Adrian, Lies, Mass Media, and Anti-Christ. Michael Stuart

Adrian Veit, his powerful body language, a corporate throne littered with his image.

Watchmen's Adrian is a beautiful character. A body out of da Vinci's journals, a philosopher king's education, an American psycho's professional success, a celebrity's fireside presence, an evil pharaoh's name, in Greek. I'd read Watchmen before, so this time I knew what all this was coming to, and I was excited to decide whether Ozymandias is the scoundrel, or savior of the world.

It was easy, or say, impossible not to, pick up on the Easter eggs planted through the novel which foreshadow Adrian’s ultimate goal, the violent birth of a new world order. There are tons of moments where the Veidt, or a V, is stuck onto an advertisement or billboard. This publicity appears benign, but came off as totally creepy when recognized as part of his master plan. Though these are only readable as signs after one knows what Adrian is plotting, and how he accomplishes it, I was left wondering how I failed to recognize this pattern in my first reading.

The fun little hints about Adrian’s character are almost always connected to some business slash celebrity enterprise of his. They are the signs of his plan, but hide in plain sight.

Hunting for these hints was fun, but their presence was not the only new gloss to my reading. Scenes with Adrian actually in them became much richer, and almost always were transformed by knowledge of Adrian's character that is not available if the book is read linearly. In chapter two we have a quick example in three panels.

After being acquainted with Adrian’s character, it seems impossible that he would value the mortal humility espoused in the prayer above. I don’t even need the sequence that follows—where Adrian as Ozymandias clashes worldviews with the Comedian, who jeers that Adrian is destined to be the “smartest man on the cinder” after the world is destroyed—to understand the image and feel its terrible dread.

At the end of the funeral, Adrian shakes our heroes’ hands like a politician.

Another thing I became interested in was how Adrian was connected to mass consumer culture. Chapter five is a fun example. In a single discussion with an assistant of his, they speak about expanding his action figure franchise, and the spiritual value of death. They meet an assassin in the lobby.

Adrian subdues the assassin, the assassin apparently commits suicide as Adrian attempts to sweep a cyanide capsule from his mouth. Of course, we later learn that Adrian had hired the man, and that he forces the capsule down the assassin's throat. Knowing this, Adrian seems like a complete psychopath who flawlessly maintains the flat, outward appearance of an angel.

She wears an Egyptian red ring--it sparkles before she speaks.

My re-reading proceeded, and every scene with Adrian seemed to have a dark underbelly. He is deceitful, narcissistic, and manipulative. If I you gave him more credit, you could read Adrian in terms of the Promethean hero, who shatters an existing paradigm to bring a just enlightenment to the world, or as an Ubermensch, who rejects a social moral code for his individual values, or as a simple narcissist in love with that in the world that reflects his own ambition. But I go with Anti-Christ.

Revelation 13:4 “And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?"

Adrian's mission is to establish himself as the most trusted and good man in the global collective unconscious. He thinks that this collective unconscious is something he can monitor with a wall of televisions, and something that he can influence by participating in mass media and consumer culture.

After becoming the beloved of all the world, he commits a bloody act of terror, crudely teleporting an artificial alien into New York City. The nations of the world will have no choice but to give up on war and join together in common interest.

Matthew 24:24 "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect."

But, the attack is a false flag. Adrian's peace is built on lies. If he could unite the world with truth, he'd be Prometheus. But instead he imposes the darkness of a dream about a psychic alien monster, and masquerades as beautiful truth embodied.

It must be pure hubris that has Adrian convinced he is the man to run the world. He explains himself, his backstory and his dream, to a handful of parties. He is superbly educated, self-made, worldly, philosophical. He is also obsessed with Alexander the Great.

His love for fair Alexander comes off as self-love...
...and when he speaks about surpassing Alexander, it really seems like self-love.

In every case he is speaking to an audience that he doesn't interact with. The men that he speaks to in the vivarium are dead, having drunk the poison wine, before the grand explanation is over, and Adrian only tells our heroes the plan after the attack is finished.

Despite all the material Adrian puts out into the world, he doesn't seem to be trying for conversation. Posting his beliefs in a pamphlet like this, he is able to speak but never to listen.
When Adrian pauses here, the question that concludes his rant remains unanswered. It makes me wonder how much of this story is real for Adrian, or if its all sound and fury. His wine is undrunk.

Adrian is anxious to laud human achievement and the beauties of science, but when he allows his speech to fall on deaf ears, and subsequently destroys the vivarium, I get the feeling that he is so busy pulling off his master plan, he ends up trampling on the things he means to be protecting. When he does this, he seems completely out of control, and our comic panels focus in on what was sacrificed, instead of what was saved.

A final scene between Adrian and John suggests doubtful reading of Adrian's success. With the image of Adrian sitting cross-legged in front of a model of the solar system, we remember his isolation and hubris, and regard him unchanged. He had said earlier that his drive came from a desire to have something to speak with Alexander the Great about in the afterlife, and he gets something like that conversation when he speaks to John.

While all of Adrian's ranting falls on deaf ears, his speech in this scene seems particularly futile and insane. When John disregards Adrian's justifications, passes him by and disappears, Adrian is denied the conversation that he needs to confirm the success of his ambition. With nothing left to do, and no one to swallow his grand narrative, all he has left is room for doubt.

This panel seems to confirm that Adrian experiences doubt.

I now read Adrian's character as a man blinded by arrogance and guilty of anti-christlike deeds. Understanding his motives and methods during a re-read made it clear to me that he was flawed in these ways, but before my re-read, I thought his character equivocated between hero and villain. Now I see how most of the ambiguity I felt really concerned the success of his plan, and not the purity of his ambition. I thought, alright, he pulls it off, but Rorschach's journal remains in play, and could potentially dissolve the false peace. Now understand that his character can be weighed apart from his plan's success, and that he is in fact a classic villain. He commits elementary crimes of the soul when he isolates himself, lies, and murders, prostitutes his image, destroys the vivarium when he wields godlike power. The ability to read his scenes came with retrospect, and was prerequisite to a real understanding of his character. It was a breeze to connect the dots when I had a clue about what was going on, and could pour over the scenes of the novel looking for the Veidt name. This taught me that even in the case of thickest confusion, the "writing is on the wall", and the answer could be found "blowin' in the wind". Since the novel concerns a historical moment where truth seems invisible, subterfuge invincible, and television deified, this lesson about where truth can be found feels especially weighty.

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