Spoilers ahead for Doomsday Clock #2.
In Doomsday Clock #2, Adrian Veidt from Watchmen brings a new version of Rorschach to the DCU, searching for the location of Doctor Manhattan. As the two researched their surroundings at the Gotham City Public Library, Adrian remarked on the large number of people in masks in the DCU.
"Although there are vast different between our earths," Adrian said, "the greatest divergent is the sheer number of men and women wearing masks, including some who are entirely fictional in our world."
Rorschach replied with a question: maybe Manhattan created them all.
"Or he could be one of them," Adrian replied. "Jon may have wanted to start over with a new identity, a second chance … [at] saving the world."
So…what if Adrian is right? What if Jonathan Osterman is posing as a new identity in the DCU, hoping for a second chance? Is he hiding within the identity of a DC character? Or is he hiding someplace else entirely?
Adrian's hint got us wondering about who Jon could be if he's hiding in plain sight. Here's a list of some characters and concepts that could actually be a hidden Doctor Manhattan.
Although Martian Manhunter had his own title series during the "New 52" and was part of the two-page spread that ended DC Universe: Rebirth #1, his character hasn't been utilized during "Rebirth." The most we've seen of him was his costume in the JLA headquarters during "The Button."
There's a similarity in secret identities - "Jon" and "J'onn" - but the main thing that ties together Martian Manhunter and Doctor Manhattan is the planet Mars.
At the end of the "Superman Reborn" crossover, readers were shown a red planet beyond the Earth's moon - presumably Mars, which was also shown during the Watchmen tease in DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
Oz said at the time, "Is it Superman who has the final say, or him?" And it's been implied that the "him" who resides on Mars had the power to grab Oz and imprison him, something that appears to be associated with Doctor Manhattan.
If Doctor Manhattan really does have an affinity for Mars in the DCU, then it would be fitting that - if he was going to assume a hero's identity - he would become the world's most heroic Martian.
This idea stems from the genesis of Watchmen. When Alan Moore was originally writing the now-legendary series, he was supposed to be re-introducing a group of Charlton characters, including Captain Atom. But that plan changed when the nature of Moore's story was realized, requiring Moore to create new characters.
Watchmen's Doctor Manhattan is based on Captain Atom, and his origin story is similar to the character. In fact, Grant Morrison played with this idea in Final Crisis, making the Superman of Earth-44 a version of Captain Atom that had even more similarities with Doctor Manhattan.
So could Doctor Manhattan be pretending to be Captain Atom?
That doesn't fit with the character's most recent story, the 2016 mini-series The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom, which showed the hero reborn and discovering he was a father, as well as hinting that he'd join the Justice League.
This is a popular theory on the internet - that Doctor Manhattan was the original creator of the DCU. There have been a lot of blue hands in various comic books, and sometimes it feels like the good doctor's hand is the same hand as the "Creator" that DC sometimes mentions as making the DCU.
However, that doesn't fit with the Watchmen hints that have been given so far in various DC comic books.
As Wally West explained it in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Doctor Manhattan reached into the DCU to alter it during the conclusion of Flashpoint. According to Wally, Doctor Manhattan manipulated the process and stole a decade, making people younger and forcing some events and characters to disappear.
He's also been credited with imprisoning some DC characters and killing others in a flash of blue light, but those events appear to be more recent and unassociated with the beginnings of the DCU.
That said... Wally did say that the DCU has been "infected" for a "long time." And Bruce Wayne said during "The Button" that "whatever messed with time was doing so long before Flashpoint."
However, neither of these statements support the idea that the very first iteration of the DCU was created by this force. They only imply that the existing DC timelines was altered by Manhattan, and it has been influenced by him for some time.
Speed Force or Timestream
When Barry Allen examined the body of Eobard Thawne during "The Button," he said it was covered in the unique energy signature of the Speed Force - an important clue, since the villain usually pulls from the Negative Speed Force, which leaves a different signature.
Readers later see that Eobard was partially vaporized by Doctor Manhattan, a scene that takes place somewhere within the timestream as he was running through time.
Barry was also within the Speed Force when he saw Jay Garrick's helmet in October 2016's Flash #9, something he said filled him with a sense of hope. That helmet showed up again in "The Button," as Bruce and Barry were running on the Cosmic Treadmill after the soon-to-be-vaporized Eobard Thawne.
"The Button" also featured both Barry and Bruce running on the Cosmic Treadmill through a timestream that looked like a blue-tinted, turbulent storm of some type. "I've never seen anything like this before," Barry said at the time, despite all his travels on the treadmill.
These hints all point toward Doctor Manhattan hiding somewhere outside of time, somehow overtaking the Speed Force and/or the timestream itself.
And if Mr. Oz's prison is actually the fortress utilized by Doctor Manhattan, it's also been described as being outside of time.
Besides, residing here would give Manhattan the perfect opportunity to mess with Barry Allen's Flashpoint trip through time, which we know he manipulated.
Nobody At All
Adrian's guess about Jon assuming the identity of a DC character could be wrong. All the recent DC stories so far that have featured Manhattan ("The Button," DC Universe: Rebirth #1) show him as a giant blue presence - much like the character he was in Watchmen - that isn't associated with just one character.
If he's the one who destroyed Metron, Pandora, Owlman, and Eobard Thawne, there was no indication from those characters that he had been hiding his identity, pretending to be someone else.
Who do you think Dr. Manhattan could be masquerading as? Tell us in the comments.