Mr. Oz was first seen in Superman #32, as a shadowy figure, watching Clark Kent. He didn't come to prominence, though, until the Geoff Johns-scripted DC Universe: Rebirth one-shot, a comic that began the DC Universe's Rebirth process and kicked off a number of subplots that have been simmering ever since. Oz has appeared in multiple DC Comics titles, taking such characters as Doomsday and Tim Drake off the playing field, while keeping his presence, and thus his identity, a secret from Earth's heroes.
Of course, readers have seen each of his machinations, leading us to wonder who is hidden beneath that hood.
This fall, readers will finally learn the answer. The big moment will arrive Sept. 13 in the pages of Action Comics #987, the first chapter of a new storyline titled “The Oz Effect.” And while DC is keeping details close to the vest, the solicitation copy does state that Oz’s identity “rocks the Last Son of Krypton to his core,” a pretty bold statement indicating a significant revelation -- one CBR is about to break down as we run through our list of most likely suspects.
But before we get to that, here's a brief recap on what we actually do know about the enigmatic Mr. Oz.
The most obvious answer is that he's a mysterious man in a green cloak, with a scythe, and an X over his left eye … sometimes. He has green eyes, unless they're blue, or that one time, red. Honestly, it all depends on who's drawing him, so it could be simple editorial oversight, or a genuine clue as to his identity (identities?).
One element that's remained consistent is that he's plagued Superman for a while, hiding in the shadows. Oz has dozens of video screens watching everything that unfolds within the Rebirth universe. He has the ability to teleport people to his other-dimensional prison. Despite those shady actions, however, he may not actually be evil, having imprisoned both Doomsday and Mr. Mxyzptlk. He also saved Tim Drake from death at the end of Detective Comics #940. Sure, he kept Drake captive afterward, but maybe that was to save him from another threat. At this point, we don't know.
Oz also seems aware of an imminent danger to the DCU posed may a being that has been hinted at as Doctor Manhattan. For that matter, he appears to be the only one fully aware of the existence of that being (Manhattan or otherwise).
It seemed for a while that Oz might actually be the hero of Rebirth, the one being who can fight against the threat faced by the DCU. Much like the Monitor was portrayed in Crisis on Infinite Earths, is Mr. Oz keeping to the shadows, waiting for the right time to reveal himself as a great ally when Earth's heroes need him most? Well, following the revelation that Oz’s followers will wreak chaos across the globe when “The OZ Effect” arrives in September, readers had to admit ... he doesn't sound terribly heroic.
So, who is he?
The most obvious answer is that he's a new character whose history will be shown to entwine with Superman’s (and the broader DC Universe). That said, we're guessing that's not the most likely answer given the mystery surrounding him.
Another option is Pariah, introduced in the original Crisis, who was eternally damned to be drawn place to place and witness the end of each Earth as punishment for his own hubris. The idea that Flashpoint might have somehow altered Pariah's destiny and allowed him the ability to fight back is an intriguing one. It's entirely possible he's come to Earth to try to save the world from the next Crisis-level event -- or at least to restore the world to what it was pre-Flashpoint. He’s a bit of an out-there choice, but in many ways Rebirth seems to be a callback to DC's Crisis. Why not bring back the man who was damned to witness all of them?
If not Pariah, perhaps it's another character inextricably tied to universe-changing events: Pandora, who helped to create the New 52 universe and then apparently died in the pages of DC Universe: Rebirth, or Libra, the mastermind behind the society of evil in Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis.
Both are somewhat unlikely, and yet neither would be too surprising. However, to be honest, the main reason those two come up as contenders is because of their shared wardrobe preferences with Mr. Oz. Libra is traditionally a villain, but after Flashpoint he might be attempting to restore the universe to the way it was, perhaps to help his previous master, Darkseid. Pandora is probably a little less likely based on her "death," but as we know, dying isn't always the end in superhero comics.
Like Pariah, nobody would be too surprised if one of them were revealed to be under the hood -- which, honestly, is the main reason we should probably rule them out. To that end, we'll cast the net wider, and a little weirder, and look at Nix Uotan, the Last Monitor, saver of the Multiverse.
It would make a lot of sense, after all, for Mr. Oz to be a Monitor, one of a group of beings tasked with observing the day-to-day events across the Multiverse, and Uotan seems to be the last one alive.
The majority of what we’ve seen Mr. Oz doing is, well, monitoring what’s happening on Earth, and he's fixated on Superman, much like the Monitors of old. It was established in Final Crisis that the Monitor introduced in the original Crisis was tasked by an Overmonitor -- essentially the Monitors' boss -- to travel to the DCU to research and tabulate the events that unfolded there. What if we're about to learn that the Overmonitor was actually Doctor Manhattan, who is now on his way to erase/fix/change what's been going on with Rebirth, and Nix Uotan is the only one with the power to stop him?
There are plenty of other options -- from an alternate Lex Luthor to Superman-Prime to everyone's favorite candidate, Ozymandias -- but none of them answers the main question of Rebirth: How did the button get in the Batcave? That may be the key to understanding who Mr. Oz actually is.
What if it was planted by Mr. Oz to let the DC Universe know about the man who changed all of their lives, alerting them without stepping out of the shadows? If that's the case, then Mr. Oz is working directly against the Man on Mars. We've put forward the theory that the Man on Mars is actually Superboy-Prime, but here's another idea: What if Mr. Oz is Superboy-Prime?
Geoff Johns adores the character, and who else would know the Watchmen quote that appeared at the end of Rebirth? Sure, that could be a reference to Mr. Oz being Ozymandias and Manhattan is the monster on Mars, but wouldn’t it make slightly more sense if the quotes were remembered by someone who had actually read them?
It would appear thus far that Mr. Oz is acting somewhat heroically; he is, it seems, attempting to restore the world to what it was. That sounds a lot like Superboy-Prime, a character who once lived in our universe, and was obsessed with DC Comics continuity. When he found himself in the DCU, he would try to "fix" whatever he deemed broken, even if it meant harming the very heroes he admired. If anyone would want a return to the DC Universe of old, it would be Superboy-Prime. Johns has also said that Doomsday Clock is what his entire writing career has been building up to; what if that's the redemption and restoration of hope, to both the DC Universe … and to Superboy-Prime? The character started out as a hero, after all. He was as good, powerful and just as Superman himself. Could Rebirth be the story of his redemption?
From what little we know of Mr.Oz, it's obvious he and Prime share many similarities, whether it's their hatred of speedsters, their knowledge of the DC Universe or eyes that shift color to red. But are they one and the same?
We'll find out one way or another when Action Comics #987, the first chapter of “The Oz Effect,” arrives in September.