Jon Osterman: 1929 - 1987
Doctor Manhattan was born Jonathan Osterman in 1929 in Germany. His father was a watchmaker, and Jon planned to follow in his footsteps. One of his first memories was when he was 9 years old and his father gave him a complicated clock as a birthday present in order to teach him that time has weight and power.
In 1939, his family decided to secretly leave Germany before the Nazi party could apprehend his Jewish mother. Jon was hidden inside a box for market goods, but before their wagon reached the border, they were stopped. Jon's mother ran away in order to distract the soldiers from searching the wagon, giving time for his father to kill the two guards while distracted, but Inge Osterman was killed in the process. Josef and Jon reached New York, with Josef finding work as a watchmaker's assistant.
When the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Jon was sixteen and still living with his father in Brooklyn. The morning after the bomb drop, Jon was studying the pocketwatch belonging to his father in their kitchen, while training to become a watchmaker himself. Josef, confronted with the undeniable fact of the theory of relativity and the advance of military science, declared his profession outdated and began throwing the clocks out the apartment windows. Josef urged Jon to pursue a career studying atomic science instead. This incident would become the first major turning point in Jon's eventful life.
Jon Osterman attended Princeton University from 1948 to 1958 where he watched Albert Einstein in a lecture. Always fascinated with clocks, Jon had the reputation among his fellow students that he was too stuffy, narrow in his interests, and casually ignored him in their activities. He graduated with a Ph.D. in atomic physics and in early 1959, moved to a research base at Gila Flats, where experiments were being performed concerning the 'intrinsic fields' of physical objects which, if tampered with, result in their disintegration. Here he befriended Wally Weaver and met Janey Slater, a fellow researcher, who eventually became his lover for a number of years.
During a trip to New Jersey, in July of 1959, Jon and Janey spent time in the Palisades Amusement Park. A photographer called them over and took a souvenir picture. Near the shooting gallery, Janey's watchband broke, dropping her watch to the ground where a passing man stepped on it. Jon promised Janey he could fix it. One month later, on August 20, 1959, Jon planned to give Janey the repaired watch as a gift. When he had a chance to give it to her, he realized he had left it in his lab coat inside the intrinsic field experiment test chamber. When Jon stepped inside the test chamber to retrieving his coat, the door closed, automatically locking as a safety feature in preparation to disintegrate test block 15. Unable to open the door or override the countdown, Osterman's colleagues can only watch, horrified, as the countdown for the current experiment shortly reached zero, with Janey fleeing the observation room, unable to bear the sight of Jon's final moment. When the test chamber ignited, Jon instantly had his intrinsic field removed and a second later he was bathed in a radiant light as he was torn to pieces from the force of the generator, instantly vaporized.
Soon after the accident, Dr. Milton Glass attempted to reverse the intrinsic field generators in an attempt to recreate him but this failed. He then announced the news to Jon's father and a token funeral was made in Jon's honor, Janey leaving the photo for him.
The following months saw a series of strange events and apparitions at the research base, leading residents to speculate the area was now haunted. In truth, Jon's consciousness had survived as an electromagnetic pattern and learned to control the particles, using them to reform himself as much the same as he had reassembled a watch. This progression being indicated by a series of partial bodily reappearances: first as a disembodied nervous system, including the brain and eyes; then as a circulatory system months later; then a screaming partially muscled skeleton days after that. Each time, the appearance only lasted for a few seconds. Until November 22, 1959 when Jon fully reappeared in the Gila Flats cafeteria as a tall, hairless, naked, blue-skinned idealized form of himself.
His relationship with Janey proceeded despite her feelings that everything had changed. On the next Christmas, she bought him a golden ring and Jon admired its molecular structure. Janey expressed her concerns and told Jon she was scared. Jon quieted her, promising that he would always love her, although he knew that was a lie.
