365 Reasons to Love Comics #92
Doctor Week concludes here with Day Nine. They say no man is an island, but… this one is. Not in the necessary literal sense, but… hell, I don’t know. My hints suck. Regardless, this character is great. And if I really wanted to give it away, I’d just tell you that, yes, there is dudity in this post. Dudity! Fear the dudity!
92. Doctor Manhattan
I warned you. I only inflicted you to the horrors of MS Paint so that you at work have the chance to click away, because the rest aren’t censored. If you want to see the heat ol’ Doc’s packin’, click on the picture.
You know, it was really difficult choosing which images to use in order to represent the character of Dr. Manhattan. I was this close to posting scans of almost all of Watchmen #4. I managed to control myself, however, and so you’ll just get a couple of quick images, with a few pages tacked onto the end because it’s my absolute favorite bit from the entire work.
Watchmen is my second-favorite comic book ever, and probably the greatest achievement in all of comics. I know, some say it’s overrated, but… no. It’s not. When it appears on Oprah’s Book Club, then it will be overrated. This column is not about the work, however (by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, but I’m sure you know this), but rather the singular character of Dr. Manhattan, a.k.a. Jon Osterman.
For the entire bio, you can check the Wiki. I just want to hit the important bits. Manhattan is a take on Captain Atom, only taken to an extreme. The scientist Osterman is accidentally destroyed in an experiment gone wrong but manages to rebuild himself through sheer force of will into some kind of godlike being that becomes known as Dr. Manhattan, after the Manhattan project. His new powers are almost limitless; while not omniscient, he can see throughout time and travel throughout all space, control the atomic structure of just about anything, including himself, and basically do whatever he wants.
Manhattan’s character arc is beautiful. His backstory reveals his upbringing and life as a human before the accident, and how his entire life falls apart afterward. Because of his new powers and status, he becomes more and more detached from humanity, evidenced by his ever-dwindling wardrobe until, by the present day, he walks around completely naked. His worldview is decidedly fatalistic; he exhibits no control over causality, and yet his very existence has changed the world around him, producing electric cars and so forth, and changing superhero culture. There’s a reason he’s the only character in Watchmen to display superpowers.
I suppose you could easily compare him to Billy Pilgrim from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. “Doctor Manhattan has become unstuck in time.”
Because of this, Manhattan basically gives up on humanity. In the big picture, humanity is small and insignificant, and Manhattan has better things to do with his time. However, one woman can change his mind on that. Dr. Manhattan can learn the glory of humanity and regain his emotions. It’s the character of Laurie Juspeczyk, the former Silk Spectre, and Manhattan’s former lover, who helps teach him this lesson.
So they’re on Mars, right? And Laurie figures out a hidden secret about her life which almost completely destroys her. It is in this, however, that Manhattan realizes he still gives a damn about humanity, and which compels him to enter into the conclusion of the novel. It’s my favorite moment in the series, so I’m going to reproduce the three pages here. Click on them to grow them to gigantic, Apache Chief size; the files are probably huge, so I apologize if you’ve got a slow connection.
Beautiful. Alan Moore makes me ashamed to call myself a writer.
In the end, Manhattan regains his faith in humanity, though events on Earth cause him to no longer have a place there. He figures he’s better off elsewhere, and takes off… perhaps, he says, to create some life.
He’s absolutely fascinating, and yet I don’t even think he’s the most interesting character in the novel. It’s a helluva book. If you haven’t read it– do so. If you did and you didn’t like it– read it again. It’s better the second time.
That’s the end of Doctor Week. Tomorrow, we start the next huge event. It is so awesome, it may SHAKE THE VERY HEAVENS. Moohoohahahahahaha!