In what could be Watchmen’s first standalone issue, “Watchmaker” jumps through time to show us the past, present, and potentially future of Dr. Manhattan. Does Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ most powerful character have emotions? Is he amoral, immoral, or neither? We explore that, and much more in this episode.
The theme music for Watchmen Watch was written and performed by Jeff Solomon.
Plus, here’s a transcript of the episode for you to read through as you listen:
Alex: Welcome to Watchmen Watch a podcast all about Watchmen, where we watch Watchmen. You watch Watchmen, we watch you watching Watchmen. You’ll listen to Watchmen, you think about Watchmen and sometimes you smell Watchmen. I’m Alex.
Justin: I’m Justin.
Pete: I’m Pete.
Alex: We actually have sum dues before we get into the show. Justin, what’s going on?
Justin: Yeah, sorry. The fourth host of our show is Alan Moore obviously, and he is committed to this podcast and he actually just texted me. We communicate via text.
Justin: He just texted me.
Alex: Sorry, iMessage does he have an iPhone or what’s going on?
Justin: No. You know how like on an iPhone, the texts come up blue or green?
Justin: His come up like hot pink. I don’t know what he’s, I think he may be texting from somewhere else-
Pete: The future?
Justin: The future, the past or in this case he texted me from the surface of Mars where he’s retracing the Doc Manhattan. He’s doing like a tour of all the Doc Manhattan. He said [crosstalk 00:00:59] –
Alex: Is he running the tour, or is he taking the tour?
Pete: [crosstalk 00:01:03] Juicy Couture?
Justin: No I’m not doing [crosstalk 00:01:07]. That’s a good guess though, because I’m often talking about that.
Pete: Yeah, yeah.
Justin: No he said-
Alex: He does, we should mention, he’s often, when he is here for the podcast, he’s usually wearing those short shorts that say Juicy on the back.
Justin: Yes, but he has taken his name off the back of his short shorts. He is setting up a like in New York, there’s a Sex in the City tour for all of the locations where Sex in the City took place.
Alex: Sure, yeah.
Justin: He’s doing that for Watchmen, so he’s on all smart scouting on the surface of Mars.
Pete: Oh smart. That’s fun, you could see a newsstand, you could see a wall.
Justin: A pirate ship made of dead bodies. It’s going to be fun.
Alex: Yeah. Good time. Good time. Well hopefully he will be back for next week’s podcast.
Justin: He definitely will, he said.
Alex: Oh he did.
Justin: 100%, he’s definitely here next week.
Alex: Well this week we are continuing our tour through Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons classic comic book series. We’re going to be talking about the fourth issue, Watchmaker of the book as we ramp up to HBO’s premier of Watchmen on October 20th, so that’s pretty exciting.
Justin: Very exciting.
Alex: Now before we get into this book though, I did want to ask you, Justin, you’ve worked at bars before, right?
Alex: Do you know-
Justin: As a bartender.
Alex: As a bartender-
Pete: Oh boy.
Justin: Well, both exotic and regular dance.
Alex: Regular yeah.
Justin: I’m the stripper that does the macarena.
Alex: Yeah. I loved that when they have that outside where they’re like exotic ed, regular dancers.
Alex: Regular style.
Justin: It’s a full buffet, regular style dancing.
Alex: Yes, how do you make a Manhattan? What’s in a Manhattan?
Justin: Manhattan. I mean there’s some variations, but it’s you want to mix your bourbon, your brown, whatever it is whiskey, bourbon is sort of the popular one now, your sweet vermouth, a little bit of bitters and a cherry.
Alex: How would you make a Doctor Manhattan do you think?
Pete: Add Dr. Pepper on top.
Justin: He said that with such urgency. Yeah. I’ve never seen you speak so quickly. Yeah. No, you just make it regular and then stir it with your penis.
Alex: You’ve got to make your penis blue before you stir it?
Justin: What color is your penis? My bad.
