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Comic Book / The Manhattan Projects

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Science bad, indeed.

Everyone knows about how the atomic bomb was made, how America brought together the worlds greatest scientists. But did they know that the bomb was just the least of many Manhattan Projects?

An Image series written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Nick Pitarra, The Manhattan Projects features Oppenheimer, Daghlian, Von Braun, Richard Feynman, and Albert Einstein as they fight zen-powered robots, meet aliens, and discover wormholes. Meanwhile each of the members of the league have their own alliances and agendas. As the group redefines the twentieth century, they must face threats from all around, as well as inside.

In 2014, it was revealed that the book will be continued as a series of miniseries following different main characters. The first of which is call The Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars and focuses on Yuri and Laika.

Contrast with East of West, Jonathan Hickman's other alternate history of America series.

This series provides example of:

  • Alternate History: The key conceit of the work being that the Manhattan Project was just a cover-up for a number of more crazy things. It's played with though as historical characters are wildly exaggerated to fit in with the strange world.
  • Americans Are Cowboys: Lyndon B. Johnson is depict this way including a hat and a six-shooter.
  • Anyone Can Die: No matter how important you were to real history.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Thanks in part by using FDR's dead body.
  • Artificial Limbs: Von Braun gets more robotic appendages as the series goes on.
  • Badass Normal: With a cast of maniacs and mad scientists, nearly every character qualifies. Special mention must be made of General Westmoreland, who kills a mutant superweapon made from bits and pieces of alien monsters, armed with only a bowie knife and a bald eagle tattoo
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The entire premise of the story — almost everything you've heard about the scientists who shaped the latter half of the 20th century is a lie. Fermi? A man-eating, shapeshifting alien. Einstein? The real Einstein's less intelligent Evil Twin from an alternate universe. von Braun? Had a giant robotic left arm. And they're all working together to take over the world, and thereafter the entire galaxy. Mentions are made here and there of other noted figures in science, industry, and politics and what they're "really" up to in the same period; for instance, Soichiro Honda, founder of the car company that bears his name, designed samurai Mecha-Mooks for the Japanese military.
  • Black Comedy: The entire work functions as a gory comedy centered around cartoonish versions of famous scientists (not that its without excellent drama). Special mention goes out to "We'll have to postpone the orgy".
  • Brain in a Jar: Literally, the head of the Russian team is a brain in a jar mounted on a robot body.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Truman is a mason. See page image.
  • Butt-Monkey: Things continue to get worse and worse for Helmutt. Von Braun does not help.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Oppenheimer, which makes Oppenheimer's brain something of a Cloud Cuckoo Land.
  • Death by Cameo: When Einstein and Feynman's alien weapon gets loose, it beheads two mooks who look astoundingly like John Layman and Rob Guillory, the creators of Chew. In fact, most nameless mooks who die grisly deaths are comics creators (and one cosplayer who beat the artist at arm wrestling) who Pitarra put into the background (or foreground) without Hickman knowing.
  • Dem Bones: Harry Daughlin is a skeleton held together with radiation.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Many characters get these.
    • In the first issue, Oppenheimer viciously kills the Japanese robots hinting at his unpredictable vicious personality.
    • Feynman is first shown psyching himself up in the mirror.
      "Good, Mr. Feynman. You're smart, you're handsome. You're a very special person."
  • Evil Twin: Joseph Oppenheimer, and Albrecht Einstein, although Albrecht is from an alternate dimension.
  • Freak Lab Accident: The reason why Daghlian wears a Clingy Costume. It later turns out it was not an accident at all.
  • Freudian Excuse: Feynman's wild Narcissism is shown to be a product of his father's ridiculous quest for perfection.
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: Laika to Yuri, as they're both about to die in the flames of a star.
    Laika: Yuri...
    Yuri: Yes, Laika?
    Laika: I've never liked you.
  • Historical In-Joke: Too many to count. For example, the real Harry Daughlin died from his exposure to the core. And the real Fermi made an argument against the existence of intelligent aliens. Doubles as Genius Bonus.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Joseph Oppenheimer.
  • Killed Off for Real: The series has a ridiculously high body count including (but not limited to) Robert Oppenheimer, Harry Truman, Enrico Fermi, and Joseph Oppenheimer. Some of them continue to make appearances through Oppenheimer.
  • Knight Templar: Gen. Groves: his father was an army preacher who instilled in him a strong sense of morality and justice. Possibly too strong.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The Kamikaze Killing Machine
  • The Mole: Enrico Fermi is a drone from an alien race. The members are so disgusted by this that they won't even let him live on by being devoured by Oppenheimer. Ouch.
  • Narcissist: Feynman is a textbook narcissist with a Freudian Excuse.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Averted. Not only did Albert and Albretch Einstein first meet early in the series, but later on they even team up.
  • Noodle Incident: Due to its subject matter, there are more than a couple, but the first issue contains this awe-inspiring reference from General Groves:
    "Ever since the success of Pearl Harbor, the emperor and his warlords have gotten extremely aggressive. We're even having to check every ream of paper that's delivered to critical government offices after last month's sentient origami incident. I saw the bodies, Doctor... Paper cuts are no way for a man to meet his maker."
  • Shout-Out:
  • Soviet Superscience: Star City obtained their advanced technology derived from the Tunguska Event.
  • Split Personality: Joseph Oppenheimer. More than split, Oppenheimer absorbs the identities of all of his victims as well as splitting off new personalities at random. One issue is titled Infinite Oppenheimers
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: von Braun and his robotic arm.
  • Team Pet: Laika, after the team makes their alliance with the Russians.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Von Braun, Hitler, and Helmutt.
  • Verbal Tic: Oppenheimer's repeated "Hmmmmmmm!". Inside his head, it's all anyone can say at first.
  • Who Shot JFK?: The Manhattan Projects conspired with Lyndon B. Johnson to organize the assassination of Kennedy after he attempted to take control of the Projects. Westmoreland was the shooter and the 'magic bullet' was controlled by Leslie Groves. Lee Harvey Oswald was the Fall Guy.