WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Doomsday Clock #7, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Brad Anderson and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
Let's get this out of the way, straight up: Yes, Doctor Manhattan is naked when he arrives in Doomsday Clock, and yes, we see his penis.
Although we've already seen the nuclear hero/villain in Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Watchmen-meets-DC Universe event, and his presence has loomed large over every chapter thus far, Manhattan's only other on-panel appearance took place in a flashback in Issue 2. There, he was still involved in rather mundane superhero work, and had not yet shed his wardrobe or his humanity.
In Issue 7, however, Doctor Manhattan finally makes his DC Universe debut, and he's not wearing a costume -- or anything else, for that matter.
But is this really a surprise? After all, though Doomsday Clock doesn't carry a Mature Readers label, DC has made it clear from the beginning that it's not an all-ages story. The earliest preview for the event had three instances of the word "shit." and a single "goddamn" for good measure. Early issues were released with a TEEN+ rating, but Doomsday Clock #7 was solicited without any suggested age designation, and the cover doesn't indicate that it's suggested for older readers. Still, it is a Watchmen-based series, so the "Mature Readers" implications are likely apparent to most fans who are buying it.
Given that the previous six issues have not only used adult language in liberal doses (along with instances of relatively graphic violence), why is seeing Doctor Manhattan's junk so jarring? Perhaps it's because his arrival heralds the imminent appearance of the Man of Steel. Although the series was initially marketed as a Superman story, the first half has centered more on Batman as the lead protagonist. The Dark Knight is no stranger to adult-oriented fare, having starred in a number of series that included cursing, nudity (including the debut of Bruce's own penis in last week's Batman: Damned #1) and extreme violence.
Superman, however, has never truly ventured into that territory. Although he was featured in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and subsequent sequels, he generally was a supporting character, and was never on panel with any nudity. While he doesn't actually appear alongside any of this issue's main players, the flash-forward promises a major clash between Superman and Manhattan. And unless the story's all-powerful antagonist is about to come down with a case of modesty, it means that, at some point, the story is going to depict the Man of Steel go toe to toe with a buck-naked, glowing blue man. And let's face it -- that's not something you see every day.