characters am I supposed to care about?” And I couldn’t tell you. They were almost all neurotic and self absorbed. Some people like that sort of character (as evidenced by much of what is critically praised on television these days. “Breaking Bad,” “House,” “Mad Men,” etc., are full of nothing but unlikeable A-holes). I do not. I deal with terrible people all day every day. I don’t want to read about them (or watch them on television). If I’m going to get sucked into a story, I have to give a damn about what happens to the characters, and “Watchmen” gave me no reason to do that.

        I’ve heard it argued that “Watchmen” introduced more “realistic” or “grounded” characters to the superhero genre. I don’t buy that argument. Going back to the early days of the superhero genre, characters had problems. Superman could never get the girl because of his secret identity. Billy Batson may have been able to transform in the world’s mightiest mortal, but in his civilian identity was and orphan and often homeless. Stan Lee amped things up with Marvel revolution in the 60s, making characters like Peter Parker and the X-Men have more grounded personalities and problems. Books like Chris Claremont’s X-Men run took things even further, crafting characters with ongoing interpersonal (and intrapersonal) issues. Maybe that’s why Watchmen seemed so brilliant? Because it was self-contained, where the X-Men and other characters were developed over the course of years or even decades? Really, “Watchmen” doesn’t come across as the giant leap forward in characterization that I’ve often heard it argued to be. It took superheroes with real problems and just stripped away anything that made them super or heroic, and just left us with uninteresting husks of characters that I personally didn’t give a damn about.

        Moore wrote once that he used “Watchmen” to purge himself of his fascination with superheroes (source: ). It’s not hard to see how that would be, looking at Watchmen. There’s nothing remotely interesting about the characters in Watchmen. Perhaps that’s why many people who dislike comics point to it as one of the only pieces of comic literature they will appreciate. Because the characters are not super, and they’re not heroic. If Watchmen were really the ultimate achievement of the superhero genre, what a said state of affairs that would be.

        As for the pretension, I can point to damn near anything Moore has ever said on the subject:

        “Watchmen was designed to be read four or five times” (source: )

        Because he’s so brilliant and the work is so brilliant that it must be worth re-reading and no one cold possibly grasp its hugely important meaning in one sitting, right?

        Dave Gibbons said, in “Artists on Comics Art” (published by Titan Books): “[a]s it progressed, Watchmen became much more about the telling than the tale itself […] So really the plot itself is of no great consequence.”

        Because the men involved thought that they were so brilliant, it didn’t matter what they were doing, it was great. I realize it takes a bit of ego for anyone to do anything creative. They have to believe that they’re good enough at what they do that other people will care about it. But Moore and Gibbons stepped way over the line. Perhaps they’ve simply spent too many years buying into their own hype.

        Speaking of ego, here’s another couple of quotes from Moore:

        “As far as I know, there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to ‘Moby-Dick.’”


        “What the comics industry has effectively said is, ‘Yes, this was the only book that made us briefly special and that was because it wasn’t like all the other books.’ Watchmen was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work. What they’ve decided now is, ‘So, let’s change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs.’ and ‘Let’s make it as unexceptional as possible.’ Like I say, they’re doing this because they haven’t got any other choices left, evidently.”


        Not only does Moore think his work stands alongside works of literature like “Moby Dick,” which is a pretty ballsy statement, but he clearly thinks that “Watchmen” (and, I presume, his other similar works, like “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”) is the best comic ever, and possibly the only good comic. He goes out of his way to tear down the entire industry, all sorts of wonderfully creative people who regularly put out works far more interesting, entertaining, and insightful than “Watchmen.”

        So, that was my attempt to expand upon my initial thoughts. Because having a point of view that deviates from the accepted norm requires defense, I guess. If anyone actually wants any more expounding, feel free to ask any specific questions.

        1. That looks insanely long on my phone. 🙂

          I’ll have to read it all when I get home later, but I do disagree about needing likeable characters. I don’t think you always do, but I also think there’s plenty of likability in the story’s characters.

    2. don’t forget, by the time the movie came out, the story had been copied and picked apart so many times, that’s why it seemed so “been there, done that”, much like John Carter was described. the original JC of Mars story laid the groundwork for so many stories to follow, that by the time they made the movie a few years back, it seemed passe and derivative, when it was really the original work others copied from. (looking at YOU, Lucas!)

      1. oh yeah, big example: s1 of Heroes basically did Watchmen before the movie did, as well. Damn you KRING! [shakes fist!]

