Who Would Win? Part One: Dr Manhattan vs Superman

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Have you ever noticed that Dr Manhattan and Superman have comparable powers within the DC Comics universe? And yet, they represent a perfect dichotomy: the alien who loves Earth and all the life on it, and the earthling who feels alienated by his own kind.

This is exactly why a fight starring Dr Manhattan vs Superman would be so interesting, and it comes as no wonder that this got teased in the Doomsday Clock series. Its events see Superman trying to convince Dr Manhattan to give humanity another chance. However, Jon has a vision in issue number seven that takes place one month into the comic’s future.

In it, he sees “the most hopeful among [us]”, namely Superman, charging at him “now hopeless”. Everything goes black afterward, leaving Manhattan unable to tell whether Kal-El will end him, or their confrontation will destroy the universe completely.

In my opinion, the battle would pan out a bit differently, and I’ll soon explain why. For the sake of a fair comparison, I chose the Silver Age, pre-crisis version of Superman instead of the modern version with reduced powers. So, let’s have a look at Dr Manhattan vs Superman and see who would win.

Strengths & Weaknesses

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Molecular reconstruction When Jon Osterman became Dr Manhattan, he had his intrinsic field removed. This changed his corporeal form, and he soon rematerialized as a higher being. Flight Perhaps the most iconic ability Superman had was his power to achieve true flight. In the Golden Age of comics, he could merely leap across large distances.
Superhuman strength Jon can effortlessly lift heavy objects such as tanks or equipment without any sign of strain. Superhuman strength Silver Age Superman was so strong, he could move entire planets. However, this ability was toned down in post-crisis comics.
Flight Dr Manhattan only levitates in the graphic novel, but it is assumed that he could achieve true flight if he wanted to. Superhuman speed Superman can travel faster than light, and even run almost as fast as the Flash. However, he can’t beat him in a race.
Teleportation Because Jon’s accident allowed him to remove and reassemble his molecules at ease, he can teleport from location to location. Superhuman hearing The Man of Steel can also hear just about any sound, regardless of its wavelength or how far away it is.
Telekinesis Dr Manhattan can pick objects up by using his mind. He can also move them around, disassembling and reassembling lab equipment on a regular basis. Superhuman speech Superman can modulate his voice to be heard across great distances. He naturally uses this ability to confuse his enemies.
Chronokinesis Jon’s perception of time is far superior to that of anyone in his universe. He can view his past, present, and future from a third person perspective. This is a constant process, much like the Three-Eyed Raven from ‘Game of Thrones'. Superhuman breath The Man of Tomorrow's breath can generate hurricanes and freeze objects. What is more, he doesn’t really need to breathe. It varies from arc to arc, but he generally does fine in space or underwater because he can hold his breath or transform solar energy into oxygen.
Precognition Dr Manhattan knows what will happen to him all the time. This originates from his chronokinetic abilities. Superhuman olfaction Just like his other senses, Superman possesses an extraordinary sense of smell. It is comparable to that of dogs.
Full control over matter The post-accident version of Jon Osterman in the Watchmen universe has full control over matter. He can zap something or someone into non-existence as easily as he can create new life. Hypnotism In order to protect his identity, Superman hypnotized others to make them obey him or forget certain incidents.
Energy projection He doesn’t need to hold a thing to change its molecular structure. Instead, he projects energy to the target and obliterates it in seconds. Invulnerability The Superman of the 1970s and onward was so strong, he could withstand flying through the core of a star. Not even atomic explosions could hurt him, but this was toned down later on.
Self-sustenance The big blue doctor doesn’t need food, water, or air to survive. His body is self-sustained. X-ray vision Like other Kryptonians, Superman can easily see through solid objects thanks to this particular superpower.
Duplication Jon’s visible form is capable of fission and bio fusion, which basically means he can duplicate into countless sentient copies. Then, he can merge these versions of himself back together. Heat vision His heat vision consists of a massive release of solar energy stored in the body. Kal-El uses this feat to subdue his enemies and maybe set fire to stuff sometimes.
Immortality Dr Manhattan doesn’t age in the comics. His human body has already been declared dead, but he then rematerialized into the blue entity we know today. This means that he can’t die, at least not in the traditional sense. Telescopic and microscopic vision Not only can Superman see events that happened galaxies away, but he can also inspect life at a microscopic level.
Intangibility Jon can’t really be touched unless he specifically makes it possible. Thus, bullets, fists, and other weapons should pass right through him. Stamina Superman got his sustenance from the light of our Earth’s yellow sun, or yellow suns in general. Thus, he could survive indefinitely without water, food, rest, or air.
Size alteration He can also become as large or small as he desires, which is one of the reasons he was worshipped as a deity in Vietnam. Healing Even when hurt, the Man of Steel has the ability to bounce back from injuries. This trait has been maintained for modern versions of the character as well, such as Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knights Returns.'
Superior intellect Dr Manhattan has a superior intellect, as he can understand the Universe wholly. However, he does not grasp the complexities of human nature, which makes him easy to outsmart. Genius-level intelligence Kal-El’s exposure to yellow sunlight turned him into a genius with an enhanced intellect. Under the influence of his energy, he has an eidetic memory, as well as the capacity to screen out information.

