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|“||"Do it?" Dan, I'm not a republic serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I "did it" 35 minutes ago.||„|
|~ Ozymandias, revealing his master plan.|
|“||Yes. It begins.||„|
|~ Ozymandias beings his plan|
|“||No, Ms. Crookshanks. It only just begun...||„|
|~ Ozymandias in HBO's Watchmen, starting his plan|
|“||Masks make men cruel...||„|
|~ Ozymandias in the HBO series, describing his point of view on masks|
Adrian Veidt, better known as Ozymandias and The Smartest Man in the World, is the main antagonist of both the comic book miniseries Watchmen and its 2017 sequel Doomsday Clock, as well as the main antagonist of the 2009 film adaptation by Zack Snyder and he is the overarching antagonist of the 2019 HBO television adaptation. He is a former superhero turned billionaire industrialist and CEO of Veidt Industries, who secretly concocts a plan to unite the world and thus prevent World War III by killing millions of people through a staged alien invasion. However, after his initial plan's ultimate failure, he redirects himself to finding Dr. Manhattan in order to save the world.
In the 2009 film adaptation, he was portrayed by Matthew Goode, who also portrayed Charlie Stoker and Albright. In the television series by HBO, he is portrayed by legendary actor Jeremy Irons, who also portrayed Alfred Pennyworth, another DC character, and portrayed Scar, Simon Gruber, and Rikkin.
As of the Doomsday Clock #7 he has been revealed as the overarching antagonist of the DC multiverse, a position originally held by Doctor Manhattan (whom it seems is once again being manipulated by Ozymandias, though his full plans have yet to fully discovered).
Born in 1939, the son of rich German immigrant parents Friedrich Werner Veidt and Ingrid Renata Veidt, Adrian was found to be incredibly intelligent. After his teachers and parents became suspicious of his consistent academic prowess, he hid his intelligence by deliberately achieving average grades. He was bullied by another boy and after several months of martial arts training he crippled the boy by damaging his leg; to avoid expulsion, his father bribed the school principal. Disgusted he stopped hiding his intelligence and graduated high school cum laude at age 14. After his parents' deaths, he inherited their substantial fortune at the age of 17, but chose to give it all to charity. Veidt then embarked on a vision quest, following the route of Alexander the Great - a childhood idol of he and his father - throughout the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and former ancient Persia.
It was during this journey that he consumed a ball of hashish and decided to become a superhero. Returning to America, he named himself "Ozymandias" and became a costumed vigilante, focusing particularly on organized crime and earning a reputation as "the smartest man on the planet." However, his own cases robbed him of the idealistic belief that battling crime would truly lessen evil and suffering in the world. This was brought to a head when an abortive attempt to organize a new superhero team was disrupted by the The Comedian, who noted in his brutally apt way exactly how petty the doings of the costumed heroes were in a world where the threat of nuclear war hung overhead, and how powerless they were to stop it. Veidt was inspired to do just that.
Retirement from Being a Superhero
36 years later in 1975, 2 years before vigilante crime fighters (superheroes) are banned by the "Keene Act", he retires from super heroism, marketing his image, in the form of Action Figures among other products, for money, creating thus the Veidt Enterprises megacorporation. This helps bankroll his scheme of creating a catastrophic event and deceive the world into uniting against a common enemy—in Veidt's case, a horrific alien invasion. To that end, he employed geneticists to clone the stolen brain of Robert Deschaines, a dead psychic, and use it to create such a creature with a group of artists and creative personnel to help create the illusion, and invents a limited form of teleportation based in part on the studies of (and studies by) Doctor Manhattan. Upon completion, he arranged the murder of all of his accomplices to maintain the illusion.
To prevent Doctor Manhattan from interfering, he hired old associates of the superhero and secretly exposed them to radiation to induce terminal cancer in them, then engineered a rumor that Manhattan was responsible, causing Manhattan to exile himself to Mars.
