Geoff Johns on Doomsday Clock #2's Shocking Return, Honoring Watchmen

WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Doomsday Clock #2, on sale now from DC Comics.

The last week of 2017 has brought DC Comics' Doomsday Clock #2 into the world, and the latest chapter in Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's 12-part story is the first to deliver on the controversial premise of the series: characters from the DC Universe interacting with characters from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen for the first time.

In the issue, Ozymandias, the new Rorschach (whose identity has yet to be revealed) and recently introduced duo Mime and Marionette land in the DC Universe. Ozymandias encounters Lex Luthor, and Rorschach breaks into the Batcave (and eats Batman's pancakes that Alfred left for him). Though the true meeting between the two is yet to come in issue #3, the series has firmly established the overarching theme Johns has spoken about in the past: much like how Watchmen was a deconstructionist commentary on conventional superheroes back in 1986, Doomsday Clock is a chance for the DC Universe to respond.

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The issue -- and more prominently, its faux-news site backmatter -- has also introduced the concept of "the Supermen Theory," a growing conspiracy theory as to why the vast majority of the superhumans in the DC Universe are concentrated in the United States. Though exactly how it plays into the larger Doomsday Clock story remains to be revealed, Johns makes it clear in a one-in-one interview with CBR that it is very important to both this series and the DC Universe as a whole.

CBR spoke in-depth with Johns about Doomsday Clock #2, and the responsibility of honoring a seminal work like Watchmen by making sure the first meetings between the two worlds doesn't come across as a typical inter-universe comic book crossover. Johns also talks -- albeit understandably briefly at some points -- about the major surprises of the issue, including what certainly looks like the reappearance of infamous Watchmen character The Comedian (who death not only occurs just before the events of Watchmen, but shows up here in the DC Universe) and the references to The Killing Joke, Nathaniel Dusk and hints of this story encompassing a whole lot more DC history.

CBR: Geoff, there are tons of questions to ask about issue #2, but let's step back just a bit and talk the reaction to last month's #1. Clearly, this is a story where people would have a lot of opinions about it no matter what. How much did you pay attention to the reception to the issue, and did it line up with any expectations you might have had?

Geoff Johns: I think Gary and I were really happy with the reception. Going into something like this, I think we made it pretty clear how seriously we take this project and this book, and how we really talked about and debated whether we would even do it. When I landed on the story, and Gary got really excited, it felt like a worthy story to tell with these characters. We knew that some people would be skeptical, and they have every right to be skeptical, or think, "Oh, they're just trying to do a cash grab with the Watchmen characters." This all came from myself and Gary. It was really a story we wanted to tell once we landed on it. We've put everything we have into it.

You've read issue #2. I'm going to assume that you've seen no matter what, [if] you want to debate about when you see these characters with the DC characters or whether that's something that you liked conceptually or not, we're putting as much craft into this series and this book as we can, and we're trying to push ourselves to new levels of storytelling that we've never really done before. We're really happy with the results, and we're really excited and grateful at the reception of the first issue. We're excited for people to see the second issue, because we really think the series only gets better and better as it goes.

Issue #2 is the first time readers have seen Watchmen characters and DC characters interact with each other, and that has to be a huge thing to think about how to approach that properly. In hearing you talk about the story over the past few months, it's obviously something you and Gary put a lot of care into, as something like that could come across as silly. It doesn't here. In bringing these two worlds together, what were some of the things you wanted to say about both of these worlds in having these characters interact, and what did you want to avoid in putting them together?

The whole series is character-driven. It's all about the characters. We're spending time with the characters, and we're doing moments and interactions that I hope are unexpected. I think the version that Gary Frank and I weren't interested in telling was a DC vs. Marvel-type crossover. We were not interested in anything like that. It's not like somebody said, "Hey, Geoff, Gary -- do Watchmen characters meet DC characters." That never came from anybody. When we came up with this story, when I pitched this story to everybody, we made it clear right then what we wanted to do, and everybody was psyched for it. I think the interactions between the characters -- they're on the page, so people can see what we've done and what we're doing and the tone of it. The thing we didn't want to do is have it just be about fight scenes and kind of a typical crossover.

Most crossovers and big event stories, they get big. They go outside. They get universe-spanning in such a macro way, it becomes impersonal, I think. What we want to tell is a very, very personal story, and every single facet of this series that we're doing is a personal story. It's not a crossover. It doesn't have one-shot books and miniseries spinning out of it. It's not about alternate versions of other characters. It's not about making the universes bigger and bigger and bigger. It's about people.

One of the major elements that we introduce in issue #2 that's going to be a factor is, this is DC Universe-affecting in a very major way for the characters, and thematically. Also, we wanted to go more internally for the characters, which is why we introduced this concept of the Supermen Theory, which is starting to play out in issue #2. One of the things we wanted to do is go inward -- go inside. Go in the characters in what superheroes and supervillains would mean in a world like this, into the characters individually, into the world, the DC Universe, and how it would react to metahumans.

It's a question we wanted to answer. It's kind of the DC Universe's version of growing tension, this concept of the Supermen Theory -- when you look at a world map, 97 percent of all metahumans are American. Why is that? What is the truth behind these supervillains and superheroes? That's going to play a big factor in the background going forward in our series, and it's going to affect the fabric of the DC Universe. But it's all about character. It's all internal. We're going inward, even though we have this epic backdrop of Rorschach and Batman and Ozymandias and Lex Luthor. It's still going to be extremely personal, as big as this story gets, and as epic as this story gets. We're trying to make it personal on every level.

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