      2. A good story is a good story, though. Any great (or at least popular) story will be copied, derived from, paid homage to, etc. If it’s really a great story, being copied will not take away from the original work. If “Watmen’s” entire appeal is that it did something first (not sure what people think it did first, other than being painfully self-important), then it was never really a great story to begin with.

    3. Yeah, I gotta call some of that into question as well. That’s not how comics worked back in the ’80s. I was buying it as it was coming out, day one it was solicited as a 12 issue series.

      If it WAS sked’ed to be 8 issues than changed to 12, that happened before the first issue shipped.

      Anyway, am I the only one that sees the complete irony of this entire project? those early mock-ups, it appeared as if Mattel was planning to actually make the toys as seen in the comic (and how meta is that?), but of course that would be completely impossible, as it seems, from the action in the panels, the toys were based on ‘Action Man’, AKA GI Joe in all his 11 3/4 inch glory.

      I kinda like Rorschach but yeah, he needed swappable face plates.

      1. It’s been a really long time since I read about the 8 issue solicitation, so I cannot find a source and may not be recalling things 100% correctly. However, I did find this quote from Alan Moore about the number of issues, which over time may have been flipped around in my head to the “8 issue” figure:

        “While writing the first issue, I realized I only had enough plot for six issues. We were contracted for 12!”


        So even the writer admitted that the plot didn’t justify the issue count. That’s what led to padding out the story with stuff like the “Black Freighter” comic-within-a-comic. I’ve had fans of the book try to tell me that “The Black Freighter” is part of what makes the story brilliant, because the story of the captain mirrors what’s happening to the characters in Watchmen itself. Which is the opposite of brilliant. If the story of “Watchmen” was so brilliant, it wouldn’t need to retell the same story twice to try to get the point across. It was just padding, and not at all interesting to me.

        1. Secondwhiteline, is that you? This self-indulgent tirade is almost a word-for-word version of something he wrote over on the Fwoosh. Look, you’re entitled to your opinion, obviously, I just hope one day you can appreciate the irony of criticizing something as pretentious and over-written in such a pretentious and over-written way. Also, just so you know, it seems everything you cite as evidence of the book’s pretension is quotes from the creators. I hope you don’t routinely confuse an artist with his work, because a lot of the time, as is the case with Moore certainly, the artist is an ass while his work should and can speak for itself. Yes, Moore is full of himself, but that actually puts him in pretty good artisitc company if that’s the only criteria you’re using (Herman Melville, perhaps, notwithstanding).

          I couldn’t care less if you don’t like the book. I know lots of people who don’t, and sometimes putting your finger on why you don’t like something is as difficult and quantifying why you do like something. But I found the heavy-handed and self-satisfied way you presented your arguments so intellectually tedious, like a contrarian teenager bashing his Dad’s choice of music simply because it’s his Dad’s, that I simply had to say something.

          Anyway, thanks for the review Noisy!

  5. I guess it’s cool that these are DCUC style, but I think I just may be almost fully burned out on that style and ready for a brand new line to collect.

    That said, the figure does look great and captures the (intentionally) simplistic look of Gibbons’ art.

    I didn’t sign up for the Club, and missed him on sale day, but will definitely track this figure down, as I too have wanted comic-accurate Watchmen for quite a while.

  6. i know, it’s the point of the character, and it’s been discussed before… but don’t you find it hilarious, in a cosmic sense, that the guy with the black-and-white morality of a character named rorshach, and that you (and most of us) cling to him as the most righteous of the watchmen characters, despite the fact that he’s an incredibly damaged sociopath? alan moore truly is a damned genius.

    the figure is nice, from an aesthetic standpoint, but man, it does suck that his articulation is so blown. for cryin’ out loud, the neck thing is just beyond stupid, why these characters can’t look up and down is just unforgiveable, and then losing the ab crunch and the hips due to the coat is just beyond dumb. this is not the maiden voayge of the enterprise here, finding the right materials, making cuts where you need, engineering your figure, these are basic aspects of getting your figure to market. if the jacket wasn’t working in rubber (which is nonsense, NECA has done it dozens of times on a much smaller budget), then make the coats soft goods and preserve your buck as best you can.

    and yeah, the gun is preposterously big. fortunately, you’ve been collecting long enough, i’m sure you have some stuff in the fodder box that will look just fine. the set is going to look fly when they’re all out together on the shelf, i have no doubt there… and you will need at least one package to pose up behind them, but i can’t see why you’d want them all, regardless of how cool it is.