When the Comedian inadvertently learned of Veidt's plans, Veidt personally murdered him as well. The real story begins several hours after the killing, with police detectives investigating the crime.
The death of the Comedian caught the attention of Rorschach, who investigated the crime and mistakenly theorized that there existed a conspiracy to murder masked adventurers. Although Veidt arranged an assassination attempt on himself to throw off suspicion, he framed Rorschach on a murder charge to get him out of the way. In addition, Veidt started the accusations against Doctor Manhattan to drive him off the planet and set off a chain of events that threaten to start a global war.
Unknown to him, Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre grew to believe that Rorschach's investigation had merit and sprung him from prison to investigate the matter. In addition, Manhattan took Silk Spectre to Mars where she convinced him to return to Earth.
However, the superheroes were unable to stop the fulfillment of Veidt's scheme, which led to the deaths of over three million people in New York City. The world governments fell for this ruse, and agreed to a union to oppose this new alien menace. Seeing how Veidt's plot had the desired effect of uniting the nations of the world and averting a possible nuclear war, Doctor Manhattan, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre agree to keep silent about what they know, as it would only plunge the world back to the brink of disaster. Rorschach alone refuses to keep silent, telling Doctor Manhattan that he will never compromise, not even in the face of Armageddon – Jon must kill Rorschach before he can tell anybody what he knows, and does so. When Veidt asks the precognitive Doctor Manhattan for verification that he did "the right thing" and that his plans "worked out in the end", Jon can only reply that nothing ever ends, leaving Veidt once again in doubt as to whether or not his plan was successful.
In the Before Watchmen prequel comics, during Dr. Manhattan's story, he goes to Ozymandias to seek help in correcting the timeline in order to prevent the end of the world. After explaining how he both created numerous different timelines with his actions and destroyed them and that he fears that the Earth will still end up being destroyed by a nuclear war, he tells Ozymandias to find a way to save the future, and because of this, Ozymandias develops his plan to stage an extraterrestrial invasion and bring the world together. After the events of Watchmen, Ozymandias sees Manhattan off as he decides to leave Earth and create new life elsewhere in the universe.
It is revealed that the contents of Rorschach's journal were somehow made known to the public, exposing Ozymandias' plot to unite the world. The news caused nationwide outrage and an uproar in the U.S. Government to condemn Adrian Veidt for what was now known in the newspapers as the Great Lie. However, Adrian had already gone into hiding and at some point discovered that he had cancer. Having failed to save the world and unable to try again, Adrian decided to focus his efforts on locating the one man he believes can still make his dream come true, Doctor Manhattan.
He talks with Lex Luthor about saving the world before being interrupted by The Comedian.
However, after finding Manhattan, it is revealed that Ozymandias was lying about his cancer in order to manipulate the second Rorschach and convince him that he was a changed man.
Veidt is a counterpoint to Rorschach: He is a self-made affluent where Rorschach lives in squalor. He is a powerful world figure where Rorschach is an outlaw on the fringe. He is popular where Rorschach is reviled. He is handsome where Rorschach is unattractive. He is elegant where Rorschach is blunt. He has launched a cologne while Rorschach's hygiene is often questioned. He is sexually ambiguous where Rorschach is asexual. He forces himself to imagine all the painful consequences of his actions where Rorschach gives them almost no thought. Most importantly, he is practical and utilitarian where Rorschach is Kantian and principle-governed. At the end, Veidt appears to have succeeded in averting the imminent nuclear disaster and establishing his utopia, while Rorschach has died a failure for refusing to compromise his values, and yet even from beyond the grave Rorschach has the opportunity to thwart Veidt's plan by means of the journal he had sent to the New Frontiersman.
