"And what about the characterisation of the more, um, extra-terrestrial beings present? How can you even begin to conjure up a being like Dr. Manhattan?
‘With Dr. Manhattan we were thinking about the implications of a nuclear superhero’, explains Alan. ‘All the nuclear superheroes that existed in comics previously have been ones who, by the great gift of radioactivity, suddenly find themselves not with leukaemia or some form of tumour, but with miraculous powers. Other than shooting bolts out of their hands willy-nilly, there were never any of the implications of nuclear science and particularly quantum science – they’re not considered. We’re now forty years post-Einstein and it’s time we tried to confront some of the things Einstein said. On a quantum level, as I understand it, reality does not work! Things can be in two places at once; they can move from point A to point B without passing through the distance that separates those points… and this is what Dr. Manhattan does. Time, in a post-Einsteinian universe, cannot be regarded in the same way: from what Einstein says, it is possible that the future and past must exist now, for what “now” means. Someone existing in a quantum universe would not see time broken up in the linear way we see it. We tried to think what it would be like to somebody to whom the theory of relativity was what he had for breakfast, more or less… if you could see that different aspect of things then it would change you. You would not be able to feel the same way about the importance of human affairs. I didn’t want to do a Mr. Spock, I didn’t want to do somebody who was just emotionless – he has got emotions of a sort he’s growing away from them. He has girlfriends; I should imagine that’s just human habit. But at the end of Watchmen he decides he’s just going to go into space, forever. Perhaps he’ll make some people, but basically he doesn’t want anything more to do with humans… in a lifespan that may span billennia he’s only gone a couple of steps. He’s growing away from humanity gradually. It’s not a cold unemotional thing, it’s just different; a different way of seeing the universe.
‘Which is part of what Watchmen is about. We tried to set up four or five radically opposing ways of seeing the world and let the readers figure it out for themselves; let them make a moral decision for once in their miserable lives! Too many writers go for that “baby bird” moralising, where your audience just sits there with their beaks open and you just cram regurgitated morals down their throat. Heroes don’t work that way anymore… although I think Frank Miller would disagree with me on that. What we wanted to do was show all of these people, warts and all. Show that even the worst of them had something going for them, and even the best of them had their flaws.’
A really interesting interview - I give you this extract partially because it confirms what I've always thought about the book being a selection of ideologies and their struggle for that elusive "last laugh", and partially because it makes mention of "nuclear superheroes", a theme I'm thinking of exploring for my dissertation - my dad's a great collector of comics and an enthusiast regarding most sorts of American "retro" culture so I'm going to talk to him about it. I've been thinking for awhile about possible angles to take on my dissertation (in general I want to write about the nuclear bomb and its visual presentations in media) and I wanted to weave comics into it somehow. We'll see how it works out.
Read the interview in its entirety here. Props to Alan for the sly dig at Frank Miller.