Ozymandias. Art by Dave Gibbons.
|First appearance||Watchmen #1
|Created by||Alan Moore
|Alter ego||Adrian Alexander Veidt|
Ozymandias (// oz-ee-MAN-dee-əs; real name Adrian Alexander Veidt) is a fictional character in the American graphic novel miniseries Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, published by DC Comics. Named Ozymandias in the manner of Ramesses II, he is a modified version of the comic book character Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt from Charlton Comics. His name recalls the famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, which takes as its theme the fleeting nature of empire and is excerpted as the epigraph of one of the chapters of Watchmen. Ozymandias is ranked number 25 on Wizard's Top 200 Comic Book Characters list and number 21 on IGN's Top 100 Villains list.
Adrian Veidt was born in 1939, and is the son of wealthy German-American immigrant parents. As a child, he received high grades in school, and it was noted that he was very intelligent. He then hid this information from his elders and peers by deliberately achieving average marks. After his parents' deaths, he inherited their substantial fortune at age seventeen, but chose to give it all to charity as he wanted to make something of himself on his own. Veidt embarked on a vision quest, following the route of his childhood idol Alexander the Great. During an excursion into the Middle East, Veidt consumed a ball of hashish and saw visions of the past. As he finished his travels in Egypt, he realized that Alexander was a pale imitation of Ramesses II, who became Veidt's new hero. On returning to the US, he began training himself to achieve peak physical condition, becoming a world-class gymnast in the process.
At age nineteen, Veidt named himself Ozymandias (the Greek name for Ramesses II) and became a costumed vigilante, earning a reputation as "the smartest man on the planet” and using his physical skills to non-violently incapacitate opponents. He debuted in early 1958 by exposing a drug ring in New York City. An early attempt at his “bullet catch” trick worked, though it deprived him of the first three fingers of his right hand in the process. Undeterred, Veidt had his entire hand replaced with a bionic prosthesis. In 1966, he was invited by former Minuteman and adventurer Captain Metropolis to become a member of the Crimebusters, but the group never came to fruition due to the Comedian’s breaking up the meeting. It was at this moment that Veidt began to believe superheroics were not enough to save the world, and began plotting to think of a method that could.
After being a superhero
Due to the increasingly negative perceptions of vigilantes by the media, Veidt predicted that the public would turn away from them. Two years before costumed heroes were banned by the Keene Act, Veidt revealed his secret identity, retired from superheroism and marketed his image. He became very wealthy and was known as a great humanitarian, and used this to bankroll his secret scheme of creating a catastrophic event to deceive the world into uniting against a common enemy and thus avert nuclear war. Upon completion of his project, Veidt planned to murder all of his (unwitting) accomplices and arrange the psychological deterioration and self-exile of the presumably invincible Doctor Manhattan.
Events of Watchmen
Veidt is first seen when Rorschach visits him to get his opinion on Blake's murder and to warn about a possible serial killer targeting superheroes. Rorschach is unconvinced of Veidt's theory that Blake was assassinated by a bitter arch-rival. Veidt is one of the few people attending Blake's funeral, at which he reminisces about the failed Crimebusters meeting. Later, Veidt narrowly escapes an assassination attempt that leaves his assistant dead. The would-be assassin dies from an unseen cyanide capsule before Veidt can interrogate him.
Rorschach and Nite Owl deduce that Veidt is behind the whole plot after they link one of Veidt's shell companies to a plot to discredit Manhattan. The duo realize that Veidt exposed Manhattan's former lover, colleagues, and an enemy to radiation and deliberately monitored them for cancer, so Manhattan would flee Earth out of either guilt or public enmity. When Rorschach and Nite Owl arrive at Veidt's Antarctic retreat, he easily overpowers both of them and explains his plan to save humanity from itself: teleport a biologically-engineered, telepathic creature to New York which would kill millions and convince the world that they were under extraterrestrial attack. The US and the Soviet Union, on the brink of nuclear confrontation, would then join forces against the supposed alien invaders. He also admits to framing Manhattan; killing the Comedian; framing Rorschach for the murder of Moloch; and staging the attempt on his own life, killing his attacker. When Rorschach and Nite Owl ask him when he planned to execute his scheme, Veidt reveals that it was completed before they arrived, saying, "I did it thirty-five minutes ago."
When Doctor Manhattan and Silk Spectre confront Veidt, he attempts to disintegrate Manhattan only for the latter to reform himself. Silk Spectre attempts to shoot him, but he catches the bullet and knocks her out. Realizing that exposing Veidt's plan will undo the nascent world peace, most of the heroes agree to remain silent on the plot. Rorschach, a moral absolutist, prepares to return to the US and reveal Veidt's plan to the world, but ultimately lets Manhattan kill him. Before Manhattan leaves to create life in another galaxy, Veidt asks him if he "did the right thing in the end." Manhattan replies that "nothing ever ends", leaving Veidt in doubt about how long the peace will last. Unbeknownst to Veidt and the other characters, Rorschach has previously mailed a journal to a newspaper detailing his findings about Veidt's plan. It is left ambiguous whether the newspaper ultimately publishes its contents.
A six-part series on Ozymandias titled Before Watchmen: Ozymandias had its first issue released in July 2012. It is written by Len Wein, with art by Jae Lee. This is part of a planned 35-issue Before Watchmen series.
Events of Doomsday Clock
Seven years after the events of Watchmen, Rorschach's journal is released to the public and Veidt becomes a fugitive. Having been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and knowing that his plan to save the world has failed, Veidt recruits a man bearing the Rorschach moniker and has him break Erika Manson, a.k.a. The Marionette, and her husband, the Mime, out of prison. When Rorschach II returns with the two, Veidt reveals himself and his situation, explaining to the two criminals that they must follow Manhattan to another universe and convince him to save their world.
