Dr. Manhattan clearly had some control over his appearance. The hydrogen atom on his forehead was by choice, and he adjusted his blueness for the cameras when he was told it was too bright.

Wikipedia claims without citation that Cherenkov radiation was the reason for his skin color. But he had seemingly very powerful control over matter. Could he have appeared any color he chose, including like a regular human? His super-powerful appearance was a useful part of his public persona, but it seems like when he was in private (especially with Laurie) he would want to look as human as possible.

Did he not have this ability, or did he choose not to use it?

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    He might have not cared, or have forgotten it mattered to people. Remember, he absent-mindedly forgot that humans need oxygen on Mars. – Mark Beadles May 18 '12 at 15:57
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    Dude, he'd had a hard life. You'd be blue, too. – Doug Warren Feb 22 '16 at 19:11
  • Jon Osterman is blue-ish, although he might not look blue-ish. There's three related questions here: 1) Why was he blue in the first place; 2) was he necessarily blue? and 3) does he have the power to not be blue, or could he try, you know, not being blue around his relatives? Not sure the answer... Just sayin'. – Ber Apr 6 '16 at 5:40

From the interview and quotes from Comic Con's “The Physics of Watchmen — or Why So Blue Dr. Manhattan.” by University of Minnesota physics professor Jim Kakalios who teaches a class called “Everything I Know About Science I Learned from Comic Books.” (He also wrote “The Physics of Superheroes”), he speculates:

Could be because of an electromagnetic shock front which gives off energy in the ultraviolet or the blue portion of the spectrum. He has to reassemble himself on the removal of his intrinsic field. He is constantly generating, pulling up stray electrons out of the ground to keep his atomic balance right. Some of these electrons are leaking off creating drain off radiation. By adjusting how fast they’re going he can adjust the hue and intensity of his glow.

This coming from a comic book geek AND Physics college professor, I'll take it as close to authoritative as it can get :)

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    I think what he's trying to say is that the 'intrinsic field' is trying to cause Dr Manhattan to explode at every instant in time, sending particles off with enough energy to travel faster than light. Because they can't do that, they give off Cherenkov Radiation, even though he holds it together. – AncientSwordRage Dec 15 '12 at 21:42
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    You could link to this interview in which Kakalios mentions he was specifically talking about a phenomenon called cherenkov radiation (or cerenkov radiation in the interview), which is in fact blue in real life: '"I talked to the special effect people about why Dr. Manhattan might be blue, because there's a physics reason for it," he said. "There's a phenomena called Cerenkov radiation. And if he's leaking high-energy electrons, he would create a blue glow around him."' – Hypnosifl Feb 22 '16 at 19:38

I think it might be traced to this: As he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, a piece of Hindu scripture ran through the mind of Robert Oppenheimer: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. Hindu Gods are often depicted as Blue-skinned.

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    Is there any evidence for this? 1. That Robert Oppenheimer had a piece of "hindu scripture" run through his mind and 2. That it caused Dr. Manhattan to become blue? – Edlothiad Sep 6 '17 at 20:38
  • Robert Oppenheimer from an interview in the documentary The Decision to Drop the Bomb (1965) "We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another." – ench Sep 6 '17 at 20:49
  • Thanks @ench, but that doesn't mean it's the reason for the Dr's blueness – Edlothiad Sep 6 '17 at 20:57
  • I never said it was. I'm just answering a small piece of your question. – ench Sep 6 '17 at 21:04

For a more aesthetic reason, Blue is considered in many cultures, particularly western ones, to be a colour of innocence and peace.

If you were going to pick a primary colour for your skin and you wanted as few negative connotations as possible, blue is culturally your best shot, particularly in America.

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    Are you basing this on anything other than your own opinion? – Valorum Jan 4 at 12:02
  • Examples include the flags of the European Union and United Nations, they chose blue because of its connotations of Harmony. In nature, it's the colour of the sky and water and according to surveys in the US, blue is most strongly associated with thoughtful intelligence, with strong overtones of sadness. Lets face it, that pretty much describes Dr Manhattan to a tee :P In chinese culture, blue is strongly associated with ghosts and death. (in traditional theatre in particular) Dr Manhattan is arguably both, so that's a neat synchronicity too. – Ruadhan2300 Jan 5 at 15:47

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