Midnight(?) In Metropolis (Pages 27-30)
After two dozen pages of relentless dystopia, the harsh oranges of 1992 give way on Page 27 to the deep, gentle blues of quiet 2017 Metropolis. This is Earth-0, of Universe Designate Zero, home since 1985 (ish) to the main line of DC super-people. Clark Kent’s singles pad was at 344 Clinton Street, while his and Lois’ married address was 1938 Sullivan (a building owned by Bruce Wayne). We’re not sure of their Rebirthed address, but they share it with their son, Jon Kent.
Panels 3-5 of Page 27 illustrate three facets of Superman’s life: the costume, the Kents, and that he sees himself through Clark’s eyes. Of course, Panel 7 is an homage to (and a reversal of) the goggles of the Nite Owl costume, which “watched” Dan Dreiberg almost accusingly until he came out of retirement in Watchmen issue #7.
Someone (most likely Clark) is reading Walden Two, a 1948 novel written by father of behavioral psychology B.F. Skinner. Skinner pioneered “operant conditioning,” which held basically that organisms could be conditioned by the proper stimuli to do any number of things. If a behavior were rewarded, it would be repeated; and if it were punished, it wouldn’t be.
Because Skinner contended that behavior could be determined (and therefore manipulated) by environmental factors, Walden Two describes a utopian society engineered to reinforce positive behaviors. In other words, under the right conditions everyone will be encouraged to do the right thing, and society will flourish as a result. Given that this is exactly the kind of social engineering Veidt sought to accomplish (not to mention that D-Clock will compare and contrast two very different environments), we’ll probably be hearing more about this theory as the miniseries goes on.
Page 28 flashes back to the night Ma and Pa Kent died as the result of a car crash. This is the couple’s New 52-era fate, which seems to have survived into the Rebirth continuity. According to February 2013’s Action Comics #15, the 5th-dimensional imp Vyndktvx was involved, although the official account blames a drunk driver. It reminds us that for a while, Mr. Oz was holding Vyndktvx’s rival Mxyzptlk as a prisoner, but we don’t think the two will play much of a role in D-Clock.
Otherwise, the nature-versus-nurture argument collides (as it were) with Clark’s otherworldly origins in the dialogue “It’s not you, Clark. It’s the world”; “He can’t be hurt”; and (on Page 29) “This is God’s plan….”
On Page 30, Clark observes that he’s never had a nightmare. While that may be true in the Rebirthed timeline, we’re still freaking out a little over October 2007’s Superman #666 (written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Walt Simonson). It involves Supes’ ultimate bad dream, where he takes over the world, kills loads of people, descends into Hell and battles a Kryptonian devil. The Phantom Stranger and Etrigan the Demon are involved, as you might have expected. We’re reminded also that Dan Dreiberg’s nuclear-annihilation nightmare is introduced by a look through his own glasses.
The comics narrative ends with a quote from the poem “Ozymandias,” but not that “Ozymandias.” This one is by Horace Smith (1779-1849), a friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Both wrote poems about the ruined statue of Ozymandias, but no points for guessing which one Roy Thomas quoted in Avengers.
In Smith’s poem, only one leg and an accompanying inscription survive to tell the world of Ozy’s glory:
“I am great Ozymandias,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” – The City’s gone, –
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
Smith then compares the “forgotten Babylon” directly to the ruins of a future London, which has become the “annihilated place” of the final stanza. In contrast, Shelley’s more famous poem is more directly about the ruler himself, whose arrogance is now lost in the “lone and level sands.” Thus, for our purposes Smith’s poem has more ominous overtones for the fate not just of New York, but perhaps of Watchmen‘s Earth generally.
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