Watchmen Profile: Dr. Manhattan

03.05.09 9 years ago

Warner Bros.

With Zack Snyder’s big screen adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic graphic novel “Watchmen” finally hitting theaters, HitFix is taking a look at the major characters of the beloved opus.  And with a nod to another comic publication that debuted in the same era, “The Official Handbook” of that other comic book company, we continue with the most powerful being in the “Watchmen” universe: Dr. Manhattan.


Real Name: Jon Osterman

Born: 1929

Identity/Class: Human (well, formerly)

Occupation: Scientist with Ph.D. in atom physics

Group Membership: Crimbebusters, aka Watchmen (disbanded)

Enemies: the Vietcong, Soviet Communist Bloc

Known Relatives: Jenny Slater (former longtime companion)

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: Research base at Gia Flats, Rockefeller Military Research Center

Powers/Abilities: Dr. Manhattan has seemingly limitless powers because of his control over atomic and subatomic particles.  These abilities include teleportation, invulnerability, telekinesis, to change his body’s size, coloration, density and strength. Because of a non-linear perception of time, Dr. Manhattan can also see the future.  Tachyons seem to be his only vulnerability as a concentrated amount can blur his ability to see the future.

History: Jon Osterman was the sone of a watchmaker who always intended to follow in his father’s footsteps, but when the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, his father insists he become a nuclear physicist and his destiny is changed. 

After graduating from Princeton University, Osterman gains a position at a research base at Gia Flatts where he experiments with the intrinsic fields of physical objects.  During this time, he meets another researcher, Janey Slater, and they become romantically involved.  In August, 1959, Osterman accidentally becomes trapped in an intrinsic field test chamber.  Unable to override the countdown, Osterman is vaporized when the generator removes his personal intrinsic field. He is declared dead.  Over the following months, strange events begin to occur at the research base and local residents begin to speculate it is haunted.  Instead, it is Osterman slowly beginning to reform himself.  By November 22, 1959, Osterman completely reforms as a naked and seemingly perfect, blue-skinned man.

Declared a true “superman,” Osterman now has the ability to control atoms which provides him numerous powers.  He is soon recruited by the U.S. government and becomes a pawn in the burgeoning cold war between the West and the Soviet Union’s communist bloc.  Given the code name Dr. Manhattan, Osterman joins the ranks of the period’s second generation of costumed superheroes, although its unclear how much crime fighting he actually conducted besides appearing at the first and last meeting of the ill-fated Crimebusters superhero organization.  Instead, President Nixon convinces Dr. Manhattan to intervene in the Vietnam War and, amazingly, the Vietcong surrender within three months due to Manhattan’s god-like powers.

In the intervening years before the events in “Watchmen,” an increasingly detached Osterman has used his powers, along with the brilliant Arian Veidt, to provide the Western world numerous advancements in technology and finding new forms of energy.  He also ends his relationship with Janey and fosters a new union with Laurie Juspeczyk, better known as the second Silk Spectre.

Check out the tragic origins of Dr. Manhattan:

Find out more by reading our previous “Watchmen” profiles:

Saturday: Silk Spectre II
Sunday:  Ozymandias
Monday: Nite Owl II
Tuesday: The Comedian
Thursday: Rorschach

Read Drew McWeeny’s Motion/Captured review of “Watchmen” here.

Find out more about the DVD “Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter.”
Find out more about the DVD “Watchmen: Motion Comics.”
Find out more about the “Watchmen” Movie Soundtrack.

Enter for a chance to win 3 Exclusive “Watchmen” Books here.

“Watchmen” opens nationwide and on IMAX on March 6.

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