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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!

4/2/07

92. Doctor Manhattan

Dr Manhattan 4.JPG

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.

Dr Manhattan 1.JPG

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.

Dr Manhattan 2.JPG

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.

Watchmen 09 26.jpgWatchmen 09 27.JPGWatchmen 09 28.JPG

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!

15 Comments

hifidigitalboy

April 2, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Ummm… did I miss something or was Dr. Fate severely overlooked? Please tell me you are going to talk about him sometime this year.

You probably wrote this already a million times but if Watchmen is your second favorite comic, what’s your first?

Did I miss Doctor Doom or something? Was he already done before Doctor week? That is the only answer not to have included him.

I think Dr. Doom has been irrepably damaged by the Fantastic Four movie, to the point where he is no longer so cool and menacing.

You probably wrote this already a million times but if Watchmen is your second favorite comic, what’s your first?

Flex Mentallo! Woo.

As for Doom and Fate: Really, I just don’t think they’re that cool. I’d rather see a list populated with fun characters like Dr. 13 and Dr. Bong than overrated and obvious ones like Doom and Fate. Sorry.

Part of writing this column, however, is finding the awesomeness in a concept that may go overlooked, however… so there’s always a chance they’ll show up later. There are 273 days left. Or so. I can’t count.

Huzzah, Bill! Those three pages of Watchmen are my favorite sequence, too. I once made color xeroxes of them and had them mounted for a friend as a present. I’m not convinced she really appreciated it, but what the hell.

I’m a little concerned about the Watchmen movie … But crossing my fingers …

I think Dr. Doom can be squeezed into one of the remaining 273 days, especially when the new F4 movie gets released. I picked up a copy of Stan Lee Meets Doctor Doom over the weekend, and the reprint story was damn good. Venoms may come and go, but Doom’s practically immortal.

Getting back on topic…I’m ashamed that I didn’t think of Jon. And I don’t think “Everybody Wang Chung tonight!” was needed…for the first superman in his universe, Dr. Manhattan wasn’t really that well endowed.

All the times I’ve read and reread Watchmen, and stared at the gorgeousness of issue 4, and sat slack-jawed at all the internal references and allusions and formal symmetries of the whole series, and I’ve never before noticed the Comedian smiley-face carved into the Martian landscape. Damn.

He’s absolutely fascinating, and yet I don’t even think he’s the most interesting character in the novel.

That’s what made Watchmen so good – every character is really interesting. My favorite scene in the book is where he confronts Rorschach at the end and Rorschach tears off his mask – love both those characters.

I’ve seen more than one person say that Watchmen is both the best comic book ever, and the worst thing to happen to comics. Fortunately, we seem to have gotten past the every-writer-tries-to-be-Alan-Moore phase, and we can just enjoy Watchmen for what it is – a brilliant book.

“Fortunately, we seem to have gotten past the every-writer-tries-to-be-Alan-Moore phase,”

Oh, if only this were true.

I’ve only just discovered Watchmen (and hell, Alan Moore) this year.

Perhaps some of the best comics work ever.

-M

I think the problem was typically more everyone trying to be Miller than everyone trying to be Moore. Moore gets lumped in as part of the origin of G&G because of the first, Rorshach-narrated, issue, and the later Rorshach-in-prison issue. But Watchmen had lots of different tones and points of view, and Nite-Owl and Laurie are more straightforwardly the protagonists than Rorshach is.

A lot of 90s Vertigo consisted of Moore-wannabes, but that was mixed in with Gaiman-wannabes and other stuff too, and didn’t ever seem to me like a terrible problem the way G&G did.

“Moore gets lumped in as part of the origin of G&G because of the first, Rorshach-narrated, issue, and the later Rorshach-in-prison issue.”

I don’t know, ‘The Killing Joke’ is kinda gritty too.

And also ‘Miracleman’.

Moore was attempting superhero deconstruction, and back in the 80′s that was a novel approach. Also, the man is (and was) a talent of epic proportions. When you combine those two things, you’re going to get all sorts of acclaim and imitators. Sadly, there are a lot of people in comics who still think it’s clever to deconstruct heroes twenty years later, not to mention few of them have anything resembling Alan Moore’s talent. So what you end up with is a mess of neurotic heroes existing in nihilistic stories that are just as bad as the one-dimensional hero vs. villain stories they claim to be so much smarter than.

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