The son of extremely wealthy immigrants (fleeing Nazi Germany on the eve of WWII, perhaps?), Veidt ends up an orphan at 17. He’s an unusual kid, to say the least. Instead of taking his inheritance and buying the world’s largest slip-n-slide, he gives it all away, just so he can “demonstrate the possibility of achieving anything, starting from nothing” (XI.8.8). Young Veidt’s got moxie, we’ll give him that. This serves him well, but he’s also got a double dose of hubris (that’s a bookworm’s favorite word for arrogance).
Next, Veidt takes his Einstein intellect and movie star looks on the road. Where does he go? Vegas? Paris? Hollywood? Milan? No, Adrian Veidt heads to Northern Turkey, and begins to trace the steps of Alexander the Great, the man he wants to become, and even exceed. Delusions of grandeur much?
After taking a side “trip” through Tibet, Veidt expands his mind and discovers it’s the Pharaohs he should emulate, not Alexander the Mediocre. He returns to the States a changed teenager, ready for his next phase. As always, the core element to Veidt’s personality is his egomania. Not eggomania, egomania. Somebody’s got a savior complex. The only problem is that his identity as Adrian Veidt doesn’t provide enough ego for his egomania. So, time for a new…
In 1958, at 19 years old, Veidt trots out his alter ego for the first time: Ozymandias, which is Greek for Rameses, the Egyptian ruler. As great as Veidt thinks he is, this might be the chink in his armor. He tries too hard, you know? Why can’t he just make up his own superhero name and do his own thing, like Rorschach? Oh no, Veidt has to become Ozymandias, and claim a nonexistent lineage back to ancient times. We all have blind spots, even a guy like Veidt, a superhero and villain and alleged smartest man in the world.
So Ozy starts doing the superhero thing, and breaks up a few drug cartels and crime syndicates. But during the first and only Crimebusters meeting in 1966, he learns from the Comedian that nothing they do makes any difference, as the world hurtles straight ahead toward nuclear apocalypse. How can one man save humanity from itself? Well, if you’re Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. part Mark Zuckerberg, part Lex Luthor, the answer is to start a corporation, and name it after yourself.
Don’t worry, young hippy Veidt is in there somewhere. He’s still a pacifist, and a vegetarian. He can’t be all bad, right? But as Rorschach notes, Hitler was a vegetarian, too. When you combine the Hitler reference with Veidt’s perfect Aryan good looks and his murky rich, German ancestry, the effect is chilling. Say what you will about Dr. Manhattan, but this guy’s a real Fascist’s dream, the very Übermensch (Superman) that the philosopher Nietzsche was always talking about.
Although Watchmen makes it seem like Veidt’s real money is in superhero toys, perfume, and self-improvement, he actually makes a mint “developing the basic patent for public spark hydrants” (XI.22.4). Remember, in alt-1985 everything’s electric, thanks to Dr. Manhattan. Other than that, the big blue guy causes mucho trouble for Veidt, and is the only possible threat to his plans. Oh yes, he has plans.
Long story short, Veidt might be a narcissistic megalomaniac (say that five times fast), but aren’t a lot of CEOs, presidents, and prime ministers? Not that they always have to be, but isn’t there an old saying about how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely? Ultimately, Alan Moore doesn’t kill off Veidt, even though he’s the biggest evildoer of all (see the “Character Roles” section). Why? At the end of the day, maybe Ozy is actually the smartest man in the world, and we’re just too Shmoopy to appreciate the genius in killing three million innocent people. Is there no other way?