The Legacy Within Watchmen
-“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Percy Shelly, “Ozymandias”
An idea can never be killed. Works of literature are no different. Authors are influenced by what they read and often pay homage in their works. Alan Moore, graphic novelist and writer of the Watchmen, used many of the romantic poets as inspiration in the execution of a story about masked heroes in a world on the brink of nuclear apocalypse. “Ozymandias” is a critique about human’s power over nature, about how nature’s power is eternal and will always outlast – a purposeful juxtaposition to the story about human nature cannibalizing itself into oblivion.
That is one reference. John Osterman’s character is a second. Physicist. Socially awkward. Innocent curiosity. Through backstory, the reader learns that the man had a happy life. Things fell into place for him. Then an accident occurs where he is transformed into a being with the abilities of a god – transmute matter at will, witness events that would impossible for humans to do so, travel to places across the universe. His wife even asks him, “are you God?” He tells her no. But upon reflection, he doesn’t believe he is human anymore. The gap between him and the rest of the world grows as time goes on. His wife leaves him. His friends no longer talk with him on an intimate level. His detachment becomes the centerpiece for the plot. His sole humanity rests with the heroine of the story. As the clock to midnight ticks to the all out war between the United States and Russia, Osterman is the only one who can bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
In “Manfred,” the protagonist calls seven spirits to aid him. But through their musings, Manfred becomes annoyed. He summons the strongest one – the seventh spirit. Through an illusion, the spirit becomes the one thing that Manfred will find happiness through. “I yet might be most happy. I will clasp thee” (717). It’s a woman that Manfred lost. These are the same lines that brought the similarities to mind. John Osterman is man who believes himself separated from mankind, mentally and emotionally. Manfred believes the same. Both use a woman, some romantic notion of love, as their last remaining link to the world. Without the woman they choose death and isolation. While Osterman is not a Byronic Hero in the traditional sense of dark and dangerous with a tragic path, he shares a common trait with Manfred and many other Byronic Heroes in gothic literature. This misguided trait – being saved by the gentle touches of a woman, that somehow a woman’s touch will cleanse them from their guilt and the wrong things they have done – is proof that Alan Moore had deep influences with the romantic poets.
Byron, Lord. Manfred. 5th ed. Vol. 2A. New Jersey: Pearson, 2012. Print. The Longman Anthology.