Alex: Oh, bye. All right, let’s get into the book. Now this issue as we implied is all about Doctor Manhattan, go back and tell his origin. The things that have happened very briefly in the book so far, Edward Blake, the comedian has been murdered Rorschach, a vigilante, one of the few remaining vigilantes has been investigating his murder. Through a series of circumstances that we don’t know exactly how they come together unless you’ve read the book already like we have, like most of our listeners probably have, have led to Doctor Manhattan fleeing earth after he was accused of giving multiple people, including his old love, Janey Slater, cancer that he is headed to Mars. He’s hanging out on Mars with an old photo of him in his human guise of Jon Osterman before he was changed into Doctor Manhattan and Janey Slater. That’s kind of where we left him a little-
Alex: Janey Slater, excuse me, alone on Mars. Now, here’s the thing that I thought structurally was pretty fascinating about this issue in particular. We were talking a lot about the juxtaposition that Moore and Gibbons’s have been working throughout. This is the first issue that had a certain sense, doesn’t have that juxtaposition, doesn’t have panels that are describing different things that are dialogue, that is describing different things that’s happening in the panels because it’s all juxtaposition. It’s all happening at the same time for Doctor Manhattan and it almost in that way takes a step back and pauses in terms of the pacing.
Justin: Just tailors the story to the character-
Justin: I mean this standalone issue, this comic series is amazing obviously. We talk about that a lot. The first three issues are very good, lot of setup, great mystery juxtaposition, but this issue as a standalone issue is I think a masterpiece. This is like the masterpiece of the series.
Pete: Really a masterpiece?
Justin: Truly, like the way this story is told is so smart and other comics have used this type of storytelling, but this was like the first issue that used all these big physical ideas, physics ideas and-
Pete: Is it because we finally get the black g-string in this issue that you were not having to see just the junk. It’s covered up a little bit. Is that why you-
Justin: Yes, that’s what I mean.
Justin: It’s the, again Juicy Couture and g-strings is what we’re all about on this podcast.
Justin: No, it just such a unique way of telling the story that fits in with the character and also just keeps us guessing while also getting out a ton of exposition and having this anxiety that just runs through the whole issue. That plays into the larger series, which is all about tension and the stress of impending disaster.
Alex: Right. Well the other thing that we’re dealing with a lot here that we’ve talked about again earlier on the podcast is what is Doctor Manhattan and can he feel emotion? That’s something that we’re wrestling with a lot in this issue because there were moments where it feels like even in his Doctor Manhattan guise, that he is doing things emotionally, he is spurred on by humanity, but the way that he describes it, because almost this entire thing is through his own internal monologue. He is saying, “No, this is all just inevitable, this is all just happening at the same time for me. I don’t feel anything about any of these things.” I take it pretty clearly as that’s not true. I think there is, one of the things that this issue emphasizes that Doctor Manhattan, despite everybody being terrified about him, and about him being God-
Alex: He is at best a God and not even that he has limitations.
Justin: Well I think he just has Godlike powers. He has the power to sort of see everything at once and manipulate the world around him. It’s all science-based it’s not like he has a mythical mystical God powers. I also think it’s just a function of the way his life is now where because he’s aware of everything, only the big impact moments sort of reach him. Everything evens out because he sees it all like reading a book. When we’re reading a book, reading a comic, like rarely do we cry, only like a huge moment gets us to really feel that emotion. Otherwise we’re just sort of watching these characters.
Alex: Now, that’s an interesting point to think about it as a comic book because what Moore and Gibbons are doing is dealing with the structure of a comic book and the impact of comic books and superhero comic books in particular through the 12 issues of Watchmen. Here, you could probably argue that Doctor Manhattan sees the world as a comic book, but he sees it as-
Justin: Yeah, but he’s authoring in a way.
Alex: Right. He’s seeing it as these various still panels, that depending on how you read it, you read one panel at a time, or you’re looking at the entire page and seeing nine things at the same time.
Justin: Right and I think that’s what it is because he’s not omnipotent. He is just aware of much more at once. Because that’s why I do think he does still have, like when he is confronted with the idea that he killed all these people that are close to him, he’s affected by it and it caused him to run away. I think those emotions are real. He’s suffering, he’s feeling this horrible guilt, but it’s only these emotions like guilt that are powerful and get him in that way.