    1. I think it’s been stated that Alan Moore hadn’t intended for us to like or enjoy Rorschach at all. He probably holds his popularity against us. 😀

      The neck thing is the real bummer to me. The rest… meh, I wouldn’t want a soft goods coat at all. I’m pretty firmyl in the anti soft goods camp when it comes to 6″ scale. Some smart cuts will surely help though, I haven’t decided if I want to do them myself.

      As for the packages, I may have edited it out, but one side makes a “Who Watches the Watchmen” graffiti mural.

      1. He definitely didn’t; the whole character is a slam on Ditko’s Question and Mr A, guys who DO see the world in black and white and believe in absolute right and wrong. Moore was intentionally showing that he believed the only way someone could be like that was if he was an unsocialized piece of damaged goods…but, of course, that’s what makes him so popular. People WANT to believe that someone knows what the right thing to do is, and will do it.

        By the way, I really really recommend Minutemen. It’s the only Before Watchmen book I read, but it really does feel like a part of Watchmen, only done by someone who likes superheroes instead of hating them.

        1. Seconded on Minutemen. I believe DC has a collected trade paperback (bundling Minutemen with one of the other ‘Before Watchmen’ titles) in the near future so one need not overpay for the single issues.

          Wonderful storytelling, actually makes me feel sad they felt the need that all the ‘Before’ books had to end at zero, i.e. the original Watchmen comic. The last issue was rough.

  7. Nice review and pics, Noisy (that kind of goes without saying at this point, right?). This figure turned out great, and it’s a good thing, too; I mean, if you’re going to go against the wishes of Alan Moore and make toys out of “his” creations, and risk getting some black-magic, warlock spell put on you, you better deliver the goods. I know some folks were complaining about the packaging adding to the cost of an already expensive figure, but to them I say “You can’t have it both ways.” You can’t go on about the Watchmen being the greatest thing since Shakespeare, and how it’s the best selling graphic novel of all time, and then get pissy when Mattel makes the extra effort to put out a product that celebrates just that. The regular white mailer would have been a disappointment. This really does make you feel like you’re holding something special. Kudos to the Matty team.
    There are a couple (minor) gripes, though. First, that grappling gun is ridiculous. They should have just given him “Rorschach’s Journal.” And while Blue Beetle may look at Rorschachs’s face-pattern and see a vagina (Freud would have a field-day with that!) I personally think it looks too much like a …face. I mean, it has two eyes, two nostrils and a mouth (that’s what I see anyway). I wish they would’ve gotten more creative with the pattern. Personally, I was hoping they used the image that was basically Rorschach’s body outline (I think it appeared on issue #1 of the “Before Watchmen” series). Regardless, it would have been cool to get some extra heads to swap out. But no biggie. It still looks really good.
    So yeah, I have some of the same fears you do regarding this line (how ARE they going to do Silk Spectre’s costume?) but I’d say we are off to a fantastic start. Can’t wait for Dr. Manhattan!

    1. Thanks, TC!

      The lack of different faces is the real crime on the figure, more so than the aesthetics blocking the articulation to me. You cite another great example of an alternate head/plate Mattel could’ve included.

      There are early pics of Silk Spectre circulating about – it looks like they’ll do the basic body with the clear/yellow overlay on the torso, but the arms will just be painted yellow… could be good, could be bad? Hopefully, having all of six of them together will overcome the minor flaws each will surely have?

  8. Considering that I paid $25 (plus shipping) for this, I was really hoping they’d actually pay attention to Rorschach being a really short guy with lifts in his shoes, but nope.

    I already had the DCD Rorschach from the movie, but his legs were next to useless and he had no bicep swivels, so I was really excited for a Rorschach with DCU articulation, and… his legs are next to useless because of the coat. Joy. He can stand with his legs together, or his legs wide and that’s about it. The ab crunch doesn’t work, the head can’t look up or down, but hey, at least he has bicep swivels.

    For $15-18, I’d be perfectly happy with this. For $25, I feel like I paid $10 for (admittedly cool, but ultimately completely useless) packaging, and the rest for a 90% reused figure with major engineering flaws.

    I don’t mind his coat being puffy, since (again) Rorschach is supposed to be a smaller guy who wants to look bigger, so it would make sense for him to stuff his coat. Of course, that’s probably not actually intentional, but I’ll take what I can get.

    This line is very MOC friendly, but for those of us who like toys, I kinda feel shafted.

