Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan is certainly one of the most intriguing comic book characters ever. This scientist who, after being exposed to radiation, became a god has inspired so many debates ever since the cult comic book’s debut in 1986. There are so many questions about Dr. Manhattan that need answering and we’ve decided to tackle one of them in today’s article. If you ever wanted to know just how powerful Dr. Manhattan is, keep reading our article!
As far as Dr. Manhattan is concerned, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to his powers, which arguably makes him the most powerful comic book character ever. He was able to do everything, except completely kill of Reverse Flash, but that is because Eobard Thawne has become one with the Speed Force.
Now that we’ve given you a short introduction, let us discuss the topic of this article in more detail.
Who is Dr. Manhattan?
Dr. Manhattan is the pseudonym of Jonathan “Jon” Osterman, a fictional character from the DC Comics fictional universe. He debuted in Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel, Watchmen (1986), and has played an enormous role in shaping the DC Multiverse, even bigger than The Presence.
The creation of Dr. Manhattan was actually an unfortunate incident that happened to physicist Jon Osterman, as he returned to get a watch from his lab coat. The lab coat was left in a test chamber, so Osterman went inside, but the door closed. The other researchers are unable to open the door or override the countdown to the next activation, and Jon’s body is torn to pieces from the force of the generator. In the months that followed, Osterman managed to rebuild himself gradually, until he finally reappeared as a tall, hairless, naked and blue-skinned man, glowing with a “flare of ultraviolet.”
Becoming an actual superhero, Osterman became known as Doctor Manhattan — in honour of the Manhattan Project — and became a pawn of the U.S. Government and the leader of the Watchmen. At one point, he realised the banality of his situation and disappeared off to Mars, abandoning both the Watchmen, and the Earth.
Still, at one point he became disillusioned with his role on Earth and teleported himself to Mars, where he spent most of the time, pondering complex metaphysical questions and discovering the secrets of life and creation. He played a prominent role in enabling Ozymandias’ plot to prevent World War III, even destroying Rorschach in the process.
Later on, he played a pivotal role in the creation of the Flashpoint and New 52 timelines, and was the centre of the mystery explored by Batman and The Flash during “The Button” storyline. He played another major role in Doomsday Clock, where he – once again – became a true superhero, ultimately wiping himself out of existence.
Dr. Manhattan was portrayed by Billy Crudup in Zack Snyder’s 2009 movie, and by Darrell Snedeger (true form) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (as Cal Abar) in the 2019 TV show.
What are Dr. Manhattan’s powers?
Before we give you some detailed answers, we’ll be discussing Dr. Manhattan’s powers in this section.
We’ll start off with a list: nigh-omnipotence, nigh-omniscience, omnipresence, omnificence, reality alteration, genius-level intellect, subatomic perception and control, disintegration, chronokinesis, time travel, cosmic awareness, limited shapeshifting, flight and levitation, invulnerability, self-regeneration, self-sustenance, intangibility, size alteration, telekinesis, teleportation, dimensional travel, precognition, clairvoyance, self-duplication, superhuman strength and senses, immortality, energy projection, matter and energy manipulation.
If you just read through the list without analysing anything, it is a pretty impressive list of powers, but this doesn’t reveal much save for the fact that Dr. Manhattan has god-like powers although he himself is not a good, but a Metahuman. He is nothing like DC Comics’ The Presence or Marvel’s The One Above All, but he has all their powers and, seemingly, even more, which makes him so immensely powerful. So powerful, in fact, that some might say that he is ridiculously owerpowered.
So, this guy is a non-god god, but what exactly can he do? A lot of people would label Dr. Manhattan a overrated, saying that he is not as powerful as people think, that he is not a god, that he would be useless in a direct fight because he wouldn’t fight and whatnot. But the truth is – Dr. Manhattan really is all that powerful and while his powers might not exceed those of actual deities (by much), they are certainly on the same level.
