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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

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

Early Years

Jonathan Osterman was born in 1929 to a watchmaker. As a child, he planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and practiced diligently on one of his father’s watches. He was sixteen when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Confronted with the undeniable facts of the theory of relativity, his father declared his profession outdated and threw the parts of the watch that Jon was working on out the window. He urged his son to instead pursue a career studying nuclear physics.

Osterman attended Princeton University from 1948 to 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. There he met Janey Slater, a fellow researcher, and they eventually became lovers.

Manhattan Project

In 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. He remembered that he had left the coat inside the test chamber where they conducted the intrinsic field experiments. While he was inside the chamber retrieving it, the door closed, automatically locking as a safety feature. Unable to open the door or override the countdown, his colleagues—save for Janey, who could not bear to see his last moments—could only watch in horror as Jon had his 'intrinsic field' removed. Bathed in the radiant light, he was torn to pieces by the force of the generator. Instantly he was vaporized and was officially declared dead.

Over the following months, Jon's consciousness began to progressively attempt to retake material form. This progression took the form of partial bodily reappearances, first as a disembodied nervous system, including the brain and eyes, then as a circulatory system, and later as a partially muscled skeleton. Each time the appearance only lasted for a few seconds. Finally, he 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 was aware of and experiencing all the moments of his life simultaneously. He was not omniscient, as he remained reliant on his intellect and sensory experiences to reach conclusions, but his range of sensory data had been abruptly extended. This was in proportion to a 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 him and the rest of humanity.

He gradually became a pawn of the United States government. He was given the code name "Doctor Manhattan", a reference to the Manhattan Project, the wartime research project that had developed the atomic bomb. He begrudgingly accepted the costume, a one-piece bodysuit and skullcap, that they provided. But he refused to use the symbol they put on the skullcap as his emblem, instead choosing a representation of a hydrogen atom. Discarding the headpiece and etching the mark on his forehead, he declared that the simplicity of an atomic nucleus with a single electron in orbit was something that kindled his respect. As the years passed, he slowly reduced the size of the bodysuit until, by the end of the 1970s, he refused to wear anything at all, except for mandatory public appearances.

However, his 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, for example, synthesize the massive amounts of lithium required for all motor vehicles to become electric. At the request of President Richard Nixon, 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 re-elected.

Crimebusters

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

During the execution of Adrian Veidt's plot to save the world, Jon was accused of having given cancer to those who were exposed to him over long periods of time. It emerged that this was untrue and that it was actually a careful fabrication of Veidt's to cause Doctor Manhattan to exile himself to Mars. Eventually, he brought Laurie there, where they argued over the fate of the human race.

As they traveled above Mars in his floating glass fortress, he explained his belief that life was an overrated phenomenon, citing the barren planet as an example of natural, undisturbed beauty. 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. He 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 as he allowed her to perceive her entire life all at one time, she realized her father was Edward Blake.

As she 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 he returned them 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. His perception of the future was being blocked by tachyon particles, but he was able to locate the source, Veidt's Antarctic lair. Teleporting there, he began to feel more distorted as he drew closer to the tachyon generators' source. He confronted Veidt, who tried to run from him. Stalling him with Bubastis, Veidt threw the switch on an intrinsic field disrupter, blowing both his pet and Jon apart.

Veidt's victory seemed certain, but Jon 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, Veidt turned on his wall of televisions in order to show Jon that all the countries in the world, including the United States and Soviet Union, had ceased conflict. They were doing this in order to try and understand the "alien attack" on New York. Seeing that his plan had brought about genuine world peace, Jon agreed with the others, aside from Rorschach, that going public with Veidt's plan was counterproductive.

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

Rebirth

Jon observed the Flash as he attempted to restore his own universe and undo the temporal distortion caused by Flashpoint. Jon interfered with this by erasing ten years of the restored universe’s timeline and in effect creating a new reality. This left the residents of the Flash’s reality ten years younger and caused them to lose much of their past.[1] Jon also rescued Jor-El from the destruction of Krypton, setting him up as Mister Oz to watch his son’s life on Earth. Jon’s intent was for Jor-El to second-guess his decision to send Kal-El to Earth.

Manhattan picks up the button.

Manhattan picks up the button.

