SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #3 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, on sale now.
Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Doomsday Clock #3 transported not only Watchmen's Comedian to the DC Universe, but it his universally recognized smiley face button as well. Of course, this was the second time said button made its way to the DCU – Batman had previously found it in the Batcave in DC Comics Rebirth #1.
Understanding the connection between two different appearances of the same object is a bit headache-inducing, but at least the "second" button's location and path to the DCU is fairy clear. The first, however, has taken a rather interesting journey since it showed up in Batman's basement.
From the Batcave...
That button appeared, of course, in the wake of the original Wally West's encounter with Batman in Rebirth #1 – with The Comedian's blood spatter still intact. Its next appearance was in the follow-up Flash: Rebirth #1, where The Flash notes that Batman's analysis of the blood showed traces of an unknown radiation. A likely guess for the source of that radiation, of course, is Doctor Manhattan, who was known to have left radiation signatures on others as shown in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen. Curiously, though, the radiation is said to come specifically from The Comedian's blood, and not the button itself.
The wording might just be semantics. In Batman #21, chapter one of Tom King and Joshua Williamson's "The Button" four-part arc, Batman tells The Flash that "the radiation on the button had spiked." The entire button is shown to react when tossed next to the mask of The Psycho Pirate, another major DC artifact which Batman had recently appropriated. The energy spike results in breaching the Speed Force, which in turn brings forth the believed-dead Eobard Thawne, aka The Reverse Flash, to the Batcave.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, the appearance makes Thawne the second speedster to mysteriously appear in the cave in association with The Comedian's button. Thawne gives Batman a good pummeling before taking an interest in the button, and upon making contact, promptly vanishes, disappearing in a Doc Manhattan-esque flash of blue light.
Thawne returns moments later – or rather, the dead-again Thawne reappears, sans button, having been brutally slain after claiming to have seen "God." Along with Batman, The Flash hops on the cosmic treadmill to follow the button's radiation trail through Hypertime. After getting waylaid in the reality of Flashpoint, the two super-detectives locate Thawne speeding through Hypertime, and in possession of the button. In "The Button's" conclusion in The Flash #22, the treadmill has taken them to moments before Thawne's death – his most recent death, that is – one that's seemingly at the hand of Doc Manhattan.
Notably, in the wake of Thawne's death, another speedster unexpectedly appears: the original Flash, Jay Garrick, who hadn't been seen since before DC's "New 52" reboot. Jay is the third speedster to unexpectedly show up in proximity to the button, although this time it doesn't happen in the Batcave. Jay does help Batman and Flash get back there, though, before vanishing back into Hypertime once more.
...And Back Home Again?
So after Thawne got obliterated, what happened to the button? In the arc's epilog, it's found, perhaps fittingly, by none other than Doc Manhattan himself. The button is next seen floating in ambiguous darkness, with The Comedian's blood breaking free as it tumbles through the nothingness. Is it merely drifting endlessly through the nether-regions of Hypertime? Or does Howard Porter's structuring of the scene a la Gibbons' alternating nine-panel layout in Watchmen hold a more significant meaning? Has Manhattan perhaps sent the button back home, to the darkness of The Comedian's grave, where it was laid to rest alongside its now-dead owner?
From the reality of the Watchmen, to the Batcave, to the infinite expanse of Hypertime, and possibly back from whence it came, in what would be a fitting application of Watchmen-like symmetry. Never has such an outwardly worthless and throwaway trinket made such a far-reaching journey. It appears to have a counterpart recently brought into the DC Universe, though.
Whether it's a button that's displaced in time, or from some divergent reality, or here through some other kind of continuity trick, its own journey has just begun, and continues in Doomsday Clock #4, originally scheduled for release on February 28, but now slated to go on sale March 28.