"In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends."

—Dr. Manhattan's final words to Veidt

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.

Due to an accident involving a nuclear physics experiment, Osterman was taken outside the physical realm and returned with god-like powers, including telekinetic control over matter down to a subatomic level, the ability to teleport himself or others over planetary, and interplanetary distances, and superhuman physical prowess that he can consciously augment further, to the point of gaining superhuman strength and invulnerability. Furthermore, he possesses near-total clairvoyance, allowing him to perceive the past, present, and future as happening simultaneously, but at least believes that he cannot act on that knowledge since his own actions and reactions to chronological events are apparently predetermined.

While his military backers market him as a superhero, he grows increasingly disinterested in human affairs, despite his importance in the Cold War, and is unable to connect with others.


Early Life

Watchmaker's Son

Young Jon Osterman and father

Jonathan Osterman was born on August 14, 1929 in Germany. His father, Josef, was a watchmaker, and Jon planned to follow in his footsteps. One of his first memories was when he was nine 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.[1]

Escaping Germany

In 1939 the Osterman family decided to secretly leave Germany before they apprehended his Jewish mother. Jon was hidden inside a box for market goods, but before their wagon reached the border, they were stopped by Nazis. Jon's mother ran away in order to distract the soldiers from searching the wagon, giving ample time for his father to kill both of them, but she was killed in the process. They reached New York and Josef worked for a watchmaker.[2]

Pursuing Nuclear Physics

Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

Young Jon Osterman

When the United States drops the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Jon is sixteen and lives with his father in Brooklyn. The summer morning after the event he was studying the pocket watch belonging to his father in their kitchen, presumably in training to take his profession. His father, confronted with the undeniable facts of the theory of relativity and the advance of military science, declares his profession outdated and throws the clocks out the windows, urging him to instead pursue a career studying atomic science.[3] The incident represents the turning point in Jon's potential future and foreshadows Doctor Manhattan's 'exterior' perception of time as predetermined and all things within it as so determined, including Doctor Manhattan's own reactions and emotions.

Princeton University

Osterman attended Princeton University from 1948-58 where he watched Albert Einstein in a lecture.[3] Always fascinated with clocks, he had the reputation among his fellow students that he was too stuffy and narrow and casually ignored him in their activities. Nonetheless, an attractive girl was interested in him and once she attempted to invite him to hike down the lake with the others, hoping to offer him a chance to be surprised by life. Jon, however, preferred to finish his job.[1] Despite his stuffiness, however, he forms friendships with several students from New Jersey.

As a PhD student, Osterman chose to do his dissertation on the neutrino theory of light involving C waves. Once completed, he submitted his doctoral dissertation to Dr. Michael Florence, the chairman of Princeton University's Department of Physics. On May 6, 1958, Osterman is informed by Florence that his dissertation was accepted by the department.

Career at Gila Flats

Osterman graduates and is awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy in Nuclear Physics. Upon graduating he is invited by Dr. Milton Glass, who read his doctoral thesis at Princeton, to visit New Mexico's Gila Flats Test Base. Glass hired Osterman to replace Hank Meadows to come work at Gila Flats as a project researcher in the facility's Weapons Testing Center, 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 buys him a beer; they eventually become lovers.[3]

Jon Osterman and Janey Slater

During a trip to New Jersey to see his friends in July 1959, Janey accompanies him to see her mother. She doesn't answer the phone so they spent time in the Palisades Amusement Park. Thinking they are a couple, a photographer calls them over and takes a souvenir picture. Near the shooting gallery, Janey's watchband breaks, and the watch is damaged when a fat man[4] steps on it. That night Janey's mother still doesn't answer so they spend the evening in Jon's hotel. They sit in the bed examining the broken watch promising he can fix it. Then they make love.[3]

One month later, on August 20, 1959, shortly after his thirtieth birthday, Jon plans to give Janey the repaired watch, only to discover he has left it in his lab coat which is inside the intrinsic field experiment test chamber. While Jon is inside the test chamber retrieving his coat the door closes, 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 - save for Janey, who cannot bear to see the last moment and flees the room - can only watch, horrified, as the countdown for the current experiment shortly reaches zero, and Jon has his 'intrinsic field' removed. Bathed in the radiant light, he is torn to pieces from the force of the generator, instantly vaporized and officially declared dead.[3]

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 his father. A token funeral is made in his honor and Janey put their photo behind the glass of the Bestiary.[1][3]


