Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

And then there’s Ozymandias.

Cold? Yes. Ruthless? Undoubtedly. A bad guy? Well, my gut instinct is to say yes, of course. Anyone who goes around plotting to wipe out all of modern civilization is evil.

Here’s the problem:

Look at the world Watchmen is set in. The line between right and wrong is wildly relative. People rally to stop organized crime, but they also rally to persecute people for their religious beliefs and sexuality too. The government sends superpowered humans to fight brutal wars over seas. "Heroes" like the Comedian descend further and further into violence and depravity or maybe they always were violent and depraved and the costume just made the perfect outlet for all that.

I mean, what exactly are Nite Owl and Rorschach trying to save anyway? I suspect Rorschach doesn’t have any delusions about what he’s doing. He knows the world isn’t a nice place, but it’s the principle that it’s better to let people be who they are than force them to be something they aren’t through manipulation that I guess he’s fighting for. Is it worth it though? Why protect people’s right to choose if, in Rorschach’s opinion, they don’t have much choice anyway? Why protect a world that just generates hopelessness and hate?

I’m not endorsing anything Ozymandias does. To me, he’s the bad guy. But could someone, somewhere, make the argument that he’s the only hero in the story who’s actually going after the source of all of the problems, albeit in a really deranged way? What if the only way to really "win" is to tear down the society that produces all of these problems to begin with? And what if he’s the only guy with the guts and the vision to go after it? Is it better--more moral--to just let the world keep turning then, knowing things aren’t going to get better? It casts everything in a really bleak light, doesn’t it? I mean, Nite Owl and Rorschach save millions of lives. But is anything going to change?

He’s a lunatic and his plans are evil, but at least he gets the real problem: society. I think there are better ways to resolve the problems a society faces than to destroy it. I think people deserve the chance to try to do better, on their own. And maybe THAT’S what Rorschach and Nite Owl are fighting for. But you COULD look at Ozymandias’ intentions and see something heroic in there. Even if it could be butchered and mangled along the way. It’s a scary, provocative light to cast him in.