So my own little fringe before Watchmen storyline. If you asked Alan Moore if this is the real “Before” story, I doubt he’d agree. But it’s what I like to think happened. And literary critique, the real stuff, has never relied on authorial authority as a benchmark.
The story begins with the Minute Men, of course. They’re largely a government propaganda group, lacking super powers, who are meant to keep moral up during the war and provide some shining beacons of domestic heroism and hope. However, there is one exception in the group—the Minute Men’s Doctor Manhattan as it were—the Comedian. The Comedian is an actual functioning super soldier, not just a guy in a costume.
The Comedian underwent a government super soldier development process and was the only survivor of the attempt. As such, he has super strength, agility, increased stamina and resistance to injury, and his intellect is multiplied exponentially. Unfortunately, this vast increase in intelligence allows him to see situations just as they are, which drives him nearly mad.
Following along with the story already given to us, the Comedian has a child with Silk Spectre I. This child is the second Silk Spectre and—as evidenced by her ability to survive collapsing buildings on fire and prison riots wearing only what amounts to a bathing suit and some silk—inherits much of her father’s increased athletic abilities and resistance to injury. However, her abilities are slightly weaker than his, making her seem slightly more human. This is even more pronounced in her increased intelligence, which is just high enough to keep up with conversations with Doctor Manhattan, but not so high as to drive her mad like it did her father and the other, second person—whom we’ll get to in a second—to survive the same battery of super soldier experiments.
That second person is Ozymandias. Adrian Veldt, Ozy, used his wealth at a young age to buy the secretes of the Comedian. He knew the details of the experiments the Comedian had undergone and underwent them himself to become an even more perfect specimen of humanity. Doing so, though, drove him just as mad as it did the Comedian. Veldt too saw things just as they are after his intellect was super-charged far beyond normal human genius. This leads to the eventual downfall of course of the Watchmen and the old rule of humanity as Veldt completes his scheme to set the world to right. Where the Comedian saw things as they are and tried to look away, Veldt decides to insanely but rationally force them to look how he wants. This is likely somewhat based in their backgrounds. Veldt grew up intelligent and rich. He was used to reshaping things long before he gained superior intellect and physical prowess. The Comedian was just a working class Joe. His reaction to receiving complete insight into humanity through vastly increased intelligence was more uncontrollable for him because he had never had an upbringing in a superior class.
This gives us four super powered Watchmen so far. Where the Minute Men only had one super powered member, the Comedian, the Watchmen had only one human one. That’s what made them so much more dangerous. And it wasn’t just these four—The Comedian, Silk Spectre II, Ozymandias, and Doctor Manhattan. There was one more, one of the Comedian’s other bastards.
Rorschach, we know, had a mother who was a prostitute. The Comedian, as we know, frequented prostitutes. And was quite afraid of what type of offspring his seed would produce as evidenced by his reactions to the impregnated prostitute in Vietnam. However, Rorschach’s mother never told the Comedian she’d been knocked up by him. Perhaps she didn’t even know it was him. Presumably she had quite a few clients who could have been the culprits.
Like Silk Spectre II, Rorschach only inherits enough of his father’s intellect and physical prowess to be dangerous. He and she both operate at slightly above full human potential. But they are human enough to still almost seem like normal people. Of course, Rorschach is insane in his own way, but that has as much to do with his awful childhood as it does his superhuman abilities. His abilities are what allow him to survive fights with prisoners vastly stronger and larger than him, survive arctic temperatures with virtually no protective clothing, and solve mysteries others can’t see through.
So that’s it. The rest of the story plays out in the books. But the start of the story is the Comedian undergoing a super-soldier program that grants him above human physical prowess and an intellect so keen he can see everything for what it is. The consequences of his existence as a super soldier play out in his children and the man (Veldt) who is his direct successor through undergoing the same enhancement process.