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Quote1 Reassembling myself was the first trick I learned. It didn't kill Osterman... did you really think it would kill me? I have walked across the surface of the Sun. I have witnessed events so tiny and so fast they can hardly be said to have occurred at all. But you, Adrian, you're just a man. The world's smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite. Quote2
-- Doctor Manhattan src

Dr. Jonathan Osterman was a nuclear physicist who was caught in a radioactive particle test, which transformed him into a god-like being known as Dr. Manhattan. He would later become a member of the superhero group known as the Crimebusters.

Watchmen

Jonathan Osterman was born in 1929. His father was a watchmaker, and Jon planned to follow in his footsteps. When the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Jon was sixteen. His father, confronted with the undeniable facts of the theory of relativity, declared his profession outdated and threw the parts of his watch that Jon was working on out the window, urging him to instead pursue a career studying nuclear physics.

Jon Osterman attended Princeton University from 1948-1958 and graduated with a Ph.D. in atomic physics. In early 1959, he moved to a research base at Gila Flats, where experiments were being performed concerning the 'intrinsic fields' of physical objects which, if tampered with, resulted in their disintegration. Here he met Janey Slater, a fellow researcher; eventually becoming lovers.

August, 1959, shortly after his thirtieth birthday, Jon planned to give Janey her repaired watch, only to discover he had left it in his lab coat which is inside the test chamber where they conducted the intrinsic field experiments. While Jon was inside the chamber retrieving his coat the door closed, automatically locking as a safety feature. Unable to open the door or override the countdown, Osterman's colleagues — save for Janey, who could not bear to see his last moments — could only watch, horrified, as Jon has his 'intrinsic field' removed. Bathed in the radiant light, he was torn to pieces from the force of the generator, instantly vaporized and officially declared dead.

Over the following months, Jon's consciuosness had been progressively attempting to take material form. This progression took form in partial bodily reappearances; first as a disembodied nervous system including the brain and eyes, as a circulatory system (November 10), then a partially muscled skeleton (November 14). Each time, the appearance only lasts for a few seconds. Jon fully reappeared on November 22 as a tall, hairless, naked, blue-skinned man.

After his transformation, Jon began to experience time in a non-linear, "quantum" fashion, and it was aware of and experiencing all the moments of his life simultaneously. Jon was not omniscient, he remained reliant on his intellect and sensory experience to reach conclusions, but his range of sensory data had been abruptly extended in proportion to the lessening of his emotional capacities. This often led him to arrive at conclusions greatly different from those available to normal humans. He had increasing difficulty acting in, what those around him, considered the present moment, leading to many accusations and even the public perception that he was emotionless and uninterested in human affairs. He did nothing to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, even though he was aware it was going to happen when he met the President. His lack of sentiment was more a matter of radically altered priorities, owing to a colossal, unbridgeable gap of perception between Jon and the rest of humanity.

Jon gradually became a pawn of the United States government. He is given the code name 'Doctor Manhattan', a reference to the Manhattan Project that, it was hoped, would defeat America's enemies. Provided with a costume which he begrudgingly accepted, he refused the symbol they put forward, Jon instead chose a representation of a hydrogen atom as his emblem, whose simplicity he declared to be something that kindled his respect, etching the mark into his forehead. By the end of the 1970s, he refused to wear anything at all except for mandatory public appearances.

However, Jon's presence still succeeded in tipping the balance of the Cold War in the West's favor, and the United States consequently became more aggressive and adventurous. His abilities also radically altered the world economy, as he could synthesize massive amounts of lithium required for all motor vehicles to become electric. At President Richard Nixon's request, he brought America victory in the Vietnam War within three months. This victory distorted the American political process, as the 22nd Amendment was repealed and Nixon was repeatedly reelected.

Crimebusters

During the first meeting of the Crimebusters superhero group, Laurie Juspeczyk, the second Silk Spectre, caught his eye. His relationship with Janey Slater ended acrimoniously shortly after, and he began dating Laurie.

During the execution of Adrian Veidt's plot to save the world, Manhattan was accused of giving cancer to those exposed to him over long periods of time. It emerged that this is untrue, for it was rather a careful fabrication of Veidt's which caused Dr. Manhattan to exile himself to Mars. Eventually, he brought Laurie, who has taken Dan Dreiberg as a new lover, to Mars where they argued over the fate of the human race.

On Mars, Jon explained his belief that life was an overrated phenomena, citing the barren planet as an example of natural, undisturbed beauty as they traveled on his floating glass fortress. Laurie tried to convince him otherwise, but he was not persuaded. Angered at his indifference to Earth's well-being, she demanded he send her home to die with the others. Jon told her that, while she always asks him to see things through the human viewpoint, she had never attempted to see things through his eyes. While attempting this, Laurie realized her father was Edward Blake.