Jon Osterman's appearance during his transformation

The following months see a series of strange events and apparitions at the research base, leading residents to speculate the area is now haunted. It becomes plain that Jon's consciousness has survived as an electromagnetic pattern and learned to control the particles and used them to reform himself as if he reassembled a watch.[5][3] 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 (November 10); then a screaming partially muscled skeleton (November 14). Each time, the appearance only lasts for a few seconds.[3]

Jon fully reappears on November 22, 1959[6] in the Gila Flats cafeteria; a whistling sound is heard, cutlery is sparkling and he appears as a tall, hairless, naked, blue-skinned figure in an ultraviolet light that caused sunburn to those present.[3]

His relationship with Janey proceeded although she felt that everything changed around them. The following Christmas she bought him a golden ring and Jon admired its molecular structure. Janey expressed her concerns and that she was scared. Jon quieted her promising that he will always love her, although he knew it would change.[3]

The next year the government entered the process in making him a Costumed adventurer and prepared a suit and hat for him 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.

Effect on the Cold War

A new symbol

Jon gradually becomes a pawn of the United States government, though the means by which his loyalty is secured are never revealed; he is given the code name 'Doctor Manhattan', a reference to the Manhattan Project that, it is hoped, will defeat America's enemies. He is also provided with a costume that he grudgingly accepts, though he refuses to accept the icon design which is provided for him (this being a stylized orbital model of the atom). Instead, Jon chooses as his emblem a representation of a hydrogen atom, whose simplicity he declares to be something that kindles his respect; accordingly, he painlessly burns the mark into his forehead.

He was filmed dismantling a rifle, destroying a Patton tank and announced in public. He was considered the "Dawn of super-hero".[7][3]

Doctor Manhattan photographs Neil Armstrong on the occasion of the Apollo moon landings, July 20th 1969.

In 1960 he offered Indian president Rajendra Prasad to fix the famine problem in his country by altering the nitrogen content of India's topsoil, resulting in more fertile land, but he couldn't understand. Instead, Dr. Manhattan attended a fundraising event with other former costumed adventurers.[1] There he met aging Hollis Mason (aka Nite Owl) and Ozymandias, the smartest person on earth, the only person he found interesting enough.[3]

Later that year, the Pentagon sent him to fight Moloch to justify his name as a "crimefighter". He entered Dante's, Moloch's vice den, and made the head of a gangster explode.[3]

Accompanied by Milton Glass, he met President John F. Kennedy in '61, who asked him how it is like to be a super-hero. Jon jokingly answered that JFK should know already. JFK had problems with Cuba but didn't ask for his help.[3]

The next year he attended a banquet in honor of Hollis Mason who decided to retire from being Nite Owl. In a private dialogue, he shares with Jon his plans to become an auto mechanic. From that he got the idea to synthesize the massive amounts of lithium required for polyacetylene batteries, allowing all motor vehicles to become electric. His actions radically altered the world economy and technology and his presence tips the balance of the Cold War in the West's favor, and the United States consequently becomes more aggressive and adventurist during this period.[3]

He predicts but "fails" to prevent the murder of John F. Kennedy. Around that time his relationship with Slater becomes strained and they begin arguing.[8] While arguing he predicts that they will make love; moments later she receives the golden earrings Jon made for her, shaped like a hydrogen atom, quieting her anger.[3]

In 1964 he decided to change his attire and informed the Pentagon.[3][9]

Dr. Manhattan was summoned by Captain Metropolis for the first meeting of the Crimebusters superhero group and Slater came with him. Laurie Juspeczyk, the second Silk Spectre, catches his eye, something that was noticed by Janey.[10][3] Metropolis pulled lots to assign them to pairs, which further enraged Janey, blaming him 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.[1] This didn't stop him from patrolling with her and soon they came close. Learning this, Janey left him bitterly.[3]

A few years later his father Josef died and Manhattan decided to publish his birth name. Soon after he moved with Laurie to Washington, following the closure of Gila Flats.[3]

At President Richard Nixon's request, he brings America to victory in the Vietnam war within three months. There he meets the Comedian. Many Viet Cong surrendered personally to him in superstitious awe.[3] On the victory celebrations and the day Nixon arrives to Vietnam, he witnesses how the Comedian kills a Vietnamese woman he had impregnated. The Comedian noted that the Dr. is losing touch with humanity.[10]

This victory shapes the American political process, as the 22nd Amendment is repealed and Nixon is then repeatedly reelected (by 1985, he serves his fifth term). Critics, however, suggest that, far from solving the problems underlying the international tension, Doctor Manhattan's presence, in fact, exacerbates them while stifling their expression, which inevitably builds towards disaster, as Milton Glass wrote in Dr. Manhattan: Super-powers and the Super-powers.

