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Dr. Manhattan

by Monkey Boy

Mattel's second installment in their Watchmen line has finally arrived after its $9 shipping journey that spanned several states. But finally, Dr. Manhattan in my hands. He'll be eventually followed by Nite Owl, then Silk Spectre, then Comedian, and finally Ozymandias. But for now, all the focus is on Dr. Jon Osterman.

The packaging this go 'round is once again excellent. It's not as much of a pleasant surprise, since it's much the same as Rorschach's, but it's still very nice. Like Rorschach, the outer box features the Doomsday Clock, but this time it's 4 minutes to midnight, instead of Rorschach's 19 minutes. One side continues the "Who watches the Watchmen?" graffiti, while the other features gears and cogs, highlighting the theme of time that's central to Manhattan's character, with his trademark hydrogen atom symbol at the top.

The inner "book" packaging again features the Comedian's bloody button in extreme close-up on the front, with a stylized Dr. Manhattan illustration on the spine and the continuing blocky letters that will eventually spell out "WATCHMEN" on the back. Inside, Manhattan sits in a plastic tray, with an oversized illustrated card on the opposite side, just like Rorschach. Also like Rorschach's, the card features a bio on the back:

The son of a watchmaker, Jonathan Osterman was a cog in the ever-growing machine of atomic physics. An unforseeable accident seemingly caused his complete annihilation, until his atoms were reformed into... something else. Able to see the past, present, and future simultaneously, the blue-hued being known as Dr. Manhattan continued to work for the government, foregoing any sense of human morality for the sake of scientific advancement.

Manhattan is basically the only super-powered being in the Watchmen universe. Despite there being plenty of "heroes" running around, they're all just costumed vigilantes. But not Manhattan. His powers aren't explicitly defined, but they're shown to be pretty limitless: he can manipulate matter, change his size and appearance, be in multiple places at once, teleport himself and others, survive without oxygen, and, as the bio states, he can see into the past and the future. However, his godlike powers also cause him to become more and more disconnected from humanity, though this is really only partly due to his omniscient perspective and is actually being manipulated and exacerbated by more sinister forces.

Matty's Manhattan figure should look familiar to anyone who has collected any of the company's DC figures. Everything except the head, hands and feet is the same standard DCUC male muscular body that everyone has seen a trillion times. Basically, this was a very easy figure for Mattel to make. The new head looks very nice and just like the comic book, with its squared jaw, stoic expression and arched eyebrows (yes, the eyebrows are painted, but the furrowed brow is sculpted). The hands are open to help replicate the iconic messianic Dr. Manhattan pose, and the feet are bare because Doc does not give two craps about shoes. Or any clothes for that matter.

Paint is minimal, and most of it is on the head. His eyes get the most work, with a couple of shades of dark gray marking the area around his eyes, as well as his lips. Then there's white for the eyes themselves, and black for the eyebrows and hydrogen atom symbol on his forehead. The figure is molded in blue, except for the crotch piece and the hip joints, which seem to be molded in black with the blue painted on. He seems to have a very subtle wash to highlight his musculature, but it's so similar to the color the figure's molded in that it's hard to see if it's really there, or if it's just the shadows playing tricks on you.

The black "underwear" seen on this figure represents one of the most toy-friendly outfits he sports in the comic, and thus the most frequently used outfit on merchandise and promotional material. In the story, he transitions from a full black costume including shorts and a tank top to the pointed briefs featured on this figure. He then shifts toward more of a thong before finally going au naturel as wearing clothes becomes less and less important to him.

Thankfully, the figure isn't totally in the buff, although it would technically probably look better, since the paintwork on Jon's black undies is pretty sloppy. The edges are poorly defined, and they don't line up with the sculpted folds on the inside of Manhattan's thighs, so it looks like his skin is actually folded like cloth. It's a bit disturbing, and something that could have been easily avoided if Mattel just gave slightly more of a crap while creating this figure.

The articulation is exactly what you think it is, because everyone has seen this body or some variation of it many times before. Balljointed neck, peg and hinge shoulders, peg bicep, hinged elbows, peg wrists, hinged chest, peg waist, peg and hinge hips, peg thighs, hinged knees, and hinged ankles. Not bad at all, but certainly not anything revolutionary. All the joints work well, although the range of the neck is somewhat restricted for some reason. It can turn side to side and look up and down, but can't really be tilted at all.

The true travesty of this figure is in the accessories. Or rather, in the lack of them. He gets the same base that Rorschach got, and nothing else. Manhattan doesn't really use much in the way of weaponry, but the obvious choice would be some sort of clear elevated stand to simulate his ability to float. While he still seemed to prefer walking as a method of locomotion, he occasionally levitated, most prominently when he first re-appeared after his atoms had been discombobulated or whatever. In fact, this figure's hand sculpts, as well as the card illustration, seem to be referencing this iconic pose, while the figure is unable to replicate it.

The DC Direct movie-based Doc figure came with a small clear stand (and an extra pair of closed legs) that allowed him to float, but since I never bought that figure, I'm not sure how compatible it is with Matty's offering. There are peg holes in this figure's feet, and if they match up, it may be worth tracking the DCD figure down for its stand, but really Mattel should have just included one.

Despite his flaws, Rorschach was a figure that really wowed me. Dr. Manhattan's shortcomings, on the other hand, are much more damaging to my overall feelings on the figure. Surely some of my excitement over Rorschach was due to the joy of getting comic-based Watchmen toys, so it's only natural that enthusiasm would be somewhat mitigated with the second figure in the line. But I'm reasonably sure that's not all that's behind it. Doc is just a pretty bland figure, with nothing that really pulls him up and makes him stand out. He's just a totally utilitarian, by-the-book Dr. Manhattan figure. Giving him a floaty stand would have been helpful. Ditto if his paint was crisper and more interesting. As it is, he's not bad, but he's not too good either.

Also, I'm almost 100% sure that this head will be slapped on Mattel's DCUC "suit" body at some point in the future as an "Edward Blake Funeral" version. Mark my words.

-- 04/03/13

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