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"Watchmaker": On Mars, Dr. Manhattan drops the photograph of himself and Janey Slater on the Martian soil and revisits various turning points in his life.

Quote1.png But it's too late, always has been, always will be too late. Quote2.png
Doctor Manhattan

Watchmen #4 is an issue of the series Watchmen (Volume 1) with a cover date of December, 1986.

Synopsis for "Watchmaker"

On Mars, Dr. Manhattan drops the photograph of himself and Janey Slater on the Martian soil and revisits various turning points in his life.

In August 7th of 1945, a sixteen-year-old Jon Osterman is in the middle of assembling a watch when his father, a watch-maker, shows him the news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Confronted with the undeniable facts of the theory of relativity, the elder Osterman declares his profession outdated and throws his son's watch-making parts out the windows, urging Jon to instead pursue a career studying nuclear physics. Jon does so in which he attended Princeton University in 1948, and graduating with a Ph.D in atomic physics in 1958.

By 1959, Jon is employed at Gila Flats in Arizona, where experiments are being performed concerning the 'intrinsic fields' of physical objects. He meets Professor Milton Glass, his colleague Wally Weaver, and his love interest Janey Slater. During a trip to New Jersey, Jon and Janey visit an amusement park. There, Janey's watchbrand breaks and is accidentally stepped on by a fat man. Jon decide to fix the watch and finally consummate his relationship with Janey.

One month later, on August, 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. When retrieving his coat inside the chamber, he is accidentally lock in. Once Professor Glass and the others found Jon, they are shocked and horrified. Glass tells John that the chamber's door has locked automatically and the generators have already began warming up to begin an experiment: removing the intrinsic field from cell block fifteen. Jon is locked in and the door cannot be open or override the countdown. Jon could only accept death and examines the watch he has put back together while his colleagues - except Janey, who cannot bear to see the last moment and flees the room - watch in horror as the countdown reaches zero. Jon is disintegrated in a flash of light.

A month later, a series of strange events occur at Gila Flats involving the apparitions of a disembodied human circulatory nervous system, a circulatory, and a muscled skeleton which last for seconds. The residents believed the facility to be haunted until on November 22nd, Jon returns as a tall, hairless, naked, blue-skinned man with incredible abilities. Jon return to his life with Janey, but remains somewhat emotionless and distant among his peers.

A year later, on February 1960, the American government recruited Jon as their military asset and touted him before the public as "Dr. Manhattan," the first super-hero. He is also provided with a costume which 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. Despite being considered America's greatest weapon, Jon wasn't able to prevent certain disasters such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, even though he is aware it is going to happen as he meets the President.

By 1966, during the first and only meeting of the Crimebusters, Jon fell in love with the then sixteen-year-old Silk Spectre, Laurie Juspeczyk, and bitterly ending his marriage with Janey. By 1970, Jon's true name is revealed to the public as his father had passed away in 1969 and there is no reason to conceal it.

In 1971, Jon was requested by President Richard Nixon in intervening in the Vietnam War alongside the Comedian. Within two months, the United States had won the war and forever tipping the balance of the Cold War in the West's favor. In 1975, Nixon proposed a new constitutional amendment that would allow the President to have an extended term in office. Amidst all this, Adrian Veidt publicly reveal his identity as Ozymandias and announcing his retirement from costumed heroics. Veidt invited Jon and Laurie to visit his Antarctic retreat Karnak. During a conversation between Veidt and Jon, the world have radically changed since the last fifteen years from quantum physics to transportation all thanks to Jon.

During the Police Strike of 1977, Jon and Laurie handled the riots in Washington, D.C. in which the former dispelled the rioters by teleporting them back to their homes. This caused two people to suffered heart attacks. Following the riots, the U.S. government passed an emergency bill (the Keene Act) proposed by Senator Keene which made vigilantism illegal and exempting registered adventurers such as Jon and the Comedian. Laurie and Dan Dreiberg retired their identities of Silk Spectre and Nite Owl, while Rorschach remains active in which he respond his feelings towards compulsory retirement by leaving a note on the dead body of a multiple rapist outside police headquarters. In 1985, Jon recalls walking in New York with Laurie and buying a Time magazine commemorating Hiroshima Week, and finally the events that lead him to leave for Mars.

Jon construct a giant, glass structure that rises from the soil while wondering if events had gone differently if he didn't become Dr. Manhattan. He then stands on the balcony of his structure to watch a meteorite shower.

