Chapter 4 of Watchmen was so immersive and beautiful to me. Visually, I loved how the dark, starry background of space combined with the vivid pink of Mars and Doctor Manhattan’s pastel blue toned skin. But what really intrigued and hooked me into this chapter was the way that Moore and Gibbons were capturing the way Doctor Manhattan perceives time.

In creating this character, Moore relied on an understanding of nuclear and quantum physics, stating, “a character living in a quantum universe would not perceive time with a linear perspective, which would influence the character’s perception of human affairs” (Moore). I’m not going to even attempt to understand the physics of this phenomenon, but regardless I was fascinated by the way Moore and Gibbons disrupted the linear motion of time in this chapter.

The nine panel grid used throughout this comic creates a sense of controlled pacing of the story, and while time is warped and particularly nonlinear in this chapter, the consistent structure of the panels continues to serve as a grounding element. The motifs of the falling photograph and the watch cogs also grounded this story as Doctor Manhattan navigated time seamlessly, narrating events from the past, present, and future simultaneously in the caption boxes while using visual motifs as a foundation for the unfolding plot.  

Doctor Manhattan presents a fascinating point of view to readers because of his quantum universe. Moore stated that he didn’t want this character to be emotionless like Spock from Star Trek. While Doctor Manhattan is a pretty distant character, understandably so given how his perception of time affects his interactions with the human world, his nihilistic, existential thoughts are still balanced by his admiration for complexity and improbability of human life. All in all, it was fascinating to glimpse the world through Doctor Manhattan’s perspective before he leaves Earth behind at the end, unable to reconcile his perspective with the human world.


Did Doctor Manhattan throw you into any existential crises and deep philosophical pondering? Did you find him sympathetic, cheesy, insightful, or relatable? What did you notice about the way time was depicted in chapter 4 or any other chapters of this comic? 


Works Cited

Moore, Alan. Interview by Vincent Eno and El Csawza. Strange Things Are Happening, vol. 1, no. 2, May/June 1988.