Alex: Well, the omnipotence thing is underlying pretty well. One of the scenes that we get in the comic book is we go back to that meeting, the one meeting of the crime busters that happened. In it, wait, actually, I don’t know if it’s in the meeting of the counter busters or it’s somewhere else on the issue. He sees Moloch but he doesn’t know who Moloch is like he doesn’t recognize it.
Alex: It’s not that he’s omniscient, he doesn’t know everything about everything all the time. He can’t identify everything all the time. It’s just that he understands things in his own lifetime.
Alex: I’ll throw something else out at you that just occurred to me but there’s that big scene towards the middle where they’re trying to give them a symbol and they’re giving him the atomic bomb signal. He’s like, “No, that’s ridiculous. That doesn’t exist. Instead, I’ll use this thing.” Instead he draws, I believe it’s a hydrogen molecule. Right?
Justin: Hydrogen atom.
Alex: Yeah, hydrogen atom, which was just a singular thing. What’s being emphasized here is that all he sees is his own life through himself. That’s it.
Alex: He can’t see through Janey Slater’s life. He can’t see through Laurie’s life. He can’t see through Eddie Blake’s life or anything like that. He’s not reading people’s minds. He’s just experiencing all these things that happened to him at the same time. A corollary note that I’ll throw out there is on the throwing against him being a God front, is he’s only jumping through his own lifetime.
Alex: He’s not being like, “Now, I’ll go back to medieval times or going into the far future.”
go kill Hitler or something.
Alex: Right, exactly. He’s just existing in the span of his own lifetime, which granted is potentially forever at this point from the point that he’s created on. He’s not going backwards or forwards any farther than that.
Justin: He also, the way it’s written, it almost feels like he’s just going backwards. He talks a little bit about, because the narration he’s doing is looking back and he’s talking about how in that time, he was aware of the future but you don’t see him, he never is aware of the future in the present of the comic we’re reading, if that makes sense. It’s almost like he’s just remembering shit.
Justin: It definitely is not, he’s not as strong or as powerful as he’s positioned in the book.
Alex: Right. I think you could argue that that’s all of us, right? I mean I don’t know if you guys experience this, but certainly I’ll spend a lot of time, like certainly when at my most restful where my brain will immediately like flash on something that happened 30 years ago, that potentially I was embarrassed about or I felt bad about or maybe sometimes a good experience as well.
Justin: Get into it. Get into it Alex. [crosstalk 00:10:57] Flash.
Alex: Real quick. Here’s my top five most embarrassing experiences.
Justin: There’s also, oh go ahead.
Pete: I was also just going to talk a little bit about the paneling a little bit and like how, when it does break from the panel it doesn’t in such a dramatic fashion. The stuff where you see him as this giant during war time is such a powerful huge thing that really kind of showcases, well the damage that he can do. I think one of the reasons that like he retreats and kind of starts his own little world that he creates on Mars is like this is his kind of like safe place and it kind of shows how vulnerable and how child like he is and how you know, affected he is by all the things that he maybe did wrong in his life.
Justin: He just needs to go to his little special secret place and build a crystal and castle and let it go.
Pete: Right. Because he has really clearly let go of the fact that his dad threw a watch over the balcony back when he was younger. He builds an entire watch castle on Mars-
Justin: That cool.
Pete: As one does.
Justin: As one does.
Alex: Speaking of children, let’s talk about Laurie a little bit. Let’s talk about Silk Spectre. Jon Osterman, AKA Doctor Manhattan, he’s kind of an older man, right?
Alex: Kind of an older gentleman.
Justin: He says how old he is. He is very old.
Alex: Yes. He’s very old. He starts dating Laurie seemingly when she is 16 according to his story.
Justin: Yes. Well, that’s what Janey says, “What is she, 16, 17? It’s not 100% clear how old she is, but young is the watch word.
Alex: Right, well she says, “What is she, 16, 17?” Then they give the year and they jumped forward a certain number, I think four years to her 20th birthday.