As Laurie wept over this epiphany, Jon explained that he had spent his time trying to define what could be considered a miracle, but neglected to see anything of the sort in human coupling. The odds against two people like her mother and the Comedian coming together to create a child like her, he believed, was the same as turning air into gold. With this revelation, his interest in humanity was restored and the two returned to Earth to stop Veidt's plan.

They arrived too late, however, as Manhattan had already been destroyed by the psychic shock-wave from the squid monster that Veidt teleported to the city. Jon's perception of the future was being blocked by tachyon particles, but he was able to locate the source; Veidt's Antarctic lair. Teleporting there, Jon began to feel more distorted as he drew closer to the tachyon generators' source. He confronted Veidt who tried to run from him. Stalling Manhatten with Bubastis, Adrian threw the switch on an intrinsic field disrupter, blowing both apart.

Veidt's victory seemed certain, but Manhattan materialized outside as a giant, asking Veidt if he actually expected something that could not kill Jon Osterman could kill Doctor Manhattan. Before he could kill Veidt, however, Adrian turned on his wall of televisions in order to show Manhattan that all the countries in the world had ceased conflict, including the United States and Soviet Union, in order to try and understand the "alien attack" on New York. Seeing that his plan did bring about genuine world peace, Manhattan agreed with the others (besides Rorschach) that going public with Veidt's plan was counter productive.

Mahattan confronted the defiant Rorschach, warning him that he could not let him reveal the truth. In tears, Rorschach removed his mask, screaming at Manhattan to do what must be done. He obliged by killing Rorschach. Returning to Karnak, he saw Dan and Laurie together, happy that they had found each other. He appeared before Veidt, informing him that he was leaving for another galaxy.

Rebirth

After the Flash, attempted to revert his universe back to normal after the distortion of Flashpoint, Doctor Manhattan, who was able to view these other-worldly occurrences, interfered with this process by erasing ten years from that would-be reverted universe, creating a new reality as a side-effect. By doing this, Jon caused all the residents of Barry's world to be de-aged by ten years, losing much of their pasts as well.[1]

Manhattan picks up the button.

Manhattan picks up the button.

The Button

It was possible Doctor Manhattan, referred to as "God", vaporized Eobard Thawne after he traveled through the timestream to reach the Button's owner, which had mysteriously appeared in the Batcave after the return of Wally West. Manhattan picked the button off of the ground shortly after killing Thawne.[2]

Powers

  • Nigh-Omnipotence: Manhattan's "intrinsic field" was removed due to an accident that sent his atoms flying, leaving him with barely enough control over his DNA structure. Over time he was able to re-evaluate his physiology and become Doctor Manhattan, a quantum being of nearly unlimited power. He has even been confirmed to be even stronger than Mxyzptlk, and it was Mxyzptlk himself who said this.
    • Bio-Fission: Able to split and replicate his being, this ability was used on himself. He became many different completely sentient versions of himself, each a divided consciousness of Doctor Manhattan.
      • Bio-Fusion: Likewise with his Bio-Fission ability, Jon could bring his sentient copies back into his body without any adverse side effects.
    • Chronokinesis: Limited only to his perception of time, Jon could clearly see his future and past from a third person perspective. Likewise, he could grant others with the "atemporal" vision.
      • Precognition: A product of his Chronokinesis, Jon could see his own future in a theoretical sense. This power was blocked by tachyons.
      • Time-Travel: Jon can travel throughout the timeline at will.[3]
    • Cosmic Awareness: Jon possessed understanding of the workings of the universe on a cosmic scale, and had the ability to oversee other universes as he wished.[1]
    • Energy Construct Creation: It was unknown whether some of the creations he made was the manipulation of matter, molecules or entirely creative quantum energy constructs. He stated he wished to create his own life after manipulating matter on Mars as a sort of test.
    • Energy Projection: Jon didn't need to touch or hold things in order to change their elemental structure, he didn't even need to be solely conscious of his projections.
    • Flight: Manhattan was not restrained by basic physical laws and could levitate.
    • Force Field: Jon was capable of projecting powerful force-fields.[4]
    • Immortality: Never seeming to age, Jon never appeared any older both physically and mentally after his accident. He stated that the world grew older around him.
    • Intangibility: Bullets and blows traveled through Jon, as such, he could allow all objects to pass through him without so much as a reaction. He could extend this ability to others and objects.
      • Phasing: Jon was capable of phasing his body through solid matter.[4]
    • Invulnerability: Jon possessed incredible durability and was practically invulnerable to any physical harm. His durability had allowed him to walk across the sun unharmed.[4]
    • Molecular Reconstruction: Able to restructure himself after the removal of his intrinsic field, Manhattan was not limited to use this reconstruction power only on himself. He had taken apart most inanimate objects and even taken apart human beings as well as reconstructing Martian sand into large glass structures.
      • Disintegration: Jon was capable of using his power to completely disintegrate human beings.[4]
      • Regeneration: Jon could regenerate his entire body from total disintegration (down to the sub-atomic level), endlessly, as long as his consciousness survives.[4] That being said, in the Superman Reborn storyline, Mister Mxyzptlk does confirm that Jonathan is far more powerful than him, so his ability to regenerate may be far more powerful than anticipated.
    • Radiation Production: Jon's body emits some level of ultraviolet radiation.[4]
      • Thermokinesis: When Jon restructured his body he produced great amounts of heat from his body's ultraviolet radiation. It was great enough to give nearby people sunburns.[4]
    • Reality Alteration: After the events of Flashpoint, when Barry Allen attempted to revert his universe back to normal, Jon interfered with this process by erasing ten years from that would-be, reverted universe, creating Prime Earth as a side-effect.[1]
    • Size Alteration: Able to grow or shrink incredibly fast without a seeming limit. He displayed great abilities and focus while at these sizes without a loss of control in any fashion.
    • Superhuman Strength: While in microscopic size, superhuman heights or in a seemingly normal form, he displayed great physical strength such as hurling tanks about, lifting planetary structures and heaving delicate technological equipment about.
    • Telekinesis: Telekinetic in his fabrication of lifting objects he focuses on with his mind, Jon limited himself to only use his mental abilities to multitask as he took apart or reassembled objects and living organisms. He could also make a person's head forcefully explode.[4]
    • Teleportation: Able to remove and reassemble the particles and molecules of any object from one location to another with a single thought. Jon had teleported huge and small objects, people and animals alike.