In 1973 he accompanied Laurie at a banquet to honor the Comedian. There she assaulted him for attempting to rape her mother. He became angry at her behavior and he teleported her home.[11]

During the 1970s there are riots against the costumed adventurers, Manhattan with Laurie attempt to quiet the unrest in Washington.[10] 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, the Keene Act passed outlawing the superheroes, but as the country's defense rested in Manhattan's hands, he continued working for the government.[3]

In 1981 he moved to Rockefeller Military Research Center where he performed research and construction of new technology.[3] Laurie was assigned with him, who (in her mother's words) "has to get the H-bomb laid every once in a while".[10]

In the summer of 1985, he and Laurie walked to Grand Central Station and bought a Time issue celebrating Hiroshima week; the cover had a frozen wristwatch, whose arms had stopped at the same position as Janey's when her own was broken.[3]

During the execution of Adrian Veidt's plot to save the world, he fabricates evidence to make Manhattan wrongly accused of giving cancer to those exposed to him over long periods of time.

At an unknown point prior to 1985, he intervened at a government bank being robbed by Marco Maez and Erika Manson, the costumed criminals' Mime and Marionette. Mime defied Manhattan 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 that Marionette would have a child who would one day become very important to Laurie, though unable to work out the fine details to a strange blind spot in his vision, Manhattan quietly dropped his hand and withdrew, allowing the two to be captured by the authorities.

Events of Watchmen

Death of the Comedian

Rorschach meets a gigantic Doctor Manhattan

When the Comedian was killed, Dr. Manhattan was informed by the CIA.[3] Rorschach came to warn him and Laurie that the Comedian was dead, and all former costumed adventurers should watch out. His attitude disturbed Laurie and Jon dismissed Rorschach by teleporting him out. As he was busy locating a gluino, he allowed Laurie to go out with Dan.[12]

The Comedian's funeral

Jon attended the Comedian's funeral and reflected on their association in the Vietnam War.[10] He sensed Moloch's presence but he was not sure that he knew him once.[3]

Exiled to Mars

He appeared in Benny Anger's show where he would be interviewed. Agent Forbes briefed him on the politics of the Cold War that he might be asked upon. However, it was not what Manhattan was there for. The magazine Nova Express made an investigation about whether Dr. Manhattan caused cancer to his associates, and Doug Roth (who had previously interviewed Janey Slater) made these allegations in public; a fray erupted and the journalists came towards him asking for details concerning his relationship to Slater. Forbes attempted to guide Manhattan outside and hold off the journalists. Eventually, Manhattan teleported everyone away.[8]

Reflecting on Mars

He leaves his place for the abandoned Gila Flats and recovers the photograph with Slater. He then teleports to Mars.[8]

However, this was a frame arranged by Veidt to induce Osterman to leave, to remove his interference in his scheme to save the world. During his absence, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, bringing the world closer to a nuclear war than ever.[8][13]

Eventually, he briefly returns one hour before November 1 to bring Laurie (who, in the meantime, has taken Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II as a new lover) to Mars, where they argue over the fate of the human race.[14] Discussing why he should do anything to aid humanity, Laurie inadvertently wins the argument when she goes through her life and realizes to her shock that her father is the Comedian, a man whom she despised for sexually assaulting her mother. From that revelation, Doctor Manhattan is amazed by the improbable chances that occurred to result in the birth of Laurie, which he sees as a stunning "thermodynamic miracle." By extension, this miracle can apply to any living thing on Earth, and so Doctor Manhattan decides to return to Earth to protect humanity rather than disregarding it as insignificant.

Confronting Adrian Veidt

Although they return too late to stop Veidt's plan, they teleport to Karnak, Antarctica to confront him. Veidt hinders Doctor Manhattan with a tachyon generator that interferes with Doctor Manhattan's ability to see the future and then disintegrates him by subtracting his intrinsic field. To Veidt's surprise, Doctor Manhattan restores himself much more quickly this time, but when Veidt reveals that his scheme, in which he used his alien monster to kill half of New York City, appears to have averted the looming nuclear war by frightening the world's governments into cooperation, Doctor Manhattan realizes that to expose the scheme would be too dangerous for all life on Earth. Doctor Manhattan and the other superheroes except for Rorschach agree to keep quiet to preserve Veidt's results. Rorschach leaves on his own and is murdered by Doctor Manhattan to prevent him from ever telling the truth. Manhattan does so reluctantly, at Rorschach's own insistence, who asserts that his death is the only thing that will ensure his silence. Doctor Manhattan does not mention Rorschach's death when talking to Veidt not long after, instead of telling Veidt he "does not think Rorschach will reach civilization".