Appearing in "Watchmaker"

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Synopsis for "Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and Superpowers"

In his book Doctor Manhattan, Super Powers and the Superpowers, Professor Milton Glass, the director of Gila Flats and sponsor of Dr. Manhattan, discuss his misgivings of Dr. Manhattan. Prof. Glass dispel the myth that he was the one who came up with the popular phrase "The superman exists and he's American" that described Manhattan in his public appearance by the American media. He instead said the chilling quote "God exist and he's American."

Glass states that the god-like Manhattan proved valuable as a pawn for the United States, in which his powers would allow him in defending the country from Soviet retaliation with ease and arguably forcing the Soviets to never risk a full-scale global conflict. Despite Manhattan's presence which have curbed Soviet adventurism, this does not spell global peace but only to exacerbate the Cold War.

To understand the mindset of the Soviet Union, Glass looks to the Russians' contributions in the Second World War and conclude that the Soviets would do anything to protect their nation from threats such as Manhattan no matter what the cost. This is supported by the sharp increase of Soviet and American nuclear stockpiles since the advent of Manhattan and making the possibility of Mutually Assured Destruction. Unfortunately, the Nixon administration does not share Prof. Glass' concerns and have become intoxicated with having a superhuman being to continually promote American interests unopposed.

Aside from affecting the international sense, Manhattan had also changed the domestic sense in which he contributed advanced technology such as electric cars and clean, economical airships. Thus, human culture have contort itself to accommodate Manhattan. Glass conclude that "We are all of us living in the shadow of Manhattan."

Appearing in "Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and Superpowers"

Featured Characters:


  • Albert Einstein's quote at the end of the issue refers to quantum mechanics: "The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking... The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker." Quantum mechanics destroyed any view of our universe as deterministic, and Einstein didn't care for the resulting uncertainty. This is particularly ironic, since Dr. Manhattan's time sense suggests that his universe is indeed deterministic.
  • The title of this issue, "Watchmaker," refers to the famous "argument from design," stating that the universe is a complex creation that must have a creator. The metaphor was first proposed by William Paley in his work Natural Theology; his example was that of finding a watch somewhere, and that its complexity implied a matchmaker. This term has come to symbolize an intelligent creator, and thus is particularly appropriate to Dr. Manhattan, as he is "The Judge of All the Earth."


  • Manhattan's comments on Haley's Comet, which was actually sailing through the sky in 1986, may refer to how comets were seen as bad omens. This would be yet another symbol of the approaching "end of days" within Watchmen.
  • Professor Glass is seen having a slide rule in his pocket (4:4:1).
  • The fat man that steps on Janey's watch and breaks it is symbolic of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which was nicknamed "Fat Man." This is the pivotal experience that results in the creation of Dr. Manhattan.
  • The image of the cracked watchface and the time at which it stopped (4:6:9) is mirrored later in this issue by a watchface used as a cover image of Time magazine for a remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. These watches represent the death of innocence (represented by Jon Osterman and by our world prior to the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan) and the birth of a nuclear age (represented by Dr. Manhattan and the use of atomic bombs on Japan by the United States in the real world). This broken watch is the final catalyst that forces Jon onto his path of godhood.
  • The name of Moloch's crime den is "Dante's". This is a reference to the Italian author best known for the Divine Comedy, which included a trip to Hell.
  • During Manhattan's meeting with President Nixon, Manhattan recalls John F. Kennedy "avoiding any mention of Cuba." in 1961. This refers to the failed U.S.-sponsored invasion of the Bay of Pigs Invasion which failed to overthrow Fidel Castro and his government in 1961, and became an international embarrassment for U.S. foreign policy in which Kennedy was willing to accept responsibility for the invasion's failure.
  • During Manhattan's and Laurie's visit to Adrian Veidt's Antarctic retreat, Veidt mentions one of Manhattan's technological achievement for making fast and safe airships; hence why airships are commonly seen in the world of Watchmen while in the real-world passenger-carrying rigid airships had been declining because of being potentially hazardous, such as the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.
  • The Iranian hostage situation occurred when student militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Apparently the situation was solved much more quickly in the world of Watchmen.
  • In real life, Time magazine did in fact commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima with a special issue, dated 29 July 1985. However, the issue's cover featured a mushroom cloud, not a broken watch.
  • The cover of Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and Superpowers references Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.

See Also

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