Abilities

Weaknesses

  • Mental Illness: Without being able to truly feel or embrace things in a virgin perception, Doctor Manhattan had begun to lose his sight of humanity and his sense of humor. He grew bored of the Earth and its inhabitants multiple times. He finally chose to leave Earth after he stated he understood humanity again; signifying his final departure from humanity.
  • Doctor Manhattan was based upon Charlton Comics' Captain Atom, who in Moore's original proposal was surrounded by the shadow of nuclear threat. However, the writer found he could do more with Manhattan as a "kind of a quantum super-hero" than he ever could have with Captain Atom. Moore sought to delve into nuclear physics and quantum physics in constructing the character of Dr. Manhattan. The writer believed that a character living in a quantum universe would not perceive time with a linear perspective, which would influence the character's perception of human affairs. Moore also wanted to avoid creating an emotionless character like Spock from Star Trek, so he sought for Dr. Manhattan to retain "human habits" and to grow away from them and humanity in general. Gibbons had created the blue character Rogue Trooper, and explained he reused the blue skin motif for Doctor Manhattan as it resembles skin tonally, but has a different hue. Moore incorporated the color into the story, and Gibbons noted the rest of the comic's color scheme made Manhattan unique.
  • Moore recalled that he was unsure if DC would allow the creators to depict the character as fully nude, which partially influenced how they portrayed the character. Gibbons wanted to tastefully depict Manhattan's nudity, selecting carefully when full frontal shots would occur and giving him "understated" genitals — like a classical sculpture — so the reader would not initially notice it.
  • In Sam Hamm's unproduced 1989 screenplay for the movie, Adrian Veidt had studied alternate timelines using tachyons, and noted that the human race survived in some of them because Dr. Manhattan never existed (as his creation was a flashpoint in history). And so, he plotted to assassinate Jon in the past before he got killed by the intrinsic field disruptor. To do this, he creates a tachyon bubble showing the day of the experiment, then gets ready to shoot a rifle at Jon through a small opening of the bubble. However, Dr. Manhattan arrives in time to thwart the plot and kill Veidt. Manhattan then decides to enter the past and save his past self from the experiment instead. He enlarges the opening of the tachyon bubble and steps through, then fuses with Jon and becomes a protective husk surrounding him. The experiment destroys Manhattan, and Jon leaves the chamber intact, returning Janey's repaired watch to her. With Dr. Manhattan no longer in existence, the present transforms into a reality closer to ours, with Rorschach, Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre existing as anomalies.
  • In Before Watchmen: Doctor Manhattan Vol 1, Dr. Manhattan tries to directly observe the events leading to his creation. This results in Dr. Manhattan confronting the fact that time is not linear as he had believed but a series of ever branching realities. Among these other realities is one where the Comedian's actions cause the Cuban missile crisis to escalate into nuclear war. However, Dr. Manhattan believes via the concept of Schrodinger's cat that he has somehow broken time and has created these alternative realities and proceeds to wipe them out to where there is just one quantum reality. How this relates to hypertime which seems to exclude the possibility of this happening or the 52, new 52, and reborn Pre-Crisis multiverses is unclear.
  • Allen Adam, the "Quantum Superman" of Earth-4, is in part based on Doctor Manhattan.

Related


Footnotes