DC Comics’ Doomsday Clock #1 is finally here, bringing with it a slew of mysteries, not least of which being: What are the heroes from the Watchmen universe doing mucking around with the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman? Though Watchmen was published by DC Comics, the two universes have long kept their distance, with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s story about washed up heroes trying to save the world from one of their own considered a neat, tidy, self-contained package. Those days are over, though, as Doomsday Clock looks to follow-up on the events of Watchmen’s conclusion, which saw the Earth hoodwinked in to a brief unity after the series’ primary antagonist Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias, orchestrated a faux alien invasion.
The final pages of Watchmen revealed Ozymandias’ grand plan. To bring the world together, he first had to force people to acknowledge the presence of a greater threat. For his plan to work, though, he had to ensure that none of his former hero allies would put the pieces together. Thus, he killed the Comedian, got Rorschach incarcerated and forced the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan into a self-imposed exiled after several of his former acquaintances came forward with cancer diagnoses.
Cancer plays a major role in Doomsday Clock #1, though in a different way. The opening pages reveal that Ozymandias is stricken with brain cancer, evidenced by the X-rays pinned in his Antarctic retreat and, later, by his own admission. Ozymandias’ cancer leaves him with crippling, debilitating migraines, and the size of the growth indicates that it is likely terminal – he admits it’s spreading.
It seems petty to pose the question “Where did Ozymandias’ cancer come from?” Cancer is a real disease that comes in many forms, after all, and the cause isn’t always cut and dry. But this is the Watchmen world, and Watchmen is a series that necessitates misdirection as one of its core storytelling elements. Cancer was a means to an end in Watchmen, and Ozymandias had no qualms about exploiting the disease for his own benefit in the comics. Now he, or someone else, might just be doing it again.
So, where did Ozymandias’ cancer come from? Who are the likely culprits, and what do they get from afflicting the megalomaniac with a terminal illness? And how does all that tie into the story Doomsday Clock is weaving? Let’s dive into all the possible sources of Adrian Veidt’s newly-revealed affliction.
Your Own Worst Enemy
The most obvious answer is that Ozymandias’ give himself cancer. Perhaps not intentionally, but at least by accident. After all, at the end of Watchmen he fesses up to Night Owl that he was the one who orchestrated Dr. Manhattan’s exile, ensuring the hero’s former associates were exposed to the proper radioactive materials that would result in a cancer diagnosis. So, is it really that hard to believe that Ozymandias was a bit of a butterfingers with dangerous, noxious materials and that prolonged exposure left him with a brain tumor the size of a golf ball? No, it’s not hard to believe – but it’s profoundly unlikely.
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After all, we’re talking about a man with genius-level intellect, who knew enough about genetics to create his own cat hybrid and almost destroyed the world with an engineered space squid. Sure, there were plenty of chances for Ozymandias to encounter radioactive materials along the way, but it’s equally believable that he took the proper precautions and that someone else is responsible for his current affliction. All Ozymandias has to say about the diagnosis is that the cancer is “another reminder of my past mistakes.” Which mistakes might those be?
I’ve Got the Blues
There are certainly quite a few mistakes to choose from. Ozymandias could be referring to his alien squid plot, inflicting cancer on numerous innocents or exiling Dr. Manhattan to Mars. He could also be talking about how he’s the reason why Dr. Manhattan left the Watchmen version of Earth for the DC Comics Universe. Ozymandias’ goal in Doomsday Clock #1, after all, is to find Dr. Manhattan, to bring “god” back to the world. That seems a little altruistic for the man who murdered millions in a grand, misguided experiment in world peace. Maybe, instead, he wants Dr. Manhattan to take away the cancer he gave Ozymandias.