• Faith & Fandom

Watchmen: Could Have Done More



Watchmen has long been one of those comic stories that’s treated as a masterpiece and a cornerstone of what can be told in the medium of comic books. The one issue of the original Watchmen story, “Fearful Symmetry,” is a visual and engineering masterpiece on paper. Most people never believed a cinematic adaptation of the story could be pulled off, but to his credit, Zack Snyder made a Watchmen film few others could have. He may have pulled his punches when it came down to the squid, but I thought it was still well done.

Adapting a masterpiece is a challenging feat; adding to a masterpiece is even harder. For the longest time, it seemed every time someone attempted to add on to the story, it just paled in comparison. The 2012 comic arc “Before Watchmen,” honestly felt flat and inorganic to me. The cover art was fantastic, but it stopped there.

The announcement of Geoff Johns doing “Doomsday Clock,” the 2017 comic arc that would bring Watchmen to DC proper and show that Dr. Manhattan was responsible for all the reboots and canonical changes throughout the DC Universe was a great idea on paper. It introduced Marionette and Mime, which were fantastic characters. Even the new Rorschach was an excellent take. But the constant delays made it feel like the story just wasn’t important. By the time issue 12 finally hit, most people had experienced so many other comic book stories that it lost its value, and it became another underwhelming addition to the Watchmen arsenal.

Then, when in the midst of Doomsday Clock, HBO announced a Watchmen sequel series was coming, I approached it with a hearty, “eh.” I just wasn’t convinced something worthwhile could be contributed to the conversation.

I was wrong.

The HBO watchmen series honestly feels organically like it belongs right beside the book of Watchmen. It is a worthy successor and a great continuation of the story, but for me it sparked some thoughts in terms of ability, responsibility, and accountability. Much of what hit me the most centered in on Dr. Manhattan, and people’s responses to who he was and what he did. Dr. Manhattan is easily one of the most OP (over powered) characters in pop culture. In many ways, Manhattan operates on borderline god level powers with very few limitations. The presence of Tachyon particles has the ability to cloud and hinder Manhattan’s perception and abilities, and according to the HBO series he can be contained in a cage that requires a metric ton of lithium batteries, but beyond that, he is a character of unimaginable power. Yet for all of his power, he doesn’t exactly wield it well.

Jesus makes a statement that sounds similar to Stan Lee’s famous mantra of Spider-Man lore:

“But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” - Luke 12:48.

If you’ve been given much, much will be demanded. If you’ve been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Based on Jesus’ statement, there was much to be expected and demanded of Dr. Manhattan. In our Watchmen history, we see Manhattan do all the stuff the government and society wanted of him, but then he was emotionally wounded and left. He went to Mars for a bit, spent 20 years on Europa, and then spent 10 and some change years playing house with Sister Night. He tried to do big things with his power, but the backlash and the troubles of his personal life made him shy away.

Even in their first encounter, long before Angela actually believed his identity, she chastised this would-be Manhattan for his failures. He responded with, “I was trying to be what people wanted me to be. A Soldier, superhero, a savior. I tried to do the right thing and, if it’s any consolation, I do regret it.” He had great power, but he wasn’t perfect. He was a man with crazy abilities, but still had feelings, and one of his major weaknesses is that he was in his feelings. Like all of his feelings at once.

Before you dump on him, imagine feeling all of your worst days at the same time. That’s terrifying. Yes, he had more abilities than most. Agent Petey described him as “the most powerful being in existence.” Angela broke the fingers of the 7th Kalvary thug before he stated, “He had all the power in the world. Still too lazy or too stupid to do anything with it.” Ozymandias called him, “the most omnipotent being in the history of civilization.” Yet at the end of the day, he was overwhelmed by society and the constant need to perform and live up to expectations that he put a fake decoy recording of himself on Mars just so he could live in peace.

You and I don’t have to deal with what to do with overwhelming power, but we do have a responsibility based on the verse Jesus spoke to do the best with what we have been given. Manhattan was given more, so people expected more. You know what you’ve been given in your life, so legitimately what will you do with it?

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells this parable about what it’s like to misuse what we’ve been given:

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” - Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus stated that simply not using the talents we’ve been given is borderline disrespectful to the one who gives them to us. Jon hanging out on Mars, Europa, or Tulsa was effectively burying his talents in the sand. I get it. He was tired. He was hurting. He was frustrated with what existence was, but he could do what few others could.