Using the Owlship, Veidt and his group travel to the DC Universe just as nuclear war breaks out on their Earth. After conducting research on this new world he's found himself in, Veidt goes to Metropolis to ask Lex Luthor to join his quest. However, as he is pleading his case, Veidt is shocked to find himself being confronted by the Comedian, who has been transported to the DC Universe by Manhattan. The Comedian turns out to be evenly matched with Veidt, forcing him to retreat through Luthor's office window. Veidt falls twenty stories and is hospitalized with minor injuries, but soon manages to escape.
Upon returning to the Owlship, Veidt is confronted by Batman, who has read the contents of the original Rorschach's journal. As the two elude the police, Batman claims that Veidt murdered millions as part of a delusional hero syndrome, and accuses him of concocting a conspiracy theory that has negatively affected the public's trust in the superheroes of the DC Universe. Veidt in turn criticizes Batman for focusing all his attention on supervillains while ignoring the world's social problems. A struggle ensues, leading to Batman falling out of the Owlship and into a mob of anti-hero protestors below.
Skills and abilities
Adrian Veidt has been deemed "the smartest man in the world" by many, mainly the media, though this title is regarded as well-deserved. Veidt deftly built both a legitimate and criminal empire large enough to become a global threat through his exploitation of advanced technology and genetics.
He has ambition matching his intelligence, evidenced by his successful execution of a plan to help Earth towards utopia by ending international hostilities. He is shown to be a ruthless and master strategist, swiftly eliminating anybody who dares to get in the way of his plans, while maintaining total secrecy. Veidt also possesses a photographic memory. Additionally, Veidt is depicted at the pinnacle of human physical ability, to the point of being able to reflexively catch a bullet. He is also an almost superhuman unarmed combatant who easily defeats both Rorschach and Nite Owl. His only defeat came early in his career at the hands of the Comedian, whom he later bested and seemingly killed.. However, a later re-match with the Comedian resulted in him fleeing the fight.
A world-class athlete, he is extremely physically fit and performs acrobatics to aid charity events. He is exceptionally active despite his age (mid-forties). Included as a back-up feature to issue #11, a Veidt interview conducted by Doug Roth notes Veidt as resembling a man of 30 rather than one of the middle age.
Adrian Veidt believes that his vast intelligence obligates him to unite the warring modern world, modelling his approach after his personal hero, Alexander the Great, as he did in his time. When he comes to doubt the value of confronting street criminals in the face of greater crimes of the powerful and governments that go unpunished, he endeavors to study world politics, and concludes that nuclear war will bring the world to an end in just a few years, and plans to use such a catastrophe to save the world.
Ozymandias is politically neutral, supporting social causes and performing at a benefit for India, which has suffered famine. He believes that everyone is capable of great intelligence, if they choose to be, and that any problem can be solved with the correct application of human intelligence.
Ozymandias is shown to be very genial as noted by Hollis Mason. He demonstrates his sense of humor, joking around many times during his interview with Nova Express and his battle with Rorschach, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre. Ozymandias is also a vegetarian. His favorite companion is his genetically-engineered pet lynx, Bubastis.
Feature film and script versions
In a 1989 Sam Hamm film draft, Veidt's goal is to go back in time to kill Jonathan Osterman before he becomes Dr. Manhattan, because he reasons that Manhattan's existence has led America to nuclear war with the Russians. Veidt is unable to kill Osterman in the past, but Osterman decides to alter the past so that Dr. Manhattan is never "born." By sacrificing his present self, Dr. Manhattan allows the human Osterman to have a normal life, but he kills Veidt before he could kill him in the past. In the 2003 David Hayter film draft script, Veidt plans to fire a solar radiation beam into New York; Veidt's plan succeeds, but Veidt also intends to kill Dreiberg and Laurie afterwards. Dreiberg kills Veidt in self-defense.
In other media
In the 2009 feature film Watchmen directed by Zack Snyder, Veidt follows the same course as in the graphic novel with one exception—rather than an "alien force", Adrian sets his plan into motion so that Dr. Manhattan is made out to be the culprit.
Matthew Goode plays Veidt in the 2009 film. During earlier pre-production and attempts to make the film in 2004, Tom Cruise and Jude Law (who is a fan of the comic) both expressed interest in playing the role, but they left the project after several delays and budget problems. However, Law's likeness is clearly obvious on the costume design layout for Veidt's Ozymandias costume in Watchmen: The Art of the Film, indicating a possibly more concrete involvement before leaving the project. Like Nite-Owl, Ozymandias' costume was changed extensively from the purple and gilt of the graphic novel, so as to further emphasize his fascination with Egyptian royalty and to reference and parody superhero films such as Batman & Robin. Gibbons noted that, for example, "Ozymandias has got nipples on his costume. Well, you know, think about it for a bit. That's an obvious reference to the later Batman movie with George Clooney with a nippled Batsuit."
In his portrayal of the character, Goode played Veidt with a hint of a German accent in private and an American accent to the media. Encouraged by Snyder to further interpret his role, Goode came up with his own backstory for Veidt's true motivations for giving away his inherited wealth—his shame at his parents being Nazi sympathizers. The official film companion book includes a timeline putting his date of birth in 1950 instead of 1939 (making him 35 at the time of the story's events rather than 46).
- Ozymandias appears in the 2008 animated short film series Watchmen: Motion Comic where he, along with every other character in the series, is voiced by actor Tom Stechschulte.
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