Doomsday Clock: If The DCU Is Broken, Will The JSA Fix It?

In that regard, the difference between Watchmen's world and Earth-DC isn't just the lack of Golden Age inspiration, but the quality of that inspiration. If Doomsday Clock really will bring back the JSA's generation, that's a direct response to the ignominious end of Watchmen's wartime heroes.

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The two worlds offer obvious comparisons. Both the first Nite Owl and the second Flash were inspired to become costumed crimefighters by Golden Age comics. Policeman (and pulp-fiction fan) Hollis Mason picked up the occasional superhero comic after seeing kids on his beat reading them; and super-speedy Barry Allen took the name and symbol of his comic-book hero. However, in 1986 Moore and Gibbons wanted to treat Hollis like a real person, while in 1956 Julius Schwartz, John Broome and Carmine Infantino just wanted Barry to have cool adventures. The differences in artistic approach are impossible to ignore.

Wally and Johnny in DCU: Rebirth
Classic Wally West visits the elderly Johnny Thunder in the DC Universe: Rebirth special

In a very real sense, though, Doomsday Clock may be all about such differences in approach. Perhaps the restoration of the Justice Society will complete the Rebirth process by giving DC-Earth's timeline a significant infusion of positivity. Regardless of their artistic and/or cultural merits, the Golden Age as a whole represents the solid foundation upon which today's superhero comics were built. Without Jay Garrick there would be no Barry Allen, without the Justice Society there would be no Justice League, and without the Justice League there might not be a DC Comics (or Marvel Comics) as we know it today. The in-universe justification is fairly circular: We don't consider DC's Golden Agers to be screwups, and nobody wanted them to be screwups, so they didn't screw anything up.

Nevertheless, the simple fact is that in 1986 Watchmen responded to fifty years of DC history; and now Doomsday Clock is responding to thirty-plus years of Watchmen's influence. According to Hollis Mason (in Watchmen issue #2), Doctor Manhattan's superheroic predecessors ended up as five guys "sitting around in a meeting hall that smelled like a locker room." Compare that to the Justice League's inspirations, dozens of super-powered people who protected their country during some of the darkest days of the 20th Century. There's no right or wrong approach, just subjective preference. Through Doomsday Clock, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank appear to be choosing optimism, and arguing that the Justice Society can help restore DC-Earth's faith in superheroes.

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To be sure, this is preaching to the choir. We're guessing that the majority of D-Clock's readers are predisposed to prefer Superman's warm embrace of humanity over Doctor Manhattan's cool appraisals. However, that adds an extra degree of difficulty to Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's task. By choosing to fix the DC Universe through the audacious use of Watchmen's characters, they're asking their story to be measured against one of comics' best-regarded works. This probably won't boil down to a fight against the Time Trapper or Per Degaton.

Instead, contrasting the Justice Society directly against the Minutemen and their legacy invites a more emotional, intuitive engagement with the material. Even if Johns and Frank acknowledge that Moore and Gibbons' approach worked fine for Watchmen, the clear implication is that it won't work for the main-line DC-Earth. Restoring the Justice Society's generation to DC-Earth's timeline would therefore declare that (at least according to Doomsday Clock) DC is done with cynicism, and has rededicated itself to the kind of sky's-the-limit thinking which typified its Golden Age.

How do you think Doomsday Clock will involve the JSA? Let us know in the comments!


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