Ozymandias. Art by Dave Gibbons.
|First appearance||Watchmen #1
|Created by||Alan Moore
(based on Thunderbolt created by Pete Morisi)
|Alter ego||Adrian Alexander Veidt|
Ozymandias (// oz-ee-MAN-dee-əs) (real name Adrian Alexander Veidt) is a fictional character in the acclaimed 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.
Fictional character biography
Adrian Alexander Veidt was born in 1939, and is the son of wealthy German 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 the young age of 17, but he chose to give it all to charity and embark on a vision quest, following the route of his childhood idol Alexander the Great. His rationale was that he wanted to be free from money and make something of himself on his own, from nothing. During an excursion into the Middle East, Veidt consumed a ball of hashish and developed visions of the past. At the conclusion of his travels, in Egypt, he realized that Alexander the Great was a pale imitation of Ramesses II who became Veidt's new hero.
As a superhero
Returning to America after a year of traveling, Veidt named himself Ozymandias and became a costumed vigilante, earning a reputation as "the smartest man on the planet." He debuted in early 1958 by exposing a drug ring in New York City. During the early 1960s, he was a member of the Crimebusters, which was organized by former Minuteman and adventurer Captain Metropolis, who sought to re-form a new version of his old team.
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 vigilante crimefighters were banned by the Keene Act, Veidt revealed his secret identity, retired from superheroism and marketed his image, while maintaining an ethical streak—he never marketed the images of his allies or foes, despite having a decently sound legal loophole to do so. He became very wealthy and was known as a great humanitarian, and he 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.
Fellow masked vigilante the Comedian (Edward Blake) stumbled upon Veidt's plans, leading to Veidt personally murdering the Comedian, setting off the chain of events told in the story of Watchmen, which begins several hours after the murder of the Comedian.
As part of his genetic experimentation, he created a genetically-engineered feline, which he named Bubastis (the Greek name for an ancient Egyptian city which honored the goddess Bast), as his pet and protector.
Events of Watchmen
Watchmen starts shortly after Blake's murder; Veidt is first seen when Rorschach visits him to get his opinion on Blake's murder and to warn Veidt about a possible serial killer targeting superheroes ("mask killer"). 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. Halfway through the Watchmen story, 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.
At the climax of Watchmen, Rorschach and Nite Owl (Dan Dreiberg) deduce that Veidt is behind the whole plot after they discover that a shell company owned by Veidt's corporation employed all the people whose cancer was allegedly caused by contact with Doctor Manhattan. Rorschach and Nite-Owl 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 the public's enmity. When Rorschach and Nite-Owl arrive at Karnak, Veidt's Antarctic retreat, Veidt easily overpowers both of them. He explains his plan to save humanity from itself: Inspired by Captain Metropolis' plea that somebody needed to save the world, he devised a scheme to teleport a biologically-engineered, telepathic creature to New York City which would immediately explode in a psychic shock wave, killing millions and convincing the world that they were under extraterrestrial attack. The United States and the Soviet Union, on the brink of nuclear confrontation, would then end their feud and join forces against the supposed alien invaders. He also admits to framing Manhattan; killing the Comedian, who had discovered the plan; framing Rorschach for the murder of Moloch; and staging the attempt on his own life, forcing a cyanide pill down the attacker's throat. 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", which is then confirmed by news broadcasts.
Doctor Manhattan then returns from his self-imposed exile with Silk Spectre. The ever-prepared Veidt attacks them, but his planned method of defeating Doctor Manhattan fails. He disintegrates Manhattan, who soon reforms himself. Manhattan and Silk Spectre learn about Veidt's role in the destruction of New York but, realizing that exposing Veidt's plan will undo the nascent world peace, the heroes agree to remain silent on the plot, except for moral absolutist Rorschach. As Rorschach prepares to return to America and reveal Veidt's plan to the world, he 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 "In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends", leaving Veidt in doubt about how long the peace will last, and if Blake was right about humanity after all.
As the story ends, Veidt (and everyone else) is oblivious to the fact that prior to the final confrontation, Rorschach sent a journal of his findings to a local newspaper. Rorschach's journal details his entire investigation and his findings about Veidt's plan. On the last page, the editor leaves his assistant in charge of choosing "filler" material from a stack of mail sent in by readers. Rorschach's journal is in the pile, but whether or not the assistant decides to print it is not revealed, though it is implied Veidt's plan was unveiled.
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.
Powers 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 a superb fighter and martial artist, and 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 killed.
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.
Veidt believes that his vast intelligence obligates him to unite the warring modern world as Alexander the Great 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 liberal, supporting social causes and performing at a benefit for India, which has suffered famine. He believes that everyone is capable of personal greatness, if they try hard enough, 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).
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