Alex: You can kind of figure out that she’s 16 when they first make out on the roof.
Alex: That’s pretty fucked up.
Justin: Yeah. Especially, he’s like 50.
Alex: [crosstalk 00:12:53] Yeah, I just wanted to point out that it’s fucked up.
Justin: Yes, I agree and he straight up just bails on his wife because she’s too old for him.
Justin: They go so far to say that he is so powerful and so aware of everything, yet he does this like total scumbag move.
Alex: Well, why do you think that is? Why do you think that is character wise? Because I get the way the day Gibbons draws it and the way that he draws their expressions forgetting about Laurie for a second. It does feel like there’s honest emotion happening on Doctor Manhattan’s face. Whether he’s faking it or not, whether he’s saying this is a simulacrum of a human being that I’m impersonating right now or not, I don’t know. To me it feels like he truly is reaching out for that companionship that Laurie is providing on the roof, not just giving her what he thinks she wants, like he does later on when he gives her the threesome that ultimately breaks them up.
Justin: Right? I mean, I guess if you’re taking his powers for what it is, it makes sense that he would want to keep consistency because he remains constant. He’s trying to have the same thing he had with Janey is with this now. He’s having the younger version so it’s all constantly the same like young wife that he’s had and that’s where the time … He is stuck in that time.
Alex: Is that your take on it Pete?
Pete: Well, I mean it’s interesting. I don’t know. I mean Doctor Manhattan is a tough read. He is so stoic and so powerful. It’s kind of tough to know what’s going on. I kind of just, it’s a little too creepy to think about for me, but I think that like-
Alex: I think a good thing to do on our podcast is not confront the problematic parts of the comics.
Pete: Oh cool.
Alex: Yeah. Just avoid them as much as possible.
Pete: Yeah, definitely, definitely.
Alex: No, I mean like if you really … It’s not necessarily about the creepiness. I’m wondering now what is Doctor Manhattan thinking when he hooks up with Laurie? Forgetting about her age a moment, which is a whole other can of worms.
Pete: Yeah. It’s hard to separate it.
Justin: I also think it could be if you want to, if he is fully aware of everything that’s happening in this story, then it is important that he be with her to set up the narrative structure that saves the world.
Alex: I think that’s possible. I think he’s just honestly looking for emotion. He’s looking for that purity of emotion that comes with youth, of being 16 or 17 when you feel things so much stronger. Something that really hit me very hard is his repeated flashes back to that first moment when he touches fingers with Janey.
the mug of beer. Yeah. What’s crazy when rereading this comic for the, you know, second or third, fourth, fifth time. It’s like-
Alex: All right, no need to brag.
Pete: Well, I’m just saying that like-
Alex: Lot of time on his hands over here.
Pete: Sometimes when you’re repeating things like in movies or television or other comic books, I get mad when the repeating things, when it’s like undercutting. It feels like they’re undercutting my ability to retain what’s happening in the story. Here it’s done in such an artistic way that it’s like when you see it again, it’s kind of an aha moment and really kind of makes it a little bit more powerful.
Justin: In a lot of ways he’s trapped in the life he had before he became Doctor Manhattan. He’s always trying to replicate the cogs of a clock. The firsthand, the first relationship, when he first fell in love, he’s continually replicating that despite the fact that he’s the most powerful person in the world.
Pete: I definitely think that’s it, but I also think it gets back to that thing I was mentioning earlier with those still moment bringing back those memories. I will definitely get you my most traumatic memories by the end of this podcast.
Justin: Got to get there, got to get there. I have some photos.
Pete: I have a whole countdown. Oh you’ve got a bunch of photos?
Justin: I have a bunch of photos, I want to have you just drop them onto the surface of this room we’re in.
Alex: Oh, which is Mars.
Justin: Which is Mars as we said.
Alex: I think at the same time you have those positive feelings like, do you, I don’t know if you ever think about this, but when you are with a person you love, you don’t necessarily sit down and be like, let me review our entire relationship as it has happened thus far.
Justin: Every conversation with my wife begins and ends with how we met up until that exact moment.