In our lives, there is no one who can do exactly what you do the way you do it. Your skills, talent, and voice matters. I pastor a church. There are tons of other pastors pastoring other churches, but no one can fill my role the way I do. I write a book series of geeky Bible studies; you obviously know that. I’m not the only one writing geeky Bible studies or doing ministry to comic con culture. I'm not even the best at it, but it’s part of me using the talents and skills God has given me, and I wouldn’t be honoring God if I didn’t.

Dr. Manhattan may not have done everything within his power and it caused lady Trieu to become envious and arrogant towards the good doctor. She saw his abilities and had determined that she would do greater things with his abilities than he did. Trieu told Angela this:

“So many prayers unanswered. I own and operate thousands of Manhattan booths around the world. You wouldn’t believe what people ask him for. They beg and beg and beg for his help. Beg for him to come down from the heavens and make things better. But he ignores them. Every single one. Do you know why? Because Dr. Manhattan isn’t listening. He’s not even on Mars. Right here in Tulsa. Pretending to be human.”

She saw the lack of his talents being put to use and realized in her hands, his power could do so much more. She told Ozymandias:

“If I can take his power, I can fix the world. Disappear the nukes, end starvation, clean the air. All the things he should have done. I’ve already designed a quantum centrifuge capable of absorbing his energy so I can transfer it to me.”

She was literally the most brilliant and talented woman in the world. She had the ability to change the course of human history without superpowers at all. She stated this in her millennium clock launch speech:

“When I was 15 years old, I graduated from M.I.T., 4 years later I bought it. By 24, I had revolutionized the field of medicine. Energy, nanotech, and at 30, I designed and launched the first micro fusion spacecraft. But there were failures too. My greatest was Nostalgia. I gave the people the means to visit the past so they could learn from it. So they could evolve and transform and better themselves. Instead, they became fixated on their most painful memories. Choosing to experience the worst moments of their lives over and over again. And why? Afraid that once unburdened by the trauma of the past, they would have no excuse not to move gloriously into the future.”

She literally did more to change the world in 30 years without powers than Dr. Manhattan did with his entire life. But she became so focused on obtaining his talents, she stopped focusing on what she could do with her own. In essence, her jealously made her become the very thing she criticized Dr. Manhattan of being. She became someone who didn’t use their talents to the best of their abilities. Think about the time, money, effort, and resources she put into stealing Manhattan’s power. If she had applied even half of those things to continuing the work she had started, she could have been the greatest human influence the world had ever seen. But she let her jealously side track her. It can easily do the same in our lives when we start looking at how other people are using their talents instead of looking honestly at ourselves at how we are using our own.

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.“ - James 3:14-16.

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.“ - Galatians 6:4.

Lady Trieu had so much potential. She truly had the potential to be the greatest hero in the Watchmen world, but sadly got sidetracked. Whatever altruistic motives or desires she had been eaten by her own arrogance. As Ozymandias and Looking Glass discussed during the climactic scene:

Ozymandias: “She claims she’s going to fix the world” Looking Glass: “How do you know she won't?” Ozymandias: “Because she is clearly a raging narcissist whose ambition knows no limits. It’s hubris, literal hubris. Anyone who seeks to attain the power of a god must be prevented at all cost from attaining it. But believe me that girl will not rest until she has us all prostrate before...kissing her tiny blue feet.”

Ozymandias was a megalomaniac, but could still see that Trieu had lost her way. That happens to us when we begin to focus on what others have rather than what we do. While holding others accountable is important, we still are most responsible for what we do with what we have been given.

The thought that kickstarted me writing this chapter was Will Reaves last lines of the series. As he was talking to his mourning granddaughter about the loss of her husband, he stated, “He was a good man. Well, I’m sorry he’s gone. But, uh, considering what he could do, he could have done more.”

That hit me like a truck.

I’m a notoriously busy person that has trouble saying no when I should. I don’t overdue things out of guilt or fear, but rather out of passion. It doesn’t matter how much I'm doing by my own standards if I’m not doing the things God has called and gifted me to do. The idea of God saying at the end of my life “he could have done more,” gives me caution. I don’t want to hear, “he could have done more.” I want to hear this:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” - Matthew 25:21.

Here’s to using what we’ve been given faithfully.

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