However, these contrasts help to set up the book's key twist, which first tries to engage the reader's sympathy for Veidt's plan in the name of the greater good. Just as Rorschach actually needed no help and had already freed himself from his prison cell when Nite Owl and Silk Spectre flew in to rescue him, the world began to come back together on its own at the last minute in spite of itself precisely when Veidt's alien monster teleported in destruction and chaos, killing them in the name of the future's benefit.
In effect, for all his outward high intention, internal conflict, and congruence to the book's own theme of doubt and complexity, Veidt is in spite of himself the smiley face on which Rorschach is the stubborn bloodstain.
Rorschach remarks that there are few superheroes left without personality disorders. In keeping with this statement, Veidt could be seen to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and lack of empathy. His obsessions with planning and "knowing better", as well as his abnormal level of body conditioning, also might suggest obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
Another hint of Veidt's narcissism is that, though he did his best to hide it, it always deeply grated on him that the Comedian was able to best him in single combat on their first encounter (which he would insist was just a lucky shot). The contrast between Ozymandias and the Comedian was that for all of Ozymandias' obsessive training and academic knowledge, the Comedian was untrained but had decades' worth of real-life experience, and thus was able to outmaneuver Veidt. Similarly, Veidt sees himself as a modern-day pharaoh, gazing out over the general population and guiding their fate, but this has left him removed from the experiences of real people on the streets. Thus while Veidt has peak intellect and strength through extensive study and training (to near demigod-like levels), and claims to make elaborate plans with zero possibility of failure, he has a curious habit of leaving vital blind sides due to his lack of experience: it honestly never occurred to him that Rorschach might simply leave a written record of his findings and mail them to the news media before he left for the final confrontation in Antarctica.
In other media
Veidt was played by Matthew Goode in the film. During earlier pre-production and attempts to make the film, Tom Cruise and Jude Law (a fan of the comic) both expressed interest in playing the role, but they left the project after several delays and budget cost issues. Goode was not familiar with the comic when he was cast, and read it at the urging of his friends. He joined the critical consensus, saying "it's the best graphic novel out there". He had his own interpretation of Veidt's backstory, in that he gave up his family's wealth and travelled the world, becoming a self-made man because he was ashamed of his parents' Nazi past. Notably, Veidt seems disturbed when, confronted about the Comedian's death, he says the man was a right-wing fanatic and practically a Nazi (not a label Veidt would give lightly). Goode suggested Veidt disguised his German accent to highlight the themes of the American Dream and the difference between one's public and private personas. When Dan gains access to Veidt's computer by finding the correct password, one can see a file named "Boys", a possible reference to Veidt's supposed homosexuality (briefly mentioned by Rorschach in the comics).
During the final confrontation with the other heroes, Dan condemns Veidt's plans by proclaiming that he has defiled mankind with his actions, his plan in the film focusing on framing Doctor Manhattan as the cause of the attack rather than the alien invasion of the comic. However, the project is referred to as S.Q.U.I.D. on one of the computer terminals, which alludes to the squid like mutation that was teleported to New York in the novel.
In a tongue-in-cheek, during the final confrontation with Rorschach and Nite Owl II (before Silk Spectre II and Doctor Manhattan arrive), just before Ozymandias reveals that his ultimate plan is already in action, he remarks that he is "not a comic book villain," to which Rorschach tilts his head at (the original line in the comics is "not a Republic serial villain", the old pulp films of the 1930s, but the reference might have been lost on a modern audience).