Alex: Oh okay, you just recap it.
Justin: Yeah, it’s like a recap. [crosstalk 00:17:09] Everybody loves this.
Justin: No, no.
Alex: You think about those moments. You think about those moments when your hands first touched. That’s where that spark that the throb of emotion came out of you, and I think that’s what, all right, buddy … That’s what [crosstalk 00:17:22] yeah, it’s true.
Justin: Rob of emotion.
Alex: It’s rob of emotion.
Pete: Yeah. That big vein of emotion.
Justin: Oh wow. Porno Shakespeare over here.
Alex: Guys, I’m trying to say something real here.
Pete: Oh okay my bad.
Alex: I’m trying to have a moment with you guys.
Justin: Yeah. Cool.
Alex: I think that’s what Doctor Manhattan is trying to get back in a certain way. He remembers that. He remembers those strongest moments. Those are the things that get him back to his humanity. I think it’s the same thing with Laurie on that roof. I think it’s the same thing through various points of this issue, not necessarily when he’s acting as Doctor Manhattan, but when he is trying to get back to Jon Osterman and it’s just not working. Ultimately he goes to Mars to completely escape his humanity. That’s the least human thing you could do is teleport yourself to Mars and build a castle there. What does he build a castle of? He builds a castle out of cogs of a watch going back to his formative moment when his father threw it off the balcony.
Justin: I think he’s just a huge fan of Frozen.
Alex: Oh yeah.
Justin: Yeah. He’s Elsa-ing a castle.
Alex: Are you saying this right now, that Watchman ripped off Frozen? Do you think?
Justin: Doctor Manhattan can see the future so he back loaded that rather-
Pete: I think it’s reversed? I think Frozen ripped off Watchman.
Justin: You think so? Why? Because just that’s how time works.
Alex: Interesting. I will say that there is that panel right at the end where he’s on Mars and he sings the entirety of Let It Go.
Alex: It feels like-
Justin: It feels like a direct reference.
Alex: It does.
Justin: It does feel a little, it feels purposeful.
Alex: It does feel like a connection there. Yeah and the fact that his sister is named Anna.
Justin: Yeah, and the tiny snowman that’s stupid the whole time.
Pete: Aw, come on.
Justin: Sorry, I’ve seen that movie-
Alex: His name is Rorschach.
Justin: Yeah. Great. I’ve seen the movie too many times.
Alex: Yes. Same here. Should we, what else should we talk about in this book? I mean, true to form, we’ve been jumping around in time here as we’ve been talking through it, rather than walking through it page by page. We could probably talk about his origin moments as well.
Justin: Yeah. Just from a pure superhero origin standpoint, I thought this was great.
Justin: The origin itself of the character, he gets [inaudible 00:19:28], he’s going back into this radiation chamber to get the watch that he repaired for his true love. He gets trapped in there and everyone has to watch him be destroyed and they slowly come, but this is a just a great character origin, outside of all of the secondary commentary about the world and everything around it.
Alex: Now there’s been a lot of arguments about what the characters in Watchmen are references to what Alan Moore was working for here. Because the way that I heard it was originally this pitch happened with the Charlton characters, which includes Blue Beetle and Captain Atom and other characters like that. Ultimately DC said, “No, you can’t use those.” He created these other characters that were semi-[analogs 00:00:20:11] to them, which is why Rorschach is like the question and a Nite Owl is like Blue Beetle and of course Doctor Manhattan is like captain Atom in terms of that. I also think like there’s, even with the darkness here, there’s kind of a sense of Superman going on a little bit that he’s riffing on.
Justin: Yeah, I mean they call him Superman.
Justin: That American has its own Superman.
Alex: Right and as we know from reading Under the Hood, they did have Superman as a comic book that existed. That reference does exist in the world of Watchman for them to pull on.
Pete: Plus, I think it’s a good point here is if you have somebody you care about and then you have some object that you care about, you’ve got to give up on the objects and stick with the people. Because otherwise you’ll just die in a horrible scientific accident.
Justin: I’ve never thought that. People over objects?