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Tachyons Ozymandias uses these particles to block Manhattan’s time perception abilities, thus rendering his precognition futile. Kryptonite Superman’s most notorious weakness, kryptonite consists of radioactive fragments of his home planet left behind from the explosion that destroyed it.
Intrinsic field removal Ozymandias also tries to zap Jon away by removing his intrinsic field, but the doctor soon reassembles himself. Magic Like many other non-magical beings, Superman is susceptible to the effects of magic. Hermione Granger would totally kick his butt.
Lack of empathy Dr Manhattan ultimately fails to understand human nature, which sometimes leaves him vulnerable in the face of manipulation. Nuclear explosions There are a few story arcs in several of the DC Comics universes where Superman is left unconscious as a result of a nuclear explosion. Although this doesn’t kill him, it does weaken him enough for someone else to.
Super high-pitch frequencies Superhuman hearing comes at a cost, as Kal-El is particularly vulnerable to high-pitched sounds.
Virus X Nothing is more effective in wiping out Kryptonian lifeforms than Virus X, a deadly disease that affects them much like leprosy does humans. And Superman isn’t safe from it either.
Red sunlight His home planet naturally had a red sun, which is why Kryptonians weren’t really superhumans. Kal-El’s extraordinary powers come from yellow sun energy, which means that red sunlight renders him helpless.
Lead The Man of Steel might be able to see through most solid objects, but lead is not one of them.

The Scenario

Superman approaches Dr Manhattan, fists clenched and eyes glowing red. As Kal-El is about to attack, Jon asks:


“Are you sure you want us to do this now?”


“You must be stopped, Manhattan. You’ve interfered with our world far too much.”


“I understand. I just don’t think it’s a very good idea, that’s all.”


“And why is that?”


“Because I don’t see any future where it leads to something remotely beneficial.”

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Superman stops in his tracks. What is Dr Manhattan on about? He swings his fist at the doctor, but his hand passes right through him. His anger bubbles up inside, releasing a wave of heat vision. Jon notices but doesn’t react.

He snaps his fingers, and everything is over in an instant. The Man of Steel is no more.

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The Verdict

Dr Manhattan may not be the most powerful character in the entire DC Comics universe, but he can definitely take Superman on in any Dr Manhattan vs Superman scenario. Kal-El might be his equal from many points of view, but at the end of the day, he is made out of matter. And in Manhattan’s hands, matter is pliable and expendable.

Even if Jon wouldn’t zap him into oblivion in an instant, he still has every counter to Superman’s powers. The only way Kal-El could hold his own in front of the man that put his intrinsic field back together is if he were in his Prime version. In any other situation, Dr Manhattan takes Superman, plain and simple.

How would you see a confrontation starring Dr Manhattan vs Superman? Leave a comment below!

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Alina Petcu


My fascination for everything geeky, be it science fiction or fantasy, began at an early age. I was eight years old when the first Harry Potter film came out, and I haven’t looked back since. Fast-forward 17 years, ten books, and ten films, my passion grew into more than the magic of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.

These days, I enjoy collecting graphic novels and fawning over the mastery of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, reading anything sci-fi, watching the latest superhero film (Marvel or DC) as soon as it hits theaters, and arguing with my friends over what horror film to watch next. Oh, did I mention I’m a huge horror buff?