Watchmen (TV Series)
In the HBO television adaptation of the graphic novel, Veidt is portrayed by Jeremy Irons, who portrays an older adult version of the character, which appears as the overarching antagonist. His position as the overarching antagonist is proven when it is stated that prior to the series' events, he had launched a massively fake alien squids rain attacks on Tulsa, Oklahoma, leading millions of people to die following insanity. He is making his debut appearance in the pilot episode "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice", in which he has faked his death a long time ago, and, hides alive in a royal castle in an unknown country side. In the castle, he is celebrating his "anniversary" (birthday), with his servants, and, later uses a writing machine to write an unknown paper while he is having a massage by his servant. In the second episode, he is seen again in his castle, in which he is directing a play about his old teamnate from the original Watchmen, Doctor Manhattan, mainly about his origins. In the end of the play, Veidt's servant enters into a fake nuclear booth in which Veidt presses the trigger of a TNT-like burning hose to burn the servant in order to create Manhattan's rise. The action leads to the servant's death, which Veidt does not show any kind of sympathy toward it, only taking his watch which seemingly stopped working. The female servant which portrayed Jon Osterman's love interest, tells Adrian that the clock is not working. Veidt darkly states "it only just begun" ,implying he knows that the world's destruction is impending before clicking the clock ,causing it to work again.
Powers and Abilities
Adrian Veidt has been deemed the "smartest man in the world" by many, mainly the media, though this title is 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. In one scene, he is shown viewing a wall filled floor to ceiling with television screens, each showing a different image, in order to demonstrate his ability to pay attention to each one simultaneously. From the juxtaposition of these numerous images, he is able to deftly paint a picture of the current political and social climate, from which he can predict future trends and make plans accordingly.
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 master strategist, swiftly eliminating anybody who dares to get in the way of his plans, while maintaining total secrecy.
Additionally, Veidt is depicted at the pinnacle of human physical ability, to the point of being able to mentally calculate physical reaction times, anticipate the pull of a trigger, and reflexively catch a bullet (though he himself was surprised that worked). He is a superb fighter and martial artist, almost a superhuman unarmed combatant, able to subdue Rorschach and Nite Owl with little effort. His only defeat came early in his career at the hands of the Comedian, something he never got over.
A world-class athlete, he does acrobatic performances in aid of charity events, performing excellently despite being in his mid-forties. With the sole exceptions of Doctor Manhattan and the Comedian, Ozymandias was easily the most dangerous of the crime fighters in that era.
With most superheroes being depicted to having superhuman strength and fighting abilities, he is portrayed as the most physically powerful. He is able to lift men as large as the Comedian above his head with both hands and send people flying through the air several feet with his attacks, usually with enough force to crack stone and dent metal. An attack from him could greatly injury a person, almost like being struck by a vehicle, to the point where it may be fatal. Someone sent flying into a structure by him would impact it with enough force to damage it, even if it where dense stone. He is able to smash through stone and solid wooden tables with one punch. This causes his attacks to be heavily weakening and debilitating to anyone he fought, including the Comedian, Nite Owl II, and Rorschach, all of whom are also portrayed with similar strength and physical prowess. He was also barely fazed when repeatedly punched by Nite Owl II, showing no pain or discomfort, as it he did not even feel the attacks. He also showed no pain when he had a bullet lodged into his hand when he caught it as it was being shot at him. He also had great speed, enough to catch a butcher knife at point blank range, dodged gunfire by running and with acrobatics, and moved his hand into the path of a bullet at point blank range, lodging it in his palm.
Adrian has short blond hair that is always neatly kept, bright blue eyes, fair skin, and a muscular yet lean body. In his civilian life, Adrian normally wears nice business suits, sporting the colors purple and yellow. His Ozymandias costume is gold body suit, slightly covered in purple robes. He wears purple shoes, a gold headband, a gold belt, and a long purple cape that connects to his robes. He used to wear a purple mask, but after his retirement, he decided to go without because everyone knew his true identity.
- Ozymandias was originally inspired by Charlton Comics' (later purchased by DC) classic character Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.
- In the film, Veidt's costume is a parody of the infamous Robin costume worn by Chris O'Donnell in the 1997 film Batman & Robin.
- Jeremy Irons who portrays Veidt in the TV series is his own second DC character, following his portrayal of Alfred Pennyworth, Batman's butler in the 2016 DC Extended Universe movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
- In the television series, he is the overarching antagonist rather than the main antagonist, from the reason this position has been taken by the Seventh Cavalry.