Alex: I just love objects.
Pete: Nah man.
Alex: Well, I’m just saying if it was a choice [crosstalk 00:21:05] you someday. If it was a choice to throw my phone in a ravine or you guys, I would pick you guys every time.
Alex: I love my phone.
Justin: You know you can get a new phone.
Alex: I’ve got to play my Candy Crush. Can’t go a day without hitting my levels.
Justin: All right, we’re skipping our trip to the ravine this weekend. I have a feeling Alex is saying no, nope. We’re not going to the ravine. We’re not go to the ravine this year again Pete?
Pete: All right.
Justin: Alex is going to kill us.
Pete: It’s smart.
Alex: Well, to your point though, it is him returning to these moments to hold onto his humanity, right?
Justin: Yes. Which is tenured, like getting away from him.
Justin: Why? Why is he losing? Is he losing more humanity as he goes on because his powers work that way or is it what? What’s making him lose his humanity?
Pete: The powers yeah.
Alex: I think it’s growing up honestly, like it’s getting older, like as you get older you get further and further away from the person you once were. If you feel like your formative time was in your 20s, you do constantly want to get back to that. You want to grasp at that again.
Pete: Really 20s?
Alex: No, I’m saying if you feel that way, like he does-
Pete: Oh okay. [crosstalk 00:22:16] Like eight, 10 was my sweet spot.
Justin: That shows.
Alex: Eight to 10 years old, that was your peak?
Justin: That’s a 100% true.
Pete: Yeah, that’s where I’m constantly trying to get back to.
Alex: Oh my God.
Justin: You’re rooted in the eight to 10.
Alex: Well I’m not there yet. I haven’t reached my peak. It’s just been an uphill the entire time.
Pete: Oh my God.
Justin: Yeah, no exactly.
Pete: I’ve got some bad news for you-
Alex: What? I’m sitting in a back room in a theater, taping a Watchmen podcast.
Justin: That’s not news. Couple of things I want to talk about. I feel like this … I’m a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut, the writer.
Alex: Oh here we go.
Justin: This feels very much like [crosstalk 00:22:51]-
Alex: I went to college with it.
Justin: Yeah, no. With him?
Alex: Well at him?
Alex: I went to Cornell, he went to Cornell. It’s no big deal. Go on with your
Justin: Actually went to Cornell to see him speak.
Alex: Oh great.
Justin: Which was very cool.
Alex: You should’ve said hi.
Pete: Yeah. Why didn’t you say hi?
Justin: Because Alex didn’t know that we knew each other then but I did because I’m Doctor Manhattan.
Pete: Oh snap.
Justin: I’m Doctor Manhattan for upstate New York so I’m like Doctor Syracuse, it’s much worse. It’s much worse. I can only see SU basketball scores for the future. Great. Everyone was [crosstalk 00:23:25]-
Pete: A lot of money that way.
Justin: In Slaughterhouse-Five there’s a similar device used in that story, where the character is slipping through time. I liked, I don’t know if that’s a specific reference that Alan Moore was making, but I love that book. I love the connection here. I think the point of it in the book is that in times of like World War II and these times where the world is sort of being shattered, it shatters time itself and the narrative and I think that’s what we’re seeing here a little bit as well. The stakes are high for all the characters. The world’s may be coming to an end, both the World War and pending World War III or Doctor Manhattan or whatever’s happening that we don’t know yet, causes this loosening of time.
Pete: I just want to get back to something we’ve talked about. You know, if you dropped something on the tracks, just leave it. You know your phone, it’s not really worth your life. Okay? Just if you are standing on the subway platform and you dropped something, don’t try to go down to get it.
Alex: We should mention Pete works for the MTA. That’s important to establish here. Let’s talk about another aspect that’s just fascinating in terms of the world building of this whole series. There’s certain points that deviate not just from DC comics, superhero history, but also from our history and everything else that’s going on. One of the first points where it deviates is when Hooded Justice shows up, this real vigilante superhero shows up in the quote unquote real world that starts to deviate things on a path away from superheroes and comic books, brings in these masked heroes that Doctor Manhattan of course is another big leap forward here. Something that he adds in and that Adrian Veidt AKA Ozymandias pivots off of, is that he is able to completely technologically change the world. He’s able to bring back dirigibles, he’s able to add different power and technology-
Pete: Electric cars.