Leaving Earth

At the end of Watchmen, Doctor Manhattan decides to depart Earth again, but he might return one day. Veidt is surprised by his decision, pointing out the apparent contradiction with Doctor Manhattan's renewed interest in human life, to which Doctor Manhattan suggests that he may "create some [human life]" in another galaxy. When Veidt asks if his plan worked out in the end, Jon Osterman smiles and enigmatically replies that "nothing ever ends."

Watchmen (TV series)

In the Watchmen TV series, he is portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. For much of the series, he is solely known by the name Cal Abar, the husband of series protagonist Angela Abar. In 2009, Doctor Manhattan approaches Angela Abar at a bar in Saigon and they begin a ten year relationship. Two weeks after this initial meeting, Manhattan assumes the appearance of Cal Abar at the suggestion of Angela Abar. Manhattan installed a device given to him by Adrian Veidt into his forehead that suppressed his superpowers and his omniscient sense of time, allowing him to pursue a comfortable relationship with Angela, though this did remove his memory prior to 2009. Manhattan is also revealed to have been the person who transported Adrian Veidt on Europa.

Late in the series, in 2019, Angela discovers a plot by the white supremacist ring the Seventh Kavalry to destroy Manhattan and harness his powers; Angela subsequently forcibly removed the device from his forehead, causing him to regain his abilities and appearance, though immediately afterward he is captured by the Kavalry. As Senator Joe Keene, the Kavalry's leader, prepares to destroy Manhattan (ultimately killing Keene in the process), Lady Trieu intervenes, kills the rest of the Kavalry, and continues the demonstration in attempt to take his powers for herself. Trieu is successful in killing Manhattan, and he shares a final moment with Angela before he dies, though Trieu's plans are ultimately upended by Veidt and she is killed by another of his attacks. At the end of the series, Manhattan is revealed to have possibly transferred his powers to Angela.

Doomsday Clock

After Jon departed his world, he discovered the Multiverse, and quickly found himself on an alternate Earth. Disoriented from his journey, he encountered a young struggling actor by the name of Carver Colman, whom he formed a symbiotic relationship with. Colman was used by Manhattan to anchor himself to his new surroundings, allowing him to regain full use of his abilities. He and Colman would meet once a year at the same diner, during which time Osterman would tell Colman his future. He arrived in time to hear of the emergence of Superman in Metropolis and went to investigate, perplexed by the sudden appearance of what was a fictional character on his world. He later witnessed the appearance of subsequent costumed superheroes and their formation of the Justice Society of America.

However, shortly thereafter, something very strange happened. Superman's arrival and subsequent first public appearance shifts forward in time, causing changes to history which only Manhattan is able to perceive that due to his abilities. These include the formation of a Justice Society of America under the leadership of Green Lantern Alan Scott and a young Superboy being befriended and taught by a group of superpowered beings from the far future known as the Legion of Super-Heroes, whose own heroics are inspired by his. Subsequent incarnations of the timeline maintain these changes in addition to new ones.

Watching this universe's timeline closely, he theorizes that he has arrived in the Metaverse, a singularly unique universe which spawns other universes when its flow of time is disrupted or changed, something he observes happening multiple times due to external forces, piquing his curiosity. Moreover, he becomes fixated on Superman, who appears directly linked to the Metaverse in a way that he does not understand. Finally after many years of passive observation, during which Carver Colman is killed due to Manhattan's inaction, Manhattan begins to experiment on the timeline himself in hopes of finding answers to satisfy him. During a major temporal distortion in 2011 caused by the Flash, he takes advantage of the chaos and alters the timeline himself, killing Alan Scott in 1940 and preventing the formation of the Justice Society of America.

