What’s the Symbolism behind Doctor Manhattan?
Everyone is subconsciously intrigued by Doctor Manhattan because of his outlook on humanity and life as a whole. His poetic speech and “Christ like” personality draw him apart from the other Watchmen Characters. I never read comic books as a child and I saw the film without knowing the plot but immediately I became intrigued by the story and the psychological views of the characters.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with who Dr. Manhattan is I will give you a brief description, he is one of the flawed “superheroes” from the twelve issue comic book limited series “Watchmen” created by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins.
Dr. Manhattan’s true name is Jon Osterman, Jon meaning “Gift of God” and Osterman, Oster meaning “one who was baptized or born during Easter” to Germans as well as “Sharp” or “Sharp-minded” to the Polish. Therefore he was a “Christ-like, sharp-minded man” (notice the details in his crucified body language).
Jon Osterman’s father was a watchmaker and in the film Jon was being taught how to break apart and re-build a watch, training him to be a “watch man” so to speak, however, following the destruction of Hiroshima by an atom bomb, the elder Osterman decided that his son’s future depended upon his success in the new “atomic age”. Jon attended Princeton University, graduating ten years later with a Ph.D in atomic physics.
While working at a nuclear research center, Jon was accidentally locked into a test chamber two minutes before midnight, trapping him in an “Intrinsic Field Subtractor” in 1959. Looking down at his watch, the time became 12AM and the transformation happened, turning him into a blue-skinned super-powered being and he became a contracted superhero by the United States government, with the special name, “Doctor Manhattan”. In the film he described this moment being, “The last time he felt fear.” He was no longer human, rather a soul and a spiritual being. He is the only character in the story who possesses real superpowers. He can transport on Earth and into the Universe, He can increase in size and number and he is a clairvoyant psychic.
Now Allow Me to Delve into the Symbolism
Color: The Color Blue represents truth, wisdom, heaven, eternity, devotion, tranquility, loyalty and openness. Doctor Manhattan represented everything the color blue depicts. His calm demeanor and God-like expressions through body language and speech reflected this.
Midnight: The number 12 denotes spiritual strength and divine perfection. In my translation to the symbol on his forehead represented the time being midnight. In mythology, symbols and folklore midday and midnight are temporal turning points that have special significance. “You know, Cinderella will turn back into a peasant and her luxurious horse and carriage will turn into fruit.” The esoteric perception of midnight is the time when the spiritual (in contrast to the physical) sun stands at the zenith, midnight therefore, is associated with contemplation, initiation, spiritual knowledge and insight. More interesting is the correlation with the Nuclear War, the main fear in the plot of the Watchmen film. According to the book, “Nuclear Fear: A History of Images” by Spencer Wert, There was the “Clock of Doom”, this clock was featured on the cover of every issue of the “Bulletin Atomic Scientists”. The clock was first appeared in 1947 set as seven minutes to midnight and the editors put it forward to two minutes before midnight in 1953 when the hydrogen bombs arrived. The clock of doom image, ignoring what would happen after the clock struck twelve, had a clear symbolism: Nuclear midnight meant the end of time. For any of you who have saw the film notice how he represented the nuclear bomb, at least that’s what everyone thought. Hope this helps and gave you a better understanding on our mystery man Doctor Manhattan, the Christ Like, Self Sacrificing, Peaceful, Introspective Super Hero.