In 1960, the government entered the process in making Jon into a "costumed adventurer" or Watchman. They prepared him a suit as well as a name reminiscent of the Manhattan Project for their enemies. Dr. Manhattan didn't like the association with the atomic symbol and rather chose to mark his forehead with the symbol of the hydrogen atom. He was even filmed for a press release showing him performing tasks like telekinetically dismantling a rifle, destroying and rebuilding a Patton tank, and teleporting incredible distances. Milton Glass declared "God exists... and he is American," but the press cleaned that up to "Superman exists and he is American."
After his public debut, Doctor Manhattan offered Indian president Rajendra Prasad to fix the famine problem in his country by altering the nitrogen content of India's topsoil, resulting in a more fertile land, but the president couldn't comprehend what Jon was saying and declined the offer. Instead, Dr. Manhattan attended a fundraising event with other costumed adventurers, both old and new. It was here that Manhattan met the aging Comedian, the first Nite Owl, and many others. But by far, he was most interested in Ozymandias, the supposed smartest person on Earth.
Later that year, the Pentagon sent Manhattan to fight Moloch as a press event to justify his name as a "crimefighter". He entered Dante's, Moloch's vice den, and effortlessly made the head of a gangster explode, much to the shock of his handlers and the reporters.
Accompanied by Milton Glass, Jon met President John F. Kennedy in '61, who asked him what it was like to be the nation's hero. Jon jokingly answered that JFK should know already. Manhattan knew that the presidents was having problems with Cuba but still didn't ask for Jon's help.
Jon attended a banquet in honor of Hollis Mason who decided to retire from being Nite Owl. In a private dialogue, he shared with Jon his plans to become a car technician. From this conversation, Jon got the idea to synthesize the massive amounts of lithium required for polyacetylene batteries, allowing even more motor vehicles to become electric. It was then that Jon realized his actions had the potential to radically alter the world economy and technology. Jon saw that his presence tipped the balance of the Cold War decidedly in the West's favor, and the government realized this as well, consequently becoming more aggressive.
Supposedly Jon predicted but "failed" to prevent the murder of John F. Kennedy, out of a severe apathetic regard for humanity at the time. Around that same time his relationship with Janey had become strained. The government handlers took note of this and decided that Jon's emotional state had become a national security interest.
In 1966, Dr. Manhattan was summoned by Captain Metropolis for the first meeting of the Crimebusters group and Slater came with him. Laurie Juspeczyk, the second Silk Spectre, caught Jon's eye, something that was noticed by Janey. Metropolis pulled lots to assign them to pairs, which further enraged Janey, blaming Jon for altering the result to team-up with her, although Jon claimed that in this quantum reality he was always to be paired with her. This didn't stop him from patrolling with her and soon they came close. Learning this, Janey left him bitterly and Jon and Laurie engaged in a romantic relationship.
A few years later, Josef Osterman died and Manhattan decided to make his birth name public, even though it was considered by the government to be top secret information. Soon after this, Gila Flats closed and Jon moved with Laurie to Washington DC. At President Richard Nixon's request, Jon brought America to victory in the Vietnam war within three months, working with the Comedian. Many Viet Cong surrendered personally to Jon in superstitious awe. On the victory celebrations, Jon was witness to the Comedian killing a Vietnamese woman he had impregnated. The Comedian noted that Jon was losing touch with humanity, evidenced by the fact that Manhattan didn't save the woman's life.
This victory in Vietnam shaped the American political process, with Nixon's approval rating skyrocketing. Critics however suggested that, far from solving the problems underlying the international tension, Doctor Manhattan's presence in fact exacerbated these issues while stifling their expression, which inevitably builds towards disaster. This same sentiment is shared in Milton Glass' book 'Dr. Manhattan: Super Powers and the Superpowers'.
In 1973, Jon accompanied Laurie at a banquet to honor the Comedian. There Laurie assaulted a drunken Comedian for attempting to rape her mother. Jon became angry at her behavior and he teleported her home.