This has a catastrophic domino effect, resulting in a badly warped timeline where Jon and Martha Kent were killed in a car accident, and the bright future of the Legion of Super-Heroes never comes to pass due to a corrupted present day. Superman becomes apathetic and lonesome, far from the inspiring symbol he is meant to be. Doctor Manhattan is at first satisfied with the results, as he is able to more clearly understand this version of Superman. However, he quickly discovers that his actions have not gone unnoticed and realizes that the changes are too drastic for the Metaverse to accept. It is, in a sense, a living organism and begins to fight back against what it perceives to be an infection. It sends Wally West back into the timeline, who manages to warn the world of Manhattan's interference, although he does fail to positively identify this new enemy. At the same time, Johnny Thunder of the JSA and Saturn Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes reappear in the present day despite the disappearance of their comrades and friends. Meanwhile, Manhattan's previously limitless view of the future suddenly comes to a sudden end which he cannot see past, with the final images he can see beforehand being Superman throwing a single punch. Unable to comprehend the meaning of this, he theorizes that there can be only two possible outcomes: either Superman destroys him or he destroys everything in self-defense.

Curious to find out which it is, Manhattan eliminates several individuals who have learned of his existence and could potentially affect the outcome, as well as recovering the Comedian's Badge, which was accidentally drawn into the timeline. Manhattan also warps Jor-El, Superman's biological father, into the being known as Mr. Oz in order to keep an eye on the Man of Steel. At the same time, evidence is found of cosmic tampering in the subatomic realm known as the Microverse, and the Green Lantern Corps discovers their absolute record of history is no longer trustworthy. The most damning pieces of evidence come from Manhattan himself, who has been unwittingly creating and leaving copies of the single photograph taken of Jon Osterman and Janey Slater at each of his appearances. These photographs are recovered by Lex Luthor, who seeks to understand how to break his eternal battle with Superman.

The world is wracked by international crisis ahead of Manhattan's long-awaited confrontation. However, he is caught unprepared when Ozymandias arrives seeking his aid, bringing along Mime, Marionette, and a second Rorschach. Adrian's plan has been exposed at home, and the group narrowly escaped a nuclear holocaust to seek him out. Discovering that Veidt has also brought a second Bubastis, capable of generating the same energy as himself in a bid to draw him out, Manhattan summons the Comedian from moments before his death, returns his badge to him, and instructs him to kill Bubastis in exchange for a second chance at life. Events, however, quickly move beyond Manhattan's control as the Comedian is thwarted and Veidt is able to corner him momentarily. However, Manhattan coldly refuses Veidt, and when Rorschach II attempts to plead with him, Manhattan instead destroys their partnership by revealing Veidt has been lying to him in order to obtain his service. This forces Adrian to reevaluate his plan and come up with a new strategy to coax Manhattan's aid, which begins with him using Bubastis to bomb Moscow. The metahumans of the world identify the energy signature as Manhattan's and trace him to his hideout on Mars, where after a brief struggle, he incapacitates them.

With no one left to stand in his way, he confronts Superman on Earth, where the Man of Steel is caught in the midst of the so-called Super War between the metahuman armies of the world. Manhattan observes and refuses to lend Superman his aid, despite him begging for assistance as he can't save everyone alone. Manhattan identifies himself and lays out his crimes in preparation for Superman's final judgement. He decides not to resists when Superman attacks, but is shocked when he discovers that Superman is actually defending him.

Manhattan's fixation on Superman blinded him to the context of the situation. Superman tells him that there is possibly a third explanation as to why Manhattan can't see the future: he must sacrifice all the power he has to make things right. Recognizing that Superman is correct, he resets the clock, undoing his earlier changes to history, and making one personal change to make sure that Carver Colman lives. The returning Justice Society and Legion stop the fighting, and Manhattan finally is able to uncover the purpose of the Metaverse. It exists as the means to preserve Superman in all his possible incarnations, so that his ideal might take root, and help humanity evolve. Finally understanding this, Doctor Manhattan is inspired for the first time since he became who he is now. This is revealed to be Adrian's doing: he knew that if he could not convince Manhattan, Superman would.

Using what remains of his power, Doctor Manhattan undoes the damage to his home dimension, making the collective nuclear arsenals of the world disappear. Veidt is arrested and imprisoned, Reggie Long begins to rehabilitate the public image of Rorschach into a proper hero, and a young girl named Cleopatra Pak will become the first in a new generation of costumed adventurers. He takes Mime and Marionette's child into his care, becoming the blind spot in his vision, and follows the example of Jon Kent to raise the child, finally reconnecting with his humanity in the process. He names the boy Clark in Superman's honor, and send him to Laurie and Dan so that he might become the hero the world needs. He gives what remains of his power to the planet, enjoying one final daydream of a world where Jon Osterman never became Doctor Manhattan, and lived a happy life with Janey. He smiles as he finally disappears.