The Button

The Comedian’s button appeared in the Batcave after Wally West returned to the timeline. While Batman was analyzing it, the Reverse-Flash attacked him in the cave and took the button. Using it as a beacon, the Reverse-Flash set out through the timestream to find its owner, whom he referred to as "God". He returned to the cave with half his body reduced to burnt muscle and bone, dying on arrival. Jon then retrieved the button from the ground where it had fallen.[2]

Doomsday Clock

Within years after Jon's departure from his world, it had become pure chaos. Veidt became desperate and attempted to find Jon, believing only he could bring order back to the world.[3] To this end, Veidt used quantum tunneling to follow Jon into the Flash’s universe.[4] After arriving, he discovered that Jon had teleported Eddie Blake to this universe just before he had died at Veidt’s hand in their home reality.[5]

Powers

  • Nigh-Omnipotence: Jon'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.
    • Bio-Fission: Able to split and replicate his being, this ability was used on himself. He becomes many different completely sentient versions of himself, each a divided consciousness of Doctor Manhattan.
      • Bio-Fusion: Likewise with his Bio-Fission ability, Jon can bring his sentient copies back into his body without any adverse side effects.
    • Chronokinesis: Limited only to his perception of time, Jon can clearly see his future and past from a third-person perspective. Likewise, he can grant others with this "atemporal" vision.
      • Precognition: A product of his chronokinesis, Jon can see his own future in a theoretical sense; however, this power can be blocked by tachyons.
      • Time-Travel: Jon can travel throughout the timeline at will.[6]
    • Cosmic Awareness: Jon possesses an understanding of the workings of the universe on a cosmic scale, and has the ability to oversee other universes as he wishes.[1]
    • Dimensional Travel: Jonathan is able to travel to other realities.[7]
    • Electrokinesis: Jon can generate sparks of electrical energy from his body, as well as from the objects he telekinetically levitates.[7]
    • Enhanced Senses: Jon's senses are far acuter than any normal human. He has perceived events so tiny and so fast they can hardly be said to have occurred at all.[8] He has also been able to sense the heartbeat of a child inside of an unnoticeably pregnant woman.[7]
    • Energy Construct Creation: It is unknown whether some of the creations he made were the manipulation of matter, molecules, or entirely 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 doesn't need to touch or hold things in order to change their elemental structure; he doesn't even need to be solely conscious of his projections.
    • Flight: Manhattan is not restrained by basic physical laws and can levitate.
    • Force Field: Jon is capable of projecting powerful force-fields.[9]
    • Immortality: Never seeming to age, Jon never appears any older both physically and mentally after his accident. He stated that the world grew older around him.
    • Intangibility: Bullets and blows travel through Jon; as such, he can allow all objects to pass through him without so much as a reaction. He can extend this ability to other people and objects.
      • Phasing: Jon is capable of phasing his body through solid matter.[9]
    • Invulnerability: Jon possesses incredible durability and is practically invulnerable to any physical harm. His durability has allowed him to walk across the sun unharmed.[9]
    • Molecular Reconstruction: Able to restructure himself after the removal of his intrinsic field, Manhattan is not limited to using this reconstruction power only on himself. He has taken apart most inanimate objects and even taken apart human beings as well as reconstructing Martian sand into large glass structures.
      • Disintegration: Jon is capable of using his power to completely disintegrate human beings.[9]
      • Regeneration: Jon can regenerate his entire body from total disintegration (down to the sub-atomic level), endlessly, as long as his consciousness survives.[9] That being said, Mister Mxyzptlk has stated that Jonathan is far more powerful than him,[10] so his ability to regenerate may be far more powerful than anticipated.
    • Radiation Production: Jon's body emits some level of ultraviolet radiation.[9]
      • 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.[9]
    • Reality Alteration: Jon states he can create new universes with even the most casual act, as well as destroy them.[11] 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]
    • Self-Sustenance: Jon doesn't require food or sleep.[9]
    • 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, 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.[9]
    • Teleportation: By warping space around him, Jon can teleport himself and others at will. Jon had teleported huge and small objects, people and animals alike.[11]

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 writer Alan 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 Doctor 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 Doctor Manhattan to retain "human habits" and to grow away from them and humanity in general. Artist Dave 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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 Doctor 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 in the bubble. However, Doctor 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 Doctor Manhattan no longer in existence, the present transforms into a reality closer to ours, with Rorschach, Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre existing as anomalies.[citation needed]
  • In Before Watchmen: Doctor Manhattan, Doctor Manhattan tries to directly observe the events leading to his creation. This results in Doctor 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, Doctor 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.

In the film adaption, Doctor Manhattan is a CGI character with voice, motion capture, and facial performance provided by Billy Crudup. At the end of the film, Doctor Manhattan received blame for the destruction of Earth's major cities through Adrian Veidt's machination with exploding energy reactors he helped Dr. Manhattan create under the pretense of providing free energy for the world, allowing the United States and the U.S.S.R. to ally against Manhattan, their "common enemy".

Related


Footnotes