During the 1970s there were riots against the Watchmen. Manhattan with Laurie attempted to quiet the unrest in Washington. Laurie attempted to hold ringleaders from the crowd outside the White House. This seemed to go on too long and Manhattan teleported everyone to their homes; 2 of them died of a heart attack, although Manhattan believed that more would die during the riots. Eventually an emergency bill passed outlawing the costumed adventurers, but as the country's defense rested in Manhattan's hands, he continued working for the government; as did the Comedian, who had specific government sanction.
In 1981, Jon moved to Rockefeller Military Research Center where he performed research and construction of new technology. Laurie was assigned with him, whose job was (in her mother's crude words) "to get the H-bomb laid every once in a while".
In 1983, Manhattan intervened at a government bank being robbed by Marcos Maez (aka: the "Mime") and Erika Manson (aka: the "Marionette"). Surprised by Manhattan's first display of crimefighting in a number of years, Mime defied Manhattan's orders to surrender in a wordless stand-off, but before Manhattan could eviscerate him, Marionette stepped in the way, declaring he'd have to kill her first. Seeing the future of Marionette's second child, who would not be conceived for another 7 years, Manhattan quietly dropped his hand and withdrew, allowing the two to be captured by the authorities.
Dr. Manhattan: 1987 - Present
- Intrinsic Manipulation: 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. Mr. Mxyzptlk, a near-omnipotent being in his own right, has stated that Manhattan's power far exceeds his own.
- 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 past and perfectly relive moments in time in an instant. Likewise, he can grant others the ability to instantly "relive" specific moments of their past, doing such allows Jon to experience these moments from their perspective as well.
- Precognition: A product of his chronokinesis, Jon can see his own future in a "theoretical sense"; however, this power can be blocked by tachyons. While Jon often considers this ability to be infallible, it is worth noting he has been wrong before. He has, on rare occasion, referred to this as studying a tapestry.
- Cosmic Awareness: Jon possesses an understanding of the workings of the universe on a cosmic scale, and has the ability to oversee other dimensional planes as he wishes.
- Dimensional Travel: Jon is able to travel to other planes of existence.
- Electrokinesis: Jon can generate sparks of electrical energy from his body, as well as from the objects he telekinetically levitates.
- Enhanced Senses: Jon's senses are far more acute than any normal human. He has perceived events so tiny and so fast they can hardly be said to have occurred at all. He has also been able to sense the heartbeat of a child inside of an unnoticeably pregnant woman.
- 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 the moon as a sort of test.
- Energy Projection: Jon is able to manipulate multiple forms of energy with precision.
- Flight: Manhattan is not restrained by basic physical laws and can levitate.
- Force Field: Jon is capable of projecting powerful force-fields.
- 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.
- Invulnerability: Jon possesses incredible durability and is practically invulnerable to any physical harm. His durability has allowed him to walk across the sun unharmed.
- 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 moon dust into large glass structures.
- Disintegration: Jon is capable of using his power to completely disintegrate human beings.
- Regeneration: Jon can regenerate his entire body from total disintegration (down to the sub-atomic level), endlessly, as long as his consciousness survives.
- Radiation Production: Jon's body emits some level of ultraviolet radiation. He can cease this with focus.
- 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.
- Self-Sustenance: Jon doesn't require food or sleep.
- 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.
- Teleportation: By warping space around him, Jon can teleport himself and others at will. Jon has teleported huge and small objects, people and animals alike.
- Detachment: Without being able to truly feel or embrace things in typical human 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.
- Tachyons: Veidt correctly assumed a large burst of tachyons can interfere with his ability to see the future to a moderate extent, but still his other powers were mostly unaffected.
- Electromagnetic Pulse: Although it was not seen in practice, Dr. Manhattan surmised that an EM pulse would cause such "static" that it could obscure the future, hinting at another possible weakness.
Trivia and Notes
- On July 20th 1969, Dr. Manhattan photographed Neil Armstrong's "small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
- Jon Osterman is a character from the Watchmen comic.
- His background before becoming Dr. Manhattan is a nod to Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan.
- Dr. Manhattan photographing Neil Armstrong is a nod to the Watchmen movie.