While a superpowered being, it is ironic that Osterman/Manhattan's life was directed by others; his career was forced on him by his father, his relationship with Slater began with her initiative, his actions were mostly obeying the government and the Pentagon, as if Dr. Manhattan didn't care about what he was doing. As he saw past-present-future simultaneously, he did things just because they should be.

After his transformation, Jon begins to experience time in a non-linear, "quantum" fashion, and it is implied that he is aware of and experiencing all the moments of his life simultaneously. Jon is not omniscient; he remains reliant on his intellect and sensory experience to reach conclusions, but his range of sensory data has been abruptly extended, in proportion to the lessening of his emotional capacities. This often leads him to arrive at conclusions greatly different from those available to normal humans. However, during the course of Watchmen, he displays powerful emotion several times. His apparent lack of sentiment is more a matter of radically altered priorities, owing to a colossal, unbridgeable gap of perception between Jon and the rest of humanity.

He subscribes to a deterministic view of events. During the period in which Doctor Manhattan is a crime-fighter (at the behest of the government), he states that the morality of such activities escapes him. From his radically altered perspective, almost all human concerns appear pointless and without obvious merit.

Manhattan appears to have a personality disorder, in his case, schizoid personality disorder which is characterized by reclusiveness and voluntary withdrawal from socializing to the detriment of personal relationships, though this can be countered by the fact that he's basically a god and, therefore, the way he experiences and reacts to the human environment and even reality itself cannot, in any way, be compared or encased inside the human condition and psychology.

Powers and abilities

Jon Osterman is presented to be the only being on the planet with actual superpowers. He is shown to be absolutely powerful and invulnerable to all harm; even when his body is disintegrated, he can reconstruct it in a matter of seconds, which is the very first "trick" he learned.[5] Osterman has complete awareness of and control over atomic and subatomic particles and can see even neutrinos.[14] He is also an omnikinetic. He does not need air, water, food or sleep and is immortal. He can teleport himself and others over limitless distances, an ability which Dan Dreiberg had nicknamed Manhattan Transfer.[14] Due to his perception of time, he sees the past, present, and future simultaneously. He can see events so tiny and so fast, that they can be said to have never occurred at all.

Although Adrian Veidt is obviously the second-most dangerous person, as Osterman himself observes, "...the world's smartest man poses no more of a threat to me than does its smartest termite." In addition to these powers, Osterman is able to phase any part of his body through solid objects without damaging them, produce multiple copies of himself which function independently of each other, alter his size, project destructive energy, disintegrate people, create force fields, transmute, create and destroy matter, move objects without physically touching them (telekinesis), reverse entropy, and, he suggests, create life and has walked on the surface of the sun. At one point it is stated that, in the event of a nuclear war, he would be capable of destroying Soviet nuclear missiles while at the same time 'destroying' large areas of Russia. As a result of these capabilities, Jon becomes central to the United States' Cold War strategy of deterrence.

Osterman's limitation appears to be apathy. In some sense, unlimited power has come at the cost of the total absence of responsibility, and his phenomenal omnipotence is juxtaposed with his growing detachment. Although he doesn't age in the biological sense, his character has changed over time with gradual detachment from humanity.

He subscribes to a deterministic view of events and exerts an effort of choice; his actions often seemed governed by a rigidly utilitarian code of ethics in which the correct course of action must be the one that benefits the most. From his radically altered perspective, almost all human concerns appear pointless and without obvious merit. For instance, he does nothing to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (even though he could see the future) or the murder of the Vietnamese woman, even though she was pregnant.

Due to his presence and manipulation of time and reality while in the DC Universe, Osterman's very essence was bound to the dimensional atomic fabric of the Multiverse. As such, despite his departure back to his own dimension, his essence remained within the DC Universe's makeup of matter, produced namely with the Mobius Chair. This would allow several beings to gain power very similar to his, namely being Wally West, Bathattan, and the Darkest Knight, surpassing even that of Perpetua, the mother of the Super Celestials and the effective creator of the Multiverse.