This is, and we have to clear that up, a new thing to the DC Universe and was (a positive, we think) change from the initial version of Dr. Manhattan. The pre-Doomsday Clock Dr. Manhattan, albeit overpowered, was limited by the laws of physics, determinism and his own omniscience. With the merger of the Watchmen universe and the DC Universe, Dr. Manhattan’s powers grew exponentially and he was able to surpass his limits by being able to use reality-bending powers, having free will and being able to intervene. So, the character evolved and with that evolution, his powers grew to a practically unfathomable level.
Does Dr. Manhattan have a weakness?
This is an eternal question when debating about Dr. Manhattan, but from what we’ve gathered, he does not seem to have any weakness at all. There is literally nothing known out there that could harm him or kill him. He is intangible and his regeneration skills are so impressive – probably because he is a being of energy, and the basic law of nature is that energy never disappears, it only changes form – that he cannot be destroyed. Even if you would wipe him out of existence, he would still be able to come back because he’s a being of pure energy. On top of all that, he has the ability to manipulate time and space, so it’s quite difficult to imagine that even a god would be able to eliminate him without changing some of the basic laws of nature, and from what we know of the comic book deities – even they are unable to do that.
The often-quoted argument about his weakness, the one stating that Dr. Mahattan is too passive and wouldn’t even put up a fight, meaning that anyone could defeat him, is so ridiculously hypothetical and logically wrong that it just makes absolutely no sense. Who says Dr. Manhattan wouldn’t fight back? This is a presumption based on his deterministic, pre-Doomsday Clock nature, but he has proven – on several occasions – that he is very active when needed (the interventions in the DC Comics timeline, the killing of Pandora) and to assume that he would stand by knowing that he could be permanently killed (although we still think that it’s impossible) is just ludicrous. This is just a silly theory that is not based on any real fact, but rather a journalist’s interpretation of Dr. Manhattan that is not supported by any canon material. Plus, the fact that Dr. Manhattan – perhaps(!) – wouldn’t put up a fight doesn’t mean that he couldn’t do it and we argue that – based on his powers – he could eliminate anyone if he wished so. Therefore, this argument just doesn’t make sense.
Can Dr. Manhattan be killed? Does he die?
This is likewise a lingering question when Dr. Manhattan is concerned so we’ll try to answer it for you based on what we know from the comic books.
So, as far as we know – Dr. Manhattan cannot be killed. Namely, he is a being of energy with exceptional regenerative powers so even if you destroy him, he’ll just come back. He is a being of energy and would just revert to some other form of energy and then rebuild himself. So no, Dr. Manhattan – as it seems – cannot be killed by anyone… except himself. Namely, in Doomsday Clock, Dr. Manhattan seems to die (although we have yet to see how permanent that is).
Namely, Dr. Manhattan, upon seeing Superman’s humanism, decided to once again become a true superhero and reconnect with his human side, so he went back in time and changed the timeline so that he was never even created (thereby triggering the famous grandfather paradox, but even if DC says that Manhattan is “dead”, we don’t believe it to be that easy). So, Dr. Manhattan is so powerful that the only being capable of killing him is Dr. Manhattan himself; this was the result of Manhattan’s own free will and had someone else tried that, Dr. Manhattan would probably have stopped it.
This is also a very interesting resolution of the omnipotence paradox (Can God create a stone so heavy that even He could not lift it?), since neither The Presence nor The One Above All have shown any signs of being able to create something stronger than themselves, while Dr. Manhattan has shown that he can “create” something more powerful than him – and that is himself.
Is Dr. Manhattan the most powerful comic book character ever?
In our recent article on the most powerful fictional characters ever, we have done a thorough research of different franchises and characters, only to conclude that – based on the canon evidence (i.e., not fandom interpretations) – Dr. Manhattan is not only the most powerful comic book character, but the most powerful fictional character ever created. We’ve provided a solid number of arguments and evidence for our thesis, so we advise you to follow the above-mentioned article for a full explanation as to avoid repeating ourselves directly.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!