WARNING: This article contains spoilers for DC Comics’ Doomsday Clock #1, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, on sale now.
Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s highly anticipated DC Universe and Watchmen-centric story Doomsday Clock kicked off last month, and whether you’re invested in the greater Rebirth narrative, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original Watchmen story, or both, it’s safe to say Doomsday Clock #1 delivered far more questions than answers.
However, there’s one question that’s seemingly flown under many readers’ radar: Did Doomsday Clock #1 tease the identity of one of the DCU’s three Jokers?
If you’ll recall, it was in the pages of Justice League #42 – part two of Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s “Darkseid War” storyline – that Batman used the newly acquired powers of the Mobius Chair to ask two questions: Who really killed his parents, and what was The Joker’s real name? Not to leave readers in complete suspense, this issue confirmed that it was, in fact, Joe Chill who killed Batman’s parents (big surprise). As for The Joker’s real name? Batman’s only response to the mysterious “ping” of the Mobius chair was “No. That’s not possible.”
Fast-forward eight months to May 25, 2016 – the day Justice League #50 and DC Universe: Rebirth #1 hit stands. After all that time spent guessing who The Joker might actually be, we finally got our answer as to what the Mobius Chair told Batman. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite what any of us were expecting:
“There are three.”
Aside from the Watchmen tease, the revelation that there are actually three distinct and (presumably) equally terrifying Jokers in the DC Universe was easily the biggest shock heading into the Rebirth era. The art in the aforementioned Rebirth special seemed to indicate that one of them was Dick Sprang’s Golden Age Joker, one was the Killing Joke version by Brian Bolland, and the third was the New 52 iteration by Greg Capullo. However, the Clown Prince of Crime has been heavily downplayed since that epic reveal. In fact, it wasn’t until this past June, in the pages of Dark Days: The Forge #1, that The Joker finally resurfaced. According to Scott Snyder, though, his presence in the current Metal event won’t shed any light on the ongoing “Three Jokers” mystery.
“Geoff [Johns] was great about walking us through what the plan is for upcoming ‘Three Jokers’ storyline and giving us the breathing room for what we wanted to do,” Snyder told CBR. “Just to be clear to readers, this is not going to answer the ‘Three Jokers’ question. That’s really for Geoff — he has a big story planned for that — but what it will do is show us the way that The Joker, like he did during my entire time on Batman, is always there as the Greek chorus of the book, saying to Batman, in one way or another, ‘You’re doing it wrong,’ or, ‘You’re doing it right. This is what needs to happen. This is who you are.”
Since the advent of Rebirth, Johns’ writing duties have largely taken a backseat to his work on the DC Films front, so it’s hardly outside the realm of possibility that Doomsday Clock will not only address the Watchmen mystery but the “Three Jokers” mystery, as well. After all, he appears on Gary Frank’s alternate cover for issue #5, which shows the Clown Prince of Crime applying some Nostalgia lipstick while looking into a similarly branded compact mirror.
Back to Doomsday Clock #1, though. Many readers’ first impression was that Mime and Marionette – the two inmates Rorschach helps break out of prison – were the Watchmen Universe’s counterparts to Joker and Harley Quinn. And while that’s a fair assumption, given the Mime’s horrifying, blood-soaked smile after his “performance,” they’re actually stand-ins for the Charlton-turned-DC characters Punch and Jewelee. That, alone, seems to rule the Mime out as being one of the three Jokers, but interestingly enough, we also learn in this issue that the couple has a child.
While trying to convince the Marionette to assist him on a job, Rorschach hands her a folder containing a snapshot of a small child, presumably an infant. “Picture’s a little old,” he says as Marionette stares longingly at the photo of her son. In exchange for finding him and freeing her husband, as well, Marionette reluctantly agrees to go with Rorschach, and while that’s the last we see of the young boy in this issue, there are definite subtleties that lend themselves to the idea that he might actually be one of the DCU’s three Jokers.
For starters, there are the obvious Joker and Harley/Mime and Marionette comparisons, which feel – particularly in the case of the Mime – too blatant to just be a misdirect. Then, there’s Rorschach’s seemingly throwaway line about the photograph of their child being “a little old.” Remember, this issue takes place in 1992, so even if the picture is only a few years old in-story, that would still make Mime and Marionette’s son a man somewhere in the vicinity of 30 years old in the present-day DCU. Finally, there’s fact that the Marionette is apparently very crucial to Ozymandias, who makes a passing reference about laughing uncontrollably until it hurts at one point in the issue.
Of course, if these are clues hinting towards Mime and Marionette’s son being one of DC’s three Jokers, they’re certainly minor. After just one issue, though, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise, since it will be another 11 months before the story concludes. Who knows, though? According to the solicitation, the next issue of Doomsday Clock will see “killer clowns trek through Gotham seeking a madman,” so perhaps the answers we’re seeking will be here sooner than we think.
Doomsday Clock #2, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, is on sale December 27.