In Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan is the only real "super" hero. He is created by Dr. Osterman being trapped inside the intrinsic field experiment. Presumably this experiment was reproducible, and if not in the original device, in Ozymandias' recreation of it that he used to dismantle Dr. Manhattan.

Obviously there are ethical implications of putting someone else into the device and the possibility that they would fail to reassemble themselves the way Osterman did, but given his immense power and the willingness of world powers to make use of Manhattan, such as in Vietnam, was it ever tried? If not, was a reason given?

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    No one was willing to be turned into a naked blue guy?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 5:03
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    Lack of volunteers? Or the fact you only need one? Given the timeline though, I'm surprised the USSR didn't at least try . . . Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 5:05
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    @Covertwalrus: We can assume the technology used to create Manhattan was the most closely guarded secret in the world. The USSR might have been unable to reproduce it. It's also questionable whether Manhattan wanted a rival superman around the place, and he might have discouraged the US government or others from trying to produce one. Manhattan can discourage pretty strongly when he wants. Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 8:35
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    “Presumably this experiment was reproducible” — sure, but it was a failure, so thanks to publication bias Dr. Manhattan never got around to publishing the paper on it. Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 8:38
  • I don't think it was ever even mentioned again in the original graphic novel, though I haven't read the recent prequel storys that came out.
    – Etheur
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


The difficult part is probably not the disintegration of the body, but putting the parts back together afterwards.

Even if they did try to reproduce the experiment (and there is no indication in the book that they ever did), they would still have to find an applicant that is able to reassemble themselves after disintegration.

This does not seem to be an automatic process. Jon explicitly mentions that he had to 'learn' how to do it

after Adrian disintegrates him a second time.

The analogy that is given in the book is the reassembling of a watch from its parts. We know that Jon spend a great part of his youth practicing this and it is implied that he was quite talented at it. The same talent that allowed him to work so well with the watches was probably a key factor in allowing him to reconstruct his body.

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    @IanAuld Just because what makes Jon special also makes him a good watchmaker does not mean that every watchmaker has it. What if you disintegrate a dozen watchmakers and still none comes back? Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 15:03
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    True however that doesn't really explain why anyone wouldn't try. In the setting of the comic Russia would certainly have a lot to gain by having their own Manhattan (Mannhatnik?). Given Russia's human rights record I don't think they would have a problem with disintegrating hundreds if not thousands of people in hopes of creating even one new god. I think this also raises the interesting question of, if someone was to try would Dr. Manhattan allow it to happen?
    – kylieCatt
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 15:10
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    There would be a problem with control over such a guy...
    – Mithoron
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 17:22
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    In the text piece "Dr. Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers" that appears in Watchmen, which is supposed to have been written by a physicist (Milton Glass) who worked with Osterman, it says "In 1959, in an accident that was certainly unplanned and just as certainly unrepeatable, a young American man was completely disintegrated, at least in a physical sense. Despite the absence of a body, a form of electromagnetic pattern resembling consciousness survived, as able, in time, to rebuild an approximation of the body it had lost."
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 18:10
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    (continued) Note the "just as certainly unrepeatable" line--although Alan Moore never explains this, we can imagine that within the narrative Milton Glass probably had good reasons for this confidence, maybe as a physicist working on defense projects he could have been briefed on intelligence reports about attempts to replicate the experiment by others like the USSR or China, and knew they had all met with failure?
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 18:12

Well if anyone in that universe was going to make another Manhattan it would be either Doctor Manhattan himself or Adrian Veidt (I doubt any of the world governments could beat them to the punch if making another Manhattan was possible), however...
Neither Doctor Manhattan nor Adrian Veidt successfully replicated the procedure and both certainly had ample motivation to; so we can pretty safely assume that if they could have they would have and that since they didn't, they can't (i.e. it must have been some freak quantum accident that even Doctor Manhattan can't reproduce). [and by "successfully replicated" I mean they turned someone else into a glowing blue god]

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    Although that sort of begs the question of why he didn't he mention that particular miracle in his famous 'you're a miracle' speech... Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 10:58
  • I get why Adrian would want to make another Doctor Manhattan, but what's Jon's motivation? I can think of a few reasons why he would not want to make another one of him (the second one might steal his fame and glory, subjugate the entire planet, kill those he used to love before he stopped wearing pants), but no good reasons why he would want to.
    – Torisuda
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 0:12

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