WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Doomsday Clock #1 by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and Brad Anderson, on sale now.
There’s a lot to pick apart with Doomsday Clock #1, but perhaps the most intriguing vignette is the epilogue concerning Superman’s nightmare. As we see and as he describes to Lois, Clark Kent has a visceral and all-too-real nightmare of the night of his parents’ death, but its more than a memory. After the Kents drop a young Clark Kent off at the prom, the nightmare follows them through to their untimely end in a car crash as a truck comes up from behind and clips their pick-up, sending them hurtling off the road.
Of course, the reader has to wonder, why did Superman have this nightmare on that night of all nights, when he’s never had a nightmare before in his life? And what does it have to do with the larger story of Doomsday Clock?
Watchmen was renowned for using books and other pieces of media to allude to story themes or hint towards where the story was going next. As an example in Watchmen #1, Hollis Mason has four books that we can see on display: Two copies of his autobiography Under The Hood, a book titled Automobile Maintenance and a copy of Philip Wylie’s pioneering sci-fi novel Gladiator. Gladiator is a 1930s story about a scientist that performs experiments on his pregnant wife that results in their child being born with superhuman powers. The novel is said to have been an influence on Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster when they created Superman and is hailed as one of the first pieces of superhero fiction of the twentieth century.
In Doomsday Clock, we see that Clark Kent has been reading B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two, which could be a reference to either Doctor Manhattan or Ozymandias. The novel is about a community that operates peacefully outside of the norms of democracy via social engineering. This could be a reference to Ozymandias’ goal to trick the world into a more peaceful state, but it’s more likely a reference to Doctor Manhattan’s interfering with the history of the DC Universe in an attempt to make it perfect. Doctor Manhattan exists outside of time, he can see all of it and remember all of it simultaneously, though he is forced to travel through it linearly. What’s stopping him using that ability to meddle with the past and future of the DC Universe in order to make it more to his liking?