Adrian Alexander Veidt (1939 - ), a.k.a. Ozymandias is a main character in 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 character Thunderbolt from Charlton Comics, and is a member of the Crimebusters. His name recalls the famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, which takes as its theme the fleeting nature of empire.
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 month's 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 age 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 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.
In 1975, two 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.
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, defeating both Rorschach and Nite Owl. 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.
Role and symbolism
Veidt is 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 hygeine 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.
Matthew Goode plays Veidt 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.
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).
In the film, Veidt's costume is a parody of the infamous Batman costume worn by Goerge Clooney in the 1997 film Batman & Robin.
|Captain Metropolis • Hooded Justice • Nite Owl I • The Comedian • Silk Spectre I • Dollar Bill • Mothman • Silhouette|
|Captain Metropolis • Doctor Manhattan • Rorschach • The Comedian • Ozymandias • Nite Owl II • Silk Spectre II|