Alex: Yeah, but part of what we’re seeing, and we’ve talked about this, we’ve touched on this throughout the podcast, is just like superheroes didn’t necessarily make the world better, I don’t think Doctor Manhattan’s technology made the world better either because what we see is a world very close to anarchy. We see a world on the brink of destruction on the brink of World War III. Also we’ve seen a lot of grimy downtown New York, places that are very out of the seventies and eighties in real New York, but it’s not a great place to live. It’s not a good place to be.
Justin: Yeah. Yeah. I think, I mean, I think that’s some somewhat the point.
Justin: This is in an anti-superhero book in a lot of ways.
Pete: I think anti-New York book.
Alex: No, I don’t think it’s that.
Justin: He wouldn’t.
Alex: All right, MTA official.
Alex: Yeah. Yes, absolutely. It’s pointing to the fact that all this technology is working for the wealthy and it’s making that part better because in any scenes with rich people, we see they’re living the high life. While downtown, even somebody like Dan Dreiberg is living in a really bad part of town. His lock keeps getting busted, mind you mostly as by Rorschach.
Justin: Yeah, who hates locks.
Alex: There’s gangs everywhere. There’s graffiti everywhere. Doctor Manhattan hasn’t made the world better at all.
Justin: Yeah and I think that’s because of his lack of, he’s just solving problems. He’s not thinking about the larger issues. He’s not helping people. He’s like just working on equations.
Alex: Well that’s something that gets emphasized. His first superhero encounter is with Moloch, the mystic, who is this fun character, very out of the 60s very Adam West Batman. Every other masked hero talks about how much fun he was to fight. These clearly are very nostalgic about it, but Doctor Manhattan goes in and immediately just blows up one of his goons heads.
Justin: This panel I think is like, so it’s like a perfect panel.
Justin: It’s so good. Also, so I want to talk about this, he has a line here where he says, “The morality of my activities escapes me.” Meaning like I blew that dude up, whatever.
Justin: That’s they wanted me to fight crime so I did. Then like five, seven pages later, he’s flashing to when he’s in Vietnam meeting comedian and there’s another line, “Blake is interesting. I had never met anyone so deliberately amoral.” I thought that was an interesting choice of amoral as opposed to immoral because Doctor Manhattan is amoral. He loses his ability to understand morals or like humans in general. I think he’s scared of the comedian because he’s worried he’s sort of, he could become that.
Justin: I think it’s weird that he calls him amoral because I think the comedian is immoral. He’s someone who knows morals and he’s like, I do the opposite.
Alex: Yeah, I think you’re right about that.
Justin: I think that’s such a weird moment there. I just noticed that on this reading, like he’s calling the comedian amoral when he himself is amoral, and the comedian is actually immoral.
Justin: I think it’s like-
Alex: Do you think that has something to do with the fact that he understands the realization that the comedian eventually came to potentially?
Justin: I think-
Alex: That the comedian met the end of his life, did understand good and bad and that there was none of that? Like there’s no gradation there that it’s all fucked because ultimately the world is going to get blown up no matter what they do. I guess to the point we were making earlier Doctor Manhattan might not know that, like you might not know that because he wasn’t there.
Justin: Yeah, right.
Alex: Yeah. I don’t know. I’m not sure. Another thing that I think I want to touch on a little bit, is his relationship with Adrian Veidt here. We know where the comic book is going to end up. We know where the series is going to end up. He meets Adrian Veidt and if he’s really living every single bit of his life all at the same time, when he meets Adrian Veidt, he knows exactly what’s going to happen. There’s an interesting panel in here of them shaking hands for the first time.
Alex: That makes me wonder in that moment, how much does Doctor Manhattan know? The answer is probably all of it, right?
Justin: I mean it’s hard. That’s the thing is we don’t really know, I would think, no, no, he doesn’t know that. That’s why I like, it’s hard to tell what his powers are.