  • Connective Energy: Due to being exposed to Connective Energy, Osterman'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.
    • Nigh-Omniscience: Osterman perceives time in a non-linear fashion. This means that he sees the past, present, and the future simultaneously. Likewise, he can grant others with this "atemporal" vision. While originally limited to only his perception of time, Osterman later learned to view the timelines of others, as well as possible timelines that never happened. He was able to see the entire timeline of the metaverse when reconstructing the changes he made to it.[10] However, this power can be blocked by tachyons, restricting him to only the present as the only facet of time that he can see and actively experience, blocking his atemporal vision from probing far enough to perceive the future.[12]
      • Precognition: Due to his ability to see the past, present, and future simultaneously, Osterman is able to look into the future of his own timeline, or any timeline he wishes.[10]
      • Retrocognition: Due to his ability to see the past, present, and future simultaneously, Osterman can see past timelines that were erased or altered.[10]
      • Time-Travel: Due to his ability to view the timestream from a third person perspective, Osterman is capable of traveling throughout the timeline at will.[13] He can also pull others through time along with him.[7] By altering the outcomes of certain events while travelling throughout time, Jon can create new timelines that splinter reality in both past and future.[14]
    • Bio-Fission: Osterman is able to split and replicate himself. He is capable of dividing his quantum consciousness among other separate physical forms resembling his physical appearance.
      • Bio-Fusion: Likewise with his Bio-Fission ability, Osterman can bring his sentient copies back into his body without any adverse side effects.
    • Cosmic Awareness: Osterman possesses an understanding of the workings of the universe on a cosmic scale, and has the ability to oversee other universes as he wishes.
    • Dimensional Travel: Osterman is able to travel to other realities at will.
    • Electrokinesis: Osterman can generate sparks of electrical energy from his body, as well as from the objects he telekinetically levitates.
    • Elemental Control: Osterman is capable of manipulating elements at will. He was capable of creating an oxygen aura around Laurie Juspeczyk when he brought her to Mars.[15] He was also able to instantly create water.
    • Enhanced Intellect: Osterman's mind is far more enhanced than that of a normal human. He has perceived events so tiny and so fast they can hardly be said to have occurred at all.
    • Enhanced Senses: Osterman's senses are far acuter than any normal human. He has been able to sense the heartbeat of a child inside of an unnoticeably pregnant woman.
      • Enhanced Hearing:
      • Enhanced Vision: Osterman states he is able to read atoms.
    • Energy Construct Creation: Osterman can create and manipulate various energies in a manner that creates matter from virtually nothing. It is unknown whether some of the creations he made were the manipulation of matter, molecules, or entirely quantum energy constructs. Osterman is also seemingly able to create life with his own power, as displayed when he used his energy to accelerate evolution on an uninhabited planet as an experiment.
    • Energy Projection: Osterman is able to manipulate multiple forms of energy with precision. He is able to cause massive explosions at will.
    • Flight: Manhattan is not restrained by basic physical laws and can levitate and fly at will.
    • Force Field: Osterman is capable of projecting powerful force-fields.
    • Immortality: Never seeming to age, Osterman 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 Osterman ; 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. His intangibility coincides with his ability to phase through matter, allowing him to pass through solid substances without any considerable difficulty or loss of control. His intangibility has no specific emphasized drawbacks.
      • Phasing: Osterman is capable of phasing his body through solid matter.
    • Invulnerability: Osterman possesses incredible durability and is practically invulnerable to any physical harm. His durability has allowed him to walk across the sun unharmed.
    • Molecular Reconstruction: Osterman was able to restructure himself after the removal of his intrinsic field. Osterman 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. He was also able to instantly transform water into milk.
      • Disintegration: Osterman is capable of using his power to completely disintegrate human beings,
      • Regeneration: Osterman can regenerate his entire body from total disintegration (down to the sub-atomic level), endlessly, as long as his consciousness survives.[18] He was also able to instantly recover from a snapped neck.
    • Photokinesis: Osterman can shift the color frequencies of the light around him in order to hide his true appearance and make himself appear as he wishes others to see him.[8]
    • Power Distribution: Osterman was capable of transferring his power to Cal Abar.
    • Radiation Production: Osterman's body emits some level of ultraviolet radiation.
      • Thermokinesis: When Osterman restructured his body, he produced great amounts of heat from his body's ultraviolet radiation. It was great enough to give nearby people sunburns.
    • Reality Alteration: Osterman can create new universes with even the most casual act, as well as destroy them.
    • Self-Sustenance: Osterman doesn't require food, sleep, or oxygen to survive.
    • Size Alteration: Able to grow or shrink incredibly fast without a seeming limit, Osterman 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: Osterman is capable of manipulating the movement of objects with his mind.[20] He could also use this ability to cause a person's head to forcefully explode.
    • Teleportation: By warping space around him, Osterman can teleport himself and others at will. Osterman had teleported huge and small objects, people and animals alike.