    1. Looking at him standing next to the other figures, I was also like, “Hey…. He’s WAY too tall… Even if he’s wearing lifts.” Look at him up there with the Question, towering over him…

      1. The use of towering cracks me up. Nerds and exaggeration go hand-in-hand. Also, you of all folks should know to never judge scale by a staged shot like that. 🙂 The Question’s wider stance and being slightly further back from camera exaggerate the height difference.

        Rorschach is slightly taller though, his head attaches higher at the neck than Vic’s.

    2. I’m not the right person to talk to about the monetary value of toys. To me, $18 & $25 is kinda splitting hairs, but I see your point.

      I’m able to get my Rorschach into a good walking pose and get some use out of the ab crunch, so mine may be a bit looser than yours. I can’t come down hard on the articulation though because I would probably enjoy the figure less if they’d messed up the look of the trench coat for it. I’m contemplating putting some slits in the trench coat to give him even more range, but I’m not sure I want to.

      1. I think I sound more down on it than I am, I think I just had higher hopes for it. I’m not unhappy with the figure, I just feel like it’s not worth the extra money compared to the CIE figures. It’s easier to justify the MOTUC cost since you get way more plastic for your money. I probably just assumed we’d get more unique pieces for the extra couple of dollars, when it clearly just went into the packaging. $7 on its own isn’t a big deal, but then there’s an extra $10 for their shockingly slow shipping, and it starts adding up quickly.

        I’m a big fan of Watchmen, but we’ll see if I keep buying the figures.

        1. I can’t argue with the packaging swallowing up some of the money, that’s true. I don’t think it would make too much an impact though.

          And I agree that I’d like better figure with more unique parts that would better suit the figure, it just feels more and more that ship has sailed for the big two.

    1. I don’t know what their problem is when it comes to the heads. Hasbro can do it with one, two, or three pieces in the neck and Mattel can’t seem to get a good grasp on it.

      1. What’s particularly frustrating is that Mattel had some decent balljoints in the necks earlier in the DCUC run, and altered them to make them more restricted. Which is insane. Taking out the rocker ankles sucks, but you can at least see how it saves money. Restricting the neck joint actually requires the same number of parts, but requires more plastic (making the “barbell” in the neck three segmented rather than two).

        1. Shamefully, it seems the neck articulation is out of their control. And moneywise, the crappy one-piece ball joints Hasbro used on ML have to be the cheapest route and worked better than this. Dumb stuff.

  9. What ever happened to putting the copyright info on the bottoms of the feet? Even the inner thigh would be better than having it on the back. That’s all I can see in the first pic.

    I’d probably have picked this up if the articulation was intact, but as it is this figure looked like it didn’t have the use of its hip articulation.

    1. Maybe I should revisit the paragraph about articulation. He’s got some use of the articulation, he can do a good walking pose, for example.

      But yeah, any toy collector could tell what to expect from the early pics of the trench coat. I’ve thought about cutting the sides to restore the movement, but I’m not sure I want to mess with the overall look.

  10. He looks better than other pics of him showed, and that packaging is definitely worth the price of admission!

    that grappling gun is only slightly larger than what he carried in the comic. I think maybe twice as large as it was in comic vs how big they made this one?

    It’s great you dug out the “original”/updated/whatever Charlton counterparts for this. Do you have any of the movie Watchmen from DCD to help compare for future reviews? I think I only have Nite-Owl II, Ozymandias, and Comedian (non-smoking variant). I do remember getting into a small argument over who created the costumes, when the husband of the movie costumer (also the Propmaster for Heroes) was boasting of his wife’s work on twitter when the movie came out. I simply corrected him something like “*based on designs by [so-and-so]” (Gibbons? brain fart at the moment.)

    This really sucks for me, as DR hasn’t bothered to update my card since Sam/Constantine, despite several phone calls to correct the issue. but hey, they DID send me a warning email about my subcription being cancelled if I don’t contact them! LOL Yeah, I’m going to have to hunt this guy down later. (Fingers crossed for some news this weeks or next, lawyers sez!) I hope you don’t have any similar issues with your recent move, esp as you fall out of the automatic forward grace period by the Post Office.

  11. Got mine off Ebay from a Chinese seller. Illegal? Maybe. Easier than dealing with the Mattycollector “day of” sales and Digital River? Hells yes! Funny,though, with the size of that grapple gun, I’d half expect it to be spring loaded and shoot something. Can’t wait for the Comedian. Maybe we’ll see him at Toy fair…

    1. Don’t be silly, they can only do springloaded things when it doesn’t make sense for the character.

  12. Excellent review and pics, as ever.

    Wanted to subscribe to this line, but just couldn’t pull the proverbial trigger.

Comments are closed.