Justin: How much he sort of talking up his Godlike powers when it really is sort of retroactive, as opposed to him actually, in this moment when he’s sitting with him and his Antarctic fortress. He’s like, “This dude is going to eventually try to destroy the world.”
Justin: Because the way it’s played, I feel like maybe he sort of in the last panel, he started touching his chin like, “Huh, what’s up with this guy?”
Justin: It feels like he’s questioning as opposed to being like-
Alex: Right so maybe he isn’t able to actually see the end of all things. Maybe he doesn’t necessarily know.
Pete: Which kind of undercuts his intelligence a little bit. Because if you go to a giant Antarctic layer, that should be a very big sign that says this guy is evil.
Alex: Except Adrian Veidt, even if he’s not super naturally smart, he really is the smartest man in the world or he’s a very smart man. Right?
Alex: If he knows that Doctor Manhattan knows everything that happens around him, he has been very careful to make sure that Doctor Manhattan sees nothing other than what he wants to see. The other thing that’s interesting about that is in a certain sense, Doctor Manhattan is complicit in what Adrian Veidt is doing because as we find out, Adrian Veidt’s technology is based on what Doctor Manhattan was able to do.
Alex: Perhaps there’s a sense of Doctor Manhattan pushing that down, using his humanity, being embarrassed by the fact that he is going to help bring about this apocalyptic scenario.
Justin: Also, isn’t Doctor Manhattan sort of, he is, all the imagery and all the clock talking here, he’s a big cog in the clock of the universe or of earth or whatever you want to say.
Justin: I mean a cog doesn’t know what time it is. A cog is doing its job in the clock to make sure it ticks. I think maybe that’s a better sort of way of understanding his power. It’s like he may be aware of the passage of time and that it’s going to be noon later, but the cog is incapable of changing its actions. It’s only continuing to tick.
Alex: What you’re saying is in a certain sense they ripped off Beauty and the Beast because he’s the Cogsworth of this particular comic.
Pete: Oh wow.
Justin: Think about it, it’s a tale as old as time.
Alex: Pete, anything additional you want to say about this book? About this issue?
Pete: I just think it’s interesting that there’s like notes of Doctor Manhattan should be more aware of what’s happening. It’s kind of his humanity that is dumbing him down a little bit.
Alex: I do think part of that, I was thinking about this while I was reading the issue and I do think part of that is the artifice of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons releasing a monthly comic book that’s based on a mystery. They can’t be like Doctor Manhattan flashes to the end and be like, and here’s what Adrian Veidt was doing. Because that’s approximately eight issues to earlier so-
Alex: They can’t show you that. He may know, but we’re only seeing what they want us to see at this particular time. I understand what you’re saying, but I think like it’s a structural thing as well.
Justin: You’re saying he’s bullshit though.
Justin: Well you just can’t throw, you just threw a doctor in front of his name. He’s not-
Alex: No, he’s not a doctor.
Justin: If we called you doctor Pete, it would make you good at surgery.
Pete: That’s true.
Alex: We did, by the way. That’s why I don’t have this arm.
Justin: Needed an armectomy.
Pete: Sorry about that.
Alex: Hey, it’s all good, bro. I only need one arm to read comic books.
Pete: Yeah, that’s cool.
Alex: If you want to support this podcast, patrion.com/comicbookclub. Also, we do a live show every Tuesday night at 8:00 PM at the People’s Improv Theater Loft in New York. Come on down. We’ll chat with you about Watchmen. A couple of things we can plug, you can check us out socially at Watchmen Watch One on Twitter. Also Watchmen Watch podcast on Facebook and Watchmen Watch podcast on Instagram. You can subscribe a bunch of places. iTunes, Android, Stitcher, Spotify, or the app of your choice. Remember, we taped this podcast 35 minutes ago.
Justin: Oh, sorry to interrupt. Alan just texted me-
Alex: Oh great.
Justin: A video of him on Mars singing, Let It Go.
Justin: He said, he’ll definitely be here next week.