Veidt correctly assumed tachyons; a large burst of them can slow his ability to see the future to a moderate extent, but still, his telekinetic powers were unaffected. (Note: tachyons exist only in theoretical physics)

Although it was not seen in practice, Dr. Manhattan surmised that an EM pulse would cause such "static" that obscures the future, hinting at another possible weakness.[11]

List of Host


Dr. Manhattan was created by Watchmen writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons but, like many main characters of the series, he is a modified version of a Charlton Comics character, in this case, Captain Atom, created by Joe Gill and Steve Ditko.

The choice of the name Osterman for a crime fighter may be a deliberate joke, as Osterman is the original name of the Prince of Gangsters, "Monk" Eastman, a notorious Jewish gang leader from the Lower East Side.

In Watchmen: The Film Companion, Dr. Manhattan is described as an American patriot who willingly enters the service of his country to protect it. However, the narrative of the comic and the film doesn't mention anything about his motives or beliefs concerning politics or the nation.



In other media


  • Billy Crudup portrays the character in the film. He provided motion capture and plays Osterman as a human in the flashback scenes. Keanu Reeves was at one point rumored for the role but backed out over contractual issues. When the project involved producer Joel Silver, Silver wanted to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger in the part. In the film, his father was more supportive of him rather than opposing when working with watches.

Video Game

  • In Watchmen The End is Nigh Doctor Manhattan makes cameo along with Silk Spectre II in cutscene made as Watchmen motion comic. Although Rorschach and Nite Owl II have their respective actors from Zack Snyder's film providing voice for their roles, Doctor Manhattan is voiced by Crispin Freeman.


  • In Countdown: Arena #4, a white-skinned lookalike of Doctor Manhattan was one of the alternate versions of Monarch summoned to the multiverse arena. Like all the others, this version was killed and his power added to Monarch.
  • In Final Crisis #2, the exiled monitor Nix Uotan sketches a character resembling Doctor Manhattan. Grant Morrison stated in an interview that the Final Crisis two-part series Superman Beyond will feature "Captain Atom from Earth 4, which is kind of a weird amalgam of the original Charlton universe and this kind of Watchmen parallel world."
  • In Watchmen videos, Andrew Sheroke portrays Manhattan.


  • The symbol Doctor Manhattan inscribes on his forehead depicts the Bohr model of a hydrogen atom: one proton (the central dot) orbited by one electron (the upper dot). Hydrogen is the most common and fundamental element in the universe. In the original story, a promotions official tried to give Manhattan a helmet with a six-electron symbol on it. Manhattan refused saying he would have a icon he could "respect" and then burned the hydrogen symbol into his head.
  • Doctor Manhattan, after his accident, creates the perfect human form to replace his old body. In the 2009 film, to achieve Manhattan's ultra-ripped muscled look, his physique was modeled on that of actor and model Greg Plitt.
  • In the HBO series, Jon Osterman and his Jewish father left Germany after Jon's mother abandoned them and ran off with an SS officer.  While staying at Cartwithen Castle, Jon saw two people about to have sex while peeking from a wardrobe.  They handed Jon a bible and asked him in return to make something beautiful when he got older.  While terraforming Europa, a moon of Jupiter, he created the first humans of his paradise in their image.

Character gallery

Doctor Manhattan's cameo in Watchmen The End is Nigh videogame cutscene. Voice by Crispin Freeman..jpg


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #01
  2. Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #03
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 Chapter IV
  4. Moore admitted in Comics Interview #65 that this was deliberate; note that it parallels his father's destroying the watch in the aftermath of Hiroshima!
  5. 5.0 5.1 Chapter XII
  6. Exactly 4 years before JFK's assassination.
  7. Under the Hood: Chapter V
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Chapter III
  9. This marks Jon's declining humanity, which is progressively mirrored by his gradual shedding of the uniform - by the end of the 1970s, he refuses to wear anything at all except for mandatory public appearances.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Chapter II
  11. 11.0 11.1 Chapter IX
  12. Chapter I
  13. Chapter V
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Chapter VIII
  • The Art of Brian Bolland (326 pages, Image Comics, November 2006, ISBN 1582406030)
  • David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview #65, 1988, interview with Moore and Gibbons (by Chris Sharrett)


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